The English have a coy euphemism for addiction: “moreish.” It summons the delightful anxiety in surrendering your control to something else, the ambivalent cocktail of desire and guilt. We feel it flickering in the periphery, and we feel our smartphones in the middle of a restaurant dinner.
Here's 53 minutes' worth of Soviet commercials from the 1970s and 1980s, produced by what's billed as the USSR's sole advertising agency:
In 1967, Estonia was founded the creative association "Reklamfilm Estonian / Eesti reklaamfilm" - the only one at that time in the Soviet Union studio, specialized in production kinoteleradioreklamy and "representational" commercials on the orders of the enterprises of trade, industry, services and amenities, colleges, vocational schools , traffic police and other organizations in the Soviet Union, this company for the production of television commercials was the work of a new and at that time quite bold. But among Estonian documentary was a very energetic person - Eedu Ojamaa. It was he who was able to implement such a complex idea in the USSR State Committee for Cinematography. "Estonian Reklamfilm" soon became the largest advertising company of the Soviet Union. He released a year nearly 350 commercials, and also created a lot of documentaries. The company has been amended in Leningrad and Moscow and Riga branch of executed orders for the Union. Among the customers were and Finnish companies. Until 1992, the "Estonian Reklamfilm" took more than 6,000 commercials and movies.
It is clear that under socialism, the absence of private ownership and competition television advertising had a slightly different look and pursued a very different purpose. The director, advertisers still did not have the strict limits and constraints, which are now exhibited customers promotional TV program. So they used all their creativity to create a bright memorable quality product.
For objective reasons, most subjectively and commercials, produced by the company, did not survive. This anthology - a collection of the private collection of Harry Egipta - a former director and screenwriter "Estonian Reklamfilma", called his colleagues "Norshtein advertising" for unusual associative moments in his work similar to the work of the author of "Hedgehog in the Fog". Credo Egipta in television commercials - catchy individual style fast in those days "video clip" assembly, original music and songs, and of course, beautiful women!
As mentioned Charlie Brooker's science fiction TV show Black Mirror is back for another season. This is the second coming of the Twilight Zone: scary, trenchant, clever and sparing in its use of special effects and fully immersive in its storytelling. I've just watched the first episode, "Be Right Back," for a second time, and found myself no less moved by it, but even more impressed by it -- full of tiny, unobtrusive grace-notes and sweet, low-key futuristic moves.
It's available through Channel 4's catch-up service in the UK, and if you use a UK proxy, you can stream it. Otherwise, you'll have to use your imagination to get your copy, or exercise patience. I'm sure that there'll be a second-series DVD (here's the first season).
This is Rex, a $1 million "bionic man" built in the UK by roboticists Richard Walker and Matthew Godden. Rex was the star of a new Channel 4 documentary titled "How to Build A Bionic Man." Rex is outfitted with a variety of synthetic systems and appendages, from prosthetic limbs to a cochlear implant, artificial pancreas to retinal implant. He's now on display at the London Science Museum but will visit America in October to promote the Smithsonian Channel's US premier of the documentary, retitled "Cyborg/Frankenstein."
Het Klokhuis (Dutch for "apple core") is an educational TV show for young people that's aired in the Netherlands for 25 years. They asked the amazing PES, whose "Fresh Guacamole" was nominated for a 2013 Oscar, to create a new title sequence.
David Byrne and St Vincent appeared on the David Letterman show this week to perform "I Should Watch TV" (a deliciously ironic choice, given the song's content) from their amazing album Love This Giant, which is my favorite new music in years. The stage performance is amazing, too.
Artist Chris Shen made a TV out of 625 discarded remote controls, hacking their LEDs to light up in a grid, creating a low-rez moving image. The Evil Mad Scientists posted his loving documentation of the the technical aspects of the project:
The main change to the Peggy was to solder molex headers instead of LEDs: this is to allow the wires to be easily plugged in and out of the board which is necessary when dismantling and reassembling the piece. Yes, all 625 remotes are numbered so they can be removed from the frame for transportation! The current and voltage was also adjusted fo IR LEDs as opposed to visible LEDs.
While researching, the main thing I was looking for was the ability to play video (live) on a low-res matrix. I looked into various ways of doing this but once I found the Peggy 2 kit it gave me confidence to go ahead with building Infra because of the open-source nature, existing work done by Windell, and Jay Clegg’s video Peggy mod.
I connect all the remote controls via 500 meters of speaker wire to the Peggy, held into the frame by a simple looped elastic band. The circuit is mounted to a sheet of acrylic as the circuit bowed with all the wire attached. Each remote had to be opened to solder the wire directly to the LEDs legs. The wire is then routed out through the back of the remote and closed back up.
The TV is on show in London, at 18 Hewett Street, London, EC2A 3NN, until 3rd February 2013.
Here's the trailer for the new season of Charlie Booker's Channel 4 science fiction series Black Mirror. The first season was the best science fiction TV I've ever seen, better even than The Twilight Zone. The trailer itself is so gloriously creepy and wonderful in every way that it makes me want to hide under the bed until the episodes start airing.
From Backdrops R Us, a grid of Fox News talking heads alongside classic shots of scenes from Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall (particularly members of the troupe in drag). The resemblances are uncanny.
Sidney Perkowitz is a physics professor at Emory University, and the author of several books that blend science and pop culture, including Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World. Seth Shostak is a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and a science advisor to multiple films, including Contact and the 2008 re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Together, they fight crime.
Okay, that last part isn't technically true. But it does make for a good story, and, in that, it actually does a really good job of showing you what these two men actually do. Both Perkowitz and Shostak work to bridge the gap between the people who do science and the people who make science fiction. They're involved in the Science and Entertainment Exchange — a National Academies of Sciences effort to bring scientists together with directors, producers, and writers. The goals: Help scientists do better public communication and make sci-fi more awesome. But there's a catch here, because "awesome" and "totally 100% accurate" are seldom the same thing.
This week, I spoke to Perkowitz and Shostak about what happens when science and entertainment cross streams, how you illustrate things nobody has ever seen, and why — even when the science in the movies is bad — science still wins.
Last weekend, I blogged about Jonathan Coulton's discovery that the TV show Glee had plagiarized his arrangement for "Baby's Got Back."
Now, the magnificent DJ Earworm writes, "This is my call-out tweet from last February, expressing surprise at the similarities between Glee's arrangement and my own which had aired just a few months previously. I didn't think much about it, but I read that Jonathan Coulton story, and it seemed so similar to my own experience, I thought I'd share."
Writing on Techdirt, Mike Masnick has a good, nuanced view of how this kind of thing works:
Yes, his is a cover song, but he introduced some variations that appear to be directly copied in Glee. Is there a potential copyright claim here? Well, that depends -- and the copyright law here is complex. You can cover a song by paying compulsory license fees, and Fox likely did that to whoever holds the copyright on the original. But they copied specific changes (and possibly the music) that Coulton added, which, could potentially be covered by his own copyright (of course, whether or not he registered them could also impact what he could do about it). And, let's not even get into the issue of things like sync licenses for video, and the (still open) question of whether or not Glee actually used part of Coulton's own recording.
In the end, though, almost none of that probably matters. Because Coulton seems unlikely (we hope) to go legal here. Instead, he's just going with the public shame route -- with a simple tweet about the situation, which has set off "the internet" to help him make his case and embarrass Fox and Glee.
The TV show Lost in Space featured a marvellous, transparent, caterpillar-tread space-rover called "The Chariot," which was adapted from a snow vehicle, but was groovily and spacily modded into something quite wonderful. The company that manufactured it later went on to produce solid rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle, the Mars Pathfinder airbags, and ejector seats:
"The Chariot" was a real, full-sized, fully operational vehicle, both in real-life and in the 1960s' fictional future. It was used to transport the Robinson family, pilot Don West, the robot, and the conniving Dr. Smith to virtually anywhere on whatever planet they would happen to be crash-landed on that week.
The Chariot was filmed on both the studio soundstage and at remote outdoor locations, which gave the show one of its few points of technical credibility. We never saw how the Robinsons stored the vehicle; I always assumed it folded neatly into the belly of the Jupiter II.
Chariot 6 This futuristic "Family Truckster" began life as a Thiokol Snowcat Spryte, powered by a Ford 170-cubic-inch inline-6 with 101 horsepower. It had a 4-speed automatic transmission, plus reverse. I hope there were some alien gas stations along their way, as the stock vehicle got 4-8 miles per gallon and came with a 15-gallon fuel tank. That's a 120-mile range at best.
The BBK BitTorrent box is a €90 set-top Android box that can stream content downloaded over BitTorrent directly to your TV; it can pull programming from the wider Internet, or from computers on your local network:
The first ever certified Android-powered BitTorrent box aims to change this. After the initial December launch was delayed, the BBK BitTorrent box officially goes up for sale today.
While we have seen devices that support BitTorrent downloads before, this is the first one that can can also stream content downloaded through uTorrent and BitTorrent clients on the local network.
This means that users can play content downloaded by uTorrent and BitTorrent directly on their TV. Below is a screenshot of the user interface, displaying the various BitTorrent clients the device can connect to wirelessly.
Since the device supports DLNA, users can also access other media libraries including the one from rival BitTorrent client Vuze and Apple’s iTunes.