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11 TED Talks Every Web Developer Must Watch

Written By: Rachel Sanders

The internet is constantly evolving as web developers watch with interest. New ideas and software are moving to the forefront, and the most respectable websites are looking to develop and adopt the latest technologies. The way we use the internet in the future will be dependent on the knowledge and skills of web developers, both of which are vastly different than they were several years ago, as evidenced by a couple of the videos below. The following TED Talks provide inspiration and insight for those who can’t wait to contribute to the next big thing.

  1. Sergey Brin and Larry Page on Google: Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, revolutionized the way we use the internet. Both are still working to ensure their company remains the leading search engine. Their desire to foster innovation is evident and exciting given everything they’ve already accomplished.
  2. Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web: The future of the web is almost unimaginable considering how far we’ve come in the first 5,000 plus days of its existence. Kevin Kelly, the founding executive of Wired magazine, speculates about its evolution. For example, he predicts it will exceed humanity in processing power by 2040, and the web, a great big machine, will essentially become an extension of humans.
  3. Tim Berners-Lee on the next web: The man who invented the world wide web understands it still has huge potential, and many great ideas have gone unfulfilled. His focus now is on linked data and making web surfing more transparent.
  4. Tim Berners-Lee: The year open data went worldwide: Berners-Lee’s cry for "raw data now" in the previous year’s Talk was heard loud and clear, and we’re beginning to see what he intended. We’re now able to gain insight into social patterns anywhere in the world by piecing together data and producing a visualized result.
  5. Gary Flake: is Pivot a turning point for web exploration?: According to Flake, "the whole of the data [we] consume is greater than the sum of the parts." Pivot, the program he showcases in this Talk, arranges data, producing trends we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. It’s an efficient way to extract knowledge from the overload of data in existence.
  6. Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation: Web developers recognize the power of the web and its ability to spread knowledge throughout the world. Chris Anderson, founder of Future Publishing and curator of the TED Conference, discusses the emergence of web video and the resulting concept of Crowd Accelerated Innovation, "a self-fueling cycle of learning." Online video makes communication easier for everyone, as explained in the Talk itself, and could allow everyone to contribute their unique knowledge to the cycle.
  7. Chris Anderson of WIRED on tech’s Long Tail: Not to be confused with Chris Anderson of Future Publishing, Chris Anderson, editor at Wired, outlines the four basic stages of successful technology. Recorded several years ago, the principles discussed by Anderson, namely Moore’s Law, remain applicable to today’s quickly-advancing technological world.
  8. Jeff Bezos on the next web innovation: The dot-com boom and bust that occurred in the early 2000s (when the Talk was recorded) reminds Bezos of the electric energy in its infancy. He conveys that the internet is still in its very early stages and is a long way from reaching its vast potential.
  9. Brewster Kahle builds a free digital library: Kahle claims that "universal access to all knowledge is within our grasp," and he’s making it a reality by building an enormous digital library with every book, song and video in existence. His ambition to achieve what many people see as impossible is certainly admirable, something anyone can appreciate.
  10. Rives controls the Internet: The aforementioned TED talkers have been dreaming about the immense possibilities of the internet. Rives, poet and star of "Ironic Iconic America," does it in a lighthearted manner, openly imagining what it’d be like to email dead people, among other things. A rare occasion in which personal warmth is added to the cold neutrality of the internet.
  11. Ze Frank’s web playroom: Another fun video for those whose lives revolved around the internet. Ze Frank, online comedy extraordinaire, talks about how he has forged real connections between people using the power of the internet, a reminder that it can be much, much more than just a confluence of information.

10 Things You Need to Know About Self-Publishing

Written By: Rachel Sanders

Today’s authors have started to catch on to the fact that they no longer have to depend on and pay a third-party publisher to do the work that they can do themselves by self-publishing. Self-publishing is no piece of cake, but these books have all the potential to be best sellers and major moneymakers just like their commercially-published counterparts. Whether you’re sold on having endless artistic freedom or complete control over your work, self-publishing is a rewarding task and terrific option for authors who are willing to put in the extra effort. Here are 10 things you need to know about self-publishing:

  1. You Need to Pick a Niche: It’s important to pick a well-defined niche for your book to guide you during the writing process and help determine your target audience. Niche books tend to do best, so it’s generally a good idea to write what about what you know and steer away from personal journals, emotional rants or niche topics that no one has heard of. Also, think about what your audience wants to read and what’s missing from your chosen niche. Once you determine this important information, you can better address the needs of your readers and niche market, as well as make a name for yourself.
  2. Study Your Competition: Before you self-publish, it’s important to study, analyze and keep up with your competition. If you haven’t picked a niche for your book yet, but have a couple genres in mind, start your investigation by looking closely at these types of books and authors to compare and contrast. If you do your homework and stay on top of your competitors’ latest works, you’ll be able to bring something fresh and new to the table and hopefully stand out from the others.
  3. You Are Your Own Editor: It’s important to remember that self-published authors are on their own for editing, unless you hire a professional editor, which can get expensive, fast. Proofreading and revising your own work is all part of the self-publishing process and is necessary to maintain full creative control of your book. If you’re taking the self-editing challenge, be sure to utilize the numerous editing resources available online, and try to get a second set of eyes to take a look.
  4. Make Your Title Memorable: In order to stand out among the rest, you’ve got to make your book title unique and memorable. This is true for any book – self-published or not. A short, clever title is always preferable, but it should still be clear and relevant to your book.
  5. Self-Publishing Includes Self-Promotion: If you don’t have a publishing company and literary agent to market your book for you, you’d better be ready to do it yourself. Self-published authors have to put themselves out there and take an aggressive approach to marketing if they actually want to sell their books. This includes promoting the book online, organizing book signings and sending complimentary review copies to newspapers and magazines. Essentially, you should eat, sleep and breathe your book so others will care about it as much as you.
  6. Praise and Criticism Should Happen Naturally: As tempting as it is to ask friends and family to write positive reviews for you, whether they’ve read your book or not, authors should overcome this urge and let praise and criticism happen naturally. Fake or forced reviews are easy to spot, and it won’t help your image one bit. So, sit back and let unbiased readers praise your work or rip it to shreds. After all, isn’t criticism better than no attention at all?
  7. A Literary Agent Isn’t Necessary: As much help as literary agents can be, they aren’t necessary for selling good books. If you’re dead set on self-publishing and reaping the benefits on your own, you probably don’t have much need or desire for a literary agent who works in mainstream publishing. Having an agent often defeats the purpose and personal benefits of self-publishing because you’ll no longer have 100 percent control over your work.
  8. Self-Published Authors Can Still Win Awards: Forget what you’ve heard before – self-published authors can win awards too! Every year, there are several writing contests to enter and awards to be given for superb self-published work, including short stories, fiction, nonfiction, poetry and many other genres. Credibility, a strong readership and strategic marketing will help you achieve your goals and reach the award-winning level.
  9. Know Your Audience: An essential part of writing and successful self-publishing is knowing your audience. Since self-published books generally cater to a smaller niche market, you have to consider your audience from the project’s conception, publication and marketing stages. One way of knowing your audience is to study the demographics, interests and needs of readers within your chosen niche. If you’ve self-published work in the past, get in touch with your readers and deeply consider their comments, concerns and questions when writing your new book.
  10. Send Out Review Copies: One of the best ways to establish credibility and garner attention for your hard work is to send out review copies to as many people and publications as possible. If your budget allows it, you can snail mail printed complimentary review copies of your book to newspaper, magazine and journal reviewers, as well as publishing companies, bookstores and anyone who sparks an interest in your writing.

10 Famous Works of Art That Are Forever Damaged

The most impressive works of art often took months or even years to complete. Artists pour their knowledge, creativity and emotions into their projects. Their finished products are filled with meaning and thus personal importance, the value of which cannot be appropriately measured, at least until they sell to the highest bidder. The following famous works of art cost a lot of money, held a lot of significance to the art community, and were unfortunately damaged due to carelessness, negligence, anger or pure insanity, likely causing the creators great despair — or to roll over in their graves.

  1. Fountain (1917), Marcel Duchamp: A gifted artist can make almost any object meaningful. Take Duchamp’s Fountain, a white Bedfordshire model urinal he purchased in New York in 1917. Initially, there was debate as to whether it was actually art, as he submitted it to a Society of Independent Artists exhibit, which opted not to display it; however, in 2006, it was valued at $3.6 million. That same year, it was vandalized with a hammer by a 76-year-old performance artist, leaving it slightly chipped. The same man urinated in the piece 13 years earlier when it was on display in Nimes, France. The piece remains a hot target today.
  2. Night Watch (1642), Rembrandt van Rijn: Night Watch could’ve used its own militia to watch over it through the years. Showcased at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the painting has been targeted on a few occasions. In 1911, an unemployed navy cook unsuccessfully attempted to cut it with a knife. In 1975, a schoolteacher more effectively slashed zigzag lines into it, and although the painting was restored, traces of the damage are still evident. The man was later determined to have a mental disorder and he subsequently committed suicide. In 1990, a man sprayed it with acid, but guards acted quickly and the painting was saved from destruction.
  3. Danae (1636), Rembrandt van Rijn: One of Rembrandt’s favorite pieces, Danae depicts the mother of Perseus — from Greek mythology — as she welcomes Zeus, his father. The eight-by-ten-foot painting nearly met its demise in 1985, when a deranged visitor to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where it has been housed since the 18th century, brandished a knife and proceeded to slash Danae’s lower stomach and upper thigh. He capped off the dramatic episode by tossing sulfuric acid onto the canvas, causing the original paint to splatter and run. The painstaking restoration took 12 long years to complete, and fortunately, the painting is again on display.
  4. Rokeby Venus (1647-51), Diego Velazquez: Velazquez was a master at realistically depicting human form, as evidenced by his painting Rokeby Venus, in which the goddess Venus is lying in bed in a seductive pose, looking into a mirror held by her son Cupid. Venus was nearly ripped to shreds in 1914 by militant suffragette Mary Richardson — who later in her life became the head of the women’s section of the British Union of Fascists — following the arrest of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. She entered the National Gallery in London despite previous warnings of a possible attack and left seven slashes mostly across Venus’s back. Richardson was given the maximum six-month sentence for the deed.
  5. The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (1499-1500), Leonardo da Vinci: Also hanging in the National Gallery in London is The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist, a black and white charcoal and chalk drawing executed by da Vinci more than 500 years ago. It was valued at $35 million in 1987, when a man attempted to shoot it with a sawn-off shotgun intending to show his anger at the ”political, social and economic conditions in Britain.” The blast shattered the protective glass, causing a six-inch tear in the Virgin’s robe. Numerous glass fragments and loose bits of paper were removed in the restoration, which, as usual in such cases, couldn’t completely bring it to its original form.
  6. Portland Vase (30-20 BC), Maker Unknown: The Portland Vase couldn’t make it two millennia without being shattered, but it did outlast most household vases by about 1,865 to 1,875 years. The exquisite cameo-glass vessel, featuring depictions of humans and gods, was discovered near Rome in the 16th century and has been in the British Museum since 1810. In 1845, a drunken man threw another sculpture onto the Portland’s case, smashing both. Some fragments of it were lost and later found, but added after its first restoration. Its final restoration occurred in 1988 and 1989, and now little damage is visible.
  7. The Little Mermaid (1913), Edvard Eriksen: Because The Little Mermaid is one of Copenhagen’s main attractions, the 4-foot statue has been defaced for a multitude of reasons — often political — and as a result, has essentially been rebuilt. Since 1964, its head has been sawed off, stolen, replaced and stolen again; its arm has been sawed off and stolen; it has been blasted off its rock base by dynamite; and it has been covered with just about every color of paint. It’s quite possibly the most victimized piece of art in the world.
  8. Pieta (1498-99), Michelangelo: Revered by the religious and those who merely appreciate classic sculptors, Pieta is a prime attraction at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, as it depicts the body of Jesus in the lap of Mary after the Crucifixion. During its more than 500-year history, the most significant damage sustained to the work occurred in 1972, when a crazed geologist attacked it with hammer while yelling "I am Jesus Christ." Many of the pieces, including Mary’s nose, were taken by onlookers and not returned. It was restored with material from Mary’s back and now is protected by bullet-proof glass.
  9. The Actor (1904), Pablo Picasso: Think of the costliest accident in your life in terms of monetary value, and now compare it to the 2010 incident in which a New York woman fell onto The Actor and caused a six-inch tear vertically along its lower right-hand corner. The 4-feet-by-6-feet painting, depicting an actor on stage wearing in a commedia dell’arte, had been on display at Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1952, and is estimated to be worth $130 million. Of course, because it was an accident, she wasn’t punished — or required to foot the bill. But she certainly created lots of grief.
  10. Le Reve (1932), Pablo Picasso: Four years before The Actor suffered its fate, a painting portraying Picasso’s mistress Marie-Therese Walter, was damaged by its owner Steve Wynn, an American casino owner and real estate developer. Just before he intended to sell it to hedge fund manager Stephen Cohen for $139 million, which would’ve made it the priciest piece of art in history, he punctured the picture with his right elbow, creating a two-inch tear in Walter’s left forearm. Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, decided not to sell the painting. The repair cost $90,000.

10 Terrifying Movie Moms Who Could Use Some Flowers

Written By: Rachel Sanders

The abusive dad/stepdad is a movie standby, from Jack Nicholson’s tortured Jack Torrance in The Shining to approximately one-third of everything Robert De Niro’s ever done. But that’s no reason to overlook the equally terrifying monster mom, who brings the ability to emotionally and physically scar their child and who often works in far more devious ways than just straight-ahead abuse. The worst movie mothers play on everyone’s intense and inherent spiritual bond with their mother, even if that bond is frayed to the breaking point. These characters get inside their children’s heads, and by extension, the viewer’s, thanks to their cold-hearted methods and their unwillingness to give in. Nobody’s relationship with their mom is perfect, but yours probably doesn’t look anything like these. Maybe it’s time to give your mom a call.

  1. Joan Crawford, Mommie Dearest: The ultimate in horror-inducing mothers. The film and Faye Dunaway’s performance are regarded as camp classics now, but it’s worth noting the sheer insanity of what Crawford does in the film, including her infamous freakout over wire hangers. She is completely dedicated to terrorizing her child, and she is so self-involved that she lacks the ability to see what she’s doing is horribly wrong. Some of the claims in the story (based on the autobiography of Crawford’s daughter, Christina) were met with derision, but many were also supported by peers.
  2. Margaret White, Carrie: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) already had plenty of problems: the late onset of puberty, a lack of social skills, and a temper that aggravated her telekinesis and inherent capability for murder. On top of that, though, she had to deal with one of the looniest mothers in movie history. Played by Piper Laurie with zealous glee, Margaret White badgered her daughter into suicidal rage with tales of religious fundamentalism and sexual perversion. It’s debatable whether she deserved such a rough ending, but there’s no doubt that she’s one tough mother. Laurie and Spacek, incidentally, were nominated for Oscars for these roles.
  3. Norma Bates, Psycho: Norma Bates never makes an onscreen appearance (well, she never appears alive), but her domineering presence is all over her son, Norman, and the grisly deeds of Psycho. Anthony Perkins plays, essentially, both roles, inhabiting the weaknesses of Norman and the controlling wrath of Norma as he lures in and subsequently murders women in his run-down motel. She was the one that drove him to the edge to begin with, and it’s the twisted version of her living in Norman’s mind that’s still inflicting damage years later.

  4. Pamela Voorhees, Friday the 13th: Jason gets all the publicity for stacking the bodies of horny teens like cordwood at Campy Crystal Lake (and later Manhattan and, inexplicably, outer space), but it’s his mom who got their family into the serial killer business. In 1980’s Friday the 13th, Mrs. Voorhees stalked a group of kids as a way to get revenge for the way her son was allowed to drown years earlier while camp counselors fooled around. Her grief is understandable, as a rule of thumb, it’s never OK to sneak around in the dark and mutilate teenagers to distract yourself from personal trauma. Lady needed some serious therapy.
  5. Mrs. Lift, Throw Momma From the Train: Anne Ramsay played a rotten mom more than once, most notably as the leader of the vaguely evil but mostly moronic Fratelli gang in 1985’s The Goonies. But it was in 1987’s Throw Momma From the Train that she really brought the heat, earning an Oscar nomination for her bracing performance as the awful Mrs. Lift. The film is a surprisingly dark comedy for Billy Crystal, though it set the mood for several films that director Danny DeVito (who also co-starred) would later make, like The War of the Roses and Death to Smoochy. Crystal just about goes through with the planned murder, inspired by Strangers on a Train, to dispose of the overbearing and abusive Mrs. Lift, but he relents, and she eventually dies of natural causes. Still, he might’ve been onto something. She was pretty rough.

  6. Beverly Sutphin, Serial Mom: John Waters’ dark satire from 1994 didn’t really click with audiences, likely because of how extreme he’d made the character of Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner), a suburban mom willing to murder locals who upset her family. Beverly’s not wacky or misguided, just flat-out nuts, and the film is almost a little too unnerving in the way it depicts her gleefully dispatching people who cross her. She needs a nice vacation, not just flowers. Still, the film’s definitely worth checking out, if only to see Kathleen Turner bludgeon someone to death with a leg of lamb.
  7. Eleanor Shaw Iselin , The Manchurian Candidate: Taking the notion of an overbearing mother to a terrifying extreme, The Manchurian Candidate‘s Eleanor Iselin is a brutal manipulator who’ll stop at nothing to see her husband and his plans succeed, even if that means deploying her own son as a brainwashed sniper to assassinate presidential candidates. (She’s also apparently up for having an incestual relationship with her hypnotized offspring, which is even crazier.) Angela Lansbury, who won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for her work as Eleanor, was only three years older than the actor playing her son, but her performance was powerful enough to make the film work.
  8. Mary, Precious: Precious is a grueling and often gruesome experience; it’s a movie you don’t really watch as much as survive. The harrowing story of a teenage girl in Harlem who is repeatedly raped by her father and beaten by her mother is heart-rending, and it’s anchored by compelling performances like the one Mo’Nique gives as Mary, the manipulative mother to Precious. She won the Academy Award for her startling portrayal of a hateful and controlling woman who had no love for anyone but herself, and who learned too late that Precious deserved love like all children. It’s not exactly a movie for a breezy Saturday afternoon, but Mo’Nique does amazing work.

  9. Ginger McKenna, Casino: To be fair, Ginger (Sharon Stone) didn’t want to be a mom; Ace (Robert De Niro) pressured her into it, knocking her up before he’d marry her. She was never cut out to be a mother, what with her penchant for drug use, adultery, and mullets. Still, she had plenty of chances to clean her act up and turn her life around, chances she traded away while her daughter grew up with almost no parenting. At one point she even ties her daugher to the bed so she can have a night out with her boyfriend. The kid would’ve been better off with wolves.

  10. The Wicked Stepmother, Cinderella: Her character name is actually Lady Tremaine, but almost no one remembers that. All that sticks with us is the fact that the wicked stepmother prized her loathsome daughters over the more humble and genuine Cinderella. She’s so demeaning that she becomes the ultimate version of the mean mother, an archetype that got copied and pasted almost wholesale into countless other films. If there’s ever a self-involved mother who favors one child over another, you can bet some of her DNA came from Lady Tremaine.

10 Video Games That Revolutionized the Industry

Let’s go ahead and get Pong out of the way up front. Yes, the table-tennis game for arcades and Ataris was a game-changer, and your older brother or parents thought it was awesome, but everyone knows that already. What about the other games that pushed the field in new directions? Some of them are major titles recognizable to people who’ve never picked up a controller in their lives and whose eyes glaze over when you talk about 8-bit versus 16-bit; other games, though, are below-the-radar smashes, responsible as much for influencing the field than capturing an audience. These are the games that did more than entertain players. They redefined what it meant to play a video game, and they took story and graphics to fantastic new places. They revolutionized the industry, and they were — and are — worth your time, money, and extra lives.

  1. The Legend of Zelda: The entire Legend of Zelda franchise spans multiple game consoles and character iterations, but for sheer groundbreaking value, the original title remains the most revolutionary of the bunch. Released in 1986 in Japan and hitting North American shelves a year later, The Legend of Zelda was one of the early titles to push the Nintendo Entertainment System to a perch atop the home gaming market. Part of it was the way players could move Link anywhere they wanted on the screen, breaking the left-right confines of the original Super Mario Bros. with a top-down perspective that felt more impressive. Part of it was also the fantasy story line that tapped into the geek reserves that would make video games such a success. But the real revolution? You could save your game. Not to sound like every stereotype in history, but kids today don’t know how easy they have it with games of all types — console and online — that chart and save their progress. In the infant days of video games, you played until you died or got tired. That’s it. You couldn’t stop and pick it up again later without losing your place. Zelda, though, came with a battery pack that let you save your game. It’s unthinkable in today’s era to have a game that doesn’t let you save. Zelda led the way.
  2. Guitar Hero: Although the Guitar Hero series eventually lost some of its edge to the more party-oriented Rock Band franchise — slipping so much that it went on "hiatus" in 2011 — it’s impossible to oversell the game’s contribution to music-based console entertainment. The third installment in the series, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, is actually the biggest moneymaker in U.S. gaming history. Guitar Hero took everyone’s childhood dream of rock stardom and turned it into a fun and highly replayable fantasy world complete with real tracks from solid rockers. Rhythm-based music games weren’t new when Guitar Hero came out in 2005 (PaRappa the Rapper found console success in the mid-1990s), but they’d never been done with such energy and polish. Guitar Hero invented the rock-and-roll video game party all by itself.
  3. Super Mario 64: Mario’s been involved in plenty of classic games in his time — each new Nintendo console tends to release a Mario title to sell it — but 1996’s Super Mario 64, the flagship title for the Nintendo 64, blew the doors off. This was the first Mario titled that let players run around a 3-D world, and the switch from side-scroller to third-person immersion made for one of the best Mario experiences of all time. The flight sequences were fantastic (if typically quirky), but the game really took off when it offered an open world to explore. Players could roam the castle grounds, jump into paintings, and attack the game in their own way. This opened up the doors to hidden treats and made the game feel all-encompassing in a way that had escaped the previous installments. Instead of just chugging along a track, the game let viewers move through a world and start adventures with a natural rhythm. This approach can still be felt in console titles that mix RPG elements with a variety of stories.
  4. Grand Theft Auto III: The Grand Theft Auto series used to be just another video game franchise with a devoted but narrow following; if you weren’t a gamer, you probably didn’t have much to do with it. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the early games had a top-down viewpoint that rendered them inherently game-like; they looked and played like interactive toy car sets. But Grand Theft Auto III turned the series on its head and took it to new pop-cultural heights by creating a third-person 3-D world that let the player get into the violence and sex in a visceral way. More importantly, the game was probably at the time the biggest smash of the sandbox gaming field. Sandbox gaming is non-linear: although there’s a clear start and end to the game, the player can go anywhere he or she wants and complete missions in their chosen order, shaping the game world the way a kid builds castles in the sand. GTA 3 wasn’t a simple run-and-gun game; it required the player to strategize, and it also let the player get into trouble in the game’s world free from any mission-based constraints. The game wasn’t the first sandbox title out there, but its fantastic execution and high profile unquestionably made the mode more popular.
  5. Red Faction: Released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2 as well as the PC market, Red Faction was a game-changer for those players who wanted a fully interactive world. A few programming glitches aside, games usually keep players on a strict path, and even sandbox games have limits to where you can go and, more important, what you can do. Red Faction, though, let players interact with and change every part of the world around them. Can’t get through a door? Blast your way through the wall next to it. Not sure what’s on the other side of that window? Smash it and see. The physics of the game were massively important, and though later titles switched from the first-person shooter perspective to a third-person button-masher, the god-like ability to destroy the world around you remained. After this, more games let players break the rules.
  6. GoldenEye 007: To anyone who was playing video games in the late 1990s, GoldenEye 007 — usually just GoldenEye — is a landmark moment in gaming. Although not the first to offer it, GoldenEye raised the bar for multiplayer death-matches. Heads-up gaming that pits players against strangers grew in popularity in the 1990s thanks to LAN parties, the Internet boom, and eventually the arrival of consoles that connected to the Internet and made global death matches a reality. But before all that, the Nintendo 64 title garnered massive critical praise for its fun and eminently replayable multiplayer set-ups. The customizable weapon loads and interchangeable levels that are a hallmark of things like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare really came to prominence with this James Bond video game. Just don’t pick Oddjob, OK? Nobody likes the guy who picks Oddjob.
  7. Portal: Plenty of video games have played with physics and reality, and plenty more have offered challenging puzzles to their players. But Portal, released in 2007 as part of Valve’s compilation The Orange Box, mixed an ingenous physics engine with fascinating puzzles and hilarious black humor to create a demo game that outshined almost every other full release that year. The premise is simple: the player has a gun that shoots "portals" of two different colors on certain walls and surfaces, one for an entrance, one for an exit. The gimmick lets you cross entire rooms with one jump, but it also pushes players to tease out the physics of bending space and orientation to, say, successfully fling themselves across a chasm. The critical and player acclaim turned Valve into something like the Pixar of console titles, and the company followed up with Portal 2 in 2011.
  8. Mass Effect 2: The first Mass Effect game debuted in 2007 and earned strong reviews for its epic story, sci-fi setting, and the nuanced way that the player’s actions influenced the other characters. As such, expectations were high leading up to the 2010 debut of Mass Effect 2, and though the sequel was once again lauded for its story and execution, it did something even more amazing by offering cross-game continuity. The game isn’t just a sequel to the earlier title, but an actual continuation of it that allows players to import saved files from the first game and use them in the second. In other words, you don’t start back at square one. The things you do in the first game will impact your experience in the second. Few if any games attempt this, and when they do, the games are more entertainment-oriented. (E.g., Rock Band 2 lets you import song files from Rock Band.) This is a huge step in gaming whose effects might not be fully felt for years.
  9. Street Fighter II: Fighting games blew up in the 1990s, but it wasn’t the parentally decried Mortal Kombat that made them so popular. (Though that game did help.) No, it was 1991’s Street Fighter II and its many, many spin-offs that changed the format of fighting games for good. The game continued the Capcom series’ arcade success with rapid-fire match-ups that downplayed the blood in favor of cartoonish mayhem. Things got even crazier for Super Street Fighter II and the subsequent Turbo version, all of which solidified not just the appeal of fighting games but their eternal format: multiple fighters, endless matches, and a variety of special moves that can usually be figured out by hammering the same button combinations. It’s a classic for a reason.
  10. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: Some of the earliest home video games were sports-related, and franchises like John Madden Football (later Madden NFL) solidified the hold of sports on gamers’ dollars. But 1999’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater went one better by taking sports games mainstream. Far from the side-scrolling days of Excitebike, the Pro Skater games used 3-D graphics and amazing camera placement to put the player in the middle of the ramp-jumping, Kickflip McTwist-landing action. Unlike traditional sports franchises, it didn’t matter how much you knew about the game in real life; all you had to do was pick a character and start hopping around. Tricks were accomplished through increasingly difficult button combos, but the real joy was just flying around the digital world. The game and its followers brought a sense of real energy and excitement to sports gaming that crossed over to all audiences, regardless of age or gaming experience. It was what all great games should be: fun.

10 Best Movies About Suburban Life

By now, no one needs convincing that suburban life is fraught with emotional repression, boredom, and the occasional sense that things are more interesting everywhere else. In other words, the ‘burbs are just like every other neighborhood. Movies and TV haven’t been able to successfully peddle the image of suburban existence as an Ozzie-and-Harriet one since, well, the days of Ozzie and Harriet. The best films about the suburbs are inherently going to be those that peel back the veneer made of clean lawns and nice cars to investigate the real emotions beneath the surface, whether tragic, comic, wistful, or some mercurial mix of all three. Narrowing that field to just 10 movies is almost impossible — someone’s favorite always gets left out — but the movies listed below remain the best of the best, representing a whole host of stories that dig into the weirdness, the wonders, and the general confusion that come with suburban life. Pull up some patio furniture and get to watching:

  1. Little Children: Based on Tom Perotta’s novel, Little Children is a powerful look at suburban life that captures the whiplash between humor and horror better than almost any other film on the subject. It’s not quite a dark comedy; it’s more like a melodrama that gets a little out of control at the end. Kate Winslet is a perfect representation of the upwardly mobile modern mom who finds herself totally adrift in adulthood, struggling with a kid she doesn’t understand and a husband who’d rather get lost in Internet porn than spend time with her. She strikes up an affair with Patrick Wilson’s character, and they become the little children of the title, shirking their responsibilities to get lost in that Gen-X fog that turns adulthood into late adolescence. A smart, engaging film that’s worth revisiting.
  2. The Graduate: The Graduate is usually reduced these days to handful of catch phrases ("Are you trying to seduce me?" and "Plastics" sure aren’t going anywhere) and some Simon and Garfunkel tunes, but the movie’s so much more than that. Released in 1967, it became a statement for the youth of the time about the death of their parents’ version of the American Dream. Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock is fresh out of college and fresh out of ideas, and he spends the summer idly sleeping with his neighbor and dating her daughter in a story that’s by turns wistful, melancholy, and sharply incisive. He’s a well-bred kid from an affluent family, but the film takes pains to show that those material gains aren’t enough to make him happy; are, in fact, what makes him so sad in the first place.
  3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Here’s a lighter take on the ‘burbs, one that mixes John Hughes fascination with upper-class white anomie with, well, Wayne Newton and practical jokes. Hughes’ major 1980s movies deal with a lot of the same issues, especially in terms of class divides. The Breakfast Club hinged on a poor thug hooking up with a rich princess, and Pretty in Pink was just a brutal blast of angst about a poor girl who hated herself for wanting to be rich and get with the rich guy. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off deals with comparatively less harmful stuff: the biggest moments of self-discovery come as Ferris (Matthew Broderick) and Cameron (Alan Ruck) think about what life will be like in college, when they have to start growing up. But at 18, that’s a monumental decision, and Hughes doesn’t blow it off. The film is a look at suburban life that scoots by the bad stuff and lets the kids be kids for a while longer. Nothing wrong with that.
  4. Ordinary People: Ordinary People made plenty of critical waves in 1980, especially when it beat out two other modern classics for the best picture Oscar (Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man). Robert Redford won an Oscar for directing the movie about an emotionally stilted family dealing with the death of a child. The film was set and shot in Lake Forest, Illinois, an upper-class suburb near Chicago that will look familiar to fans of John Hughes, who set many of his films in similar areas and who filmed part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the same town. As the mother, Mary Tyler Moore is both amazing and terrifying as a woman hell-bent on maintaining a semblance of respectability even as the family rots from within, while Donald Sutherland is equally impressive as the father who can’t figure out how to connect with his family through his grief. But the film is anchored by Timothy Hutton as the young son wracked with guilt at losing his brother, and it’s his story of pain and emptiness that Redford uses to discuss how many ordinary-looking people in the superficially perfect suburbs are actually dealing with major problems.
  5. Grosse Pointe Blank: "You can never go home again … but I guess you can shop there." Easily one of the funniest and smartest movies John Cusack will ever be associated with, Grosse Pointe Blank is a pitch-perfect black comedy that manages to skewer everything about the suburbs and your 20s but still end on a happy note. High school reunions are as universally dreaded as actually going to high school, which is why they tend to make for solid entry points for filmmakers looking to exorcise their own demons while also maybe scoring a few more points than they did in real life. Cusack’s Martin Blank is an assassin who finds himself back home 10 years after he escaped, and the film is filled with touches that underscore both the artificiality of the suburbs and the fact that your home will never be quite the way you remembered it. (Both those lessons come screaming home when Martin finds out that his boyhood house has been turned into a convenience store.) Brilliant and totally undervalued.
  6. The Virgin Suicides: Speaking of Grosse Pointe: Based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Sofia Coppola’s first feature is a beautiful examination of life in the affluent Michigan suburb in the 1970s. Told with a minimum of dialogue and an emphasis on music and atmosphere, the film follows a group of sisters as they slowly succumb to their parents’ emotional abuse and repression and eventually kill themselves. (Spoiler for those who didn’t read the title of the movie.) The film digs into themes that Coppola would revisit in later works, notably the feeling of being alone in a crowd of people, and it does so in a way that takes an honest look at how life in suburbia is usually a lot darker than you’d like it to be.
  7. The Stepford Wives: It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact that The Stepford Wives had on pop culture when Ira Levin’s novel appeared in 1972, followed by the 1975 film adaptation. (There was also a feature version made in 2004, but the less said of that, the better.) The Stepford Wives is the ultimate satire of suburban conformity, casting its submissive women as automatons in a dark fantasy that feels only slightly removed from reality. This is suburbia as the ultimate hell, a place where dreams go to die and where no one ever says or does anything to upset the community. This approach to suburban disconnection colored every comedy and drama to come after it, and we’re still using it as a template today.
  8. Suburbia: Written by Eric Bogosian and directed by Richard Linklater — who knew a thing or two about modern drifters thanks to Slacker — the 1996 film Suburbia is a dark take on the existential crises that seemed to plague Gen-Xers in droves in the mid-1990s. The story revolves around a group of friends who hang out next to a convenience store dumpster every day and gradually watch their lives drag on as they remain resistant to change. The cast is packed with actors who would go on to higher-profile roles, like Steve Zahn and Giovanni Ribisi, and it offers a sobering look at disaffected youth on the outskirts of town.
  9. Pleasantville: Pleasantville goes the extra mile by using the 1950s tropes of an idyllic suburbia to satirize the very oppression that led to the creation. In other words, it’s a drama about how perfection is impossible, and the only way to even attain what looks like perfection is to smother all emotion and discord. Written and directed by Gary Ross, the film uses the framing device of a fictional 1958 sitcom to make its points about the dangers of suburban monotony. It’s one of the few films to state its case by actually calling back to the way the suburbs used to presented in media; rather than re-create the ’50s, it re-creates our imagined version of the ’50s, which underscores just how fake it was. A smart movie that definitely holds up over time.
  10. Blue Velvet: Just about any David Lynch work could be used as an example of how things in the suburbs aren’t always what they appear to be — Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive are especially good at this — but it’s his 1986 film Blue Velvet that most powerfully deals with Lynch’s desire to pull up the floorboards and explore the dirt under our feet. Revolving around Kyle Maclachlan’s Jeffrey Belmont, the film is a dark and often disturbing tale about a boy who gets drawn into a murder investigation only to discover the seedy side of the town he’d thought was so clean and special. It’s a stylistic, haunting neo-noir that’s among Lynch’s best stuff, and it twists the concepts of suburbia as only he could. If you haven’t seen it, do; you’ll never look at Dennis Hopper the same way again.

30 Easy & Adorable Easter Egg Designs Your Kids Will Love

Next to egg hunts and candy, coloring Easter eggs is a favorite Easter tradition for children and adults alike. Traditional Easter eggs are dyed in a rainbow of food coloring or hand painted, but the fun doesn’t end there. Easter eggs can also be sprinkled with glitter, made out of paper and bedazzled with jewels. No matter the design or type of egg, kids just love to be artsy and make messes with you by their side. Here are 30 easy and adorable Easter egg designs your kids will love:

Dip and Dye

These adorable designs and tutorials are a fun twist on the traditional dye job.

  1. Cracked Eggshell and Chick Design: Electrical tape and vinyl stencils are used to make the adorable chirping chicks and cracked eggshells.
  2. Eraser Decorating: Pencil erasers are the perfect tool for making polka dotted Easter eggs and other designs.
  3. Decal Dyed Eggs: Small stickers make for easy and adorable Easter egg decals your kids will love.
  4. Spring Menagerie Eggs: Create a menagerie of cute creatures and carrots with this lovely tutorial.
  5. Candy Dots: Kids can enjoy candy in more ways than one this Easter by gluing bite-sized pieces onto dyed eggs! This tutorial also shows you how to make a homemade frosting paste.
  6. Crayon Sketch Designs: It’s like magic to watch your white crayon designs pop after the dye dries in this activity.
  7. Natural Dyes: Dip your Easter eggs in these natural dyes made from blueberries, grape juice, curry powder, black tea and other household products.
  8. Rubber Band Eggs: Tightly wrapped rubber bands give eggs a cool tie-dye and stripy look.
  9. Egg Bunny: Your kids will be so hoppy to make this adorable Easter bunny egg from scratch.
  10. Marbled Eggs : A mixture of oil, vinegar and food coloring make these marbled eggs so beautiful and swirly.

Dye Alternatives

Try these designs for a no fuss, no muss alternative to dye.

  1. Melted Crayon Eggs: With Mom or Dad’s help, these just-boiled eggs will soften crayon wax to create colorful and swirly masterpieces.
  2. Decoupage Designs: If you feel like skipping the dye and paint this Easter, try these adorable decoupage eggs that use Easter-themed illustrations instead.
  3. Jeweled Eggs: These Faberge-inspired eggs are oh-so fun and fancy.
  4. Handpainted Eggs: If your child prefers solid colored eggs, check out this tutorial for beautiful matte and satin-finished Easter eggs.
  5. Tissue Paper Designs: Skip the mess of dyes and paints with these awesome tissue paper designs.
  6. Silk Eggs: Want to find a crafty use for your old silk scarves or ties? This awesome tutorial shows you how to turn a neat print into an elegant Easter egg design.
  7. Paraffin Easter Eggs: These paraffin Easter eggs are a nice alternative to dye and can even serve as a science lesson!
  8. Sponge Painted Eggs: Put that old dish sponge to good use as a textured Easter egg decorating tool.
  9. Bubble Packaging Design: The same bubble wrap you use to protect your fragile Easter eggs will work as a painting tool to create a fun, bubbly design.
  10. Thumbprint Designs: This design deserves two thumbs up for its simplicity and utter cuteness.

Artificial Eggs

Go chickenless with these artificial eggs that are just as crafty and cool.

  1. Eggimals: Make use of candy-free plastic eggs by turning them into sweet eggimals, err, animals.
  2. Glitter Eggs : These gorgeous glittery eggs look expensive but are oh-so cheap and simple to make.
  3. Needlefelted Easter Eggs: These adorable Easter eggs are the perfect project for you to teach your older children how to needlefelt.
  4. Swarovski Easter Eggs: These bedazzling plastic eggs are the perfect mother-daughter Easter project.
  5. Permanent Marker Eggs: Bold permanent markers really make these faux Easter eggs pop.
  6. Wooden Easter Eggs: This craft expert shows you how to decorate small wooden eggs to look like beautiful robin eggs.
  7. Paper Mache Eggs: Your kids will have a ball making and breaking open these jumbo paper mache eggs.
  8. Flower Pot Eggs: These adorable flower pot Easter eggs will keep blooming year after year.
  9. Plastic Egg Bunny: Pompoms, pipe cleaners and googly eyes make these plastic Easter bunnies a bundle of fun.
  10. Paper Easter Eggs: These paper Easter eggs are a fun alternative to real eggs and less messy than paint and dye.

10 Famous Females Who Used Male Pen names

Many famous authors throughout history have written under pseudonyms that became vastly more well known than the authors themselves — Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll, Jozef Korzeniowski wrote under the pen name Joseph Conrad, Eric Arthur Blair wrote under the pen name George Orwell, Alisa Zinov’yevan Rosenbaum wrote under the pen name Ayn Rand, and Samuel Clemens wrote under the name Mark Twain. While some authors choose to write under a pen name as a form of artistic expression, many authors do so against their will. Authors will also use pseudonyms to conceal their true heritage or to conceal their true gender. In a world wrought with a history of sexism and gender inequality, female writers have hidden their true gender behind the veil of masculine pen names for centuries. Acknowledging that the most famous of these women found success even after abandoning their male pseudonyms shows just how outdated the sexist notion truly is. The following 10 female authors changed the world of literature forever and were able to do so even after revealing their true identities.

  1. Louisa May Alcott: Prominent 19th century writer Louisa May Alcott began her career under the male pen name A. M. Barnard. While her most famous work, Little Women, was published under her real name, she gained considerable notoriety as Barnard in the mid 1860s. During a period in American history when female writers were taken less seriously than male writers, Alcott decided to publish her works either under her assumed male identity or anonymously. Poverty and war forced Alcott to work at a young age. While she performed jobs as a teacher and domestic helper, Alcott also earned money for her family as a writer for Atlantic Monthly. Alcott published short sensational stories for the newspaper under the pen name Barnard. Later, however, Alcott became a voice for women’s suffrage and civil rights. Achieving great success as a female writer in a male dominated world, Alcott is a revolutionary icon in both the literary world and the realm of gender equality.
  2. Mary Ann Evans: More widely known by her male pen name George Eliot, Evans was a prominent author and journalist during the Victorian Era. Evans entered the literary world as George Eliot with her essay, "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists," which criticized the work being done by women writers at the time. Evans published this under the male pseudonym in order to distance herself from the female romance novelists of the time and to ensure that her works were taken seriously. After her first novel, Adam Bede, was published in 1859 and reviewed positively by critics, Evans revealed her true (female) identity to the world. Her true identity had little effect on the critiques of her work and she continued to publish under her widely known pen name. Eliot’s novel Middlemarch has long withstood the test of time and remains one of the most highly regarded novels in history.
  3. Alice Bradley Sheldon: It was not known publicly that James Tiptree was the pen name of American author Alice Bradley Sheldon until ten years before her death. Sheldon adopted the male pseudonym to gain better recognition in the male dominated literary genre of science fiction and to distance herself from her past writings. Tiptree proved to be a hit within the genre of science fiction, winning several awards for her novels and short stories. James Tiptree’s identity reveal was a shock to the literary world. Although her novels and short stories explored societal gender roles and were written from a largely feminist perspective, few suspected that the male name was actually associated with a female author.
  4. Charlotte Bronte: As the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte is one of the most celebrated female novelists in all of history. Many, however, do not realize that this quintessential English novel was originally written under a male pen name. Charlotte Bronte published her works under the name Currer Bell. This name represented the male identity necessary to succeed during the time in which Bronte was actively writing. Charlotte Bronte wished to separate herself from the negative association female writers had at the time. The masculine pen name allowed Charlotte Bronte’s work to be taken seriously in an era when authoresses were looked on with severe prejudice. Jane Eyre is regarded as one of the most influential works of literature in history and is now published under Charlotte Bronte’s true name.
  5. Emily Bronte: Publishing under the male pen name Ellis Bell, Emily Bronte is most widely known for her only novel Wuthering Heights. She and her two sisters chose to write under masculine pseudonyms to deter any bias on the basis of their gender. Emily Bronte’s health (like her sisters’) was poor throughout most of her life. She died at the young age of 30 in the year 1948. In 1950, Charlotte Bronte edited Emily’s novel and re-published it under Emily’s true name. Portraying characters who are destroyed by unresolved passion, the novel received mixed reviews at the time of its publication. Today, Wuthering Heights (along with her sisters’ Jane Eyre) is considered one of the most important English novels in history.
  6. Karen Blixen: More widely known by her male pen name, Isak Dinesen, Blixen was a Danish author prominent in the mid twentieth century. It is likely that Blixen chose to write under a pseudonym because she comes from a well known Danish family. Her father, Wilhelm Dinesen, was a writer and army officer and her younger brother, Thomas Dinesen, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his service in the army. While Isak Dinesen was her most widely recognized pen name, Blixen used several others in various publications as well, including Osceola and Pierre Andrezel. Blixen’s novel Out of Africa was extremely well received within the literary world and beyond. The novel recounts Blixen’s experiences in Kenya as the owner of a coffee plantation. The book was celebrated for its vivid portrayal of the British Empire and was made into a film in 1985 after Blixen’s death.
  7. Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin: Born in Paris in 1804, Dupin is known in history almost solely by her male pseudonym George Sand. Her first novel Indiana was published in 1832 under this pen name as well as every subsequent publication that followed. Sand wrote dozens of novels and memoirs as well as several works of literary criticism and political discussion. Interestingly, Sand’s adoption of male qualities did not stop with her male pen name. Sand made a significant stir during her time for wearing men’s clothing in public and smoking tobacco in public (two activities that women during this time were not permitted to do). Sand’s fame has lived on through history with several references in modern culture and several different portrayals in film.
  8. Nelle Harper Lee: Writing under the abbreviated name Harper Lee, Lee’s pen name does not necessarily disguise her identity, but does make her authorship fairly androgynous. Harper Lee became wildly famous for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel is on every high school reading list in the United States and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize soon after its publication. To Kill a Mockingbird explores issues of racism in a small southern town as witnessed by the central character Scout. Many of the details involved in the novel are thought to be based off of aspects of Harper Lee’s childhood. Although Lee only published the one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird became one of the most successful American novels in all of history.
  9. Nora Roberts: While having published works under several pen names, Nora Roberts is best known by her male pseudonym J. D. Robb. Popular (under her own name) for several bestselling romance novels, Roberts decided to branch out in the world of detective fiction. Reluctant to enter a completely different literary genre with an already established name, Roberts adopted the male pen name J. D. Robb. Robert’s book series In Death gathered a large following. While it is not certain whether Roberts intentionally chose a masculine pen name, it is widely agreed that the world of suspense literature is dominated by male authors. When Robert’s true authorship was revealed, fans happily welcomed both of the author’s identities.
  10. Joanne Rowling: As author of the outrageously popular series Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling gained widespread popularity in a span of only a few years. Known almost solely as J. K. Rowling to the public, Rowling’s full name is Joanne Rowling (with no middle name). Rowling wrote the first installment of the Harry Potter phenomenon and submitted the work to her publishers under the name "Joanne Rowling". Her publishers urged her to use only initials for the publication with fear that the target audience of young boys would not read something written by a woman. The "K" as the second initial of Rowling’s pen name is completely fabricated. It is impossible to say whether Harry Potter would have achieved the immense fame that it has if written under Rowling’s true name — but we certainly think it would have.

20 Must-See Cathedrals for Architecture Buffs

Just as the splendor of the natural world is often overlooked, so too is the beauty and magnificence of our manmade world neglected. Everyday we pass through our lives without ever really noticing or taking in the beauty of the world around us: with eight-hour work weeks and ever growing schedules, there is always something to distract us from the beautiful intricacies of the expansive cityscapes we call home. The creativity and inspiration that goes into some of the most beautiful buildings in the world is, to say the least, astounding. Architects spend years planning and designing the impressive buildings that make up our immediate world. Whether you are a seasoned architect drafting and blueprinting your own building designs or an aspiring architect just entering design school, anyone can appreciate the outstanding and awe-inspiring architecture of the following 10 cathedrals found throughout the world.

  1. St. Basil’s Cathedral: Myth has it that Ivan the Terrible had the architect blinded after the construction of the Cathedral, so that he could create no building more beautiful. Located on the edge of the Red Square in Moscow, St. Basil’s Cathedral (pictured above) is one of the most beautiful and well known buildings in all of Russia. Built in 1560, Ivan the Terrible ordered its construction to commemorate the military victory in the Mongolian ruled city of Kazan. The cathedral consists of eight small chapels surrounding a ninth larger chapel, each symbolizing an important day of fighting in Kazan. What makes St. Basil’s Cathedral perhaps most interesting is that its architecture and design are unlike any other from that period in Russia. With intricate brickwork (a new material at the time) and elaborate coloring (added many years later), St. Basil’s is a sight to see.
  2. Notre Dame Cathedral: Immortalized in Victor Hugo’s famous novel, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is perhaps one of the most well known sacred destinations in history. Construction of Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1163 and was not finished until 1250. Notre Dame is a pinnacle example of French Gothic architecture, sculpture, and stained glass. Adorned with intricate gargoyles on the outside of the structure, Notre Dame Cathedral has the amazing ability to transport any onlooker to another time and place.
  3. St. Vitus Cathedral: With soaring spires visible from all over Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral is one of the most beautiful and important cathedrals in the Czech Republic and all of Europe. Founded in the 10th century, but not completed until the 20th century, St. Vitus Cathedral has a very long history. Of particular interest, above the south entrance to the cathedral is the Last Judgment mosaic. This mosaic is remarkable in its own right, designed from over one million pieces of glass and stone, but is also a rare art form to find in northern Europe.
  4. Strasbourg Cathedral: Standing 142 meters (that’s 472 feet), the Strasbourg Cathedral was the tallest cathedral in the world for over four centuries. Built in the 13th century in France, Strasbourg Cathedral has an interesting blend of Roman and Gothic architecture. The astronomical clock located in the cathedral’s south transept, was able to mathematically calculate the date of Easter in the Christian calendar before computers ever existed. A trip up the three hundred steps of the cathedral platform provides an undeniably stunning view of all of Strasbourg.
  5. Seville Cathedral: Built in 1402 in Spain, Seville Cathedral has several historic claims to fame. The cathedral was built to represent the city’s power and wealth after the reconquest, houses the tomb of legendary Christopher Columbus, and boasts several impressive architectural feats. Covering over 11,500 square meters, Seville Cathedral is the third largest church in Europe and has the largest altarpiece in the world. Designed in a Gothic style, Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic building in all of Europe.
  6. Roskilde Cathedral: One of the must-see destinations in Denmark, Roskilde Cathedral serves as a mausoleum to the Dutch Royal family. The cathedral incorporates a variety of architectural styles, but is predominantly Gothic. While Roskilde is the oldest Gothic building in Denmark, it also contains earlier Romanesque influences throughout the inside of the structure.
  7. Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore: Situated in Florence, the construction of this cathedral took over 150 years to complete. Because its construction took so long, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore (also known simply as Duomo) has adopted an array of architectural styles, making it one of the most unique cathedrals on this list. The octagonal dome is the cathedral’s most notable feature and is the first dome of this shape to be built without a wooden supporting frame. The dome is crowned with a unique lantern, an architectural design technique that was highly questioned at the time.
  8. Chartres Cathedral: Built in the 12th century and located in the medieval French town of Chartres, this cathedral is world renowned for its architectural magnificence. Chartres Cathedral is almost perfectly preserved in its original design and detail. With all original stained glass windows and completely intact sculptures, Chartres Cathedral is a truly awe-inspiring sight and a wonderful example of 12th century Gothic architecture.
  9. Evora Cathedral: Considered a masterpiece of Portuguese architectural and artistic design, the Evora Cathedral originated in 1186 with a Romanesque style and was restored centuries later in a Gothic style. The porch and central window (dating back to the Gothic period) are two of the most renowned and beautiful features in the Cathedral. The main portal displays the 12 apostles, looking similar to the designs at the infamous Notre Dame Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral.
  10. St. Patrick’s Cathedral: When we think of beautiful cathedrals and elaborate old-world architecture, our minds immediately travel to Europe. While Europe holds many of the most architecturally notable cathedrals (and structures) in the world, the United States also makes this list. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is one of the most amazing architectural buildings in the western hemisphere. Built of brick for stability and then covered with marble, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a neo-Gothic style cathedral, looming among modern skyscrapers. This jarring sight is at once bizarre and breathtaking.
  11. Hagia Sophia Cathedral: Officially named The Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia Cathedral is located in Istanbul, Turkey. A site of immense history, sadly nothing remains of the original building constructed in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Throughout its history, Hagia Sophia has been a place of warship for both Christians and Muslims, allowing for an interesting contrast of religious adornments throughout the cathedral. Hagia Sophia Cathedral is the greatest example of Byzantine architecture in the world.
  12. Winchester Cathedral: As the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe and one of the largest cathedrals in England, the Winchester Cathedral is a must-see sight. Winchester Cathedral is very popular among tourists for more reasons than just its beautiful and intricate architecture. Famous English writer Jane Austin’s tomb lies in the north aisle of the nave. With impressive chantry chapels, elaborately carved choir stalls, and intricately adorned ornamental screens, Winchester Cathedral offers a whimsical setting for any architecture enthusiast.
  13. Santiago de Compostela Cathedral: As the destination of the historic medieval St. James pilgrimage, Santiago Cathedral in Spain is one of the world’s most important religious sites. The cathedral’s facade forms part of a grand square, called the Plaza del Obradoiro, which is surrounded by public buildings. The Baroque facade is made of granite and is flanked by huge bell towers that are adorned with numerous statues of St. James.
  14. St. Sava Cathedral: As the largest Orthodox Church in the world that remains currently in use, St. Sava Cathedral has some unbeatable architectural valor. Work on the cathedral began in 1935, but was postponed because of World War II. The structure, incomplete until 2004, stands 82 meters tall (269 feet) and is visible from any angle throughout the city of Belgrade. With classic architectural elements, St. Sava cathedral is designed as a Greek cross and has a facade made of white marble and granite.
  15. Nidaros Cathedral: Renowned as the most beautiful cathedral in all of Scandinavia, Nidaros Cathedral has been a religious pilgrimage destination since the beginning of its construction in 1070. With a fascinating combination of medieval architectural styles, Nidaros cathedral is a design enthusiast’s dream.
  16. Berliner Dom Cathedral: While this cathedral is less raved about than many of the others on this list, Berliner Dom Cathedral is an impressive basilica that in its present day form only dates back to 1905. The structure is large and has an extraordinary dome, decorated with intricate mosaics. The Berliner Dom’s crypt is possibly the most historically significant aspect of the cathedral, housing more than eighty sarcophagi of Prussian royals.
  17. Mainz Cathedral: Located in the old town of Mainz, Mainz Cathedral (along with Worms Cathedral and Speyer Cathedral) represent the climax of Romanesque cathedral architecture in Germany. While it has come to represent Romanesque architecture, Mainz Cathedral’s current construction displays a conglomerate of architectural styles, including Baroque, Gothic, and Romanesque. Many of the supporting pillars along the aisles of the nave are decorated with carved and painted statues of French and German saints.
  18. Washington National Cathedral: Located in Washington DC, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (simply called Washington National Cathedral) is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States. Washington National Cathedral displays various Gothic architectural styles from the middle ages, but is designed mostly with an English Gothic influence. Most notable for architecture buffs is the interior of Washington National Cathedral, which is heavily decorated with sculptures, wood carvings, and mosaics.
  19. St. Andrew’s Cathedral: Located in Scotland, St. Andrew’s Cathedral was at one point considered the largest and most important church in Scotland. St. Andrew’s Cathedral now lies in ruins, overlooking the North Sea. While it is mere bones compared to what it had once been, St. Andrew’s Cathedral is a must-see stop for any individual. Incorporating both a Norman and early Gothic style, St. Andrew’s Cathedral was built over a long period of time. Because the cathedral has been reduced to its foundations, it is a prime example of the endurance of this kind of architecture.
  20. Ulm Minster Cathedral: Although many (even on this list) claim to be the largest cathedral in the world, Ulm Minster Cathedral truly stands as the tallest church in the world, looming 160 meters (528 feet) in the sky. As possibly the finest example of Gothic architecture in Germany, Ulm is a desirable sight for any individual interested in architecture. Climbing the 768 steps of the great Gothic spire tower provides a superb panoramic view or the entire city and an introduction to many stone gargoyles.

Top 10 Podcasts for Comedy Buffs

This is a golden age for comedy nerds. The open-mike boom of the 1980s gave way to the rise of alternative comedy in the 1990s and 2000s, and those progressive humorists are now blowing up in movies, TV, and online. If you love comedy, it’s never been easier to get the best of it. On top of all that, there are loads of comedy-centric podcasts out there, ranging from easygoing conversations to performance-themed pieces to interviews about the comedic process. Comedy buffs tend to be, um, slightly obsessive, so hour-long radio shows about the history of specific jokes or bits become crazy addictive in no time. These ten are some of the best out there. If they’re new to you, get thee to the Internet. If you’re already listening, pass this list to an unfunny friend.

  1. Nerdist: Chris Hardwick is a guy you probably forgot you knew: after DJing in Los Angeles in the 1990s, he gained fame as a host of MTV’s Singled Out, a dating show that’s downright quaint by Jersey Shore standards. He’s a stand-up comic, as well, and he alternates between solo gigs and musical comedy performances with Mike Phirman as the duo Hard ‘n Phirm. Hardwick is a true stand-up lover as well as a geek, and he co-hosts a podcast with friends Jonah Ray and Matt Mira that focuses on whatever they find funny. The guests range from comedians like John Oliver and Maria Bamford to actors like Donald Glover or all-around funny performers like Nathan Fillion. The conversations are always entertaining, as Hardwick walks each guest through their personal history to find out what got them into comedy and what influences them today. Solid listening all around. Perfect place to start: Episode 33, with guest Paul F. Tompkins.
  2. WTF With Marc Maron: Marc Maron has been doing stand-up for years, and he brings that depth of experience and comedy-world connections to his fantastic WTF podcast. But the podcast isn’t just a rundown of people Maron knows; it’s a chance for him to actually dig in and talk with comics about what’s happening in the industry for better or worse. One of his most riveting talks was a two-parter with Carlos Mencia (episodes 75 and 76) that addressed Mencia’s reputation as a possible joke plagiarist. It’s raw and uncomfortable, but totally engrossing. Perfect place to start: Episode 156, with guest Kathleen Madigan.
  3. Comedy Death-Ray Radio: Comedy Death-Ray got its start in Los Angeles in 2002 as a showcase for comics whose sensibility mostly clicks with that of co-creators Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter. Pretty much every mainstay of modern progressive comedy has appeared at CDR, including Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., and David Cross. In 2009, Aukerman added a podcast to the franchise, starting Comedy Death-Ray Radio. The format is a bit looser than that of podcasts like Nerdist: in addition to interviews and excerpts, comics also parody real-world characters for weekly bits. The CDR podcast is a great way to stay current on the modern alternative comedy scene (even though that label’s so vague now it’s not really helpful), and it’s similarly a boon for L.A. residents or anyone who wants to keep an ear to the ground on west coast comedy. Perfect place to start: Episode 96, with guests Paul Reubens, Dave Foley, and Thomas Lennon.
  4. Sklarbro Country: Comedy and sports usually go together like, well, nerds and sports. But Jason and Randy Sklar, who perform together as the Sklar Brothers, are so funny and quick-witted that their sports knowledge never feels daunting to casual fans who just want to hear something entertaining. They know what they’re talking about, too: from 2004-2006, they hosted Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic, which let them riff on old sporting events in a kind of MST3K take on old bowling reruns. The podcast is a perfect mash-up of the Sklars’ twin obsessions, with comics and atheletes joining in the discussion on sports and pop culture. Nerds, don’t be scared of the basketball players. Perfect place to start: Episode 31, with guest Patton Oswalt.
  5. The Sound of Young America: The Sound of Young America is hosted by Jesse Thorn — who calls himself "America’s Radio Sweetheart" with a perfect deadpan — and covers a variety of things that tend to appeal to younger comedy buffs. Thorn’s a witty and gifted interviewer, able to keep the conversation moving right along but also allowing for pleasing digressions. His style is much more classic-radio-host than other comedy podcasts, largely owing to the fact that TSOYA is distributed by Public Radio International and is also broadcast on XM. The talks are intelligent but never stuffy, and they’re ideal for fans looking to learn more about the creative process. Perfect place to start: March 8, 2011, with guest Bill Hader.
  6. Never Not Funny: Jimmy Pardo needs to be a much bigger star than he is. He’s been doing stand-up for more than 20 years and is well-known in comedy circles — he’s currently the warm-up man for TBS’ Conan and held the same job when Conan O’Brien hosted The Tonight Show — but he remains a relative unknown. Hopefully the success of his fantastic podcast can change that. Episodes are loosely structured, revolving around a free-form conversation between Pardo, producer Matt Belknap, and that week’s guest; as a result, the show feels less like an interview and more like a bull session staffed by gifted comics. The show’s been rolling since 2006 and has logged more than 800 episodes, so jumping in can feel daunting, but don’t worry. It’s all good. Perfect place to start: Episode 813.5, Live at SF Sketchfest 2011.
  7. Doug Loves Movies: Doug Benson, as you can probably figure out, loves movies. His podcast, which is taped weekly at L.A.’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, brings in actors and comedians to talk about entertainment, the work, and whatever else comes to mind. The podcast also popularized "The Leonard Maltin Game," in which Benson selects a film from Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and reads the stars in reverse order of prominence to see which guest can figure out the movie first. Benson’s a much funnier comic than some might think, especially if you’ve only seen him on reruns of Best Week Ever. Tons of fun. Perfect place to start: October 1, 2010, with guests John Lithgow, Paul F. Tompkins, and Jimmy Pardo.
  8. Pod F. Tompkast: There are a criminally low number of episodes of the Pod F. Tompkast, hosted by comedian Paul F. Tompkins, but that’s because he only got started with the show last summer and has recently taken to posting one episode per month. Tompkins has been evolving his comedy for some time now — he did a one-man show on HBO in 1998 before transitioning to more traditional jokes and now personal material — and the podcast is a wonderful reflection of that stream-of-consciousness style he’s started to bring out on stage. Episodes included sketches, comedy performances, and interviews, making them an all-around comedy sampler. Perfect place to start: Episode 6, featuring Maya Rudolph and Bob Odenkirk.
  9. Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show: Easily the most honestly named podcast going today, Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show is just that: Kevin Pollak chatting with people. The show is also one of the longer ones you can listen to — episodes are often well over an hour — so you’ll probably have to break up the listening over multiple commutes or during one really long afternoon at work. The long talks are definitely worth your time, though. These are some of the most in-depth and interesting interviews being done today, whether you’re talking podcasts or traditional media. A godsend for detail-driven comedy fans. Perfect place to start: Episode 68, with guest Craig Ferguson.
  10. ASSSSCAT! Podcast: The Upright Citizens Brigade comedy group started ASSSSCAT in New York before spreading to Los Angeles. The improv sketch show uses audience suggestions as fuel for spontaneous monologues that then form the backbones of the sketches. This podcast is a recording of that show, which makes it a great resource for improv lovers who don’t live anywhere near L.A. (or who live in SoCal but aren’t about to brave the traffic to get to the theater). Perfect place to start: November 7, 2010, with guest Jon Hamm.
  11. (Photo: Chris Glass via Flickr)

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