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Bizarre paintings of mecha robots attacking East European peasants of the early 20th century
08:36 am


mecha robots

The Polish artist Jakub Rozalski, who goes by the sobriquet “Mr. Werewolf,” has produced an amusing series of steampunk-ish canvases in which serene and idyllic rustic landscapes of what seem to be Eastern Europe (Rozalski’s very back yard, you might say) in the early decades of the 20th century feature the prominent and inexplicable existence of completely fictitious giant mecha robots.

Various iconographies are jammed together, the imagery of peasant life in the early years of collectivization, the imagery of science fiction, the imagery of modern warfare…. add it all up and you might find yourself calling to mind, ohhh, the first few scenes of The Empire Strikes Back, set on the icy terrain of Hoth, perhaps?

Rozalski’s intent is “to commemorate this sad and tragic period in history, in my own way, to light on this parts of history that usually remain in the shadows of other events… remember and honor the history, but live in the present.” He adds, “I like to mix historical facts and situations with my own motives, ideas and visions. ... I attach great importance to the details, the equipment, the costumes, because it allows you to embed painting within a specified period of time.” 

Clck on any image to get a larger view.








via Hi-Fructose

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Michael Jackson battles Michael Jackson in this dance-off video game
10:52 am


Michael Jackson
video games

For the video game design competition Duplicade, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Fire Dance with Me, an enjoyable video game about Twin Peaks, Aaron Meyers came up with an infectious game called Michael E Michael, in which Michael Jackson has a Tekken-style dance-off against Michael Jackson. As I noted yesterday, the game “must tread dangerously into the intellectual property of an existing game or game franchise, but be cleverly altered and culturally mangled enough to not be worth the effort to sue,” which Michael E Michael clearly does.

The rules of Duplicade require games to be head-to-head games in which the WASD and arrow keys control movement for Player A and Player B, and also that the game declare a winner within the first 30 seconds. In the game, the two players control identical versions of The Gloved One from the video “Smooth Criminal” while that selfsame infectious song pulsates away.

Using various moves you can kick your opponent, execute a spin (which spawns a bunch of tiny Michaels to scatter away from the main avatar), and so forth until the loser is identified and the winning Jackson (of course) transforms into an awesome jet and flies away.

The original “Smooth Criminal” video after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Play the Twin Peaks video game, ‘Fire Dance with Me’
07:41 am


Twin Peaks
video games

Yesterday we at the DM brain trust were saddened to hear of the passing of Catherine E. Coulson at the age of 71. Coulson was the actress who portrayed the Log Lady from Twin Peaks, surely one of the most unusual characters ever to reach a mass audience.

You can honor Coulson’s performance, David Lynch’s groundbreaking TV series, and your own innate need to boogie by playing Fire Dance With Me, a video game designed for the Duplicade video game competition that calls for head-to-head simultaneous two-player games. The rules require that the games be Windows-compatible, use the traditional WASD and arrow keys for movement, and have a short duration (30 seconds) before deciding a winner. Furthermore, and amusingly, “The game must tread dangerously into the intellectual property of an existing game or game franchise, but be cleverly altered and culturally mangled enough to not be worth the effort to sue.” The game is downloadable for Windows but you can play it in any desktop browser—I played it on a Mac. 

Fire Dance With Me pays homage to the various dancers that populate Lynch’s series. You can choose Special Agent Dale Cooper (holding a coffee mug, natch), the Little Man from Cooper’s hallucinatory dreams, Audrey Home, or the Log Lady’s log (which never moves at all). Once the two players are selected and the game begins, you have to track a scrolling promenade of arrow signs in order to win—the two player’s avatars flank the sad, desperate dance of Leland Palmer in the middle, whom you cannot select.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Listen to the sound of giraffes humming to each other in the dark
10:24 am



Biologists have recently discovered that giraffes hum.

The prevailing theory about giraffe vocalization had been that they are not capable of generating substantial sounds because of the physical difficulty of them producing sufficient air flow through their long necks. However, some had suggested that giraffes employ low-frequency “infrasonic” sounds below the level of human perception, similar to elephants and other large animals who use it for long-range communication.

After extensive research in three European zoos, Angela Stöger at the University of Vienna, Austria, found no evidence of infrasonic communication, but she did pick up an intriguing humming noise coming from the giraffe enclosures at night—in all three zoos. “I was fascinated,” Stöger was quoted as saying in New Scientist, “because these signals have a very interesting sound and have a complex acoustic structure.” That hum turned out to be a low-frequency sound, of about 92 Hz. That’s not infrasound; the human ear can detect it, but just barely. Stöger and her colleagues say the hum varies in duration and contains a rich combination of notes.

Giraffes have a structured social system, but scientists don’t know much about how they communicate, according to Meredith Bashaw at the Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “This new vocalization could add a piece to that puzzle. ... It could be passively produced—like snoring—or produced during a dream-like state—like humans talking or dogs barking in their sleep,” she says. But she indicated that it could also be a method of low-granularity information for giraffes to use in the dark, when vision is limited, as if to say, “Hey, I’m here.” There’s still information to be collected about the behaviors accompanying the humming. But it wouldn’t be too unexpected if the humming is used to transmit information about age, gender, sexual arousal, dominance, or reproductive states, Bashaw said.

John Doherty at Queen’s University Belfast, who studies giraffes in Samburu Reserve in northern Kenya, has come across similar vocalizations, “in a captive giraffe. ... But, in this case, [the giraffe] was clearly disturbed by a husbandry procedure being carried out on its calf in a separate but visible enclosure.”

Interestingly, last year residents of Paignton in southwest England complained of a humming or droning noise coming from the giraffe house at night: “I am very tired. The noise is still there,” said one resident. “I am being disturbed in the night and am being kept awake by this.” For her part, Stöger doubts that the complainants were actually hearing giraffes: “The giraffe signals are not so intensive. I personally doubt that neighbors would hear that,” she said.

After the jump, giraffe humming!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hard Science: Is jerking off the male equivalent of a woman getting her period?
10:10 am



via Zazzle

It would be impossible for me to summarize research psychologist Dr. Jesse Bering’s sprawling 2010 Scientific American essay, “One reason why humans are special and unique: We masturbate. A lot,” so I won’t even try. However, amongst the more interesting things discussed in the article—trust me, it’s a great read—is the fact that most men basically need to spill their seed, drain the vein, etc, at a bare minimum, every 72 hours. And some gents obviously feel that itch much more acutely.

Pair that notion with studies that found women’s bodies actually rejected sperm that had overstayed its welcome in the male testes (had not been flushed out) by 48 hours.

So what are we to conclude? Masturbation is a biological imperative? Well, it certainly looks that way. The male libido has been exonerated! Why, just think about it: Jerking off is the male equivalent of menstruation. Just more fun!

There, I said it.

(Runs away.)

But as the article is, as I wrote above, difficult to summarize, here are the final paragraphs, going straight to the money shot, so to speak, where Bering ties together all that had come before quite nicely:

The Psychological Bulletin article on sexual fantasy is chockfull of interesting facts, and those with a more scholarly interest in this subject should read it themselves. [...] But Leitenberg and Henning’s piece was written over fifteen years ago, summarizing even older research. The reason this is important is because it was still long before the “mainstreaming” of today’s Internet pornography scene, where zero is left to the imagination.

And so I’m left wondering … in a world where sexual fantasy in the form of mental representation has become obsolete, where hallucinatory images of dancing genitalia, lusty lesbians and sadomasochistic strangers have been replaced by a veritable online smorgasbord of real people doing things our grandparents couldn’t have dreamt up even in their wettest of dreams, where randy teenagers no longer close their eyes and lose themselves to the oblivion and bliss but instead crack open their thousand-dollar laptops and conjure up a real live porn actress, what, in a general sense, are the consequences of liquidating our erotic mental representational skills for our species’ sexuality? Is the next generation going to be so intellectually lazy in their sexual fantasies that their creativity in other domains is also affected? Will their marriages be more likely to end because they lack the representational experience and masturbatory fantasy training to picture their husbands and wives during intercourse as the person or thing they really desire?

I’m not saying porn isn’t progress, but I do think that over the long run it could turn out to be a real evolutionary game-changer.

One reason why humans are special and unique: We masturbate. A lot. (Scientific American)

Below, the obvious clip to end this post with, the infamous sperm scene from Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (but were afraid to ask)”:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
1957’s ‘House of the Future’—according to Monsanto and Disney
11:16 am



Photo: Ralph Crane, LIFE Magazine
From 1957 to 1967, in Anaheim’s Disneyland, there existed the “House of the Future,” a creation of the plastics division of Monsanto, in order to demonstrate the wondrous uses to which plastic would be put in the decades to come. Today the house seems like a relic, a path not taken, much like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 concept that was unveiled at the Montreal Expo in 1967.

Monsanto’s house was also called the “Plastic Mushroom,”  owing to its design, it seems, which required that four wings flare out from a concrete stump in the center. (As with The Jetsons or Star Wars, gee-whiz futurism apparently resides in buildings being perched on top of other things.)

The Monsanto domicile was featured in a November 11, 1957 story in LIFE about “New Shapes for Shelter” in which the following description appeared.

“Plastic Mushroom,” Monsanto Chemical Co.‘s experimental house, consists of only 20 molded pieces. Whole house rests on a 16-foot-square block of concrete. The four wings are cantilevered from utility core in center. Floors and ceilings are foot thick, of rigid urethane foam set between reinforced plastic panels. The 1,300-square-foot house has two bedrooms, living room, family room, kitchen and two baths. All fixtures, like bathtub and sinks, are molded plastic.

After the “House of the Future” was torn down in 1967, Disneyland visitors were deprived of the chance to tour it for themselves—until now! The Disney History Institute (not affiliated with Disney) recently posted a “Virtual 360° Flythrough” on YouTube that will allow you to take a tour of the premises. After you hit play, you have the option of grabbing the frame and swiveling your point of view around so you can see everything in the home. It’s best if you keep the point of view directed at the direction you’re moving, most of the time.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
White Noise Boutique to sell ‘artisanal white noise’

Residing at the precise point where conceptual art meets commerce meets mathematics meets cyptography meets transcendental meditation meets, shall we say, hipster excess is the White Noise Boutique, a pop-up shop that will exist in the city of Brighton in the United Kingdom from September 9 to 18 of this year. The only products the White Noise Boutique will sell are custom-made LPs and digital files containing unique white noise, a term that encompasses both a washed-out static-y sounding audio tone as well as a cryptographically pleasing set of random data. The quest for “truly” random numbers, useful for encoding data, is a daunting task with a multitude of high-end applications, which are described here.

Used properly, white noise can be soothing to listen to, especially for hyperactive minds, so white noise is frequently used to help people get to sleep, to meditate, or to concentrate on urgent work. You can listen to Wikipedia’s 20-second sample of white noise generated by Jorge Stolfi. To my knowledge this project has nothing to do with the excellent 1985 novel by Don DeLillo.

Once you create a batch of white noise at the White Noise Boutique, you can spend £1 for a digital file and £4 to receive an LP with the white noise on it (if you go that route, you will receive a digital file as well). One pound is roughly $1.50 these days, so the LP will run you about $6.

The White Noise Boutique’s descriptions of their process and options make it all but impossible to resist making hipster jokes about “hand-crafted bologna” and the like. Indeed, it honestly does seem parodic much of the time. What follows are the captions for a series of slides that you can see on the video embedded below, which capture that elusive, slightly vacant and solicitous tone that tells you you might be in hipster territory. Remember, they could have mimicked The Matrix or Mr. Robot, but instead they aped the patterns of people who use the word “artisanal” a lot.

We craft unique white noise to your exact specifications.

Select a random-number generator to create your noise.
Some generators allow for a starting value, called a “seed.”
For extra security, we can apply additional randomness through a process called “salting.”
We apply a battery of statistical tests to ensure your white noise is as random as possible.
Once generated, we hand-cut your white noise to a unique vinyl record or direct to digital download.
Finally, if specified we upload a digital version of your white noise for download.


The explanation on the website is full of verbiage like “Type 1390-B tube-powered noise generator” and “a Faraday cage for generating your noise to avoid electro-magnetic radiation.” Can’t you just imagine that conversation at your local latte purveyor in which the one dude sneers at the other dude because HIS randomly generated white noise did not use a Faraday cage?

The funny thing is, as the proud owner of a record collection purchased entirely in the last 2 years, I ........ kinda want one.

via Death and Taxes

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
What if your naked eye could see wifi signals?
02:46 pm



I was reading earlier this morning about these parents suing their child’s boarding school in Massachusetts over their use of supposedly too strong wi-fi signals which they say are harming his health, causing nausea and nosebleeds. The parents claim that their 12-year-old son suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome, a condition which is aggravated by electromagnetic radiation, even batteries. It’s what Michael McKean’s character in Better Call Saul believes is troubling him and there is even an entire town that is a wifi dead zone in West Virginia that has become a destination for EHS sufferers. Is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome all in the head? Perhaps, but the jury is still out. Maybe some people are “allergic” to radiation. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.

In any case, anyone who is a hypochondriac (or paranoic) reading this is advised to stop now, because I don’t want to burden you with something new to fret about because Dutch artist Richard Vijgen has introduced a new app called “The Architecture of Radio” which utilizes various local data sources to visualize “hidden” communications networks in a specific location. “We are completely surrounded by an invisible system of data cables and radio signals from access points, cell towers and overhead satellites. Our digital lives depend on these very physical systems for communication, observation and navigation,” he says.

In order to show you cell phone signals, the Architecture of Radio app parses wireless tower locations via OpenCellID, a ground mind mapping of cell towers. It uses NASA and JPL’s Ephemeris software to zero in on the locations of in-orbit satellites. There are hidden signals all around us. We can’t see them, but they, in a manner of speaking, can “see” us.

For now the app with only work at a site-specific exhibit that will be on display at the ZKM Media Museum in Karlsruhe, Germany, from September 4th of this year all the way until next April. There are plans afoot to make the Architecture of Radio app available publicly later this year.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
New app makes HD iPhone video look just like crappy 1980s camcorder footage
10:31 am



One of the problems with the iPhone is that the camera and video-cam functionality is just too good. With a minimum of effort you can record images and video that have a remarkably high quality. But if there’s one thing that people who’ve had the Internet and smartphones ever since they were 10 years old can probably agree on, the most cravalicious commodity is authenticity—the kind you get when technologies don’t work quite right, whether it’s the pops and hiss emanating from a vintage LP, the blocky charm of 8-bit video games, or the peculiar aural frisson only a vocoder can supply. Technologies are so advanced that you have to build in your own “human” warp and woof—shit, if not for that, it really becomes hard to tell the automated from the human sometimes.

To paraphrase David Lee Roth, the most important thing in life is sincerity—once you can fake that, you got it made. If sincerity is what you’re after, there are companies who’ll be thrilled to fake it for you—as will, for instance, a visual effects company called Rarevision, which has designed a marvelous app for the iPhone (don’t know about Android) called VHS Camcorder that takes your pristine smartphone video footage and makes it look just like some shitty video that was recorded in the mid-1980s, at the height of the camcorder revolution.

Basically, you can make any clip you record look like some junk that’s all ready for the Bob Saget treatment.

My favorite option is “Tilting Device Makes Things Worse”—“When enabled, moving your device around will mess up the picture.” Also, as the company states, “Phony zoom lens feature dramatically enhances the cheese factor.” These people know what they’re doing; their product page is pretty funny too.

In case you were wondering, YES, you can adjust the date to read a date from the past. Here’s some slightly bizarre footage of an obviously contemporary Starbuck’s—but the footage is date-stamped August 21, 1984. So weird!


via BoingBoing

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘MANOS: The Hands of Fate’—the video game!

Pop culture is so strange. Things catch on and end up in places that couldn’t have been foreseen at the time of creation or release. Think of Ed Wood’s career, gleefully cherished by film buffs, then turned into an object of derision in movies like It Came From Hollywood but THEN transformed into an occasion for authentic poignancy by Tim Burton.

Or consider MANOS: The Hands of Fate, a schlocky occult/horror movie from 1966 that hardly made any waves when it came out (it failed to recoup its $19,000 budget).
It was directed by Harold P. Warren, an insurance and fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas. He starred in it as well. It played only at the Capri Theater in El Paso and a few drive-ins in West Texas and New Mexico.

In the movie, a vacationing family loses their way on a road trip and ends up trapped at a lodge in which a polygamous pagan cult has taken up residence. It’s worth reading Wikipedia’s account of the movie’s demerits: “The film is infamous for its technical deficiencies, especially its significant editing and continuity flaws; its soundtrack and visuals not being synchronized; tedious pacing; abysmal acting; and several scenes that are seemingly inexplicable or disconnected from the overall plot, such as a couple making out in a car or The Master’s wives breaking out in catfights.”

In 1993 Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran an episode about MANOS, and it’s become one of their most popular episodes: On this vote taken on a MST3K message board, the episode in which the gang riffs on MANOS clocked in as the second-best MST3K episode of all time, behind only the deliriously funny Space Mutiny episode.

In 2012 FreakZone Games released a Nintendo-ish adaptation of the game—it’s in the familiar Mario Bros. style and uses set pieces from the movie. It’s not every schlocky horror movie that gets transformed into a video game FIFTY years later, but if you get lucky, even weird things like that can happen. This year saw the release of MANOS: The Hands of Fate—Director’s Cut, an improved version of the game with cut screens—you can buy it here.
Here’s some gameplay from the 2012 version:

The full movie of MANOS: The Hands of Fate:

And the MST3K treatment of MANOS:

via Kill Screen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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