March 18, 2011
Latin Music Stars U.S. Postage Stamps
Unveiled this past Wednesday, the five new "Forever" stamps (above) feature Tito Puente, Carmen Miranda, Selena, Carlos Gardel and Celia Cruz.
"By honoring the five artists, USPS is also honoring five distinct Latin music styles: Tejano, tango, samba, Latin jazz and salsa."
44 cents apiece at post offices everywhere or online here.
[iva the Washington Post]
Arkhippo iPhone Case/Stand
"Cushiony and bouncy, it protects your iPhone if it is dropped."
"Easy to handle and freestanding, either upright or in landscape mode."
White, Orange, Green, Black, Pink, Blue, or Purple.
"Mesrine: Killer Instinct"
I happened on this 2009 film in Netflix's "if you liked that, you might like this" section, which from time to time does indeed turn up a movie I'd never heard of which proves to be quite enjoyable.
This one is sui generis — and very violent.
It's part one of two (the second part is titled Mesrine: Public Enemy #1), only the first of which is available currently on Netflix (I believe the second part goes live next month).
Long story short: Vincent Cassel is mesmerizing (sorry, but there's no other appropriate word for him) as the title character, France's public enemy #1 during the 1970s.
The story is true — Mesrine was a real person who did the things depicted in the film — yet I'd never heard of him until I happened on this movie.
Among his deeds: numerous bank robberies, burglaries and kidnappings, and his own claim in an autobiography to have committed over 40 murders.
Born in 1936, he began his life of crime in France in 1962, several years after being discharged from the French army, during which time he had served in Algeria during the Algerian War.
In 1966 he moved to the Canary Islands, from which base he continued his criminal career in France and Switzerland.
When the heat got too high, he fled to Canada in 1968, where a failed kidnapping led him to flee with his mistress to the U.S., where he was arrested and from which he was extradited back to Canada, where he was found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He escaped a few weeks into his sentence, was reapprehended and imprisoned, and then escaped again two years later, resuming robbing banks for several months until moving to Caracas, Venezuela in 1972.
Part 1 ("Killer Instinct") ends just before Mesrine's return to France in 1972.
There, for the next seven years, he continued hitting banks (once again escaping from a high-security prison) before finally being gunned down by police in an ambush on the outskirts of Paris on October 31, 1979.
Don't worry, I haven't ruined the movie for you: once you start watching you won't remember a word you read here.
LEGO Minifigure Flash Drive
10 long lost American silent films resurface — in Russia
Excerpts from Peter Finn's February 8, 2011 Washington Post story follow.
In a large mahogany box embellished with silk pockets and Cyrillic lettering, 10 lost pieces of America's cultural heritage recently landed in Culpeper, Va. — thanks, in a roundabout way, to the Soviet Union and a bureaucratic penchant for filing.
The box, a gift from the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library to the Library of Congress, contained digital copies of 10 silent films that had been thought to be lost to history. The titles, such as "Valley of the Giants," produced in 1919, and "The Call of the Canyon," produced in 1923, may seem unfamiliar, but the movies were made by some of the era's biggest names.
The movies were delivered late last year through a Russian-American working group on library cooperation, and they represent the first installment in a cache of up to 194 early American films that will eventually be repatriated. There are classics by directors who include Cecil B. De Mille and Sam Wood and gems starring such actors as Mary Pickford and Sessue Hayakawa.
Exactly how Russia ended up being the sole proprietor of precious American films is something of an accident of history.
More than 80 percent of American movies made in the silent era, which ran from about 1894 to 1929, no longer exist. The silver nitrate stock on which they were recorded decomposes unless stored properly, and Americans at the time didn't value film preservation. In many cases, the only reason archivists know certain movies existed is because the titles were dutifully copyrighted.
Between 1913 and 1941, about 1,300 American films were distributed in Russia, which became the Soviet Union after the 1917 revolution. While the Russians and Soviets did not appreciate all that they received — many of the films included warnings that they depicted a "moral and social situation" that was "reprehensible" — they were relatively good at making sure that what they had was kept in good condition in a state film archive.
"Some of the shots are so sharp," said John Carter, a film restoration technician at the Library of Congress, running a segment of the film. "This is amazingly clean. The Russians did a lot of work before copies were made."
The Russians are keeping the original reels but are making digital copies of the movies the Americans want.
Pepper Spray Ring
"The Stunning Pepper Spray Ring uses the highest strength pepper spray formula available today. The formula has an industry heat rating of 2 million SHU (Scoville Heat Units), compared to a jalapeño pepper, which has 5,000 SHU."
"The ring is capable of 2-3 one-second bursts and has an effective range of 12 inches. Spray canisters are replaceable."
"The ring is designed to be worn on either hand on the 1st (index) or 2nd finger, preferably your dominant hand, with the thumb (or other hand if necessary) accessible to operate the safety latch and depress the trigger."
Zediva — Remote viewing gets real
Once the subject of deep black research by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the ability to see remote locations is now available in real time to anyone with a computer.
Wrote Hayley Tsukayama in a March 16, 2011 Washington Post story, "Zediva, an online video site, emerged from beta testing Wednesday with a new way to watch movies online. With Zediva, users remotely watch an actual DVD playing on an physical player in the company’s data center in Silicon Valley."
Said Venky Srinivasan, Zediva's chief executive and co-founder, "It's like watching with a long cable and a long remote control."
I like it.
"The business model allows Zediva to make DVDs available to users as soon as the films come out, since the company is literally buying physical DVDs to rent over the Internet."
They charge $2 to watch one movie and $10 if you rent a 10-pack.
"And what about the issues that face Netflix and other streaming services, who have agreements to delay streaming their digital copies of movies? Srinivasan said he's not anticipating facing any of those issues with Zediva, which operates on the same doctrine of first sale as all rental services that deal with physical DVDs. He did say he is 'more than happy' to talk about partnerships with studios if he is approached."
Oh, there's no doubt he'll be approached — but it won't be with partnership offers.
Better try Zediva sooner rather than later because I guarantee the movie industry's lawyerbots are preparing their "cease-and-desist" motions as you read these words.
More likely than not, those words have already been written and filed.
"Bokeh ("blurred" in Japanese) happens when your lens has a shallow depth of field and blurs background light.
These discs cover your lens
to turn that blurred light
into lovely shapes."
21 shapes: $25.