Burger dress

July 31, 2008

There’s not much to say about this one.

Hamburglars have needs too.

Hamburglars have needs too.

Artist is Joy Kampia.
Thanks to Reub for the tip.

Flags of the world, graded on graphic design

July 30, 2008

This guy has looked at every single world flag and graded it as though it’s a design-school project, with funny commentary and horrible little GIF icons to mock the bad ones. Pretty awesome. A couple of highlights:

Gambian goodness.

Gambian goodness.

Gambia is his pick for the top flag in the world, scoring 90%. Comments include “good colours, and strong representation of the country’s geography without using an actual map”. Green for land, blue for the massive River Gambia, red for the sun.

Eh?  Eh?

Eh? Eh?

Canada comes in a strong 10th, behind a bunch of other flags with clear colours and simple, centred icons- Pakistan, Japan, Vietnam, Somalia, Israel, Switzerland. Comments: the maple leaf is too literal/detailed. Not a bad point- a flag should be easy to draw, and we’ve all failed with a lopsided maple leaf or two in our educational history, amirite?

I smell a copycat.  And some piney goodness.

I smell a copycat. And some piney goodness.

Norfolk Islands he graded much ower, calling it “an obvious rip-off of Canada’s flag”. Take that, Norfolk Island Pine Tree (that’s the actual name of the species).

That font looks like it was built out of Lego.

That font looks like it was built out of Lego.

Isn’t the point of a flag to represent the nation so you don’t have to write the name of the nation? Fail.

Ryan, the Canadian short that won a 2005 Oscar

July 29, 2008
Writer-director Chris Landreth appears in RYAN, a little the worse for wear.

Writer-director Landreth appears in RYAN, a little the worse for wear.

Ryan is Chris Landreth’s dark, haunting, and wildly imaginative short film about his old friend, animator Ryan Larkin. Landreth calls his style “psychorealism”- essentially, he puts his characters’ psyches right into the construction of their bodies, so their personalities exist in plain sight. It’s surreal, creepy, beautiful, and confusing.

Real estate is better when it’s gooey.

July 29, 2008

Another “good try, but you fail” site: It’s lovely! I’ll take it! showcases the photos people post on real estate sites to try to sell their houses.

“Oh that’s ok, they don’t mind if you leave your shoes on, let’s just head on through. Now remember faux-finishes? This was kind of a “paint-draping” effect. It was pioneered in Chernobyl, and uh, it actually takes quite a while to achieve this look but the previous owners were here for a long, long time.”

HP Lovecraft had indigestion in here

HP Lovecraft had indigestion in here

“This one is kind of nice, they tidied up and used a wide-angle lens, natural light, fresh fruit, and, hey Brenda, do you hear… loud breathing? Almost like a sort of “panting” noise?”



Waffle House wedding

July 29, 2008
you just know the dinner was delicious.

And you just know the dinner was delicious.

Getting married at a Waffle House restaurant (a big Southern US diner chain) probably isn’t for everyone, but I kind of like these people. They both work at Waffle House, and understandably, Waffle House is a big part of their lives, so why not get married there? They’re somehow less obnoxious than those Bridezillas who demand that the perfect cutlery be flown in from Sweden, or, you know, that the cake be a life-sized replica of themselves. Plus, Waffle House is delicious.

Once, on a roadtrip, we stopped at a Waffle House in a small town in Mississippi. The waiter was a very friendly, very effeminate man with outrageously plucked eyebrows and violet contact lenses, who surprised me by mentioning that he’d just come from church. “It’s Wednesday night,” I commented, to which he replied, “Honey, what the hell else am I gonna do in this town?”

Flash webpage animation: the best application I’ve ever seen

July 29, 2008

I do not like Flash-animated webpages. They load slow, they’re never as clever as they’re intended to be, and the individual pages are unlinkable- so if I want to refer someone to a specific item- you know, disseminate information, thus using the interweb for its original purpose- I can’t, because all the information is floating around on some clever design concept, instead of sitting in one place with a URL that lets me capture it. What, am I supposed to say,

“Hey fellow bridesmaids, I think I found an affordable dress in the bride’s chosen colour palette that would look nice on all four of us, score! Wanna see it? Just go to this website and then wait 3 minutes and 24 seconds. There’s some opening animation of flowers and vines and stuff, just wait that out. Then some shoes walk by for a while. Yeah, they just walk past with no feet in them, no it’s not MAGIC, it’s Flash animation. Then there’s a bunch of belts undulating like snakes, yeah, more Flash, yep, that website designer sure knew her Flash. I know you wanna see the dress but I can’t link to it, it’s Flash– never mind, not much longer now. Uh, well, first there’s a ballet of pantsuits, and then the dress, oh no wait, more vines- ok, now. See those 22 dresses square-dancing all over the screen? No, BEHIND the vines. I’m talking about the blue dress on the left, uh no, the other blue one, the one that just did a doe-si-doe, and now it’s gonna curtsey and… it’s gone. Didja like it? Uh… oh. ‘Kay, just press “reload” and call me in 3 minutes and 24 seconds.”

Nothing makes me lose my mind faster than a Flash site. They impress designers and nobody else. “Oh hai, you’re a photographer? Cool! Can I see some of the photos you took, or did you want me to first look at an inexplicable Flash animation of an empty wheelchair slowly rolling through a scrolling animated streetscape? Where is that, Cuba? Cool, ok. Oh look, still rolling along, huh. I’m just gonna go eat some expired yogurt, call me when the porfolio comes up.”

Um, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, Flash websites. Well, usually they’re a waste of everyone’s time. But not this time! Here’s a site for German Dutch department store HEMA.

Best use of Flash ever. Except, then, after the Flash is done, the site just sits there shaking. Ok, so maybe this whole site is just a (very) clever portfolio for some German Dutch Flash designer. Or maybe that’s the entire extent of the functionality of yet another non-navigable Flash site. We’ll never know, will we.

Well yes, a stapler is a rather neat machine.

Well yes, a stapler is a rather neat machine.

Obama’s speech in Berlin: an actor’s perspective

July 28, 2008

I just watched a 25-minute video of Barack Obama delivering a stunning speech to a massive crowd in Berlin. Watching this guy give a speech is like watching an Olympic diver enter the pool facefirst without a splash.

In general, I like Obama’s platform and philosophy- but beyond his politics or even content, I can’t help going meta on his incredible skill as a speaker. The actor in me would like to point out that he speaks powerfully and assuredly for almost a solid half-hour, completely off-book [correction: barely seeming to read off teleprompter], without a single sip of water and barely a slip of the tongue. His gaze is steady, direct and yet nonconfrontational. And without sounding theatrical or contrived, he subtly varies his tone and rhythm- hear how his voice booms when he says “this is the moment”? And how it softens, drawing you in, when he talks about his father?

Most professional performers can’t pull off this level of finesse- witness the terror in the eyes of all those pasty-mouthed actors awkwardly trying to present Academy Awards; those are career entertainers struggling to read 40-second pitches from teleprompters. Obama’s a lawyer, not an actor. He’s not looking down at his script, I don’t see an earpiece, and his cadence is too natural for someone to be feeding him lines, this is no GWB State-of-the-Union. He stands there, looking 200,000 people in the eye and speaking as beautifully as anyone I’ve ever heard. I would love to know how he prepares. This is wildly impressive.

It sure helps that the speech is well-written, smoothly jumping between the micro and macro spheres (from personal anecdotes about his father’s decision to seek a US education, to a venue-specific section about the fall of Communism in Germany, and out to huge global stuff like climate change). These vastly different levels of resolution are woven into something that feels interconnected, which itself ties into Obama’s personal philosophy of equality and a promise to take all things into fair consideration.

His delivery is not without minor flaws; he does have a couple slips of the tongue. About 20 minutes in, he stumbles very slightly over a word, and it happens again a few minutes later. I really noticed the slips because up ’til then, there hadn’t been any. So I rewound to watch him more closely at that moment- and he was totally unfazed. His face betrayed no nervousness or distraction- he just allowed himself a very slight, controlled pause to give the crowd a chance to figure out what he meant- and then he went on.

When I do any kind of public speaking I usually deal with moments like that by kind of acknowledging the mistake, grinning my way around it or even doing some kind of gibberish rewind moment to get a quick laugh- but I’m not a Presidential candidate giving a foriegn policy speech. When I speak somewhere, I’m usually expected to deliver energy first, information second- so making that moment goofy is appropriate.

Obama’s reactions when he flubs, or, even more tellingly, when he’s interrupted by long, impassioned cheers, suggest that he’s invested in the information, not the reaction. He’s not self-indulgently flagellating himself for slipping on a word, nor is his ego basking in the applause. It makes me suspect that after a speech, he’s more likely to feel good because “they were receptive to the ideas” than because he “had them in the palm of his hand”. He’s focussed on the message, not on himself as the medium. For me, this is the root of his charisma.

Ah yes, the famous Obama charisma. It’s more than good looks and a nice voice. Notice that he is at once fiercely proud and appealingly humble: you can probably count on one hand the number of times he says “I”; and yet he leaves the listener with a rock-solid sense of who he is as a person. There’s something epic about this man. It’s easy for me to imagine him in a leather doublet, riding an armoured horse, leading a Tolkien-esque army into battle. Yeah, sometimes I think about stuff like that. Don’t pretend you don’t.

For some reason msnbc won’t let me embed the video (which they’ve helpfully titled, “On foreign soil, Obama acknowledges US flaws”- thanks for trying, guys!) But lucky for you, Dr. Shadowfax was able to put it up.

Bride gets wedding cake shaped like bride

July 28, 2008
The protein bride looks really angry at the carbohydrate bride.

The protein bride looks really angry at the carbohydrate bride.

Very late last night I was running around in the internet and I found a website called Cake Wrecks– a collection of photos and commentary on failed bakery cakes. It made me laugh so hard I had to stuff a pillow in my mouth so I wouldn’t wake anyone up. Seriously, the bed was shaking. If anyone had seen me they’d have thought I was in the throes of grief. No, my friends, not grief. Cake-induced mirth, possibly the best mirth of all.

Rémi Gaillard is a total badass.

July 27, 2008

Awesome 5-minute video of a soccer striker making ridiculous goals all over Paris, set to AC/DC. When he pulls his jersey over his own head and runs around like an airplane, chased by infuriated security guards? That’s comedy. Via Kottke.

On an unrelated note, I’m typing this with the TV on in the background, and it keeps flashing strobe lights at my face. Is it just me, or do strobe effects make everyone feel like they’re being cudgeled in the eyes with a rubber bat 80 times a minute? And oh look, another freakish lightning storm has begun. Strobing from nature, too, thanks, universe! I’ll just be over here hiding under a blanket.

Mug cake: the follow-up

July 26, 2008

In the name of journalism, Scooter and I made mug-cakes the other night at 2am. Rating: yes.

Success tastes chocolatey.

Success tastes chocolatey.

We used the recipe I posted previously, although we substituted melted salted butter for the oil, a recipe mod I endorse because (a), salted butter is a much more useful thing to buy than weird baking oil, and (b) the slight saltiness adds complexity to the flavour of the 5-minute microwaved mug cake. And snacks you make at 2am can always use more complexity, eh? Sometimes I take all the vowels out of the Alpha-Getti just for a challenge.

Another recipe mod I would endorse is using a wee bit more cocoa and a wee bit less flour- maybe altering the original recipe’s ratio by a tablespoon in each direction. That would make the cake denser and more chocolatety, both of which are good words in the dessert arena. A not-as-good word in the dessert arena is “obesity”, which can be “caused” by “late-night” “gluttony”.

Also: use a large mug.

Mixing batter in a mug is challenging, so use a fork (even though the sound of the fork-tines scraping the mug upsets some very primal part of my brain). And stir the dry ingredients well before adding the egg & butter, or else you end up with a layer of dry, unmixed flour at the bottom of your mug cake, like one of us did, and then the other of us (the one whose mom is a professional pastry chef) laughed at me and I hid in the bathroom.

I don’t know from baking but I did pick up some cake & pastry flour for the mug cake, and my cake rose pretty well. I suspect that using all-purpose flour might have a detrimental effect- the mug is so small that it’s hard to get bubbles into the batter by stirring- whereas cake flour is more encouraging, promoting better self-esteem in batter applications.

It will look like the mug can’t possibly hold all that mug-cake, but it probably will. Mine only overflowed by a couple drips, even though the uncooked batter reached right to the top. Yay uncritical optimism, I bet this means everything else will work out fine, too!

Also: don’t forget to buy some milk to wash down your epicurean genius.

And there we have it, folks: Mug-cake. Dee-licious.