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Mind-bending projector tricks, baby squirrels and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Staff Picks 10_12_2013

Caleb DenisonCaleb Denison: Star Wars could have sucked

Much has changed in the 37 years since this original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope trailer aired back in 1976, and thank God for that. If the actual movie had only delivered on the quality of film we see depicted here, then Star Wars may have been a colossal flop rather than the monumental entertainment empire it is today. Note the conspicuous absence of James Earl Jones’ voice acting, the cheesy stock-audio clips in place of John Williams’ epic musical score, and what is arguably the worst movie set-up of all time: “Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now.”

Seriously, would you have sprinted to the theater to go see this movie based on this trailer? Probably not. Thankfully, back in ’76, terrible movie trailers were commonplace. I’m just glad this one turned out to be a hit despite its trailer.

Jeff Van CampJeff Van Camp: Miley Cyrus can’t stop, won’t stop annoying the hell out of me

Listen, I am comfortable telling you that I love a good pop song. What I don’t like is an attention whore. Every time the TV has been on this week, whether it’s the Today show, SNL, Jimmy Fallon, you name it, Miley Cyrus has been on or talked about. She’s everywhere … again … and it’s driving me nuts. I just don’t care.

Several older women came over to visit with my mom the other day and even they couldn’t help but talk about her. Everyone agrees: She isn’t offensive, just kind of sad. It’s so obvious that she has nothing to rebel about, nor is she really doing anything particularly rebellious. Looking like an idiot onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards by dancing with depressed bears and Beetlejuice, sticking your tongue out, and rubbing a foam finger on your crotch isn’t offensive; it’s just creepy and desperate.

Miley Cyrus’s new album was written by a bunch of people that get paid big bucks to write hit songs. She had little to do with the music in it, and that’s pretty obvious because the songs have nothing to say. That’s why she has to ride wrecking balls naked to make them popular.

Having said that, if we’re dumb enough to pay attention to someone who cares only about attention, then more power to her. Also, I have that damn song stuck in my head, so screw it.

Ryan FlemingRyan Fleming: Anchorman meets college basketball

Last week was the first time that college basketball teams were officially allowed to practice, in accordance with NCAA rules. To celebrate, some programs hold events at midnight to kick off the season. Usually these events are a combination of actual basketball and a prearranged skit designed to make the crowd laugh. Occasionally they’ll chuck an unsuspecting frosh deep into the fire as thousands of people stare at them. And sometimes they are simply legendary.

At the University of Kansas’s “Late Night in the Phog,” KU fans and basketball followers had the chance to see the 2013-2014 Jayhawks, including the phenom from Canada known as “Maple Jordan,” freshman Andrew Wiggins. If you are a basketball fan and haven’t seen him, take a moment to Google him and watch any of the many compilations where he makes you feel sad for his opponents.

This year though, those in attendance also got to see a different side of Kansas head coach Bill Self. Check it out.

drew-prindleDrew Prindle: Crazy projection mapping illusion

The term “projection mapping” is horrendously vague and nondescript, but the technique itself is amazing. If you’ve never heard of it before, prepare to have your mind blown.

Projection mapping is basically an emerging type of performance art that uses an array of choreographed projectors (like the ones used in theaters and conference rooms) to beam video onto real-world 3D surfaces. If executed properly, it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

The following video, entitled “Box” is one one of the best examples I’ve ever seen. It starts with a simple rectangle, and through a clever combination of performance art, animation, and robotics; the rectangle morphs into a series of increasingly complex illusions. Just to be clear, there are no after-effects used here – everything you’re seeing in the video would look the exactly same if you were standing there in the room.

Les ShuLes Shu: Baby squirrel rescued by BBC filmmaker with heart of gold

Warning: Be prepared to have your heart melted. While on assignment in Sri Lanka, wildlife filmmaker Paul Williams of the BBC’s Natural History Unit encountered what he thought was a dead baby palm squirrel in a dark parking lot at the Wilpattu National Park, but scooped it up and kept it warm after he noticed it twitch. Now, most people would have kept walking, but Williams, recognizing the squirrel was probably separated, put the little creature in a safe area, hoping it’d be reunited with its mother.

When Williams returned the next day to find the squirrel where he left it, he and his entire BBC film crew then used their sophisticated tech – including a thermal camera – to search the entire area for its family. After they exhausted all their options, Williams took it upon himself to care for the squirrel, now dubbed Rob, back to health – feeding him baby formula through a syringe and caring for him as his mother would.

Williams documented life with Rob via Twitter, and let’s say the baby squirrel, who’s small enough to fit inside a coffee mug, will be the cutest thing you’ve seen all week. Check out Williams’s Twitter feed or the Daily Mail for more photos.


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