Orangutan who escaped from his enclosure multiple times. Frank Zappa and holographic imagery. 18 years to write Lord of the Rings [r/TodayiLearned, Episode #11]


TIL about an orangutan named Ken who escaped from his enclosure at the San Diego Zoo multiple times in the ’80s. His apparent goals were visiting other animals, throwing rocks at a despised orangutan rival and taking photos with tourists.

It’s hard to be an ape. In the wild, their habitats are encroached upon by deforestation and pollution and poaching. And things are just as bad in zoos. Last month, headlines mourned the death of Harambe, the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo shot to death when he started dragging around a 3-year-old boy who had fallen into his enclosure.

It wasn’t always this difficult. On June 13, 1985, a 250-pound orangutan named Ken Allen climbed up his retaining wall at the San Diego Zoo and escaped his exhibit. He walked down a public path toward crowds of weekday tourists, stopping to look at the other animals as if he were a visitor before being led back to his cage. It would not be the last time the ape escaped, but instead of a PR disaster, for a brief time in San Diego, Ken Allen became a folk hero.

After that first escape, zoo officials ramped up security in his pen—an open area with a jungle gym made of utility poles and a large moat in the back. Behind the moat was a massive wall, which they extended 4 feet—but it wasn’t enough to contain Ken Allen.

Once again, he wandered around the zoo, posing for photos with tourists. A zoo gardener spotted him and cleared the area. As security guards converged on him, guns ready, Ken Allen bolted, heading toward the lion pens. Before he reached them, veterinarians managed to corral him back to his enclosure, “nervous and agitated,” but unharmed. It was the farthest from his enclosure he’d ever gotten.

The zoo spent roughly $45,000 on new security measures, and the escapes finally stopped. Ultimately, there were nine total breakouts, according to the Lodi News-Sentinel, “with crowds cheering the apes on as keepers ran after them.”


TIL Frank Zappa was a futurist who was enthusiastic for the possibility of holographic imagery. So much so that he recorded footage of himself in the early 70s with the intention to be used when technology got to that point. A Frank Zappa holographic tour using that footage starts next year.

The planned, estate-approved Frank Zappa hologram tour has recruited its band of former Mothers for the “Bizarre World of Frank Zappa” trek. The tour kicks off later this year.

“My father and I actively discussed 3D and ‘holography’ and it was a concept he actively engaged in. He actually devoted half a chapter of his The Real Frank Zappa Book to this subject. This is a love letter and a journey celebrating the genius artistry of Frank Zappa. On a personal note, I feel like I am finishing something my father started years ago,” Ahmet Zappa added. “And let’s not forget, Frank himself will be rocking his fans, alongside his bandmates like nobody’s business.”

Eyellusion, the same company that crafted the Ronnie James Dio hologram, created the Frank Zappa hologram; the Dio hologram and its backing band recently concluded a tour of Europe. Tour dates for the Bizarre World of Frank Zappa Tour will be announced later in the year.


TIL that Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings from 1937 to 1949, and that it wasn’t published until 1955; in other words, it took 18 years for it to be completed and published.

Tolkien did not originally intend to write a sequel to The Hobbit, and instead wrote several other children’s tales, including Roverandom and Farmer Giles of Ham. As his main work, Tolkien began to outline the history of Arda, telling tales of the Silmarils, and many other stories of how the races and situations that we read about in the Lord of the Rings trilogy came to be. Tolkien died before he could complete and put together The Silmarillion, but his son Christopher Tolkien edited his father’s work, filled in gaps and published it in 1977.

Persuaded by his publishers, he started ‘a new hobbit’ in December 1937. After several false starts, the story of the One Ring soon emerged, and the book mutated from being a sequel to The Hobbit to being, in theme, more of a sequel to the unpublished Silmarillion. The idea of the first chapter (A Long-Expected Party) arrived fully-formed, although the reasons behind Bilbo’s disappearance and the significance of the Ring did not arrive, along with the title The Lord of the Rings until spring 1938.

The writing was slow due to Tolkien’s perfectionism and was frequently interrupted by his obligations as an examiner, and other academic duties. In fact, the first sentence of The Hobbit was written on a blank page a student had left on an exam paper that Tolkien was grading — “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit”. He seems to have abandoned the book during most of 1943 and only re-started it in April 1944. This effort was written as a serial for Christopher Tolkien and C.S. Lewis — the former would be sent copies of chapters as they were written while he was serving in Africa in the Royal Air Force. He made another push in 1946 and showed a copy of the manuscript to his publishers in 1947. The story was effectively finished the next year, but Tolkien did not finish revising earlier parts of the work until 1949.

A dispute with his publishers, Allen and Unwin, led to the book being offered to Collins in 1950. He intended the Silmarillion (itself largely unrevised at this point) to be published along with The Lord of the Rings, but Allen and Unwin were unwilling to do this. After his contact at Collins, Milton Waldman expressed the belief that The Lord of the Rings itself ‘urgently needed cutting’, he eventually demanded that they publish the book in 1952. They did not do so, and so Tolkien wrote to Allen and Unwin, saying “I would gladly consider the publication of any part of the stuff”.