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

burning man tv pranks and twerks gone horribly awry in this weeks staff picks pics 09 07 2013 main

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.


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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Perfect coffee through science, emoji mosaics and more in this week’s Staff Picks
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Molly McHugh: Game of Hoops
Obviously you like Games of Thrones, because you are reading this and that means you're a human with an Internet connection. So again, obviously you like Games of Thrones. And if you don't we can't be friends anymore.
But since you obviously like Games of Thrones, your favorite character is obviously Tyrion Lannister. OBVIOUSLY. He is everyone's favorite character and if he's not then again, we can't be friends anymore.
Well turns out our favorite character - er, the actor Peter Dinklage who plays him - partook in some fun extracurriculars, i.e. hula hoop dancing at a gay bar. And not just any hula hoop, an electric one! I'd venture to say that if anything in your life is going wrong, one look at this and you'll feel many times better.
Dear reader, it only gets better: There's video.
In these dark times, this is what we need more of.

Caleb Denison: Please don’t judge me
Every week I’m tasked with the responsibility of finding something cool on the Internet, then writing up some sort of witty blurb introducing it for this, our Staff Picks column. It sounds like the easiest thing ever, doesn’t it? And maybe it should be. But it turns out that I’ve gotten really good at taking what should be the easiest part of my week and making it extremely difficult. I will sometimes spend an hour searching for something I really like because – and I realize this is a major hang-up – I have this crazy idea in my head that what I pick says something about me, and I just can’t have the Internet thinking I’m a dork.
Dammit, I’m too late, aren’t I?
Well, then, since I’m pretty sure the six of you who read this already think I’m a goob or just really don’t care, I’m rolling with a comedian doing Diva impressions to a tune made famous in the 1980’s (oh, he’s an old dork! Nice!) by Bonnie Tyler called “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Yes. My middle-aged nerd status is now complete. Check out Christina Bianco doing some impressive impressions of Divas young and old, including Adelle, Cher, Christina Aguilera (my personal favorite) and, of course, Barbara Streisand. She’s pretty damn good at it.

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The perks of delinquency, 80s dashboards and more in this week’s Staff Picks
the perks of delinquency 80s dashboards and more in this weeks staff picks 08 17 2013 header

Jeff Van Camp: Stephen Colbert confronts the ‘Gay Mafia’
I cover iPhones and Galaxy phones all day long, but when I get home from work, I usually unwind with some Daily Show or Colbert. This is one of the best segments I've seen on the show. Apparently there are parts of the south where a small town can have an openly gay mayor and pass an ordinance banning discrimination of those in the LGBT community. Colbert is, naturally, extremely disappointed in the progress of this "Gay Mafia."
Hopefully we're getting to the point where more people around the country think like this, finally.

Andrew Couts: Everything that's wrong with YouTube
It has been a long time since I last went on a YouTube binge. For whatever reason, my habit of clicking through an endless array of videos, each more odd and obscure than the next, seems to have dwindled away with my fondness for MySpace. In other words, I'm now just busy and old.
Fortunately, YouTube user JelloApocalypse, a self-described "writer and voice actor," has released a brilliant new animated video that makes me appreciate all the time I've not wasted on the world's largest video-sharing site. From the poor design to the wretched comments, the video (above) gives you a sense of all that's wrong with YouTube. The damning summation almost makes it seem as though Google, YouTube's parent company, has given up on improving one of its most popular properties, just to screw with us. Perhaps YouTube's saving grace is that this video is itself hosted on YouTube.

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

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