TIME Appreciation

11 Facts You Might Not Know About Maya Angelou

She loved wearing Uggs, watched 'Law & Order', and listened to Carrie Underwood

Maya Angelou, renowned American poet and author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, has died at 86. Here, NewsFeed rounds up some fun facts you maybe didn’t know about the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts.

• She wrote Hallmark greetings: Her Random House editor disapproved of her decision to lend her words to a line of cards, bookends, and pillows, arguing it was too commercial. But as she told USA Today, “If I’m America’s poet, or one of them, then I want to be in people’s hands…people who would never buy a book.”

• She says at 16, she was the first black streetcar conductor in San Francisco. “I loved the uniforms,” she told Oprah Winfrey.

• She drank sherry while she wrote.

• Her favorite clothing item: Uggs.

• She watched Law & Order.

• A country music lover, she listened to Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Montgomery Gentry and Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland. “I’ve been seriously affected by the breakup of Brooks & Dunn,” she told Parade. “They broke up after 20 years and I’ve been seriously offended by that!”

• She wrote cookbooks: The author of Great Food, All Day Long and Hallelujah! The Welcome Table, she believed people won’t overeat if they eat what they want when they feel like it, such as “fried rice for breakfast,” she told The Guardian.

• She was a guest star on Sesame Street. Watch a pink puppet character grab her nose while she plays a name game using only words that begin with the letter “N.”

• She was “disappointed” that one of her poems was in an explicit rap song by Common. Another fun fact: Kanye West likes to compare himself to Maya Angelou, arguing that they are both “true poets.”

• In the 50s, she danced in Porgy and Bess, a nationwide tour of the George Gershwin opera about American poverty and racism that the U.S. Department of State sponsored. She was singing at nightclubs when she got the role, she told NPR.

• She was friends with Nelson Mandela, and they first met while she was a journalist in Cairo in 1962. Shortly after his death in Dec. 2013, she recited a poem in memory of the former South African president in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views on the YouTube channel for the U.S. Department of State.

TIME animals

Here Are Some Otters Tickling the Ivories

They're actually pretty good if you cut them a bit of slack. Since, you know, they're otters

A group of Asian small-clawed otters got a chance to show off their musical talents by playing a keyboard at the National Zoo. (It’s part of their “enrichment” program.)

Some are total slackers and just hang back, riding on the coattails of the other otters. But those who go for it, well, they really go for it. Bravo.

TIME Internet

You Can Help Bring Reading Rainbow Back to Life

Reading Rainbow's 30th Anniversary Celebration
Actor LeVar Burton attends the Reading Rainbow's 30th Anniversary Celebration Imeh Akpan—Getty Images

LeVar Burton has launched a Kickstarter to help revive the classic children's show online

Butterflies in the sky, LeVar Burton needs your help. And all it takes is picking up book… a checkbook that is.

Burton launched a Kickstarter Wednesday to help bring Reading Rainbow—which aired between 1983 and 2006, with re-runs through 2009— back to life online. Although an iPad app was created in 2012, that’s not enough for Burton.

First, not all families have access to tablets,” the Kickstarter reads. “Our goal is to cultivate a love of reading in all children, not just those that have tablets. To reach kids everywhere, we need to be everywhere: we need to be on the web.”

Kids are reading 139,000 books a week—either on their own or through the help of a boisterous actor—on the iPad app. He hopes that the free website would increase that number and serve as a classroom tool.

The Kickstarter is trying to raise $1,000,000 by July 2. Here’s the pitch:

TIME

Start Your Day Off Right With This Video of Adorable Bear Cubs Play Fighting

Too bad they'll grow up to become vicious predators

There is absolutely nothing cuter than this pair of black bear cubs just frolicking around a yard and pouncing on each other as their momma bear has a quick nosh nearby.

You might want to turn your volume down, though, because as HyperVocal points out, the guy who filmed this is a major mouthbreather.

TIME celebrity

Watch 50 Cent’s Epic Fail of a First Pitch

Get the pitch or die tryin'

Curtis Jackson III, otherwise known as your friend and mine, 50 Cent, is many things — a rapper, an actor, a businessman — but undiscovered baseball talent he is not. Just watch as he tries to throw the opening pitch during Tuesday’s game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates. (If you can even call that trying.)

But don’t worry, Fiddy, you’re not alone — here are 10 other terrible ceremonial pitches. One comes courtesy of a dinosaur.

 

[BuzzFeed]

TIME Internet

Find Out What Song Was (Probably) Playing When You Were Conceived

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Getty Images

An answer to a question you never thought you'd ask

Look, we get it: you probably don’t want to know what song was playing when you were conceived. But wouldn’t it be kind of cool and to know? Like, a tiny bit? Maybe?

Well, one ambitious Redditor has created a website called porktrack.com (yup) to help you determine what was likely playing on the radio when your parents, you know, made you. It uses a simple algorithm that takes your birthdate, subtracts 40 weeks, and then spits out whichever song was atop the Billboard Hot 100 list that particular week. (Don’t worry — it will adjust the timeframe if you indicate that you had an early or late birth.)

The site’s creator — who goes by the handle literallyelvis on Reddit and Twitter — admits that this isn’t the most accurate calculation. “I really wanted to learn how to make a website,” he writes on the site’s FAQ section. “Also it amuses me greatly to see how people react to their porktracks.”

So, what does your porktrack ultimately say about you? Let’s take a look at some famous people’s porktracks for reference:

  • Jay Z: “Everyday People” by Sly & the Family Stone
  • Blue Ivy Carter: “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
  • Paul Ryan: “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” by The 5th Dimension
  • Chelsea Clinton: “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb
  • Barack Obama: “I Want to Be Wanted” by Brenda Lee
  • Sheryl Sandberg: “Hey Jude” by The Beatles
  • Miley Cyrus: “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred

Sadly, the site cannot determine your porktrack if you were born before 1960, so you’ll just have to take your best guess.

TIME NextDraft

Why College Is Still Worth It and Other Fascinating News on the Web

May 27, 2014

nextdraft_newsfeed_v2

1. The Graduate

A tight job market. A national student debt level that has topped $1 trillion. Teenage entrepreneurs who are already a few years vested into their start-up equity packages. It’s enough to make a person wonder whether or not college is worth it. According to the NYT, the answer is a resounding yes, and it’s not even close. “Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. That’s up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s.”

+ “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … Are you listening? Plastics.” That was the career advice offered to Benjamin Braddock in the movie, The Graduate. Today’s top grads hear another one-word piece of career advice: Technology. And while a lot of them are taking the bait, there are still plenty who head into consulting and investment banking. Learn about career directions and much more in The Harvard Crimson’s interesting look at the Class of 2014 by the numbers.

2. Precious Metal

It’s good to be the CEO. The median pay package for the leader of a large company just passed the $10 million mark. “A chief executive now makes about 257 times the average worker’s salary, up sharply from 181 times in 2009.”

+ The CEO just got a huge raise and you didn’t. Here’s why.

+ Want to improve your quality of life? Try moving to place where heavy metal is huge. It turns out that “this music of disillusion and despair is, strangely, biggest in countries with very high quality of life.” (Somewhat related: My McSweeney’s piece: An open letter to the guy who puked next to me at a heavy metal concert.)

3. Located

The Nigerian government says it knows where the abducted schoolgirls are being held, but also stated that they would not risk “going there with force.” Meanwhile, Buzzfeed has a collection of mostly dubious things the Nigerian government has said so far.

+ Could U.S. Special Forces get “tweeted” into combat? “According to two well-placed defense department sources, senior Special Operations commanders … have told their men to be ready, assuming that eventually ‘the hashtag will bring us out.'”

4. The Militia is Not Well Regulated

“They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?; Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.” That was Richard Martinez: a parent of one of the victims of the Isla Vista killings.

+ Martinez later followed up with this: “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

+ “How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, ‘It’s not fair.'” Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow were none too pleased when Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday drew a connection between the slayings and their movies. (Whenever a sociopath does something horrific, there is a race to explain how that singular act is representative of a broader societal trend. But what if it’s just representative of extreme sociopathic behavior and the unfortunate availability of killing tools?)

5. The Driver Gets the Grey Poupon

No matter where you want them to take you, Uber drivers appear to being following the money. “According to Uber, the median wage for an UberX driver working at least 40 hours a week in New York City is $90,766 a year. In San Francisco, the median wage for an UberX driver working at least 40 hours a week is $74,191.”

+ Contrast that with this 2013 report on Boston cabbies; a losing battle against the numbers.

+ Another industry being shaken up by the Internet: Beauty. As of last year, beauty-related videos on YouTube were racking up a cool 700 million views a month. And most them are being uploaded by individuals with no direct relationship with the big brands.

6. Sunny Side Up

Here’s an idea. What if we paved all the streets with solar panels that could provide three times the electricity the country needs, filter stormwater, replace above-ground power cables, melt ice from dangerous roads, and even provide a warning when a large animal wanders onto the road? It may sound impossible, Julie and Scott Brusaw are trying to raise $1 million on Indiegogo to get the ball rolling. And they’ve already surpassed their goal by about half a million.

7. Dumbbells

“If all the latest cutting-edge scientific research says that outdated barbell movements have to be updated with core stability tricks and then integrated into super-short high-intensity muscle-confusion routines, how come none of that did much for me, while the same five lifts repeated for a year caused profound structural changes to my body? The answer, it turns out, is that there are no cutting-edge scientific studies.” In the NYT, Daniel Duane reflects on the over-complication of exercise: Fitness Crazed. (I’m even beginning to think that my body benefits from walks that are not tracked by my FitBit.)

+ A lot of people have heard the question: “How much do you bench?” Only one person has answered: 882 pounds.

8. Never Home Alone

You walk into your home. Your phone senses the temperature and tells your cooling system to engage, turns on your favorite playlist, preheats the oven for the dinner you ordered earlier in the day, and pings your kids’ devices to see if their homework is complete. Come to think of it, you might as well just throw your phone in your front door and take off. You’re obsolete. Wired explains why Apple wants to make a remote control for your home. And Google took a big step into your house with the acquisition of Nest. Will Dropcam be next?

9. Playing Keep Away

The buzzing in my ear and the sight of my wife standing on the edge of our bed clapping in the air was a stark reminder that the mosquitoes are back. So it’s time for a MoJo refresher course on how to avoid being eaten alive. (I have to admit that, for a second, I thought I was getting a standing ovation.)

10. The Bottom of the News

“Edsel, the son of Sam Wo’s owner, began as a waiter and soon became the restaurant’s coming attraction — and for an unlikely reason: he was the rudest, most despotic waiter to ever walk the earth.”

+ So Bill Murray walks into a bachelor party

+ Steve Perry performs publicly for the first time in 19 years.

+ How Don Draper will die, according to the CDC.

nextdraft

TIME celebrity

BBC Once Said Benedict Cumberbatch Wasn’t Sexy Enough for TV

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - Candids
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City. Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

British Broadcasting Corporation? More like British BLASPHEMY Corporation

Gather ’round, Cumberbabes (and Cumberbros — you guys exist, right?) Today we’d like to share a tale of utter blasphemy.

When the hit show Sherlock was still in its early stages, BBC execs apparently worried that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t “sexy enough” for the titular role. Speaking yesterday at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat said that when he presented his casting suggestion to BBC bigwigs, they responded, “You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not him.”

They also questioned the sexiness of David Tennant, who Moffat had cast as the lead in the BBC miniseries Casanova. “Damn, you should have cast someone sexier,” network execs apparently said.

Watch out, BBC. When the Cumberbabes get word of this, they WILL come after you, and they WILL destroy you.

TIME Education

Kids Show Off to Obama at White House Science Fair

White House Science Fair
US President Barack Obama talks with a Girl Scout Brownie troop from Tulsa, Okla. about their design for a "flood proof" bridge, during the White House Science Fair in Washington on May 27, 2014. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

The fourth annual White House Science Fair was geared towards girls with an interest in science and engineering

One hundred students from 30 different states took over the White House Tuesday to participate in the fourth annual White House Science Fair.

This year had a special focus on girls involved in science, technology, and engineering. Girl Scout Troop 2612 showed President Obama what they were made of by presenting a “Flood Proof Bridge,” designed with disaster relief in mind.

Peyton Robertson, 12, also looked to flood prevention by creating a sandless sandbag.

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama learns about sandless sandbags, the invention of Peyton Robertson, 12, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., while touring the 2014 White House Science Fair exhibits in Washington on May 27, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP
TIME animals

This Cat Is Suspiciously Good at Jenga

This must be some kind of conspiracy

Somewhere in the world, there exists a cat who plays Jenga. As John Keats once said, “That is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.”

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