Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is Flightplan an Unofficial Remake of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes?


When watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic comedy-thriller The Lady Vanishes last night, I couldn’t help but keep returning to a movie I saw several years ago, a Jodie Foster thriller named Flightplan. The similarities are uncanny. Someone close to the main character disappears from a moving transportation vehicle without a trace and nobody remembers what happened.

That was excusable, but I felt that the line between “homage” or “allusion” and “rip-off” was crossed when Flightplan blatantly copied one of the key plot points from The Lady Vanishes.

In The Lady Vanishes, the woman who disappears writes her name in the mist on the dining car window.  Later, when the main character is dining at that same table, she sees the name in the mist. Similarly, the daughter in Flightplan draws a heart in the mist on the airplane window, a heart which Foster’s character is able to find by breathing warm air onto said window. Here’s the video evidence:

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Internet Fun: GuyWhoForcesHisWifeToDressInAGarbageBagForThreeYears.com


In the Carmen Sandiego Effect category, I give you GuyWhoForcesHisWifeToDressInAGarbageBagForThreeYears.com.

Mentioned on How I Met Your Mother, this website consists of a series of pictures of a fictional couple posing. The man wears clothes while the woman wears, as the title might suggest, a garbage bag. I checked the whois page and the site belongs to Twentieth Century Fox; this is designed to be a direct tie-in to the series. It may not be the most exciting thing ever, but it’s pretty cool.

Here’s the part of the show that references it:

Internet Fun: Smax714


I stumbled upon this gem by accident. Hopefully, by the time I’m done here, you’ll understand both why I found this by accident, and why I call it a gem.

It all started with a video titled “Llamas with Hats 5.” This was a clever, if a little backhanded, way of marketing his channel. He knew that viewers would click through the videos in the popular “Llamas with Hats” series and – expecting more—continue to his own videos. Unfortunately, this was not met with happiness.

Consisting of nothing but images of the two characters from the “Llamas with Hats” videos superimposed on different settings and backed by the Nintendo Store theme song, “Llamas with Hats 5” was nothing but a blatant rip-off of a far better original. However, things got interesting from there.

Smax’s videos now attempt to redirect people from a number of legitimate topics, but all end in the same place: a collage commenting on the remix culture and shallow attitude of the YouTube and the internet at large.

Internet Fun: Vertu


In the “stuff for people with more dollars than sense” category, I submit for your enjoyment Vertu, purveyors of ridiculously expensive cell phones.

This site consists of about half a dozen different cell phone models, ranging in price from a couple thousand to a couple hundred thousand dollars. Yes, you read that correctly. Vertu actually expects people to pay $200,000+ for a cell phone.

What makes these cell phones so special, you ask? Well, it seems that they vary. The entry level phones are made of brushed steel and real leather, but the top-of-the-line phones can be made from sterling silver, yellow gold, white gold, and even platinum. Buttons are often made of sapphires and- in at least one case- the “select” button at the center of the archaic five-way navigation pad is a diamond.

The crown jewel, as it were, of this company, though, can only be found in an area of the site so exclusive that you have to go through a 20 second registration process before you get access. (This is the internet, after all; nothing can take too long.) Here you find even fancier phones, such as the Signature Precious(shown above), which – in addition to being made of white gold – is bordered on each side by hand placed diamonds. Like many items on this site, all phones in this “private showroom” section are on an “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” basis. No prices are listed and purchase is only by appointment.

As icing on the cake, the technology in these incredibly expensive phones is terrible. Vertu has only recently introduced their first smart phone and touch-screen phone. These are two separate products; if you want a touch-screen smart phone, you’re out of luck. The touch screen phone uses the inferior resistive technology found on old Palm devices like the Treo, and even the smart phone runs Nokia’s dying Symbian platform, which the company has since replaced with Windows Phone.

If you want one of these phones, you will have to fly your private jet to one of their flagship boutiques in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, or  Manhattan. Only the most rudimentary models are sold online.

An Awesome Service: If This, Then That


I’ve been aware of this service for a while, but today was the first time I spent some serious time with it. If This, Then That (ifttt.com) is a tool that essentially lets you create simple scripts for various Web 2.0 services. Here’s how it works:

  1. You create a “trigger.” When this occurs, your task will run.
  2. You tell it what to do when triggered.

That’s it. It’s super intuitive and easy. Here are some examples I have come up with:

 

Archive Your Tweets and Facebook Statuses

This is something I have been wanting to do for quite a while. Since this data isn’t self-hosted or stored locally, you rely on the company to stay around forever if you want the information you post. These tasks create an archive of everything you post on either service. These each have to be set up separately, but it’s totally worth your time if you ever post anything original on Twitter or Facebook.

Trigger:

  • Twitter > New tweet by you
  • Facebook > New status message by you

For the task, you can choose a number of services to which you might want to archive. I use 2, Evernote and Gmail. Gmail is a great place to store these because the search works so well, but you will need to set up some filters for the incoming emails if you don’t want to get inundated with messages.

Task:

  • Evernote > Create a new note
  • Gmail > Send an email (send this to yourself)

Archive Your Blog Posts

This, like the last one, is because I don’t host my blog myself. This way, I have lots of backup copies of everything I write.

Trigger: WordPress > New blog post by you

Task:

  • Evernote > Create a new note
  • Dropbox > Upload file from URL (this will download the blog post’s HTML file and place it into the folder of your choice on Dropbox)

[blank] Sent You an Email

If you seem to miss emails but always see text messages, you can set this up for people you care the most about.

Trigger: Gmail > New email from

Task: SMS> Send text message to me

 

Well, that’s just about all I have, but I’ll keep you updated as I come up with more uses (I’m sure I will).

A Fun Little Idea: Comment Helpers


Thanks to the internet’s mash-up (or pastiche, depending on to whom you speak) culture, I think that jokes like this can be powerful and have the ability to go a long way. Here’s the idea: the next time you are feeling something that can most easily be represented by these brief and (often) humorous video clips, don’t just explain how you feel: post or comment with a link to the video, or even embed it. This should be a fun way to help express frequently felt emotions across our little internet.

I imagine these getting more use as sarcasm than actual, genuine emotion, but that’s why they’re perfect for the internet!

 

Some Examples

If someone gives you an underhanded compliment:

If someone complains about something stupid:

That last one is actually really interesting because it comes from an old home movie I made with my brother and friends. That’s right; the terrible actor is me.

If you want to say something is awesome:

That’s just a few examples. To see all of them, you can visit my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/NathanBLawrence?feature=mhee

Internet Fun: Last Exit to Nowhere


I’ve known about this website for a while, but until I started these “Internet Fun” posts, I never really had anywhere to share it. It’s called Last Exit to Nowhere. They make T-Shirts based on movies. They’re awesome T-Shirts. I want all of them. There’s really not a lot more to say.

You may remember that some time ago, I wrote about something which I called the Carmen Sandiego Effect, the idea that fictional universes can intersect with our own by creating physical manifestations of that world that are “left behind” – things like websites, in-universe fiction, and – in this case — T-Shirts. These are awesome and you should go buy one.

Internet Fun: Cartoonized.net


Have you ever wanted a cartoon version of yourself? It’s not very useful, but it’s fun to have and looks really professional on your Facebook and Twitter avatars. (I’m also going to use mine for PoMoCast album art.)

I’ve tried for a long time to make one myself, but I never had one turn out very well. However, after quite a bit of scrounging about on Google, I found the site cartoonized.net. The idea is this: you send them a picture, they tell you if it’s big enough, charge you, and get to work. In 3-5 business days, you’ll get a PDF proof copy, which you can then request changes to until you’re satisfied. Once you like it, you tell them and they send you a final copy of the image (this is mine), along with a smaller version perfectly cropped to be a Facebook or Twitter avatar.

My experience, though close to this, was not exactly perfect. The first time I sent them a photo, I go it off of Facebook. About 12 hours later, I got an email from Brian at Cartoonized, who said that my image was too small. After some scrounging around, I found a copy of something that looked like this, when Brian accepted promptly.

When I got the billing statement, it was a little strange. Instead of asking me to go through a typical checkout system like most retailers online, I was told to send a $15.00 payment to the email address cartoon@cartoonized.net through PayPal. This concerned me a little, as an upfront payment like this could mean I never get my image. When I contacted, Brian, though, he was very helpful and told me he only needed a down payment, so I sent $8.00 then and another $8.00 ($7 plus a $1 tip for being so helpful) when we were done.  When I got my proof (3 days later), It was exactly as I wanted it, so he sent me the final copies right away.

Based on my interactions with the company, I’m relatively certain when I posit a couple of things. Since all my interactions were with Brian, and it uses PayPal’s personal payment system instead of a more complex checkout system, I would assume that this operation is pretty small-time. Brian is probably the only employee. Further, since all my interactions with him were late at night, I would assume that either he does this in addition to his day job or that he’s somewhere in Asia or Eastern Europe. I can’t see why either of these things (except for the quirky PayPal payment) should bother you, but if they do, I would avoid this company.  Otherwise, I give Cartoonized.net a thumbs-up.

Video Games I’ve Been Playing


Lately, I’ve been spending time playing video games. So I though I should share a list of what I’m playing.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I really don’t need to say much more. There’s  a lot to do in this game, and that’s what makes it fun. If you’re still at the beginning and can’t see why anybody would want to play it, keep playing. As you grow more powerful, new side-quests and adventures open up. Many of these are far richer than the main story and give you a lot more to do.

Normally I recommend you buy games like these on Steam, but Skyrim is such a large game I would assume it’s not an easy download, and you’ll want to play it as soon as you buy it, so I recommend you buy a physical copy at a physical store, or get it off of Amazon, where it’s actually about $8 cheaper than anywhere else right now (as of 5:40 PM on January 8, 2012).

Alice: Madness Returns

This is a really creepy game. Set in the universe of its predecessor, American McGee’s Alice, this game is a creepy interpretation on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. If you enjoyed the original as much as I did, this sequel will be welcome. The controls feel slightly old-fashioned even when using a modern Xbox 360 controller attached to the PC, but it’s still worth playing if you like creepy games just for the atmosphere and breathtaking graphics (this is a screenshot from gameplay).

Buy Alice: Madness Returns on Steam.

Borderlands

I’ve played this one before, but I decided to take a second look after a friend (Erty Seidel) mentioned its similarity of Jak 3. Having at this point gotten fairly deep into a replay of it, I can totally see where he’s coming from. This was a good game, but not great. I felt the cel-shaded graphics were vulnerable to a lot of aliasing even at the highest setting of anti-aliasing (at which this screenshot was taken).

Buy Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition on Steam. (It’s absolutely worth getting the Game of the Year Editions when you can.)

Sonic Generations

Yeah. I know. I can hear it already.  “All the new Sonic games are terrible! They fail to capture what was great about the original.” Normally, I would agree with that statement, but not with Sonic Generations. This game captures what was right with the series from the beginning: the sense of speed. I’ve had a lot of fun with this one and there are some super tough levels, too.

Buy Sonic Generations on Steam.