Monday, February 9, 2015


1. See that video up there? It's called "Riding Light" and it's a simulator of sorts. You, the viewer (and listener; the music is great) get to hitch a ride on of a single light particle - or photon - as it backs away from it's mother, the Sun, at (duh) the speed of light. As you pass Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and some minor planets in the asteroid belt on your way to Jupiter and its moons, you start to realize just exactly how truly, mind-bogglingly huge astronomical distances really are. It's a real slick production, and I stuck with it for the whooooooole trip. Can you do the same?

2. There's an excellent think piece up for free on the New Yorker website about how Islamic State recruitment videos owe a seeming stylistic debt to the immensely popular "First Person Shooter" (FPS) style videogame genre. It begins:
In a recruitment video for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS that has been making the rounds of some uglier parts of the Internet, a man sits in a plastic chair on a porch, a rifle stuck between his knees. ... A bullet hits the cement wall behind his head, kicking up a puff of dust. He gets to his feet and stumbles forward, confused and disoriented. The view changes: an overlay effect makes it look as if the man is being watched through a sniper’s scope. A red dot zeroes in on the man’s midsection. There is a gunshot; the man recoils. As he grimaces in pain, the footage grinds down to render, in slow motion, every expression of his face, his flailing arms. ... The mechanics of all this should be familiar to anyone who has played a first-person-shooter video game in the past ten years. In Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, and pretty much every other F.P.S. sold today ... The similarities between ISIS recruitment films and first-person-shooter games are likely intentional.
The article's top pull-quote comes from another piece of ISIL propaganda: "THIS IS OUR CALL OF DUTY AND WE RESPAWN IN JANNAH!" Fucking goofs.

3. The entire first episode of the television mini-series version of Philip K. Dick's classic 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle - perhaps the finest of all "what if the Nazis had won" novels - is up for all and sundry to watch on Youtube. Fair warning: even though it's been decades since I've read Dick's novel, this version appears to have veered significantly from the source. In the plus column, I do quite like the art production. Those giant Nazi jumbo passenger jets look damn snazzy.

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