The Weekend Links

"¢ In the dog days of summer, many of us are probably wishing we had automatic lawn mowers to keep us out of the heat. Well, the technology is at hand! As this Slate article examines, although the concept sounds perfectly lovely, "we're talking about a slicing machine that runs around by itself and can't even be stopped by power depletion." Don't sign me up for one just YET.

"¢ Here in Atlanta, we frequent the Sweetwater Brewery, which features their famous 420 brew in addition to the maturely named Donkey Punch and, of course, Happy Ending Imperial Stout. Read more about interesting, ridiculous, and funny beer names.

"¢ A Mesmerizing Magnetic Movie, from Michael at The Daily Tube ("the best new videos on the internet"). Gizmodo has more on the experiment.

"¢ The Green Movement continues to reach into the world of electronics. Here's a new way to save energy costs and be environmentally aware: a "green" computer monitor, that will also save on your own "green" by costing the same as those comparable, vampire energy sucking devices.

"¢ As a follow-up to yesterday's video game theme song quiz, here's the Super Mario Bros. theme, played on an Ocarina.

"¢ Flossy reader Tony has provided an article about a postage stamp that shows a 3-second sports clip. All I can say is, see it to believe it! For my money, I'd love to see that incredible helmet catch by David Tyree from this past Super Bowl played out over and over again on stamps across the country. (Sorry, Pats fans.)

"¢ From Paul: "Five things humans no longer need," an article that explores Vestigial organs, or "parts of the body that once had a function but are now more-or-less useless. Probably the most famous example is the appendix, though it is now an open question whether the appendix is really vestigial. The idea that we are carrying around useless relics of our evolutionary past has long fascinated scientists and laypeople alike." I for one wish we didn't have to deal with wisdom teeth.

"¢ Who knew bus stops could be interesting? Got any interesting bus stops in your home town? Ever had the good fortune of sitting in one?

"¢ Speaking of things one wouldn't assume to be interesting and yet, lo, here I spent a good ten minutes perusing ... pre-owned bookmarks. Perhaps my fascination came not so much with the objects themselves (although some are quite interesting), but in how they so closely mirror my own habits.

"¢ "Millennials" are taking up more desks in the workforce. How's that going? Chet Gulland takes a look.

"¢ Anyone brave enough to try this trick? How to make your eyes feel closed when they are open. Sounds creepy to me. What were your results?

"¢ From reader Amy: "I've recently returned from Key West and this guy performs at Mallory Square during the sunset celebration everyday. Maybe people already know about him but I found it fascinating. He's got these cats jumping through hoops of fire with a big hunk of sushi as reward. Combine that with his wacky gestures and exclamations and it's a lot of fun." See him in action here:

"¢ A similar topic from Jan: Zorro the Traveling Cat. The altruistic creator of this site makes a small donation to one of two animal-related charities of your choice if you send in a picture and fact from where you live or a place you've visited (and even gives a small pittance to you) and can add Zorro to the pic. Check it out, and consider collaborating!

"¢ This one is sure to be a treat and delight. Are you aware of the Annual Pun-Off? Here's a segment from NPR that you won't want to miss.

"¢ I don't have the money to throw away a microwave, but if I did, I might try this: beautiful pictures of microwaved CDs.

"¢ Ah, l'amore. This short animated video shows all of the perils and pitfalls of love ... but all's well that ends well ... right?

"¢ Finally, two interesting art projects: One, things to do with paper money, and two, skin painted to look like shoes.

Have a great weekend everyone! Please continue to send your links to—where would I be without you?

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.


More from mental floss studios