Jurassic Park Without Dinosaurs: Watch Humans Stare in Amazement at a World Stripped of CGI Creations

How many times have you encountered an otherwise perfect view spoiled by a newly erected high rise, a construction crane, or a CGI brachiosaurus?

Constantly, right?

Video editor William Hirsch makes light work of Jurassic Park’s primary attractions’ first appearance, literally erasing them from the scene.

Hirsch estimated that it took him about a week to get rid of those pesky ‘saurs using nothing fancier than After Effects’s built in tools, which include the motion tracking software Mocha.




It's equal parts ridiculous and lovely to see humans suddenly thunderstruck by the unspoiled landscape they’ve been driving through.

These days, of course, Laura Dern would have to glance up from her phone, not a paper map.

Though it's not such a stretch to imagine Jurassic Park's author's successor, the late Michael Crichton's literary heir, hard at work on a dystopian novel titled Park.

At the time of its release, Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs were a special effects game changer. Their numbers were supplemented by some non-computer-generated animatronic models, though no doubt Spielberg was apprehensive given the way his robotic sharks acted up on the set of Jaws. The human players may have had more screen time, but the dinosaurs’ 15 minutes of footage has resulted in a lasting fame, extending decades beyond the expected 15 minutes.

Unexpectedly, Hirsch’s dinosaurs, or rather, lack thereof, have generated the most excitement with regard to his project. But his attention to detail is also laudable. Above, he reveals how he tweaked the access badge dangling from the rear view mirror of the park's all-terrain vehicle.

Are we wrong to think that John Williams’ swelling original score feels more organic in this dinosaur-free context? Rivers, trees, and vast amounts of skies have been known to spur composers to such heights.

The potentially lethal prehistoric beasts are out of the way, but that line “We’re gonna make a fortune with this place” retains an air of ominous foreshadowing, given the plentiful natural resources on display. Sometimes humans can do more damage than dinosaurs.

If that feels too intense, you can also retreat to the escapist pleasures of the original, below.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Discover Rare 1980s CDs by Lou Reed, Devo & Talking Heads That Combined Music with Computer Graphics

When it first hit the market in 1982, the compact disc famously promised "perfect sound that lasts forever." But innovation has a way of marching continually on, and naturally the innovators soon started wondering: what if perfect sound isn't enough? What if consumers want something to go with it, something to look at? And so, when compact disc co-developers Sony and Philips updated its standards, they included documentation on the use of the format's channels not occupied by audio data. So was born the CD+G, which boasted "not only the CD's full, digital sound, but also video information — graphics — viewable on any television set or video monitor."

That text comes from a package scan posted by the online CD+G Museum, whose Youtube channel features rips of nearly every record released on the format, beginning with the first, the Firesign Theatre's Eat or Be Eaten.




When it came out, listeners who happened to own a CD+G-compatible player (or a CD+G-compatible video game console, my own choice at the time having been the Turbografx-16) could see that beloved "head comedy" troupe's densely layered studio production and even more densely layered humor accompanied by images rendered in psychedelic color — or as psychedelic as images can get with only sixteen colors available on the palette, not to mention a resolution of 288 pixels by 192 pixels, not much larger than a icon on the home screen of a modern smartphone. Those limitations may make CD+G graphics look unimpressive today, but just imagine what a cutting-edge novelty they must have seemed in the late 1980s when they first appeared.

Displaying lyrics for karaoke singers was the most obvious use of CD+G technology, but its short lifespan also saw a fair few experiments on such other major-label releases, all viewable at the CD+G Museum, as Lou Reed's New York, which combines lyrics with digitized photography of the eponymous city; Talking Heads' Naked, which provides musical information such as the chord changes and instruments playing on each phrase; Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which translates the libretto alongside works of art; and Devo's single "Disco Dancer," which tells the origin story of those "five Spudboys from Ohio." With these and almost every other CD+G release available at the CD+G museum, you'll have no shortage of not just background music but background visuals for your next late-80s-early-90s-themed party.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

This Is Your Kids’ Brains on Internet Algorithms: A Chilling Case Study Shows What’s Wrong with the Internet Today

Multimedia artist and writer James Bridle has a new book out, and it’s terrifying—appropriately so, I would say—in its analysis of “the dangers of trusting computers to explain (and, increasingly, run) the world,” as Adi Robertson writes at The Verge. Summing up one of his arguments in his New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future, Bridle writes, “We know more and more about the world, while being less and less able to do anything about it.” As Bridle tells Robertson in a short interview, he doesn’t see the problems as irremediable, provided we gain “some kind of agency within these systems.” But he insists that we must face head-on certain facts about our dystopian, sci-fi-like reality.

In the brief TED talk above, you can see Bridle do just that, beginning with an analysis of the millions of proliferating videos for children, with billions of views, on YouTube, a case study that quickly goes to some disturbing places. Videos showing a pair of hands unwrapping chocolate eggs to reveal a toy within “are like crack for little kids,” says Bridle, who watch them over and over. Autoplay ferries them on to weirder and weirder iterations, which eventually end up with dancing Hitlers and their favorite cartoon characters performing lewd and violent acts. Some of the videos seem to be made by professional animators and "wholesome kid's entertainers," some seem assembled by software, some by “people who clearly shouldn’t be around children at all.”




The algorithms that drive the bizarre universe of these videos are used to “hack the brains of very small children in return for advertising revenue,” says Bridle. “At least that what I hope they’re doing it for.” Bridle soon bridges the machinery of kids’ YouTube with the adult version. “It’s impossible to know,” he says, who’s posting these millions of videos, “or what their motives might be…. Really it’s exactly the same mechanism that’s happening across most of our digital services, where it’s impossible to know where this information is coming from.” The children’s videos are “basically fake news for kids. We’re training them from birth to click on the very first link that comes along, regardless of what the source is.”

High school and college teachers already deal with the problem of students who cannot judge good information from bad—and who cannot really be blamed for it, since millions of adults seem unable to do so as well. In surveying YouTube children’s videos, Bridle finds himself asking the same questions that arise in response to so much online content: “Is this a bot? Is this a person? Is this a troll? What does it mean that we can’t tell the difference between these things anymore?” The language of online content is a hash of popular tags meant to be read by machine algorithms, not humans. But real people performing in an “algorithmically optimized system” seem forced to “act out these increasingly bizarre combinations of words.”

Within this culture, he says, “even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” What makes the scenario even darker is that machines replicate the worst aspects of human behavior, not because they’re evil but because that’s what they’re taught to do. To think that technology is neutral is a dangerously naïve view, Bridle argues. Humans encode their historical biases into the data, then entrust to A.I. such critical functions as not only children’s entertainment, but also predictive policing and recommending criminal sentences. As Bridle notes in the short video above, A.I. inherits the racism of its creators, rather than acting as a “leveling force."

As we’ve seen the CEOs of tech companies taken to task for the use of their platforms for propaganda, disinformation, hate speech, and wild conspiracy theories, we’ve also seen them respond to the problem by promising to solve it with more automated machine learning algorithms. In other words, to address the issues with the same technology that created them—technology that no one really seems to understand. Letting “unaccountable systems” driven almost solely by ads control global networks with ever-increasing influence over world affairs seems wildly irresponsible, and has already created a situation, Bridle argues in his book, in which imperialism has “moved up to infrastructure level” and conspiracy theories are the most “powerful narratives of our time,” as he says below.

Bridle’s claims might themselves sound like alarmist conspiracies if they weren’t so alarmingly obvious to most anyone paying attention. In an essay on Medium he writes a much more in-depth analysis of YouTube kids’ content, developing one of the arguments in his book. Bridle is one of many writers and researchers covering this terrain. Some other good popular books on the subject come from scholars and technologists like Tim Wu and Jaron Lanier. They are well worth reading and paying attention to, even if we might disagree with some of their arguments and prescriptions.

As Bridle himself argues in his interview at The Verge, the best approach to dealing with what seems like a nightmarish situation is to develop a “systemic literacy,” learning “to think clearly about subjects that seem difficult and complex,” but which nonetheless, as we can clearly see, have tremendous impact on our everyday lives and the society our kids will inherit.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Van Gogh of Microsoft Excel: How a Japanese Retiree Makes Intricate Landscape Paintings with Spreadsheet Software

Just when you thought you've mastered Microsoft Excel--creating pivot tables, VLOOKUPs and the rest--you discover the feature you never knew was there. The one that lets you create Japanese landscape paintings. When Tatsuo Horiuchi retired, he found that feature and leaned on it, hard. Now 77 years old, he has enough landscape paintings to stage an exhibition--all made with the point and click of a mouse.

So what's the moral of this story? Maybe it's you're never too old to make art. Or maybe it's never too late to master those hidden features and push technology to the bleeding edge. In Tatsuo's case, he's doing both.

via Swiss Miss

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Google’s Free Photo Editing Software, the Nik Collection, Has Been Acquired by DxO & Will Live Another Day

In March of 2016, readers thrilled when Google announced that it made the Nik Collection, its professional photo editing software, free to download and use. Previously priced at $149, the now-free software gives users access to "seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities -- from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects."

If there was cause for celebration, it didn't last that long. Earlier this year, Google followed up with another announcement--that it planned to discontinue development of the Nik Collection, and essentially let it wither on the vine.




Now here's the latest chapter in the story. A seemingly good one. The image processing company DxO has acquired the Nik Collection from Google. Jérôme Ménière, DxO's founder and CEO, declared in a press release, “DxO revolutionized the image processing market many times over the years with its innovative solutions, and we will continue to do so with Nik’s tools, which offer new creative opportunities to millions of photographers.” Apparently the Nik Collection gets to live another day.

If you head over to DxO's website, you can still download the current Nik Collection for free. You simply need to provide your email address, and they'll send a download link to your inbox.

Also on the DxO website they've announced plans for a future iteration of the Nik Collection, saying "The new 'Nik Collection 2018 Edition' will be released mid-2018, please leave your email below to be informed when it's available." Whether that 2018 edition will stay free remains to be seen.

via Petapixel

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Download New Storyboarding Software That’s Free & Open Source

Quick tip: The new software package, Storyboarder, makes it "easy to visualize a story as fast you can draw stick figures." You can create a story idea without actually making a full-blown movie and see how it looks. Storyboarder is free. It's open source. It's available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. And you can download it here.

As the website Cartoon Brew notes, the stories created in Storyboarder "can be exported to Premiere, Final Cut, Avid, PDF, and animated GIF formats." Or you can "refine the artwork in Photoshop."

Get Storyboarder here.

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via Cartoon Brew

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Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer of the Apollo Project, Stands Next to Her Code That Took Us to the Moon (1969)

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

When I first read news of the now-infamous Google memo writer who claimed with a straight face that women are biologically unsuited to work in science and tech, I nearly choked on my cereal. A dozen examples instantly crowded to mind of women who have pioneered the very basis of our current technology while operating at an extreme disadvantage in a culture that explicitly believed they shouldn’t be there, this shouldn’t be happening, women shouldn’t be able to do a “man’s job!”

The memo, as Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers write at Wired, “is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a pre-existing point of view.” Its specious evolutionary psychology pretends to objectivity even as it ignores reality. As Mulder would say, the truth is out there, if you care to look, and you don’t need to dig through classified FBI files. Just, well, Google it. No, not the pseudoscience, but the careers of women in STEM without whom we might not have such a thing as Google.




Women like Margaret Hamilton, who, beginning in 1961, helped NASA “develop the Apollo program’s guidance system” that took U.S. astronauts to the moon, as Maia Weinstock reports at MIT News. “For her work during this period, Hamilton has been credited with popularizing the concept of software engineering." Robert McMillan put it best in a 2015 profile of Hamilton:

It might surprise today’s software makers that one of the founding fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother—and that should give them pause as they consider why the gender inequality of the Mad Men era persists to this day.

Hamilton was indeed a mother in her twenties with a degree in mathematics, working as a programmer at MIT and supporting her husband through Harvard Law, after which she planned to go to graduate school. “But the Apollo space program came along” and contracted with NASA to fulfill John F. Kennedy’s famous promise made that same year to land on the moon before the decade’s end—and before the Soviets did. NASA accomplished that goal thanks to Hamilton and her team.

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

Like many women crucial to the U.S. space program (many doubly marginalized by race and gender), Hamilton might have been lost to public consciousness were it not for a popular rediscovery. “In recent years,” notes Weinstock, "a striking photo of Hamilton and her team’s Apollo code has made the rounds on social media.” You can see that photo at the top of the post, taken in 1969 by a photographer for the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Used to promote the lab’s work on Apollo, the original caption read, in part, “Here, Margaret is shown standing beside listings of the software developed by her and the team she was in charge of, the LM [lunar module] and CM [command module] on-board flight software team.”

As Hank Green tells it in his condensed history above, Hamilton “rose through the ranks to become head of the Apollo Software development team.” Her focus on errors—how to prevent them and course correct when they arise—“saved Apollo 11 from having to abort the mission” of landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s surface. McMillan explains that “as Hamilton and her colleagues were programming the Apollo spacecraft, they were also hatching what would become a $400 billion industry.” At Futurism, you can read a fascinating interview with Hamilton, in which she describes how she first learned to code, what her work for NASA was like, and what exactly was in those books stacked as high as she was tall. As a woman, she may have been an outlier in her field, but that fact is much better explained by the Occam’s razor of prejudice than by anything having to do with evolutionary determinism.

Note: You can now find Hamilton's code on Github.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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