Jul 272016
 

This is pretty great.  This video from Comic-Con is Justin Roiland from Adult Swim series “Rick and Morty” reading an insane courtroom transcript from a June 2016 Georgia murder trial, word-for-word, in the voices of characters Rick and Morty (with minimal animation added).  For more info see these posts from College Humor and slashfilm.com.  If you’re not familiar with the show, scroll-down and check out the opening scene from episode 1 first.

Jul 232016
 

This just in, police are reporting that there’s a man on top of a skyscraper ready to jump.  I’m told that he is possibly “Ol’ Dirty”, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.  The police suspect that there could be some connection between this “old dirty man” and the killer bees.

 

ol dirty 2

Jul 162016
 

Watching these in action is surreal.  The panning-shot at 5:00 is feels like science-fiction: the sheer ease and grace of his stride’s almost spooky.  After losing his lower-legs to frostbite, Herr started developing simple prosthetics so he could resume rock-climbing.  Then he started adding computers and actuators into the mix.  The current generation senses nerve impulses and intelligently mimics a biological limb to such an extent that little training or acclimation is required.

Kuromukuro

 TV, Video  Comments Off on Kuromukuro
Jul 152016
 

Netflix started producing their own anime, and apparently somebody was a big Evangelion fan.   The Lord giveth and taketh away – mostly the latter in my experience – but sometimes he is kind…

Password Cracking – Computerphile

 Tech, Video  Comments Off on Password Cracking – Computerphile
Jul 142016
 

Excellent 20-minute explanation of password strength for both the general audience and the more tech-saavy user.  Dr. Mike Pound demonstrates password cracking using hashcat – the example scenario is that an online service liked LinkedIn is hacked and the user credentials are stolen (which happens not uncommonly).  No company would store those credentials in “plaintext” – they’ve been encrypted via a one-way hashing algorithm (for the purposes of this video it’s MD5, which is outdated and quite weak).

 

He shows brute-force and dictionary attacks and the affects of increasing password length and complexity.  He also explains how substitutions (eg. “N3wy0rk”) are easily defeated by simple rulesets.

House of Five Leaves

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Jun 272016
 

Great anime series: stylish as hell, slow-burn, and morally ambiguous as all get-out.

 

The main reason this series really gets to me is its protagonist, Masanosuke.  And just to get this out of the way, he’s an Edo-period ronin.  If that doesn’t ring any bells for you, it means a wandering (or masterless) samurai.  If it does, then you know this concept’s been strip-mined so thoroughly that you already want to stop reading this.  However, this particular ronin has a “problem with his personality”- and it’s not that he’s a stolid loner whose lust for battle explosively manifests at convenient plot points.  Instead, he has a classic case of what we now refer to as Social Anxiety.  Which doesn’t mean he’s a coward or he can’t kick-ass; it just means no one will hire him for honest work.

 

That’s half of the reason why he falls-in with a group of criminals, the “House of Five Leaves”.  The other half is that its leader, Yaichi, has a pathological obsession with kidnapping, and Masanosuke reminds him of someone from his past.  It’s all explained in due time.

 

This is one of those short, sweet deals with a perfect ending, and I mean perfect.  It’ll rip your fucking guts out, not because someone you like dies – nothing so crude as that – it’s far more subtle, but if you get there, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s almost as good as the end of The Shield, maybe as good, though it’s an apples-and-oranges thing, since House of Five Leaves is 12 episodes, whereas The Shield is 88.

 

 

Miles Davis and Kurt Cobain

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Jun 212016
 

Miles Davis’s later style feels a lot like that of Kurt Cobain to me.  It’s a weird comparison to be sure, but both had this uncannily similar tendency to step back (or may be aside) from the purely technical.

 

When I was much younger and first listened to both these tracks, my first impression was they were both making mistakes.  Poor Miles, I thought – doing pop covers and flubbing notes.  Whereas I just assumed Cobain was just under the influence.  But if you had put a gun to my young, empty head, I’d have said they both sounded pretty damn good.  I couldn’t have said why though.  Now I can.

 

There’s something about those “mistakes” that’s a little too intentional.  Not in the sense that Kurt intended those two strums on the downbeat of 2:08 to be flat: he didn’t practice them exactly like that 100 times to get them like that.  There’s no sheet music where his voice breaks a little at point x.  And Miles didn’t plan to be a little slow on his fingering at 2:14 so that the transition from one note to the next would be a messy combination of the wrong set of valves being open simultaneously for an instant.  If a beginner did that during a lesson, you’d have them slow it down and try again.  But when he does it, right at that moment, after all those pure golden tones, it adds something, like that one little rock in a zen garden that’s so obviously out-of-place that you feel like maybe the whole thing was the result of natural phenomena.

 

They both played a little loose, in the way that only a truly accomplished artist can pull-off.  They could ride the edge of chaos just enough to make a performance a living, breathing thing.  It’s far harder than it sounds.  But it sounds pretty damn good.

Knuckleball (2012)

 Games, Video  Comments Off on Knuckleball (2012)
Jun 172016
 

Another wonderful documentary about a sport I know little about.  Shit just draws you in…

 

Modern major-league pitching is mostly about how hard you can throw and how fast your shoulder wears-out before your career is over.  It’s antithetical to the spirit of the game, historically speaking: if I took-away nothing else from the Ken Burns documentary, it’s that this is the singular sport in which skill can outweigh pure athleticism.  I used to think it was bizarre that there were pro baseball players who seemed to have a bit of a beer gut, or couldn’t run the 100-meter dash at Olympic speed.  I kind of get it now…

 

Football’s about how far and precisely a quarterback can throw the ball, or how hard a linebacker can hit the other guy, or how quickly and nimbly someone can run the ball past defenders.  The trend has been towards larger, more muscular players and an increasing incidence of traumatic brain injury.  There are some really good (but sadly depressing) Frontline documentaries about the phenomenon: aging stars who suffer significant cognitive functional difficulties and/or in their later years commit brutal, uncharacteristic, straight-up insane acts of violence (like murdering loved ones and suicide by drinking antifreeze) that are directly linked to repeated concussions and subsequent brain lesions.  Recent clinical research has shown the same physiological damage in even high school athletes.  Sadly (again) this data has mostly come of autopsies of young men in supposedly peak physical condition who died far too early under strange circumstances.  The kids who don’t exhibit outward symptoms aren’t exactly lining-up to have their brains dissected.  It’s an ugly side-effect of a traditionally-loved sport, and unfortunately there’s no easy fix in-sight.  But I digress…

 

The standard big-league pitch has a few variations, but is generally expected to be 85-95 mph.  The idea is to simply overwhelm the human nervous system’s response speed.  Fun fact: scientific tests have shown that major-league home-run superstars don’t have faster reflexes than the average person.  Nobody can see a ball moving that quickly and hit it.  They succeed by watching the pitcher’s arm at the moment of release and predicting where the damned thing’s going to be by the time the bat is in collision range.  That certainly doesn’t detract from their skill: I don’t understand how any non-cyborg could ever pull that off once, much less consistently night after night.  Shit’s crazy.

 

But the knuckleball is a weird-ass pitch. It’s way slower, maybe 80mph, often more like 60.  And it doesn’t have some wild spin on it: in fact, it generally has no spin at all!  That’s sort of the point: to throw one of these, you have to unlearn anything you’ve been taught about how to consciously direct an object’s motion once it leaves your hand.  It’s like a crude mortar shell, or a cannonball fired from an unrifled barrel.  Think Napoleonic-war-era tech:  the thing just ejects, and then the elements decide where the fuck it goes.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to dismast another frigate at 300 yards, but it can wreak havoc on someone trying to intercept said projectile with a narrow piece of wood 54′ away.