Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kanzi the Bonobo Builds Fire, Toasts Marshmallows (and Other Amazing Feats!)

This short video clip is one of the most mind-blowing things I've seen in a long time. It's from a BBC program called Monkey Planet and it shows Kanzi (who is a bonobo, one of the two members of the chimp family) ... well, just watch:

This is how it starts, people. THIS IS HOW IT STARTS! Actually, the opposite is true: Now we know why Planet of the Apes is such an impossible story - they all get diabetes.

Kanzi is remarkable in many more ways that just for his ability to build a fire, strike a match and roast marshmallows. Kanzi is a 34-year-old male who spent much of his life at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. Kanzi showed an aptitude for understanding language from a very early age, and also for using tools. He understands more than 200 words. He now lives at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, and has a son born in 2010.

Kanzi's son is named Teco, and appears with Kanzi in this clip:

Alas, Teco, according to Wikipedia, exhibits signs that in humans might be diagnosed as autism or a related disorder.

Here is reporter Lisa Ling "interviewing" Kanzi for a report that aired on Oprah:

Here's another clip of Kanzi building a fire and roasting marshmallows:

The following video shows some of the language research done with Kanzi (and also shows him cutting onions with a knife). "Kanzi's language comprehension has been demonstrated in research using novel sentences — phrases that preclude the learning of specific responses."

There are many more clips of Kanzi on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Many Carrots Can This Hamster Stuff in His Mouth?

There are seven baby carrots in the little try in front of this hamster. How many of them to you think it can stuff - whole - into its mouth? Let's find out:

The little fella got five in there before he ran out of room. He's like a baby-carrot-disappearing magician.

Husky Makes Friends with Rehabbing Meerkat

A husky dog and a meerkat are unlikely friends. How would they even meet? Huskies are cold-weather dogs, meerkats scamper across African savannah. But the Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge in Namibia has a has a pet Siberian husky named Bond, and the lodge also rehabs injured local wildlife. The lodge explains on YouTube:

"One of the Meerkats from our rehabilitation project finds our Siberian Husky, Bond, to be a very interesting guy, but makes sure to show him who is boss. Bond has an amazing character and has never harmed any of his little 'friends'. These meerkats are formed into families with other meerkats previously kept as pets, and are then released into the wild when they are ready."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pro Golfer Jumps Into Lake to Escape Attacking Hornets

Pablo Larrazabal is a Spanish golfer who plays on the European Tour, where he's won three times and was Rookie of the Year in 2008. He's pretty good. Which means that he usually handles golf course hazards without much problem.

But Larrazabal never encountered a hazard like the one he ran into on Friday during the second round of the Maybank Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur: a swarm of hornets. The hornets were moving across the golf course when they flew right into Larrazabal (or did Larrazabal walk right into the hornets? Larrazabal and the hornets disagree on that point).

As the announcer in the video below says, it looks funny at first as Larrazabal starts gyrating wildly to try to get the hornets off him. But in fact, he was stung 20 or more times and had to jump into a golf course lake to get away from them! The hornets didn't bother anyone else.

And in the end, apart from the discomfort of the stings and his wet clothes, Larrazabal doesn't seem to have been bothered either. He birdied the hole on which the incident happened and went on to shoot 4-under par 68.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cat So Happy Its Human Has Come Home

Cats have a well-earned reputation for aloofness. But the cat in this video had been home alone for three days while its human traveled. Don't worry - it wasn't hungry, its bowl was still half-full. Kitty is just ecstatic to see its owner again - it comes racing down the stairs, meowing the whole way, demanding attention:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Unlikely Buddies Horse and Cat Nuzzle in the Barn

What happens when a cat heads into the barn and meets up with a horse in its stall? Well, if you're this cat and this horse, you nuzzle one another. The horse - a 3-year-old colt - in particular seems to appreciate the cat's presence, even using its upper lip near the end of the video to "pet" the cat:

Squirrel Buries Nuts in Man's Clothing

This video was filmed by a guy sitting on a park bench in New York's Battery Park, where he found a furry little friend: one of the local squirrels. He gives the squirrel a nut, and the squirrel takes the nut and tries to bury it in the guy's clothing. He puts one in the hood of the hoodie the guy is wearing, another in his pocket.

The guy exclaims a couple times when the squirrel finds skin (and lets slip an expletive or two). He might want to inquire about a tetanus shot. But otherwise he's quite taken with his new squirrel friend.

See also:
Squirrel buries nuts in dog's hair

David Letterman Hosts 1977 Game Show Pilot, 'The Riddlers' - Show Awful, Dave Hilarious

A good game show can be a lot of fun. And good game show hosts tend to be earnest about the proceedings yet cheerful and able to come up with a quip when needed; they charm (or at least attempt to) the guests; they have a good repartee with any celebrity guests. That's the model. When it's poorly done, it can be difficult to watch.

But what if there was a game show host who was wickedly funny and clearly didn't respect the proceedings at hand? At game show host who wasn't afraid to mock the celebrity guests, and whose sense of humor ran toward the absurd and arch? A host who was self-mocking while also mocking the situation in which he found himself?

Well, then you'd have David Letterman hosting a show called The Riddlers. The Riddlers was a game show pilot taped in 1977. That was before Letterman's first Tonight Show appearance, before his membership in the cast of the ill-fated Mary variety hour (watch Dave sing and dance!), both of which happened in 1978. In 1977, Letterman was doing stand-up in Los Angeles, and looking for television gigs anywhere he could find them. In 1978 and 1979 - after his successful first Tonight Show - Letterman could be seen guesting on multiple game shows.

But in 1977, Letterman was pretty much a nobody. But his agents got him in the door as host of The Riddlers. For a guy who needed a job, Letterman appears, in the pilot, completely unafraid to make fun of what is going on. His wit is rapier sharp, and he unsheaths it early and often.

The setup of the show is that a panel of five celebrities played against a panel of five "regular" folks. The folks got to keep their winnings; any winnings by the celebrities were given to home viewers. Early on, Letterman reads off the list of lucky home viewers who'll get the celebrities' money. Naming a woman from his hometown of Indianapolis, Letterman quips, "I used to look in her windows."

The game started with the host, Letterman, reading a riddle to the first person on a panel. If that person solved the riddle, he or she then turned to panelist No. 2 and read another riddle. If the second riddle was solved, the second panelist read another riddle to the third panelist, and so on. Solve nine riddles in a row, and your side win the game.

The celebrity panel goes first in the pilot, and the five celebrities are Jo Anne Worley, Robert Urich, Joyce Builifant, Michael McKean and Debralee Scott. That's a pretty good game show guest list in 1977! But confusion quickly reigns, and which point Letterman says, "Boy, this really makes you want to run out and buy the home game, doesn't it?"

The celebs manage to answer the first four questions, then McKean reads a riddle to Scott, who has no idea. "This answers the question," Dave says, "of whether or not the celebrities are tested before coming on the show." Ouch!

At one point later in the episode, a light bulb blows out with a loud pop. "Sniper fire," Dave suggests.

Here is the full pilot episode of The Riddlers (in this video posted to YouTube, the pilot is introduced by Elvira, which fits right in with Letterman's arch and absurdist comic sensibilities):

In 1991, panelist Michael McKean appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and they briefly discussed The Riddlers. Letterman recalls that they were supposed to tape two episodes that day, but following the first taping a producer told the cast that they had all they needed. Never a good sign!

McKean praises Letterman's hosting effort by saying, "You were the first game show host I had ever seen who knew that it was crap!" Well, Letterman replies, "It was a gig." Here are McKean and Dave talking about The Riddlers:

Imagine if The Riddlers had been greenlit, hit the airwaves, became a smash hit. Game-show host Dave. Probably would have been awesome! But American comedy might never have benefited from his huge influence on late-night talk.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Brief Tour of the Accents of Britain and Ireland

There's a lot of information packed into this 90-second video. It's a tour of the accents of the British Isles by a dialect coach named Andrew Jack:

(Via Kottke.org)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

David Letterman (and Michael Keaton) Sings and Dances on Mary Tyler Moore Variety Show

Have you ever seen David Letterman sing and dance? Sing or dance? Of course not! Dave is not a song-and-dance man. You can probably imagine Letterman preferring tarring-and-feathering to singing-and-dancing.

But there was a time, long ago, on a very short-lived variety show starring Mary Tyler Moore, when Letterman did sing and dance. He - along with Michael Keaton and Swoosie Kurtz, among others - was a cast member on Mary, a 1978 variety show starring Mary Tyler Moore. Hell of a cast. Awful show. The show only lasted three episodes.

One of the writers on Mary - one who, like Letterman, had a sense of humor that had nothing in common with the show that employed her - was Merrill Markoe. Markoe and Letterman were dating at the time, and Markoe later served as head writer on Letterman's own short-lived show, the morning-aired David Letterman Show in 1980. Two years later, Markoe began as head writer on Light Night with David Letterman, and played a huge role the success of Late Night. She created Stupid Pet Tricks and discovered Calvert DeForest (a k a Larry "Bud" Melman), among many other contributions.

Markoe recently guested on the podcast How Was Your Week and spoke about Mary:

"The guys in the cast were Letterman and Michael Keaton ... dancing and singing "Macho Man." And they (the senior staff of Mary) didn't understand it was a gay anthem. I remember saying to them, you know that this is a gay anthem, right? "Macho Man"? And they're like, nah, it's not.

"... also they dressed them up so they were wearing the clothing of the movie Deliverance.

"... What they were was both (Letterman and Keaton) seriously uncomfortable. At the time I was dating him (Letterman) and all the other writers on the writing staff came running down to go, oh you have to come look at the monitor. And I couldn't look, I just ... it was too uncomfortable."

Unfortunately, the "Macho Man" clip is not online. But I can offer you a nice (is that the right word?) consolation prize. Here are David Letterman and Michael Keaton singing and dancing as Mary Tyler Moore performs the Wings hit, "With a Little Luck":

Keaton at least looks like he's trying. Dave? He looks humiliated, sick to his stomach, like he'd rather be anywhere than there, doing that. He looks exactly what you'd expect David Letterman to look like in that situation.

Here's a 6-minute clip that includes the Mary show opening (with plenty of views of Letterman), a few scenes of Mary introducing segments, plus the "audition tapes" of Keaton and Letterman (not their real auditions - it was a bit for the show). Keaton's bit is not funny at all. Dave's, however, actually resembles the Letterman we would come to know much better within a few years - his comic sensibility is there, his delivery, his expressions. Makes me wonder if Letterman (or Markoe) got to write his the lines for the segment. Letterman appears at the 5:20 mark:

Has there ever been a show with this much collective talent on screen - television legend Mary Tyler Moore, a guy who later became a legend in Letterman, very talented actor Keaton, very talented singer and actor Swoosie Kurtz, and we haven't even mentioned the solid Dick Shawn - that was so bad? Any nominations?

See also:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Classic Letterman: Infamous Crispin Glover Appearance Even Weirder than You Remember

The appearance of actor Crispin Glover on Late Night with David Letterman in 1987 is one of the most famous (or infamous) "interviews" in the history of TV talk shows. Glover, a strange guy to begin with, was clearly high (right?), and ultimately frightened Dave to the point that Letterman got up and walked away. When they came back from commercial, Glover was gone.

I remember watching this in real time. Mind-blown. But in those pre-Twitter, pre-blogging, pre-social media days, you had to wait until the next day to actually talk about it with other people.

Watching it again now, it's even weirder than I remember:

Classic Letterman: James Brown Blows the Roof Off the Sucka

Here's one of the best musical performances in the history of late night and - according to some - the last great television performance by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

Brown sings, grunts, sweats and dances through 13 minutes of music. The funk is still flowing even as the closing credits roll:

This is from a 1982 (first season) episode of Late Night with David Letterman.

In his book, We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives,Paul Shaffer rights about this appearance by Brown:

The best move I ever made was to perform with Mr. Brown on Letterman. His first appearance came in 1982 when we were on NBC.

"Mr Brown," I said, "this is the honor of a lifetime. Just tell me what you'd like to play."

His answer astonished me. "What do you guys want to play, Paul?"

At the time, my World's Most Dangerous Band featured the great Will Lee on bass plus Steve Jordan, drums, and Hiram Bullock, guitar - three brilliant cats. I let the band pick the songs. Steve said, "Sex Machine" for the drumming. Hiram said, "There Was a Time" for the rhythm guitar. Will was cool with all of it.

On "Sex Machine," James wanted a fast tempo. That's the tradition of live R&B. It's all about energy. Steve Jordan, though, was a young buck who wanted to re-create the groove he'd heard on wax. He didn't quite understand that when you deal with the Godfather of Soul, you put the groove where he wants it. James won out and the funk got thick. He played his short keyboard solo and at the end of the song slapped me ten. I told him I wouldn't wash my hands for a week. During the break, as the band played a small portion of "I Got the Feeling," James took note.

When we were back on the air, James said, "Hey Dave, you know what I'd like to do right now? Before you close, can we close with 'I Got the Feeling?' "

"Sure thing," said Dave. "Soon as we come back from one more break."

Once the commercial was over, we hit it: an unrehearsed full-blown version of "I Got the Feeling." The audience went crazy. Dave joined the James Brown Fan Club.

See also:

Huge Elk Herd Crosses Road ... but Will the One Straggler Catch Up?

Why did the elk cross the road? To make a good YouTube video. This one was posted by Austin Stonnel and shows a large herd of elk jumping a fence and crossing a road. But there's one straggler who just can't quite make the fence jump. Will he ever get across? Will he catch up to the herd?

Stonnel's comments: "Huge herd of elk crossing the road in Bozeman, MT near Yellowstone. I have never seen a herd this big. Poor little guy at the end...leave no elk behind."

Classic Letterman: 'They Took My Show Away' After-School Special

Here's a classic David Letterman clip from the original Late Night. It's an "after-school special" starring Letterman as a man who's afraid his son isn't watching enough television. The title of the bit is "They Took My Show Away." Touching, very touching. And pertinent to the recent news of Letterman's pending retirement.

"I don't think I'll ever watch TV again!" the red-haired boy, Jimmy, says, after his favorite show is canceled. Letterman replies: "Jimmy, don't ever say that. Not even as a joke."

This aired in 1983:

Johnny Carson's Final Appearance on Television

David Letterman's retirement is in the news. And while I haven't watched much of Letterman (or other late night TV) in about 20 years, Letterman's retirement leaves me sad because his show was such a huge part of my teen years. Like many others who've spoken out in the wake of the news - Judd Apatow, Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Gaffigan, Seth Meyers, many others - my sense of humor was profoundly influenced by Dave. Those guys all became rich and famous as a result of Dave's inspiration. I just became a smartass.

So I'll be posting some of my favorite Letterman clips on Nifty Niblets in the days and weeks and months to come. But let's start by sharing a clip of the man who was one of Letterman's heroes: Johnny Carson. Carson did a surprise walk-on to The Late Show with David Letterman when Dave was doing a week of shows in California.

It happened on May 13, 1994, and it was the last time Carson ever appeared on television:

A nice companion piece to the above is the heartfelt tribute by Letterman to Carson on the first Late Show that aired following Carson's death in 2005. It begins with Letterman telling jokes written for him by Carson in the opening monologue:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cute Cat Stands Up, Waves Paws to Ask for Food

Most of this video shows a cat lazily laying about. But around the 1-minute mark, something adorable happens: kitty stands up, waves its paws, rubs them together, and asks for food. Then he does it again a few seconds later. It's worth the wait!

Turn Vegetables Into Spaghetti? It's the Veggetti

Ever heard of the Veggetti? It's an as-seen-on-TV product made for slicing vegetables. (Fun fact: 73-percent of ASOT products are vegetables slicers. ... OK, I just made that up.)

The twist with the Veggetti is that its purpose is to produce long, thin strands of the vegetable being sliced - veggie strands that look like spaghetti. Veggetti - get it?

The official website is at buyveggetti.com, and at the time of this writing offers the product for $14.99 (plus shipping, postage and "handling," of course). The site includes this image of some of the dishes you can make using the Veggetti:

And here is the Veggetti's infomercial, which demonstrates how to use it and shows many meal suggestions:

"Turn veggies into healthy spaghetti!" is bannered across the top of the site. As of this writing, the Veggetti is not sold in stores, so ordering online is the only way to get one.

But should you get one? Does the Veggetti actually work? Connie Thompson of KOMOnews.com recently tested the item and gave it 3 out of 4 stars. Among her comments was this:

From a user-friendly standpoint this one's pretty difficult to mess up. You can only use veggies that fit the slicer, and all you do is twist the veggies through the slicing funnel. Vegetables must be long enough to keep your hands away from the blades inside the funnel opening. I'm not sure what I expected, but with each twist I got long, continuous strands of fresh zucchini that actually did resemble strands of spaghetti.

Read her review, linked above, for some of her caveats (which included believing the price was too high).

The website Waffles At Noon also reviewed the Veggetti, and their review was also favorable:

Although Veggetti is made of plastic, even the metallic-looking part of the handle, it performed surprisingly well, and the “pasta” it created was simple to make. The blades were sharp, requiring little force to operate. We found the thinner strands to be less intact and formed than the thicker pieces.

What do you think - does the Veggetti "pasta" maker sound like something you'd like to try? And if you have already tried one, what did you think?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

50th Anniversary: Beatles Take Top 5 Spots on Billboard's Hot 100

It was 50 years ago today ... OK, actually, it was 50 years ago Friday - April 4, 1964 - when the Beatles became the first (and only) act to hold the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

What were the songs in that Top 5?

1. Can't Buy Me Love
2. Twist and Shout
3. She Loves You
4. I Want to Hold Your Hand
5. Please Please Me

Those five songs alone would be a great career for most bands. The Beatles were just getting started. But they also weren't nearly finished in the April 4, 1964 Hot 100 - the group had 12 songs total in the rankings that week. Take a look at how the Hot 100 looked in print that week (click the image to enlarge):

(Via @TheBeatles/twitter.com)

Here are the other seven Beatles songs from that Billboard Hot 100:

31. I Saw Her Standing There
41. From Me to You
45. Do You Want to Know a Secret
57. All My Loving
64. You Can't Do That
68. Roll Over Beethoven
78. Thank You Girl

The first 11 of these songs should be recognizable to even casual Beatles fans (many of them recognizable to even casual rock and pop fans). Maybe You Can't Do That doesn't immediately ring a bell, but listen to it and you'll know it.

But that 12th one - Thank You Girl? You have to be more than a casual fan to know that one. But I've always thought the genius of the Beatles is best understood by listening to the songs they didn't release as singles and buried on early albums. And Thank You Girl is a great little rocker.

It's a true Lennon-McCartney composition (meaning they really did write it together), but one they both treated dismissively in later years. Lennon called it "an effort at writing a single that didn't work" and "just a silly song we knocked off." McCartney called it "a bit of a hack song." That's what high standards do to one's appreciation of one's own work.

No, it's not their best work. But it boasts a howling John lead vocal (double-tracked), a gorgeous Paul harmony vocal (but then, all of Paul's harmony vocals are gorgeous), and a muscular beat by Ringo. And a catchy tune. When work like this is your throwaway, you know you have a great thing going.

Thank You Girl was originally released in England as the B-side to From Me to You. It came out a couple weeks later in the USA as the B-side to Do You Want to Know a Secret, and reached No. 35 on the singles chart.

Big Boxer Named Baxter Battles Sprinkler

This boxer is named Baxter, and Baxter ain't afraid of no sprinkler head!

Golden Retriever Adopts Baby Chickens

Do dogs and chickens get along? Well, the chickens are baby chicks, and the dog is an 11-year-old golden retriever named Champ, the answer is yes!

The video was posted to YouTube by the dog's human, Candice Sedighan, who explains:

My 11 year old Golden Retriever Champ lets these baby chicks cuddle up to him and burrow into his fur for extra warmth.

But this isn't the first dog-chick adoption we've seen. A year ago, there was a video posted to YouTube showing a retriever mix and his adopted brood of 10 chicks:

Meteorite Falls Past Skydiver, Who Catches it on Camera

For the first time ever, a meteorite that is no longer glowing has been captured on camera during its fall. And it was captured on camera by a skydiver in a wingsuit, as the meteorize dropped past him in the sky.

Here is an 8-minute news story about the incident, in Norwegian but with English subtitles (the meteorites first appears around the 1:50 mark):

In an English-language story on the Norwegian news site NRK.com, the experts weigh in:

Although Helstrup is still not completely convinced that it was indeed a meteorite that flew past him, the experts are in no doubt.

"It can't be anything else. The shape is typical of meteorites – a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded," said geologist Hans Amundsen.

He explained that the meteorite had been part of a larger stone that had exploded perhaps 20 kilometres above Helstrup.

Amundsen thinks he can make out coloured patches in the stone, and believes that in that case it may be a breccia – a common type of meteorite rock.

(HT: kottke.org)

UPDATE: Turns out this wasn't a meteorite, but just a plain ol' rock. It was apparently caught up in the skydiver's parachute, and fell out when the chute opened.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Magician Performs Magic Tricks for Dogs, Dogs Adorably Flummoxed

Do dogs appreciate a good magic trick? Well, whether they "appreciate" magic is unknowable - but they certainly react to magic tricks. How do we know? Because magician Jose Ahonen did a magic show for dogs. He palmed doggie treats, then made them disappear. The dogs don't know what to think! Actually, they're probably thinking, "hey, gimme my darn treat!"

Here's Part 1 of magic tricks for dogs:

I'm just a bit surprised at the dogs' reactions. The magician still has the treats, they didn't literally vanish. Given time, the dogs would probably sniff them out.

As it is, these magic tricks look a lot like simply teasing the dogs. But don't worry! Magician Ahonen stresses that each dog in the videos received a treat before the magic trick, and another one afterward.

Here is Part 2 of magic for dogs: