Working for The Man should be a last resort →

December 08, 2014 |

David Cain:

According to my critics, even if you find your standard weekday boring, painful or unfulfilling, you ought to embrace it, simply because a third-world coal miner would kill for your benefits package. When so many have so little, attempting to escape a situation in which you can reliably feed yourself and fund a retirement could only be an act of the utmost ingratitude.

A minority of us believe the opposite is true — that escaping from an unfulfilling mainstream lifestyle isn’t a moral failing, but rather a moral imperative. It’s precisely because we have all the necessary freedoms at our fingertips (and because others don’t) that spending our lives in the stable isn’t just foolish, but wrong. To remain, voluntarily, in a life where your talents are wasted and your weekdays are obstacles is to be humble in all the wrong ways.

It’s impossible to overstate just how important David Cain’s writing has been to me since I decided to escape the corporate world myself.

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The Phoblographer's First Impressions of the Sony A7 Mk II →

December 08, 2014 |

Seems exactly what many people were expecting: a slightly improved version of the original Sony A7 with built-in 5-axis in-body image stabilization:

What we’re very happy about though is the image stabilization that can surely endure most problems that you’ll encounter when shooting if you practice logical exposure manipulation.

I admit I was hoping for a more enthusiastic reaction, but it’s true that the A7 was already an excellent camera, so there was not much margin for improvement to begin with.

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‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ Gameplay Video →

December 06, 2014 |

Sony unveiled the first official gameplay demo of ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ during today’s PlayStation Experience event. Even in its current unfinished state, the game looks absolutely stunning:

I’ve always enjoyed adventure games, but during the past decade I missed a lot of them. I took a seven-year hiatus from gaming between 2005 and 2012, during which time I didn’t even own a console. When I decided to start gaming again last year I thought about buying a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, but I figured this was a great opportunity to discover all the great games of the last generation that I had missed.

At that time, both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 were heavily discounted, and most games were easy to find in used condition for just a few bucks. The reason I chose the PS3 over the slightly cheaper Xbox 360 was just so that I could play through the Uncharted games, and I’m so gad I did. After finishing them all, I can confidently say Uncharted may be my favorite video game series of all time.

Judging from what I just saw on this video, it looks like Nathan Drake’s next adventure will be his best ever, and I can hardly wait to get my hands on it. I may have to seriously reconsider my decision to not buy the PS4 when this game comes out.

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Layer Tennis Season 4 Championship Match: “Smells Like Vectory” →

December 05, 2014 |

The Season 4 Championship Match of Layer Tennis is finally upon us.

Featuring Kelli Anderson vs. James White and narrated by Mr. John Gruber, this promises to be an exciting match, and an excellent way to wrap up a memorable season.

And remember:

As usual, Layer Tennis league officials do not encourage wagering on the outcome of this match, nor the consumption of any adult beverages prior to the completion of volley 8. (Also as usual, they don’t exactly discourage such things, either.)

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The Godfather Bar, Still Open →

December 05, 2014 |

Bar Vitelli en Savoca (famoso por una escena de "El Padrino")

Photo Credit: Ramón Cutanda López

Messy Nessy:

Savoca, a quiet town in the Province of Messina in the Italian region Sicily, located east of Palermo, was the location for the scenes set in Corleone of Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather. Bar Vitelli in Savoca, which is still a functioning establishment, was featured in the motion picture as the place where Michael Corleone asked the father of his doomed bride to be, Apollonia, to help arrange the match.

I admit it, I’m a sucker for these stories. So cool.

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The problem with High Frame Rate (HFR) films

December 04, 2014

Today I read an article on The Technium on why High Frame Rate (HFR) films don’t look like traditional films, and why some people don’t like it. The article contains excerpts from a conversation with John Knoll, who gives a great explanation in layman’s terms. Via Coudal:

Imagine you had the lucky privilege to be invited by Peter Jackson onto the set of the Hobbit. You were standing right off to the side while they filmed Bilbo Baggins in his cute hobbit home. Standing there on the set you would notice the incredibly harsh lighting pouring down on Bilbo’s figure. It would be obviously fake. And you would see the makeup on Bilbo’s in the harsh light. The text-book reason filmmakers add makeup to actors and then light them brightly is that film is not as sensitive as the human eye, so these aids compensated for the film’s deficiencies of being insensitive to low light and needing the extra contrast provided by makeup. These fakeries were added to “correct” film so it seemed more like we saw. But now that 48HFR and hi-definition video mimic our eyes better, it’s like we are standing on the set, and we suddenly notice the artifice of the previously needed aids. When we view the video in “standard” format, the lighting correctly compensates, but when we see it in high frame rate, we see the artifice of the lighting as if we were standing there on the set.

That makes a lot of sense, but it only explains why HFR movies look different, not why they feel different. Image quality is one thing, but motion is a separate problem, and the article doesn’t negate the fact that, for most people, the extremely fluid motion typically associated with HFR movies feels extremely awkward, placing the entire viewing experience right into the uncanny valley. Typically, that fluid motion effect is explained away as a side effect of HFR films being more realistic, but I certainly wouldn’t describe them as such. Life, after all, isn’t viewed at 48 fps.

The Hobbit - The Battle of the Five Armies

Hyper-realistic Middle Earth is not so fun, after all

I also take issue with this statement:

I told Knoll that these complaints about the sterility of the new digital format reminded me of the arguments against CD music albums. Digital was “too clear” “too clinical” not “warm and fuzzy enough” according to audiophiles. CDs missed the musical ambiance, the painterly soul of a song. The critics were not going to buy CDs and the labels would have to pry their beloved analog vinyl albums from their dead hands. Of course, for average music fans, the clear hiss-free quality of CDs were soon perceived as much superior, particularly as the “frame” rate of the digital sampling increased past the point of most ear’s perception. “That’s exactly what it is like, ” exclaimed Knoll. HFR is the CD of movies right now.

I believe the comparison between digital movies and digital audio vs. their analog counterparts is mostly fair, but there’s quite a bit more to it than that, and it’s not all rosy. HFR movies are not a new digital format as that paragraph seems to suggest, they just have a higher frame rate. To use their own analogy, in digital music processing a higher sampling rate does not increase playback fidelity beyond a certain point. In fact, a too-high sampling rate — above 96 kHz — may actually degrade the listening experience due to a phenomenon known as “intermodulation distortion”. In a very interesting article, Justin Colletti explains how this works:

192kHz digital music files offer no benefits. They’re not quite neutral either; practical fidelity is slightly worse. The ultrasonics are a liability during playback.

This runs counter to many initial intuitions regarding super-sonic sampling rates – my own included. But the evidence is there. Since analog circuits are almost never linear at super-high frequencies, they can and will introduce a special type of distortion called intermodulation distortion.

This means that two super-sonic frequencies that cannot be heard, say 22 kHz and 32 kHz, can create an intermodulation distortion down in the audible range, in this case at the “difference frequency” of 10kHz. This is a real danger whenever super-sonic frequencies are not filtered out.

There’s nothing strange or non-factual about that. It’s not a matter of opinion or personal preference, either: it’s just basic signal theory. I’m not sure how it relates to digital video processing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the effect was similar: there’s probably an optimal playback frame rate for the human eye, and exceeding it may bring unwanted side effects such as the uncanny motion we’ve seen in the HFR versions of the Hobbit movies.

There’s certainly more work to be done in this area, and these are early days. The movie industry may eventually find a higher-than-24 fps frame rate to be the optimal compromise between image quality and motion realism, but judging by the looks of it, 48 fps isn’t it. And if I had to bet, I wouldn’t place my money on going higher.

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Jon Stewart Gets Serious to Talk ‘Utterly Depressing’ Eric Garner Case →

December 04, 2014 |

Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show:

I honestly don’t know what to say. If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more fucking time. But I would really settle for less fucking tragedy, to be honest with you.

I’ve avoided posting anything related to this topic because, not living in the US, I wasn’t entirely sure I could be objective. This case, however, is just too much to stay silent.

Again, I’ve embedded a YouTube clip of the segment in this article, but if the video is removed — it happens sometimes — the title link will take you to Comedy Central’s official website, where you can watch it on their Flash-based player. Sorry about that.

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The title's Spectre, just Spectre: new James Bond movie named →

December 04, 2014 |

Ben Child, The Guardian:

The 24th Bond movie will be titled Spectre after the evil global terrorist organisation first introduced by Ian Fleming in the 1961 novel Thunderball, it was revealed today.

At a live-streamed press conference from Pinewood Studios, producers also confirmed previous reports that the new film will feature Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux among the supporting cast.


Also, check out the new Aston Martin DB10, which was built specifically for the movie. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

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