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December 27, 2005

Got Cellphone? — Ithaca College Cellphone Film Prize Debuts


Ithaca College, in Ithaca, New York (that makes sense), last month announced its new Cellphone Film Award, part of its annual CellFlix Festival.

Long story short: A $5,000 prize will be awarded to the American high school or college student who creates the best 30–second movie shot entirely on a cellphone.

This strikes me as just an excellent idea, akin to the X Prize that jump–started private space exploration.

Tell you what: $5,000 will buy you a really big bucket of minutes.

Here's yesterday's Associated Press story by William Kates.

    Talk All You Like, but Keep the Movie Short

    A $5,000 prize is offered for the best 30-second student film shot on cellphone

    Bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger portions at the local fast food joint.

    In America, the guiding maxim is to think big. Really big.

    An Ithaca College dean is encouraging students to instead think small.

    And she's offering a $5,000 prize to do it.

    The school has invited high school and college students across America to submit a 30-second movie shot entirely with a cellphone.

    It may come off like a gimmick, but Dean Dianne Lynch has no doubts about the contest's academic value.

    In today's media marketplace — where cellphones can take pictures, play music and games and connect to websites — it's all about thinking small and mobile.

    "Historically, we've always had students thinking bigger and bigger. It's gone from radio to television to the movie screen, to the era of blockbuster films. All of a sudden, things have reversed and everything is getting smaller," Lynch said.

    The submission deadline is January 10.

    A winner will be chosen from among 10 finalists and announced online January 30.

    The idea came to Lynch last year while she was in New York City attending an industry conference.

    One of the topics was the future of mobile delivery of content.

    Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the July bombings in London showed what cellphone cameras are capable of, as everyday people used them to provide TV stations and the Internet with vivid images of the devastation.

    There are an estimated 2 billion mobile-phone subscribers worldwide and 194.5 million in the U.S., according to the Washington, D.C.-based CTIA, an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry.

    About 130 million of those Americans own cellphones with camera capabilities, and approximately half of those phones also possess video functions, said Roger Entner, an analyst with Ovum, a Boston-based technology consulting firm.

    This fall, MTV launched "Head and Body," a comedy series of eight programs created exclusively for cellphone users.

    Last year, Zoie Films, an Atlanta-based producer of independent films and festivals, ran what it billed as the world's first cellphone film festival.

    And in October, the Forum des Images in Paris held its first Pocket Film Festival, which included 30-second shorts, mini-soap operas and full-length features.

    "It's exciting. We were discussing this last year in film club," said Sasha Stefanova, an Ithaca College junior from Kazanlak, Bulgaria, who is majoring in photography and visual arts.

    As soon as she heard about Lynch's contest, "I went immediately to the dean's office and said, 'How can I enter?' I love old films, and old-school techniques. The challenge here is how to get a meaningful idea into such an everyday tool."

    Stefanova is still pondering her entry.

    She is traveling home to Bulgaria for the holidays and plans to shoot scenes during her travels.

    "It will be about my generation's mobility and the falling down of borders," she said.

    Sudhanshu Saria is a senior in filmmaking and likes the novel challenges presented by working with a cellphone and a 1- to 2-inch screen.

    "There are definitely visual limitations. You have to be able to tell a quick story. You can't really make it character-based," said Saria, from Siliguri, India.

    "With a super-small screen, you can't have wide shots or crowd scenes. The images have to be visually simple.

    You can sustain close-ups better than on a huge screen, but some images may need to be exaggerated to compensate for the small size of the screen," Saria said.

    Saria's initial reaction was that the contest "could be gimmicky…. But I hope people studying film will take it as my generation's chance to provide a new language, a new way of thinking."

    The rules of the contest are simple.

    There must be a story, a narrative and sound, and the film must be shot on a cellphone.

    The movies can be edited digitally on a computer or a cellphone that has editing functions.

    The technical quality of the movies will depend on the cell phones, some of which can film with greater resolution than others.

    To ensure fairness, all submissions will be judged in basic VGA (video graphic array) quality, Lynch said.

    The submissions will be reviewed by a panel of film students and faculty, who will select 10 finalists.

    Those entries — which can be viewed on the contest website — will be judged by a panel of faculty and professional filmmakers.

    "The challenge is, can you capture an audience member's attention in 30 seconds and hold it an environment where not only is the delivery system small, but the time frame is short?" Lynch said.

    "Every single frame matters. There's no excess. That's an incredible discipline to develop."


Might even be a reason for me to figure out how to use the moviemaking function of my cellphone.

As it is I can take a picture but then I'm stumped re: how to get it out of the phone in any way, shape or form.

I can't email it; I can't print it; I can't even label it.

Oh, well — they don't call me TechnoDolt™ for nothing now, do they?

For those of you who aren't quite as, oh, how shall I say it, "technically challenged" is as good a term as any, I guess, instead of just sitting around doing something close to nothing or idly counting the holes in the ceiling panels while you wait in line in the Albert Hall or wherever your progress happens to be stalled, here's a way to put that downtime to use.

Got 30 seconds?



Times sure have changed — back in high school the question was, "Got 5 minutes?"

December 27, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Solar Powered Cell Phone Charm


I said it here two weeks ago and I'll say it again: Solar is the new black.


Now comes this cool charm, in your choice of:

• Angel Kitty

• Doraemo

• Nightmare Before Christmas

• Snoopy

• Winnie the Pooh

So great: the picture appears and disappears, cycling eternally, without ever needing a battery.


You get a charm (which the website calls a "Solar Power Flash Plate"), a mobile phone strap and a key ring.


$9 here.

[via i4u and textually.org]

None of the above possibilities suit your fantasy?

I mean fancy...?

No problema.

The crack research team informs me (now they tell me, after the post has already gone up... there'll be some woodshed action later today, tell you what...) that Super Mario Brothers Solar Powered Cell Phone Charms are also available.

You choice of Mario, Princess Peach or Kuppa, or pick one of the many others on the site.

$9.45 here (Click on the blinking "Mario").

Might make a nice necklace, zipper pull or what–have–you: use your illusion.

Wait a minute — that's not right... imagination.

Yeah — use your pagination.

Oh, forget it.

December 27, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'Nun Bun' Done Gone



Just in, the news that the petrified pastry resembling Mother Teresa (above) that put Bongo Java on the spiritual pilgrimage map — with three crosses — has gone missing from its glass case.

Bongo Java, a Nashville, Tennessee icon, has had the preserved cinnamon bun on display for nine years, ever since it was discovered by a customer in 1996.

Shop owner Bob Bernstein told Reuters that the thief broke into the coffeehouse at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning and smashed the glass case housing the artifact (below),


ignoring cash nearby.

Bernstein noted, "I can't figure out why anyone would steal it. They can't sell it on eBay, it's not fit to eat, there was no ransom note, and the police put its value at only $25 on their reports."

Before her death in 1997, Mother Teresa herself wrote a letter to Bernstein asking that her name not be used commercially.

Subsequently, it became known simply as the "Nun Bun."

Here's the story as reported by NewsChannel5 in Nashville this morning.

    'Nun Bun' Still Missing After Christmas Morning Theft

    The petrified pastry known as the Nun Bun made a Nashville coffee house famous, but it still hasn't been found after someone broke into the Bongo Java on Belmont Boulevard Christmas morning and stole it.

    The Nun Bun came out of the ovens at Bongo Java nine years ago, and many said it bore an uncanny resemblance to Mother Teresa.

    It was dubbed the "Nun Bun" and put on display for all to see, and garnered all kinds of attention.

    It was talked about by David Letterman and Jay Leno, became the subject of T-shirts and a Trivial Pursuit question, and even garnered a letter from Mother Teresa herself.

    But someone broke into Bongo Java on Christmas morning, went right past the money, and snatched the famous roll.

    Just about everyone has a theory on why someone would steal it.

    "A drug addict who wanted to sell it for the money, a young kid on a prank, somebody who had a problem with it. Who knows what it was, it just doesn't make any sense to me because it's not going to do anyone any good," Bongo Java owner Bob Bernstein said.

    "It’s like somebody took something really sentimental. It's either a prank or it's just somebody angry about preserving a bun with shellac," said Bongo Java customer Holly Butler.

    Bernstein said he hasn't received any ransom letters, and he hopes it's all just a prank and that the Nun Bun will be brought back safe and sound.


Is nothing sacred?

Tell you what: that's some bad ju–ju the thief's carrying around — if I were him or her I'd drop this bun like it was hot.

Preferably on the front doorstep of Bongo Java (below)


before it opens tomorrow morning.

Can't quite see the resemblance?


Look again.

December 27, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New Wave Sweater Dryer


What is it all of a sudden with these household helpers that look like conceptual sculpture?

From the website:

    Sweater Dryer 2 Tier

    For perfectly shaped knits without hanger marks, lay them flat to dry.

    For quick drying times, try breathable mesh.

    Two-tier Sweater Dryer meets both requirements!

    Simply hang from the shower rod or laundry line, then lay your sweaters flat on the two 24" diameter flexible mesh rounds.

    Twist and fold for compact storage or travel.

$9.99 here.

December 27, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tilly Smith, 11, Named Child of the Year


The French children's newspaper Mon Quotidien has named British schoolgirl Tilly Smith (above) as its Child of the Year 2005.


Because on the morning of December 26, 2004, while walking on Phuket Island beach, the 10–year–old girl saw "bubbling on the water... and foam sizzling just like in a frying pan," and recognized these as warning signs of a tsunami.

How did she know?

Because just two weeks earlier in her geography class she'd studied tsunamis.

Tilly told her parents and alerted the staff of the Marriott Hotel, where they were staying.

The hotel evacuated its beach just minutes before the killer tsunami struck: it was one of the few on the island to suffer no loss of life.

An estimated 100 people were saved by Tilly's powers of observation, recall, and subsequent prompt action.

And that is why Mon Quotidien named her Child of the Year.

Here's today's Associated Press story.

    Girl a Hero of Tsunami

    A French children's magazine named as its child of the year a British schoolgirl credited with saving about 100 tourists at a Thai beach when the tsunami struck last year.

    The upcoming issue of Mon Quotidien, which hits newsstands today, features a smiling Tilly Smith on its cover.

    Smith, now 11, had studied tsunamis in her geography class in Oxshott, a small community just south of London, two weeks before going to Thailand on vacation.

    On a morning walk on a Phuket island beach on Dec. 26, 2004, Smith recognized the warning signs that a tsunami was coming when she saw "bubbling on the water . . . and foam sizzling like in a frying pan."

    She told her parents and alerted staff at the Marriott Hotel, where they were staying.

    The beach was evacuated minutes before waves struck.

    The beach was one of the few on Phuket where no one was killed or seriously hurt.

    Nearly 400 readers of the magazine, which caters to children aged 10–14, responded to a year-end survey to elect a child who left the greatest mark on 2005.

    "If Tilly hadn't been there, the tsunami would have killed more people," said one 10-year-old respondent.


Tilly (below, with her parents),


sometimes referred to as "The Angel of the Beach," was among 137 Britons attending memorial services in Thailand yesterday, in remembrance of the 5,400 who died.

Perhaps Andrew Kearney, her geography teacher in Oxshott, a small community south of London, deserves a nod as well for making the lesson memorable enough to remain in Tilly's working memory bank.

December 27, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What's in the stainless steel box?


From the website:

    The Vintages™ Collection

    A compilation of the finest single-origin dark chocolates (min. 75% cacao) reveal the true "essence of the origin."

    Presented in a beautiful polished stainless-steel gift box, each piece is optimally sized to deliver the ultimate tasting experience – permitting a concentrated tasting without over-satiating the palate.

    Tasting Guidelines and Origin Flavor Profiles inside each box.

    • Viviente — Bright citrus notes invigorate the palate

    • Ensemble — A mixed box of all four origins (24 pc. of each)

    • Bambarra — Smooth and rounded with subtle notes of coconut

    • Carmeñago — Deep and full–bodied with hints of rich, dark berries

    • Tamborina — Complex with hints of ripe cherries and a fine cohiba

$209 for 96 pieces here.

December 27, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Ski Wax is Redundant'



That's heresy, if you're a ski wax manufacturer.

They've got waxes for any and every condition.

But comes now Leonid Kuzmin, a former cross-country racing champion turned ski coach turned doctoral student at Mid–Sweden University, with research findings showing that, for runs of more than a couple of hundred meters, the presence of ski wax slows the skier down.

A story on Kuzmin's findings appeared in the December 14 issue of The Economist.

Just in time to save you a lot of time and money this season, should you find Kuzmin's work worth investigating for yourself.

Here's the article.

    Not Waxing Lyrical

    Using ski wax can trap dirt, and thus slow down the skier

    This season, like every previous one, recreational and racing skiers alike will apply wax to their skis in the hope of schussing that little bit faster.

    They will do so after assessing the air's temperature, its humidity and the prevailing snow conditions, so as to determine exactly which wax they should use.

    Not any old wax will do.

    Some are formulated for use over cold, dry snow and others for warmer, wetter stuff.

    Aficionados who want to extract the maximum advantage will take great care over which they choose.

    But recent research suggests they are wasting their time, not merely in their choice of wax, but in bothering to wax their skis at all.

    A study by Leonid Kuzmin, a former cross-country racing champion turned ski coach who is now a doctoral student at Mid-Sweden University, concludes that for runs of more than a couple of hundred metres, the presence of ski wax slows the skier down.

    Admittedly, Mr Kuzmin's research was conducted on cross-country skiers, but he believes it will prove true for downhill racers as well.

    The way in which a ski slides over the snow boils down to the way in which friction between the base of the ski and the surface of the snow melts that snow, transforming it into a thin layer of water.

    The ski then floats across this layer. Indeed, snowboarding, ice skating and sledging also rely on this principle.

    The depth of the water layer is crucial.

    If it is too thin, which can happen at very low temperatures, the ski sticks.

    Skiers typically try to overcome this friction by applying hard wax.

    If it is too thick, which can happen at warmer temperatures, it can create suction that makes it harder to slide over the water layer.

    To avoid that, skiers typically apply soft wax.

    The base layer of modern skis is made from a substance called ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene.

    This fantastic plastic has molecules far longer than those of regular polyethylene, and these molecules are, in addition, packed tightly into a crystal structure rather than being scattered at random.

    The result is a tough material that has a low coefficient of friction—comparable to that of Teflon—and is highly resistant to abrasion.

    Its properties are so useful and unusual that it is used not only to create the base layer of skis, but also to make bulletproof jackets and artificial hip and knee joints.

    In fact, Mr Kuzmin suspected that this wonder material was so good that waxing it was no longer necessary.

    He therefore decided to conduct a series of experiments with waxed and unwaxed skis.

    He commissioned a few pairs of transparent skis that a volunteer then took out on to a test slope.

    That done, he examined the skis and found that those treated with wax attracted more dirt than the ones that were unwaxed.

    Moreover, Mr Kuzmin also recorded the speeds the volunteer reached while gliding down the test slope.

    He found that after distances of just a couple of hundred metres, gliding on unwaxed skis was faster than on their waxed counterparts.

    Skiers can thus, it seems, forget about long hours spent ironing wax on to their skis and devote more of their time to the slopes.

    Before ski-wax makers pack up shop, however, business opportunities do still exist.

    Mr Kuzmin's research pertains only to glide wax—that is, wax intended to make skis glide faster.

    Cross-country skiing also employs a second form, kick wax, which has the opposite effect.

    Kick wax is applied to the parts of the blades of cross-country skis that are directly under the skier's feet.

    These do not (or, at least, should not) touch the ground when the skier is gliding.

    On flat terrain, such wax allows the skier to push off and on uphill climbs it prevents him from slipping backwards.

    Manufacturers will be pleased to hear that kick wax remains essential to cross-country skiing.

December 27, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Visor Sunglasses


[via Vice magazine]

December 27, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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