Last year I was watching ‘Pawn Stars’ on the History Channel and was shocked to see Bob Dylan make a rare TV appearance on an episode of the reality show. Fan as I am of that program it was the last place I expected to see the legendary songsmith. It seems to have been more than an unplanned appearance now as Rick and Chumlee have returned the favour and turned up in Dylan’s latest, and revolutionarily interactive, music video for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.
That is very cool, but what’s even cooler is the incredible video itself. You’re put in control of a TV where the programming on each station is perfectly lip-synched to the song. Flip through each channel and in whatever show is on the dialogue is the words of the classic Dylan tune, you’ll never have the same experience twice.
Unfortunately the video isn’t embeddable as it’s worth watching, even if you’re not a Dylan fan. Even if you’re not a fan of music. Even if you’re not human. If you’re a thing that has eyes and ears and something to hit the up and down arrows with you should watch this video.
There are 16 channels altogether, with more to come, and one of them features the famous live performance of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ at the Royal Albert Hall. My personal favourites are Rick and Chumlee from ‘Pawn Stars’ on the Reality Check channel and the cartoon ‘Zoey and Socks’ on Just for Kids (I mean really, why is the cat floating?).
Kudos to whoever came up with this idea, seriously good moments when Rick lip-synched “...do you want to make a deal?” and “...you’d better pawn it babe”.
There are many ways people amuse themselves in hotel rooms. For me two empty sugar packets, a mirror and a well-placed spotlight kept me entertained (at least briefly) in a Holiday Inn I was staying in last week.
When the spotlight was turned on a face appeared and I couldn’t resist adding a little expression.
Without the sugar packets the mirror merely looked surprised:
But thanks to the expressive power of my improvised eyebrows it became angry:
And then I contemplated using the Sharpie in my bag to give Mirror Man a moustache, but came to my senses.
Interesting new font discoveries excite me more than they probably should. Recently idle thumbs leafing through a design book led me to discover a typeface from the ‘60s which aimed to reinvent those squiggles we make wordy things with. It’s an impractical collection of lines called New Alphabet but has earned itself a place on my list of favourite fonts that aren’t really suitable for everyday use. I’m a sucker for a san-serif and this one’s a science fictiony treat.
New Alphabet was created in 1967 by Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel with the aim to improve readability on early low-res computer displays. There’s no curves, just straight lines and 45 degree corners, and there's no upper case. Some of the letters are recognisable while others aren’t but they look good on a page. The overall effect is quite futuristic even now.
Deemed too experimental and unreadable, even by its author, the typeface never really caught on. However it’s interesting to see such a radical way of dealing with what is now an obsolete problem. Does make you wonder if the English alphabet is really as efficiently designed as it could be.
Space, realistic special effects, 1977. Words (and a number) more closely associated with the first Star Wars film. However there was another movie, albeit a short one, released the same year which was equally, if not more, mind blowing in its depiction of space.
Powers of Ten escaped my attention until recently but has instantly become one of my favourite pieces of filmmaking. Suddenly so many visual references to it in movies make sense.
Not only is it an impressive technical achievement, and one which still looks amazing 40 years later, but manages to put the universe in perspective with incredible mathematical accuracy. The camera zooms out from a 1 x 1m picture of a man and woman having a picnic in a park in Chicago at a rate of a power of ten each second. It reaches 1024m before it starts zooming back in at an accelerated rate. It slows down again when it reaches the hand of the man, zooming into an atomic level down to 10-16m.
Of course science has come a long way since 1977 and we can see a lot further in both directions, that doesn’t make the video any less awe-inspiring though.
It was directed by husband and wife architects, furniture designers and filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames and had its special effects designed by Alex Funke who also worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It took 13 months to complete the eight minute film.
An early prototype version made in 1968 is less polished but has the fascinating addition of a clock which shows how fast time moves on Earth in relation to the viewer who is moving close to the speed of light.
A computer generated remake was created in 1996, as part of a documentary entitled Cosmic Voyage, but lacks the magic of the 1977 version, and bits of the older movie look better. A great argument for the magic of practical effects over computer generated ones.
Mark is a freelance writer based in Devon specialising in gadgets, mobile technology and television. He mainly writes for other people but has two websites of his own, one is a blog about all things futuristic the other a children's poetry site.