Barrel rolls, inside Walter White’s house and more in this week’s Staff Picks

staff picks 08_10_2013 header

caleb-denisonCaleb Denison: Meet the lady who lives at Walter White’s house

For fans of the show, Breaking Bad, these next couple of days are going to be tough. Frankly, the anticipation is killing me. I joined the Breaking Bad fan club late and intentionally scheduled my binge viewing session so that I would catch up just in time to join up with season six as it began airing, but my plans were dashed when the season premiere was pushed back. I seriously considered suing AMC for emotional damages – for like a couple of seconds, anyway.

In the meantime, I’ve done what I could to keep myself from weaning off of the crack-like addiction that is this TV show. I’ve revisited old episodes, joined nerdy forums and practiced my Jesse Pinkman impression in the mirror (it’s getting really, really good). Then today I discovered this video in which a team from Machinima visits with the lady that actually lives at the “White House.” Seriously, it’s an actual house in Albuquerque, New Mexico – not just a studio stage mock-up – and the lady that lives there is the most patient sweetheart of a woman I’ve seen in a long time. Especially considering she probably deals with way more pizza-throwing assholes in the space of one month than most folks do in an entire week. Please enjoy.

Les ShuLes Shu: With Street View you can pretend you’re a wealthy Emirati

Despite the privacy concerns, Google’s Street View is a pretty neat tool for the armchair traveler. How else can you plop yourself down on the Champs-Élysées and then fly over to faux Paris in Las Vegas the next minute? Google has been enhancing Street View where you can now explore really exotic locales like forests and abandoned places, but the latest virtual tour, I think, is one of the best yet: inside an airplane. But not just any plane, mind you, an Airbus A380.

The double-decker is part of the fleet belonging to Dubai-based Emirates, the largest operator of this mega plane. Not only is it big, but it’s also one of the most luxurious, filled with wondrous amenities – that is, if you’re sitting in one of the premium cabins. For those of us who can’t afford the $10,000-plus ticket for a first-class suite (yeah, suite, not seat), we can now explore this part of the plane via Street View. You can also “walk” through the coach cabin, but why bother?


jeff-van-campJeff Van Camp: Keep your damn cell phone out of my theater

You know what really grinds my gears?! This article. Molly sent it to me earlier today. It’s by a guest author named Chris Davison at The Wrap. He thinks that because he’s seen some people texting at the movies, then hey, we should just accept that it’s how things work and give in. The era of distraction-free movies is over. The kids like to text and tweet, so let’s let them text! Davison then suggests that all theaters should have designated “texting” and “non-texting” screens because, gosh darnit, it worked for smoking in restaurants, so it could work here, too.

Here’s the problem, Davison. That comparison is idiotic. If you want to compare using your phone in a theater to smoking, then we’d be going backward on the issue entirely. Texting and using your phone in the middle of a dark movie theater is a lot like smoking. No, it’s not giving anyone cancer and it doesn’t smell bad, but it’s ruining everyone else’s enjoyment of the movie! It’s like second-hand smoke to my movie-going experience.

Just like we don’t need every restaurant turning back into a smoke-filled hell, we don’t need to give up on a distraction-free moviegoing experience because a few dumb kids can’t learn how to keep their phones in their pants. That’s like saying we need a texting-while-driving lane on the highway. It’s stupid.

Chris Davison, I do not like your idea, and I am not looking forward to going to the movies with you if you’re going to shine your bright smartphone screen all around and tweet how much you love the popcorn. There’s one screen in every movie theater. I think it’s big enough for everyone to enjoy. If you want to use your smartphone, sit in the back row with the couples who make out constantly and the creepers. Maybe they’ll join you.


Adam RosenbergAdam Rosenberg: Just add animation

Remember how awesome it was when Patton Oswalt drew applause on the set of Parks and Recreation for his faux-filibuster speech-slash-pitch for Star Wars: Episode VII? Wouldn’t that have been more awesome with some creative animation set behind it? Don’t think so? Well you’re wrong. Here’s proof.

bill-robersonBill Roberson: Let’s see what this thing can do

The footage is grainy, but the moment is infamous.

Back in 1955, at the dawn of the Jet Age, Boeing was testing the “Dash 80,” its revolutionary (and big) new four-engine passenger jet, over Seattle where Boeing was based. Typically, test pilots were hot-shot fighter pilots and bomber jockeys still fresh from World War II. Keeping a relatively lumbering jumbo-jet straight and level for its 50th test flight probably bored them out of their minds. Only one thing to do then, Iceman: barrel roll that big daddy.

At the direction of publicity-seeking superiors, test pilot Tex Johnston (is there a better name for a test pilot? I don’t think so) took off and hit the gas on the Dash 80 (aka the Boeing 707) at a most opportune time: during Sea Fair week, right over the boat races while a convention of top aviation folks from the world over were also in town – and watching. Except no one but Tex knew the barrel roll was coming.

Johnson flipped the big jet over not once, but twice, and lest you think it’s an urban myth, there’s both film and still photos to prove it. Did Tex get fired? Are you kidding? But he did have a chat with the big boss who said he should probably lay off the jumbo jet stunt flying in the future. As far as we know, no one has ever barrel-rolled a big passenger jet since (outside of the movies).

Of course, Boeing went on to sell thousands of the legendary planes, no doubt helped by the amazing demonstration of its strength and agility by test pilot Tex Johnston.

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: How to remove any stain

I have one giant dog, three cats, and four nephews between the ages of 8 and 15. So to say that my small house can quickly transform into a disgusting cesspool would be an understatement. It’s so bad sometimes, it almost makes me wish for the days before having a live-in girlfriend, who taught me that cleaning the house was not simply a social construct I could willfully ignore.

Armed with a newfound sensitivity to filth, I have had to scour the Web to deal with various stains from various bodily functions of various species of mammal on my various carpets, cars, clothing, and rugs. But no longer – I have found the absolute most amazing collection of stain removal instructions in the existence of humankind.

Created by educator Susan Taylor for the University of Illinois Extension, Stain Solutions clearly and concisely covers how to remove damn near every stain in the universe. Vomit? No problem. Tree sap? Got it. Butter and margarine? Yep, those too. Ol’ Susan even cover how to remove zucchini stains. I didn’t even know zucchini could stain. The list, quite literally, goes on and on – not to mention that the site has a surprisingly good design, and the instructions for not how to kill yourself with bleach and ammonia are key.

One word of caution: After clicking through stain solutions for two hours, you may find yourself questioning your manhood. You’ve been warned.

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