Extra Credits- Sengoku Jidai

Tonight I stumbled across the amazing collection of videos that is Extra Credits, specifically their excellent short video series summarizing the events of the unification of Japan at the end of the Warring States period. Six very entertaining videos of 5 minutes each that are totally worth your time if you have any interest in Japanese history.

Then, once you’re done those, start to check out the other Extra Credits videos on a wide variety of topics. I’m astounded I never noticed these things before, but that’s the nature of the Internet!

Rob

Everyday Augmented Reality

Futuristic smart glasses

One of the issues with running a general blog like this is that is has no real focus. It serves as a catch-all for whatever I feel like writing about or talking about, but it has no real direction to it. That’s one of the things that’s made it hard to write for on a regular basis- when you can write about anything, you tend to write about nothing.

However, something I’ve always been fascinated by is the power of Augmented Reality, and with the recent release of Microsoft’s new Hololens system, I’ve come to believe that we’re on the cusp of seeing this technology literally transform our lives and the world around us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this:

As a result, I’ve decided to start a new blog centered around Augmented Reality and how it’s both developing and transforming people’s lives. If you ask any of my media studies students, AR is something I won’t shut up about, and have been talking about for years, so I thought “why should just my students suffer?”

Everyday Augmented Reality will basically be me collecting news about Augmented Reality and things related to it and occasionally commenting and sharing my own thoughts and ideas on this next stage of media evolution. Everything the Smartphone did to society will be nothing compared to what AR will do, and Everyday AR will be where I watch it all happen.

Come join me and watch the show. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll definitely wonder why!

Rob

P.S. This blog isn’t going anywhere, and will still be updated from time to time. I need to talk about non-AR things sometimes too!

Random Dramatic Scene Generator

I’m feeling rather proud at the moment. I managed to code a simple webpage that generates a pair of naturally conflicting characters and an action verb which defines their relationship in that scene, in other words a Random Dramatic Scene Generator.

Of course, by “code” I mean I found an already existing webpage that did something similar, copied pieces of that code and modified it to suit my own purposes. ^_^ So, coding in the truly classic sense!

In any case, I made this page for use by my students in my scriptwriting class since they need to do short 5-minute dramatic scenes for one of their assignments, and I wanted a random way to give them a starting point in their scenes. Of course, it can be used by anyone who needs a quick dramatic situation for their stories as well.

Enjoy!

Rob

YouTube Martial Arts Theatre- Wheels on Meals

Legend has it that when the head of Golden Harvest productions heard that they were about to release a movie entitled Meals on Wheels, he refused to let them use the title. It wasn’t that he was afraid of someone suing him- he was afraid of losing money! You see, the previous two big Golden Harvest releases had both had English titles that started with the letter “M”, so he was sure this one was going to fail too if they used that title. Talk about superstitious!

So instead, they flipped it around to the pretty much nonsensical title of Wheels on Meals, and released what would go on to become a martial arts classic. Which in itself is a bit of a surprise, because it’s actually not really a martial arts movie at all! It’s actually a comedy with a strong martial arts element, but the fighting in it (especially the end fight) is so well done that it became known as one of the must-see martial arts films of its time anyways.

The plot is simple- a couple of Chinese (a young Jackie Chan and his buddy Yuen Biao) who run a food truck in 1980’s Barcelona, Spain find themselves involved with a beautiful and charming Spanish street thief who is being hunted by a group of mysterious men. She’s also be tracked by a bumbling private detective (played by Sammo Hung, who is also the director), and this all comes together as they try to solve the mystery of why this girl is so popular with all the wrong people.

The movie is from 1984, and is a total 80’s flashback highlighted by the visuals of Barcelona and the fashions of the times. The movie flows a bit awkward at times (normal for 80’s Hong Kong films), and the comedy is hit or miss, but it’s so light and generally fun that you can forgive it for its flaws. I definitely recommend giving it a watch, and this particular copy has good sound (a decent dub too) and good picture quality as well, so sit back and enjoy!

 

YouTube Martial Arts Theatre- Hapkido

Recently, I’ve been on a jag of watching old Kung Fu flicks on YouTube, which is a bit like eating candy in a candy store! Almost any Kung Fu movie you can name has been uploaded to YouTube, and they literally made hundreds of these movies back in the 70’s and 80’s.

I thought I’d post links to a few of the ones I’ve really enjoyed, and the first is Hapkido (aka Lady Kung Fu), which is a unique little movie on several levels.

First, it’s a Hong Kong movie about Chinese who go to Korea (during the Japanese Occupation period) to learn a Korean martial art (the title Hapkido) and then bring what they’ve learned back to China. So despite being a “Kung Fu” movie, it’s actually about showcasing the Korean counterpart to Kung Fu.

Second, Hapkido stars Angela Mao in a role that would normally be played by a Bruce Lee clone, which brings an interesting twist to it. She is incredibly badass, but does so in a different and more calculating way which is different than how male martial artists tend to fight. On top of that, there’s no attempts to feminize the movie in any way- it’s a straight martial arts movie where it’s just accepted that she’s the boss of the group and everyone just treats her as an equal. It’s an interesting case where the lead being female did nothing to affect the plot. but still has an effect on the way things play out.

Yes, the English dub is stilted, but since it’s also pretty straightforward you get used to it after a bit. Oh, and there’s a pair of nude female breasts in a single shot for a few seconds, in case you’re watching it at work.

Enjoy!

Rob

Good Advice from Author Scott Sigler about Writing Your First Novel

The School of Greatness Podcast

The other day I mentioned The Art of Charm podcast, which is about social networking and personal psych-social development. Another great podcast in a similar vein is The School of Greatness podcast, which has a focus more on financial (as well as social) success.

The School of Greatness podcast is one of those shows that rose out of necessity. As Lewis Howe (the host) puts it, he was “broken, broke, and clueless on how to make money or get a career” after a football injury shattered his lifelong dream to be professional athlete. So, he started seeking out successful people and recording his sessions with them, and when he started to share these sessions online The School of Greatness was born.

Now over 100 episodes in, Lewis’s interviews with business and personal development leaders are fascinating as he has a very humble and curious approach to conversation. Since he doesn’t come from an academic background or a media background, he approaches every conversation with these people as a true layman. This makes him ask the questions that might sometimes seem simple, but which can really help to find the advice that average people need and can relate to better.

So, give it a listen! I’m not going to recommend any special episodes since they’re all pretty interesting, but I can promise whatever episode you choose you’ll learn something that can help you in 2015!

Rob

The Art of Charm Podcast

Since it’s the second day of the new year, I thought I’d start with something about self improvement for 2015. A few months ago, while I was looking around for some podcasts about social networking, I came across what is probably one of the most amazing podcasts I have ever listened to- The Art of Charm.

Originally starting out as the Pickup Podcast in 2006, which as you might suspect was about giving guys tips about how to talk to women, the show eventually morphed into something very different. Host Jordan Harbinger started to bring on experts in various social fields from networking, to body language, to even esoteric things like sleep modification. The show turned from being about just meeting people, to being about becoming the best person you could be as a way to find the right partner, job or friends for you.

As a result, the show’s episode count is now in the 300’s, and it’s one of the top lifestyle podcasts on iTunes, with every episode having more and more amazing guests to talk about different ways we can improve our lives. I, myself, have probably listened to nearly 40 episodes of the show in the last two months, because it’s also incredibly addictive. You literally never know what gems you’re going to find in each episode that you can apply to your life, and if one episode doesn’t work for you, the next one might be mind blowing. This is the kind of stuff shows like Dr. Oz and TED Talks purport to tell you about, but never have enough time or focus to really do because that doesn’t make sexy TV. This is practical, tested and proven advice based on experience and research in many different areas.

Since there’s a lot of episodes, I’m going to recommend a few to give a look to. Now, they have already put together a toolbox of episodes that they recommend people start out with, and those episodes are good, but you should know the early episodes don’t really reflect the show as it is today. The majority of the early toolbox episodes were done back in 2006 when it was the rough form of the Pickup Podcast, and are just a few guys hanging out chatting about techniques for meeting women in social environments. They’re worth listening to (especially if you’re a single guy), and the ones on Banter are especially useful, but they’re very different from what the show will become.

One other minor note- they sell this show as a men’s lifestyle show, and it is, but especially once they get into the interviews the show is really about being the best human you can be without a specific gender focus. Most of this advice can apply to anyone of any gender, since we all need to become better in some ways.

Anyways, so here’s a few episodes I’ve enjoyed recently (their own best of list can be found here):

Susan Roane- How to Work a Room

Shawn Stevenson- Hack your Sleep

Hal Elrod- Miracle Morning

Steve Sisler- How to Read People

Yu-Kai Chou- Gamify your Life

And I’m finding new great ones all the time! It really is a treasure-box of human knowledge, and I’ve already started to apply things I’ve learned from it to my life with some success. Give it a try, you never know what you learn and how it might change your life in 2015.

Rob

Choose Your Own Adventure 2.0

Back in the days when I was young (many moons ago), and when video games looked like this…

…The closest thing we had to single-player role playing games came in the form of game/books with titles like Fighting Fantasy, TSR’s Endless Quest books, and of course the most famous line of them all- Choose Your Own Adventure. These text-based Gamebooks (with varying amount of accompanying illustrations) had winding story paths that allowed readers to explore stories as they wished and experience what it was like to go on adventures of all kinds. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Post Apocalypse, Superhero- any genre that involved adventure was one they covered in these very popular book series.

Of course, eventually, Computer RPGs and Console RPGs came along, and this type of adventure Gamebook faded from view. That is, until now. Now, some companies have chosen to revive this style of game as Apps for mobile gaming, and Choice of Games is at the forefront of this new take on an old idea.

From their About Us page:

Choice of Games LLC is a California limited-liability company dedicated to producing high-quality, text-based, multiple-choice games. We produce games in house, beginning with Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides. We have also developed a simple scripting language for writing text-based games, ChoiceScript, which we make available to others for use in their projects, and we host games produced by other designers using ChoiceScript on our website. Some of our games are available for free on the web. We also produce mobile versions of our games that can be played on iPhones, Android phones, and other mobile devices.

We believe that text-based games are an underutilized format within modern computer games. Just as motion pictures, radio dramas, and television supplement books without rendering them obsolete, similarly modern graphic-based games cover only part of the computer gaming landscape. By using text, we can interact with the imagination in different ways from a graphics-based game. We can also allow game designers to quickly and inexpensively produce games in comparison with graphics-based games.

Of course, now these text-adventures can include things like music and other interactive aspects, not just the occasional picture. Bring the experience even more to life, and letting players get immersed in a unique reading experience. They too have quite a variety of genres, and since the games are free to play online (they charge for the mobile app versions) do you…

1) Head over and check Choice of Games out. (click here)

2) Read a little about the history of Gamebooks. (click here)

3) Rediscover the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook line (click here)

 

The Genius- Smartest Reality TV Show Ever!

As I have mentioned before, I am fan of the Japanese manga Liar Game, which is a psychological thriller comic about a group of people playing through a series of seemingly simple social strategy games with their futures hanging in the balance. The basic concept is cleverly played out, and the actual games themselves are fascinating to watch unfold. So much so that the Japanese turned it into two drama series and two movies, and now the Koreans have also made a drama version which puts some nice twists on the original Japanese story.

However, at the same time, the Koreans have also taken things a step further- they’ve produced a reality tv/gameshow version of the concept with real contestants called The Genius. Of course, unlike the manga/drama, the reality tv version isn’t quite so life-and-death, but it makes up for it in cleverness and variety. You see, the Liar Game story has a small flaw, which is the ending is almost always the same for each event, with a few small twists. Once you’ve seen two or three games play out, you can pretty much guess how each round is going to end because there is a clear theme and story happening. Not so for The Genius, where there is no hero, only really smart people trying to outwit each other in a series of elimination rounds, with one person leaving every episode.

the genius poster

And that’s where The Genius shines. It is perhaps the smartest TV contest that I have ever seen. It’s the polar opposite of most reality tv- where the contestants are idiots fumbling and scheming their way through the challenges. In The Genius, the contestants have to be smart in areas like mathematics and psychology, and each has their own specialties they bring to the game. This isn’t a show where your knowledge of useless trivia is going to win you millions, or where you just need to be smarter than a 5th grader, you need to beat people like a career politician at networking or a math wiz at playing the odds.

Now, considering that most reality tv game shows are based on the idea of even the dumbest person in the room being able to play along, you’d think this concept would be dead in the water and never go anywhere. However, The Genius has already finished it’s third season and is currently one of the top rated things on Korean TV. It’s a huge success, and you only need to watch it to see why- it challenges its audience instead of pacifies them, but it’s based on basic social skills and situations that most people can understand with a bit of thought.

If you have the chance, give it a look (with English subtitles, click “watch online” to bring up the video player). The episodes run around 90 minutes each, and once you get into it, it’s addictive as hell! (And I’m someone who generally watches neither game shows or reality TV because they bore me too much.)

Rob