Wild elephant found gingerly walking through Sri Lankan hotel exploring things with its trunk

Bull in a China shop? How about an elephant in a South Asian hotel?

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Ten minutes of collapsing water towers

As an antidote to the madness and mayhem I subjected you all to with my idiots with chainsaws post, here is ten minutes of controlled demolition of decommissioned water towers.

This is a great example of professionals knowing what they're doing as these demolition engineers land the towers between buildings, next to parked cars, etc. So many amazing things here: the crunching, booming sounds of the crashes, the great, billowing clouds of rust that plume from the tanks as they crack open, the grace (or not) of the descents.

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Reinvented, a new magazine about women in STEM written by women in STEM

Yesterday, Sherry Huss, former Maker-in-Chief of Maker Media, did a Facebook post about a new magazine, Reinvented, which has just released its second issue. The magazine, available in both print and digital formats, is written about women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) by women in STEM. Read the rest

My favorite new game, KnifeTank: The Shüffling, is now on Kickstarter

Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of getting to play a new game that quickly became my son's and my favorite over the holiday break (when we try to play lots of games together). It's my friend Doc Popular's KnifeTank and he was kind enough to send me a prototype copy.

When I got the game, I was excited, but with reservations. No offense to Doc, but I expected it to be light and gimmicky, something of a vanity project. What I wasn't expecting was a game I instantly wanted to play over and over again and invite my friends to come and play (which I did). KnifeTank can hold its own against anything coming out of a large commercial game company and I look forward to it enjoying a long and happy life, with many expansions and a worldwide, enthusiastic player community.

KnifeTank comes in a poker-type tuck box and includes everything you need to play. You get 30 action/movement cards, 8 tanks (4 two-sided cards), 4 health cards, and 5 damage cards. The box also contains a rule book and there are two rules summary cards. The game is for 2-4 players and rated ages 12 and up. Each game takes about 20-30 minutes to play. The goal of the game is get your tank from your table's edge to your opponent's edge or to eliminate your opponent(s) by reducing their health/hits to zero.

Those familiar with tabletop miniature games like Star Wars X-Wing and Gaslands will likely dig the movement mechanic here. Read the rest

Celebrating Captain Beefheart's birthday with a look at his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica

Today is the birthday (1941) of the late Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, one of then most fascinating, confounding, and creative artists and musicians of the 20th century. Let's celebrate by taking a look at his 1969 record, Trout Mask Replica, widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern sound art.

And here's a bonus track. Imagine seeing this ad on late night television in 1970.

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Darwin Award nominees: idiots with chainsaws

As these videos so dramatically demonstrate, there is a reason why lumberjacking is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet -- and why an amateur tree-feller with a chainsaw is an accident (and maybe a crushed car or cleaved roof) waiting to happen. Sadly, there are 22 of these videos in the series.

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Touring the inner workings of the Mellotron on King Crimson's anniversary

Fifty one years ago today, the first incarnation of the prog rock band, King Crimson, gathered in a cramped basement space below the Fulham Palace Cafe in London. One of the instruments the band would use that would come to distinguish their early sound was that strange, iconic 60s instrument, the Mellotron.

Keyboardist Ian McDonald was taken by the sound of this instrument as it was employed by the Moody Blues (and on The Beatles' Strawberry Fields) and thought it would work well with the type of lush and orchestral sound the band was looking to create. Later in the year, in the summer of 1969, the instrument would again appear on David Bowie's Space Oddity (played by future Yes man, Rick Wakeman).

Of all of the strange instruments that've worked the edges of popular music (the Theremin also comes to mind), the Mellotron is probably the oddest. Basically an upright organ cabinet filled the tape heads and recorded tape strips that you trigger through the keyboard, the Mellotron is like some crazy one-off contraption that caught on and actually got manufactured.

In this video, Allison Stout, of Bell Tone Synth Works, a synthesizer repair shop in Philadelphia, PA, takes us under the hood of a Mellotron MK1 and how it works. One can only imagine how finicky and prone to breakage touring versions of these things must have been.

And here's one of King Crimson's Mellotrons in action during a performance in 1974 at the ORTFTV Studios in Paris. Read the rest

A 10-film trip through the "acid western"

BFI, the British film organization, has posted a list of ten "acid westerns."

The term ‘acid western’ is an elusive one. First coined by Pauline Kael in her New Yorker review of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970), it wasn’t until 2000 and the publication of his monograph on Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995) for the BFI Modern Classics series that critic Jonathan Rosenbaum would expand upon the terminology more specifically.

“What I partly mean by acid westerns,” wrote Rosenbaum, “are revisionist westerns in which American history is reinterpreted to make room for peyote visions and related hallucinogenic experiences, LSD trips in particular.” He distinguishes these from the “less radical… upheaval of generic norms” that colour “the influence of marijuana on the drifting, nonlinear aspects of the style of McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971),” setting the ‘acid western’ apart from what he calls the ‘pot western'.

I guess it's really a "you know it when you see it" kind of deal. Read the rest

Squidmar issues another miniature painting challenge on Fivver

After Boing Boing and other sites wrote about the Squidmar Miniatures video where Emil challenged painters on Fivver to paint a mini for him, the video went viral. Others painters approached him about doing another video that they could participate in and even Fivver itself wanted in on the action.

So, Emil decided to issue another challenge. With $600 provided by Fivver, he sent one mini from the Zarbag's Gitz warband for Warhammer Underworlds to eight painters (I guess paying them $75 each?). This time, he didn't give them any directive beyond using their creativity. For some additional inspiration, he also provided them with a little animated story describing Zarbag's Gitz.

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"Whatever lies behind the door" The night before Bowie died

The night before David Bowie died, I was listening to the newly released tracks from Blackstar on YouTube, in honor of his birthday the day before. I saw the Hammersmith Odeon performance for “Moonage Daydream” on the right rail and decided to open it full-screen on my large monitor and crank it to 11.

I watch “Moonage Daydream” every few years and it never ceases to enchant me all over again. But that Sunday night, the performance hit me so hard, it actually startled me. I found myself shedding tears of joy. I was exclaiming things into the soundwaves as they crashed over me. I had no idea where any of this was coming from, but I was filled with such profound feelings of love and appreciation for what this extraordinary artist, this unique human being, had inspired in me and countless others. I felt as though I could fully feel the weight of him, his art, his cultural and historical import, and exactly how he had impressed himself upon my nervous system. It almost felt like a life flashing before my eyes moment.

I decided to try and share this moment of epiphany with others. I sent a message to two friends who are also Bowie fanatics: "Is there a more perfect concert video than this? Every fucking frame of this thing blows my mind. Do yourself a favor, open it full-screen, crank it all the way up...and GO!"

After “Moonage Daydream,” I watched “My Death,” another favorite from the Hammersmith show. Read the rest

The largest insect that ever lived, the Dragonfly-like Meganeuropsis, had a wingspan of 28"

The Dragonfly-like Meganeuropsis was a giant insect that plied the skies from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian, some 317 to 247 million years ago. It had a wingspan of some 28" with a body length of around 17."

Meganisoptera is an extinct family of insects, all large and predatory and superficially like today’s odonatans, the dragonflies and damselflies. And the very largest of these was Meganeuropsis. It is known from two species, with the type species being the immense M.permiana. Meganeuropsis permiana, as its name suggests is from the Early Permian.

Fossils of the insect were first discovered in France in the late 1800s. This fine fellow, from Bolsover in Derbyshire, was unearthed in 1979.

Read more on Geology In. Read the rest

The magic of movie miniatures via the Slice of Life fan film

Slice of Life is a crowdfunded fan film that takes place in a Blade Runner-like universe and is presented as a "love letter" to 80s sci-fi films in general. Years in the making, the team finally sent their Kickstarter backers digital copies over Christmas. As soon as all of their backers get their hard copies (DVDs and Blu-Ray), the film will be made available online.

During the production process, the Slice of Life team posted lots of great video diaries on YouTube, forming something of a master class in low-budget sci-fi film-making. In the above 35-minute video, Luka gives us an impressively informative run-through of the process of building and shooting miniature structures.

Starting with nothing more than a crappy cardboard box, some kitchen trash, electronic junk, and a few plastic model and 3D-printed bits, he builds a cyberpunk-y building and then shows how they went about filming and compositing everything into a final scene. Impressive.

Here's the trailer for the film:

[H/t Kevin Kelly] Read the rest

Happy Bowiemas! Celebrate by listening to Bowie yucking it up impersonating other singers

Today is David Bowie's birthday (born Jan 8, 1947, died Jan 10, 2016). Here's a great example of our favorite leper messiah's sense of humor as he impersonates a number of fellow singers during the Absolute Beginner's recording sessions in 1985.

In the six-minute clip, you hear David doing his best impressions of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Anthony Newley, Iggy Pop, and Neil Young. Some of them are quite good, especially Springsteen.

And, if you (like me) are going full Bowiemas this week (can I get an alien mullet amen?), check out this 19-hour Bowie playlist on Spotify:

Listen to David Bowie from beginning to end in a 19-hour, complete chronological playlist

"If you're going to be a fucking rockstar, go be one. People don't want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet." -Lemmy Kilmister

Happy Birthday, David. We miss you! Read the rest

The strange pyromaniacal niche of wooden match chain reaction videos

I love how watching one YouTube video you happen upon can scoop up a whole genre of videos you didn't even know existed. Witness the match chain reaction genre. I watched the first video below and that lead to countless others.

I cannot imagine the patience (not to mention the desire) required to cut and glue together thousands of wooden matches. And is the time invested in building the structure proportional to the rush the builder gets during the burn?

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Barbie and Ken re-imagined as Soviet citizens living in Cold War USSR

Russian doll artist and photographer Lara Vychuzhanina takes Barbie and Ken out of their Malibu dream house and imagines them "back in the US, back in the US, back in the USSR."

Working with real photographs as a reference, Vychuzhanina manages to capture the style of the Soviet world in incredible detail. The delightfully nostalgic, 60 x 40 x 50cm (23.6 x 15.7 x 19.6 inch) model apartment features plastic pots, pans, and kitchen appliances that Vychuzhanina scuffed up to look as though they’re old and rusting. The meticulous artist even printed out scaled-downed food labels and stuck them onto tiny boxes and cans, and the table is laid out with a simple breakfast.

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Подумываю снять нечто похожее на эти фотографии, но в декорациях деревенского дома. Чтоб тоже был и мужик с водкой, и общая убогость убранства, в общем незамысловатый быт деревенского забулдыги. Конечно же с Гришей в главной роли)) Опять будете сетовать, что уж больно он цивильно выглядит для алкаша:))) . . #dollphotography #lara_v #photography_art #miniature #barbiedoll #toys #dollhouse #dollphotogallery #dollhouseminiatures #fineart #ussr #roombox #barbieworld #dollsofinstagram #communalapartment #kitchen #soviet #sovietkitchen #vodka #barbiemadetomove #ссср #коммуналка #коммунальнаяквартира #советскийсоюз #советскаякухня #алкаш #мужик #советскиймужик #водка #соседи

A post shared by LARA V. (@lara_art_dolls) on Nov 16, 2017 at 9:16pm PST

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Как и обещала - продолжение фоток с коммунальной кухни;) Гриша съел всю жареную картошку, выкурил всю Приму и теперь размышляет о смысле жизни)) . . #dollphotography #lara_v #photography_art #miniature #barbiedoll #toys #dollhouse #dollphotogallery #dollhouseminiatures #fineart #ussr #roombox #barbieworld #dollsofinstagram #communalapartment #kitchen #soviet #sovietkitchen #vodka #boozer #ссср #коммуналка #коммунальнаяквартира #советскийсоюз #советскаякухня #алкаш #мужик #советскиймужик #водка #соседи

A post shared by LARA V.

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Turning a Sega MegaDrive into a cool, retro synthesizer

Sam Battle of Look Mum No Computer, the mad sonic scientist who brought us the Furby Organ, has done it again. This time, he turned a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive into an awesomely retro-sounding synthesizer.

The Sega Mega Drive included a Yamaha YM2612 six-channel FM synthesizer chip under the hood. Sam broke that out to create his synth which so epically invokes that iconic, often cringe-worthy, 80s synth sound.

On his second YouTube channel, Look Mum No Computer But More Serious-ish, he goes into more detail about the YM2612, the Sega Drive, and putting together the synth. Read the rest

Model rocket pioneer, Vern Estes, celebrates his 90th birthday

When I was a juvie nerd, I lived for Estes (and Centuri) model rockets. I slept with my Estes catalog (sometimes literally). I would mow lawns, rake leaves, and save up my allowance to order from the catalog. I would have maybe ten dollars to spend and would agonize over each order, trying to squeeze out as many products as possible from my measly earnings.

I would finally place the order and wait with agonized impatience for it to arrive. I would always imagine a sizable box showing up in the mail. Every time, the box was disappointingly tiny. But I built what I received with whatever tools and supplies we had in the house, mainly Elmer's glue, scissors, Scotch tape, and (at least for my first rocket) house paint. I cut the balsa wood fins out with a razor blade. By the time I left my rocketry youth behind, I had built around 18 rockets and was Vice President of the Chester Virginia Rocketry Club (we had three members).

Several years ago, I unearthed my first rocket (the house-painted one) from the bowels of my basement. It is the only rocket from my childhood that survives. Here it is, in all of its fragile and funky glory:

The first time we launched it -- the launch controller connected to the battery in my dad's El Camino -- I had glued the launch lug (the small paper tube that holds the rocket to the launch rod) on crooked, so much so that the friction would not allow the rocket to freely travel up the rod. Read the rest

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