February 27th, 2014
My first instinct upon reading about BERG's Cloudwash prototype was to scoff at the idea of an internet-connected washing machine.
Cloudwash is a prototype washing machine. We created Cloudwash to explore how connectivity will change the appliances in our homes… and to figure out what new features will be possible.
I'm still not persuaded that the ability to schedule and reschedule washing jobs remotely is going to be on the feature list when next I'm looking to buy a washing machine. However, I'll concede that more localised uses of connectivity – like the ability to receive an alert via the net when a cycle is about to end and I'm going to need to go and unload the machine – would be worth having.
I did like BERG's approach of putting as much of the intelligence as possible in the app you run on your connected device, where it's easy to update and enhance the functionality on offer without finding that your washing machine only has ROM version 1.3.234 and you need version 1.4.112 or better to allow you to store more than 3 favourite job configurations. It's perfectly logical, but you can bet that as manufacturers start doing internet-enabled production models we'll see all sorts of flashy touchscreen interfaces using a custom OS (which will probably be a heavily-customised Android or Linux variant under the skin) that will be scrapped or revised within six months.
February 8th, 2014
Jim Munroe's short film Just Ella features "perhaps the first cinematic example of autocomplete used for a dramatic reveal." And yet it's still worth watching:
January 4th, 2014
Paper Pong is a very strange, yet oddly appealing idea – a Choose Your Own Adventure-style implementation, on paper, of a very old video game. It almost seems like cheating to play a version of the book online…
As Sarah Werner observes in her musings on the alleged "death" of the "book":
I spent a lot of time as a kid playing Pong at home, so perhaps that's why I enjoy this book so much. But I love it, too, for its ridiculousness. It's a paper replication of a video game! Why would you do that? Why write lines of code to create a game of Pong that you then remediate in paper form? I don't know that there's a good reason to do that, other than you can. And, actually, that's a decent reason, one that drives more than a few novels.
December 28th, 2013
Run is a little beauty of a story.
It's just a vignette, but that's all it needs to be: there's absolutely no need for it to be expanded into a full length feature. What counts is the economy with which the story unfolds, and the creepiness of the idea.
Watch out for the name of run's writer/editor/director Mat Johns in years to come. With a bit of luck and a decent budget to work with, he might well be bringing us something well worth watching.
[Via The Dissolve]
November 22nd, 2013
Benjamin Rosenbaum has posted a sharp, blackly amusing short story about how Facebook's users and software developers would react to a zombie plague breaking out, called Feature Development for Social Networking.
Nice work, even though you just know this story isn't destined to end well for any of the characters.
November 14th, 2013
Here's the thing. I'd call myself a Doctor Who fan, but I'm really just a lightweight. I watched the show growing up, starting with the tail end of the Patrick Troughton era and then watching right through the Pertwee and Tom Baker years and then bailing out when Tristan Farnon took on the role. I barely saw any of Six and Seven's episodes and didn't feel the loss. I watched the TV movie and disliked almost everything about it: the Doctor being half-human, the Master being nothing whatsoever like Roger Delgado, you name it.
I was intrigued at the prospect of the show returning, and deeply relieved that Christopher Eccleston was terrific and the show was confidently moving forward, even if some of the modern trappings irk me a bit. I've been happy to follow the show since: when it's good, it's very good indeed, and as the poor stories are mostly just a single episode long I'm willing to let the odd duff one go because I know a better one will be along shortly and in the meantime there'll be a nice character bit from Matt Smith or Rory will step up and do something remarkable or Donna will turn out to be the most important person in the entire universe.
Outside of the TV episodes, I've never been inclined to follow the tie-ins, beyond having read a few of the early novelisations back during that first spell watching the show, and I've never been tempted to look back into the seasons and Doctors I missed out on. As I say, a bit of a lightweight fan.
I say all this to explain why I shouldn't really be all that excited at The Night of the Doctor: A Mini Episode.
And yet, I am. Not as excited as Stu, for whom Eight is "his" Doctor, but still weirdly thrilled. Realising what I was watching immediately planted a huge grin on my face that still hasn't quite faded.
Seeing the producers pull something like this out of the bag makes me think that Moffat and co. might just blow all our socks off with the 50th anniversary story.
November 10th, 2013
I'm probably the last filmgoer over the age of 30 in the western world to have heard about this particular example, but I still think it's worth sharing. It turns out that Stanley Kubrick was something of a stickler for detail when it came to preparing for one of the pivotal scenes in The Shining:
Never one to stint on artistic integrity and veracity, Kubrick used no shortcuts for the relatively simple scene. As artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin discovered during recent research in the Kubrick archives in London, instead of having the sentence typed on only the few sheets seen by viewers, the director asked his secretary Margaret Warrington to type it on each one of the 500-odd sheets in the stack. What's more, he also had Warrington type up an equivalent number of manuscript pages in four languages – French, German, Italian, Spanish – for foreign releases of the film. For these, he used idiomatic phrases with vaguely similar meanings:
Un "Tiens" vaut mieux que deux "Tu l'auras."
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.
Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca.
The early bird gets the worm.
No por mucho madrugar amanece mas temprano.
Even if you rise early, dawn will not come any sooner.
To be fair, I can see Kubrick's point. What if Shelley Duvall had improvised during the scene, really nailing her character and the moment when Wendy Torrance found out what her husband had been up to in a barnstorming take that absolutely, positively had to make it into the final cut … only for the cool, cruel eye of the camera to reveal that Jack Torrance had only been obsessively typing for five sheets?
All of a sudden, he's not a weak man who has succumbed to madness in the middle of a long, cold winter of isolation but merely a writer undertaking a few minutes of loosening-up exercises at the keyboard before getting to work on his novel.
[Via The Millions]
July 31st, 2013
From an article in the BBC News Magazine about escalator etiquette:
"Able-bodied people standing on the downward escalator are in effect robbing the people behind them of time," says Hamilton Nolan, who writes for Gawker and regularly uses the New York subway.
"Their presumptuous need for leisure may cause everyone behind them to miss a train they would have otherwise caught. Then those people are forced to stand and wait on a subway platform for many extra minutes. Those are precious minutes of life that none of us will get back."
"Robbing"? "Forced to stand and wait"? "Presumptuous need for leisure"? It strikes me that Hamilton Nolan ought to to get his blood pressure checked, ASAP. If the behaviour of people who think differently to him causes him such stress, I have a feeling his future contains a stroke, probably striking as he strides purposefully down the escalator past a bunch of thieving slackers.
[Via The Morning News]
June 6th, 2013
Yes, it's another time lapse video featuring lots of night skies and shining cities. But to my mind the way the images and the music combine makes The Game Has Changed a couple of steps up from the average nighttime time lapse video.
[Via Bad Astronomy]
June 5th, 2013
Prompted by a review of a couple of episodes of Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night at the AV Club, I found myself re-watching one of the best speeches Sorkin ever wrote, as delivered by William H Macy.
The context is that Macy's character, Sam Donovan, has recently joined the production team on 'Sports Night', the daily sports news show where the series is set. The three network executives Sam is talking to in this clip are unhappy that the show's current producer, Isaac Jaffe, has been ignoring the notes they've been sending him suggesting changes to the show's writing and presentation. After an unproductive meeting with Isaac which Sam also attended, the executives indicated to Sam that the job of producer was his if he wanted it. Following another unproductive meeting, this time with the show's production team and presenters, Sam wanders into the meeting room to resume the conversation with the suits…
You can argue that Sorkin only has a limited number of tools in his bag, but the man knows how to use them. In the hands of the right actors, the results can be pretty damned satisfying.
[Via The A.V. Club]
May 28th, 2013
A Twitter bug report pivots into a spooky little science fiction story:
Subject: Twitter API returning results that do not respect arrow of time.
This will take some explaining.
It started as an afternoon hacking project with your Twitter API. [...]
[Via nielsenhayden.com Sidelights]
May 10th, 2013
Artist Patricia Piccinini has created a hot air balloon she's christened The Skywhale, in honour of the centenary of the founding of Canberra:
Artist Patricia Piccinini says her inspiration came from the wonder of nature.
"My question is what if evolution went a different way and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim," she said. [...]
Me, I think it looks pretty great. It's partly that goofy grin it has, and partly the sheer incongruity of glancing up and seeing something this strange go by:
April 3rd, 2013
Twenty Awesome Covers From The US Space Program. My favourite is the cover for the manual for the NASA/Grumman Apollo Lunar Module: nothing else looks like the LM.
[Via Extenuating Circumstances]
March 31st, 2013
Sometimes even Free Pie can't make things better.
February 25th, 2013
From last night's Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence meeting Jack Nicholson for the first time:
[Amended video link as original video was removed from YouTube. Just in case that one disappears too, here's a screenshot of her reaction. JR 26 Feb 2013]
[Via feeling listless]
February 23rd, 2013
The Big Whobowski.
How could I not link to "The trailer for The Big Lebowski re-imagined shot-by-shot (more or less) in the world of Doctor Who."
[Via Waxy.org: Links Miniblog]
January 30th, 2013
A group of former prep school friends take their game of 'tag' very seriously, having met up at a reunion and made a pact to spend the month of February each year resuming the game of 'tag' that they started back in school where it left off. The idea is that whoever is 'It' at the end of February remains tagged until the start of February the following year:
One year early on when Mike Konesky was "It," he got confirmation, after midnight, that people were home at the house where two other players lived. He pulled up to their place at around 2 a.m., sneaked into the garage and groped around in the dark for the house door. "It was open," he says. "I'm like, 'Oh, man, I could get arrested.'"
Mr. Konesky tiptoed toward Mr. Dennehy's bedroom, burst through the door and flipped on the light. A bleary-eyed Mr. Dennehy looked up as his now-wife yelled "Run, Brian!" Mr. Konesky recalls. "There was nowhere for Brian to run."
It's an odd, charming story. I'd imagine that even as I type this a few screenwriters are taking the core of the idea and running with it. The only question is, which type of story do they want to tell?
- A dark tale where the encounter described above ends with Mike Konesky shot dead because Brian Dennehy forgot it was February and assumed that his family was the target of a home invasion?
- A politically engaged story about tensions within the group because some members of the group are now senior executives who can have their office managers run interference for them every February and who can use some of their frequent-flier miles to drop in unexpectedly on a friend/target in another state, whilst other members are stuck in their home city or state due to their financial circumstances or work responsibilities?
- A comedy about how the partner of one of the friends has come to terms with the possibility that for one month a year she might find a strange man crouching in a bush surveilling her house?
- A farce about whoever is currently 'It' having their suspicious pattern of inter-state travel noted by Homeland Security and thus finding themselves being followed even as they track their target?
So many possibilities.
December 3rd, 2012
A lovely tale from tech support:
When I was nearing the end of my tenure, I had a particularly awkward customer. He wasn't being particularly rude, just extremely untrusting and uncooperative. His issue was maddeningly simple – his modem was in standby.
I should probably explain, his modem was an old Motorola model (An SB5100 if I recall correctly). The interesting quirk of this modem is that it has a standby button on it that, as you might guess, puts the modem in standby. What's even MORE interesting is if you put the modem in standby, it'll STAY in standby no matter how often you unplug the thing and plug it back in again. The REALLY REALLY interesting thing is that the modem was completely black and the standby button was also black. Most people didn't know it even existed and it was common for someone to accidentally hit it and suddenly have their connection stop working. Switching it off and on didn't fix it, those lights just wouldn't stay on. Anyway, we see this quite a lot and pushing the button fixes it within seconds – easy. However, this guy wasn't having it.
Despite actually having fixed the problem, he was adamant that his modem was broken. No matter how much I tried to explain that it's REALLY easy to accidentally hit that button ("I've done it myself a few times!"), he was determined. "Oh no, the modem isn't in a position where it could be knocked like that, it's BROKEN!". Bull. Shit. So after batting around for a bit, I had an idea. [...]
A fiendishly clever, utterly hilarious, moderately evil idea.