Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
Today in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born. As a poet of the macabre, Poe has left a lasting mark on American letters, most famously with The Raven, one poem which most of us know, despite most of us not being huge poetry fans.
Today marks a sad end to a mysterious tradition. For 60 years, on Poe's birthday, an unknown person has left three roses and a half-bottle of cognac on Poe's grave in Baltimore. Today: nevermore. Some speculate that the ritual ended on Poe's 200th birthday (last year), but... READ ON
So what's the story with the Great Sphinx? Who built it, when, and why? And what happened to its nose? Those are all riddles answered in tonight's episode of NOVA -- but there's much more interesting sphinx trivia in the program. Mark your calendars! It airs tonight, January 19, on PBS. If you miss the broadcast, check the PBS website as the entire program will stream for a limited time online beginning the day after it airs.
Discussed in tonight's NOVA episode: how the Great Sphinx was, for a... READ ON
From a humble eight colors in 1903's original Crayola box, an explosion of diversity has arisen in the Crayola ecosystem. Designer Stephen Von Worley has analyzed Wikipedia's list of Crayola crayon colors and created an infographic (shown in miniature above) demonstrating the Crayola Explosion of the past 107 years. Von Worley even coined "Crayola's Law," stating: "The number of colors doubles every 28 years!"
There are currently 133 "standard" colors in the Crayola lexicon (although some have been... READ ON
Did you know that boiling water is just regular water that has been made very hot? Well, you'll learn that and more in the following real YouTube videos explaining the specific processes and techniques you'll need to start boiling your own water.
How to Boil Water - Howcast
This video assumes you have access to a stove or hotplate, a pot, a lid, and yes, some water. It also helpfully explains what that old "watched pot never boils" thing is about.
How NOT to Boil Distilled Water in a... READ ON
Dan Buettner, a writer, explorer, and endurance bicycler, gave a TED Talk in September 2009 entitled: How to live to be 100+. In the talk, he cites the Danish Twin Study, suggesting that much of our lifespan (within certain biological limits) is dictated by our lifestyle, not our genes. So what is the optimal lifestyle? Which diet is best? What sort of exercise is best? How do spirituality and social life affect lifespan? Buettner decided to initiate his own study, in which he studied the world's... READ ON
In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, the late-night world is up in arms about NBC's decision to reshuffle its late-night lineup -- affecting Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. People across the nation, and indeed the world, are joining Team Conan, Team Jimmy, or Team Jay (actually, mostly everyone is just joining Team Conan -- does anyone really care about the other teams?). Lending his part to the cause, comic genius John Merriman has begun collecting impersonations of Jay... READ ON
Today, another awesome Letter of Note, this time from comic artist John Kricfalusi, best known for his work on Ren & Stimpy. Letters of Note writes:In 1998, aged just 14, aspiring young cartoonist Amir Avni decided to get in touch with the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi. Being a hardcore fan of Kricfalusi's work, Amir sent him an introductory letter along with a few cartoons he'd drawn, some of which contained relatively unknown characters of John's. To call Kricfalusi's response... READ ON
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s most famous novel is Slaughterhouse-Five. You may have read it -- it's taught in many high school English classes in the U.S., though in others it has been banned. So it goes. Anyway, Slaughterhouse-Five is partially autobiographical; it's based partly on Vonnegut's experiences as a Prisoner of War in World War II, when he and other POWs were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker in Dresden in 1944, Germany. By day, they worked in labor camps; at night they slept... READ ON
A bit of nerdy interactive fun for you today: the New York Times has an Interactive Map of Netflix Queues covering 100 "frequently rented" titles from 2009, including very heavily-rented titles like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and less-rented titles like Happy-Go-Lucky and Adventureland.
The map is interactive, allowing you to slide or step through various movie titles and see how popular each title is in twelve metro areas in the US: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington, the Bay Area... READ ON
In December, I came across The Last Living American Veteran of WWI, an interview with Frank Buckles, the eponymous veteran. The same filmmaker (Sean Dunne) also profiled Paul Mawhinney, who owns the world's largest record collection. And the collection is for sale. No one's buying.
In Dunne's film The Archive, we meet Mawhinney and get an inside look at his collection. For years, Mawhinney ran the awesome record shop Record-Rama in Pittsburgh. I visited Record-Rama in the 90's, and bought an Uncle... READ ON
Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart.