Archives for the month of: April, 2011

Fade is an addicting Flash game, where you guide a llama, hurdling over cliffs and shrubbery as it picks up speed to see the world in perfect color. See, the game starts in black and white, and as the llama picks up speed, somewhere around 35mph, the world begins to turn to color. You earn points for distance traveled to spend on skill power ups to go even farther. Also, there are achievements, if you need that sort of thing to validate your gaming experience.

See how SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy evolved from a means for Norm MacDonald to act out his Burt Reynolds impression to the hilariously absurd Connery-Trebek duels. Videos included of all 14 skits.

The first Celebrity Jeopardy sketch aired on December 7, 1996 with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, and host Martin Short as Jerry Lewis. The categories weren’t as absurdly juvenile as the later sketches (“Potent Potables,” “Movies,” “U.S. History,” “Popular Music”) and Hammond’s Sean Connery was cooperative and inoffensive. Norm MacDonald’s 70’s-era Burt Reynolds is the star here, and after all, MacDonald has admitted to creating the sketch simply to get his Reynolds impression on the show.

Graphic designer Kelli Anderson creates a wedding invitation for her friends Mike and Karen that forms a papercraft record player.

The resulting booklet is comprised of a cover, two inner pages, a letterpressed band (with instructions and a tear-off RSVP postcard), and a flexdisc on a screwpost. The recipient bends the second page of the booklet back to create a tented “arm.” With the needle placed, they then carefully spin the flexidisc at 45 RPM (ish) to hear the song.

I guess I’m a little late to this, but Graph Racers is a pretty nifty concept. Take some graph paper, make a course, get at least 2 players, each with their own colored marker and have them race around the graph paper track.

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I nodded my head all the way through Austin Kleon’s “How to steal like an artist.”

Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas.

If there’s one takeaway for self-described non-creative people, it is that. Synthesize, combine, mash up what you already know, and then you’ll come away with something unique.

If you like The Fray, Five For Fighting, Yellow Card or any other pop-punkish band, you’ll enjoy The Script and their Science & Faith album. Simple hooks, beats and melodies work with O’Donoghue’s earnest lyrics. At times, there’s a sense of urgency (closer, Exit Wounds) or bombast (Walk Away, which features B.o.B) or contemplation (Nothing).

Wright Thompson, for ESPN, tells of India, Cricket, the Cricket World Cup and how life and culture intersect.

I turn to Rahul. “Do Indians still love the actual game of cricket?”

There’s a pause.

“It’s a delicate sort of question,” he says.

Another pause.

“The thing about Indians’ love for cricket is a lot of it is having something to support India at,” he says. “A lot of it is celebrity. People in love with [team captain M.S.] Dhoni instead of the actual sport. It happens all the time. In the past five years, you find that matches not featuring India don’t draw crowds. It does seem on some level the love is not for the sport itself but for some of the things it stands for.”

Cricket is everywhere. It’s on 24/7. It’s on red carpets with Bollywood bombshells and in corporate boardrooms. But the more it is, the less it is.

“We’ve been so neutered by cricket now,” Rahul says. “There’s so much of it. It’s reached a point where you can be oblivious to it. Indian fans now just watch India.”

Karen Russell’s
Swamplandia! feels like a collection of short writing exercises that were combined to form some sense of a novel. The prose is colorful, descriptive and imaginative, so much it reaches eccentric, teetering on contrived to tell a story of innocence lost.

The Bigtree clan lives on an island within the Ten Thousand Islands, running a theme park, Swamplandia!, showcasing live alligator performances. Twelve year old Ava Bigtree narrates portions of the book with a voice reminiscent of Scout, from To Kill A Mockingbird. Ava tells of the death of her mother, Hilola, to cancer that causes the eventual breakdown of the family. Ava’s sixteen year old sister, Osceola, deals with the death inward, finding a book of spells and begins to date a ghost and takes off to marry the ghost in the Underworld. Her father, whom she calls Chief, operates in grand fashion and hyperbole as if everything is fine, disappearing to the mainland to seek investors. Ava’s older brother, Kiwi, aware of the family’s financial circumstances, leaves to get a job on the mainland at a rival theme park.

About a third of the way through the book, Russell switches perspective from Ava’s innocent first person voice, to a third person observer of Kiwi’s work at the World of Darkness. The novel then jumps back and forth between Ava and Kiwi, where Ava’s story descends into uncomfortable horror with a figure named Bird Man and Kiwi’s ascends unbelievably to becoming a pilot for a theme park attraction. Both lose their innocence of the world both emotionally, intellectually and physically.

Russell employs symbolism to some effect. Ava hatches a lone alligator, born scarlet red, that plays a crucial role with Bird Man and her own innocence. Osceola’s descent into depression is the Underworld, and The World of Darkness is Kiwi’s lack of knowledge.

All this builds to an unbelievable convergence of plot lines that ties up too well. Throughout, as a reader, you can’t help but know things that the characters don’t. At times this is clever, at times it feels cruel. Swamplandia! is an enjoyable read if you’re comfortable with a high wire act of colorful prose and gothic eccentricity.

A member of Chase Jarvis’ team writes up how they mounted iPads for an art installation:

The challenges: iPads are designed to be interactive, to move between apps. How do you keep people from messing with them, checking their email, pointing them at un-savory sites, or worse yet walking away with them entirely?

Taking a sliver of World War II history, cutting edge science in nanotechnology and biology, and a conspiracy of geopolitical consequences,
Spiral delivers a smart and tense techno-thriller.

Liam Connor, an Irish soldier who was a scientist during World War II, witnessed a horrific event in the Pacific Ocean, where the military took extreme measures to end a biological outbreak caused by the discovery of a lone Japanese sub whose crew died of mysterious reasons.

Sixty four years later, Connor, an accomplished professor at Cornell University, is found dead of an apparent suicide. Survived by his granddaughter Maggie, grandson Dylan and close colleague Jake Sterling, Liam leaves a series of clues, knowing something might happen to him. A brutal killer follows them, in search of what Liam knew of the incident in the Pacific. Meanwhile, Robert Dunne, a national security advisor hears of Connor’s death and immediately knows what his death is related to.

Spiral’s plot is well paced with a rising sense of tension. Seemingly random details tie in well throughout the book, and the interactions between characters and the characterization of the main characters is well done. Perhaps there isn’t nuance, but there is depth to Jake, Maggie and Robert and even a villain. McCuen isn’t afraid to kill off secondary characters in gory deaths, either, and surprisingly, the dialogue, for a debut novel in the thriller genre, flows well.

Underlying the plot, themes of political paranoia, xenophobia and the responsibility that comes with modern science come out.