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Ostrichcopters, unflattering glamor shots, and more in this week’s Staff Picks

jennifer-bergenJen Bergen: Cassettes aren’t dead yet

In a recent conversation with the DT editors, I argued that cassette tapes are not dead. After all, the popular yearly Record Store Day event has inspired the first ever Cassette Store Day. Though I won’t argue in defense of the cassette in terms of quality, tone, depth, and ability to be well preserved, I will argue that cassettes are still around, and people, often in the more indie/DIY scenes, are buying them up. Some contemporary bands, like Dirty Beaches, are even releasing their albums on cassette. But besides the cool retro-factor of it, there is one advantage of cassettes: demagnetizing.

In a 15-minute long documentary, a Stockholm-based guy named Micke, also known as “The Magnetist,” talks about his obsession with cassettes. “There’s something about the creation of a mix tape that you can’t compare to making a playlist on Spotify,” Micke says in the documentary. “Something gets lost … some kind of magic disappears.” Micke plays with the cassette’s sound by pulling out the magnetic tape, using a magnet to demagnetize certain parts, spooling it back with a pencil (you know, like you did in the old days when your tape got stuck in the player), and seeing how it transforms the sound. Check out the video below to hear the fascinating story of a guy who still uses a Walkman.

Adam RosenbergAdam Rosenberg: It’s alive! (again)

Common knowledge tells us that ostriches can’t fly. They can run really fast and they lay gargantuan eggs, but the miracle of flight forever eludes them. In life, at any rate. Dead ostriches can fly, and they do fly… but only after they’ve been stuffed by a taxidermist and converted into a remote control quadcopter. DUH.

natt garunNatt Garun: Corruption of the cowbell

Is there anything better than Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”? If Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel awkwardly dancing to it in public doesn’t do it for you, then try this rendition on Jimmy Fallon where members of The Roots and Mr. Thicke himself perform the song using classroom instruments. Inappropriate lyrics meet the innocence of child toys equals wildly hot but a little messed-up entertainment. My favorite is obviously the guy in the lower right corner shaking a banana. Subtle sexiness in its purest form! You guys, this is why I moved to America. Now if only there was more cowbell…

amir iliafarAmir Iliaifar: The camera doesn’t love you

Every week I scour the Internet hoping for something interesting to present for my staff pick, and every week I am amazed at how generous the Web is when it comes to random, stupid, yet oh-so-mesmerizing crap that for all intents and purposes cause me to question how the human race manages to still live on.

This week I present this awesome – a very loose definition of awesome, mind you – collection of 28 glamor shots (glamour if you’re fancy – or British) that prove not all people are destined for greatness in front of a lens. These shots will likely cause you to laugh, cry, but mostly just cringe.

I can’t attest to how real these are (a lot of them look like they have been given the old Photoshop treatment) but they’re still pretty amazing.

As a side note: My lawyer advises me to warn you that I absolve myself from any nightmares or mental scarring that may occur from viewing this list.

Check out the full list here as well as my top five picks below.

  1. 15 (I just really don’t want to know who or what prompted this one)
  2. 7 (Hipster glasses: check. Mutton chops: check. Serial killer smirk: check)
  3. 9 (These two are actually brother and sister. True story)
  4. 11 (Just. Wow. Why?)
  5. 18 (What Obi-Wan Kenobi was doing prior to meeting up with Luke Skywalker in Episode IV)
terrible-glamour-shots-13

ryan-fleming-6-94x94Ryan Fleming: Spellcheck for your pen

I have a confession to make: I am not the best spellr – speller. It is a curse, but thanks to the miracle that is spellcheck, I manage to muddle through the best I can, constantly afraid of those dreaded red, squiggly lines. Now and again I even manage to catch spellcheck in an error, perhaps when I deliberately write a word that is not in English. Those are good days. I silently laugh, vindicated by the knowledge that even machines make mistakes. Of course, when I write by hand, things are a bit different – and infinitely sadder when I scan over my work and realize my litany of errors.

But no more!

No longer will I be a slave to proper spellin’ when I put pen to paper, thanks to the new Learnstift Smartpen, which checks your spelling as you write. The German startup up Lernstift (“Learn stift” is German for “learning pen”) features a AAA battery-powered Linux computer capable of analyzing your words as you write them down, and vibrating to signify that you messed up.

The pen recognizes the movement used to make letters, and through that can tell if you are correct. It also has an interesting secondary function. It connects to a tablet or smartphone via Wi-Fi, and can translate your handwriting into text via an app. Learnstift claims that it’s primarily meant to be a learning tool for children and people with certain educational issues like dyslexia, and to help students improve their penmanship.

The project is still very much a prototype, and is currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. Learnstift is seeking £120,000 to make a production model. The campaign ends on August 9. Tak that, fancy book learnin’!

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