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The Long Goodbye: RIP, Mr. Altman

They don't make 'em like Robert Altman anymore. Stubborn and brilliant, he spent his more than 50-year career building a rep as a maverick who did whatever he wanted to, the consequences -- and audience opinion -- be damned. Just look at the critical reception to what would be his last-ever film, A Prairie Home Companion, which ranged from lauds ("What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound," said eponymous critic Roger Ebert) to razzes from the likes of USA Today ("cloying, rambling and superficial").

When he passed away on Monday, he was working on a film adaptation of the 1997 documentary Hands on a Hardbody, about a strangely sadistic Texas endurance contest that graced the virtual pages of this blog not long ago. Here's wishing he'd had a chance to finish it.

Nevertheless, he's left us with plenty of great films -- from M-A-S-H to Nashville and Short Cuts -- and in that spirit, we leave you with what is easily his best-known scene, the genius eight-minute opening shot of 1992's The Player, which besides being hilarious, engrossing and full of Hollywood in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek celebrity cameos, turned out to be prescient, as well: they really did make The Graduate, Part II -- AKA last year's Rumor Has It.

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Bone Broth 101
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Whether you drink it on its own or use it as stock, bone broth is the perfect recipe to master this winter. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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