'The witch-king may have been too busy being awesome to notice details.'

May 27th, 2012

Frank Frazetta's illustrations for 'The Lord of the Rings' are – and it really is the only appropriate description – awesome.

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Sailing away

May 27th, 2012

A light show projects actual sails onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

I'll grant you that the part where the 'sails' appear to collapse is spectacular (as are the bits with the dancers), but I liked it best when the sails seemed to have unfurled, and were fluttering in the breeze as if the opera house was making sail. I think they should keep that portion of the light show up permanently.

1 Comment »

Raising the bar

May 26th, 2012

Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Designing the mobile (phone) wallet

May 24th, 2012

Designing the mobile wallet – A case study. Slide 59 is a particular delight, but this entire presentation by Tim Caynes is worth a look.

[Via currybetdotnet]

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An Unbiased Review

May 24th, 2012

An Unbiased Review of the Marvel "Avengers" Movie:

Once again, Loki's true plan, which succeeded, was pure genius, and cunningly designed as a terrible plan which failed. Yet sophistication of his scheme has declined in complexity so radically since his elegant and subtly-worked plan to destroy Bifrost and fake his own death in the "Thor" film that the viewer is left wondering what happened? Was he distracted when he came up with this plan? Further research into the "Marvel Universe" led me to several alternatives. Is he simultaneously waging another battle in the Astral Plane, or the Mojoverse, which requires the majority of his attention? Perhaps we are to believe that this was a cry for attention? This would be consistent with the focus on his youth and desire for respect, treated in both films (though smelling more like a ruse than truth in both). Perhaps we are to believe he was so frustrated that no one noticed the brilliant success of his earlier scheme that this time he has dialed down the subtlety in hopes that at least some of the supposed-genius members of the adversary squad might piece together the logic chain: "Loki is an unmatched genius. This plan is dumb. Therefore this is not Loki's plan."

Beautiful work.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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May 23rd, 2012

An Introduction to Objectivist-C:

Objectivist-C was invented by Russian-American programmer Ope Rand. Based on the principle of rational self-interest, Objectivist-C was influenced by Aristotle's laws of logic and Smalltalk. In an unorthodox move, Rand first wrote about the principles of Objectivist-C in bestselling novels, and only later set them down in non-fiction.

Here's what you need to know to program in Objectivist-C.


In Objectivist-C, there are not only properties, but also property rights. Consequently, all properties are @private; there is no @public property.

In Objectivist-C, each program is free to acquire as many resources as it can, without interference from the operating system.


[Via jwz]

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25 Words

May 23rd, 2012

25 Handy Words That Simply Don't Exist In English:

2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn't want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude


8 Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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The Dread Spy Bond

May 22nd, 2012

Comment of the day, from a MetaFilter thread prompted by the trailer for the new James Bond film:

>>>>All of the Bonds in one film? I'd watch that.


I've wanted to see this for years. And it could still happen.

A film that establishes what we've all known for years: James Bond is an assumed name, a title, a role that is filled time and time again. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, perhaps, only armed with a Walther PPK. A Bond only remains a Bond until the stress is too much or they're forced into retirement. The XXXX'd out Bond is given a new name, a new story, a new life. They're sent to somewhere quiet, perhaps even brainwashed to forget. (Heck, maybe they're given a number and sent to The Village …)

And the plot just writes itself. Some force of ill will uncovers the truth about the Bonds, attacks the weakest of the retired (let's just say it's the Lazenby Bond, as he's mostly doing the 'Con circuit these days and would work best as a pre-credit cameo), and presents some kind of Massive Global Threat that derives its origin from pieces of plot device from all of the Bond films going back to Dr No.

The only way to stop him is to trace back through secrets held back by all of the other previous Bonds, so they're all reactivated. In reverse order. Each one in a different exotic or horribly mundane location. Craig is in prison undercover and incommunicado initially, Brosnan is posing as a restaurateur in Monaco, Dalton is conducting an orchestra in Calgary, Moore is bearded, wearing mirror shades and destroying wanna-bes in the World Series of Poker in Vegas … and then we find Connery, polishing the bar at a pub in Edinburgh. He's the one that won't go without convincing, naturally.

And they're all tracked down by an MI6 operative, one of the two entrusted with the secret, but kept most of his days behind a desk. Highly trained, but untested.

Let's say that this guy is played by … Idris Elba.

What you end up with is something like The Five Doctors, only with a massive budget, huge explosions, cracking dialogue and a badass film score.

posted by grabbingsand at 3:00 PM on May 21 [138 favorites +]

Tell me you wouldn't watch that.

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Shockingly round

May 21st, 2012

Back in 2004 the Cassini probe discovered a tiny, previously unnoticed moon that was designated Saturn XXXII before being given the name Methone.

Such are the orbital mechanics of the Saturn system and Cassini's orbital trajectory that it's taken nearly eight years for the probe to get close enough to take a high resolution image of Methone. It's been worth the wait.

What an odd looking moon.

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A bunch of lumps

May 21st, 2012

Nico Muhly on working with the New York City Ballet's orchestra:

The City Ballet orchestra is funny to me: they're kind of the Most Entrenched orchestra in terms of unionization in New York, I'd say. They are also a sort of national treasure: New York is, and always should be, I think, a place that does dance with live orchestral music because it is fabulous. There is not a thing better, in fact, than going to see that Nutcracker. I remember a few years ago I supported, as a member of the musicians' union, their contract renegotiation, which argued, I had thought, that they should be allowed to miss a rehearsal for something like Nutcracker, which they've played ninety million times before, as long as they hired a substitute for themselves, and came back and played the show. This is, fundamentally fair; while the dancers need to relearn the piece afresh each year on their bodies, the music for that piece hasn't changed around in a century or two. I'm not sure if this approach is quite right for a new piece, though; the practical reality of the situation is that every time I looked into the pit it was Totally Different Human Beings playing major roles. The concertmaster and many of the strings remained the same, and we sort of built up a rapport, and those who stayed around got really comfortable with the piece, which is the fun (and perhaps the point?) of rehearsal. Between the the first rehearsal and the first show, we had like three different English horn players? The principal second violin – a big part in this piece! – shuffled around, the harpist (also important) was different. It's a strange universe, orchestral musicians; I'm not sure I'd like to play a show for which I hadn't been at a rehearsal. I do like the idea, in a weird, abstract sense, of writing music in which any one participant can hand over her part to another person, like a relay race…although that isn't quite what I had intended in this piece! City Ballet employed a very good trick which is that they have one arts administrator who is so lovely and friendly one feels terrible cussing him out about Nancy Drew and the Case of That's Totally Not The Same English Horn, and then somebody else who's actually more in charge who is a Person Invisible, as in, secret doorways and smoke, and hallways of mirrors, with whom one never quite gets a proper audience. If I write another ballet for them, which I really hope I will, I'll make the orchestral parts deliberately modular, or maybe even change them each day, so there's a sense of always being somebody else's substitute. It's like that dream where you turn up expected to give a talk about something you don't fully grasp; sometime there arises a gorgeous spontaneity, perhaps even more gorgeous than what would have resulted through months of preparation.

[Via Snarkmarket]

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The only problem with 'Restaurant Day' is 'The Day After Restaurant Day'.

May 20th, 2012

Dan Hill on the joys of Helsinki's Restaurant Day:

Ravintolapäivä is "Restaurant Day" [...] After starting in Helsinki a year ago, Ravintolapäivä's role is to suggest "a food carnival when anyone can open a restaurant for a day".

Which it is, although this doesn't quite describe the genesis of the event, which came out of frustration with the effort required to set up a restaurant in Helsinki, of the kind that is open for more than a single day. [...]

Today, though, the sun was shining, the streets were full, and that frustration was long forgotten, given the explosion of invention on offer. [...]

For instance, our first stop this morning was for breakfast served from a little wicker basket lowered from a first floor window into the group of waiting customers below. Euros are stuffed in the basket, and up it goes. You shout up your order. Breakfast comes back.

The string had a menu attached, featuring egg and bacon, or eggs benedict, in home-baked English muffins (both hot bacon sandwiches and English muffins are extremely difficult to come by in Helsinki.) This is, again, not exactly within the law, but if this is considered a problem, then I believe the saying is the law is an ass. [...]

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Side by side

May 19th, 2012

The Norwegian night sky depicted in Tommy Eliassen's Side by side is just spectacular.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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May 19th, 2012

Repetitive Tasks. So true.

[Via swissmiss]

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A Musical Monolith

May 18th, 2012

An iPod docking station mimicking a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In Lego.

[Via Daring Fireball]

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Sounds of Aronofsky

May 16th, 2012

Sounds of Aronofsky. Nice work.

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Teachers Dancing Behind Students

May 15th, 2012

Teachers Dancing Behind Students. Every bit as dorky-yet-adorable as it sounds.

[Via Stellar Interesting's faves]

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OAuth is your future

May 14th, 2012

OAuth is your future. What a cheerful thought.

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Old people icons

May 14th, 2012

Scott Hanselman on 15 old people icons that don't make sense anymore.

A couple of his selections are spurious, I think. For example, it's true that referring to a group of options of which you can only activate one as 'radio buttons' may be archaic, but how many end users even use that term for those controls? I think they mostly know what control behaviour they signify, which is far more important for all of us, young and old alike.

Similarly with some of the others: it may be that an icon of a screen with 'rabbit ears' is referring to a dying bit of technology, but the form still distinguishes it nicely from an icon for a computer display. I don't think that replacing the TV set icon with, say, the letters 'TV' would be much of a step forward.

I'm sure that 30 years from now several of the icons listed will have been transformed or shifted in their meaning, but I wouldn't like to bet which ones. I think a number of them will stick around until the underlying concepts have been rendered obsolete. Perhaps one day we won't ever cut/copy/paste so we won't need all those clipboard-and-scissors icon sets. Not any time soon, though.

[Via delicious.com/Qwghlm]

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The word 'tangled' is far too polite

May 14th, 2012

Andy Baio has been looking into how difficult it is to post a cover song on YouTube and stay within the law:

We all break laws. Every day, millions of people jaywalk, download music, and drive above the speed limit. Some laws are obscure, others are inconvenient, and others are just fun to break.

There are millions of cover songs on YouTube, with around 12,000 new covers uploaded in the last 24 hours. Nearly 40,000 people covered "Rolling in the Deep," 11,000 took on "Pumped Up Kicks," 6,000 were inspired by "Somebody That I Used to Know."

Until recently, all but a sliver were illegal, considered infringement under current copyright law. Nearly all were non-commercial, created out of love by fans of the source material, with no negative impact on the market value of the original.

This is creativity criminalized, quite possibly the most popular creative act that's against the law. [...]

Baio reports that YouTube negotiated a blanket license with the National Music Publishers Association last year that potentially covers the rights held by thousands of publishers. Unfortunately, as the NMPA doesn't publish a list of which publishers and songs are covered the existence of the agreement it is of no real help to an amateur musician who would like to protect themselves by ensuring that they stick to tracks covered by the agreement.1

Basically, a user has to decide if they're willing to upload their performance and risk losing their YouTube account if they're branded a copyright infringer once too often. Which is ridiculous, but (IMHO) not just the fault of the music industry. Presumably YouTube know which publishers and songs are covered by the NMPA agreement: once their software identifies an upload as a cover version, presumably it could flag up for the user that their track doesn't appear to be covered by the NMPA license and give them a chance to take it down immediately or confirm that they hold some form of license. But that would put YouTube in a position where they might share liability with the user if it turned out they didn't hold a license, so it's much better not to ask too closely about the tracks being uploaded, keep everyone in the dark and leave it all on the user if the publishers take exception to what's been uploaded.


  1. If they even know the agreement exists. Had you ever heard of it before Andy Baio mentioned it? I know I hadn't.

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May 13th, 2012

Junaid Chundrigar's animation Disassembled goes beyond the cast of a certain current blockbuster, featuring all sorts of non-Avengers. I loved the … um … cartoonish nature of Thor's encounter with Loki1 and the sight of Venom trying to enjoy an ice cream. Good work, strongly recommended.

[Via MetaFilter]

  1. Though not as much as I did a certain distinctly cartoonish Loki/Hulk meetup in the film. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about.

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