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Bigots love Jennifer Lawrence, lenscrafting and more in this week’s Staff Picks

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andrew-couts Andrew Couts: Jennifer Lawrence + U.S. hate groups = Heil-larious 

On my list of life’s important things, Hollywood celebrities rank somewhere between World of Warcraft and how much gluten is in my food. But every so often, usually in a moment of procrastination-induced weakness, I click through to a celebrity-related story. And earlier this week, I hit the jackpot: Vice’s “What do hate groups think of Jennifer Lawrence?” Writer Jamie Taete took it upon himself to call up six U.S. hate groups, including the Nation of Islam and the Westboro Baptist Church, to find out their opinion of the most recent “Best Actress” Oscar winner. The result is confusion, proselytizing, outright hostility – you know, awesomeness. 

The most surprising item came from Westboro Baptist, which has become infamous for picketing funerals of children and fallen soldiers (among many other despicable things): The spokesperson was actually completely normal, loved Argo (but not Ben Affleck), and thought Lawrence was just as great as the rest of us. I should stop there – this description really doesn’t do it justice. Go read it. Now.

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les-shuLes Shu: From sand to glass, Nikon celebrates 80 years of lens making

The digital camera may be a modern invention, but the basic concept of how it works – capturing light through a lens – is a very old technology. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nikon has been making photographic lenses for more than half a century. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Nikon Nikkor lens brand; although the brand was created in 1932 (when Nikon was known as Nippon Kogaku K.K.), the first shipments of the Aero-Nikkor areal photographic lens didn’t go out until 1933.

The Nikkor-branded lenses have had several milestones in between. In 1959, Nikon created the Nikkor-S Auto 5cm f/2 lens for its first SLR, the Nikon F. In Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the “eye” of the HAL 2000 computer was a Nikkor 8mm f/8 fisheye lens (although the actual footage from HAL’s POV was from a different lens). Most recently, Nikkor-branded lenses have been created for Nikon’s 1-series of mirrorless cameras.

To celebrate this moment, Nikon in Japan created a short but beautiful video showing how a lens is made – from raw material that’s mixed, heated, cut, baked, polished, and fitted into the metal housing. There’s no narration, so there’s no need to invite your Japanese-speaking buddy over to translate.


ryan-flemingRyan Fleming: College freaking basketball

If you aren’t at least a little bit excited about the somewhat official start of March Madness, then we can’t be friends, and I want all my stuff back. I’m deleting you from Facebook too.

When most people refer to March Madness they are specifically referring to the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship Tournament that begins next Thursday (not counting the pity games the NCAA added to make four bubble teams dance for their supper). But the real action begins this weekend, as the conference tournaments reach their zenith. There are plenty of good individual stories too.

This weekend marks the final Big East gauntlet tournament that featured 114 teams playing for weeks to win the conference championship. Beginning next season, the Catholic 7 and friends will take their ball and go home, keeping the lucrative Big East brand name with them but cutting the ridiculously lengthy 16 team tournament down to a manageable size. But that is just one of the many conference titles up for grabs, and some of the best games will be found in the Mid-Major conferences, as teams battle for what may be the only chance they have at reaching the Big Dance. Even for the major conferences, the teams on the bubble will need an impressive showing if they want to go on to possibly be upset by and 11 or 12 seed who then fulfill the mandatory “Cinderella” team role.

Consider this weekend a preview of next, with lower stakes (for some), but better rivalries.

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bill-robersonBill Roberson: Revisiting the golden age of music videos

Music videos today are so…. serious. And professional. And boringly good. Usually, at least.

This wasn’t the case at the beginning and sad to say, I was there at the beginning – the launch, as it were (ah, Martha Quinn). I even stayed after school to watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller in the A/V lab. There. I said it.

I suppose that’s why I had to do a lot of hand-over-mouth oh-my-goshing when I came across this video compilation and hilarious write-up of some purely unintentionally terrible 80s music videos. But, of course, back then, they weren’t terrible, they were ground-breaking works of art heralding a new era of musical and video entertainment. Or something like that. Now they’re just hilarious. Art can be that way. Just don’t let your tears of laughter burn your pillow.

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