Friday, October 10, 2014

Checking in with -- the website that's better than it has an right to be

Even more than Mental Floss, has taken the worst genre in journalism (the unfortunately named listicle) and made it something entertaining, informative and intelligent. I don't drop by that often because it's such a time sink, but when I do I always come away with something worth sharing.

For instance, 5 Dirty Tricks Apple Uses to Get You to Buy a New iPhone opens with this nice example of a deceptive graphic:

The problem is that the old version (on the left) is misleadingly shot in a different light: it doesn't have any shadowed black edge and is a completely silver shade, whereas the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are cleverly shaded at the sides to make them appear skinnier than they actually are. Here's a handy GIF to show what we mean:

I'm not crazy about the animation, but still.

The article goes where so few technology writers dare and actually discusses the functionality from a common sense perspective.
Think about what you do with your phone -- send texts, make calls, check social media, play terrible games, and send immediately regrettable photographs to people you just met. Unless you're a professional photographer, you're not going to care about how much the camera has improved on the iPhone 6 (and if you are a professional photographer, you probably take pictures on something better than a goddamn iPhone). And for those of you who game -- nothing playable on the iPhone really needs a huge upgrade in power. Just look what happened when they tried to sell Angry Birds on actual gaming systems. So what do we need the better specs for? To have more apps? Not according to the hard numbers.

In 6 BS News Stories That Went Viral: The Girl With Three Boobs, they gleefully point out how gullible journalists can be when there's a deadline.
That's Telegraph, The Hollywood Reporter, E! Online, Huffington Post, and International Business Times reminding us that, like the ocean, the Internet is a vast chilly abyss that cradles unspeakable wonder as well as waking nightmares. We'll leave you to decide which category triple boobs fall under, because we honestly have no idea.

For those of you wondering if this means Martian mind-vacations are just around the corner, it shockingly turns out there are a few things off about this story. Like the fact that the woman has refused to name any of the doctors involved, won't show her new gift to the world for more than a quick few seconds up close, or that she once filed a missing baggage claim listing "3 breast prosthesis" as one of the stolen items. Also relevant? She once apparently described herself as a "provider of Internet hoaxes since 2014."

4 Reasons Movie Special FX Are Actually Getting Worse has an excellent discussion of the paradoxical economics of CGI,

It turns out that making the most visually spectacular images that the human brain can comprehend requires a good bit of scratch. That's why huge-budget blockbusters have been becoming the norm (33 of the 50 most expensive movies of all time have been made in the last four years); studios are so preoccupied pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into CGI for schlock like Battleship because they could, that they didn't bother to stop to think if they should.

And, as CGI continues to improve, movies only become more reliant on it. We've mentioned before how Rhythm & Hues, the visual effects company most famous for bringing to life all the Oscar-winning, pants-shitting fear of sharing a Tunnel of Love rowboat with a 400-pound marvel of evisceration and death in Life of Pi, went bankrupt because they did their job too well.

Meanwhile, the studios are pumping more and more money into already-bloated special effects budgets (it sure as shit isn't going toward better screenplays). For Transformers: Thing of Whatever, Industrial Light & Magic spent about 15 weeks per Transformer just getting the basic model ready, and each model has about 10,000 parts -- that's not a joke, that's seriously how many individual pieces there are in Michael Bay's idea of a talking truck. The company had to start making models six months before filming even started, just to meet the production schedule. And remember, ILM is like the GE of special effects studios, so if they're balls-to-the-wall to make their effects look good in a profitable fashion, what chance does a scrappy, upstart VFX company have?

Finally, 3 Artists Who Got Screwed for Creating Iconic Characters is a perfect complement to the Kirby thread, reminding us that, like many industries based on creativity, little of the money from comics goes to those who do the actual creating.

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