Thursday, April 17th, 2014
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New York City, April 16, 2014

★★ Thin new snow clung to the walkway that led from the construction elevator to the top of the tower, and coated the cars down below. In the cross-street shade, some of the windshield ice lasted into midday. A few daffodils were out in the sidewalk planters, and they seemed to be flinching. A bus lumbered right into a curbside puddle, splashing a stroller. A track fire at Columbus Circle had stopped the 1 trains, but the sun up Broadway, on the forced walk, couldn't help but feel warm. It was no substitute for a genuinely pleasant spring day, though, with more than half of April gone. The afternoon light glowed prettily through new leaves and blossoms, even while bare fingers were going numb.

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Chromeo feat. Ezra Koenig, "Ezra's Interlude"


People always focus on the "guilty" part of "guilty pleasure," but let's not forget that the next word is "pleasure." I mean, pretty much all pleasure contains a certain amount of guilt anyway, right? It does for me at least. Anyway, apropos of nothing, here's a song from Chromeo with the guy from Vampire Weekend.

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Maya Rudolph's Finest Musical Moments

NBC announced that The Maya Rudolph Show, a new variety show special from the comedic actress of the same name, will premiere on May 19th. The Lorne Michaels-produced one-off special, which features guests like Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg, and Janelle Monáe, will serve as a pilot for a Rudolph-fronted variety show for the network.

Rudolph hosting a variety show is no surprise as she's had dual passions for music and comedy for decades now. The daughter of soul singer Minnie Ripperton, Rudolph worked as a keyboardist and backup singer for the band The Rentals before landing at SNL. On SNL and Up All Night, Rudolph sang frequently, goofing on talented pop stars and horrendously untalented singers with equal precision. In 2012, she launched a female Prince cover band called Princess with friend Gretchen Lieberum, a college friend who's an LA-based jazz singer-songwriter, and the group has found acclaim online.

To give you an idea of what to expect from The Maya Rudolph Show's musical segments, here's a collection of her best musical moments, both comedic and sincere: READ MORE

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"In a world where we have this many channels and every channel has a docu-soap about some outrageous personality who lives unapologetically and sort of yells at us, as television viewers… This was just the opposite. This one allows you to watch and just sit back and relax. Not in a boring way but in a really 'that’s different' sort of way. It allows you to breathe."
Will "slow TV" catch on in America? Sure, why the hell not.

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Major Lazer feat. Pharrell Williams, "Aerosol Can"


Now THAT is how you do a lyric video. [Via]

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"Portland, Oregon is flushing 38 million gallons (143 million liters) of drinking water down the drain because a 19-year-old man urinated in an open reservoir early on Wednesday morning, city water officials said."
—There's a much-repeated maxim in the blogging business that, "[W]hen you get to the point where all the 'people in Portland urinating into reservoirs' stories start to blend together, it is time to retire," so while it has been a pleasure spending this time with you I must take my leave, because I have an appointment at the glue factory.

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The Brooklyn Museum of Death

canndeer640
I attended my first rat class on a Sunday afternoon in January. The snow melted overnight, but by morning it had refrozen into black ice, which made the walk between the 4th Avenue-9th Street stop and the future Morbid Anatomy Museum, located in a vacant, pre-renovation nightclub in industrial Gowanus, extremely terrifying. This probably explains why most of the registered students bailed at the last minute, even after paying $185 for a dead rat, scalpel, access to a box of accessories fit for Barbie and expert instruction.

When I arrived, Katie Innamorato, the teacher, was wearing a polyester wolf jumpsuit with pointy ears, a row of white fangs, and a lolling red fabric tongue. She was arranging the rats on a folding table as if setting up a child’s birthday party. The rats, bright white and all the same size, were “feeders,” or mass-market snake snacks. After the three other students who braved the elements—a bearded deer hunter from upstate, his amulet-necklaced wife, and a teenager in a hoodie whose mom dropped her off with lunch money—were settled in, Katie started instructing: massage some warmth into the rat’s limbs, then place its belly flat against the table, and part its fur along the spine. READ MORE

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Oysters Shucked


"NYC is gross," says the person who posted this video of a man shucking oysters on the N train. The gross part for me is that my immediate response was, "Ugh, what is he trying to promote?" I wish we all still lived in a time where people were just weird and unaware of how their weirdness played out to those around them instead of trying to go viral or whatever. [Via]

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My Roller Rink Sexual Awakening

When I was thirteen, I participated in an after-school activity ambiguously—and generously—named “Lifetime Sports.” At my North Carolina private school, a place particularly dedicated to social hierarchy, your position on a team was determined as much by popularity as athletic ability, and as I was fundamentally lacking in both coolness and hand-eye coordination, I thought I might as well try life-sporting. Participation would involve periodic trips to a local roller rink.

This was 1998, when roller rinks were just becoming passé. My friends no longer held their birthday parties at the local rinks, and, generally, they smelled kind of funny (the roller rinks, that is). But the activity seemed to have immediate perks. I already owned a kickin’ pair of plastic teal roller blades. I imagined perfecting the dance routine from Will Smith’s “Men In Black” music video, gossiping with my friends as we attempted to maintain both our sick grooves and our balance. And maybe, with dedicated practice, we would even dominate those limbo competitions (it was such injustice that toddlers were allowed to compete with those of us taller than three feet, skates included).

It was more than okay, though. Though I never triumphed at limbo or lived up to Will Smith’s slick moves, I quickly discovered that the roller rink was the absolute best place to think about sex. READ MORE

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"In general, new modes of travel, improved health and longevity, and the ability to travel through time ranked highest on the list of futuristic inventions Americans would like to have, the researchers said."

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Let's Drag Bears Down To Our Level!


"After her companion was moved away, Sijia the panda became lonely and depressed so zoo staff have provided her with her own TV. When Sijia's companion, Meixi, was moved away from their zoo in China last week, the zoo keepers noticed her becoming depressed and not eating properly. So on Monday, worried staff at the Yunnan Wild Animal Park moved in some new company for the lonely panda – a new television."

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“Jesus is an awesome guy. When Pontius Pilate said: ‘They say you’re the son of God. If you’re the son of God tell me.’ Jesus was like: ‘I know who I am, bitch.’

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See More MiniAbe

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I think I might like the idea of a single-serving site dedicated to just a song and its lyrics better than I like the concept in practice? Like, maybe you are doing a song as a whole a disservice by hanging its lyrics out there as the only thing for the eye to focus on, particularly if they are not strong enough to stand on their own and the visual aesthetic is already kind of "high school poetry journal." HOWEVER, when the song is by Lykke Li I can make no complaints, because she can apparently do no wrong and I am here but to help spread her gospel.

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"Within the last five years, with social media such as it is, the customer can see how much impact it's making on the community. It's immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter and all over the place. That's helping us sell more skywriting these days."

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Yuck, "Southern Skies"


This is just so pretty, and so soothing, and so, I dunno, centering. If you're having a rough start to the morning give this a couple of minutes and let yourself start again. I really think it might work. [Via]

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Why Do People Do It In The Women's Room?


In D.C., apparently everyone just has sex in public bathrooms all the time, because our nation's capital is overrun with entitled monsters.

Alan Popovsky, who owns Lincoln Restaurant and Teddy & The Bully Bar, has found that unisex single-occupancy restrooms—and handicap-accessible ones in particular—tend to be the most popular hookup spots. “If you go into a restroom and you can actually lock the door behind you, that’s just an open invitation,” he says. But in the case where there’s a men’s and women’s restroom to choose from, heterosexual couples almost always go for the women’s room. “Women are much more apprehensive to go into the men’s room and have sex with a man,” Popovsky says. “Or a woman. I have seen that before too.”

This seems unfair, given that women's bathrooms generally have fewer facilities and a longer wait time, but that's consequences of the patriarchy for you.

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Where Am I? And What Time Is It?

In the modern world we’re never more than a glance away from a digital display of today’s date or the time to the nearest second. The use of GPS devices in cars or even in our own pockets with smartphones has all but eroded the art of map-reading and navigation. This is all exceedingly convenient, of course, but I think that many of us in developed nations are feeling increasingly disconnected from the fundamental principles and processes that support our lives, sensing that our basic skills are atrophying and perhaps feeling anxious of being a little too reliant on the magic of modern technology.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, by Lewis Dartnell, is published this week. You can order it from wherever you choose to prepare for the coming apocalypse:

Barnes & Noble

McNally Jackson

Amazon

Powell's

So let’s try a thought experiment—one that I’ve been thinking a lot about for the past two years as I’ve researched and written a new book The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch. How much would you know how to achieve for yourself if the life-support system of modern civilization were suddenly stripped away? The hypothetical scenario I consider is surviving the apocalypse and needing to rebuild civilization from scratch, but you could just as easily ask yourself what you’d do if you fell through a time-warp to 10,000 BC, or awoke from a cryogenic stasis pod disorientated and alone in the indeterminate future, or even simply washed up on a deserted island.

Let’s look at just a few aspects here. If you’re forced back to the absolute basics, how could you use simple observations to tell the time, reconstruct the calendar and work out your location anywhere on planet Earth? Whilst the phrasing of the start-point for this thought experiment may seem frivolous, the fundamental capability for tracking your place in both time and space certainly is not. Being able to tell the time enables a society to regulate and synchronize its civic activities—marketplace trade or congregation (perhaps for religious purposes) are all choreographed to the beat of the hour. The reason the calendar was devised in the first place was to ensure successful agricultural practices, and thus sufficient food for the population, and accurate navigation is crucial to prevent getting yourself lost in the wilderness.

We’ll start with the slightly easier task of working out the time of day. (To keep the explanations uncluttered, the descriptions below are for the northern hemisphere—but exactly the same principles work for the southern hemisphere, vice versa.)

Time

If you really are knocked back to the very basics, such as shipwrecked on a deserted island, you can track the passage of time by the swiveling of shadows. Plant a straight twig into the sand, and the rotation of the shadow around its base will express the progress of the day. Note the position of the shadow at sunrise and sunset with notches in the sand and you’ll have a visual way of assessing the amount of daylight remaining during the following day. The moment when the shadow is shortest (and points due north) is the time of local noon—should you have a functioning watch you can set it to this time. This is of course the essence of the sun dial, and you can maximize the accuracy by angling the gnomon (the shadow-casting stick) towards the celestial pole (that's Polaris, see below) and, rather than projecting the shadow onto the flat ground, carve a semi-circular arc around the gnomon, as this reflects the domed geometry of the heavens. READ MORE

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New York City, April 15, 2014

★ There had been, at bedtime, one bright planet or star in the sky, but when the alarm went off before 3 a.m., all there was to be seen in the west was the quotidian rust-red glow of city lights off the cloud cover. Little lighter-orange bits of cloud blew along under the main mass. Could the moon, entering its eclipse, still possibly be discernible, maybe off behind a building? It was not worth going out into the dark to see. Certainly by dawn, the clouds were not even admitting a glimpse of the sun. Light rain dampened the dull scenery; people bothered with umbrellas, out of something less than necessity. The humidity was stifling. The office toilet tank was sweating up to the fill line. Outside was stuffy and chilly at the same time. Night fell and it rained harder, splatting against building. Then there were rumors, confirmed by sticking a hand out the window into the darkness: something cold and fluffy was falling. Gray snowfall or sleetfall blurred the view. Here was a phenomenon, after all.

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"Distinguishing between unconscious, and a little bit conscious, is very important." [Via]

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