Alison and Tod wrap up the year by finishing a list of the top ten most popular Upworthy stories of 2021. In part two, a pet psychologist reveals your dog’s innermost thoughts and a late-night host’s Twitter game was a big hit with Upworthy’s readers. Which dramatic story made it to number one? Listen and see.
Seeing the northern lights is a common bucket list adventure for many people. After all, it ticks a lot of boxes—being a dazzling light show, rich historical experience and scientific phenomenon all rolled into one. Plus there’s the uncertainty of it all, never quite knowing if you’ll witness a vivid streak of otherworldly colors dance across the sky…or simply see an oddly colored cloud. It’s nature’s slot machine, if you will.
Traveler and content creator Pency Lucero was willing to take that gamble. After thorough research, she stumbled upon an Airbnb in Rörbäck, Sweden with an actual picture of the northern lights shining above the cabin in the listing. With that kind of photo evidence, she felt good about her odds.
However, as soon as she landed, snow began falling so hard that the entire sky was “barely visible,” she told Upworthy. Martin, the Airbnb host, was nonetheless determined to do everything he could to ensure his guests got to see the spectacle, even offering to wake Lucero up in the middle of the night if he saw anything.
Then one night, the knock came.
In a video Lucero posted to TikTok, which now has over 12 million views, we hear Martin ushering her out to take a peek. Then we see Lucero’s face light up just before seeing the sky do the same.
“I thought it was a prank,” the onscreen text reads in the clip. “And then I see it….”
“I was mostly in awe of what this Earth is capable of,” Lucero recalled. “I never expected it to be THAT beautiful for the naked eye.” This is a hopeful sentiment against the widely accepted notion that the northern lights are often better looking in photos than they are in real life.
As Lucero asserted in a follow-up video, “Our video doesn’t do it justice at all…I would argue it’s even better for the naked eye.”
Others were quick to back Lucero with anecdotes of their own experience.
“It’s definitely possible to see it like in the pics. I saw it this winter in Norway, there was bright green, purple and so much movement.”
“They’re so much better in person, the way they dance and move around is insane and beautiful.”
Of course, if you ask Martin, who everyone agreed was the best host ever, seeing guest reactions of pure wonder and joy is even “better than the lights themselves.” But still, he can’t deny that there’s a breathtaking magic to it all. He shared with Upworthy that “Sometimes it feels like it will pull you up in the sky like you are in the middle of it. I wish everyone would have the chance to witness it.”
For a little over three decades, David Hollowell’s professional life had been dedicated to art. In addition to working as an art professor, his highly acclaimed 3D illusion paintings were shown in prestigious exhibits. In 2018, the 71-year-old began taking his talents to a larger scale, turning his family barn into an immersive mural.
Then, in May of 2021, Hollowell fell off the roof of his home, resulting in a traumatic brain injury leading to aphasia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate through speech or written language.
Though Hollowell couldn’t access words the way he used to, his ability to paint detailed, mesmerizing images remained remarkably intact. And his daughter-slash-self-appointed-TikTok manager, Adrienne, is determined to share his work and his journey with as many people as possible.
“I really wanted people to know who my dad was,” Adrienne shared in an interview with CNN. Hence why she created the account under the joke premise of “make my dad famous.”
So far, that goal has been reached—over 196,000 people follow Hollowell’s account, often comparing his work to that of M.C. Escher and Michelangelo.
And honestly, the comparison is well earned. Take a look below at some of Hollowell’s work, and keep reminding yourself that it’s actually 2D.
Paintings aren’t the only thing shared on the TikTok channel. Adrienne has also documented her father’s progress through videos of speech exercises and one-on-one interviews where Hollowell might relearn a word or two.
In an effort to raise awareness of aphasia, Adrienne also encourages her father to share his experience (to the best of his ability) and has reached out to viewers asking if they could share any new treatments.
What becomes clear from seeing their interactions is that where Hollowell might express himself differently, so much of his core identity, like his love for his art and family, still show through.
“You can't talk but your love is enough for us,” Adrienne expressed in a heartfelt video. “Your art and your family mean everything to you.”
Losing the ability to carry on a conversation, express ourselves, and generally navigate a speech-reliant world is a scary thought. And for those who have to witness a family member go through it…there are probably no words that fully encapsulate that kind of pain. But as this story highlights, even when those functions dwindle, love has a way of persevering.
Thank you, Adrienne, for sharing your father’s work with the world. Hopefully, we can help “make him famous.”
These days, we could all use something to smile about, and few things do a better job at it than watching actor Christopher Walken dance.
A few years back, some genius at HuffPo Entertainment put together a clip featuring Walken dancing in 50 of his films, and it was taken down. But it re-emerged in 2014 and the world has been a better place for it.
Walken became famous as a serious actor after his breakout roles in "Annie Hall" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978) so people were pretty shocked in 1981 when he tap-danced in Steve Martin's "Pennies from Heaven."
But Walken actually started his career in entertainment as a dancer. He took his first dance lessons at the age of three. "It was very typical for people—and I mean working-class people—to send their kids to dancing school," he told Interview Magazine. "You'd learn ballet, tap, acrobatics, usually you'd even learn to sing a song," he later explained to Interview magazine.
As a child, he also studied tap dance and toured in musicals. He even danced with a young Liza Minelli. "I'd been around dancers my whole life, having watched my parents make musicals at MGM, and Chris reminded me of so many of the dancers I knew growing up," Minelli said according to Entertainment Weekly. "He's talented in every way."
Craig Zadan, Executive Producer of "Peter Pan Live!," agrees with Minelli. "I think that if he had been around in the heyday of MGM, he would have been a big star of musicals on film," he told Entertainment Weekly.
His dance moves were put center stage in 2001 in Spike Jonze's video for Fatboy Slim's song "Weapon of Choice." Walken says he did it because one day he'll be too old to cut a rug. "You think, 'Well, do it now!' You know, you get too decrepit to dance," he told Entertainment Weekly.
An Australian woman thinks it's rude that Americans don't say, "You're welcome."
There’s been a growing trend amongst American Gen Zers and millennials to stop saying, “You're welcome,” after being thanked. Older generations may think the change is part of a more significant trend of younger people having more lax manners, but in actuality, younger people believe that giving a simple “OK” or “Mm-hmm” after being thanked is more polite than saying, “You're welcome.”
Recently, Australian TikTok user Tilly Hokianga vented her frustrations with Americans in a viral post entitled, “Things That Send Me as an Australian Living in the US.” A lot of the points she made were pretty typical for someone visiting the United States, such as there's too much sugar in the bread and too many options for cereal.
However, she also noted that Americans have difficulty saying, “You’re welcome.”
"I don't understand. Talking to an American, you say, 'Thank you,' and they're always just like, 'Mm-hmm,” Hokianga said in the post. "I just said, 'Thank you.' You should say, 'You're welcome,' or 'It's all good,' or 'No worries,' not f**king 'Mm-hmm.'"
The post resonated with many people, racking up 3.8 million views and leading to a series of videos where she talks about other things that “send her” in America.
Tilly Hokianga explains what she doesn't understand about Americans.
The post caught the attention of Millie (@rosegoldmillie), an American who has spent time in Australia who thinks she isn’t being rude when she doesn’t say, “You’re welcome.” Instead, she believes that on a deeper level, people should always look out for one another, so thank yous aren’t necessary.
She has a good point. You thank someone for going out of their way. If you believe that humans should always be helpful to one another, why acknowledge the act? Not everything has to be transactional.
"Someone would say, 'Thank you,' and I would say, 'Yep! Oh, uh, I mean, 'You're welcome!'" Millie said in her post. "Because to me, it's kind of rude. Like, it's not rude, but saying, 'Yep' and 'Sure' is the equivalent to saying, 'No problem,' and that is more polite in America than saying, 'You're welcome.'"
"When you say, 'You're welcome,' there's an implication in our brains that says, 'I did you a favor, and I deserve a thank you.' But when we say, 'Mm-hmm,' or like, 'Sure,' it's this implication of 'Of course, I would do that for you,'" she continued. "I don't deserve a thank you, like, it was the least I could do."
The response video received over 2.2 million views, and many people agreed with her.
“I remember switching from ‘you're welcome’ to ‘sure’ to ‘yeah’ for this reason,” Kelli Crockett wrote in the comments. “‘You're welcome’ is usually used sarcastically here. I think that's also part of why it feels rude like you're welcome is what you say when you're [mad emoji],” BeevesofTime added.
“OK, this is the opposite of what I think and was taught, but explains why I hear it,” FlyGal responded.
Meteorologist Matt Laubham prays for the people in the path of a deadly tornado.
Broadcasters who have to report on tragedies as they are happening have a tough job. On the one hand, they have to maintain their professionalism and inform the public of what's happening in a factual way. On the other hand, they're still human and sometimes humanity trumps the traditional perception of what's "professional."
Such was the case for WTVA meteorologist Matt Laubhan, who found himself live on the air staring at a radar scan of a deadly tornado as it moved towards the small town of Amory, Mississippi. He, more than anyone, understood the severity of the situation, and he did his best to convey that to his viewers.
"This is a strong, life-threatening tornado that's going to move either extremely close to Amory or in through the northern part of the city of Amory."
He added, "Y'all trust me too much," explaining that people sometimes take his predictions of where the tornado will go as hard fact, but the reality is that tornados can change directions at any time. "So Amory, we need to be in our tornado safe place," he said.
Just after he told people they needed to be in their shelters, a new scan came in that clearly affected him.
"North side of Amory, this is coming in," he said. And then the reality of how strong the tornado was clearly hit. "Oh, man," he said, leaning down on the table with his hand over his mouth. After a deep breath, he stood and said a brief prayer—"Dear Jesus, please help them. Amen."—before continuing to explain where the tornado looked like it was going to track.
"I can't say that I was intending on praying," he said. "It was kind of a situation where we knew that something extremely bad was happening, and we knew that it was possible, maybe even probable, that people were being hurt and about to die. I'm very rarely at a loss for words, and I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed, honestly. And it just kind of came out."
He added that many people who were watching live have told him his spontaneous prayer helped them to "realize the seriousness of the situation."
After one commenter on Twitter said that the meteorologist "should have been focused 100% on his weatherman job at that point," others chimed in to support Laubhan's display of compassion and humanity—including many who are not people of faith themselves.
"I'm not a believer. He's just having a human reaction," wrote one person. "There's nothing else he could've done in that moment. Let him cope how he can. From the short clip it seems he takes his job incredibly seriously. The two seconds it took to say that are inconsequential."
"It's his genuine human reaction to what he knows is going to be a horrible event," wrote another. "He's warned people, can physically do no more, so he draws on his faith. I don't pray, exactly, because I don't believe in Micromanager God, but I do think positivity helps even if only the doer."
"I’m not a believer but positive vibes are positive vibes," wrote another. "It was well meant. Give him a break, people."
"Not religious but I found this very touching and showing true concern for people," shared another.
Resident Leah Ann Hubbard told The Independent how helpful Laubhan's reporting was as she prepared for the tornado.
“Everybody watches him around here to find out if they need to shelter for a tornado,” she said, adding that his urgency made her think, "Hmmm, maybe we should take this seriously, maybe we should really get prepared." She pulled out her mattress and hid in the bathtub with her two dogs.
“The last thing I heard him say was, ‘Debris is 7,000 feet in the air,’ and then the lights go off, the phone service dies, and you’re in the dark with the dogs,” she said.
Hubbard's description of feeling helpless as the tornado raged over her town seems to reflect what Laubham experienced as he saw the tornado bearing down on the radar.
“You know that there is a monster swirling over your house and over your town, and there’s nothing you can do. And you’re just praying for yourself and for everybody else,” she told The Independent.
As one person wrote about the tornado and Laubhan's reaction, "There's tornadoes and then there's tornadoes. Some will take the roof off your house and some will take your town off the map. This was the latter. He knew in that moment that in a few minutes, that town would no longer exist."
The town of Amory was hit hard, but the next-day footage from Rolling Fork, a few hours away from Amory, is utterly apocalyptic. The rare, long-track tornado path stretched across western Mississippi through the night of March 24, 2023, killing 25 people and injuring dozens of others.
Seeing the aftermath from this storm system, it's clear why Matt Laubham took a moment to pray for those in the tornado's path. When a storm is that powerful, there's really nothing else anyone can do, and his moment of genuine care and concern for his fellow humans was deeply appreciated.
Rick Astley rocking his Foo Fighters 'Everlong' cover.
Rick Astley has to be the luckiest '80s musician on the planet. The whole "Rickrolling" phenomenon has given his hit song "Never Gonna Give You Up" a reach far beyond its natural life span, and kept the guy a household name far longer than he probably would have been.
(For those who are unfamiliar, Rickrolling is when you make someone think they're being sent to a website, but the link goes to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" video instead as a joke. It's a silly viral bait-and-switch gag that's been going since 2006.)
But what people may not realize, because his most famous song has become an internet joke, is that Rick Astley is actually a really freaking great musician. The man can saaaang and it seems he's only gotten better with age.
If you were to choose the most unlikely combo of musical mashups, it might just be Rick Astley and Foo Fighters. Right? Like who would put them together?
Oddly enough, they put themselves together in 2017, when Foo Fighters brought Astley on stage during a concert to sing "Never Gonna Give You Up." Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl even created his own Rickroll-inspired meme, the Dave G'Roll, with the band's song "Best of You." So there's a history there.
But nothing has been more surprising than hearing Rick Astley do an acoustic cover of Foo Fighters' "Everlong." It's so good. Like, so good.
Not to knock Rick Astley of the 1980s, but that strangely deep voice on a young man was sort of his signature thing. Ergo, you'd think it would be easy to recognize Astley's voice no matter what he was singing. But you'd be wrong. If you close your eyes and listen to this, you'd likely never guess it was Rick Astley.
Maybe it's because the song itself isn't something you expect from the "Never Gonna Give You Up" guy. Maybe it's because you had no idea that Rick Astley was still making music. Who knows. All I know is that my jaw dropped watching him knock out an awesome version of a grungey rock song with just his voice and acoustic guitar.
Seriously, that was amazing, right? Even hardcore Foo Fighters fans gave Astley props in the comments:
"As a huge Foo Fighters fan, all I can say is this cover didn't let me down."
"Tbh I could listen to a whole album of Rick Astley doing grunge covers."
"Are you kidding me?????? That voice from the 80's... And one of the greatest numbers of all times.... Didn't think you could pull that of.... But you did..... Respect to you Rick."
And, of course, some had to make jokes:
"I love this cover. It feels like the singer is never going to give you up or never gonna let you down. He doesn't run around and desert you. He will never make you cry and never say goodbye. He doesn't tell a lie and hurt you. I think that is special."
"This guy should stop making memes and stick to music! He’s got talent!"
"I’m glad he’s never given up. This did not let me down."
But this comment perhaps best summed up what most of us walked away thinking:
"God now I feel bad that we've ridden on Rick Rolling for so long that we missed the part where Rick Astley is actually a badass musician..."