ATI Stock In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Some gun nuts spotted an ATI stock in a galaxy far, far away:

Stormtrooper with ATI Stock

If you look carefully you can see the horizontal oval shapes of the cheek rest and the downward angled stripes on the butt pad.

Stormtrooper with ATI Stock Close Up

ATI Stock

That cheek rest might not work so well…

The Spiritual Core of The Lord of the Rings

Friday, April 17th, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien may have been a devout Catholic, but there is no religion in The Lord of the Rings:

There is quite obviously no organized religion in the sense of doctrinal beliefs, separate castes of priests, even places of worship. Nor do the characters ever mention a god or gods, resort to prayer, or even swear oaths and make imprecations that invoke the names of deities. And although there are gods in the creation myths of The Silmarillion, who are therefore presumably lurking somewhere in the cosmic background of the story in Lord of the Rings, they play no active or recognized role in the latter story, while even in the creation myths of The Silmarillion their relationship to the Chil-dren of Ilúvatar is somewhat distant, especially from men, and grows more so over time. Indeed, the god most involved in the affairs of the Children, Melkor/Morgoth, has by the beginning of the Lord of the Rings long since been vanquished, and the focus of the dark powers is his lieutenant Sauron, who although powerful, is never attributed with divinity of any sort.

Imagine seeing Tolkien’s work through another lens:

It would be relatively easy, as a hypothetical counter-example, to construct a Buddhist reading of the Lord of the Rings. One would not even need to note the interesting coincidence that the paradise of a dominant sect of Mahayana Buddhism, the Pure Land sect, is conceived of as being a land in the far west, like the mostly inaccessible lands west of the Grey Havens. A more Zen reading could focus on the transitory nature of all things (including the Third Age) as an explanation for the moments of what might well be called Enlightenment that many of the characters ?nd in small, everyday moments, as well as for the sorrow they feel at the departure of friends and Ages, a clear sign of attachment to the impermanent and therefore illusory things of the world. The problem here is that the sorrow is presented not as a problem but as a core feature of the world, so this reading, like Christian readings, works only at a level of abstraction high enough to elide the crucial details, that is, at a level of ideas common to many religions.

Middle-earth is not a created medieval world so much as a world created by a medievalist:

The difference is that for a medievalist,the world he studies—and is fascinated by, and may come to love — is gone, whereas for medieval people their world was inescapably present. For the medievalist, the important world is a past age, the evidence for whose existence is fragmentary, incomplete, degraded, and often lost. For medieval people, the evidence for their world was abundant and ever-present. Even those medievalists who recognize that we live today in a more comfortable material world and a more politically egalitarian one may feel a touch of nostalgia for the past, or a sense of melancholy that a vanished world cannot be accessed directly. Medieval people, of course, felt no such thing, because their world had not vanished, nor did they expect it to.

A Story of Entrepreneurship

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Tim Ferriss really goes out of his way to explain why he would interview his latest guest:

The goal of my blog and podcast is to push you outside of your comfort zone and force you to question assumptions.

This is why I invite divergent thinkers and world-class performers who often disagree. I might interview Tony Robbins and then Matt Mullenweg. Or I might have a long chat with Sam Harris, PhD, and later invite a seemingly opposite guest like…

Glenn Beck.

This interview is a wild ride, and it happened — oddly enough — thanks to a late-night sauna session. I was catching up with an old friend, who is mixed-race, a Brown University grad, and liberal in almost every sense of the word. I casually asked him, “If you could pick one person to be on the podcast, who would it be?”

“Glenn Beck,” he answered without a moment’s hesitation. “His story is FASCINATING.”

He described how Glenn hit rock bottom and restarted his life in his 30’s, well past the point most people think it possible. Fast forward to 2014, Forbes named him to their annual Celebrity 100 Power List and pegged his earnings at $90 million for that year. This placed him ahead of people like Mark Burnett, Jimmy Fallon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith. Glenn’s platforms — including radio, tv, digital (TheBlaze.com), publishing, etc. — get somewhere between 30 and 50 million unique visitors per month.

This interview is neither a “gotcha” interview nor a softball interview. I ask some tough questions (e.g. “If you were reborn as a disabled gay woman in a poor family, what political system would you want in place?”), but my primary goal is to pull out routines, habits, books, etc. that you can use. This show is about actionable insight, not argument for argument’s sake.

First and foremost, this is a story of entrepreneurship, and whether you love Glenn, hate Glenn, or have never heard his name, there is a lot to learn from him.

Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection

Friday, April 10th, 2015

So, the Star Wars movies are finally coming to digital, but they’re coming in “special edition” form. Sigh.

When you’re selling a beloved piece of people’s childhoods, don’t you sell them the version they know and love? I suppose once you start down the dark path of revising the movies, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Monster Issues

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Some of Teo Zirinis’s Monster Issues designs are pretty clever:

Monster Issues Godzilla

Monster Issues Kong

Monster Issues Mummy

Monster Issues Nessie

Some are a little too easy:

Monster Issues Cthulhu

Monster Issues Dragon

Why crime fiction is leftwing and thrillers are rightwing

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Val McDermid discusses why crime fiction is leftwing and thrillers are rightwing:

As my compatriot Ian Rankin pointed out, the current preoccupations of the crime novel, the roman noir, the krimi lean to the left. It’s critical of the status quo, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly. It often gives a voice to characters who are not comfortably established in the world — immigrants, sex workers, the poor, the old. The dispossessed and the people who don’t vote.

The thriller, on the other hand, tends towards the conservative, probably because the threat implicit in the thriller is the world turned upside down, the idea of being stripped of what matters to you. And as Bob Dylan reminds us, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

Of course, these positions don’t usually hit the reader over the head like a party political broadcast. If it is not subtle, all you succeed in doing is turning off readers in their droves. Our views generally slip into our work precisely because they are our views, because they inform our perspective and because they’re how we interpret the world, not because we have any desire to convert our readership to our perspective.

Except, of course, that sometimes we do.

Art Therapy

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

The bestselling title on Amazon is not a novel. It’s not a piece of non-fiction, either. It’s a coloring book — for adults:

Basford’s intricately drawn pictures of flora and fauna in Secret Garden have sold 1.4m copies worldwide to date, with the newly released follow-up Enchanted Forest selling just under 226,000 copies already. They have drawn fans from Zooey Deschanel, who shared a link about the book with her Facebook followers, to the South Korean pop star Kim Ki-Bum, who posted an image on Instagram for his 1.6 million followers.

“It’s been crazy. The last few weeks since Enchanted Forest came out have been utter madness, but fantastic madness,” said Eleanor Blatherwick, head of sales and marketing at the books’ publisher, small British press Laurence King. “We knew the books would be beautiful but we didn’t realise it would be such a phenomenal success.”

And it is not just Basford who is reaping the benefits of the hordes of adults who, it turns out, just wanted something to colour in. In the UK, Richard Merritt’s Art Therapy Colouring Book sits in fourth spot on Amazon’s bestseller lists, Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom — detailed pictures of animals to colour – sits in seventh, and a mindfulness colouring book sits in ninth. Basford’s titles are in second and eighth place — that’s half of Amazon.co.uk’s top 10 taken up by colouring books for adults.

At independent UK publisher Michael O’Mara, which has sold almost 340,000 adult colouring books to date, head of publicity, marketing and online, Ana McLaughlin, attributes the craze to the way the category has been reimagined as a means of relaxation. “The first one we did was in 2012, Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups. It sold strongly and reprinted, but it was last year that it all really mushroomed with Art Therapy, in June. It really took off for us — selling the anti-stress angle gave people permission to enjoy something they might have felt was quite childish,” she said.

If you spend any time around kids, you probably already know how soothing coloring can be.

The Best God Joke Ever

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

I can still remember Emo Philips delivering — in his trademark, disconcerting manner — the 30-year-old joke that was recently voted the best God joke ever:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Is it time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show again?

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show again:

ABC is filming a proof of concept for a revival of The Muppets, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady is co-writing the script for a pilot presentation that sources say could be unspooled at May’s upfront presentation to Madison Avenue advertisers.

[...]

For Prady, the revived Muppets — which landed at ABC after initial interest from Netflix — marks a return to his roots. The producer, who currently does not have an overall deal, started his career working for Henson in 1982 and ultimately started writing for The Jim Henson Hour, remaining on the series until a year after Henson’s death in 1990.

This marks the second time Prady has attempted to revive The Muppets. The writer-producer shot some test footage before CBS’ The Big Bang Theory that Disney ultimately passed on. For his part, Prady earned an Emmy nomination in 1991 for writing tribute The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson in 1990 and has contributed writing to Disney’s Muppet-themed attractions. Should ABC order Muppets to series, Prady would juggle both that project and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, which he exec produces.

Plugged Into The Matrix

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

The average American spends more than 10 hours a day willingly plugged into the Matrix:

There is a giant system that defines our reality for us, and the length of time that the average American spends connected to it just continues to keep growing. In fact, there are millions upon millions of us that simply do not “feel right” unless there is at least something on in the background.

Just think about it. How much time do you spend each day with all electronic devices completely turned off? Thanks to technology, we live at a time when more news, information and entertainment is at our fingertips than ever before, and we are consuming more of it than ever before. But this also gives a tremendous amount of power to those that create all of this news, information and entertainment. As I have written about previously, more than 90 percent of the “programming” that we absorb is created by just 6 enormously powerful media corporations. Our conversations, attitudes, opinions and belief systems are constantly being shaped by those entities. Unfortunately, most of us are content to just sit back and let it happen.

The following numbers regarding the media consumption habits of average Americans come directly from Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report“. The amount of time per day that Americans spend using these devices is absolutely staggering…

  • Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes
  • Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes
  • Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes
  • Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes
  • Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes

When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into the Matrix.

You have heard the old saying “you are what you eat”, right?

Well, the same applies to what we put into our brains.

When you put garbage in, you are going to get garbage out.

[...]

Virtually every television show, movie, song, book, news broadcast and talk show is trying to shape how you view reality. Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly being bombarded with messages about what is true and what is not, about what is right and what is wrong, and about what really matters and what is unimportant. Even leaving something out or ignoring something completely can send an extremely powerful message.

[...]

If you listen carefully, you will notice that most of our conversations with one another are based on programming from the Matrix. We all love to talk about the movie that we just saw, or what happened on the latest reality show, or what some famous celebrity is doing, or what we saw on the news that morning. The things that matter to us in life are the things that the Matrix tells us should matter.

And if someone comes along with information that contradicts the Matrix, that can cause anger and confusion.

I can’t tell you how many times someone has said something like the following to me…

“If that was true I would have seen it on the news.”

To many people, the Matrix is the ultimate arbiter of truth in our society, and so anything that contradicts the Matrix cannot possibly be accurate.

Contra Dancing

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Brooklyn hipsters are now embracing the centuries-old tradition of contra dancing:

Derived from English country dancing — think of the long paired lines of couples crisscrossing and partner-swapping in all those Jane Austen country-manor balls, now press fast forward — contra offers young urbanites an inclusive atmosphere where they can work up a little sweat away from the gym and touch human beings instead of screens.

[...]

For those more accustomed to socializing in dark clubs with exotic cocktails and pounding music, contra’s wholesome, folksy culture can come as a bit of a shock.

“The first thing I thought when I walked in the door is, where is the bar?” said Dakota Kim, 34, an event producer who recently attended her first contra dance in Brooklyn. “But then it’s so fun you don’t care.”

On the dance floor, partners start out facing each other in long lines while a live band plays jigs and reels. With the cadences of a comforting auctioneer, the caller calls out moves to dancers on the floor. Partners clasp hands, spin and look into each other’s eyes.

We are talking about Brooklyn hipsters though:

Another change lies with the historical terms for partners—traditionally called “ladies” and “gents.” These days, when Mr. Isaacs introduces the dance, he says, “ladies and gents is a dance role, not a gender.”

Contra Dancing in Brooklyn

TIE Fighter

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Paul Johnson (MightyOtaking) produced his TIE Fighter short film over four years of weekends:

He describes it as “an Empire-focussed short Star Wars animation, drawn with the crazy detail and shading of classic 80s anime that’s all but vanished from Japan nowadays.”

With Zak Rahman’s guitar soundtrack, it has a very Heavy Metal vibe.

I never played the 1994 TIE Fighter game, but the project proposal references it.

How Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ Went Viral

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” — formally titled “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” from the woodblock series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” — is about the size of a piece of legal paper and wasn’t originally held in especially high regard in its home country:

The image is a mix of east and west — a blending of techniques that Hokusai picked up from Japanese artists and his own knowledge of European prints. The woodblock depicts Mount Fuji, a hallowed place in Japan, but pushes the peak deep into the distance using western perspective. The wave was printed on Japanese mulberry paper but marked by a color new to Japan — a vibrant Prussian blue created from synthetic dye in Germany.

Hokusai's The Great Wave

“The prints were a popular art, they were not something intellectual connoisseurs really admired at the fine-art level,” said Ms. Thompson. “They were discovered by the Europeans before the Japanese.”

Ms. Guth hypothesizes in her book that a devastating tsunami in Japan in 1896 helped give the woodcut its international renown. Hokusai’s print was becoming more familiar just as the word tsunami was working its way into the English language, she wrote, and the word and image soon became linked.

The print, which does not depict a tsunami, shows fishermen rowing frantically across a stormy Tokyo Bay after delivering their cargo to the city. Fingers of sea foam curl over their heads. It’s unclear if they’re going to make it home alive, though some scholars believe the presence of the sacred Mount Fuji works in their favor.

Roughly 100 impressions of “The Great Wave” exist today from an original print run estimated by some experts at more than 5,000.

Theatre gave birth to democracy in ancient Greece.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Theatre gave birth to democracy in ancient Greece:

In 534 BCE, Pisistratus, tired of the divisions among his fellow citizens, invented the annual theatre festival. With this stroke of genius, all theatre activity came together at a single place and time. All four tribes came into a common space and shared a common experience.

The result was nothing short of revolutionary. Athenian consciousness changed. Within a generation, in 508 BCE, democracy began.

It began when Cleisthenes, an aristocrat, reformed the Athenian constitution, which had institutionalized the four tribes’ power in a way that led to tyranny in the first place. Instead, Cleisthenes created a new system that “redistricted” the city-state and instituted a legislature where the members were chosen by lottery, instead of by clan or heredity. “Demo” in “democratic” means “common people.”

The next 104 years were the “golden age” of Athens. Democracy flourished, and so did the theatre — Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all wrote their plays during this period, and competed with each other at the annual festival.

Sophocles and Euripides both died in 406 BC. The 27-year-long Peloponnesian War ended in 404 BC with Athens’ defeat at the hands of Sparta. The great age of theatre was over. And as Athens crumbled under Spartan rule, so was Athenian democracy.

(Hat tip to Anomaly UK.)

Utopian Film

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Watching films has become so profoundly familiar that we’ve lost sight of just how consequential this activity truly is:

We have come to take cinema so for granted, we don’t wonder how we might use it to benefit our lives in a properly profound way. Ideally, we would get more ambitious about the role of cinema in the world. We would try to pin down more accurately what films can actually do for us, then make sure we’re reliably making, and finding our way to seeing, the best (that is, the most useful) kinds of films: the films that really do help us with our struggles and pains. We would, ideally, learn that film – like all the other art forms – best reveals its power when we conceive of it as a kind of therapy.

This idea isn’t new. It comes from the Ancient Greeks who brought maturity to the predecessor of cinema: theatre. Fascinatingly, they didn’t just file going to the theatre under ‘entertainment’ and leave it at that. They thought very deeply about what the point of sitting in a theatre might be and concluded that it should be a therapeía, a resource to help us grow into better, wiser, more mature kinds of people. It belonged, together with religion and philosophy, to the forces that could develop our souls. Aristotle proposed that watching tragedies was highly useful in shaking us free of self-righteousness. Seeing how easily a hero might make a small error and then pay a huge price for it could induce fear and pity in the audience, leaving us readier to forgive others and better able to examine our own consciences.

[...]

Film has an enormous power to glamourise. It can put in front of our eyes delightful images many metres in size, shot in extraordinary colours, vivid and immediate. Because so many films glamourise the wrong things, we’re used to thinking that an element of alienation and corruption is a generic rather than an incidental danger of cinema.

But in fact, film is well able to show us the less obvious but real charms of everyday life. Whereas the worst sort of films eject us back into our lives full of longing and disenchantment, the best ones leave us ready to re-engage with circumstances with which we had unfairly grown bored. Cinema can help us love and appreciate what we already have.