No, 'Puff The Magic Dragon' is not about smoking weed

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Here's the story of the lyrics, based on a poem that 19-year-old college student Leonard Lipton wrote in 1959 and popularized in Peter, Paul and Mary's classic 1963 song.

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Watch incredible video of Prince's "Purple Rain" debut

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Footage from the August 1983 concert at Minneapolis' famed First Avenue club when Prince (1958-2016) debuted the magnificent 13-minute original version of Purple Rain - with an additional third verse - that was later edited and overdubbed for the Purple Rain album. This was also guitarist Wendy Melvoin's first performance with The Revolution. (Apologies that the video host's Flash-based widget won't work on some mobile browsers.) Read the rest

Contraption converts a "hoverboard" into a go-kart

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The Hoverboard Cart is a $69 aluminum frame that attaches to hoverboards and holds a beach chair, cooler, or other seat. You steer it with your feet. The only thing missing is a mount for a fire extinguisher.

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The only man to never have seen a woman

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In 1938, Mihailo Tolotos died at age 82. He's considered to have been the only man to have lived such a long life "without ever seeing a woman." Tolotos, whose mother died at childbirth, lived all his years as a monk in one of Greece's Mt. Ethos monasteries where only men are permitted. Of course, Tolotos's claim to fame doesn't account for people who are blind since birth, but it's still a rather curious story anyway.

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Scientists are studying what made Queen singer Freddie Mercury's voice so amazing and unique

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In a new scientific study, researchers conducted acoustical analysis of Queen singer Freddie Mercury's singing voice. While he spoke in a baritone voice, Mercury had a tremendous singing range. But his real vocal superpowers were a rather unique vibrato combined with his ability to use subharmonics, like a Tuvan throat singer. The Austrian, Czech, and Swedish scientists report on their research in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology.

"Perceptually, Freddie Mercury's irregular (and typically faster) vibrato is clearly audible in the sustained notes of famous songs such as 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (A Night at the Opera) or 'We Are the Champions' (News of the World), and it appears to be one of the hallmarks of his vocal style," they wrote.

In other Mercury news, a notebook containing some of his last lyrics will be auctioned off at Bonham's in June. It's estimated to go for £50,000-£70,000.

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Swapping faces with statues is rather disturbing

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JakeMarshall91 went to a museum and face-swapped with statues. The results are strangely horrifying and wonderful.

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More people are smoking dead scorpions to get high in Pakistan

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Pakistan's daily news service Dawn reports on the rise in scorpion smoking there:

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Why did astronauts' space suits leak urine?

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Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:

The early male astronauts often had leaky space suits. They would frequently complain about their urine leaking into other areas of the suit. For a while, no one could figure out what was wrong with the spacesuits. NASA eventually realized the leaking was due to the oversized condom catheters the astronauts were using. Turns out that when the astronauts were asked by doctors what size they needed, they would often ask for “large.”

Buy "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" (Amazon)

Excerpted from What's It Like in Space by Ariel Waldman, illustrations by Brian Standeford (Chronicle Books, 2016). Read the rest

Watch Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' without the music

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"Hee hee hee..."

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Watch these bulldozers battle over turf, for real

In China's Hebei Province, bulldozers from competing construction companies battled it reportedly over a business opportunity. According to ABC News, police finally put a stop to the insanity and two drivers were injured. Perhaps the operators have been watching too many Survival Research Labs performance videos.

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The magical future of virtual reality

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In Wired, BB pal Kevin Kelly wrote a definitive feature about the current (and future?) state of virtual reality, technology that many of us first tried in the late 1980s but took nearly thirty years to be ready for prime time.

I first put my head into virtual reality in 1989. Before even the web existed, I visited an office in Northern California whose walls were covered with neoprene surfing suits embroidered with wires, large gloves festooned with electronic components, and rows of modified swimming goggles. My host, Jaron Lanier, sporting shoulder-length blond dreadlocks, handed me a black glove and placed a set of homemade goggles secured by a web of straps onto my head. The next moment I was in an entirely different place. It was an airy, cartoony block world, not unlike the Minecraft universe. There was another avatar sharing this small world (the size of a large room) with me—Lanier.

We explored this magical artificial landscape together, which Lanier had created just hours before. Our gloved hands could pick up and move virtual objects. It was Lanier who named this new experience “virtual reality.” It felt unbelievably real. In that short visit I knew I had seen the future. The following year I organized the first public hands-on exhibit (called Cyberthon), which premiered two dozen experimental VR systems from the US military, universities, and Silicon Valley. For 24 hours in 1990, anyone who bought a ticket could try virtual reality. The quality of the VR experience at that time was primitive but still pretty good.

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Preachy San Francisco fliers scold adults on screen time

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These preachy fliers recently appeared in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood. And yeah, sure, I (mostly) agree with the sentiment but... blecch. The responses are fun though.

"Judgemental Signs Tell Bernal Neighbors How to Live" (Bernalwood)

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Watch: Slow-motion explosions of skateboarding and paint

I haven't enjoyed the effects of dry pigments this much since Blue Man Group! (Kuma Films)

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Philip K. Dick Conference 4/29-4/30 in So Cal

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On April 29-30 at Cal State Fullerton, fans, scholars, authors, and artists will celebrate surrealist science fiction author Philip K. Dick with an extravaganza of talks, panels, and exhibits! Special guests include Dr. Ursula Heise, Jonathan Lethem, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock.

Philip K. Dick Conference 2016 Read the rest

Vintage hairdryer in the form of a handgun

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In the 1980s, Jerdon sold this, er, clever 357 Magnum Hair Dryer complete with holster. They can be had on eBay for around $100 to $300. YouTuber Rachell Tan gleefully demonstrates in the video below.

(Thanks, Michael-Anne Rauback!) Read the rest

Interview with a designer of the new Dungeons & Dragons

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On the always excellent Expanding Mind podcast, we hear from Jeremy Crawford, one of the designers of the new 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

"We discuss identity, the multicultural multiverse, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the sacred absurdity of terrible dice rolls," says host Erik Davis.

Listen here:

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Tony Conrad, drone and minimalist music pioneer, RIP

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Avant-garde composer Tony Conrad, whose experimental music in the 1960s inspired the likes of the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine, died today at 76.

"Tony Conrad- one of my first partners in noise.- an indelible mark made, that will forever be paid forward," tweeted Conrad's early collaborator John Cale who went on to form the Velvet Underground.

If you're not hip to Conrad, start with his 1973 collaboration with Krautrock band Faust, "Outside the Dream Syndicate," a minimalist masterpiece that has just been reissued. Then lose yourself in Early Minimalism, Vol. 1, a compilation that includes the sublime "Four Violins" (1964). (Listen to excerpts of both below.) From NME:

Conrad was a member of the Theatre of Eternal Music, later known as The Dream Syndicate, an avant-garde 1960s drone music group whose lineup included The Velvet Underground's John Cale. Conrad also played with Cale in the short-lived 1960s band The Primitives, which was fronted by Lou Reed.

Cale and Reed would go on to form The Velvet Underground, naming the band after a book they found in Conrad's department. Conrad's 1966 film The Flicker is frequently hailed as a landmark in structural filmmaking and his work has been displayed in leading international museums including the Louvre in Paris and New York's Whitney Museum of American Art.

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