Friday, March 30, 2012

April Fools Day: A History

In case you're wondering where April Fools Day came from:

Ok, it looks like the creator of that video doesn't really know either, though he makes some educated guesses. My thinking is that in Shakespearian plays, the fools were always secretly the wisest characters, and that April Fools really is just everyone being jealous of all the secretly wise fools that are born every April.

Makes perfect sense, right? 

And, of course, I am in no way biased just because I was born in April. That's utterly foolish.

Happy Early April Fools Day!

[via Neatorama

Fallback Position: TV Science Adviser

I would totally love being a TV science adviser, especially if it's anything like Kevin Grazier describes it. Now all I need to do is obtain a few M.A.'s and PhD's in some science-y fields and I'll be good to go!

In the unlikely event that that doesn't happen, I guess I'll just have to write my own science-based pilots and hire my super genius friend Noam to be my science adviser instead! We'll be the dream team!

[via Mental Floss]

Water Droplet Hitting Sand

I could watch this all day long. The repetition the GIF format gives is perfect in this scenario.


[via Mental Floss]

Was Jurassic Park the Peak of Badass VFX?

Jurassic Park largely stands the test of time due to its incredible use of puppetry and animatronics as opposed to the then-fledgling CGI. Those VFX were largely coordinated and created by Stan Winston and his team. The school he founded, the Stan Winston School of Character Arts, has recently released rehearsal footage of those amazing creations. Take a look!

Take a look at this hopping and feeding tests of its compsognathus puppets:

Notice how the puppeteers adapt over each take? Not to mention the blinking eyes and moving tiny arms. That's art right there!

Here is a rehearsal of their T. Rex eating a snack:

There are a few more videos to check out on their YouTube page. Enjoy!

[via The Daily What]

Baby Sloths Be Climbing

Watch these little guys learn how to climb!

The perfect way to start your weekend!

[via Neatorama]

Downton Arby's

What is life really like... at Downton Arby's?

Not quite sure how they're making fun of Edith (She learns to drive, shouldn't she be working the drive-thru, not failing to drink from a straw. Is it because she's "a lady"?), but otherwise I think the sketch is super funny. My favorite part by far was Mr. Bates and Anna getting their own airport Arby's franchise. They can finally be happy!

[via Neatorama]

Skyrim Hoarders

This awesome College Humor original focuses on the perils of being a Thane of Whiterun (and feeling like you have to keep everything you find) through the lens of the A&E show "Hoarders."

Favorite line: "I used to be a warrior like you until I took a--" "Ugh" "Until I took a night class in public health. Until I took a night class in public health." Only the true nerds understand. Man, that guy is SO annoying!

[via Mental Floss]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Childhood of a Circle

This short animated film reminds of those weird 70s-style shorts you'd see on PBS or early Nickelodeon. It doesn't really make sense, but the music is fun, the narrator is comforting, and the animation is lovely.

The creator, Kadavre Exquis, is a French animator and helped with the groovy 70s soundtrack, too. I love the line "Curiouser, and less prudent" - how often has that happened to us all? What a fun bedtime story!

[via Neatorama]

Otters Who Look like Benedict Cumberbatch

In case you hadn't seen this before, yes, I just made your day. I can't wait for the next season of "Sherlock" to be released in the U.S.!

[via Neatorama]

World's Largest Conservation Area Spans Five African Countries

The best chance of protecting endangered species it by protecting the ecosystems that allow them to thrive and giving them the greatest buffer possible from human intervention.

Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), a new wildlife conservation area created in 2011 (but in the works for years), hopes to accomplish precisely that. Rather than using arbitrary national borders (why would animals care about human borders?), KAZA unites five different countries - Angola, Botswana, Nimibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - to create an amount of protected land almost the size of Italy!

The advocates of the new area, like Lisa Steel, director of the WWF's Namibia program, believe, "The intent is to make it a leading conservation area and tourist destination in the region ... where communities are the main beneficiaries." However, there are skeptics who have seen these schemes signed and lauded in the past only to fall apart due to lack of funding, regulation, or resources from the participating governments.

I certainly hope KAZA succeeds! The people of these African countries deserve the economic boom of eco-tourism, and the wildlife deserves to have plenty of well-protected lands to hide, hunt, and roam free.

[via Neatorama]

Lion Cub Huggin' Time!

By far the cutest video I've seen all day (and I've seen a lot of cute videos!).

I know they're going to grow into giant killing machines, and that's exactly what they should do, but right now I want to squeeze those paws and ears!!

[via I am bored]

Ok Go-Pid

OK Go! runs a dating service.

Hilarity ensues.

Honestly, the real OkCupid is just about as much of a crapshoot. So happy I'm out of the dating pool!!

Congratulations, Katie Dippold!

Katie Dippold* is a writer on my favorite show, "Parks and Recreation" and she recently sold a spec script to a production company called Chernin Entertainment. Even better, this comedy spec centers around a pair of female buddy cops! Yes, please! Finally, the ladies are getting the buddy cop film they so badly need and deserve. Since Katie's a P&R writer, I just know it will be great!

Way to go, Katie! I hope Chernin puts in into production soon!

*What a delightful last name!

[via GITS]

Bad Girls Gone Good

I definitely agree with Alyssa Rosenberg over at ThinkProgress that the Hollywood's recent idea to reboot  fairy tales with strong, conflicted, uber-bad female antiheroes that audiences can really get behind is a great one, just like TV has done with male good baddies like Don Draper or Walter White.

Early Disney Villianesses have always had better wardrobes and more complicated character arcs than their princess counterparts, and if "Snow White and the Huntsman" is any indication, these reboots will only amplify it. No one is featured more heavily than a thoroughly badass Charlize Theron as the evil, beauty-sucking queen. While it seems like Kristin Stewart will have some fun decked out in medieval armor or traipsing through a field of trippy dream creatures, the real center of the movie is clearly Theron and just how evil she can get (and how many birds she can morph into?). I can't wait!

It's the same way in "Once Upon a Time" with super Evil Queen Regina and all of her Evil Queen cronies - Maleficent, the blind child-eating witch, and, most recently, the mysterious Queen of Hearts. Sure, they've got chaos-creator extraordinaire in Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, but he's more fueled by self-interest than hatred and revenge. Regina wants to destroy everyone she meets. That's pretty darn fun.

We'll see if the trend continues with the "Beauty and Beast" reboots (although there isn't a female antagonist in the original story, they could make something up!). The movie "Maleficent" sure suggests we'll be following (and rooting for?) Sleeping Beauty's EQ, though, so that's a good sign.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

True Customer Service

Mental Floss posted "11 of the Best Customer Service Stories Ever" a while back. They're well worth the read.

My favorite is this one from Trader Joe's:
4. Trader Joe’s
A Redditor’s 89-year-old grandfather got snowed in a couple years ago and didn’t have much in the house for meals. His daughter called several markets in the area to see if any of them had grocery delivery services, but the only one that said they did was Trader Joe’s. They don’t, actually, but were willing to help out this WWII vet. As the man’s daughter placed an order, the Trader Joe’s representative on the phone recommended other items that would be good for her dad’s low-sodium diet. An up-sell, you may be asking? Nope. They didn’t charge her a dime for the delivery or the groceries.
It's tough working in customer service. There are plenty of days when you just plain don't care about accommodating everyone's particular issue or problem, especially if it would bend the established rules. But sometimes, knowing you can really make a difference in a person's day - or in the Trader Joe's case, life - is enough to make you go the extra mile and really make sure that person's experience is exceptional and remind you why your job is important.

Corgi Cam - Great Animal Cam or Greatest Animal Cam?

Loving this.

Mainly because I want a corgi. Too cute! Look at those big old ears!

My one critique: Show his adorable face! I bet he's the sweetest!

[via Neatorama]

Excerpts from a Cat and Dog's Diary

Too true. All of it is my favorite thing!

[via Mental Floss]

Slow Motion Ballet

This is the most calming, soothing video I've watched all day. That being said, it does strongly feature "man booty" (as my fiance calls it) so consider yourself warned.

Can you believe they jump that high? The human body is capable of amazing feats (and leaps)!

[via Neatorama]

Gorgeous Firefly Photos

Digital Photo Blog (least creative/most practical name ever?) posted these brilliant long exposure photos gold fireflies as they flew across Japan during the June to July rainy/mate-y season.

Aren't they romantic? If only I was getting married in Japan during the rainy season! (Oh wait, nothing has been decided yet, so I totally can! Although logistically, I probably will opt not to)

[via PetaPixel]

Artful Stew: ENGAGED!!

OMGosh the ring!! Isn't it beautiful?

Since most of my readers are my good friends, you probably already know that your very own Artful Stew got engaged last week!!!

Isn't it exciting!?

I couldn't be happier. My fiance is the most wonderful man in the world. So wonderful that he's the one who bought me my Harry Potter ebook collection the day it was released as my early birthday present! It doesn't get any better than that! We're not sure when or where the wedding will be yet, but we're thrilled that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together. Also, saying "my fiance" is a ton of fun!

He proposed at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens on the first seventy-degree day in NYC. Absolutely perfect. Here are some flower photos to show you how lovely it was:

We spent all last week eating at wonderful restaurants around the city - seven places we had never tried before - including DB Bistro Moderne (using a gift card), Eataly, Chikalicious, Locanda Verde, Buvette, Ciano, Northern Spy Co (best kale salad!), the Spotted Pig, and our favorite place to celebrate, Harry's Cafe and Steak. Unfortunately, our favorite waiter wasn't there to share the news, but we're going to email him and make sure we return on a day he's working so we can celebrate with him. After all, he's been there for most of our anniversary and birthday dinners! Plus, we got some engagement cupcakes from Magnolia, just for good measure.

Below are some fun food photos, too. Enjoy!

Delicious chicken and fancy fries at DB Bistro

Desserts from Locanda Verde

Formerly a sundae at Harry's
His burger and my salad at the Spotted Pig
OMGosh engagement cupcakes!

Pottermore Releases Digital and Audio Books!

How exciting that we finally get to enter the land of Harry Potter via digital and audio books on Pottermore!?

I know, not as exciting as the fact that J.K. Rowling is working on her first adult novel.

But still very cool!

I downloaded the series onto my iPad and have seven downloads per title left. I'm also going to download them onto my Kindle, and I am interested to see what the quality will be like. I've got the standard e-ink Kindle, so images are generally left out, and I wonder if that will detract from my reading experience. The iPad version felt like having a cleaner (I've got grubby paws), lighter version of the books, which is exactly what I want from them. I also like the lighting controls and bookmarking options of iBooks.

I am hesitant to fully embrace the iPad versions above the Kindle versions, though, since I haven't yet read them on the Kindle. Also, I've noticed (and, obviously, tons of studies have been done proving this) that reading from e-ink creates less eye strain than reading from my iPad, so I have to take that into consideration. Yes, appearances are prettier on the iPad, but for reading sessions of longer than an hour or so, the Kindle is usually best.

Have you guys purchased the ebooks yet? Or do you think I'm a nut for wanting them when I already have the paper versions?

Also, have you guys noticed that the UK audiobooks are not available to download in the US? What's up with that? Stephen Fry is such a delight, and I was really looking forward to being able to listen to him! I hope that changes soon and isn't a part of some ridiculous cross-country copyright law or something.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New "Snow White and the Huntsman" Trailer AND Five-Minute Reel

Ok, I'm seriously digging this SWATH business. It looks seriously cool. Chris Hemsworth is appropriately moody and handsome. Kristen Stewart doesn't look completely terrible in it, and more importantly Charlize Theron looks like a total baddass.

Since I seem to be completely inept at figuring out X-Finity's embed system, here is the link to the /Film coverage of the new trailer and five minute reel.

Also, here's a YouTube version of the trailer, but it's not as good as the XFinity version, so watch that one!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Red Panda VS Pumpkin

He just wants that sweet, sweet pumpkin meat... or an excuse to roll around in the snow... or to become a pumpkin himself?

Despite his unclear motives, this little red panda is just about the cutest thing of the day (I'm looking at you, St. Patty's Day kitten I just posted!).

[via Neatorama]

Happy 25th Birthday, GIFs!

It's a little horrifying that animated GIFs are older than I am (by a month, but still!).

The first few minutes of this PBS mini-doc on GIFs are interesting, but then it gets a little too into hipster-art-self-referential-whatnot, so watch at your own discretion.

[via PBS Off Book]

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

An interesting observation today: There were more people out on the NYC streets decked out in green today (and being obscenely drunk at noon) than there were people wearing red, white, and blue (or even taking to the streets at all) on the Fourth of July. Not judging, NYC, but it's good to note that I live in a city filled with more faux-Irish pride than faux-American pride.

Not that I'm going to leave you guys on that note...


Adam Savage: How Scientists Work

In this TED ED talk, Adam Savage uses the examples of three major scientists - Feynman, Eratosthenes, and Fizeau - to illustrate how to create a simple experiment to solve a complex problem or question. Also, that science is cool.

[via Mental Floss]

Overcoming Fears on the Slopes

Here's 4th grader, Zia, undertaking her first ski jump. It sure looks scary on there, and she sounds a lot like I did when I hiked my first mountain, rappelled my first cliff, or even galloped on a horse for the first time.

The best part, though? How quickly she goes from being super frightened, to super excited and eager to take on the next challenge. "That thing I was frightened of? Turns out it was incredibly fun and I can't wait to do it again!" She's a brave young lady.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I used to be that way, too, and that sometimes it is better to take the scary leap and realize how easy it is, rather than to hang back and say "Uh, no, you do that terrifying jump thing. I like to keep my limbs intact."

[via Neatorama]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy World Kidney Day!

How do you celebrate World Kidney Day? You might not want to take Stephen Colbert's advice:

But there are a lot of things you CAN do. First off, check out the World Kidney Day website.Their slogan this year is Donate - Kidneys for Life - Receive. From the website: "The 2012 Campaign focuses on the positive outcome of kidney transplantation and the life-saving aspect of organ donation." That all sounds great to me!

 To top it off, there's some fantastic news in the world of transplantation today. A new procedure could give transplant recipients the ability to go off of anti-rejection pills forever! Right now, it is in clinical trials for new transplant recipients, but they're going to start another clinical trial for already-transplanted recipients soon. Once kidney trials are over, they may move onto other solid-organ transplants. Imagine a life free of anti-rejection medication for all transplant patients! How wonderful! 

In addition to that incredible news, a different procedure could increase the number of viable kidneys for transplantation by 10% - making a very worthy dent in the ever-growing organ waiting lists. 

So rejoice, kidney patients and kidney patient lovers all over the world! There is good news today for you, and that is good news for everyone.

And remember, please get your bloodwork done regularly to make sure you are not at risk for kidney disease. It's a sneaky beast that can attack you at your best, but vigilance and regular doctor visits can often prevent it from progressing. 

To life, to love, to kidneys!

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Brave" New Trailer

Get it? Like Brave New World???

Anyway, yes, there is a new trailer for "Brave" in Japanese. You can watch a hi-res version here or you can watch a low-res but subtitled version below. Personally, I don't think the subtitles are necessary. It only adds to plot knowledge (who needs that?), and the animation is much clearer on the higher quality version. Plus, there is lots of new footage to enjoy!

 My favorite part was Merida's interaction with the floating blue dust balls. What was yours?

[via Big Screen Animation]

Veronica Mars... On ICE!

Ok, not really (you know you want it!). Kristen Bell will be starring in the CG Disney film "Frozen" formerly "The Snow Queen" and formerly hand-drawn.

I was super annoyed when I heard it would be CG rather than hand-drawn, but nabbing Kristen Bell for the lead is a huge plus. It's unclear whether she'll play the once-titular Snow Queen or rather the heroine who fights against the wicked woman. I'm sure she'd be wonderful in either (or, let's face it, both) parts.

/Film also points out that Kristen has already had experience performing voiceover in Assassin's Creed (best video game realization ever! Definitely made the hours I spent watching my boyfriend play it much more enjoyable) as well as the voice of titular (I really love that word) Gossip Girl in "Gossip Girl" - something I never realized because I do not watch that show but makes so much sense (can't you imagine Veronica Mars snarkily commenting on these obnoxious bourgeois East Siders?).

Anyway, I'm getting pumped for this movie. Kristen Bell deserves all kinds of badass roles, and here's hoping this is one of them.

[via /Film]

Downton Abbey Rap-pey

Delightful. The Artful Countess approves.

[via Pajiba]