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Zack Morris returns, 3D modeling made easy, and more in this week’s Staff Picks

Staff Picks 09_14_2013 main

Andrew CoutsAndrew Couts: Finding the edge

Most of my childhood I spent putting myself in as much danger as my body and mind could handle. At the age of two, I climbed to the top of an extension ladder reaching three stories, to the top of our family’s half-built house. A few months earlier, I’d fallen into the trench of the house’s foundation, some seven feet down. At the age of four, I devoured some grizzled old man’s heart medicine, sending my mother and sister on a wild country-road ride to the hospital as my eyes rolled into the back of my head. By age 12, I was hucking myself off the largest snowboard jumps I could find. I leapt from rooftops, and slid down handrails on skateboards and (regrettably) roller blades. These days, I blast around on finely tuned motorcycles with the speedometers removed. But none of that comes close to the crazy-fool fantasies beautifully exhibited in Wired’s photo essay, which shows off “some of the world’s biggest thrill seekers” from Red Bull’s “Illume” photo contest.

The daring men and women in these photos live on what Hunter S. Thompson coined “the edge.” And you know what he says about the edge: “There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” For many of us, looking at these photos is the closest we’ll get.

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Ryan FlemingRyan Fleming: Zack Morris returns

If Zack Morris were around today, grown up and matured, he would apparently murder Screech with a robot – but it’s cool since Screech was never really human anyway. Oh, and Jesse Spano is apparently a closeted lesbian.

These and other golden nuggets fell from the mouth of Mark-Paul Gosselaar, the actor who began his career on the seminal Saturday morning live-action show Saved by the Bell. Gosselaar, fresh from completing the third season of the TNT drama Franklin and Bash (sadly free of caffeine pills and Mr. Beldings), did a recent interview with Paul F. Tompkins. Gosselaar arose to the challenge of answering questions as Morris. Because why not?

Jeff Van CampJeff Van Camp: Joking Bad

There are only three episodes left of Breaking Bad, and it’s driving me crazy! I can’t think about anything except Walter White, Jesse, Saul, who is going to die or live, and how I feel about it. I don’t know who to root for. I don’t know how I feel. All I know is that I’m nearing the end of what has to be one of the best television shows in history. The last time I felt this interested and blown away by the scope of a show was when I finished The Wire

If I was smart, I’d wait for a few more weeks and binge watch all the episodes at once. I’m not smart. Instead, every Sunday at midnight, I wait for an email from Amazon’s Instant Video Store, make some popcorn, and fail to breathe for 48 minutes while shit gets real in New Mexico. Apparently, Jimmy Fallon is with me. This isn’t the best 13 minutes you’ll ever spend, but he did a pretty funny spoof on the show yesterday. Good ending, too!

Les ShuLes Shu: 3D modeling made easy

The “buzz” around 3D TVs may have tempered, but stereoscopic images are still an intriguing concept in photography. But 3D isn’t just about putting on some plastic glasses and watching something pop out at you. A group of researchers in Israel have created software that can easily turn objects in 2D images into 3D.

The “3-Sweep” software can extract flat objects out of an image and turn them into 3D shapes that can be manipulated. Looking like something a designer would do when working in Photoshop, the user simply draws selections around an object, and the software quickly turns that object into a 3D component that can be rotated and edited. The researchers will demo the software at the SIGGRAPH Asia show in November, but they have put together a video that shows how the software works.

Adam RosenbergAdam Rosenberg: ‘Mario Paint’ gets lucky

There’s Daft Punk’s song of the summer “Get Lucky,” and then there’s Daft Punk’s song of the summer “Get Lucky” as realized in Mario Paint. Both are unique and wonderful creations that will love your ears ever-so-sweetly. Only one of them has “meows” though. And it’s this one.

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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
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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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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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