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.
If you like Star Wars and you like Christmas, then you will like this. Some crazed fan of Christmas, Star Wars, John Williams, and Christmas Lights has gone all out. It is brilliantly done – although if you are a neighbour your views may differ.
If you get bored, skip ahead a bit as a medley it is. Personally, I think the guy (just a guess) could have used more Star Wars themed lights, but I guess this way he can keep his partner happy with some actual Christmas songs too.
You may have seen this but in case you missed it, there was a ridiculous show on Discovery the other day. Ok I will narrow it down. I used to work for Discovery and we broadcast such gems as Paralysed and Pregnant, I didn’t know I was pregnant, Too Fat for 15, a ton of stupid shows about ghosts and also shows about highly strung people looking for gold in various locales. Oh, and Honey Boo Boo.
“Eaten Alive” was an actual LIVE Discovery special, like when then that Nik Wallenda fellow crossed the Grand Canyon on a tightrope while reciting the bible. In that show, Discovery promised that the tightrope artist would cross the canyon (who may or may not be in the grips of religious fervour). Which is what actually happened – I was in the broadcast suite when we broadcast it live and it was tremendously exciting. He could have died at any second and we were all poised to cut to an ad break so you could be watching tampon adverts before he hit the canyon floor.
So recently they came up with another live spectacular called “Eaten Alive”. Given the title of this post you have probably already guessed what happens when a man called Paul Rosolie said he was going to be eaten alive by an anaconda. Some official programme descriptions even said you would see the belly of the beast. Lots of people complained that donning a squash-proof suit and then being eaten would be kind of cruel to the anaconda – who was just doing what it does after all. So when a mere 2 hours of anaconda goading goes past and the poor snake finally starts to eat him, you can imagine how the internet reacted when Mr Rosolie decides that he he doesn’t like it when his head is in the beasty’s mouth and it is squeezing his arms.
Apparently a 25 foot anaconda can squeeze quite hard and this came as something of a shock to all invloved. What I found a bit worrisome is how they managed to pull the poor snake off the attention seeking fool in such a short time. I bet they were a bit rough and as I said, the snake didn’t really ask to have a metal-clad publicity-grabbing moron stick his head in him.
No need to worry if you feel a strong compulsion to voice an opinion on this though, as online media has already shown Mr Rosolie what it feels.
This guy had one job. Literally one fucking job to get eaten alive and he fucked it up.
There are about a million more (sadly that’s not hyperbole), and that is just on Twitter.
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy a lot of Discovery’s output as some of their history and science shows are brilliant. But this sort of shite is pure sensationalism and when it backfires it rightly gets crapped on by social media. I would love to say that I hope some of the viewers then went on to watch something more cerebral on Discovery but I suspect they just switched over to some show about a hillbilly family digging for gold while having emotional crises of some kind.
I’ll get off my high horse here as all I’m effectively doing publicising crap and taking easy shots at a guy for being dumb, along with the rest of the internet. But at least I’m doing what I set out to do.
In case you still care, here is the video with some footage of the inside of an anaconda’s mouth. Gripping…
If you have ever been to Hong Kong you will find this fascinating. It’s pretty interesting even if you haven’t. This clip shows old footage of Hong Kong from 1938. So pre WW2. It was is travel clip called Hong Kong, Gateway to China. The place has changed a lot but it seems like it was always a interesting destination where cultures meet and mix. As someone who was born there in the 70s, lived there for 21 years, and who still visits regularly – I am always shocked how much it changes year to year, let alone decade to decade. Seeing it in the 30s is awesome.
There are times when I despair of humanity and our pointless scrabbling around, stressing over unimportant crap. But there are other times when I rejoice at how brilliant we are. Like landing a probe on a comet, cracking the genome, and now, setting a new speed record for completing Doom 2.
Doom 2: Hell on Earth is an old game that I personally spent hours upon hours playing back in the 90s. I used to play it for so long it would fill my dreams – the sounds, the monsters, the awesome shotgun. Apparently there is still a dedicated group out there who play it a lot. Amongst this elite group of non time wasters are an even more elite group of guys (probably guys, let’s face it) who compete to complete the game the fastest.
If you have ever played Doom 2, then the new record speed of 23 minutes and 25 seconds is probably going to floor you. It was set by someone called Zero Master and he has clearly played it a couple of times before. I spent weeks of my life to achieve what he does in 23:25, but to be fair, I probably enjoyed the experience more. If you want to see how it was done, well, here the the actual attempt in real time achieved by Zero Master. I doubt anyone would watch it in its entirety (apart from the aforementioned elite groups) but for old fans of the game, it brings back a nostalgic tear and a certain amount of awe.
I don’t normally read thrillers and apart from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, I probably haven’t read one in a decade. But someone recommended The Killing Floor, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series generally, so I thought I would give it a go. This is the first Jack Reacher book and I have to say, I mostly loved it. I will probably read more.
A quick premise of the plot: Jack Reacher is a double hard bastard who is framed for a murder in a small town in America. I can’t really say much more without giving away a ton of plot. Needless to say there is a lot of action, a shed load of twists, turns and revelations, a hot woman and lashings of violence. There is also a fair amount of cliche and some massive coincidences that may stretch feasibility at times, but with a book this exciting, who cares?
I have read a few complaints about the way Lee Child writes and I suppose they have a point. He frequently writes short sentences. Quite a lot in fact. A bit like I am now. Some find it annoying. I got used to it. Read a bit. See what you think.
I will keep this review short and sweet. I thoroughly enjoyed The Killing Floor by Lee Child and will probably read a few more of his books. I am now going to watch the film with Tom Cruise and bitch about it.
You can get The Killing Floor by Lee Child by clicking this handy link:
A load of engineers, mechanics, scientists, artists and other robot-obsessed types have got together for an exciting, if slightly geeky, Kickstarter project. They have decided to make giant robot mechanoids, piloted by humans, fighting in a massive arena, a real thing. Their dream is to have a tournament where these metallic behemoths battle is out in large arenas while overweight nerds bay for the sight of leaking oil. Here is what the team has to say on their Megabots Kickstarter page.
“The mad scientists at MegaBots, Inc. have been zealously working on the prototypes and final design of 15-foot-tall, 15,000-pound, walking humanoid combat robots with giant, modular pneumatic cannons for arms. A driver-and-gunner team pilot each MegaBot in a battle against other MegaBots, vehicles, and a variety of other defenses and obstacles in live-action combat – the likes of which the world has only dreamed of through video games and movies.”
While I am down with most things that fascinate geeks, I never really got into mechanoids/megabots/transformers or whatever. I just thought I would help publicise this because I think a world with a giant fighting robot league is better that one without. To see the Megabots Kickstarter page click on this link now. For $999,999 you can have your very own Megabot with seat warmers and a cup-holder. What a bargain.
I haven’t done this in a while, so please show some support. I have just moved back to Bangkok and need some Somtam money so thought I would plug my travel book: Australia, Morocco, Thailand – Three True Travel Stories. I have a few reviews on the Amazon UK site but only one on the Amazon US site. You can buy it by clicking this link here that you are looking at now.
Fortunately the lovely lady who wrote the US review was very nice about it. So instead of my usual blurb, I will just post her 5 star review. My dearest American buddies, a few more reviews would make my day. Thanking you in advance. Here is the review of Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories:
A belly laugh from start to finish!
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. The author writes science fiction, but I sincerely hope he will take a break soon and give us some more non-fiction. I also think that a snappier title and more interesting cover art would keep this very good book from being overlooked.
Just on the off chance I haven’t linked to my wonderful little book enough here you go:
If you are a regular reader you may be aware that I occasionally use the odd superlative, too many swearwords, and am guilty of overusing the phrase ‘awesome’. Well, thanks to a Spanish filmmaker called Fede Castro, you are going to see me massively revert to type. This time lapse video of Earth from space is fucking awesomely brilliant. It uses footage released by NASA’s Johnson Space Center and makes the Earth look ever so pretty.
There are times when I despair about humans (usually religion related) and there are times when I think we are an incredible species striving for knowledge and achieving amazing things (usually science or creativity related). This clip makes me think the latter. Go science.
You know how graphics are getting better and more realistic all the time but people’s faces still look weird? Well, here is how good computer graphics are getting. This is Ed and he will show you how we are progressing with that.
I saw these the other day and they were weird enough for me want to share. A graphic artist called Hayden Zezula created these eternal looping bursts of oddness and put them out on twitter. And possibly elsewhere. If you like a weird gif featuring babies and limbs (who doesn’t right?) then you have come to the right place. More can be found on Hayden Zezula’s twitter page (@zolloc).
If you want to see more, Hayden Zezula (@Zolloc) can be found on twitter here:
Japan has its very own real life Batman – Chibatman. As you can see he looks just like Batman. Sadly he doesn’t solve crimes, he just kind of rides around and cheers people up. His identity is a secret though. Well, except for the fact that he is a 41 year old welder. Also, the police know who he is. Oh, and the video below seems to show his house. Other that, this mysterious crusader patrols the streets of Chiba in Japan (hence Chibatman) exactly like the real Batman. You know what I mean. Here is a hard hitting report from the BBC: