Five things on Friday #85

Things of note for the week ending August 15th, 2014.

Whirlwinds of light

— Whirlwinds of Light, via This is Colossal.

1. Smartphones leak, dumb phones don’t
International master of misadventure,  John McAfee, spoke at Def Con recently and one of the things that picked up as a headline over at the Wall Street Journal was the following:

‘On the subjects of privacy and security, McAfee said smartphones are spying on American consumers, who don’t bother to read user agreements. “The most promising privacy thing is stupid phones,” he said. “I’m dumping all my smart phones.”

He said he had started brownlist.com, to collect complaints against large corporations. He also said he has an app for Android phones that tracks privacy permissions for various apps.’

A few things:

  • This is not news.
  • This could be the start of a new trend against all things privacy-related.
  • I get the impression that this is especially not news to the people it matters most to.

Something to think on maybe?

If you want to stay clean, and prevent THE MAN from getting his dirty hands on your lovely, lovely data. Go get a dumbphone. Like a Nokia 106 for example.

2. There’s a hexagonal hurricane on Saturn

Hexagonal Hurricanes

The above was first sighted back in the 1980s, when the NASA Voyager probes flew past Saturn for the first time. In the 30+ years it takes Saturn to pass around the Sun, we can finally get to see it again.

And the New York Times has made a gorgeous, sub-three-minute video to help tell the story -

This is my favourite item this week. By a long shot.

- via Mental Floss

3. Planes IRL vs Planes Hollywood-style

0aircraftcutaways-002

0aircraftcutaways-007

I really, really liked this photo-essay. Interesting for not only seeing how crazy big planes can be (in contrast of your average human being) but also gaining an insight into how plane scenes are shot on film.

Check it out.

4. Samsung + New Ad Space
I’ve never owned a Samsung phone (something about the version of Android that it runs combined with the achingly boring product design really puts me off) however every now and then you have to applaud the epic trolling enjoyed by its marketing team over Apple (‘Screen Envy‘ definitely made me chuckle).

One of Samsung’s latest was this little video poking fun at ‘wall huggers’ – aka – iPhone users who have to sit next to plug sockets all the time while their [poorly-powered] iPhones charge. It seems, not happy with its near-15m views, Samsung has taken this down another level. Literally.

Samsung wall huggers

‘Samsung Galaxy S5 with Ultra Power Saving Mode. So you have the power to be anywhere but here’

A super smart use of ambient media in conjunction with an already well-established viral video. Contextually relevant and guaranteed to hit your target market. I think this is great.

Well done, Samsung.

Sidenote: I guess this makes me a Samsung blogger now, right? Christ.

5. Behind the Scenes of Guardians of the Galaxy’s aliens
Seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet? If not, why not? It’s not ‘just another superhero movie’, nor is it ‘one of those Marvel films that I know nothing about’ neither is it ‘a film for geeks’. GotG is probably the summer blockbuster of 2014 (with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes running a close second).

So yeah, see it.

Now that’s out of the way, Fast Co.Create has published a [completely spoiler free] behind the scenes look at some of the make up and special effects that went into creating the aliens that appear in said film.

GOTG Aliens

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Bonuses this week:

  • This Louis CK interview is a long read, but both excellent and worth your time.
  • Anagramatron hunts for tweets that are anagrams of each other. It’s so brilliantly bizarre that it’s my recommended Tumblr of the week!
  • If you’re a male social media expert who happens to be vegan, single, and an active Tinder user, I’d recommend not reading this AMAZING comic strip.

 

Did you like this stuff? Did you find any of its interesting? If you did, do me a favour and tell your friends. I’d really appreciate it, cheers.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye, Robin Williams

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone”

Good Morning Vietnam

The news is out.

The memories are amazing.

Personal demons. Depression. It’s all so terribly sad.

I’m on IMDb as I write, reading over Williams’ filmography and trying to work out exactly how many Robin Williams performances I have and haven’t seen. Having watched Insomnia a couple of days ago, I was already in the mood to start the exploration into his body of work but waking up this morning and learning of his passing has only compounded that desire further.

In reverse-chronological order, please find below the list of all Robin Williams’ films that I definitely have seen. Followed by a list of films to watch if you want to do something nice for him today/tonight/this week.

Let’s do this.

ROBOTS (2005).
Surprisingly watchable non-Pixar animated film. Having a kid brother, I’ve seen ROBOTS at least fifteen times – and it still doesn’t bore me.

INSOMNIA (2002).
I picked this up recently after realising it was the only Christopher Nolan film I hadn’t seen. If you’re familiar with Nolan’s work you can see that his efforts here, while good, are still developing. Also a decent point of note: Insomnia marks the second time (after MEMENTO) that Nolan hired Wally Pfister as his director of photography. Against the backdrop of the crisp green and whites of Alaska, you can see how and why these two men have stayed partners for so long.

I digress.

I went for Nolan, was unsurprisingly impressed with Pacino (a man whose entire acting palette can be defined by the weight of the world he is carrying – but it’s still awesome), and then mesmerised by Williams. There’s a play by the name of ‘Our Country’s Good’, I was in it once, and a character in it named Ketch. Ketch is supposedly a killer, but no one thinks it possible – least of all him – but the quietness and the intensity eventually gives him away, both in words and in violence. This felt like that.

Worth seeing if you haven’t already.

A. I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001).
Written by Kubrick, directed by Spielberg, this film should be a mess. And it is really. However, I can neither remember much about it nor for the life of me which part Robin Williams played. IMDb says it was ‘The voice of Dr. Know’. Nope, I got nothing. A re-watch is required.

GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997).
Robin Williams won his first and only Oscar for his turn as Matt Damon’s father-figure / psychologist. I don’t think I’ve seen this since the 90s. I’m going to fix that.

FLUBBER (1997).
Yeah, I’m pretty sure this was terrible.

JUMANJI (1995).
I remember being wowed by the CGI in this film; I wonder if it still stands up? Probably not. But still. Interesting fact: JUMANJI is actually based upon a 1981 children’s picture book of the same name. I don’t remember much of Robin Williams (I’m beginning to realise how young I was when I saw most of his work) but I guess that means it demands a re-visit.

NINE MONTHS (1995).
This Hugh Grant ‘comedy vehicle’ is about a commitment-phobe guy whose girlfriend, Julianne Moore, finds out she’s pregnant. Geez, the 90s. Robin Williams appears in what is ostensibly a cameo performance as the latter’s obstetrician. There’s a funny moment involving an accidental of the gestation period of a cow, but that’s about it.

MRS DOUBTFIRE (1993).
Robin Williams stars as an actor who, after going through quite a messy divorce and only being awarded time to see his kids once a week, disguises himself as a woman (an older Scottish nanny, to be precise) so that he can stay in contact. This film is magnificent. First off: it’s classic Robin Williams. Second, from a cultural standpoint, this film was huge.

This was the the early 90s. Everyone’s parents were breaking up. It was just a thing that happened. But MRS DOUBTFIRE was first time, I think, when a film not only addressed the effects of what long-term separation of two parents might do to children but also looked at that separation from the father’s perspective. The emotional impact of ‘You can only see your children at weekends’ puts Williams’ character through turmoil which in turn, drives him through this transformation. A worthy re-watch.

ALADDIN (1992).
The number one box office smash of 1992 (beating Home Alone 2, Batman Returns, and The Boydguard, to name but three) and it’s so easy to see why: this is both Walt Disney Pictures and Robin Williams at the top of their game.

If you’ve not seen this already, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? If you have, I doubt very much you’ve only seen it once. Still laugh out loud hilarious in places, Disney’s ALADDIN is pitch perfect.

HOOK (1991).
The synopsis is wonderful: Peter Pan (Williams) has grown up to be a cut-throat merger and acquisitions lawyer, and is married to Wendy’s granddaughter. Captain Hook (Hoffman) kidnaps his children, and Peter returns to Never Land with Tinkerbell (Roberts). With the help of her and the Lost Boys, he must remember how to be Peter Pan again in order to save his children by battling with Captain Hook once again.

Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook? Sold.
Bob Hoskins as Smee? Sold.
Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell? Sold.
Maggie Smith as Granny Wendy? Sold.
Robin Williams as Peter…? SOLD.

THE FISHER KING (1991).
Christ, I haven’t seen this since the 90s. I will fix that this week. I love Gilliam and this deserves a revisit. Williams’ third Oscar nomination too.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989).
This film means more to me than any other; and there isn’t much else I can say.

THE ADVENTURE OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1988).
My Dad took me to the cinema to see this mental, mental acid trip of a film. Terry Gilliam left to run riot with a cast of thousands and sets that seemed to travel through space and time itself. I LOVED it when I saw it and Robin Williams it bat-crazy as ‘my-head-is-detachable-at-will’ King of the Moon. This film is such a huge chunk of my childhood, I might watch it first.

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (1987).
We have arrived at ground zero, ladies and gentlemen. This is the performance that announced Mr Williams’ departure from TV and that, from now on, Hollywood is where it’s at. Endlessly quotable but of course known best for that title (you couldn’t walk two metres in the playground without hearing another kid yell it) Robin Willams, as ever-so-slightly-based-on-a-real-armed-services-radio-DJ-but-not-really, Adrian Cronauer, is just brilliant.

Unsurprisingly, Williams picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role – and that’s not to be sniffed at for what was fundamentally his breakthrough gig.

A truly great film.

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I’m pretty sure that covers off all the Robin Williams films I have seen. Going through his filmography on IMDb reminded me that I’m still yet to see ONE HOUR PHOTO or THE BIRD CAGE which I’m sure some of you will balk at.

The sad thing is, Robin Williams is gone now.

But to celebrate his life, and the effect on mine that he had, I’m going to work my way through the following list of films as soon as I can:

  • Dead Poets Society
  • Good Will Hunting
  • The Birdcage
  • A.I.
  • Jumanji
  • One Hour Photo
  • Mrs Doubtfire
  • Aladdin
  • Hook
  • The Fisher King
  • Good Morning Vietnam

Did I miss any?

Mork

You’re not alone any more. I don’t think you ever were. But then again, I don’t think you ever knew. All over the world tonight people are going to enjoy you again. It’s sad that it takes a loss to remember the joy. But it is what it is.

Nanu Nanu, Mork.

Robin Williams. 1951-2014.

 

 

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Five things on Friday #84

Things of note for the week ending August 8th, 2014.

Five Things Dah-ling

- thanks for the amazing photo, Lauren

1. Xiaomi* is coming.
I think it’s fairly reasonable to say that, globally, Samsung are the biggest seller of mobile devices. However, a relative minnow of a hardware manufacturer (but growing incredibly fast), Xiaomi*, actually beat Samsung last quarter to become China’s number one smartphone vendor in Q2 2014.

This is no insignificant feat.

Who are Xiaomi and why is this interesting? This Bloomberg Businessweek article is a pretty good read but, in short: not only does Xiamoi make gorgeous hardware but it also has a rather different way of doing business. From the Bloomberg piece -

Xiaomi’s real invention is its business model. It sells online, never in stores, and avoids conventional advertising, devoting only about 1 percent of its revenue to marketing. (By comparison, Samsung earmarks 5.4 percent.) Instead, the company relies on China’s social networks, Weibo and WeChat, and the free press Lei gets as a national tech hero. The money Xiaomi saves on marketing lets it buy top-notch components while keeping retail prices down. The Mi 3 costs 1,699 yuan, or $270; the iPhone in China starts at more than twice that. A Mi 3, or any Xiaomi phone, is a great deal if you’re lucky enough to snag one—the latest models routinely sell out. Xiaomi sells handsets in batches, usually of around 100,000. The first Mi 3 release, the company trumpeted, was bought up in only 86 seconds. It’s the technology equivalent of Air Jordans.

A few months back, I remarked to a friend that should Xiaomi want to widen its footprint outside of Asia, then it might need to consider a new name; perhaps one that is less worrisome to western tongues. Shortly thereafter, Xiaomi announced it had bought ‘Mi.com’ (two letter URLs, not easy/cheap to come by).

Xiaomi is coming.

Just watch.

*shall, but with a z – me // ‘zshou mee’. According to Hugo Barra, the best way to pronounce Xiaomi is to “think of ‘show me’ and then pronounce the first word as if it [were] ‘shower.’

2. Facebook + Instagram = Smart[er] Advertising
It was April 2012 when Mark Zuckerberg slapped a billion dollars on the table and walked away with Instagram in his pocket and, since then, the two platforms have been very slowly integrating their services together. First came the inevitable sharing of user info then, later, Instagram dropped Foursquare’s location data in exchange for Facebook Places.

insta-ads

When Instagram finally announced its plans to launch advertising last year, there was one particular quote that caught my eye:

We want to show ads from businesses that are interesting to you, and to do that we will use information about what you do on Instagram and Facebook (our parent company). For instance, this might include the people you follow and the photos and videos you like on Instagram, and your interests and other basic info on Facebook.

Basically, if your Instagram and your Facebook accounts are linked, the two companies will use that data to better sell you MORE STUFF.

So far, so what. None of this is news.

What is news is that this is now happening. Mercedez-Benz is conducting an experiment whereby it can retarget Facebook users that have seen its ads on Instagram.

We’re only in the testing phase, apparently. But this is it, kids. THIS IS THE FUTURE.

Digiday has more.

3. A Modern Take on Japanese Kutani Tableware

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 10.10.38

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 10.12.40

These are quite wonderful.

- via Colossal

4. Lord of the Rings plot hole busting

Fly you fools

Ever wondered about this?

EAGLES

Some smart chap over on Reddit has come up with a fairly sound theory.

5. The Perfect Northen Lights

Krystall Hotel

This, believe it or not, is the design for the newly approved ‘Krystall Hotel’. Currently being developed by Dutch Docklands, this floating hotel will be based in the fjords near Tromso, Norway, and – given its locale (middle of nowhere, zero light pollution) – will be the perfect spot to take in the Aurora Borealis.

Incredible.

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Bonuses this week are all video game related:

 

 

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Tags:

Get Pebble: #FreshHotFly

Woo! New Pebbles!

noopebbles

I have a Pebble watch (I think it’s GREAT, by the way). These new colours, firmly aimed at the youth market, are pretty darn awesome. Although it has to be said, the first thing I thought when I saw them was:

“You KNOW that someone at Nokia just binned their designs for some kind of 2015 Microsoft Lumia smartwatch, right? Eep!”

Because that’s what they look like!

Lumia Pebble

Joking aside, they actually really do match brilliantly with a multitude of Lumia devices which, to me at least, seems like a great idea. Lumias might not be the number one selling mobile device in the world, but the trend of fluorescent hardware is something that’s been around for at least a couple of years now and these new Pebbles are actually really quite awesome. Good job, gang.

One thing I didn’t pick up from either the website or the launch video (below) is that any part of it was ‘cutesy’ or that it was specifically targeted to women.

It’s a cool [smart]watch.

A unisex one at that.

So how do you get from that, to this?

I don’t think ‘cutesy’ equals women. Nor do I think that the new range (or the page linked) is in any way female only. So I’m confused. I DM’d Belinda earlier asking for clarification but am yet to hear back (and will of course update should I hear anything). I asked my friends to see what they think, and they seem to agree: the colours are on trend and, if they’re marketed at anyone, they’re marketed at ‘the kids’.

Just because ‘hot [pink]‘ is used, it doesn’t mean its necessarily marketed to women. In fact, from about 59 seconds in the video above, the pink watch is clearly shown on a man.

I don’t think Pebble is specifically targeting women with this new range, they’re simply for people who happen to like pink.

Available now.

__

EDIT: a couple of people have asked why I didn’t engage directly on Twitter about this. Truth be told: I’m actually off Twitter at the moment and only checked in this morning for a work-based thing (this just happened to the first thing I saw).

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The Good Old Days

My friend Roger inadvertently shared this with me.

And I like it (in a sad yet nostalgic-totally-on-point kinda way).

Blockbuster

- via Neatorama

When I was a kid we had a thing called Video City. I remember renting things like The Never Ending Story, They Live, and Transformers: The Movie. When Blockbuster opened in my home town it was like all my Christmases had come at once; not only could you rent videos but you could get video games as well!

Weekends would never be the same again.

Bodger will remember these great days. Tony will too.

Tecmo World Wrestling for the NES.

Mortal Kombat for the MegaDrive.

The good old days.

 

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