Episode 147: “Let me throw!”

I know I just posted a ‘Video of the Day’ just a couple of hours ago, but this one tops it!

I love the Muppet viral videos that have been coming out since last year, and this one is the best of them so far:

AWESOME!

I remember when the viral Muppet videos came out last year, that nobody was really sure where they came from, who had made them. But it turns out the Muppet Studio is behind all of them, with more coming in 2010.

Episode 146: “Your cells… under new management”

Enjoy:

Via BoingBoing

Playful ’09

Events, Games November 24th, 2009

Again I’m way behind in blogging about the events I’ve been going to. A couple of weeks ago I got to attend this year’s Playful, a one day conference with a great collection of speakers from different fields, all talking about game design. There were 16 talks in total, each 20-30 minutes long. I don’t have time (or the memory, to be honest) to tell you about all of them, but I’ll try to remember the highlights for me:

Playful 09 - 038

Roo Reynolds

Because of transport fail, I sadly missed the beginning of this talk, but Roo talked about the relationship between movies and video games. He gave examples of games of movies and movies of games (like Max Payne and Super Mario Bros), and that they rarely work that well. He also showed how games themselves are difficult to illustrate properly in movies. For example, there’s a part in the Trainspotting book about how the main character thinks he’s in a video game and is a great piece when you’re reading it. But the scene in the movie? Not that much. Another example (although not a video game) is the poker playing in Casino Royale. While for the rest it’s a great movie, that poker playing is ridiculous. Roo ended the talk with giving the one example of a movie/game which is the exception to the rule, where the movie and game go both ways and work perfectly on both levels: Tron.

Daniel Soltis

I should have been paying more attention to this talk, but I was busy replying to an important email (I know, lame excuse, but this was the type of email I couldn’t leave until later). Anyway, I missed most of what he said (anybody have a complete description somewhere?), but he ended with talking about a GPS puzzle box. The idea was basically geocaching in reverse: a box with a small lcd screen on it, that showed you how far you are from the goal location and you can only open the box on that specific goal location. The person who made it gave it as a wedding gift; the newlywed couple had to find the secret special location where they finally could open the box.

GPS Puzzle Box

James Bridle

This talk was the highlight of the day for me, which is also why the description is a bit longer than the others. James talked about the idea of the miraculous, which pretty much leads to the idea of awesomeness. For him, when he thinks about things that are awesome (and miraculous) it all kept going back to scale and complexity. Quotes from Douglas Adams and Thomas Pynchon are great in showing how metaphors are used to illustrate the ideas of scale and complexity. He also showed how you have complexity in complexity, scale within scale: Zak Smith created a book of illustrations based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow. For every page in the 760 page book, he made an illustration, creating a complete new work based on the former. Another example was Tom Phillip’s books The Humument, where he painted over the pages of an old Victorian novel, creating a new narrative with new characters.

The same can be done with technology: with scale and complexity you can make strange mechanical objects and machines. For example, Heath Robinson’s contraptions of weird complex machines aimed in doing simple things. Another example was the predecessor of the Collusus (the machine that broke the Enigma code) which initially didn’t work, but they ‘changed the frequency’ and it did. Or Babbage’s difference engine machine, which surprisingly works even though it only was finished decades after the design was initially made on paper.

The best part of the talk though was a machine called MENACE: the Matchbox Educable Noughts And Crosses Engine. It’s a ‘machine’ that plays noughts and crosses, built from 304 matchboxes. Each matchbox represents one of the 304 board layouts the opening player might face (excluding rotations etc) and contains glass beads representing the possible moves. During a turn, you pick the matchbox representing the state you’re in and randomly select a glass bead which shows you which move to make. The cool thing is though that MENACE can learn: every time you win a game you a glass bead to each of the matchboxes you used, corresponding to the moves you made (and vice versa when you lose). The more often you played the better MENACE became in knowing which moves to make. James found many simulation programmes for MENACE, but no reports of an actual machine: so he built one himself.

MENACE

But how about scaling it up? Like for Go? So James started thinking about MAGE: the MAtchbox Go Engine. He did some calculations… and MAGE would need 3.4 x 10^15 matchboxes, each needing to hold 3610 beads. If each bead is 5mm, a match box would have to be 18m^3, which results in a final volume of 6.1 x 10^16. That’s larger than the Crab Nebula. Awesome.

James’s talk is completely online on his website Short Term Memory Loss.

Russell Davies

Russell first talked about the concept of bubble-building vs world-building. In world-building you’re trying to recreate reality, trying to build an actual replica of a world. It’s hard to do, cause there’s always something that can shatter the illusion. In bubble-building, you’re trying to build a bubble of illusion alongside our own world, drawing heavily on the power of pretending.

It’s these type of games, the ones that rely a lot on pretending, that Russell is most interested in. “These aren’t games, like the industry thinks of games, these are something a little less, these are Barely Games.” He gave all sorts of examples on how pretending is an everyday thing. His entire presentation is online, so if you’re interested in hearing more, just head on over there.

Chris O’Shea

Chris O’Shea’s talk was basically a showcase of all the cool projects he has worked on. Out of Bounds: an interactive museum installation that lets you “see” through walls as if you had x-ray vision (using an infrared torch and laser tracker). Air Guitar Championship: an interactive installation at Glastonbury, where festival go-ers could play air guitar. Flap To Freedom: a race between two people, each ‘controlling’ their own robot chicken by flapping your arms as fast as you can. Audience: an installation consisting of around 64 head-size mirror objects, with each object interacting with the visitors moving its head in a particular way to give it different characteristics of human behaviour. Some chat amongst themselves, some shy away and others confidently move to grab your attention. Beacon: similar to the Audience project, but with light beacons. The lights ‘interact’ with visitors, tracking their movements and reacting on them. Hand From Above: outdoor screens from the BBC, in which they added a giant hand of god into the real time video from people near the screens. People could see themselves on the screen being tickled, squashed, picked up and taken away by the giant hand.

There were loads more interesting talks, but these were the ones that really stood out to me (and that I still vividly remember after a couple of weeks). I’m guessing they’ll be doing it again next year, and if they do, I can highly recommend it!

Regular readers of MissGeeky will know how much I love my Threadless tees. So when I hear they were teaming up with Griffin to make iPhone cases, I couldn’t help but think: AWESOME.

So far they’ve only got two designs out, and, in my opinion, they aren’t the most pretty or cool ones:

Threadless iPhone Case Birds
Threadless iPhone Case Thunder

There are other Threadless designs that I think would have worked much much better as a case, and I’m kind of puzzled as to why they chose these ones. Still I find it pretty cool that Threadless and Griffin are working together and will look forward to future designs that will come out.

Chuck fans rejoice! For me, last season’s finale of Chuck was the surprise of the year. I loved loved loved that episode, only to find out that Chuck was on the bubble and was threatened to be cancelled. Luckily because of the support of its fans, NBC picked it up for 13 episodes, all airing in the latter half of the new season.

Now though NBC have ordered 6 additional episodes, bringing the season 3 of Chuck to 19 episodes. Yay! The premiere date has also been announced: Sunday January 10th for a special 2-hour premiere, and then to its new timeslot on Monday 8pm. This was the old slot of Heroes, which has now been pushed back to 9pm. This shows the amount of faith NBC now has in Chuck!

So here’s the new promo clip (of course it’s full of spoilers for the previous seasons):

Ooh, I like the added twist of this new upgraded intersect; I can’t wait for this new season to start!

Me Wantz: Bookrest

Books, Me Wantz November 19th, 2009

Most of the time I’ll be reading several books through each other, so my bedside stand always has a huge stack of books on it.I don’t really have room for those though; if it was just two or three books it might have been okay, but most of the time it’s more like 9-10 books. I’ve thought of possible solutions, like a special separate mini book shelf above my bed, but never have gotten around to actually implementing something.

At first glance, this design seemed perfect:

Me Wantz Bookrest

Don’t you love the little glasses hook? I’m wondering though how much this would ‘damage’ the book. I already hate using bookmarks (they cause unnatural creases in your books, I find. Then again I get slightly panicked whenever there’s a fold in anything made of paper I own) and I can’t help but worry what these would do to my books (yeah, I know, I’m weird). Plus I can already imagine me bumping my head against these at 3 in the morning.

Despite my moaning though: super cute design!

Via swissmiss

Gillengaria seethes with unrest. In the south, hostility toward magic and its users has risen to a dangerous level, though King Baryn has ordered that such mystics are to be tolerated. The King knows there are those in the noble Twelve Houses who could use this growing dissent to overthrow him, so he dispatches the mystic Senneth to access the threat throughout the realm.

Accompanying her is a motley band of magic users and warriors including Tayse, first among the King’s Riders – who holds a hard view of mystics in general, and Senneth in particular. But as the unlikely allies venture farther into the south, they will face death in a land under the sway of a fanatical cult that would purge Gillengaria of all magic users. And they will come to realize that their only hope of survival leis in standing together…

I stumbled on one of Sharon Shinn’s stand-alone book last year (Summers at Castle Auburn) and had been meaning to try out one of her series. The Twelve Houses series is set in the world of Gillengaria, your typical fantasy kingdom with a king, knights and magic. The kingdom is split up in 12 separate parts, each ruled by a different noble house: together they form the Twelve Houses. In the book you slowly learn who the different Houses are, their leaders, their traits, and the political intrigues between them. I always love the more political side of fantasy novels, with scheming, plotting and manipulating, and here in Mystic and Rider you get just that without it being too overwhelming.

Mystic and Rider

The book starts off with the group saving a young man, Cammon, who is rumoured to be a mystic, and through him, we are introduced to all the characters. The group is led by Senneth, a mysterious woman with the power of fire. She has been ordered by the King to look into the southern Houses, to figure out if they’re on the brink of a civil war. Accompanying her are two other mystics, both shapeshifters, Kirra and Donnal, and two Riders, Tayse and Justin, loyal knights of the King.

It took me some time to really get into the book, and start caring for the characters. Mainly because you don’t know anything about them besides their names and the fact that 4 of them are mystics and 2 of them are Riders. Once the characters start opening up to each other (and to the reader) you slowly learn who they are and it really becomes interesting. Senneth in particular has difficulty opening up to people, but you slowly discover her background and the reasons to why she’s there.

Some might pick up this book thinking its a romance, but it’s not. There’s a faint romantic thread in it, but the main focus is the mystery of the southern Houses. I really enjoyed the book, and I’m definitely going to pick up the next ones (although not until I’ve worked through my 50+ ToRead list, eek!).

Mystic and Rider is the first book in The Twelve House series by Sharon Shinn – £4.85 on Amazon.co.uk, $7.99 on Amazon.com

Yep, finally a loooong overdue Trailerrific post with all the trailers I’ve missed the past month (excluding the ones that already are out by now). I haven’t embedded all the trailers on this page (otherwise it would load waaay to slow), but have added links to all of them at the end of each paragraph. Enjoy!

Clash of the Titans: The ultimate struggle for power pits men against kings and kings against gods; but the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth. While I love my Greek mythology, I’m not at all excited for this movie; it just seems overdone and not even remotely interesting. I want to like it, but so far: not impressed. Release Date: March 2010 (UK, US)

Date Night: Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell) are a typical suburban couple whose lives have become routine. To reignite the marital spark, they visit a trendy Manhattan bistro where a case of mistaken identity turns their evening into the ultimate date night-gone-awry. This doesn’t seem funny at all… I like Tina Fey, but not sure if even she can save this movie. Release Date: April 2010 (UK, US) [Trailer]

A Single Man: The story of George Falconer, a British college professor who is struggling to find meaning in his life after the death of his long-time partner, Jim. He is consoled by his closest friend Charley, a 48-year-old beauty, and is stalked by one of his students, Kenny. Release Date: December 2009 (US limited), February 2010 (UK) [Trailer]

The Slammin’ Salmon: “Slammin” Cleon Salmon (Michael Clarke Duncan) is a former Heavyweight Champion of the World turned celebrity owner of a high end Miami seafood restaurant, The Slammin’ Salmon. It looks stupidly silly. Pass. Release Date: December 2009 (US) [Trailer]

Salt: Angelina Jolie stars as Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer who swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. When she is accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper spy, Salt goes on the run to clear her name and ultimately prove she is a patriot. Ooh, I like the look of this! I remember hearing this was initially written for a male lead, but that they rewrote for Jolie. Yay, for female action heros! Release Date: July 2010 (US), August 2010 (UK)

Despicable Me: The plot revolves around a supervillain named Gru (Steve Carell) plotting to steal the moon while he hides underground in a suburban neighborhood. His plot is jeopardized by three orphaned girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher) who see him as a prospective father. Release Date: July 2010 (US), October 2010 (UK) [Trailer]

How To Train Your Dragon: A Viking teenager named Hiccup lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. The teen’s smarts and offbeat sense of humor don’t sit too well with his tribe or its chief, who just happens to be Hiccup’s father. When Hiccup is included in Dragon Training with the other Viking teens, he sees his chance to prove he has what it takes to be a fighter. But when he encounters an injured dragon, his world is flipped upside down. I actually kind of like the look of this. I know, I know, it looks a bit silly, but that dragon just looks adorable! Release Date: March 2010 (US, UK) [Trailer]

Green Zone: During the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his team of Army inspectors were dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one booby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but stumble instead upon an elaborate cover-up that inverts the purpose of their mission. Spun by operatives with intersecting agendas, Miller must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil for answers that will either clear a rogue regime or escalate a war in an unstable region. Release Date: March 2010 (US, UK) [Trailer]

Avatar: I wasn’t that impressed by Avatar Day; the 3D made me dizzy, the visual effects seemed out of a video game (not per se a bad thing) and the plot sounded boring. Seeing this full trailer though has left me much more interested. Although in my eyes it suffers badly from give-away-the-plot-of-the-entire-movie syndrome. Release Date: December 2009 (US, UK)

Invictus: The inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match. Release Date: December 2009 (US), February 2010 (UK) [Trailer]

Nowhere Boy: A lonely teenager, curious and sharp, growing up in the shattered city of Liverpool. Two incredible women clash for his love. Mimi, the formidable aunt who raised him and Julia, the spirited mother who gave him up. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into music. His fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the young Paul McCartney. But just as John’s new life begins the truth about his past leads to a tragedy he would never escape. Release Date: December 2009 (UK) [Trailer]

Leaves of Grass: An Ivy League professor is lured back to his Oklahoma hometown, where his twin brother, a small-time pot grower, has concocted a scheme to take down a local drug lord. Release Date: December 2009 (US) [Trailer]

Toy Story 3: Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college. Release Date: June 2010 (US), July (UK)

Grown-Ups: A comedy about five friends and former teammates who reunite years later to honor the passing of their childhood basketball coach. With their wives (Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph) and kids in tow, they spend the Fourth of July holiday weekend together at the lake house where they celebrated their championship years earlier. Picking up where they left off, they discover why growing older doesn’t mean growing up. Release Date: June 2010 (US) [Trailer]

Leap Year: In Leap Year, Adams plays an uptight woman who travels to Dublin to propose to her boyfriend on leap day, Feb. 29, following an Irish tradition in which women propose to men on that day and the man has to say yes. When weather derails her trip, she enlists the help of a surly Irish innkeeper to make an unexpected cross-country trek to pull off the perfect proposal in time. I actually liked how this trailer looked up until the last bit; yep, it’s another member of the show-the-entire-plot-of-the-movie club! Release Date: January 2010 (US) [Trailer]

Edge of Darkness: Edge of Darkness centers on a veteran cop (Mel Gibson) whose only grown-up child (Novakovic) is murdered on the steps of his home. The cop unearths his daughter’s secret life and discovers a world of corporate cover-ups and government collusion. Release Date: January 2010 (US, UK) [Trailer]

Uncertainty: This movie thrusts Bobby Thompson and Kate Montero (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins) into two alternate realities on the same steamy summer day in New York City. With the flip of a coin, the couple are sent in opposite directions – a delicate drama set in Brooklyn examines familial love, self-discovery, loss and the ordinary choices we make everyday, while Manhattan offers a vastly different tale of intrigue, suspense and murder on the streets of Chinatown. Okay, this looks pretty cool! I always like the weird type of movie plots, and this one mixing a drama and a thriller alternate reality looks amazing. Release Date: unknown [Trailer]

Women in Trouble: One day in the lives of ten seemingly disparate women – including a porn star, a flight attendant, a psychiatrist, a masseuse, a bartender and a pair of call girls — all with one thing in common: trouble. Release Date: November 2009 (US) [Trailer]

Altitude: After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves in a showdown with a malevolent supernatural force.Release Date: 2010 [Trailer]

Tooth Fairy: When a pro hockey player, nicknamed the Tooth Fairy for his ability to knock out other players’ teeth, dashes the hopes of a young boy, he is ordered to one week’s hard labor as the real Tooth Fairy. Release Date: January 2010 (US), May 2010 (UK) [Trailer]

Me and Orson Welles: Zac Efron plays a teenage student who lucks his way into a minor role in the 1937 Mercury Theatre production of “Julius Caesar,” directed by 22-year-old genius Orson Welles. In the words of Kaplow’s protagonist: “This is the story of one week in my life. I was seventeen. It was the week I slept in Orson Welles’s pajamas. It was the week I fell in love…” Release Date: December 2009 (UK)

The Crazies: About the inhabitants of a small Iowa town suddenly plagued by insanity and then death after a mysterious toxin contaminates their water supply. Release Date: February 2010 (US, UK) [Trailer]

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Nicolas Cage plays a rogue detective who is as devoted to his job as he is at scoring drugs — while playing fast and loose with the law. He wields his badge as often as he wields his gun in order to get his way. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina he becomes a high-functioning addict who is a deeply intuitive, fearless detective reigning over the beautiful ruins of New Orleans with authority and abandon. Release Date: November 2009 (US) [Trailer]

Crazy Heart: Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who’s had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician. Release Date: December 2009 (US limited) [Trailer]

I’ve randomly picked one winner to receive the pair of tickets to the Batman All-Nighter at the BFI IMAX for this Friday.

And the winner is…

*drum roll, please*

Jinx!

With the comment:

It’s a toss up between The Joker and Catwoman.

The Joker makes evil look effortless and however twisted the lengths he goes, his motivation is born of a certain kind of bitterness we can all relate to. That sort of vulnerability is a villain’s strength, because we all get taken in by it.

Catwoman might just be an Eartha Kitt thing. She made being bad look so good, and got away with doing it clad head to toe in patent leather and stilettos. She’s the perfect antidote to every comics token ‘damsel in distress’ .

Congrats, Jinx! And thanks everyone who entered the contest. There are still tickets available on the BFI website for £26 per person (£16 for students, £18 for concessions).

Even though I was already a geek while growing up, I did also enjoy the more girly pursuits like playing with Barbies, My Little Pony and Penny Pocket. I’ve always had a weird fascination with Barbies, and as of today I still like browsing and admiring some of the versions they put together.

Nothing on the actual Barbie site comes near to what this artist Noel Cruz does though. He actually repaints dolls (not per se Barbies) to look like celebrities and movie characters. Some of these are gorgeous!

Here are some of my favourites:

nicolekidmanlarge

annehathawaylarge

tobeymaguirelarge

williamturnerlarge

Pretty amazing, right? For more of these repainted dolls, check out Cruz’s celebrity and movie character gallery.

Via Film Experience

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