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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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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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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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