Kronos Quartet's Explorer Series this weekend in San Francisco!

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My favorite avant-garde classical group Kronos Quartet are holding their Kronos Festival 2016 this weekend at the SF JAZZ Center! I attended the Kronos Festival 2015 and it was easily one of my favorite performances of last year. This year's program weaves experimental and contemporary classical music with a stunning array of international musical traditions from West Africa, Vietnam, Ukraine, Finland, and Afghanistan. Open your ears, eyes, and mind.

While based in San Francisco, Kronos Quartet spends much of the year traveling and performing around the world. This festival brings some of that home to San Francisco. Virtuoso pipa player Wu Man will be the festival’s artist-in-residence.

The festival showcases Kronos in collaboration with guest performers David Coulter (born in the UK), Fodé Lassana Diabaté (Mali), Ritva Koistinen(Finland), Mariana Sadovska (born in Ukraine), and Vân-Ánh Võ (born in Vietnam). The San Francisco Girls Chorus and musicians from Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts also join Kronos onstage to perform new works, and the festival culminates in a daytime family concert celebrating the Lunar New Year.

Kronos Festival 2016: Explorer Series

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DIY smart bathroom mirror

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Smart bathroom mirrors with Internet connections and integrated displays have been fodder for futurists (including me) since the early 1990s at least. Google engineer Max Braun decided to build his own from a two-way mirror, display panel, and Amazon Fire TV Stick running an Android application package for the UI. He posted about the project on Medium:

To the right of where my face would be we have the time and date. To the left is the current weather and a 24-hour forecast. Below are some recent news headlines...

Other concepts I’m playing with are traffic, reminders, and essentially anything that has a Google Now card. The idea is that you don’t need to interact with this UI. Instead, it updates automatically and there’s an open-ended voice search interface for anything else.

"My Bathroom Mirror Is Smarter Than Yours" (Medium)

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Fantastic search engine for matching Simpsons quotes and screenshots!

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Frinkiac allows you to type in a quote from The Simpsons and it'll find the matching stills from a database of 3 million screen caps. I expect that its creators will be acquihired soon by Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net.

(Thanks, Brad Kreit!) Read the rest

The hyperviolent sport of Rollerball in Sports Illustrated, 1975

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The original Rollerball (1975) is a fantastic dystopian science fiction film in which corporations run the world and crowds go crazy for an ultraviolent sport called, you guessed it, Rollerball. (Watch the movie trailer below.) Just before shooting wrapped up, the movie teams played the game for real (apparently with less blood) for an audience of thousands at Munich's Olympic Basketball Stadium. Sports Illustrated covered the chaos for its April 21, 1975 issue:

(Director Norman Jewison... was delighted that the game devised for his film turned out to be one that can be played in earnest. "It can be played, if it's played with very strict rules..." he said on the set. "But it is still a very violent game, though maybe no more so than football. There is a gladiatorial aspect to rollerball that frightens me."

"Rollerball" article from Sports Illustrated (via Reddit, thanks UPSO!)

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Fantastic science/art/wonder enamel pin

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Our pals at surreal clothiers Imaginary Foundation bring us this fine enamel pin emblazoned with an essential insight of the ages, captured by a simple Venn diagram. Just $10! Read the rest

CIA: check out our UFO files!

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BB pal Mitch Horowitz, noted author of esoteric and downright weird books, writes:

The CIA (the funniest guys ever!) is now taking a humorous approach to its UFO files, releasing reams of info and inviting people to play Agent Mulder for a day. It’s a clever PR move to head off a conspiracy-mania growing out of the X Files reboot. And, actually, it’s a good public service: The CIA has lots of public-domain images of flying saucers, which can save time and money for artists/writers/researchers who want flying saucer and boogodie-boogodie images.

"Take a Peek Into Our 'X-Files'" (CIA.gov) Read the rest

Meet the inventor of Whac-A-Mole and The Rock-afire Explosion

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Dennis Fechter is the creator of the Rock-afire Explosion, the animatronic band that made greasy memories at Showbiz Pizza throughout the 1980s. He also insists he's the inventor of Whac-A-Mole, based on a similar Japanese game that he saw in 1976, although the company that popularized it call bullshit on that claim. Now, Fechter has a new game in the works, Bashy Bug, and he's banking on its success to save his career, and his legacy. From Popular Mechanics:

Day two of the (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Convention) finds Fechter on the floor but with a non-working game. This is the first public debut of Bashy Bug.

As Fechter promised, the game is mechanical. The player operates a giant rubber flip-flop while a mutated cockroach skitters underfoot. If you can step on the bug, you earn a point. If the bug escapes when you bring your foot down, the bug earns a point. I know from experience that the system has been wired with a jerking intelligence to randomly stop the bug's run just short of the target that makes this harder than it sounds, and after the bug has scored a few points against you, you'll find yourself sucked in. But nobody here will have that opportunity.

"I haven't slept," Fechter tells me, standing in front of this monument of a purple machine with an animatronic roach face hovering above the scoreboard and Billy Bob painted on the cabinet. There is a mania in his voice that I would blame on fatigue if I hadn't interviewed him before.

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Miles Davis biopic trailer and interview with director/star Don Cheadle

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Don Cheadle directed and stars in Miles Ahead, the film portrait of the jazz legend that opens in theaters April 1. How did Cheadle get the role? Well, he never auditioned or even talked to anyone about it before he was cast. Rather, Miles's nephew Vince Wilburn declared that Cheadle would play his uncle. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Cheadle:

The film jumps around, but the main thread of the plot is set around 1979. Why did you chose to focus on that time period? Just the fact that he wasn’t playing. The fact that he hadn’t played for five years, up to that point, and in a way, was either chomping at the bit to figure out what to say again, if to say again, or he was going down towards death very quickly. He was standing on that knife’s edge at that point, and I don’t think he even know which way it was gonna go. So for us, when we got to the period in all the research about how Miles didn’t play for five years, we were like, “What?” [Laughs] That was the part that was the most interesting from a human being standpoint to me. Musically and what he did with his art form was amazing to me all the time, for the most part. But for me, as a human and an artist and someone who’s a creative person, what happens when you just stop for five years? That’s why we picked that moment to sort of be the departure point: him on the verge of talking again, basically.

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Animated interview with Sally Ride, the first American woman in space

"I wish that there had been another woman on my flight. I think it would have been a lot easier." --Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, interviewed by Gloria Steinem in 1983. (Blank on Blank)

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How LSD became a brain hemorrhage patient's lifesaver

In GQ, Eric Perry writes about how a brain hemorrhage left him "depressed, stuck in a rut, and strangely fearful of death." Then he learned of new medical research on the benefits of psychedelic therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. So Perry signed up for his own acid test with others who were seeking solace via psychedelic experiences. From GQ:

My guide for the evening had accepted my 400 dollars, the price for my journey, in tie-dyed pants. It was my own fault I wasn’t tripping very hard—I’d told her, out of nervousness, I didn’t want to travel to other planets—though I suspected she knew less about the “sacraments” she was prescribing to us than she purported to. (“Do you know that Peruvians drip ayahuasca into the eyes of their newborns?” she’d told me earlier. “All Peruvians?” I’d asked, and she’d blushed.) Still, I liked her, partly because there was something in her eyes that made me think of the Wordsworth line from “Elegiac Stanzas”: “A deep distress hath humanized my soul.” I sensed there’d been some suffering in her past. Many of the participants, I noticed, had the same benignly haunted look. An ex-physician told us that ten years ago she’d been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer; she’d recovered, but couldn’t shake the feeling that it would return any second to finish her off. To allay her lingering fear of death, she’d enrolled in a psilocybin trial, and her “whole reality changed.” She divorced her husband and began to juggle motherhood and what full-time psychonauts call “The Work,” traveling the world to partake in aya ceremonies.

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Enjoy some sleazy beatnik jazz

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Fleet & Freddy's "Pad" (1958). Can you dig it? I knew that you could. (via Jazzman)

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Toy mice terrorize sleeping cat

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images from @mimo (via Laughing Squid)

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Man attempts to trade fake weed for young boy's fish

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A Chatham-Kent, Ontario man allegedly attempted to buy a 12-year-old boy's fish with fake marijuana. When the boy smartly protested about the unfair deal, the man reportedly hit him in the head. And now, the man is facing an assault charge. From CBC:

The boy went to the man's house Saturday for a planned meeting where the boy was going to sell the man a fish. The man tried to pay for the fish with a bag of what he claimed to be weed, but the boy realized it was actually a bag of dried spices.

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Police training eagles to take down drones

The Dutch National Police are attempting to train eagles to take down drones. (Here's an unintentional example of an eagle doing just that!) From IEEE Spectrum:

The Dutch police have partnered with Guard From Above, a raptor training company based in Denmark, to determine whether eagles could be used as intelligent, adaptive anti-drone weapon systems. The eagles are specially trained to identify and capture drones, although from the way most birds of prey react to drones, my guess is that not a lot of training was necessary. After snatching the drone out of the sky, the eagles instinctively find a safe area away from people to land and try take a couple confused bites out of their mechanical prey before their handlers can reward them with something a little less plastic-y. The advantage here is that with the eagles, you don’t have to worry about the drone taking off out of control or falling on people, since the birds are very good at mid-air intercepts as well as bringing the drone to the ground without endangering anyone.

Except maybe the eagles?

"Dutch Police Training Eagles to Take Down Drones" (IEEE Spectrum)

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Area 51: new "no drone" warning signs

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Amateur Radio Club visited the border of Area 51 and noticed some new "no drone" signage added to the classic warnings signs around the infamous US Air Force facility. I assume that policy also applies to extraterrestrial spacecraft and Alien Reproduction Vehicles. Yours anyway.

(Foxtrot Alpha via Mysterious Universe)

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Watch two guys disguised as one person sneak into movie theater!

Bo and Matthew, "two best friends, achieve lifelong dream of sneaking into a movie theatre in one set of clothing." So fun!

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Sarah Palin on drugs

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Erowid Sarah Palin is a Twitter bot that melds Sarah Palin speeches with psychedelic trip reports posted to the excellent Erowid drug information clearinghouse.

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