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Doom Piano, following the Silk Road and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Staff Picks 10_05_2013

Ryan FlemingRyan Fleming: Doom Piano is the best piano

Say you have an old piano sitting around in need of some TLC. You have a few options. You could always repair it, which would take some time, effort, and probably a bit of scratch unless you happen to be proficient in piano repair (in which case, quit slacking and repair your piano). You could pay even more money and turn it into a self-playing pianola. Then when your friends come over you can smugly ask them what instrument they play as you mime the perfectly played song the piano is taking care of. Or, you could go for Plan C, and turn your piano into the awesomest piano ever.

Some pianos are attractive and add an air of class. Some can be sultry. And some can play the video game Doom.

Using a dilapidated piano, a group of indie developers mapped all the directional and action keys to keys on a piano. The result is the most bad ass, demon killing piano ever created. Lucifer has night mares about the disjointed song this piano plays. Check it out below.

Caleb DenisonCaleb Denison: The art of TV placement

While at CEDIA 2013 this year, I saw a few really cool products I just didn’t have enough time to report on. This is one of them.

Hidden Vision TV Mounts hide your TV so that it looks like framed art on the wall. When you’re ready to watch, you can either flip the frame around to expose the TV screen, or just extend it from the wall to watch from bed, depending on the style of mount you pick. The extender mount is perfect for those who like to watch TV in bed, but don’t want to sacrifice space elsewhere in their room. I can see this being particularly appealing for RV and Park Model owners who have smaller bedrooms. Check out the video below to see the mounts in action.

Les ShuLes Shu: GWAR covers Billy Ocean tune, and it doesn’t suck

I don’t listen to heavy metal, but I don’t listen to GWAR not because of the music, but simply because they have always scared the crap out of me. Their cover of one-hit wonder Billy Ocean and his terrible “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” however, paints the band in a new light for me. In fact, these guys (if you can call them that) are pretty awesome.

In its Undercover series, The Onion A.V. (the satirical newspaper’s A&E site) invited bands to perform one of 25 predetermined songs. GWAR got stuck with “GOMD, GIMC,” with front man (or thing) Oderus Urungus calling the song “pretty much demeaning to women” and saying “something seems altogether unwholesome about it.” While it was all in jest, GWAR manages to make this cheesy melody actually enjoyable. However, they don’t make the song lyrics sound any less creepy.

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Following the Silk Road

This has been a crazy-ass week. Our federal government shut down. Obamacare’s online exchanges went live (and crapped out under the weight of traffic), bikers beat the hell out of some guy in New York City after he ran over some of them with his Range Rover, and a young mother went nuts and tried to ram her car through the front door of the White House. But nothing is as crazy as the FBI’s case against Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old suspected of operating the world’s largest online black market, Silk Road. The case against Ulbricht is so wild, even the court documents are fascinating reads. Forget Breaking Bad – if you’re interested in larger-than-life drug drama, I highly recommend taking the time to check them out.

Andrew Couts Following the Silk Road

Molly McHughMolly McHugh: The last place you expected Usher

When I was in middle school and even high school, the name Usher was said with reverence. He was like my generation’s Justin Bieber without the Joffrey comparisons (seriously, someone needs to put something other than a wife beater on that kid, take his phone away, and drop him off with the good people of Canada before it’s too late). That voice! Those moves!

I even had my own Usher run-in once – at this year’s past SXSW. The day I was leaving, I had lunch with a friend in downtown Austin, and just who do you think happened to be trying to go up the tiny staircase to the bathroom when I was coming down it?! That’s right! Usher! I said, “You’re Usher” without any emotion, half-heartedly went for a high-five, lost the courage, and dropped my arm to its side. I’m sure it was a really significant moment for him too.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that this man is a legend – a legend who was made to sing the alphabet on Sesame Street this week. I get it, dude’s got kids now, but there’s something incredibly horrifying about seeing my middle school celebrity crush with his arm around Elmo. It’s also hypnotizing because there’s something so wrong about seeing Chili’s former lover (oh yeah, you remember that, right?) sexy-singing the ABCs. 

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street indeed.

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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
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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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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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