Archive for February, 2011

The best William Shatner videos you will see today. Possibly.

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Perhaps you already know how amazing William Shatner is. Maybe his rebooted career has already won him your affections.  Maybe you’re a camp aficionado and you laud him for creating so many powerful works. For those of you who are still in the dark, let me clue you in to the awesome side of William Shatner:

1. Incubus
I couldn’t care less if his pronunciation is roundly critiqued by academia—Shatner undertook a role in Esperanto. (His English pronunciation has always been a bit suspect anyway.) The film Incubus has the distinction of being the second of two feature-length Esperanto films shot in the 1960s.

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2.   The (Various Dollar Amount) Pyramid
Shatner was notoriously horrible at this popular game show. So horrible that at one point, for a laugh, he was given the chance to play against himself (knowing the answers for which he was to supply the clues) and he still can’t quite pull it off. (Apologies for the quality, if a madman one day digitally restores the $20,000 Pyramid, I will update with a better clip.)

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3. The Commodore VIC-20
I am of the opinion that former starship captains should always be the face of future technology.

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4. At 116 MPH
In 2006 William Shatner took place in the 10-lap Pro/Celebrity race at the Long Beach Grand Prix, evidently a popular Long Beach tradition. Fortunately for the universe, there is was dash camera to capture the old man in action.

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As you might imagine, this video has been remixed to death and now contributes to the world of amazing and delightful Shatner videos left for you to explore.

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The Year of Living Beardedly

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Grow beard. Take picture. Repeat.

YouTube user cofauver’s documentary of a man who refuses to shave for an entire year is a brief glimpse into a person’s life. The changing scenery, the passing seasons, the questionable wardrobe choices: everything building until the viewers feel as if they’ve lived the year in three minutes. The idea isn’t unique. There is Noah Kalina’s Everyday project. In Almost Every Picture #7. Even Homer Simpson got in on the action.

Others might have done it before and with better execution, but this video must be commended for the dedication and persistence it takes to pull off such a project. Plus, it has Yeasayer.

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Felicia Day announces Dragon Age Web series

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Felicia Day, creator and star of Web series The Guild, will star in a new Web series, Dragon Age: Redemption, which she wrote and co-produced based on the role-playing game.

She made the announcement today by tweeting the name of her “mystery project” and linking to USA Today’s article on the upcoming series. Day had been hinting at her project via Twitter, finally telling her followers last night that she’d spill the beans today.

Been teasing #mysteryproject but it will be announced tomorrow, promise. Can only hint that it’s based in a world you may know, gamers…

Day also named crew members last night: “@peterwinther was our director,” “@gregaronowitz did production design MAGIC, and John Bartley, DP on 6 seasons of Lost, was our DP!” and “@actordougjones from Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Silver Surfer, is part of our cast!”

She told followers today that a teaser trailer will run on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night and that she spent two months doing research, did two play-throughs, and spent the summer writing for the new Web series.

Day will play an Elven assassin named Tallis. “Day’s six-episode run, due to hit the Web this year, is set in Ferelden, the same fantasy land in which 2009’s Dragon Age: Origins and the upcoming sequel Dragon Age II play out. In the Tolkienesque sword-and-sorcery adventure game, several races join forces to combat a scourge called the Darkspawn (think of them as cousins to the orcs in The Lord of the Rings),” according to USA Today.

“I am an organic gamer and I love games, and I particularly love this franchise,” Day told USA Today. “I put every single effort into making this something that gamers will be proud of. Even though we were constrained a lot as a Web series, none of the people who were involved took that as a constraint. They took that as a challenge.”

Fans can find Day in upcoming episodes of Syfy show Eureka and expect a fifth season of The Guild on Microsoft’s Xbox Live. A Syfy original movie featuring Day, Red: Werewolf Hunter, had premiered at the end of October.  She previously played in two episodes of Joss Whedon’s Fox show Dollhouse and had a leading role in Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, also starring Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. According to reports in April 2010, Dr. Horrible might return for a sequel.

If you’re wondering about Dragon Age II, which comes out March 8, Felicia Day tweeted at a fan: “The new game is totally dope, I got to play DA2 for ‘research’ last week.”

Also, remember Day’s music video for The Guild?

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Children on Human Planet catch, eat giant spiders

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The current line-up of BBC documentary series is a thing of wonder. It is as if one high-level BBC executive pondered his grade school experience watching those terrible state-produced, mundane documentaries and decided that “The Savanna” and “Your Home: Earth” deserved to be replaced with short films that would hold the interest of viewers and explain the world. Human Planet is an excellent example of this genre of educational and entertaining documentary fare.

Sadly, the BBC’s iPlayer isn’t available to people outside the UK, and people with aversions to nefarious endeavors will have to sustain themselves on simple YouTube clips for now. But there is good news for the future: the iPlayer app for the iPad and Android is rumored to be available in some international markets in the near-future.

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Forget St.Valentine — Happy Gandalf Day, everyone!

Monday, February 14th, 2011

While many happy couples are going out tonight to celebrate some dude’s decapitation in the third century, many Lord of the Rings nerds may choose to celebrate instead the day that Gandalf was reborn after falling in the abyss.

Here is what Tolkien said happened today in the history of Middle-Earth:

“Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

“Naked I was sent back — for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. The tower behind me was crumbled into dust, the window gone; the ruined stair was choked with burned and broken stone. I was alone, forgotten, without escape upon the hard horn of the world. There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth. Faitn to my ears came the gathered rumour of all lands: the springing and the dying, the song and the weeping, and the slow everlasting groan of overburdened stone.

And so [on the 17th] at the last Gwaihir the Windlord found me again, and he took me up and bore me away.”

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Wired lets us peer into keyhole of its Underworld

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Since Jan. 31, the Wired blog Decode has been slipping us all tips and puzzles to break the code. What code? Well, the alternate-reality game masters state that in the game’s goal to “revive a lost language” called Nü Shu, a syllabic script based on simplified Chinese characters.

In keeping with its concept of its Underworld issue, Wired‘s ARG employs several puzzles based on languages by different subcultures, from Hobo hieroglyphics to Russian prison tattoos. Of course, the tireless ARGers at Unfiction.com are hard at work decoding each puzzle, leaving the complete puzzle assembly to anyone willing to work a bit more to join the “ring.” It was only today that a user on Decode, Darkhuman, announced that they solved the posts so far.

We at Handshake encourage ARG action anywhere, and we especially appreciate that Wired‘s decision to carry on the ARG well after its Mystery Issue.

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Art Project brings masterpieces in for a close-up

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Art enthusiasts can now get geeky with Google’s new art experience. Or maybe Google wants computer types to get cultured from the comfort of their own wireless networks.

The latest Google offering, Art Project, takes viewers inside 17 museums in the U.S. and Europe. They can view art from an inside-the-museum perspective or in a slideshow. An adjustable magnifying rectangle allows viewers to inspect works inch by inch.

The Art Project site describes its function: “Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.”

“It is very much a work in progress, full of bugs and information gaps, and sometimes blurry, careering virtual tours. But it is already a mesmerizing, world-expanding tool for self-education,” writes Roberta Smith, art critic for The New York Times.

Users can select paintings from a dropdown menu and view them against a black background. In “museum” view, they can use directional arrows to virtually walk around a room, like being in a video game but without armed enemies jumping out at you — and no visitors blocking sight of the paintings.

In museum view, visitors travel into different exhibition rooms by clicking on rooms (most labeled with numbers instead of art period) on a floor plan. Then they get a list of pieces in the room. It’d be nice, though, to have a list of the rooms by theme. Also, captions, labeling title and artist alongside the painting, would be nice.

Perhaps this will be a great tool for art history professors, students, and those wishing to prep for a visit to one of the included museums. But it can’t replace the experience of seeing a masterpiece in person. A digital van Gogh would look, well, obviously, flat, with impasto layers, made by applying paint with a palette knife, compressed, and vivid color palettes translated into RGB. Art Project, however, gets rid of those pesky security guards.

Museums include:

Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Palace of Versailles, Versailles
MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The Frick Collection, New York City
The State Hermitage Museum, St.Petersburg
Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington, DC
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin
Tate Britain, London
Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid
National Gallery, London
Museum Kampa, Prague

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A Google Doodle for Jules Verne

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

In commemoration of Mr. Jules Verne’s 183rd birthday, Google’s logo acts as the portholes of Nautilus today. The author of 20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Verne is credited as a father of science fiction, along with the great H.G. Wells, whose birthday was also celebrated by Google, and Hugo Gernsback. The 1954 motion picture adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea marked Disney’s entrance to the science fiction genre with a bang, surpassing the production costs of Gone with the Wind.

The Verne Google Doodle is the third HTML5 interactive logo from the world’s greatest search engine. The first paid homage to Pac-Man’s 30th birthday, and there was speculation that the second, more recent bouncy ball Google Doodle was in honor of the company’s incorporation anniversary.

Happy Birthday, Verne. There’s no sub I’d rather sip scotch in than Captain Nemo’s.

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Industrial designers demo carnivorous robotic furniture

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Call it a twisted sense of humor or practical, self-sustaining technology, but the designers at Auger Loizeau built prototypes for five pieces of furniture that feed off of organic matter to catch household pests. These carnivorous appliances range from a coffee table that captures and digests mice to a fly-paper clock that runs off of decomposing fly corpses.

Nobody will sell these appliances in the near future, but the concept is interesting and should probably lead to robots that do digest and run off of organic matter. We should just give up now.

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Community does Advanced Dungeons and Dragons right

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

This past week’s Community featured the whole gang playing an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Abed is the game master and Pierce is the unthinking villain for the campaign they’re playing, “Caverns of Draconis,” which isn’t real but contains many world elements that are very DnD.

After a bit of awkwardness everyone gets lost in the ADnD game, which judging by the cover art is based on first edition guides. They play the game to cheer up a really tortured and depressed geek nicknamed “Fat Neil,” reinforcing a cathartic philosophy shared by a lot of gamers and expressed in a recent IT Crowd episode: Once you get lost in their world, role-playing games can give you some distance to deal with deeply personal issues.

After this episode, I wouldn’t be surprised to a see a mini DnD revival in people’s basements or pop culture, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

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