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Lawyers suing robots, Harlem Shake backlash, and more in this week’s Staff Picks


caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Got wood?

What do you want to be when you die? How about a California redwood, a blackgum, or a great white oak? If Spanish designer Gerard Moline’s idea takes off, the dream of being reborn as a tree post-mortem could become a reality.

Moline has designed what he calls the Bios Urn, a burial plan that could very well see people buried as wood, rather than inside a box made of it. The urn is made entirely of biodegradable materials including coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose. Nestled inside is a tree seed which can easily be replaced to suit the deceased’s preferences and burial location. Once the seed germinates, it feeds on your ashes, essentially turning your dead, cremated body into a tree. It sounds like a good way to branch out in the afterlife and perhaps leaf the world behind a little better than you found it.

Personally, I want to come back as a pussy willow.


andrew coutsAndrew Couts: The Onion (but real)

The first (and only) time I ever peed my pants from laughing was because of The Onion. It was sometime in the late 1990s; I was browsing The Onion’s archives, and came across the headline, “Area Man Goes and Gets Himself Hit by a Goddamn Bus.” Loaded up on Jolt Cola, with an amateur’s bladder control, the thing struck me in the gut like a garbage bag filled with clowns. Or, you know, something like that. It was a simpler time. A better time.

Nowadays, all of the world’s problems lay at our feet, just a click away. And so does all the completely idiotic crap people actually do – real area men getting run over by real goddamn buses. Which is why I was downright giddy to come across, what can only be described as a parody of a parody site parodying real life with life itself. It’s The Onion, but populated with real stories of foolishness, silliness, quirky happenstance and, probably, copyright infringement. Anyway, it’s funny. So check it out be for the real The Onion shuts it down.


natt garunNatt Garun: We’ve entered the era where lawyers are going after robots

Well, this was inevitable. With the rise of robot doctors and surgeons, lawyers have now moved from suing your employees for work-related accidents to automatons for medical malpractice. World, meet the trolltastic Hosted by an Alabama-based firm, the lawyers will help you seek compensation for “complications associated with robot surgery.” What kinds of complications, you ask? Here’s what the site lists:

  • Tears and/or burns of the intestines
  • Punctured blood vessels
  • Cut ureters
  • Severe bowel injuries
  • Vaginal cuff dehiscence
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Death

Yeah, gross, yikes, do not want! The lawyers claim robot surgeries can cause benign problems that would otherwise never happen if performed by a real doctor. Except, of course, that these robots aren’t exclusively automatons – most robot surgeons are controlled by doctors so they can reach places human doctors can’t without tearing the patient’s body wide open. It’s just another way of lawyers spinning an industry to make things viral and interesting – but it’s no less silly than the ads you see on subway rides that target accident victims or divorced couples. Just giving y’all a heads up before these commercials make it on your daytime television, because this is what our futuristic society have come down to.


Jennifer BergenJen Bergen: Beck reimagines the concert experience with 360-degree interactive video

Beck likes to do things a little differently. This was evident in his first album featuring the hit song “Loser,” as well as his most recent “album.” Song Reader is actually a collection of sheet music he composed (yep, there’s no actual album to listen to). So, it’s no surprise that Beck’s latest musical project, a cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision,” is a little unique itself.

The 10-minute-long recreation is more than just a cover. Teaming up with director Chris Milk, Beck released a 360-degree interactive version of the live performance (filmed in a single take) that lets you move around the space as if you were there. The “audio-visual experiment,” as they call it, takes place on three circular stages with Beck rotating in the center. He’s surrounded by an audience that rotates counter to him, and more than 170 musicians play around the crowd in the outer stage.

The reimagined concert experience was captured using 360-degree cameras and recorded using binaural microphones. Viewers can change between cameras located from Beck’s perspective, from the audience’s perspective, and from the musician’s perspective. Not only does the view change, but the sound also changes depending on which stage you’re watching from. You can also allow the site to turn on your webcam for facial recognition, allowing the stage to move as you move. Check out the YouTube video below to view the performance regularly, but we highly recommend visiting Hello Again and watching it on a nice monitor (in HD) with headphones to get the full experience.

molly-mchughMolly McHugh: Harlem does not approve of the Harlem Shake, and neither do I

Not sure if you noticed but this little thing called the Harlem Shake has taken over the entire flippin’ Internet over the last two weeks. A handful of videos started the whole thing – the “whole thing” being a simple formula in which one person begins dancing alone, and then when the beat of the song drops, a scene cut reveals a larger crowd is dancing in some absurd fashion. Usually someone is humping the air. Usually there are costume changes and strange props. Usually it’s dumb. Whatever, everybody loves it, thinks it’s so funny – I don’t care. I hate it so much. As far as things that everyone loves and I don’t effing understand … this is up there with Gangnam Style. I thought that sucked too.

But given how much we love dumb things, the entire Internet went bat shit about the Harlem Shake and the videos went viral. Hard. The likes of Facebook and The Today Show made their own copycat versions of the travesty. But better than any of these screams for attention is the video in which the actual Harlem reacts to the Harlem Shake. And it did not go great for the viral video meme.

You can watch the video to see Harlem Shakers get their asses handed to them by the neighborhood – but suffice it to say that if you dare try and pull this stunt in the area, you deserve whatever happens to you, OK?

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