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5 Flights of Lawn Chair Balloonists

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Flickr: HeartLover1717

In 1937, ballooning pioneer Jean Piccard tested his idea of using clusters of balloons to fly by attaching 98 latex weather balloons (thus not quite recreating “99 Luftballons”) to a conventional balloon basket. The idea stuck, with one small adjustment: lawn chairs instead of baskets.

Here’s a look at the few, the proud, the crazy enough to tie balloons to a lawn chair and take their relaxation skyward.

1. “Lawnchair Larry” Walters (1982)

Poor eyesight kept Larry Walters, a North Hollywood truck driver, from enlisting in the Air Force as a pilot. So Walters picked up 45 weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store and tethered them to his “extremely comfortable” aluminum Sears lawn chair—a project that cost about 4000 bucks. With a pellet gun, some sandwiches, and a bottle of Miller Lite in tow, Lawnchair Larry cut ties with his anchor, expecting to spend a few lazy hours floating 30 feet over his backyard.

Instead, Walters rocketed to 16,000 feet, startling airline pilots. After shooting a few balloons, the balloonist landed in a tangle of power lines, blacking out Long Beach for 20 minutes. Once safely grounded, he was promptly arrested by the LAPD. He’d later give the lawn chair away to neighborhood children, but when a reporter asked Walters why he did it, the handcuffed lawnchair balloonist deadpanned, “A man can’t just sit around.”

2. Mike Howard and Steve Davis (2001)

Left as a footnote in lawnchair balloonist history, Brit Mike Howard and American Steve Davis earned a paragraph in the 2008 Guinness Book of World Records for the Greatest Altitude Reached Using Helium Filled Party Balloons, which seems oddly specific for a world record.

On August 4, 2001, the duo flew 18,300 feet over Albuquerque, New Mexico using 1400 helium toy balloons. Howard previously tried to break the record in 1998 for the Guinness Book of World Records TV show, but capped his televised ascent at 3000 feet.

3. Kent Couch (2007)

Kent Couch’s first crack at lawn chair flight was a mess: In September 2006, the Oregonian gas station owner got himself stranded in the air for 6 hours, eventually shooting down a few balloons with a BB gun and parachuting out of his chair. Almost a year later, Couch took his lawn chair, some snacks, and another parachute for a flight he hoped would land him in Idaho.

It didn’t. After leaving his wife and pet Chihuahua on the ground, Couch floated 193 miles from home, but safely landed in a farmer’s field just short of Idaho. In 2010, Couch competed in (and lost) the first-ever lawn chair cluster balloon race, leaving his mark on the losing end of an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

4. Jonathan Trappe (2010)

An American adventurer abroad, Trappe hoisted a wicker chair (decked out with oxygen masks, satellite navigation, and an emergency beacon) over the English Channel with 54 oversized helium balloons. Setting off from the Kent Gliding Club in Ashford, Trappe—a trained pilot—landed in a cabbage patch in France 22 miles and four hours later.

Trappe, who also set a record stateside for the longest free-floating cluster balloon flight (109 miles over his home state of North Carolina in 14 hours), set his sights on crossing a slightly bigger body of water. This summer, he’ll try to balloon his way over the Atlantic Ocean, jetting off from Caribou, Maine.

5. Joe Barbera (2013)

This 60-year-old semi-retired engineer planned on floating his lawn chair some 200 miles from Washington to “somewhere in Oregon,” but Barbera chair-wrecked into a 40-foot tree in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Rescuers bailed him out after the 80-balloon contraption soared over 21,000 feet—way higher than Barbera anticipated.

Barbera and his team of “redneck engineers” toiled on the project for a month, but most of the gadgets the crew burdened the lawn chair with (a camera, an oxygen tank, and Barbera’s shoes) got ditched to get the lawnchair airborne. “We were making this up as we went along," Jay Elder, one of Barbera’s crewmembers, told a local newspaper.

Primary image courtesy Flickr user HeartLover1717.

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5 Things We Know About Stranger Things Season 2
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Netflix

Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of television's standout new series in 2016. Netflix's sometimes scary, sometimes funny, and always exciting homage to '80s pop culture was a binge-worthy phenomenon when it debuted in July 2016. Of course, the streaming giant wasn't going to wait long to bring more Stranger Things to audiences, and a second season was announced a little over a month after its debut—and Netflix just announced that we'll be getting it a few days earlier than expected. Here are five key things we know about the show's sophomore season, which kicks off on October 27.

1. WE'LL BE GETTING EVEN MORE EPISODES.

The first season of Stranger Things consisted of eight hour-long episodes, which proved to be a solid length for the story Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to tell. While season two won't increase in length dramatically, we will be getting at least one extra hour when the show returns in 2017 with nine episodes. Not much is known about any of these episodes, but we do know the titles:

"Madmax"
"The Boy Who Came Back To Life"
"The Pumpkin Patch"
"The Palace"
"The Storm"
"The Pollywog"
"The Secret Cabin"
"The Brain"
"The Lost Brother"

There's a lot of speculation about what each title means and, as usual with Stranger Things, there's probably a reason for each one.

2. THE KIDS ARE RETURNING (INCLUDING ELEVEN).

Stranger Things fans should gear up for plenty of new developments in season two, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters aren't returning. A November 4 photo sent out by the show's Twitter account revealed most of the kids from the first season will be back in 2017, including the enigmatic Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown (the #elevenisback hashtag used by series regular Finn Wolfhard should really drive the point home):

3. THE SHOW'S 1984 SETTING WILL LEAD TO A DARKER TONE.

A year will have passed between the first and second seasons of the show, allowing the Duffer brothers to catch up with a familiar cast of characters that has matured since we last saw them. With the story taking place in 1984, the brothers are looking at the pop culture zeitgeist at the time for inspiration—most notably the darker tone of blockbusters like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

"I actually really love Temple of Doom, I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did," Matt Duffer told IGN. "Even though it was probably slammed at the time—obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."

4. IT'S NOT SO MUCH A CONTINUATION AS IT IS A SEQUEL.

When you watch something like The Americans season two, it's almost impossible to catch on unless you've seen the previous episodes. Stranger Things season two will differ from the modern TV approach by being more of a sequel than a continuation of the first year. That means a more self-contained plot that doesn't leave viewers hanging at the end of nine episodes.

"There are lingering questions, but the idea with Season 2 is there's a new tension and the goal is can the characters resolve that tension by the end," Ross Duffer told IGN. "So it's going to be its own sort of complete little movie, very much in the way that Season 1 is."

Don't worry about the two seasons of Stranger Things being too similar or too different from the original, though, because when speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the influences on the show, Matt Duffer said, "I guess a lot of this is James Cameron. But he’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original. So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”

5. THE PREMIERE WILL TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF HAWKINS.

Everything about the new Stranger Things episodes will be kept secret until they finally debut later this year, but we do know one thing about the premiere: It won't take place entirely in the familiar town of Hawkins, Indiana. “We will venture a little bit outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “I will say the opening scene [of the premiere] does not take place in Hawkins.”

So, should we take "a little bit outside" as literally as it sounds? You certainly can, but in that same interview, the brothers also said they're both eager to explore the Upside Down, the alternate dimension from the first season. Whether the season kicks off just a few miles away, or a few worlds away, you'll get your answer when Stranger Things's second season debuts next month.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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