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Burning Man, TV pranks and twerks gone horribly awry in this week’s Staff Picks

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: World’s best twerk

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the Mylie Cyrus twerkocalypse changed me as a man … in a bad way. Since Cyrus’ fateful VMA performance, twerking has fully saturated our culture. The Oxford English Dictionary added “twerk” to its roster of words (in the online-only ODS, not the sanctified print version, thank God). And Americans everywhere are twerking it up all over the place – including this girl. She had the good sense to record herself having a full-blown twerk-fest in her apartment when things went gloriously, gloriously wrong. You might ask yourself why someone would flip themselves upside down on the front door while doing a stupid dance. You might ask why she has a bottle of high-proof liquor sitting next to an open flame on her glass table. You might even ask yourself why this poor soul would record this in the first place. But all of those questions are irrelevant in the face of the perfectly amazing outcome. You’re welcome. Update: Just as you probably guessed, this video was faked (by Jimmy Kimmel).

caleb-denisonCaleb Denison: So realistic it’s scary

Last week, I whined and moaned over how lame tech-related advertisements have gotten. This week, I wanted to point to a case of successful viral marketing that I think should serve as a model for what televised ads could become; even if it is completely staged.

For the past few months, LG has published a series of hilarious prank videos that suggest its IPS monitors and Ultra HD televisions look so real, they can scare the crap out of people. LG started with a video showing riders in an elevator freaking out at what they think is an emergency failure. A follow-up video had guys in a bathroom thinking they were getting spied on by sexy ladies. But this most recent video featuring LG’s 84-inch Ultra HD television may be the most entertaining of all.

The video below quickly went viral, picking up over 3 million views in three days. Based on the comments of several Chilean YouTubers, the terrified prank victims are all known actors in the country, suggesting the whole thing is staged. And while that may be true (and a little disappointing, we know…sorry!) it doesn’t take away from the fact that people everywhere love it. So why not take this approach and adapt it for television? It would be way better than this boring lifestyle drivel.

bill-robersonBill Roberson: In space, even nothing is something

You know that picture of the Earth from space, the one they call the “blue marble” photo? It is certainly worthy of its iconic stature, having been called the most important photo ever taken and the spark that lit the environmentalist movement in the late 60s and 70s.

But there’s another space photo I love called the Hubble Deep Field. Yeah, it looks like just another picture of galaxies and stuff from the always-amazing Hubble Telescope. But the truly amazing thing about the Hubble Deep Field is how it came to be. In 1995, scientists controlling the shiny eye in the sky pointed the crosshairs at a tiny, tiny spot in space where, essentially, there wasn’t anything to see. Then they left the shutter open for 10 days. What resulted was pure amazement.

Except for a few nearby stars (easily identifiable due to their pointy parts), most everything in the frame is a galaxy, and each galaxy contains hundreds of millions or billions of stars. The photo also allows time travel of a sort, as some of the galaxies in the photo are so far away they formed billions of years ago shortly after the universe began. Now, scientists have created a mathematically correct “fly-though video” of the Deep Field, giving it a sort of Star Trek opening sequence quality (try it full screen).

Of course, given the smashing success of the Hubble Deep Field image, NASA tasked the Hubble Space Telescope to repeat the performance in 1998, 2004 and 2012. The results were the same: where it appeared there was nothing, just about everything was found.

natt garunNatt Garun: Burning Man looks like something I would never survive

Despite hailing from Bangkok, Thailand, I don’t think I’d last more two days in the desert heat. Which is why I gawk at every photo being released from last week’s Burning Man festival, a gathering in middle of nowhere, Nevada to celebrate… peace, love, and hippie-ism? As a Burning Man noob, everything I’ve heard about the festival sounds like something I’d hate. Dust and sand everywhere. Lack of hygiene. Drunk, drugged-up bikini girls hula-dancing all the time. I’ve been told from time to time that lives are changed at Burning Man, so maybe one of these years when my little lungs can handle it, I’ll have to make a trip out to Black Rock City and experience this first hand. Who knows, maybe it will be relaxing to unplug and unwind in the desert for a whole week. But until then, my uncertainty remains. I could still appreciate the beauty from afar in these photos from The Atlantic, though. Thank goodness computers don’t have a smell-o-vision technology integrated in them yet.

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Les ShuLes Shu: A camera shop owner builds a photogenic home on the beach

What do you do after living and raising two daughters in the suburbs for many years? For Hedy and Samy Kamienowicz, owners of the popular Samy’s Camera shops in California, the answer was moving to the beach, but not just into some bland condo rental, mind you. The Kamienowiczs built a picture-perfect, Bauhaus-inspired home right on Venice Beach.

The Kamienowiczs gave their architect, Dan Brunn, free reign over the design of the house – an architect’s dream client. In return, Brunn created a beautiful home with clean lines and form-follows-function design. The only criteria the Kamienowiczs requested was that it had an elevator, not brown, and plenty of wall space to display the couple’s photo collection.

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