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Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

After Going Silent in August, Big Ben's Bell Is Back for the Holidays

Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images
Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

This holiday season, Londoners will be treated to something they haven’t heard in a while: the sound of Big Ben ringing out over Westminster. After a period of silence, The Telegraph reports that the iconic clock tower’s bongs will return for the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s.

Big Ben’s hourly chimes were put on hold for the first time in 157 years in August. The change marked the beginning of a four-year restoration project: Without the bells ringing throughout the day, workers are able to repair Big Ben and not worry about the sound damaging their ears.

The clock won’t resume its regular schedule until 2021, but the city will make a few exceptions to the silence policy between now and then. The first came on Remembrance Day, the November 11 holiday that commemorates the country's veterans. The second comes just in time for the winter holidays. At 9 a.m. on Saturday December 23, the clock will mark the hour with its mighty bong, and continue to ring every hour through 1 p.m. New Year’s Day. So anyone planning to spend New Year’s Eve in London can expect to hear the clock striking at midnight.

Big Ben has been in dire need of repair for years: In 2015, a Parliamentary report noted that the clock’s hands risked falling off if they weren’t refurbished soon. The city has set aside a budget of about $60 million for the project.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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music
Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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Big Questions
What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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