Russian Roulette

April 28th, 2014

Ben Aston's Russian Roulette won a prize at the Sundance London shorts competition. A neat idea, nicely executed.

[Via The Dissolve]

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The Kindle wink

April 26th, 2014

Robin Sloan has noticed something interesting about Amazon's 'Manage Your Kindle' web service:

If you own one of Amazon's e-readers, there's a good chance you've accessed the "Manage Your Kindle" page at some point. [...]

Do you notice anything strange about that URL? [...]

Who is Fiona?

What's fiona? An acronym, perhaps. Functional… Internet-Oriented… Native… Application? File I/O Network Access?

No. It's not a what but a who [...]

As it happens I rarely use the web page to manage my Kindle1 so that's my excuse for not having noticed this before now and I'm sticking to it!

  1. I mostly manage my Kindle content through the client software on my iPad or Mac.

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'I am full of very useful devices.'

April 24th, 2014

NextWave Agents of HA.T.E. Comic Dub Part 1 has a few minor technical issues1, but for a fannish effort it does a pretty impressive job of communicating the joy of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's batty, brilliant 12-issue series:

Roll on the double page spread of Elvis M.O.D.O.K.s2

[Via Wis[s]e Words]

  1. Primarily the inconsistent volume levels of the different vocal tracks, so that you find yourself turning up the volume to hear a quiet bit and are deafened when the next line is delivered much more loudly for no particular reason.
  2. Though that was from in issue #11, so it'll be a while yet. Lots more good stuff to come between now and then, thankfully.

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The Easter Rocket War

April 21st, 2014

The Easter Rocket War of Vrontados:

Every Easter, in the Greek village of Vrontados, members of rival churches sitting across a small valley stage a "rocket war" by firing thousands of homemade rockets towards each other while services are held. The objective for each side is to strike the bell of the opposing church. The festival, called Rouketopolemos, has been celebrated by the churches of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani for at least 125 years, its exact origins a mystery. Gathered here are images of this rocket war from the past few years.

My favourite is the least spectacular of the images, the last one. The one that shows how the village looks the morning after. Let's just say that I hope the village's street cleaners are on triple time over the next few days.1

  1. Also, I'm a tiny bit surprised that the village has survived this festival for 125 years without suffering at least one conflagration big enough to wipe it off the map.

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Scattered filmed

April 21st, 2014

Back in 2012 I posted about an Indiegogo project I'd backed to film an adaptation of a Ken MacLeod short story. I'd forgotten all about it, until earlier this evening when I found myself watching Scattered and realised that there was a reason this story seemed so familiar.

MacLeod's short story works rather nicely as a short film, I think. It'd be good to see someone try The Execution Channel or Descent one day. Not as shorts, obviously. But they'd be easier to film cheaply than the MacLeod adaptation I'd really like to see, of the Fall Revolution series.

[Via Pop Loser]

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Pretty picture

April 20th, 2014

We can be free, we can learn how to fly!

A seagull, following the ferry boat from Thassos to Keramoti, demonstrates the elegance of natural flying.

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Introducing Duplo

April 20th, 2014

This description of how Duplo, Flipboard's new page layout engine, works is fascinating. It's ludicrous to think of just how much work your computer1 can get done in a few fractions of a second just in order to optimise the display of a bunch of text and images for maximum readability:

Duplo is a new layout engine that starts with the ideas in [Flipboard's old layout engine] Pages but uses a modular block and grid system to quickly fit content into thousands of page layouts in all sizes.

[...]

Duplo starts in a similar way as Pages: A designer creates a set of layouts. From this set, Pages selects the layout that best fits the desired content.

However, while Pages looks at about 20 candidate layouts, Duplo looks at anywhere between 2000 to 6000 candidates, searching for the best layout to fit the content. [...]

Me, I tried Flipboard a while ago but on balance I tend to prefer the Instapaper approach.2 But it's good that clever people are putting so much work into trying to find better ways to make content readable in so many form factors.

[Via Daring Fireball]

  1. And especially the computer small enough that you carry in your pocket or hold it in one hand
  2. That or using Safari's Reader function as augmented by the Canisbos CustomReader extension, which allows me to have Safari automatically turn on the Reader function on certain sites and to customise the look of the text the Reader function displays in various ways.

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Not Excel

April 19th, 2014

Spreadsheets, the app:

F.A.Q.

Spreadsheets \'spred-,-shets\ , verb,:=

  1. Using technology to track sexual performance?
  2. The act of sexual intercourse?

"Spreadsheets and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you're not good at them." – Kevin Costner (revised)

"Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer Spreadsheets raises some pretty good questions" – Woody Allen (revised)

What is Spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets is a mobile app that monitors your performance in bed to provide statistical and historical feedback. Find out how many thrusts per minute you’re averaging, how long you go for, and exactly how loud it gets. Keep a record of your encounters, date, time, and performance.

How does it work?

Spreadsheets monitors data from user’s movement and audio levels through the accelerometer and microphone to provide statistical and visual analysis of their performance in bed.

Spreadsheets does not record or playback audio or video. That would be creepy. […]

Right. That's where you draw the 'creepy' line.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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'Oral histories that are completely fabricated have value.'

April 16th, 2014

Talking to The Verge in the wake of the publication of her book It's Complicated, danah boyd talks a lot of sense about how people interact online:

People seem very afraid of their kids creating different identities on different social networks. Why are teens doing this, and should their parents be concerned?

No, in fact, this is one of the weird oddities about Facebook. Let's go back to Usenet. People had multiple nicks, they had a field day with this. They would use these multiple "identities" to put forward different facets of who they were. It wasn't to say that they were trying to be separate individuals. Who you are sitting with me today in this professional role with a shared understanding of social media is different than how you talk to your mom. She may not understand the same things you and I are talking about. At the same time, if you were talking about your past, I'd have none of it and your mother would have a lot of it. This is this moment where you think about how you present yourself differently in these different contexts, not because you're hiding, but because you're putting forward what's relevant there.

The idea of real names being the thing that leads you – that's not actually what leads us in the physical space. We lead with our bodies. We adjust how we present our bodies by situation. We dress differently, we sit differently, we emote differently. [...]

Call me nostalgic, but I'm always pleased to see references to Usenet. We might not have called it 'social media',1 but there's a lot to be learned from the experience of all those people back before the web was even a thing, having thousands of shared social spaces to navigate. Of course Usenet also blessed us with Canter and Siegel, but that was part of the learning curve too.

  1. And in fairness it wasn't quite the same beast as MySpace or Twitter or Facebook – but mostly in respects that were for the better. A choice of flexible, powerful third party client software running on a variety of platforms. No single centralised authority policing the discussions – especially outside the Big 8 hierarchy. The best online discussions I ever had or saw happened on Usenet. Also some of the biggest flamewars, but that's what killfiles and scorefiles were for.

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Do Read

April 15th, 2014

TL;DR Wikipedia Is both concise and accurate:

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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The Adjustable Cosmos

April 12th, 2014

The Adjustable Cosmos:

In the fifteenth century, three worthies come together to tackle the Emperor's disastrous horoscope. They lift themselves to space in their medieval vessel, braving the terrors and wonders of the of the Ptolemaic universe, to reach for the stars…

[Via MetaFilter]

1 Comment »

I Kill Giants

April 11th, 2014

Tasha Robinson makes a strong argument that Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura's 2008 graphic novel I Kill Giants would work well as an animated film:

[...] I Kill Giants starts in a familiar environment, in this case a fifth-grade classroom on Career Day, where a parade of parents is explaining their jobs to the students. But one kid is reading a book instead of paying attention. When challenged, she says she doesn't need to think about her future career, because she already has one: "I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants."

This is Barbara Thorson, a defiant, self-possessed kid with a huge but melancholy personal agenda, and one of the best, most unheralded comics characters of the 2000s. Barbara comes across as weird and immature in some ways, like in her habit of wearing cutesy animal ears to school, and the way her inability to rein in her resentment makes her problems into everyone else's problems. She's a problem kid, but she still comes across as a bit of a wish-fulfillment character in her sureness and her oddball version of nobility. In an era defined by insecure, self-questioning, or clumsy teen-girl heroes, Barbara stands out for her utter fearlessness in the face of generic threats. The problems that define so many school stories – mean teachers, clueless administrators, bullies, trivial concerns like grades or popularity – don't mean anything to Barbara. She's a self-proclaimed giant-slayer. Just incidentally, she's a self-proclaimed giant-slayer in a world where there don't appear to be any giants.

I Kill Giants was one of the last series I finished before I took a break from comics a few years ago and I hadn't thought about it in quite a while, but I've got to say that a good animated version of I Kill Giants would be quite something. Or, failing that, I guess I'll just have to read it again.1

  1. But once I open that box I just know that I'll end up getting sucked back in. Hopeless Savages. Local. Nextwave. Phonogram. Then there's Hellboy: I gather that Mike Mignola is back both writing and doing the art on the current series. How can I resist? Dammit, I can't afford a comics habit again!

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A Really Bad Idea

April 9th, 2014

Charlie Stross has yet another bad idea:

Now, it occurs to me that the Republican Party over in the USA have a bit of a problem coming up in 2016, namely who to run against Barack Obama's successor. Whoever they are. (Hilary is looking a little old and Al's cardboard has mildew.) But the RNC isn't in good shape. They don't have anybody out front with the charisma of the Gipper (dead or alive), or the good ole' boy appeal of George W. Bush: just a bunch of old white guys in dark suits who're obsessed with the size of their wallets and the contents of every woman's uterus, or vice versa. Guys who make Karl Rove look like Johnny Depp.

And so it occurred to me (after my fifth pint of IPA) to spin my speculative political satire around the fact that there is only one man on the global political scene today who has what it takes to be a plausible Republican candidate for President Of The United States at the next presidential election. […]

The name he's come up with isn't remotely feasible as an actual candidate for president, but then that's not exactly the point, is it?

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Celebrities that Look Like Matresses

April 8th, 2014

Celebrities that Look Like Matresses.

Some of these are just mean…

Alan Cumming

Hilarious, still, but mean.

[Via kottke.org]

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Disco Is Not Dead

April 7th, 2014

What if the Moon was a Disco Ball?

That looks so downright bizarre that we just have to make it happen some day. Think of the advertising potential.

[Via jwz]

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A GIRL NAMED ELASTIKA

April 6th, 2014

A GIRL NAMED ELASTIKA is a lovely, exuberant little animation:

Be sure to stay until the very end to meet the real heroine of the piece.

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Pretty pictures

April 6th, 2014

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Best of Björk

April 6th, 2014

Perusing a recent Guardian article listing 10 of the best tracks by Björk, I came across a mention in comments of her performing a David Arnold arrangement of You Only Live Twice. I'd never heard this before (for some reason it didn't show up on David Arnold's Shaken and Stirred album of Bond theme cover versions) and it's fantastic:

That said, I'm not sure that this would make it into my personal Top 10 Björk tracks; not a slight on this performance, more a consequence of Björk having spent twenty-odd years making distinctive and frequently surprising music so that there's a lot of competition for the honour.

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Moses Supposes…

April 4th, 2014

義足のMoses is pretty much the cutest thing I've seen all week:

[Via MetaFilter]

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Here kitty, kitty…

April 3rd, 2014

Just some kitties…

Tigers galore

Follow the link for several more pictures of a pack of happy, if slightly peckish, tigers frolicking in the snow in China.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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