Humans and other animals, Life on the Internet

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and whispering videos

This Slate article on ASMR videos is fascinating.

The video I have just described is called “~♥~ Let me take care of you ~♥~,” and it has well over 50,000 views on YouTube. It is what is known as an ASMR role-play. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which refers to a particular combination of pleasurable physical and psychological affects experienced by a surprisingly large number of people when they hear things like soft whispering, quiet tapping, and gentle crinkling noises. If you search for “ASMR” on YouTube, you will find countless videos like this one.

I notice from a cursory glance at related YouTube videos that many seem to be binaural recordings, which makes perfect sense. And as per Rule 34(b), if it exists, there is a subreddit of it.


Bioshock Infinite art screenshot

Art dealers Cook & Decker have teamed up with Irrational Games to sell some very large and very expensive prints, each displaying art from BioShock Infinite.
Interestingly, the art isn’t taken from the game’s wonderful concept works. They’re screenshots, though the word does them a slight disservice. These are prints based on the super hi-res and rendered environments normally used for magazine screenshots, meaning you’re getting something that’ll actually stand up to closer inspection.
Art Dealer Is Selling The World’s Most Expensive Screenshots

Craft and creativity

Screenshots as art


Act of Terror

While filming a routine stop and search of her boyfriend on the London Underground, Gemma suddenly found herself detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest.

Act of Terror tells the story of her fight to bring the police to justice and prevent this happening to anyone else, ever again.

Life on the Internet

Indie devs release cracked version of their own game to lecture pirates

When indie developers Greenheart Games released their first title — Game Dev Tycoon (similar to Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story) — they also seeded a special version to ‘the number one torrent sharing site’ that was nearly identical to the real game, except for one detail:

“Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:”

Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.

“Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.”

Unsurprisingly, at the end of day one Greenheart Games had sold 214 copies of their game while over 3,100 users had played the cracked version. That’s 93.6% of players running the honeypot copy.

Makes me wonder what would have happened if they had released a special version that had a gentle up-sell and an option to buy the game from within the game? Can you convert more pirates with honey than with vinegar?


Papers, Please: A dystopian document thriller

The communist state of Arstotzka has just ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin. Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.

Help the creators get the game made by supporting it on Steam Greenlight.

Half a penny

NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson

NASA is making excellent use of Tumblr ( to promote its Penny4NASA campaign.


More things your penny can get you →

Shape of things to come

Penny for NASA

NASA is making excellent use of Tumblr to promote its #Penny4NASA campaign.


io9 has a detailed look at the new bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek Into Darkness.

I’m in total agreement with commenter MonkeyT:

So where are the actual dynamic words and numbers people communicate with? All the consoles are either video game controllers or playskool desks.
“How much antimatter do we have?” “Err… three out of four glowing buttons, sir.”
“How fast are we going?” “No red lights yet, sir. All blue.”
“Red-thingy moving toward the green-thingy. I think we’re the green-thingy…”

In the 2009 movie we barely got to see the bridge, and what we did see was a blur of fast editing, a camera that never settled down and that infamous lens flare. Into Darkness probably won’t need a detailed set that looks like it might be the center of operations for a functioning starship either, it just needs flash. Shame really.

Light-based media

The bridge of the JJ Enterprise

A detailed look at the new bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek Into Darkness.

Shape of things to come

Have years of austerity been the result of a basic Excel mistake?

“I clicked on cell L51, and saw that they had only averaged rows 30 through 44, instead of rows 30 through 49.”
Thomas Herndon, grad student

This Excel mistake is in a spreadsheet that was used to draw the conclusion of an influential 2010 economics paper that was later cited to justify programmes of austerity in the UK and around the world. The researchers who wrote the paper, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, have now admitted it was wrong.

Another UMass Amherst professor, Arindrajit Dube, followed up on Herndon’s paper with additional proof that there were serious theoretical and causal problems (as opposed to just sloppy Excel work) in the study.


Co.Create interviews Nick Douglas about his supercuts videos.

My friend Andy Baio, who coined the term and runs, told me that most editors use TV Tropes (my favorite site on the whole Internet). When New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum tweeted that she wanted a supercut of TV characters saying “this isn’t a TV show, this is reality,” Bryan started with the TV Tropes page for that very phenomenon.

Art critic
Craft and creativity

What do you represent?

I have to confess, I’ve never appreciated this kind of art. I feel exploited by the ‘artist’ who has some (I imagine) only vague, shallow and pretentious notions which he uses as his ‘inspiration’. Any real meanings the art may (or may not) have are cynically kept mysterious to give the illusion of potential great depth and wisdom.

Details from Ad Reinhardt’s six-page series How to Look at Art, Arts & Architecture, January 1947 (via Stopping Off Place).

Life on the Internet

Technopanic: The Movie

Disconnect claims to be a film that “explores the consequences of modern technology and how it affects and defines our daily relationships”, but Jeff Jarvis says it’s the Reefer Madness of our time.

Disconnect begins by throwing us every uh-oh signal it can: online porn; people listening to their headphones instead of the world around them; people paying attention to their phones (and the people on the other end) instead of the boring world in front of them; skateboards; people ruining office productivity watching silly videos; kids wearing Hooters T-shirts; sad people chatting with strangers online; people gambling online; people getting phished into bankruptcy; and worst of all, kids using Facebook. Oh, no!

Trailer afte the jump →

Oliver Stone
Humans and other animals

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

From a fascinating Guardian interview with Oliver Stone:

[…] in 2011 the US federal government survey reported that only 12% of US high school students knew their country’s history. Why is that? “My theory is history is boring because the horror stories are left out. What’s left in is the sanitised Disney version – a triumphalist narrative. We kind of always win. And we’re always right.”

For five years Oliver Stone has been working with historian Peter Kuznick on a desanitised version — complete with horror stories — to be presented as a 10-hour TV series: The Untold History of the United States.

Use your words

News is bad for you

Rolf Dobelli on how news misleads, is irrelevant, has no explanatory power, is actually toxic to your body, increases cognitive errors, inhibits thinking, is addictive like a drug, wastes your time, keeps us passive and kills our creativity.

Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

The "take out data points" trick
Use your words

Separating science from hype

From the Rockerfeller University, a simple guide to separating science from hype, no PhD required:

  1. Separate the sales pitch from the science“In short, read articles carefully and figure out if the claims they make are based on the facts they present.”
  2. Find the data“use Google Scholar to look for the original source. Search with whatever information you have: the names of the scientists, their institution, or the main topic.”
  3. Evaluate the data“Think about it this way: if you were in charge of figuring out the height of the average American male, you would need to measure a bunch of people to get it right. If you only measured a few people, and they happened to be basketball players, you’d be way off.”
    The section on misleading graphs here is brilliant.
  4. Put the story into context“If you’re having trouble finding alternative perspectives, the Wikipedia page for the topic can be a good place to start, especially if it contains a “controversy” or “criticism” section.”
  5. Ask an expert“Is there a science blogger you like? Tweet at them. […] Nothing beats a real discussion (even over Twitter or email!), but you can also check out neutral, non-biased sites like Mayo Clinic.”

(via Boing Boing)

Create an email alert for 'Russian Man'
Humans and other animals

The adventures of Russian Man

Russian Man leads an eventful life.

To some, he’s a marvel.

Russian Man does no-hands push ups

Russian Man refuels hang glider at gas station before calmly taking off

Russian Man flies power glider out of gas station

Russian Man reads longest word in English language

Russian Man saves woman on train tracks

Russian Man touches 1,000 women's breasts for Putin

However, despite Russian Man’s romantic nature, he is ultimitely unsuited to family life.

Russian Man fakes own death in car-crash marriage proposal

Russian Man pretends to die before proposing

Russian Man digs tunnel to pipeline, siphons 30 tons of oil out of 'curiosity'

Russian Man puts 8-year old daughter behind the wheel of a car

Russian Man jumps in chute to escape girlfriend

Military life doesn’t work out much better for Russian Man.

Turkish army attempts to draft paralyzed Russian Man

Drunk Russian Man drives tank into house

Russian Man attempts to blow up ex-wife

Inevitably, Russian Man loses what was only ever a very tenuous grip on reality…

Angry, naked Russian Man is upset that the metro is closed

Russian Man takes four hostages, only demands are a pizza and a Sprite

Russian Man attacks other driver with gun as his car rolls away

Russian Man arrested for putting foot in friend's rear, killing him

Russian Man kills and eats drinking partner after running out of snacks at vodka party … and sells leftovers at market as pork

Russian Man kept 29 mummified bodies

…With uncertain but tragic consequences.

Russian Man freezes to death after being wrongly placed in morgue

Russian Man killed, cemented in drum

Godspeed Russian Man.

Saga 1 cover by Fiona Staples
Shape of things to come

Apple bans Saga issue from iOS

Update: A statement from David Steinberger, the CEO of
comiXology, has revealed that in fact Apple did not ban the comic. “As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today.” Though I’m still curious to know exactly what happened. I’ve also read elsewhere that Saga has included a hetero-blowjob before (I’m behind in my reading – I like the graphic novels) which contrary to my view below does seem to make this a hypocritical decision – whoever made it.

There’s a lot I like about Apple products, but I utterly resent that they keep pulling this censorship crap.

As has hopefully been clear from the first page of our first issue, SAGA is a series for the proverbial “mature reader.” Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps. This is a drag, especially because our book has featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past, but there you go. Fiona and I could always edit the images in question, but everything we put into the book is there to advance our story, not (just) to shock or titillate, so we’re not changing shit.
Brian K. Vaughan’s statement on Apple’s Banning of Saga

People have been quick to cry ‘homophobia’, but I’m not convinced that is the case here. The image is explicit even by Saga’s standards, and it wouldn’t be any less so if a woman featured. Say what you will about Apple, but they’ve been pretty vocal supporters of equality.

See one of these ‘postage stamp-sized’ images →

Margaret Thatcher

Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher

Much has been written about the death of Margaret Thatcher, but I wouldn’t have expected some the best writing to have come from Russell Brand. A few select paragraphs:

She is an anomaly; a product of the freak-onomy of her time. Barack Obama, interestingly, said in his statement that she had “broken the glass ceiling for other women”. Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.

I know from my own indulgence in selfish behaviour that it’s much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

The blunt, pathetic reality today is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t.
Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher


Pacific Rim wide poster

Zach Snider’s rebooted Man of Steel looks actually really interesting. Iron Man 3 should hopefully be a return to form, though the villan looks like he’s from the same mould as the second movie. The there’s Thor: The Dark World, which could go either way as I hear it’s going to have a very different look and feel to the first one, which I rather liked. I have suitably low expectations for Star Trek Into Darkness, which is to say I think I’ll really enjoy it but will still bemoan the fact that it isn’t real Star Trek.

2013 has already brought us Cloud Atlas, a flawed but entertaining and satisfyingly complex work. All signs point towards Ender’s Game being a quality adaptation too.

But for me 2013 looks like it could be a great year for the original SF action film. Of course, ‘original’ is a difficult word to apply to any Hollywood blockbuster, but below I’ve collected the posters and linked to the trailers for four non-franchise, non-remake, non-sequel, non-adaptation movies coming out later this year.

Get excited for Oblivion, After Earth, Pacific Rim & Elysium →

Light-based media

Sci-fi summer spectacular 2013

2013 looks like it could be a great year for the original SF action film. Get excited for Oblivion, After Earth, Pacific Rim & Elysium.