Archive for the 'Trivia' Category

Link Visualization By Yahoo

July 28, 2006

A couple of days ago, I blogged about the potential future impact of Digg’s stack and swarm visualization systems on web design and surfing. Well, Techcrunch has run a similar story about Yahoo Korea’s link visualization project, Webzari:

Yahoo’s Webzari visualizes link search (full story)
(via Digg)

Of course, it’s all in Korean, but the idea is that you search for a site and Webzari gives you a graphical representation of the sites that link to your searched webpage in terms of size: bigger, brighter planets = bigger sites. Something like this could be useful for bloggers. It’d enable them to see at a glance which sites are linking to their blog and check out who’s the biggest. As it stands, it’s a little on the childish and wacky side since it uses planets, rockets and space, but I can definitely imagine a slicker version, a la Digg’s recent efforts.

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Simultaneous Back To The Future

July 27, 2006

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you watched Back to the Future 1 and 2 together? No, me neither. But this is the Internet, people: there’s no curiosity too trivial.

Someone has synched up the Enchantment under the Sea dance section in parts 1 and 2 and posted a split-screen video of the result on Google video. So now you can watch Marty try and steal the sports Almanack from Principal Strickland’s office while alternate Marty gets beat up by Biff and his crew in the parking lot. Genius!

More Mashups, Remixes and Recuts

July 22, 2006

(UPDATED: 25/07/06 – links added to Monty Python vs. Star Wars, a couple more excellent fake trailers, French bootlegs, and a potted history of musical mashups.)

Since last week’s foray into the wonderful world of fake trailers was so enjoyable, I thought I’d take a step back and run through a few more of my favourite mashups and recuts, all of which are available absolutely free of charge for your downloading or streaming pleasure.

If you enjoyed the trailers, there’s a near-comprehensive list of recut trailers on wikipedia. There are links to all trailers mentioned in the article.

None of them are quite as polished as the dazzling 24-carat comedy gold of Shining or Titanic: Two the Surface. In fact, a lot of them are quite frankly sub-amateur drivel; so be warned. However, School of Rock (redone as a creepy thriller), West Side Story (redone as a zombie horror), Must Love Jaws (Jaws reimagined as a family comedy-drama) and 10 Things I Hate About Commandments (Biblical epic recut as US high school teen drama) are definitely worth a look. Also interesting is American Pie (recut as a slasher horror flick) for pioneering the use of post-production digital effects in recut trailers.

On a slightly different note, the excellent Vader Sessions is more mashup now, than movie:

It takes scenes of Darth Vader in Star Wars (voiced by James Earl Jones) and overdubs carefully-selected dialogue from other JEJ films. Hilarity ensues. Favourite moment: the bit where Vader is interrogating a rebel pilot overdubbed with “I’m takin’ your momma on a date. Can you dig that? A date.”

Staying on a Star Wars tip is this sublime mashup of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Star Wars. It uses Vader overdubs to put an alternative spin on the encounter between Arthur and the black knight. Also features lightsabers.

Here’s one which falls into the “It’s not strictly a mashup, but…” category. Most will have heard of the purported “Dark Side of the Rainbow” effect; the idea that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon synchronises almost flawlessly with the first 40 minutes of The Wizard of Oz. Well, now you can see for yourself by checking out this story on Videosift. My opinion: it’s not quite there, but it’s close at times (such as when Dorothy falls off the fence about 5 minutes in and the music changes).

The music mashup scene has been around a lot longer than video recuts (which only really became popular at the end of last year). As a result, there’s plenty of fine bootlegs and bastard pop available on the internet.

San Francisco is a hotbed of mashup talent, with artists from around the area holding a monthly mashup party. Below I’ve listed some of my favourite mashup artists from the SF scene:

Party Ben is one of the most popular mashup artists on the scene and his latest track, I Feel Crazy–a mashup of Donna Summer & Gnarls Barkley–is fairly representative of his ecstatic, disco-themed mashups.

DJ Jay-R generally produces fairly simple yet maddeningly addictive mashups of two or three tunes. My favourite tracks are:

DJ Earworm is quite simply the best out there, in my opinion. Earworm is known for producing precision works of supreme acoustic cut-uppery and mashup symphonies. One of his tracks, What’s My Name, is an insane mashup of over 20 different songs (from Britney to Lynyrd Skynyrd). My other favourite Earworm tracks are:

Smash-Up Derby are an unusual case: a six-piece band who play live mashup music. This doesn’t always work as well as studio-based stuff (case in point: their mashup of Smells Like Billie Jean), but they do it probably as well as it can be done, given the obvious limitations, and they’re pretty unique. Their standout track for me is Sweet Nation Army Dreams (White Stripes vs. Eurythmics).

Outside the SF scene, Doppelbanger is one of my favourite mashup artists. He often mashes up hiphop, R&B and gangsta rap with European IDM, house and electronica. Contrary to all expectations, it works beautifully. My favourites are:

More Euro-mashups can be found at this French bootlegs blog. It includes links to the latest mp3s from the mashup scene. Warning: since links are off-site, I can’t vouch for the quality of them all, but it does link to some stuff by Dunproofin, a UK mashup artist who has released some quality tracks.

Finally, here’s a link to an mp3 (70MB) of a show first broadcast on London’s XFM radio station in 2004 which attempts to chronicle the history of remixes, recuts, bootlegs and mashups in the 20th Century… In just under an hour. Awesome.

So there you have it; more mashup goodness than a sane mind could hope to comprehend.

The worst science fiction/fantasy story ever written?

July 17, 2006

It’s reputedly “The Eye of Argon” by Jim Theis:

Read the whole story here
(found on Reddit)

According to the entry on wikipedia (yes, believe it or not, wikipedia has an entry for this — this is near the top of my list of reasons to love wikipedia, just after the entry for Han Shot First), it’s about a barbarian hero, Grignr, who is travelling the land of Gorzom “in search of wenches and plunder.”

So far, so David Eddings. But just how bad is this? Here’s a passage from the story to help you make up your mind. At this point in the tale, Grignr has been thrown into a dungeon and is looking for a means of escape. As he’s examining his cell, he gets attacked by a giant rat which he proceeds to kill in gory detail (all original spelling mistakes and grammatical errors remain intact):

Flinging the broken body to the floor, Grignr shook his blood streaked hands and wiped them against his thigh until dry, then wiped the blood that had showered his face and from his eyes. Again sitting himself upon the jagged floor, he prepared to once more revamp his glum meditations. He told himself that as long as he still breathed the gust of life through his lungs, hope was not lost; he told himself this, but found it hard to comprehend in his gloomy surroundings. Yet he was still alive, his bulging sinews at their peak of marvel, his struggling mind floating in a miral of impressed excellence of thought. Plot after plot sifted through his mind in energetic contemplations.

Then it hit him. Minutes may have passed in silent thought or days, he could not tell, but he stumbled at last upon a plan that he considered as holding a slight margin of plausibility.

He might die in the attempt, but he knew he would not submit without a final bloody struggle. It was not a foolproof plan, yet it built up a store of renewed vortexed energy in his overwroughtsoul, though he might perish in the execution of the escape, he would still be escaping the life of infinite torture in store forhim. Either way he would still cheat the gloating prince of the succored revenge his sadistic mind craved so dearly.

Quite.

Apparently, some sci-fi conventions even hold competitive readings of The Eye of Argon; the reader who goes the longest without laughing wins… something incredibly geeky, most likely.

Now, I’ve read some pretty crap fiction in my time, but The Eye of Argon, I think, is in its own unique category of bad. The author is obviously literate (well, kind of) and it’s not a parody: this is a genuinely poor attempt at writing. It’s the epitome of earnest, adjective-drenched, mind-numbingly terrible fan fiction. And what’s even more depressing is that thousands of geeky, navel-gazing high school students up and down the country are probably writing their own versions of Eye of Argon as you read this blog… And posting them on myspace!

However, if I’m honest, the reason this story resonates with me is that I used to write exactly this kind of trash when I was 12 years old. Except that in my case it was in the style of Ian Livingstone/Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy roleplaying books. You know what I’m talking about, right? Tolkien-lite fantasy with a “choose your own path through the story” roleplaying twist.

I’m talking about this kind of thing: “If you want to do battle with the fearsome Orc Guardian, turn to page 237; if you want to cast a fireball spell like a wimpy mage, turn to page 33; if you want to stare some more at your Fine Elven Broadsword, turn to page 41; if you want to roll some dice and pretend you’re playing a proper role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons or something, turn to page 1337.”

Yep, these were good, uncomplicated times.

For me, reading through The Eye of Argon is like going back to the days when I would sneakily re-roll the dice for my character to try and get a higher strength attribute; when whether to turn to page 14 or 76 seemed like a life-altering decision. These kids with their myspace and their Final Fantasy and their Baldur’s Gate don’t know they’re born.

Fake Trailers ftw

July 15, 2006

A few months ago I saw a post on TTLG linking to a pant-wettingly hilarious fake trailer for Titanic 2. By now, of course, this is pretty old news, and remixed/parody/mashup trailers are a ubiquitous online occurrence — much like the tedious overuse of geeky internet acronyms, I suppose.

But on the off-chance that you haven’t yet seen one of these things, there’s really nothing I could say to explain it to you. You’ll just have to watch it yourself:

Not five minutes ago, as I was browsing around Wil Wheaton’s temporary blog, I came across a post linking to a couple more fake trailers, one of which was a (rather lame) parody of Stand By Me, turning it from a heartwarming coming-of-age drama into a psychological thriller.

But the real jewel in the parody trailer collection must be “Shining”. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of effort that went into turning Stanley Kubrick’s disturbing horror into a believable-looking romcom. Here it is in any case:

After I’d finished spraying a mouthful of Asda Summer Fruits High Juice all over my keyboard I was able to calm down enough to post about it. Clearly “Shining” is the win on so many levels.

An honourable mention should also go to Brokeback to the Future, which is pretty self-explanatory. This one somehow manages to turn the scene where Marty’s in the car with his mom into an even more awkward repressed homoerotic Doc Brown fantasy sequence. It’s truly the stuff that poorly-written internet slash fan-fiction is made of. Only much funnier and without the questionable legality and purple prose. Genius.

The reason I’m so impressed with this kind of thing — besides the obviously incredible amount of effort that goes into producing them — is because I love the “mashup” genre generally. From so-called bastard pop to elaborate photoshops of James Bond film posters, I admire the way that someone can take something which was made with one purpose in mind and shape it into something else, with an entirely different feel and intended audience. On some level, it’s the ability to create something entirely unique, unexpected and exciting out of something staid and mundane.

So more power to the mashup artists!

The man who traded a paperclip for a house

July 8, 2006

Kyle Macdonald has finally managed to trade his way from a single red paperclip:

Red Paperclip

to a three-bedroomed house in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada in just one year and 14 trades:

Paperclip House

You can read the full story on Kyle’s blog (via Boingboing).

I remember hearing about this back when he was up to a white van, and to be honest I was impressed that he’d got that far. Of course, it might be just as well to gloss over the fact that he somehow managed to get from that van to a KISS snow globe on the way to the house (who knew the “Knights In Satan’s Service” even endorsed snow globes?). Fortunately for Kyle, he met someone who happened to be a dedicated snow globe collector — and also a kind of famous actor. But taking this kind of risk is what the whole project was all about: relative value. Kyle sums it up like this:

“What’s more important to a man dying of thirst in the desert – one million dollars or a glass of water? So all I gotta do now is find somebody who needs a “drink”. (The KISS snowglobe is filled with water – well, a water-ish substance, at least.) What I’m trying to say here is that I strongly believe that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

What I like about this story is that it neatly illustrates how just a catchy idea and the internet — plus a canny head for handling press and publicity — can lead to fame, fortune and a damn good yarn.

Library phone answerers survive the Internet

July 3, 2006

I found this rather sweet:

“Anyone, of any age, from anywhere can telephone 212-340-0849 and ask New York Public Library researchers almost any question.”

And they only have five minutes to answer. Take that Internet!

Full story (Cnet news).
(from Digg)

Eon8.com = elaborate social experiment

July 2, 2006

So, it’s not an evil underground terror network ready to unleash untold destruction on the major population centres of the world after all. Nor even a viral marketing scheme for the next James Bond film or Halo 3:

Eon8 Logo

www.eon8.com (original website – now just shows a list of mirrors)

(See official Eon8 fansite for the full lowdown.)

For six months leading up to yesterday (1st July), the website http://www.eon8.com displayed — in ominous black and white — a simple map of the world and and a timer counting down to zero. The other links on the main page (now taken offline due to massive amounts of Slashdot and ytmnd traffic) led to areas which required a password for access.

In addition to the site itself, the creator made a number of mysterious posts on a variety of forums which consisted of little more than random codes and indecipherable messages. Once the geek and tech communities of the web caught on, there was rampant speculation as to the site’s purpose. I guess most people believed it was probably some sort of hoax (after all, what top secret government agency or terror organisation publicises their plan to bring about the END OF THE WORLD by creating a website for it?), but that still didn’t stop the hackers and codebreakers trying to work out what on earth was going on.

I only found out about this last week after viewing a bunch of alternately hilarious and ridiculously portentous ytmnds about the phenomenon. Turns out it was all a social experiment designed to see how people react to very little information. The guy who created it — a web designer from Florida variously called Mike or Chris — said he was “disappointed that people expected the worst”:

“For many people, being faced with a countdown timer was an instant reason to try to shut down or hack the site. This is a worrying reaction, that if someone doesn’t understand something they must destroy it. As a result, the servers have been hit quite hard these last few days, but luckily 99% of the ‘hackers’ could easily be described as ‘l4me n00bs’. Another worrying example of paranoia was how quickly people would jump to conclusions, such as telephoning the registered owner of a dog seen in a photograph on a server that hosts a page that links to eon8.”

So there you have it: what we don’t understand we must destroy. Human nature, lol.

Videogames + wiggaz + wack rhymes = internet bliss

June 20, 2006

Ch-ch-check it out:

64K – 1337

(64K is the name of the “band”; 1337 is the song, noobs.)

I found this on boingboing. I usually don’t like just blogging a link without any meaningful comment, but since this one combines at least three of my top ten favourite pastimes–videogames, incredibly lame rhymes and interneticana–I couldn’t resist. I nearly choked on my Coco Pops when the PC-phreak (“never owned a console, just a PC…”) spat his Adrock-influenced verse about pwning noobs, and you will too… Seriously, watch out for that one.

The fact that they somehow managed to shoehorn a potted history of the entire videogame industry from Commodore 64 to SNES to Playstation into a five minute rap is surely further evidence of their comedic genius. And I’ll certainly remember to wear my safety goggles in future when I’m dropping finely-crafted raps and racking up frags in UT2004, that’s for sure.

Hey, wait a minute: “rackin’ up frags” rhymes with “capturin’ flags”, right? I think I feel a rhyme brewing already.

Advanced Work-Avoidance Tactics, Part 1

June 8, 2006

Today I have written a paragraph. Which is better than yesterday. Yesterday I only managed a title.

In case you were wondering, I’m (still) finishing up my thesis, and to say that it’s slow-going would be an understatement. I have (most of) one final chapter left to write. Then I have to tidy everything up, stick in an introduction and conclusion, whip up a bibliography, jot down some acknowledgements, compile a contents page, paste it all together with stickyback plastic and send the whole lot off to an external examiner in the hopes that one day soon I’ll be able to put “Dr.” in front of my name on letters to my bank and my driver’s license. Sweet.

Anyway, as everyone knows, whenever you’re sitting in front of a computer trying to write something very important there is invariably something much more fun, exciting and interesting to look at roughly two seconds away. And, even if there isn’t, you can always WRITE about doing something more fun, exciting and interesting. On a blog. Thanks internet.

For the last hour or so, I’ve been reading about someone who’s been doing just that:

www.angryman.ca/monkey.html
(via BoingBoing)

Adam Scott is living for a week on nothing but monkey chow (which I guess is American Canadian for monkey food) and telling the internet all about it! It’s like a zoologically-friendly version of Supersize Me. He’s even posting daily video diaries on YouTube, all delivered in an achingly funny deadpan style. Exciting, huh? Well, when the alternative is writing some more about the semantics of the English verb ‘open’, I think you know which one wins every time…