What it’s like to land on Pluto

Pluto

If we ever stop dicking about being mean to each other on this planet, we may start exploring space. Or maybe the lunatics taking over the asylum (aka Earth) will give science the impetus to escape our gravity well and start over elsewhere. Either way, I spend a lot of time dreaming about going to other planets. Or even dwarf planets.

It seems NASA is much the same as they have stitched together 100 photos from the New Horizons flyby in 2015 to give an idea of what it would be like to land on Pluto. In colour! Enjoy.

 

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Gatebox – Japanese Virtual Home Assistant and girlfriend

I stumbled across this video by Gatebox on Digg and found it slightly creepy and a little sad. I have never been to Japan (the airport doesn’t really count) but there seems to be something wrong with with their birthrate and there are debates as to why. I’m sure you have read articles about increasing numbers of people retreating into their personal space, interacting solely through the internet and no longer being interested in having sex. (Or at least relationships.) Then there are the articles that say this is bollocks. The fact remains the birthrate in Japan, and increasingly in other developed countries, is dropping.

I then read the Youtube comments, which is always a cogent reminder of why the birthrate dropping is probably a good thing. Apparently this retreating from the world and only interacting with people through a screen has, predictably, a lot of subsets and splinter factions and millions of fucking acronyms.

In response to videos like the Gatebox one below – featuring, broadly speaking, a virtual girlfriend – there was a lot of defence from a group that calls itself MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way). Apparently this is a huge thing happening all over and I somehow missed it until now. As far as I can tell, it is an extension of what is happening in Japan but is occurring mostly to Western men. It is not a counter to femininism, it is just men who no longer want to be in a relationship and want out of the whole dynamic. Like all ‘movements’ some argue it is not a movement, some seem quite rational and intelligent, and some are batshit crazy and hate women. It isn’t something that would particularly ‘float my boat’, but the world is a big and complex place. I’m not going to comment on it because gender issues are an inflammatory topic and I can’t be arsed to debate issues on the internet because doing so is utterly, utterly pointless. Treat everyone equally and be nice to each other. It’s not that complicated.

Anyway, see what you think of the video below by Gatebox. I feel it says something about a society where this is appealing to enough people that it has been made. You may think it is sad and creepy and an example of the increasingly isolated modern world. Or maybe you think that if people want to retreat into their own space, fair play to them, society shouldn’t dictate how individuals want to live their lives and if this becomes more popular then it will be increasingly normal. I think if people are lucky enough to have a choice, they should live the lives they want. In this particular case however, I think that the guy seems really, really lonely and I hope his virtual girlfriend helps. (I’m aware he is an actor.)

Here is the Japanese Virtual Assistant by Gatebox:

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Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen on an Ipad

Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen

I have an iPad Pro and pestered my local Apple shop on an almost daily basis as to when they were going to stock the Apple Pencil. I was going to teach myself to draw because I am so damned creative. Probably. I finally got the pencil but my art career has, sadly, yet to take off. The iPad has paid for itself from what I have written on it, so it wasn’t a total waste and I regularly use the pencil to take notes and practice writing Thai. It is also big and lovely and shiny. But my art and drawing skills remain on par with my music – I can do a tiny, tiny bit of each but thank god for my writing or I would be broke and starving in a gutter. (I will be plugging more fiction soon but for now click on this.)

I then saw a video on Facebook and I am feeling inspired. An artist called Nikolai Lockertsen creates amazing art on an iPad Pro using an iPad pencil. His other art is superb but I saw this video of him drawing a piece called ‘Scooter Trouble’ and felt a creative stirring. I have the Procreate app because I impulsively downloaded nearly all the art apps as doing so would make me more arty owing to some kind of osmosis. (It didn’t really work.) I feel I should point out that I get nothing from Nikolai Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate for writing all this. I just thought I would share as it is incredible and inspirational. (If Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate want in on some kind of affiliate deal, I am totally willing to sell out  – email me.) I have added links below if you want to follow this up a bit more.

Here is the video, apparently it took 16-20 hours:

Art Study Online’s website:
http://www.artstudyonline.com

Nikolai Lockertsen website:
http://www.lockertsen.net

Procreate (app) website:
http://www.procreate.si

 

 

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for 21 years, so I have celebrated a lot of Chinese New Years. I was born in the very exciting and glamorous Year of the Rat. My wife is half Chinese and is out celebrating it right now. So I thought I might as well spread the good cheer.

Happy CNY my awesome readers! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Or more than you are already at least.

As they say in Hong Kong (the Cantonese speakers anyway):

Gung hei fat choy!

Spellings vary, obviously, but the main message is basically – have a good one! Go eat some noodles and drink Tsing Tao! Enjoy.

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All Pixar movies are connected

Pixar is all connected

There have been loads of weird theories about Pixar movies. (Well loads of movies actually, people are bored.) I read one that suggested Toy Story 3 was about the holocaust, for a miserable example. There was another floating around that all their movies all exist in the same universe and are linked somehow. There are certainly plenty of easter eggs – most notably the Pizza Planet Truck:

Pizza planet truck

But there are tons more and you probably missed them. I love Pixar and have watched their movies repeatedly and was nowhere near spotting most of these references. Well, Disney got in on this theory and basically confirmed it. All Pixar movies are linked – sometimes it is vague and tenuous but there are references to other films in all the films. If you get what I mean. If not, or you want proof, watch this video. Enjoy.

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Alan Partridge: Nomad

I am a massive Alan Partridge fan but I have never read any of his books as I assumed they wouldn’t work as well as the TV show and were just cashing in. I was colossally wrong. Alan Partridge: Nomad appeared on some recommendation page or other and it had such good reviews that I impulsively downloaded it. I am exciting that way.

The intention was to have something amusing to read while I was waiting for a train or out with someone boring. Once it had landed on my phone however, I thought I would just read a little to see what it was like. I had to stop 5 minutes later because I was laughing too hard and frankly it was embarrassing as I was on train. In the end I just had to look like a lunatic as I sniggered my way home reading. I read the book in two sittings (I had to meet someone exciting which interrupted it).

Nomad is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I guess it helps if you know Alan Partridge as his voice read the book in my head and was all the funnier for it. This is now literally the case as I have also downloaded the audiobook (read by Coogan/ Partridge). It might also help if you studied British D-list celebrities as Alan recounts a lot of run ins. Especially Noel Edmunds.

Alan Partridge: Nomad is the story of Alan doing a walk called the “Footsteps of my Father” where he follows the route taken by his father when he went from Norfolk to Dungeness to get a job at a nuclear power plant. I cannot stress how much more funny it is than that sounds.

Unless you hate laughter and looking like a giggling nutcase, I highly recommend this book. It is superb. Long live Partridge.

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Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year fantastic Word of Ward readers! About 20 years ago I made the resolution to not to do the whole New Year resolution thing as it seemed like a recipe for disappointment. I have stuck with it ever since because I have a will of iron. However, I do have a series of ‘habits’ that are occasionally added to or changed, often around new year or birthdays, which don’t count. I have two apps/programs in particular that help me with this – Habitbull and Wunderlist. Wunderlist is mostly for targets, goals, and articles I have to write for work. Habitbull is more a serious of habits (surprisingly) which daily encourages me to write 1000 words of fiction, spend 20 minutes practicing Thai, or a number of other things.

I mention these apps because I have been asked about writing habits and these keep prompting me to do things which are achievable on a daily basis. Rather than ‘I will write a book’, trying to hit 1000 words a day is much better. You can do that then play playstation or go to the pub  (to pick random examples that may apply more to me than you).

If you do have new year resolutions, then good luck. Don’t come complaining to me on on this year’s Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year. This year it will be the 16th January so mark that in your disappointment riddled diaries.

One thing that will hopefully hold true is that 2017 will be better than 2016. The UK is out of Europe and Trump has been voted in already. Bowie can only die once. Surely there isn’t much more to come in 2017 that can be that bad. So hooray for 2017! On that note, I will leave you with a cool horror film trailer that someone made about 2016. It is really well done. Enjoy yourselves everyone, everywhere and happy new year!

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Happy Winter Festival or Christmas

Whatever your culture or religion (and feel free to keep that to yourself), it is likely that you will be celebrating something today. So from all of us here at the shining Word of Ward publishing towers, Happy Winter Festival and/or Christmas and/or Festivus/Yule/Saturnalia/Sunday! Drink (if you are allowed), eat lots (if you are lucky enough), be nice to your family (if you have some) and generally have a great day. Santa gave me the gift of Battlefield 1, so it is about to be a very explosion filled Christmas. Good times.

Happy Christmas!

santa-claus-with-wine-glass-funny-christmashappy-saturnaliamerryyulefestivus-the-airing-of-grievances

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Japanese Rock, Paper, Scissors competition

You know how exciting it is to watch professional-level rock, paper, scissors in an arena? Me either. But in Japan they do and they somehow make it seem really exciting. Take a deep breath and check out this short clip:
Derren Brown would obviously win that competition, um, hands down… Sorry. There is also a robot hand that someone built for some reason that always wins. It is clearly an important sport.
Now, to ramp up the competition, they should play the next level of the game. Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock. The rules are explained in the Big Bang Theory. You might want to write it down:

Bohemian Rhapsody acted out is a noir-ish thriller

Someone was clearly stoned and/or drunk and was listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and thought “Dude, that could totally be made into a short film.” So they did just that. Surprisingly, given that a lot of Bohemian Rhapsody seems like gibberish, it actually works pretty well and makes sense. There is one scene where they have to say “No” and “Galileo Figaro” and “Bismillah” and other randomness where it falls down a bit, but otherwise it is fun.

Good, not great, but definitely worth 4 minutes of your time if you happen to be at work. Turning songs into short films should become a new internet meme. Here is Bohemian Rhapsody as gritty (and occasionally silly) thriller. Magnifico! Enjoy.

 

A Tour of Britain in Accents

This is amazing. A guy dialect coach called Andrew Jack shows what the various accents are like around the UK. If you have never been to Britain this will probably be bizarre and baffling but the guy is incredible and when he shifts dialect he is spot on. I guess it is what he does for a living and has been the dialect coach on a ton of different movies, including all the latest Star Wars movies and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

Andrew Jack’s website can be found here: http://andrewjack.com

Check out the clip:

In case you are bored, here is a map showing the accents from around the UK. Fairly interesting stuff as the UK has a weird variety of regional dialects, especially when you consider its size. Obviously the correct way to pronounce everything is with a North London accent but people are surprisingly reluctant to agree. Check it out:

UK Accents

UK Accents

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Ok Go – The One Moment video

OK Go - The One Moment

OK Go – The One Moment

This is incredible. The band ‘OK Go’ always does pretty cool videos but this one took so much planning and is so well done that I found it hard to believe at first. What they did was set up a load of events, timed everything with computers and digital triggers, then filmed ‘The One Moment’, real time, in 4.2 seconds. The music video is then that 4.2 seconds stretched out.

For more details check out the OK Go website: http://okgo.net/2016/11/23/background-notes-and-full-credits-for-the-one-moment-video/

Here is an excerpt with Damian Kulash, Jr. (director and singer), as he explains some of the stuff in the video:

Just how slow is this, and is it all one speed?
It is not all one speed, but each section is at a constant rate, meaning that time does not “ramp” (accelerate or decelerate). We just toggle from one speed to another. When the guitars explode, we are 200x slower than reality (6,000 frames per second), but Tim and Andy’s short bursts of lip sync (Tim twice and Andy once) are only 3x slower than real life (90 frames per second). The watermelons are around 150x, and the spray paint cans are a little over 60x.

How did you plan all this?
The whole point of the video is to explore a time scale that we can’t normally experience, but because it’s so inaccessible to us, our tools for dealing with it are indirect. The only way we can really communicate with that realm is through math. The choreography for this video was a big web of numbers — I made a motherfucker of a spreadsheet. It had dozens of connected worksheets feeding off of a master sheet 25 columns wide and nearly 400 rows long. It calculated the exact timing of each event from a variety of data that related the events to one another and to the time scale in which they were being shot.

You probably skipped all that text and just want to see the damn video already. So here it is. OK Go and The One Moment:

 

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Massive waves in Taiwan typhoon

I will keep this brief because there isn’t much to say. I saw this video on some social media feed or other and thought “Holy shit, those waves are huge!” Which, combined with my compulsive need to share things has led to this. These are waves in Taiwan and they are massive. The lighthouse is apparently around 75 foot tall and is presumably empty or sheltering people in brown pants.

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I was on a beach last month and wanted to read something short and fun. I hadn’t read a murder mystery in ages and thought that would fit the bill. So without thinking about it too much, I did the obvious and went for an Agatha Christie novel. You can’t really go wrong with her books. I chose The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because I like the title, it had good reviews, and was a Poirot.

the-murder-of-roger-ackroydThe book centers around two deaths: one is before the book starts and the other is the eponymous Roger Ackroyd. Hercule Poirot has retired from sleuthing and just happens to be living in the village where it all occurs, but as he is good at solving exactly these kinds of mysteries the police wisely let him in on the action. I can’t say much more without giving too much away.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a great read and it doesn’t really matter if this is your first Poirot or Christie novel. I read it on a kindle and it was quite fun seeing which sections and sentences people had highlighted in their attempt to work out who did the crime. The clues are there and like nearly all Agatha Christie novels, you probably won’t guess who did it. She was very good at what she did.

I am used to reviewing science fiction or fantasy – or in my day job the odd travel book – so there is usually more to say. Here though the summary can be: if you like murder mysteries or any book written by Christie, you will like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Lots of suspects, suspicious goings on, red herrings, clues, and a surprise.  Oh yeah, and a murder. Recommended holiday read.

You can get it here or, probably, a second hand book shop anywhere.

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Cumberbatch presents the Apple toilet

cumberbatchBenedict Cumberbatch was on Saturday Night Live the other day (probably on Saturday) because he seems to be contractually obliged to be absolutely everywhere at the moment. To be fair, that is quite subjective – we just saw Dr Strange (which I loved), that prompted my wife to re-watch Sherlock, all while I have been re-listening to Cabin Pressure on my commute. So that has been a lot of Cumberbatch.

Anyway. On SNL he did a spoof of the Apple 1984 Macintosh advert and I found it mildly amusing. It’s a Monday, so mildly amusing is about as good as things can get. To be honest, I would quite like a toilet like that – you can have a stand for a book/iPad and flush with ease. Here is Cumberbatch on a toilet. Enjoy.

In case you are a child, here is the original Macintosh 1984 advert:

 

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Tech support for non-computer people

Being of a certain age – Generation X is all you need to know – I have grown up with computers. So I don’t fear them. I love gadgets and technology because… well, because they are awesome and let you do amazing things. I wrote this in Bangkok and you may be reading this on a bus in Iceland on a tablet while streaming music from a server in America to your bluetooth headphones. For example. That is pretty damned impressive.

As someone who has a professed love for tech, I am often asked by non-computer people to help fix stuff or get stuff to do other stuff. This can be someone from an older generation who has an inbuilt suspicion that younger people have some kind of computing algorithm in their DNA; someone who lives in constant fear of pressing the secret button that self-destructs their device. Or it can be co-workers and friends who are of a similar age or younger, who ask me to help because they are bizarrely luddite enough to eschew basic tech knowledge, (too busy or cultured,) but still want to post inanities on Facebook. Whichever it is, it makes me feel important and helps my feeble sense of self worth. So I am happy to help.

Unlike quite a few of my peers however, I am not actually trained and have no knowledge of how these things really work. I could explain what I, and others who like tech but aren’t IT specialists do when asked, but as is so often the case, the superb site xkcd has a graphic explaining it. This is my long-winded way of sharing a graphic that amused me. You can follow this and now be as competent as I am.

Tech support sheet

Tech support sheet

This came from here: http://xkcd.com/627/

 

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Steve Cutts does a Moby music video

Moby and Cutts

Moby and Cutts

I saw a clip of this on Facebook and delved a bit deeper only to find out that it was Moby. I used to love Moby’s album Play back at the turn of the century and I am sure he has been doing great stuff ever since. What made the clip actually stand out for me though, are the cool stylised visuals by London artist Steve Cutts. I have seen some of his other work and this guy really hates mobile phones in particular and all the shite happening in the world in general.

Which is fair enough really. I had seen some Cutts illustrations before, such as the rats on the underground (see below) but hadn’t realised it was the same guy until I wrote this post and did some research. Great art and generally making a decent point.

Without further waffle, here is Moby and Steve Cutts video “Are you lost in a world like me?” I hope you are sufficiently old school enough to be watching this on a laptop. (Below are some pics by Steve Cutts – check them out.)

Moby is well known, so you can check him out for yourself. In case you don’t know Steve Cutts, he does some great work. For some reason he reminds me of 60s/70s cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton (who are still working today, I hasten to add). His work can be found here: http://www.stevecutts.com Here is some of his stuff:

cuttsbarin cuttssanta cutts-rats

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Borrowed Time (Pixar animators)

Borrowed Time is an animation by two of Pixar’s animators: Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats. Don’t think light-hearted cheerful Pixar though, think of one of the darkest and saddest moments of a Pixar film – usually the beginning bit where someone dies and the rest of the movie is there to cheer you up. Borrowed Time is that beginning bit but darker.

I loved it. (If the youtube clip doesn’t work, try the Vimeo page.)

 

Planet Earth 2 by Attenborough

earth2A trailer has just come out for Planet Earth II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. The original Planet Earth came out ten years ago and was the most expensive documentary ever commissioned by the BBC and the first to be filmed in high definition. Planet Earth II took 4 years to make, and was filmed in 64 countries and in Ultra-High Definition. All with Sir David Attenborough’s superb and perfect voice talking authoritatively and enthusiastically over it all.

Attenborough and the BBC make the best nature documentaries and I am consequently damned excited. Nearly everything I watch these days is streamed but I still buy the occasional BluRay and increasingly, they are documentaries – mostly Attenborough and Professor Brian Cox documentaries, to be precise. They are just stunning on a big TV and one of the few things that might convince me to go 4K. I can’t wait to watch this and I just hope the BluRay comes out before Christmas. As yet there is no air date, so it seems unlikely.

For more information about Planet Earth II (or 2), plus the chance to see some clips from the first series, check out the BBC webpage.

(Apologies to all DC comic book fans who came here by accident but you should watch this documentary too.)

Here is the beautiful trailer:

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Musk to Mars, and Beyond!

Recently, Elon Musk talked about going to Mars. He wants humanity to be a multi-planetary species, so that we should survive a disaster. (Hopefully some other animals too – I want a genetically adapted giant space dog I can write around.) The rationale is that at some point, something awful may/will happen and it would be a shame for civilisation to be wiped out when we have gone to so much sodding effort for millennia. Which I think is a valid point. I get the argument that we have messed up the Earth but I will only accept that argument from someone who hasn’t bred. If you have kiddywinks, look to the future. Also, most of the people I see arguing that climate change is real, the need for renewable energy, and generally being less dickish to the planet, tend to be the same ones that want to go into space. Leave the frackers behind.

I think Musk is a good guy and at time of writing, hasn’t shown any hints of: “You will kneel before Musk” agenda. So you can imagine how excited I was when he was talking about Martian colonization plans that will become possible thanks to his “Mars Colonial Transporter”. There is even a video clip showing how it will be done:

You can then imagine how that excitement rose further still when he renamed the Mars trip equipment stuff to the even more exciting: “Interplanetary Transport System”. The only possible conclusion being that he wants to go to more than just Mars.

Sadly for the “tl;dr” crowd there isn’t a video of future space exploration but as a placatory extra, Elon ‘Stark’ Musk and his gang have released a load of pretty pictures on the interweb. There are quite a few to be found on the SpaceX Flickr account and here are a couple. Enjoy and engage!

29343905184_40908df4c4_z 29343906874_fa1afcf649_z 29343908684_d07e2f73d0_z 29343909374_55b0dd5e84_z

 

 

 

 

Notes: http://gizmodo.com/this-is-how-elon-musk-plans-to-build-a-city-on-mars-up-1787146547

http://gizmodo.com/spacex-wants-to-venture-much-further-out-into-the-solar-1787156485

https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacex/

 

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