bpb Column: Three Ways Meet
Friday, 27 April 2012 15:47

In this new weekly column, filmmaker Danish Aslam will be your purveyor of the finest quality random facts, useless trivia and other esoterica from the world wide web. He lives mostly behind a keyboard and may or may not be a wizened old green man who speaks in grammatically incorrect aphorisms.

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff From Old Comic Book Ads

If, like me, you were a comic-book fan in your teens (and sometimes much later than that as well), then you've seen the multitude of ads for seemingly impossible products that used to take as much time to go through as the entire comic. You know the ones I'm talking about: 7-Foot Life-Size Ghost, Sea Monkeys, X-Ray Vision Glasses and the like. Somehow, we always wanted them but never actually ordered them (mainly because we didn't have online payment and Amazon.com back in the day). Kirk Demarais was once such fan who decided to collect all the ones that he could find and write a book about it.

It's called Mail-Order Mysteries and is all about what you actually get when you order these magical items. The 7-Foot Ghost is a balloon and a trash bag, and the Sea Monkeys are brine shrimp. He talks about his experience in a detailed interview at Collectors Weekly. Read on, unless you'd rather not have your childhood illusions shattered.

Coffee Faucet

Coffee junkie? Want it on tap? Your prayers have been answered! And you can control it from your iPhone too.

Kickstarter: Pebble E-paper Watch

As far as innovative ideas in the world of technology go, Kickstarter ranks right up with there with Facebook and the invention of tabbed browsing. If you don't know what crowd-funding is, check Wikipedia. But if you just want to dive right into the myriad possibilities that this concept offers, check this example out.

It's a watch with an e-ink face that tells you the time. And controls your music. And shows who's calling you. And gets text messages. And has a different interface every day (if you want it to). And tells you how fast you're cycling. You get the idea? Not really. Not until you see the video and realise how cool this actually is.

The creators of this project put it up asking for $100,000 to develop it, which they got within two hours. As of writing this post, they have raised over $7 million, making it the highest funded Kickstarter project. And the funding closes on May 18. By which time, they may just have enough to launch the iPhone 5.

Improv Everywhere

Any organisation that lives by the motto "We Cause Scenes" is automatically guaranteed respect in my book. And Improv Everywhere has such a happy vibe to it that you can't help but smile every time they pull a new one out of their bags.

For the uninitiated, IE is a New York based performance group that randomly performs "missions", known to the rest of the world as pranks, flash-mobs etc complete with hidden-cameras. Some of the more famous ones include pretending to be U2 playing on a rooftop moments before the actual band was due to perform across the street and their annual No Pants subway ride where a bunch of people ride the subway without pants because they've "forgotten them at home". The last iteration of this one had over 5,000 people taking off their pants on subways in 48 cities in 22 countries!

Boat Floats On Water

The clearest water I've ever seen. And probably one of the best not-an-optical-illusion-but-still-looks-like-one as well. How you can tell that it actually is resting on water is by looking at the legs dangling in the water on the right side. Now all I need to know is where this is.

YouTube's Most Viewed Ads of 2011

No explanation required really. My favorites include Ken Block's Gymkhana (now that's what I call driving) and The Force by Volkswagen (simply for the cuteness factor).

The Magnetic Fields: Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

The songs that hit you the hardest are not the ones that are belted out by shrieking rock stars with the angst of the world riding on their drug-fuelled shoulders, but rather the happy ditties that you hum for days until one day you stop and hear the lyrics for the first time. And it hits you just how dark these guys really are. The first album that did that to me was Blue Is The Color by The Beautiful South. And after many years, I've just heard another.

The Magnetic Fields have been around since '91 and with this album, they're back in form with their subversive synth-pop sing-alongs that scream at the world with a smile on the face and tongue firmly in the cheek. Besides being the only band I know of that rhymes 'pied-à-terre' with 'derriere', they've stuck to a under-three-minutes time limit for every song, which manages to keep them incisive without becoming maudlin. Like the fabulously satirical 'God Wants Us To Wait':

"I guess it's true I should have told you before
And not have waited 'til we're nude on the floor
Though it would be the perfect end to our date

I love you, baby, but God wants us to wait."

The only video that's out so far is for 'Andrew in Drag'. The title pretty much tells you what it's about. Or so you think.

Warning: The video is slightly NSFW.

Lightfield Camera

News of this camera first starting doing the rounds last year. And I've wanted one ever since. The hook here is that this is a camera that allows you to focus a photograph AFTER you take it. It does this by capturing all the available light in a shot, as opposed to just the light going in one particular direction. And the result is that you get an image that can be focused on any plane you like. Check out the picture gallery on the website for examples of photos that you can refocus wherever you like.

What's also attractive is the size of the camera and the speed with which it shoots (since there's no focus motor to lose time in focusing the image before you can click).

The only drawback so far is that high-res images can be saved in Lytro's format and if you convert to JPEG, the resolution drops to 1.2 megapixels. But then again, so did the first iPhone. Didn't stop too many people there, did it?

The Man Who hacked Hollywood

Nobody's safe. Least of all the celebrities. And recently, there seems to be a plethora of photos from hacked email accounts doing the rounds. Chris Chaney is the man responsible for most of them. And in this fascinating read from GQ, he talks about how he started off as a hacker and the sometimes sleazy underbelly of celebrity porn.

ESPN Michael Jordan Ad

Two ad posts in one blog? This one is worth it. Short, sweet and completely believable, this is creative thinking at its best.


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Comments (2)
Monday, 30 April 2012 13:15
Someone shoyld do an Improv everywhere here. Not sure how sporting Mumbai would be.
Monday, 30 April 2012 11:15
Wow I was always so intrigued by the sea monkey ads in Archie comics. And also a little creeped out. Have to Flipkart this book now.

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