Masters of Their Domain

The Master: Estonian "athlete" Margo Uusorg is probably the world's greatest wife carrier. At the annual Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajärvi, Finland (where first prize is the wife's weight in beer!), Uusorg has emerged victorious five out of the past seven years (his brother Madis won in 2004) . He's also the only man to have won with three different female partners (you don't have to carry your own wife, see). Uusorg and his fellow Estonians are so dominant in the sport, which involves sprinting with wifey across various surfaces and water obstacles, that their technique has come to be known as "the Estonian." So, what is the Estonian? A position that's definitely not in the Kama Sutra, it involves a spouse hanging upside down with her arms around her husband's waist while her legs are clutching for dear life to his neck.
angkor_wat_jump-rope.jpgThe Domain: World Records
The Master: Ashrita Furman currently holds 33 Guinness World Records, including the record for having the most Guinness World Records. In his record-setting career, which began after he dropped out of Columbia University in the mid-1970s, 51-year-old Furman has set or beaten more than 100 records, including longest continuous pogo sticking (23.11 miles), most completed hopscotch games in 24 hours (434), fastest 10 km sack race (1 hour, 22 minutes, 2 seconds), and the longest period of continuous juggling underwater (48 minutes and 36 seconds). And he's single, ladies! On the downside, Furman is a devoted follower of the Indian philosopher Sri Chinmoy, who preaches strict celibacy.
damone_roberts_eyebrow_seminar.jpgThe Domain: Eyebrow Plucking
The Master: Known as "The Eyebrow King," Damone Roberts has plucked and sculpted the world's most famous eyebrows, from Paula Abdul to Amanda Peet to the Backstreet Boys. A visit to Damone's Beverly Hills salon will cost you $60, but it's well worth the expense. After all, he's America's only eyebrow sculptor to have registered his own name as a trademark! Now that's classy.
Movies_Wordplay-Shortz_0625.jpgThe Domain: Enigmatology
The Master: Will Shortz. It's no contest, really, because Shortz is the only person in human history to graduate college with a degree in enigmatology (the study of puzzles). After receiving the honor from Indiana University in 1974, Shortz went on to a career in puzzles, and in 1993, he landed the best job in the business, editor of The New York Times crossword puzzle. His work there is legendary among crossword enthusiasts, as is Shortz's 20,000-strong collection of puzzle books and magazines. As historian of the National Puzzlers' League, Shortz goes by the nickname WILLz, which puzzlers will recognize as a rebus puzzle that translates to Will Short "˜z'.
250px-Various_AOL_CDs_with_packaging_removed.jpgThe Domain: Collecting AOL CDs (a surprisingly competitive field)
The Masters: Collectors of the infamous AOL "free hours" CDs are legion. In fact, there are dozens of "rare" AOL CDs auctioned on eBay every day. But the masters of the AOL CD collecting domain are undoubtedly Jim McKenna and John Lieberman, two Californians who started collecting the discs back in 2002. Since then, they've amassed more than 385,000. (By the way, if you stacked those suckers up, they'd be taller than the Empire State Building.) When they get to the 1 million mark, they plan on returning the whole lump sum to AOL and asking the company to stop mailing unsolicited CDs.
madmonday_wideweb__430x315.jpgThe Domain: Chessboxing
The Master: Bulgarian Tihomir Titschko is currently the European chessboxing champion—and, because the sport hasn't really spread to other continents, that makes him the de facto world champ. Chessboxing starts with a four-minute round of chess, followed by a two-minute round of boxing, and then it's back to the chess. A judge decides the winner after 11 rounds (six of chess and five of boxing), unless the match is stopped first by a knockout or checkmate. And if you're thinking Lennox Lewis could probably beat Bobby Fischer at chessboxing, you're right. While it's important to be not horrible at chess, it's more important to know how to survive in the ring.

The Domain: High School Badminton
The Master: Miller Place High School in New York. Between 1973 and 2005, the Miller Place High School badminton team won 504 consecutive games. Sadly, the streak ended on April 12, 2005, when they were beaten 10-5 by Smithtown High School. But fret not, high school badminton fans! Miller Place is back to its winning ways and has already started racking up the trophies again.

The Domain: Pitching Professionally While Under the Influence of Drugs
The Master: Dock Ellis was a pretty eccentric baseball player, which befits a man who now claims he never played a major league game sober. On May 1, 1974, for instance, Ellis attempted to hit every batter in the Cincinnati Reds' lineup. In the first inning alone, he pelted Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Dreisen. Tony Perez dodged four pitches and walked, but after Johnny Bench was nearly beaned twice, Ellis was removed from the game. But by far, Ellis' oddest accomplishment came on June 12, 1970, when (per his autobiography) he became the only major league player ever to pitch a complete game no-hitter while tripping on acid. Luckily, Ellis sobered up after his retirement and now works as a drug treatment counselor.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.


The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.


Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.


Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.


A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”


Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.


Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.


Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”


New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.


During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.


Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.


Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.


Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.


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