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Look how depressing The Lion King’s opening would be without the animals

Half the fun of the iconic opening of The Lion King, in which baby Simba is presented to the whole of the savannah's animal kingdom, is checking out the wealth of biodiversity that's come to greet the cub. (The other half, of course, is making up the words.) This video from Greenpeace Netherlands ruins everyone’s fun by taking away the animals:

Read more: Living


Mass-transit commuters getting screwed by the taxman in 2014

subway scene

Try this thought experiment: You have two forms of transportation, one of which moves each individual in a separate metal box costing around $20,000 and resulting annually in 40,000 accidental deaths. It also spews massive amounts of CO2 and other pollutants. The other mode of transportation collects anywhere from 30 to 300 people at a time, saving energy and money, reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and resulting in far fewer fatalities. It also uses land more efficiently, thanks to the absence of big, ugly storage facilities for the expensive metal boxes, and promotes health because people have to walk to and from designated stops rather than being transported door to door.

Which of these approaches to moving people from home to the office every day would you expect your government to favor? If you answered the latter, you’re a rational person, but you’re not the federal government. Instead, as of Jan. 1, 2014, commuters will be able to use twice as much pre-tax income for parking expenses as for mass transit. So we will be encouraging people to drive instead of taking the bus or subway.

The Wall Street Journal reports:


Sharks are now tweeting to warn nearby swimmers


In the olden days, by the time you read a shark warning in the newspaper, your leg could’ve been chomped off. So it makes sense that scientists in Western Australia -- the No. 1 deadliest spot for a shark attack -- have started using social media to warn swimmers way faster.

Surf Life Saving Western Australia is a Twitter feed that automatically updates when one of more than 300 tagged sharks swims within about half a mile of a beach. Ideally, the tweets would say something vaguely menacing but funny, like “It’s me, Jaws! I’m rapidly approaching Laguna Beach! GET OUT THA WAY.”

Instead, perhaps understandably, the messages simply include the shark’s breed, size, and approximate location:

Read more: Living


More anger, please: Why Ani DiFranco’s slave plantation retreat was worth protesting

Ani DiFranco

Call it Ani DiFranco’s “accidental racism.” The musician’s “Righteous Retreat” for songwriters was scheduled to take place over four days at the Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, La., not far from DiFranco’s home in New Orleans. She cancelled the retreat yesterday after fielding outrage from numerous bloggers and social media commenters understandably upset about the decision to patronize a former holding place for enslaved black people -- particularly given that it continues to profit from that heritage.

In an open letter of apology, DiFranco wrote that initially she didn’t know where her retreat was scheduled, but when she found out about the plantation setting, her first thought was “whoa” (her word). But then she could “not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness.”

In Louisiana, where blackface minstrelsy and Confederate statues are apple pie, DiFranco can maybe get a pass for the initial oversight. But ultimately it should not have taken collective outrage, only her own, to make a change. Her decision, at first, to proceed with the retreat falls in line with an American habit of divorcing painful symbols and events from their historical and environmental contexts. She knew better, but decided not to do better.

Read more: Living


This is the weirdest bike helmet you’ll see all day

Oh, hello there -- do you want to frighten fellow cyclists on the road? Maybe awe them with your patriotism or confuse them into thinking an eagle is having its birthday party on your head? Then feast your eyes on this frighteningly fierce bike helmet:


The photo of Colombian cyclist Juan Arango -- shockingly, you cannot blame this on ‘Murrica -- recently surfaced on Reddit.

Read more: Cities, Living


Sorry to harsh your mellow, but dolphins aren’t regularly getting high on pufferfish

Dom Sagolia

The internet is, like, SO EXCITED that dolphins are JUST like us: Not only do they get Starbucks and pump their own gas, but they get high too! (Underwater, it’s always 4:20! If that’s when you dropped your watch into the ocean, I mean.) Lulz, those rapey frat boys of the sea with their bottlenoses shaped perfectly for bongs.

Only problem is, none of that is likely true. (Except the Starbucks part. Grande soy latte for Flipper!)

Let’s back up. A new BBC documentary called Dolphins: Spy in the Pod shows dolphins munching on a pufferfish, passing it around, and then acting dopey. The Sunday Times is saying dolphins intentionally get high on tetrodotoxin (TTX) -- which pufferfish secrete when they’re threatened -- but Discover Magazine is laying the smackdown:

A curious bunch [of dolphins] accidentally indulging in a little puffer poison? Sure. But I’m to believe that dolphins are using tetrodotoxin regularly to get baked? Or even worse, include these toxic treats as a part of their “diet“? No way. Not even dolphins are crazy enough to take that risk.

Read more: Living


Power from the people: Human energy will fuel NYC’s New Year’s Eve ball drop

Now greener than ever.
Countdown Entertainment, LLC

A 11,875-pound geodesic sphere, covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, illuminated by 32,256 LED bulbs, powered completely by human energy.

That is what the venerated Times Square New Year's Eve Ball will look like this year, according to a Friday press release from the Times Square Alliance. The human energy will come from six stationary Citi Bike bicycles set up in Midtown, that people were invited to ride this weekend to generate kinetic energy for the ball.

The energy, which is collected from the bikes and stored in batteries, will eventually be transferred to the New York City power grid to offset the energy needed to light and eventually drop the New Year’s Eve Ball, according to the release.

“With the year’s biggest party being powered by Citi Bike pedals, the world is in for an even more electrifying experience when the ball drops,” city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


On defense: Cities get serious about climate resilience in 2013

new york city skyline
Andrew Ferguson

If 2012 was the year a changing climate beat U.S. cities like Apollo beat Rocky, 2013 may go down as the year that urban America hit the meat locker and got serious about defending itself. Thanks to disasters like Superstorm Sandy, being "green" is no longer just a tired trend. The notion of becoming "environmentally friendly" has morphed into a mandate to buttress ourselves against an environment that has become decidedly unfriendly to us. And the antics in Congress this year make it abundantly clear that, as sustainable communities activist Rob Hopkins told me recently, the cavalry is not coming; …


Hey, protester, leave those Google buses alone

A Google bus surrounded by protestors.
A Google bus surrounded by protesters.

If you hear the words “luxury travel,” what comes to your mind? A private jet, perhaps? A massive, gas-guzzling SUV, like a Lincoln Navigator? A chauffeured limo? Whatever it is, I bet it’s not a bus.

And yet, remarkably enough, that humble, shared mode of transportation has become a locus of class antagonism. To add further to the irony, the people complaining about the buses -- private buses that take employees of tech companies to suburban campuses -- are the residents of San Francisco, an unusually rich city. The techies are said to be destroying the city with their lame, materialistic ways. And it’s all the fault of the buses rented by their employers.

The beef has been brewing all year. In February, San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit published a widely read takedown of Google in the London Review of Books, complaining that the company is ruining her city by bringing hordes of “white or Asian male nerds” who can afford high rents. The piece opens with several paragraphs of contemptuous description of the buses, and concludes by arguing that “the Google Bus just seems like one face of Janus-headed capitalism; it contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves.”

At San Francisco's annual Pride Parade in June, anti-eviction protesters rented a bus similar to the ones Google uses and affixed a sign in Google font reading, "GET OUT: Gentrification & Eviction Technologies.” San Francisco drag band Persia made a song called “Google Google Apps Apps” complaining that techies are gentrifying the Mission District.


Super-rich Californians formed a nonprofit to protest bad smells


Breaking: Rich people don’t like bad smells! Even if the smells come from nature, in the form of a sea lion. The problem is not just a bunch of sea lions with BO; it’s what comes outta sea lions’ buttholes and besmirches the beaches of Rich-Land. The San Diego suburb is technically called La Jolla, or “that place where Mitt Romney is in the process of replacing his 3,000-square-foot beach house with an 11,000-square-foot monster castle.”

Gawker has the scoop:

[Last week,] a lawsuit was filed against the city of San Diego and its interim mayor Todd Gloria by a group called Citizens For Odor Nuisance Abatement.

Note: The group’s SOLE PURPOSE is eradicating bad smells. SOMEbody has too much free time. You’d think they could at least come up with a good acronym, like SCENT (Smell Committee Enforcing No Turds) or SNIFF (Snooty Neighbors Incensed by Foul Fumes).

Read more: Cities, Living