• Cat proves to be surprisingly competent piano player

    For all the things one can say about social media—grinding our attention spans down into nothing, promoting vanity and conspicuous consumption—I have this to say for it: it makes long-distance collaboration easier than ever. Take, for instance, this improvised jazz trio consisting of a bassist, a drummer… and a cat?

    Barney the Piano Cat, as he's called, is evidently quite a prolific musician in his own right, proving that one doesn't need opposable thumbs to sound good. It's just good to see someone carrying the mantle of our dear departed Keyboard Cat and keeping the fantastical feline spirit alive.

  • Dumb Ways to Die, 10 years later

    The viral Dumb Ways to Die video celebrated its tenth anniversary at the end of November, so it only seems right to revisit it now. The original video is nothing more than a cute song and an animation, showcasing people meeting their unfortunate and often comedic demises with a healthy amount of stylization to keep it lighthearted. It was originally produced as a safety PSA for Metro Trains Melbourne, but the catchy song and endearing visuals made it a viral hit beyond any Australian marketing executive's wildest dreams.

    In the intervening years, the PSA has gone on to spawn sequels, holiday spinoffs, and – bafflingly – a series of mobile games. It may be true that it's become a bit distanced from its civic-minded origins, but who could say no to watching an adorable bean go splat?

    I thought so.

  • The Internet's (justified) obsession with quokkas

    Quokkas enjoy an online renaissance, for obvious reasons. Just look at them! These plucky, perpetually-smiling marsupials have captured the hearts of the Internet, to the point where there are now entire accounts dedicated to tweeting hourly pictures of them.

    Despite their jovial appearance, quokkas can be a bit skittish- on the off chance you encounter one in the wild, the Nature Conservancy of Australia has prepared a few easy tips to ensure all goes smoothly:

    1. Be patient – let the Quokkas come to you rather than chase them
    2. Early morning and early evening are the best times 
    3. Quokkas closest to the settlements are the ones most accustomed to tourists
    4. Don't touch the Quokkas!
    5. Never feed the Quokkas or give them a drink – human foods are very bad for their health

    There you are, prepared to go forth and take all the selfies your heart desires. Just resist the temptation to smuggle one back home with you, and you'll be golden.

  • The real garden gnomes of the 1800s

    Consider the humble garden gnome: a jolly little fellow in a red hat, smiling passively at passersby. Perfectly innocent, right? Well, what if I told you that the precursor to the garden gnome tradition used to involve real people paid to live in gardens? It sounds like something out of a dystopian novel, but no. It was a very real practice, and not even that long ago:

    One such ad placed by Charles Hamilton outlined the expectations for a hermit-in-residence as follows:

    …he shall be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, beard, or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton's grounds, or exchange one word with the servant.

    The more eccentricities the hermit possessed, the better. While some consider modern-day hermits' preference for sequestration pathological, 18th century Europe lauded an individual's proclivity toward solitude, and paid a pretty penny to those willing to go nearly a decade without a bath or new clothing.

    In essence, men were recruited to serve as living decorations on the properties of rich landowners. The hermit's presence would be an enduring symbol of quiet solitude, no matter how many tedious garden parties were held. Human ornaments. If it sounds horrific and dehumanizing, that's because it was. Personally, I prefer the lack of ethical concerns that come with a simple ceramic gnome.

  • "Palworld" promises to be Pokémon for adults

    Do you remember the last time you played Pokémon? Maybe you were a kid, or maybe you've continued pushing through the franchise's buggy new releases. Either way, if you've ever written a letter to Game Freak and asked them why you can't use your Pokémon as unskilled laborers, steal them from fellow Trainers, or eat them for sustenance, here's the cure to your woes. Upcoming game Palworld from Japanese development studio Pocket Pair has you covered. It promises players all of the above and more. Its Steam Page is replete with delightfully wicked features. You can poach endangered Pals (its lawyer-friendly version of Pokémon) from protected habitats, put them to work in factories and farms, and if all else fails, just shoot them.

    With a gun.

    It does seem to have functional multiplayer, though, which sets it firmly above Pokémon in my book.

    Palworld is set to release on Steam in 2023. No price has been announced.

  • Elon Musk feuds with Apple, teases possible Tesla phone

    Everyone's favorite billionaire is complaining again! This time, Elon is calling out Apple for pulling ads from Twitter, singling them out as enemies of free speech despite a laundry list of other companies doing the same. He then went on a bit of a retweeting spree, endorsing a Fortnite parody of Apple's classic '1984' commercial and complaining about the fact that they take a cut from app sales to keep their storefront running.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    Maybe it's all just viral marketing for a potential Tesla Phone.

    One can only hope it'll explode less often than his cars.

  • YouTube channel "Sanding Shit" grinds random items to nothing

    Remember the simple joys of the hydraulic press craze? Truth be told, it may be incorrect to refer to it in the past tense, given that it's still going strong over on places like TikTok- and, evidently, has branched out into a wider "using industrial tools to destroy stuff for fun" trend. A YouTube channel aptly named "Sanding Shit" has jumped onto the bandwagon with gusto, making content out of – what else? – feeding household objects to their terrifying belt sander. Have a gander at this sander:

    There's just something morbidly fascinating about watching Goku be ground to nothing, isn't there? What are we if not action figures on the industrial belt sander of life?

  • Artist creates "new form of life" on the world's beaches

    The headline is conjuring up images of a dark, spooky castle as a wannabe Dr. Frankenstein leans over a horrific, blood-spattered operating table—but Theo Jansen and his Strandbeests (previously at Boing Boing) are a far cry from the pages of any gothic horror novel. The Dutch artist's spindly, tube-constructed creatures move across the beach through the power of the wind alone, creating the effect of some kind of alien insect silently crossing the sand. It's very cool- and not a little unsettling. According to the artist himself:

    In the 80's I was a columnist for De Volkskrant (a Dutch newspaper). The pieces I wrote were a kind of trips in the imagination. In one of those columns I wrote about a kind of skeletons on the beach that moved by the wind. They scooped up sand and my idea was that they would raise the dunes in that way and protect the Netherlands from rising sea level. I was obsessed by this idea and bought electricity tube in a DIY store. After some experiments with it, I had gained so many ideas and inspiration that I promised myself to give one year to this material. This intention totally got out of hand. […] I love my animals but not in the same way as I love people, for that they are too far away from us in evolution.

    What do you think of this "new form of life"? Would you run away screaming if you saw one lumbering toward you? There's no shame in it. I probably would too.

  • Risky playgrounds: enriching or dangerous?

    Australia is back at it. Melbourne artist and engineer Mike Hewson created a "risky play park", drawing ire from parents and delight from local children. It looks totally badass, full of ziplines and suspended nets, and is absolutely the kind of thing I'd have wanted to hop on ten years ago and given my mother a heart attack in the process.

    Hewson staunchly defends the installation, his fourth such project in recent years:

    "It was absolutely rammed on the weekend," he told Guardian Australia in February. "The proof is in the people who are there."

    While Hewson says that all of his playgrounds are public art "outcomes", announcing them as such may stir up an even bigger stink. "The community hugely scrutinises public art spending," says Hewson. "But they come around when something has a function. No one's going to go to a sculpture every day, but they'll go to a playground all year."

    Evidently, Melbourne has taken his side. What do you think? Despite its intimidating appearance, the playground is replete with safety features, including soft-fall foam flooring that only looks like Melbourne's classic bluestone. Is it worth giving kids a robust play space if it comes with increased risk, no matter how relatively small that risk may be? I leave that to the concerned parents of Melbourne—but personally, you'd have to wrestle me away from this thing even in my twenties.

  • Disco Elysium and the death of art

    The year is 2007, and it is a cold day in Estonia. Robert Kurvitz is writing a book.

    He was born in a country that no longer exists, a slice of the USSR nominally given its own self-determination. The proper term used by the Soviets was 'administrative divison', but it may as well mean 'vassal state'. In his lifetime, he's watched his homeland and its people change around him, read Strugatsky and Dostoevsky, grappled with the feeling of being utterly, irrevocably at odds with the changing world around him. For years, Robert and his friends, calling themselves the ZA/UM Cultural Association, have been working on something: a tiny, idealized, glittering miniature of the overlapping systems connecting and dividing people- the world of Elysium, a mirror to our own; albeit a cracked one.

    In 2013, Sacred and Terrible Air, Kurvitz' novel and the first artistic work set in Elysium, is released in Estonia. It is a critical failure, failing to sell more than a thousand copies, and its poor reception sends Kurvitz into an alcoholic spiral.

    ZA/UM pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again. In 2019, Disco Elysium, a role-playing game set in Elysium, is released to rave reviews. ZA/UM have made the turn from warehouse art collective to semi-functional video game studio with grace, and despite their modest budget, the sheer strength of the art design, writing, and the way in which the world reacts organically to the player captivates thousands. Disco Elysium, a game steeped very intentionally in the murky Soviet-era politics of Kurvitz' youth, nonetheless finds global success, both commercially and critically, and puts ZA/UM on the map.

    This is, of course, where the troubles begin. Using its new windfall, ZA/UM released an update to Disco Elysium in 2021, adding new content and completing the game's initially scant voice acting… and then fell silent.

    In 2022, it was announced that the ZA/UM Cultural Association had been dissolved, leaving only ZA/UM the video game studio. To make matters worse, the top talent from the former Cultural Association, including Kurvitz himself – people largely responsible for the success of the game, and for creating Elysium long before ZA/UM even existed – had been ousted from the studio by new investors as they pursued monetization schemes that went directly against the anti-capitalist sensibilities of the original ZA/UM and even Disco Elysium itself.

    It's almost too cruelly ironic, and deeply, deeply saddening. To quote the game itself:

    That's how simple it is. One may dye their hair green and wear their grandma's coat all they want. Capital has the ability to subsume all critiques into itself. Even those who would critique capital end up reinforcing it instead.

    Disco Elysium was a beautiful moment in time, a genuine breath of fresh air in a gaming industry bogged down with yearly series and microtransactions. Here was a deeply strange game, but one with something to say, one that transported you into a world very much like our own but different enough to paint its lessons in allegories and metaphors when subtlety was needed. Disco Elysium was a singular piece of art, a true masterpiece… and the moment it proved profitable, the vultures descended to cannibalize it. Kurvitz and the rest of the original ZA/UM are fighting their ousting in court, fighting tooth and nail to preserve their life's work- and while I remain optimistic that their fight may end in victory, it's hard not to envision a future Disco Elysium 2 that comes with its own battle pass and nickel-and-diming character skins.

    Pre-order today to get three extra paragraphs of existential ennui!

  • Martin Scorsese acknowledges Goncharov

    The Goncharov mania has finally come full circle. Fans of Martin Scorsese's nonexistent 1973 gangster epic have been waiting with bated breath for someone to get him to speak out on the film- and their vindication has finally come, courtesy of none other than his daughter Francesca.

    Francesca Scorsese, Martin's daughter and a budding actress in her own right, recently shared a post to her Tiktok account in which she singlehandedly fulfills the dreams of thousands of Tumblr users and asks her dad point-blank about Goncharov. His response?

    Yes. I made that film years ago.

    You read that right- not only is Martin Scorsese aware of the Goncharov meme, he's even in on the joke. Between this and Twitter's downward spiral, Tumblr users have more to feel good about than they have in quite a while.

  • There's a giant lobster in Australia, because of course there is

    Australia, land of horrible prehistoric megafauna. If it's not one of the thousand varieties of murderous marsupial, it's the dinner plate-sized spiders. Therefore, I found it no surprise that it should be home to one more giant creature: the Big Lobster of Kingston SE, affectionately nicknamed 'Larry' by the locals.

    Don't worry. This lobster is made of steel and fiberglass rather than chitin and rage, and is quite safe, as long as you don't consider modest takeaway food to be dangerous. Given Australia's reputation, though, I wouldn't be surprised if Larry has made more than one tourist think twice about their choice of destination.

  • ACAB? All Cops Are Blobby, Apparently

    Isn't it strange how the simplest thing can send you tumbling down a rabbit hole? Take, for instance, this creative post from Reddit, showing off a handmade action figure that declares 'All Cops Are Blobby' – an obvious play on the quick and catchy 'ACAB' slogan making the rounds in recent years. For those of you around during the 90s, in Britain, you may have gotten the joke, had a sensible chuckle, and gone about your day. For me, though, a certified child of the 2000s? Not so.

    I'm not ashamed to admit that Blobby haunted my restless dreams for a while. Everywhere I went, I saw those yellow polka dots, that manic grin—until finally, I broke down and searched for Blobby's origins.

    This did not make it better.

    I have to say, though: a large, pale, pinkish creature showing up out of nowhere to ruin your day?

  • Kanye West spotted with prominent far-right figures

    As Kanye West slides into the far right, he's ramping up his political aspirations to match. This week he was spotted at Donald Trump's Florida residence with alt-right darlings Nick Fuentes—a white supremacist and Holocaust denier—and pedophilia-excusing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous.

    Consequence of Sound explains:

    As West himself revealed in a new campaign-style video released to Twitter on Thursday
    evening, he and Fuentes recently traveled to Mar-A-Lago, where they pitched Donald
    Trump on being West's running mate for the 2024 presidential election. In the video, he
    is seen debriefing with Fuentes and campaign staffer / fellow alt-right personality, Milo
    Yiannopoulos. "I walked in with intelligence," West recounts. "Trump was really
    impressed with Nick Fuentes."

    Right Wing Watch tweeted:

    "On his way to meet Trump at Mar-a-Lago yesterday, Kanye West
    was filmed walking through Miami's airport with misogynistic antisemitic white nationalist
    Christian fascist incel Nick Fuentes."

    X17 Online posted a video of Kanye announcing his 2024 Presidential Campaign, and revealing
    Milo Yiannopoulos as his campaign manager. Newsweek calls Milo an "alt-right agitator who himself has been accused of antisemitism."

    And SCMP Style explains that:

    Yiannopoulos rose to infamy for his hate speech about Islam, feminism and the LGBTQ+
    community, as well as nurturing relationships with neo-Nazi and antisemitic figures and calling it "free speech".

    The implications of this move are concerning, to say the least. Kanye has fallen in hard with the far right after his infamous "death con 3" comments, and to see him now courting open fascists is anything but reassuring. With any luck, Kanye will end up where he was during his first run—a fringe candidate alienating his old audience and unable to appeal to a new one.

  • Demanding Shiba Inu more than makes up for it by being adorable

    How much do you love your pets? Even if your fur babies are like real babies to you, you may have some competition from Cody and his Shiba Inu. This video put together by The Dodo highlights the sweet relationship between a man (Cody) and his dog (Taurus), and puts the sacrifices we all make for our canine companions front and center. In the video, you see a day in the life, which sees Cody wake up too early, skip breakfast to go for walks first, wait while they sniff and inspect everything on those walks, prepare special meals, groom Taurus, give him the bulk of the bed, and even more.

    Demanding seems to be an understatement- but even if Cody seems a bit put out at times, love conquers all. I'm sure it's all worth it for the faceful of licks.

  • r/ShittyAnimalFacts puts the fun back in misinformation

    It's an understatement to say truth has become nebulous in recent years, so it's refreshing to be confronted with lies so unsubtle, hilarious and over-the-top that it wraps right back around to being funny. Such is the ethos behind the Shitty Animal Facts subreddit, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Did you know, for instance, that a bull's horns indicate how loud it is?

    Next time you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed with it all, give yourself an exceptionally stupid palette cleanser. Look at this funny horse. Even as you read these words, someone out there is editing archival footage of animals into something absurd. It's the circle of life.

  • Club Q mass shooting continues disturbing trend

    You've likely already heard of the latest in America's ever-growing list of mass shootings. If you haven't, to summarize — on the night of the 19th, five people were killed and 24 injured at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. For many, myself included, this summons heartbreaking memories of Bryan Almonte's murder, or the Pulse nightclub shooting, or the Ruby Deluxe attack, or any number of attacks against the LGBT community for the simple crime of existing. For President Biden to say there is 'no clear motive' for this horrific crime at a time when right-wing fearmongering is convincing millions of people that the LGBT community is grooming their children and politicians are building entire platforms off of hate feels like a slap in the face. More than ever, it seems like we're sliding backwards rather than progressing — and that's going to be a feeling that's hard to shake as long as crimes like this are committed.

    It feels like an old, tired play at this point — a gunman with mental health issues (this time, he'd been arrested once before for threats of violence) commits mass murder after the system fails him, the national debate against gun control sparks up for a few days, and then nothing happens until the cycle starts over. Have we become so desensitized? Is this our new normal? What is it going to take for us to wake the fuck up and do something?

  • Kevin Smith puts on film festival showing off the best of New Jersey

    Think "New Jersey cinema" for a moment. Really think. What cinematic masterpieces from New York's awkward neighbor are you conjuring? If you're coming up with The Sopranos and absolutely nothing else, the SModCastle film festival may be for you.

    Put on by Kevin Smith of Clerks fame and running from November 30th to December 4th, the festival promises to be nothing if not… interesting, featuring short films with such titles as Karma Bums, The Hat Man, and Eugene vs. Humanity. Unfortunately, I'm more or less on the exact opposite side of the country from New Jersey, so I won't be able to comment on the quality (or lack thereof) of the entries- but if any New Jersians happen to be reading this and feel like dropping ten bucks on it, I implore you to let me know. Anyone will tell you that low-budget movies of questionable artistic integrity are a particular hobby of mine (The Room ranks as one of my favorite films ever made, to give you an idea) and not being able to witness the baby gazelle-like first steps of a new generation of auteurs just breaks my heart.

  • Jack Daniel's goes to the Supreme Court over a parody dog toy

    Something tells me that the Brown-Foreman corporation, the manufacturers of Jack Daniel's whiskey since 1956, may have been sampling a bit too much of their own product. A seemingly innocent chew toy parodying the whiskey brand's iconic bottle design (taking the form of a bottle of 'Bad Spaniel's') has attracted the distillery's ire, to the point where they are now attempting to take the case to the Supreme Court:

    The toy that has Jack Daniel's so doggone mad mimics the square shape of its whisky bottle as well as its black-and-white label and amber-colored liquor while adding what it calls "poop humor." While the original bottle has the words "Old No. 7 brand" and "Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey," the parody proclaims: "The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet." Instead of the original's note that it is 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it's "43% Poo by Vol." and "100% Smelly."

    Now, does this fall under the First Amendment? I couldn't tell you, and that task may fall to the justices of the Supreme Court. Manufacturers of hard liquor being irritable, belligerent and sour-tempered, though? Who possibly could have guessed?

  • British man catches absolutely massive goldfish

    Sometimes, I think that fishing is a hobby of the distant past. This is motivated in large part, admittedly, by the last time I went fishing, wherein all I was able to get on the hook was my father's foot. And sometimes, every once in a blue moon, something happens to completely shatter that unfortunate misconception. Today is one of those times. British fisherman Andy Hackett has caught one of the biggest goldfish in the world at a lake in Champagne, France. To get an idea of its mind-boggling size, you really need to watch the video below.

    Imagine taking that home from the pet store as a kid. Even this little clip of Hackett's success has me wanting to test the waters again, as it were- as long as others keep a healthy distance.