Last night, a gang of us went to see Andy Nyman's Ghost Stories, a horror stage-show on at the Hammersmith Lyric theatre in London. I know Andy through his work as a writer/director for Derren Brown's excellent shows, and the times I've met him, he's struck me as a sweet, laid-back guy, so even though I'd heard Ghost Stories was properly scary, I went in feeling pretty easy about the evening.
That lasted until about the third second of the show. I don't want to give away any spoilers by telling you too much about the plot, but I can tell you this: Andy plays a parapsychologist giving a lecture to an audience about the absurdity of believing in ghost stories. His character is also sweet, though not very laid back, and the stories he recounts are, in fact, scary as fuck. Especially when combined with the most menacing sound-design I've ever had vibrate through my colon, and some extremely clever staging, and really excellent acting from the small cast.
There were about eight of us last night -- including a couple of magicians, some game designers, and various kind of media creators -- and every one of us came out of there visibly shaken. When we got home, my wife made me get out of bed to make sure the doors were all locked (and I turned on the lights before I did).
The show runs until April 17, and there's even a midnight show on Friday. I don't get out very often -- the exigencies of having a toddler at home -- and every time I do, I ask myself whether this is going to be worth the expense in babysitters and missed sleep (the kid gets up at 5AM every day). This one was absolutely worth it.
One of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's founding principles was Mitch Kapor's aphorism, "Architecture is politics." The design of systems determines the kinds of politics that can take place in them, and designing a system is itself a political act. As part of EFF's ongoing 20th anniversary celebrations, it held a panel called "Architecture is policy" at Carnegie-Mellon, featuring Ed Felten, Dave Farber, Lorrie Cranor, John Buckman, and Cindy Cohn -- all heavy hitters in their own right, and dynamite together. This is one of the more thoughtful and thought-provoking hours you could spend today.
With each frame hand-drawn in pencil and smudged into the next, Oscar-winning animator Frédéric Back tells the story of Elzéard Bouffier, a lone shepherd in the Alps near Provence who boldly decides to single-handedly reforest the desolate valley where he lives, one acorn at a time. Not only is the story defiantly romantic, I'm in love with the way Back's patient devotion to each drawing mimics the methodical tree-planting of his main character. Along with being unabashedly earnest and quietly inspiring, it's some of the most stunning and startlingly original animation that I've seen.
I really recommend watching all three parts in one sitting, and especially recommend finding or buying a proper copy of it so you can see it in higher definition, because the detail and motion of it is unreal.
There are two sides to every wacky story. Let's hear from the mimes. Lena Graber is one of three you see in the video who later pressed charges against Beck's bodyguard. She told the blog Wonk Room:
They were pretty aggressive and they would sort of elbow us out of the way and say "Don't touch me" as they were doing so. One of the bodyguards had white makeup all over his elbow and he was all upset that the mimes had gotten makeup on him...but our makeup was on our faces and I wasn't face-bunting anyone so I felt like that was more incriminating evidence than anything else.
We each started with about 15 balloons that were on ribbons and the taller bodyguard had a pocket knife and he would grab the balloons and pop them with the knife. And at one point when I still had a lot of balloons they were tied around my upper arm...and I felt this yank on my arm where they were tied around. And I turned and he was pulling on all of the ribbons...so that was the only time I talked, I said "OW, that hurts. That's attached to my arm, stop that." And he didn't stop and so I screamed as loud as I could.
Joe Biden thinks health care reform is a big fucking deal. (See video above. In related news, Joe Biden continues to come in a close second behind the Apostle Peter as my personal Patron Saint of ADHD.) If you read the papers of record, however, you will see him quoted as saying "...", "[expletive]" or "profane term". Sadly, "fracking" does not yet seem to be AP style.
The bhut jalokia, or ghost chili, has a Scoville heat measurement of 1 million units—compare to jalapenos, which top out around 8000 units. Prior to 2003, it was just a myth, lacking even photographic evidence. Now, it's in the Guinness Book and will soon be the key ingredient in tear-gas hand grenades used by the Indian military. Apparently, it also has an appealing citrus flavor, followed by a horrible burning sensation.
For a quick look at what jolokia hath wrought, fast forward to about six minutes into this video. There's much less running about screaming than I would have guessed, but the man ends up looking very physically ill—pale, sweaty and generally like he just came down with a bad case of flu.