The latest Bond trailer is here and predictably I like it. Basically, if you like Bond movies, you will like this trailer and probably the film. If not, good for you but feel free to not act like this somehow makes you superior. This Spectre trailer has all the elements in place for a better Bond and I am excited. It also has Christopher Waltz (who is presumably Blofeld) and Monica Belucci (who is presumably an incredibly hot woman who gets in on with Bond). My favourite Daniel Craig Bond outing is still Casino Royale, so fingers crossed for this one. Here is the trailer for Spectre.
It is hard to imagine horror and scale of certain wars. World War 2 in particular. You can read the facts and figures but it is still really hard to visualise. This video from historian Neil Halloran helps put things into perspective. It basically shows the figures in a very visual way and some of it is pretty shocking. I knew the Russians and Chinese had a particularly nasty time of it but this really drives home just how bad.
I will soon be going back to topics like astronomy and science, because frankly I prefer to be filled with wonder and hope at what humans can achieve, rather than be reminded how much we can suck. Anyway, ‘The Fallen of World War 2’ is well done and I thought it deserved a share.
Last week Dave Growl broke his leg and carried on performing. Then the lead singer of the band John Coffey, a fellow called David Achter de Molen, does this. Apart from sniffing cocaine off strippers, it doesn’t get more rock and roll than this.
I haven’t done this for a while, so it is time to publicise one of my incredibly cheap books. “Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories” is a collection that costs a pittance and seems to entertain. I usually give the blurb I wrote but instead I thought it would be nice to include a couple of reviews written on the US Amazon website. I promise I don’t know them. They are ‘Top 1000 Reviewers’ and I should be so lucky to know such important people.
“Some young folks hit the backpacker trail to gain self-enlightenment and seek spiritual awareness and save the world. With admirable honesty, the author admits that (at twenty-one) he was looking for fun, with the emphasis on avoiding boredom, staying drunk, and getting laid. Not surprisingly, he had more luck in the first two areas than in the third.
Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as a stoned-and-stupid Spring Break saga. This man is a professional writer and a damned good one, and he knows how to tell a story. He also has a keen eye for the absurd, even when he’s looking in the mirror. The first (and longest) section recounts an adventure in Australia when he and three friends try to earn traveling money picking pears. Unfortunately, the beautiful farm of his imagination (think A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL) turns out to be an “outback gulag” and the friendly, generous rural inhabitants consist of a hostile, dishonest farm owner and a pair of hard-working (and hard-drinking) Albanians.
The second story involves getting stranded in the Atlas Mountains during rainy season and taking a hair-raising ride back to civilization (or closer, anyway) in a van packed with Berber tribesmen. Why are the windows covered? “Il est preferable de ne pas regarder.” (It’s better not to look.) The third finds our hero living in Bangkok with his American-educated Thai fiancee Nim where he experiences a strange (typically Thai) overthrow of the government. The Prime Minister is unpopular, so the military steps in, sends the police home, the King okays the deal, and Happy Hour goes on. (That was in 2006 and the former PM is still in exile, but his sister is now PM!)
My only complaint about the book is that it is far too short and I wasn’t ready for it to end.”
Another glowing review:
“‘Ladyboys from the Mambo cabaret strode confidently down the cracked pavement on ridiculously high heels. Further down the road, another elephant mingled with the traffic. “Everything looks pretty damn normal,” Chris said.’ Funny stuff from 3 “paid holidays” focusing on the highlights (or lowlights depending on one’s perspective) of the author’s encounter with a giant Australian spider covering his chest nipple to nipple, riding along with a vanload of Moroccans as it teeters on the edge of a waterlogged roadway, or surviving what is (hopefully) a bloodless coup in Thailand while being serenaded at a downtown bar. So, all I have to say is what three destinations are we headed off to next? Very entertaining book!”
Some kid got asked to do a a video for his class and came with a clip that shows the history of the world in 2 minutes. It is really well done, although I am pretty sure Tom Hanks wasn’t around in the particular time period he appears in – you’ll know what I mean. It’s a bit human-centric as we should technically just appear in the last second or so, but I guess it’s not really following proportional timeframes. I look forward to the movie. Anyway, time’s a wasting. Enjoy.
I assume you have seen Mad Max: Fury Road by now. If not, just stop reading and go and see it. It is absolutely superb. As well as being ridiculously entertaining, it is without a doubt one of the most visually spectacular movies ever made. That is quite a lot of hyperbole but I stand by it. Definitely see it in a cinema if you can.
If you have seen the film, I’m sure you’ll have assumed a fair amount of blue screen. There was some blue screen, but not as much as I initially thought going by the behind-the-scenes clip below. The clip is 18 minutes long but is pretty damned interesting. It is the B Roll and contains some interesting scenes showing how certain parts were made. It turns out there are a lot of brave stunt men, George Miller is a superb director, and the variety of ways you can shoot with a camera these days is highly creative. I feel I should reiterate at this point that you should go and see Mad Max: Fury Road, if you haven’t already.
(*Please note that there is no audio until about 50 seconds in, but it doesn’t matter much.)
Just when I thought I had all the gadgets I need, along comes the Lily Camera. This is very cool indeed. It is a drone that follows you around and films you in the most high-tech selfie way possible. It seems great if you are doing outdoor sports. I don’t know how great it will be if you are in a dense urban environment. I live in Bangkok and you can barely walk around without ducking so I doubt it would work well here. You could get some great beach shots though.
Rather than have me explain what the Lily Camera can do, why not watch a video? I wish I had this thing when I was in the Lake District. It seems really easy to control too, just wear a cheap looking watch thing (pictured above). Have a look:
I was fresh from watching the Avengers: Age of Ultron (which was superb) when someone showed me this. When watching the Avengers I always think it is pretty cool that Hawkeye and Black Widow are basically just really incredible humans.
In this clip from the Tonight Show (with Jimmy Fallon), Jeremy Renner aka Hawkeye sings about his powers to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”. It is genuinely funny and Renner/Hawkeye sings pretty damn well. Below the clip are the lyrics. Enjoy.
When you’re on a team with the Hulk and Thor
And we’re all up there on the movie screen,
Will the people believe that I’m not quite as tough?
Will anyone even notice me?
But listen I’ve got powers too, they’re pretty sweet.
I promise I can do so much more than just archery.
I’m serious guys.
I’ve got a collection of scarves and berets.
I play trombone in a ska band.
I once got to second base on my Tinder date.
And my cat has got its own Instagram.
I tell you now
I kick ass at Mario Kart.
This year I played an extra in Paul Blart.
I can open a pickle jar.
I’m friggin’ Hawkeye.
Maybe I’m as super as they are.
So maybe I still haven’t lost my virginity.
But when I bowl I always score at least 70, after six beers
Yes I know ’bout Captain America’s strength.
Hulk becomes a towering man.
But I got seventh place in my fantasy league.
And I once butt-dialed Jean-Claude Van Damme.
When I go to Chipotle I get free guac.
I flirt with the cashier and she says I rock.
I own water-resistant socks.
I’m friggin’ Hawkeye.
Maybe I’m as super as they are.
Maybe I’m as super as they are.
Maybe I’m as super as they are.
Being a manly kind of chap I occasionally get a craving for combat, lascivious women, whisky, and cigars. Happily I live in Bangkok where all these things are plentiful and found on most street corners. For legal reasons however, my lawyer has advised me to concentrate on the latter two. But where in Bangkok can you get decent whisky and cigars?
In case you are confused about what Whisgars is all about.
I could do one of those “Top 10” articles but frankly, in Bangkok, you might as well go to Whisgars – it’s superb. They obviously do whisky/whiskey (sorry but my grandad was Irish and I need to include that spelling) and cigars, but it is done in such style and with such expertise, you can’t go wrong. There is more than one branch (as I write, I think there are four) but the one on Sukhumvit soi 23 is my personal favourite but that is mostly because it is the one nearest to my condo.
Just in case I incorrectly skew their sales angle, here is the blurb from the heavily proofed, highly cigar-fumed mouth of Whisgars itself:
“Whisgars is a unique concept bar throughout Asia consisting of high-end Single Malt Whisky and Premium Hand-Rolled Cigars in carefully selected locations. Our bars are completely cigar-friendly and designed to cater to the highest levels of luxury. Our staff is very well trained in providing our customers with the very best in service and creating the ultimate experience at all of our locations.”
I have spent many a happy evening in Whisgars (some even spectacular) and can’t recommend it enough. I quit smoking three years ago so really enjoy the occasional cigar and Whisgars not only has a walk–in humidor, but it also has a helpful expert on hand. Usually, coincidentally, it’s an attractive female expert and they give you great advice on your personal choice of luxury inhalant. Their drinks list is also superb and I can vouch for not only an awesome whiskey selection, but also a superlative gin and tonic and cocktail menu.
Thailand is not exactly a famed whiskey producer – even the whiskies that are made here are actually rum – but thanks to places like Whisgars that is not an issue. I highly recommend it.
Next entry – fighting, hunting, beard trimming and women!
For more information have a look at their website:
Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where they fly on hover bikes through the Forest of Endor? Well this is a little bit like that minus the explosions, stormtroopers, stupid Ewoks, etc. FPV means First Person View, in case you were wondering.
Quadcopter racing seems pretty fun from this footage but clearly having jedi-like reactions helps quite a lot as they crash frequently.
I seem to be posting a lot of things about being observant and weird visual effects recently. I am just following internet trends and it is all the fault of that accursed burgundy and Magrathean lilac coloured dress.
This is not an illusion but different people will see different things. This is because people have varying ocular prescriptions. Or to put it another way – some people need better glasses. I am basically giving you a free eyesight test. Have a look at this:
Einstein or Monroe?
Who do you see in the picture? Albert Einstein or Marilyn Monroe? If Monroe, then you’d better pop to the opticians. There is some quite cool science behind this but it basically boils down to how we recognise faces. The picture is a hybrid image that fuses a detailed picture of Einstein with a blurred picture of Monroe. If you vision is a bit blurred, your brain goes with the overall shape of what is can see – which is Monroe. If you see Einstein, then step further away from your screen, or squint, and you might see him turn into Monroe.
You’re not allowed to just say, “I see dead people.”
I spent thousands of pounds on eye laser surgery and can see Einstein from up to a mile away. I hope you fare as well. This free eyesight test is on the house.
Here is a short video explaining this much better than I am:
What would happen if you took 10 iconic cartoon and comic characters and then have them drawn in the style of 10 iconic artists? Well, see blow. The characters on the vertical are: Asterix, Calvin, Donald Duck, Captain Haddock, Batman, Heimo Vesa, Corto Maltese, Moomintroll, Garfield, and Lucy. The artists across the horizontal are: Uderzo, Watterson, Barks, Hergé, Adams, Jarla, Pratt, Jansson, Davis, and Schulz. In case you get confused, the greyed diagonal from top left to bottom right shows the artists matched with their artwork. (I really like Hugo Pratt.)
Maybe I am just a nerd but I spent ages looking at this when I first saw it on Sploid.Gizmodo.com. They are so well done that I felt obliged to share. Enjoy.
Have you ever wondered what sunset on Mars would look like? I do, almost daily. Well, now you can see it for yourself thanks to science! When you think of all the achievements that must have taken place for this to happen, it is pretty damned incredible. I was going to list them but it would take too long.
I just thought I would share the picture because it is so damned inspiring. There is also a video (below) which is equally amazing achievement-wise. As an actual video of a sunset it is pretty average – but it’s on Mars, so you know, cut it some slack.
25 years ago, Voyager 1 turned round and took a picture of the Earth from 3.7 billion miles away. At first NASA wasn’t all that keen – it was expensive and served no real scientific purpose – but the legend that was Carl Sagan, persuaded them to do it. Just so that we humans can get a sense of perspective. And he was right. I have written about this before but as the anniversary just happened, I though I would write about it again. Here is the Pale Blue Dot photo and the Earth is on the right in the shaft of sunlight. It’s pretty amazing.
Pale Blue Dot photo
If that wasn’t perspective enough, add in Carl Sagan’s words:
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
It’s even better with his voice. Enjoy and feel your insignificance.
A couple of years ago, Mrs Word of Ward and myself took archery lessons in London. I ended up really enjoying it and going back quite regularly. I guess it appealed to the medievalist in me. Plus, society might collapse and I might need to invade France one day. Archery is superb fun and it’s pretty easy to learn. After half an hour you can fire an arrow – but it takes years to get really good or be even vaguely consistent. Anyway, it’s great and as I’m 6’1 they let me use the biggest bow they had which was awesome – it’s based on height and strength so I didn’t pick it and therefore it isn’t compensating for anything. Obviously being more British than Elf, I associated more with Robin Hood, but each to their own ludicrous fantasy.
You do get better and quicker but it is still a fairly slow process to notch and draw and aim. That was why, after a few hours of archery and therefore a massive expert, it is easy to watch the Lord of the Rings and scoff as Legolas rapid-fires arrows into goblins and orcs. At least Robin Hood films had him firing an arrow normally, even if he tended to have a strange accent most of the time. Except it turns out I was wrong. It now seems there are certain techniques that can be used that make you a regular Hawkeye/Robin Hood/ Legolas/ other famous possibly fictional archer.
Thanks to studying ancient techniques and being generally pretty cool, Lars Andersen is a modern-day Legolas. (Tolkein wrote his books to be a mythology for western culture so it counts as the past.) He can fire arrows ridiculously quickly and can even catch an arrow and fire it back. It’s pretty bloody amazing and you should see for yourself. So here you go:
I saw this the other day and as a Simpsons fan, was massively impressed. I knew there were only a few actors who do the voices but when you see it graphically presented as to which actor plays which Simpson, it’s pretty awesome. There are some annoyingly talented people out there.
Here is the picture showing who does what. I hope you have a big monitor, the main three do a lot. Now go and watch an episode.
Do you have a phone or tablet and an ounce of adventure in your soul? If so, you should buy the game 80 Days as it is brilliant. It is basically a superbly written text adventure based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The writer, Meg Jayanth, is deservedly up for a Writer’s Guild Award for it and quite rightly so. The game’s tagline: The Year is 1872. Welcome to the future.
As you have probably guessed, the idea is to circumnavigate the globe in 80 Days. You are Passepartout and your job is to pack and find transport for the unflappable Phileas Fogg in an alternate history that is incredibly steampunk. At each stage you find yourself in strange adventures and on bizarre but awesome modes of travel like giant metal mechanical horses or colossal metal flying birds. Every route you take and every decision made can alter everything that follows. The game makers estimate that on each circumnavigation attempt you will probably see about 3% of the total game, so its replayability is superb.
The adventures you have are varied and frequently brilliant fun. They also adapt in line with what you are doing. For example, I bought some Katana swords in Hawaii thinking that I’d get a good price for them in San Francisco. But just after the trip began the chief engineer of our vessel was found murdered with my swords lying next to her as the murder weapon. I then had the remainder of the trip to interview all the suspects and find the murderer before we hit land. If I hadn’t bought the swords, none of that would have happened. Another adventure found me riding through India on a giant metal elephant, prisoner of a Kali death cult led by a beautiful princess. On yet another I had to break out a rebel from prison and spirit him to Shanghai. This all happened on just one trip.
I can’t recommend 80 days enough. It recaptures the wonder and adventure of the original book and is the best text adventure I have ever played. It is available on all mobile devices and I suggest you buy it now. In case you want more information, take a look at the publisher inkle studio’s website. (There are also pretty pictures.)
I would just like to wish you all a happy new year from the exciting, good looking, intelligent and international staff here at the Word of Ward. (It’s actually just me but all I just said holds true.)
I’ve had an exciting year where I changed country and job. Interestingly, the official date here in my bit of Southeast Asia is now 2558, which is pretty futuristic.
But you probably don’t care about that, so I will stop waffling and get to the point. Happy New Year and Happy 2015! I hope it finds you well.