Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
Objectified airs on PBS stations in the US on Tuesday, November 24, as part of the Independent Lens series. I highly recommend that you set your DVR to record this film, if you're interested in: documentaries, computers, how things are made, how things work, or why some toothpicks have that little sculpted circular part on one end but are pointy on the other. In other words, I recommend it for everyone.
Objectified is a special documentary: it's basically about nerds, but classy ones, and definitely... READ ON
If you've never seen the classic short "Powers of Ten," I've got a treat for you. Created in 1968 for IBM by Charles and Ray Eames (yes, of Eames Chair fame), the film has a very simple premise: start at a static scene, then start zooming out, at one "power of ten" per ten seconds -- for example, from 102 meters to 103 meters. As we zoom out, we see the earth, the solar system, the galaxy, and so forth. Once we reach 1024 meters (the size of the observable universe), the camera then begins a faster... READ ON
On June 12, 2009, vocalist Bobby McFerrin participated in a panel discussion called "Notes & Neurons: In Search of a Common Chorus" at the World Science Festival. As part of the discussion, he performed an amazing feat -- he trained an audience, in mere seconds, to become a sort of human keyboard. In the video below, McFerrin points to the floor, sings a note, then makes the audience sing it. He steps to one side and sings the next note, and again, the audience sings it. The audience proceeds to sing... READ ON
So here's the deal. There are these two young filmmakers who go by the names Rhett and Link. They love local commercials, and they make them. For free. They go on the road, crisscrossing the country, making awesome local commercials. How can they afford to do this? Through sponsorship (often visible in the web versions of the commercials, and sometimes sponsored items, like Alka Seltzer, visible in shots). Anyway, even though there is sponsorship involved, these are some awesome local commercials.... READ ON
Although you may have never seen Mel Blanc's face, you've definitely heard his voice -- he voiced hundreds of classic cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzales, Barney Rubble, Foghorn Leghorn, and bunches more. Known as the "man of a thousand voices," he actually claims roughly 400 voices in the video below -- a late 80's interview with David Letterman (Blanc died in 1989).
In the interview, Letterman asks Blanc how he develops the characters' voices. Blanc replies, "They... READ ON
Neurologist Oliver Sacks prefers Bach to Beethoven -- I'm just the opposite. But enough about me, let's talk Sacks. Dr. Sacks volunteered to have his brain scanned while listening to each composer's music. What's interesting is that listening to Bach has a visible effect on his brain, which isn't present when listening to Beethoven -- more regions of the brain "light up" to demonstrate his engagement with the Bach. What's particularly remarkable is that even when Sacks doesn't consciously know which... READ ON
So it turns out that when a drop of water falls into a pool of water, some very weird things happen. Rather than merging directly with the pool of water beneath, the drop very briefly becomes a sphere resting atop the pool, with an air layer between. When the sphere touches the water below (because of gravity, it forces the air layer away), most of the drop joins the water below and a second sphere is created, which again "floats" briefly on the pool. The cycle continues until eventually the water drop... READ ON
Here's a bit of Friday silliness for you. Below is a "supercut" of a bunch of Kramer's entrances on Seinfeld. The video claims to include all his entrances from the series, but I'm not sure if that's possible in only six minutes. Anyway, by about the two-minute mark in this video, my brain started to shut down and I entered a sort of altered state in which all that existed for me was Cosmo Kramer and that door in Jerry's apartment. Watch and be mesmerized.
Kramer's Entrance - watch more funny videos... READ ON
The Know Your Meme Blog has a great introduction to the history and technology behind Auto-Tune, the audio effect first introduced in 1997 and made popular when Cher's single "Believe" made heavy use of the effect in a way that was never intended -- emphasizing the warbling of pitch correction rather than simply using it to sweeten slightly sour notes. A bit from Know Your Meme's article:
With the expense of the Antares Auto-Tune plugin and the relative lack of social networking sites at the time,... READ ON
Before Borat, before BrÃ¼no, there was Ali G, a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen to satirize various political and social issues through interviews with public figures. According to Wikipedia:
Ali G is a boorish, uneducated, streetwise youth with a deeply stereotypical view of the world, who either embarrasses his interviewee by displaying a mixture of uninformed political incorrectness, or gets the interview 'victim' to agree to some breathtaking inaccuracy or insult.
... Examples of his... READ ON
Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Shel Silverstein.