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  • Candle Cannon

    Posted on March 7th, 2008 Brian No comments

    The geek in me would be remiss if I didn’t post this video of the Candle Cannon, the biggest air vortex cannon ever created. Marvel and enjoy.

    The Candle Cannon: Behind the Scenes movie is also excellent. And for a small dose of air-vortex humor, there’s a short rendition of the Three Little Pigs, which, it turns out, is about 1/3 the length of the real story.

  • Real-World Slurm Meta-Parodoy

    Posted on March 6th, 2008 Brian No comments

    Slurm CanIf Slurm is, as I believe, intended to be a scathing parody on the real soft-drinks we Americans consume so voraciously, despite all their horrible effects on our bodies, then what happens when that parody is made real and actually marketed as the very thing it parodies? Is that some sort of meta-parody? Or is it just really, really sad?

    Slurm can found on the web, and used sans license in good faith, for fair use commentary purposes.

  • New Nine Inch Nails Breaks the Mold

    Posted on March 4th, 2008 Brian 1 comment

    I’m a long time fan of Nine Inch Nails, so news of Trent Reznor’s latest release would be exciting enough on its own. Above and beyond the music, though, is his trail blazing attempts at media distribution in a modern world – one without the record companies greedily leeching profits from the artists for discernible purpose. He knows there are ways to make both music and money in this brave new world, and he’s willing to take risks to find the right approach. I think this may be the best attempt to date.

    With the release of Ghosts, Trent begins by releasing the first nine tracks, entitled Ghosts I, for free on his web site. Go download them now, if you’d like. Then, the next three sets of tracks can be bought for only $5. At that price, there’s almost no reason not to buy it! As a bonus, both sets come with a 40-page PDF booklet about the music, a bunch of cover art, high-resolution wallpaper images (in both 4:3 and 16:9 ratios), and avatar art for your favorite forums.

    And then we move into the physical realm. If you prefer discs, or like me, just have to have every NIN album ever released, you can purchase the two-CD set, including a printed sixteen-page booklet. The cost is a mere $10. Targeting the real collectors is the $75 two-CD set in a fabric case. It is accompanied by a Blu-ray disc with slide show set to super-high-quality versions of the music. And for the budding musicians in the world, it also comes with a data DVD containing all of the recordings in multi-track format – ripe for remixing. (More on that in a moment.)

    For the die-hard NIN fan, a limited edition collectors set was offered for $300. It included everything before it, as well as two high-quality, frame-suitable prints of the cover art, and a fabric-bound hard-cover book of the art, signed by Trent Reznor. Only 2500 were made, and even at $300, they are already sold out.

    Finally, on top of all of this, the whole thing has been released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. This means that not only can you share the music with your friends, but that anyone can use Ghosts as a starting point for their own work, including up-and-coming amateur musicians, YouTube videos, or background music at your church. And all of this without the fear of gray-area legal repercussions from a broken copyright system.

    So download the music, and enjoy it. Buy the rest, if you like it. Share it with your friends. In the meantime, after I’ve had a chance to listen to it, I’ll post my thoughts on the actual music. The non-musical portion is certainly amazing.

    Nine Inch Nails and Ghosts I-IV images by Nine Inch Nails, licensed and re-published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

  • It Depends On Your Definition of “Short”

    Posted on October 12th, 2007 Brian 1 comment

    From the Washington Post Corrections for October 12, 2007:

    An article in the Oct. 7 Magazine about roller derby said the television series “American Gladiators” was short-lived. The show ran from 1989 to 1997.

    Sure, eight seasons cannot strictly be considered short-lived on television, but perhaps the original author was thinking in terms of social consciousness. American Gladiators’ popularity occupies that brief inter-decade period where the cultural norms in our minds, that normally separate one decade from the next, are mixed and blurred beyond simple identification, into a sort of slurry of pop stereotypes. When I look back, and try to place it, American Gladiators clearly falls within the Casio-keyboard, big-haired, cocaine-fueled nineteen-eighties.

    And though the facts certainly disagree, I can’t help but forgive any writer who’d want to at least imagine that era as “short-lived”.

  • Reefer Madness

    Posted on July 16th, 2007 Brian No comments

    Hedda and I went to see Reefer Madness: The Musical Friday night. The musical was based on the original 1936 short film Tell Your Children, which consequentially became a cult classic for it’s bad acting, poor production values, and ridiculous portrayal of the physical and social effects of marijuana. Wikipedia has a pretty good history of the film.

    Tickets to Reefer Madness at the Studio TheaterThe story centers around Jimmy and Mary, two young and naive all-American children whose lives run tragically afoul because of the Stuff. Solid performances are turned in by Andrew Sonntag as Jimmy, and Lawrence Redmond as The Lecturer (and several other humorous bit parts), but Lauren Williams absolutely shines as Mary Lane, the hilariously-too-innocent girlfriend. Her extraordinary facial control and body acting brings the character to life in exactly the right high-contrast, caricatured way. On any other show, it would be absurd over-acting, but in the re-make of the campy classic film, it’s absolutely perfect. And she smokes it, so to speak. The rest of the cast has yet to fall into that groove, and sometimes seem almost embarrassed to really play their parts. I don’t blame them – I might be, too – but, hopefully they’ll follow Ms. Williams’ lead and get over it.

    The cast sounds good and harmonizes well, and it’s easy to hear on the small stage. The music is funny and fun, though mostly forgettable. The notable exception is the musical’s theme, which Hedda and I have been repeating to one another constantly since our attendance: “Reefer Madness…Reeeefffer Maaaaadness……Reefer Madness…Reeeeffffeeeer Maaaaaadnesss!” There isn’t much in the way of dance, except for a brief, well-done number “Down at the Ol’ Five-and-Dime”.

    Reefer Madness FlyerThe run at the Studio Theater has just opened, and it definitely shows. Some of the rough edges include a continuing prop problem with a falling-over lamp, a follow-spot that can’t seem to find the leads in time, poor lighting and design (although it’s hard to tell: it could be the players missing their spikes), and not enough brownies to meet demand during intermission! There was also some – I’m not sure what else to call it – confusion about the set. The main stage was where all the action took place, and the only area ever lit, but there was what seemed to be another, smaller, set area off stage right. There were other set pieces – the refrigerator alluded to, prior to Ralph’s major munchies attack, for example – and at a few points, it seemed as through action was intended to be happening there. But since it was never lit, whatever it was was stillborn. It seems the production could have used another week or two of rehearsals to iron out the kinks.

    Overall, it’s a fun show, as long as you go into it expecting it to be what it is. This isn’t the next great American Musical, but it is a fun evening nonetheless. Hopefully the wrinkles we saw will be gone by the time you see it.

  • Lucky Day

    Posted on March 6th, 2007 Brian No comments

    Go watch the short flick Lucky Day before you read on, so I don’t spoil anything.

    Back? Good. Now, for those of you who know him: Isn’t Nick the only person you know who could play a guy who tries to hang himself on a playground? On the other hand, I hear newspaper clippings can drive you to that….

    Nice job, sir. I snap my fingers for you.

  • More Flickr Downtime – Let’s Hope There’s a Happy Ending

    Posted on February 19th, 2007 Brian No comments

    Flickr is down this evening. Similar to last time, hitting Flickr URLs yields a downtime massage – errr, message. No contests this time, but perhaps we can hope for a good old-fashioned happy ending instead.

    Flickr Downtime Massage

  • Wii Downloading

    Posted on December 22nd, 2006 Brian No comments

    The throbbing blue slit when I woke up tipped me off that the Opera beta for the Wii was released this morning. I downloaded it this morning, and it’s an interesting concept. The ridiculous intuitiveness of the Wiimote has the potential to finally make the web a living room activity, accessible to even the most Luddite grandmother.

    There is a ways to go, however, mostly because of the content. The mental vision in our brain for how the web is supposed to work has been deeply tainted by a mouse/keyboard paradigm, perhaps irrevocably so. Televisions – even with so-called high definition – are very low-resolution, and tend to be viewed from tens of feet away rather than tens of inches. The information density on such a display has to be lower in order to not overwhelm the senses.

    However, this post is really about the Wii download screen, specifically the progress meter. It seems that, in an attempt to be funny or clever, some user interface numskull has replaced the normal filling bar with Mario collecting coins and hitting blocks. I could try and describe how it works, but it will be faster if you just watch the video.

    As you can see, this is a terrible idea, in both idea and execution.

    1. It is almost impossible to figure out what’s going on.
    2. Even if you figure out what’s going on, the information portrayed is inaccurate, at best.
    3. There are whole generations of people who have never even seen the original Super Mario Bros, and will be utterly confused.
    4. It is so freaking annoying! The urge to put my face into a box with glue and nails is almost overwhelming.

    Please, Nintendo, fix the Wii download screen.

  • Nintendo Replacing Wii Remote Straps

    Posted on December 15th, 2006 Brian No comments

    In some games, playing the Wii can be very physical. Wii sports, for example, takes its cue from real sports: The harder you play, the better you’ll do. However, to the shock of its Japanese designers, we Americans have been taking things to the extreme. As usual. There have been many reports of Wii remotes flying out of sweaty hands, breaking their protective wrist straps (meant just for this purpose), and wreaking all sorts of havoc – ranging from smashed television to dented walls and broken light bulbs.

    You don’t need to swing that hard, people!

    Despite us, Nintendo is doing the right thing and freely replacing the straps. They have an online Wii strap replacement form, and they even allow you to obtain more than one strap – in case you have managed to wrestle another Wiimote from a mobbed store. You will probably want to order four no matter what, in case you are planning on buying more controllers in the future, and they happen to come with old, crappy straps.

  • Wii Remote Uses Bluetooth – Simple Hack Controls Your Mouse

    Posted on December 10th, 2006 Brian 1 comment

    I accidentally discovered that the Wiimote uses Bluetooth for its wireless capabilities. Way cool! Using some instructions I discovered online, it was possible to control my mouse cursor by tilting the remote in various directions.

    With the Wiimote using standards-based communications mechanisms, there are so many awesome possibilities suddenly open. Can you imagine MythTV using the Wiimote for on-screen manipulation?