Tig Notaro flaunts her ignorance of pop culture and celebrity in new Funny or Die series

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The wonderful comedienne, Tig Notaro, doesn’t watch a lot of TV or films and doesn’t really keep up with popular culture. As a result, she doesn’t recognize celebrities. She’s turned this liability(?) into a fun show, called Under A Rock with Tig Notaro. Well-known celebs come on and she (aided by her announcer, Amazon’s Alexa) questions them in an attempt to guess who they are and what they are famous for. I’ve gotten a big kick out of the first three episodes.

Read the rest

Man-Eaters Volume Two: Fleshing out the world where girls turn into lethal werepanthers when they get their periods

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Volume One of Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s scathing, hilarious, brilliant comic about girls who turn into man-eating werepanthers when they get their periods, is the best comic I read in 2019, and Volume Two, just published by Image comics, continues the brilliance with a set of design-fiction-y fake ads and other collateral that straddle the line between a serious piece of science fictional world-building and Switfian satire.

as with Volume One, much of Volume Two is taken up with “collateral” — ads, games, school reports, Youtube comments — from the imagined world of Man-Eaters; some early reviews complain that these don’t “advance the plot” and that’s true as far as it goes (very little happens with the main characters in the tale), but as with the best science fiction, one of the main characters here is the premise, not the people invented to illuminate the premise, and all this “ancillary” material goes a long way to fleshing out that premise.

This material is the kind of thing you might find in an immersive theater piece — a Punchdrunk show, say, or Meowolf, or a particularly good escape room, or the best Disney Imagineering productions like The Adventurer’s Club or Galaxy’s Edge — material that allows you to imagine yourself in the story, as opposed to tracking the trials and tribulations of the characters.

As such, it is superb, and it gives me hope for a very long run with this story, because jokey thought-experiments will only take you so far, while fully fleshing out things that start as gags often surfaces a serious substrate for playing out real, human stories (Pratchett’s Discworld is Exhibit A here). Read the rest

Good Omens is amazing

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I was already a Terry Pratchett fan and a Neil Gaiman fan in 1990, when their comedic novel Good Omens showed up in the bookstore I worked at, and I dibsed it, took it home over the weekend, read it in huge gulps, and wrote an enthusiastic review on a 3×5 card that I tacked to the bookshelf next to it on the new release rack at the front of the store; I hand-sold hundreds of copies, and have read it dozens of times since.

It’s really a perfect gem of a novel, combining so much of what makes each of those authors so great: Gaiman’s ability of tap into the deep roots of myth and to spin the most wonderful of phrases; Pratchett’s incredible heart that can turn sweetness up to 11 without introducing so much as a drop of sentimentality, his Douglas Adams-style gift for surprise jokes that are so well-turned that they elicit surprised barks of laughter when they occur.

I’ve been very excited and optimistic about the Amazon Prime adaptation of the novel; I knew Gaiman had put everything into it, and had taken instruction from Pratchett prior to his death, and the stupendous and creative marketing that Amazon has thrown at the project (a five-storey escape room in Soho; flocks of chattering Satanic nuns in the streets of Austin for SXSW) made it clear that they were giving the project the kind of gold-plated attention it deserved.

But it still took me a couple weeks to get around to watching it — video time is really scarce in my schedule, and I’m perennially guilty over the years-long backlog of books on my TBR shelf that I’m hoping to review and/or blurb — but I managed to remedy that yesterday, watching all six hours of the program (though I could only get through about half of it on the big screen in my living room: Amazon’s DRM blocks Google’s Chromecast for Android, and Chrome for Ubuntu — the only GNU/Linux browser that talks to a Chromecast — crashed repeatedly while trying to play it back, leaving me watching on my phone). Read the rest

These totally wireless earbuds are made from 100% recycled plastic

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You want wireless earbuds to make an impact on your mood and workout, not the environment. If that’s the case, we’ve got a new contender for AirPod market share: Brio Phantom X7 True Wireless Earbuds.

The features on these tiny, comfortable buds are impressive even without the environmental angle. Their Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity is good up to 20 feet, supported by neodymium drivers for a crisp sound at all levels. The battery life is especially impressive: You’ll get up to 8 hours on a single charge, and the charging case boosts that listening time up to 100 hours if you carry it along. Did we mention that it’s a wireless charger? And that you can charge external devices with it through an additional USB-C port?

All that, and its waterproof case is made from 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, one of the most sustainable modern manufacturing methods out there.

Pick up your Brio Phantom X7 True Wireless Earbuds + Charging Case for $74.99, a full 60% off the MSRP. Read the rest

To do in LA this weekend: laugh your head off at PUBLIC DOMAIN THE MUSICAL at the Hollywood Fringe

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Last night, I went to see Public Domain: The Musical at the Actor’s Company Theater in West Hollywood. I had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared for the worst (I’ve been to shows at fringe festivals where I would have walked out in the first five minutes, except I was the only person in the audience), and I was totally wrong. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard.

The premise of the show — which runs a tight 30 minutes — is that a pair of casting agents (played by a couple of puppets) are holding auditions for the next character from the public domain to turn into a giant animation star, in the mold of Mu-Lan, Snow White, Frozen, Cinderella, Pinnocchio, etc etc etc. Five hopefuls present themselves (starting with Rosie the Riverter) and perform musical numbers making the case for them to be the next big star.

The songs are brilliantly funny, and the running gags build and build to a climax that literally had me howling with laughter — along with my wife (who hates musicals) and my 11-year-old daughter (who started out the night furious that she wasn’t going to be left at home to make Tiktok videos and was skeptical of the whole enterprise). It was the talk of the evening.

We parked about 6 minutes away, behind the legendary Pink’s hot dog stand, so we could walk back and try it something else for the first time (pretty good hot dogs) and then we tried Milk Bar’s astoundingly good cereal milk soft-serve ice-cream. Read the rest

These ultra-durable cables also make sure your phone doesn’t overcharge

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We don’t ask for much out of our charging cables: Juice up our phone, do it fast and don’t break. It’s supposed to be simple, but keeping your phone plugged in for the night – as most of us do – can actually degrade the life of your battery by overheating it.

That’s why one of the best investments you can make for your phone is a smart cable like those being put out by Charby Sense.

Not only are these things durable, but they pack a lot of innovations that will save you money in the long run. The short term bells and whistles include a double-speed booster you can use when your phone is plugged into a laptop, plus a handy LED that displays the relative charging speed for whatever power source you’re using. The high-speed copper wires are laced with Kevlar fiber too, ensuring the cables won’t easily fray or break.

But best of all is the auto shutoff feature that detects when your battery is at capacity and cuts power accordingly. It’ll save you a little on energy, and a lot of new batteries or devices down the road.

Take your pick of Charby Sense cables in a variety of inputs, all sale priced at $28 – a full 28% off. You can pick it up in either lightning, micro-USB, or USB-C. Read the rest

Podcast: Mathmatica creator Stephen Wolfram’s favorite tools

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My guest on the Cool Tools podcast this week is Stephen Wolfram. Stephen is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; he’s the author of A New Kind of Science; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Over the course of nearly four decades, Stephen has been a pioneer in the development and application of computational thinking—and has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions and innovations in science, technology and business.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Wolfram Alpha is a thing for answering questions using computational knowledge. And I use it every day for all kinds of things. If I’m going to walk outside I go to Wolfram Alpha, usually on my phone, and just type in sunburn. And it will figure out based on where I am predictions for UV index and so on. Plus, skin type data and so on and will tell me what the expected time for me to get sunburned is. It gives you sort of an information presentation. Here’s another thing you can do. You can just go to Wolfram Alpha and type in some first name. Like Kevin, for example. And this is a good party trick. Because it knows how many people called Kevin have been born every year since the late 1800’s, and it knows mortality tables and so on. It can figure out what the distribution of Kevins in America is. Read the rest

Good deal on a new Xbox One controller

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There is a pretty good deal running on my favorite gaming controller.

I use this with my Xbox, Nintendo Switch and MacBook Pro. It is more durable than the more expensive ‘pro controllers’ and works just as well.

If you’ve been waiting for a replacement this is a pretty good price.

Microsoft 4N6-00001 Xbox Controller + Cable for Windows via Amazon


The best controller for a Nintendo Switch is the latest model Xbox controller Read the rest

GE is totally messing with customers who need help resetting a lightbulb

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Holy cow! This How-To video sounds like a parody but is just GE being GE, I guess.

Who the fuck needs to reset a lightbulb?

How many GE engineers does it take to reset a lightbulb?

Reset a lightbulb.

(Thank you, BCC) Read the rest

Enjoy this weekly dose of snark about bad product designs

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The industrial design website, Core77, has recently introduced a sarcastic column about poorly-thought-out products called The Weekly Design Roast. Here are the links to the ones published so far: 1, 2, 3, 4.

“A conventional bookmark, which is just a slip of stiff paper, is too easy to ship and recycle; they also don’t use up enough materials or take up any additional desk space. To solve this, I designed mine out of lacquered ash.” [True story: This “bookmark” is “ideal for…books under 9 inches in height.” For differently-sized books, you can order their larger version in STEEL.]

“Only thing I don’t like is, since we have this against a wall, my wife has to climb through my blue water to get into her pink water. But other than that I am satisfied with my purchase.” Read the rest

History of cart racing games

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Simplified racing with weapons: it’s not all about Super Mario Kart. the genre is surprisingly diverse and persistent, all the way back to the mid-70s.

The genre got very crowded, very fast at the turn of the century. Roughly two dozen kart racers came out across all platforms from 1999 to 2001. Every man and his dog who had a decent character license decided simultaneously that a generic kart racer was the best video game investment. As a result, we had kart games for Woody Woodpecker, Mickey Mouse, Looney Tunes, South Park, The Muppets, LEGO, Nickelodeon, Star Wars, The Smurfs, Crash Bandicoot, Konami, and more.

Most of these were either irredeemably terrible

It got to the point where cart racers were as abundant and formulaic as MUGEN fighting games. But people were paying money for them! Until they weren’t, that is. Read the rest

Watch Freddie Mercury’s never-before-seen “Time Waits For No One”

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Can’t help but get choked up watching Freddie Mercury belt out this recently unearthed, and undeniably poignant, “Time Waits For No One:”

“For the first time ever, after four decades buried deep in the vaults, a previously unreleased version of ‘Time’, recorded in 1986 by Freddie Mercury for the concept album of the hit musical of the same name, has finally emerged after two years of work by the globally successful musician, songwriter and producer Dave Clark, a long-time friend of Freddie’s, using the song’s full title, ‘Time Waits For No One’.”

Goosebumps. Read the rest

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