Things 13: Mirrors, Chronotron, Animal Crossing Comic

(Originally sent May 2008)

This week’s film – one line review
Iron Man
was very well put together, with great screen presence from Robert Downey Jr and Jeff Bridges, but to me it didn’t seem as amazing as everyone makes out, and I don’t think non-genre or non-Downey fans need to see it.

Next week’s film
I’m going to see Speed Racer sitting in the front row with my brain switched off and my eyes wide open.

IMDb rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating:


A Puzzle
Why do mirrors reflect left and right but not up and down?

This is actually a surprisingly deep question.

Hint: The question still stands if you’re looking at the mirror in space.

A Quote
The best quip I have ever made.

My flatmate Ross was elected the new president of the juggling society. He was suggesting that we should club together to get some kind of leaving gift for the outgoing president. With frankly uncharacteristic wit and speed, I replied

“You just want to set a precedent of giving a present to the president.”

A Link
As pointed out to me by Simon, Chronotron is a flash game in which you solve puzzles by going back in time in a tardis and interacting with your past self:

A video
My favourite ad right now is for the VW Golf, in which car footage is edited together to create music:


A picture
‘Animal Crossing’ is a game in which you look after a village of animals that live together. Time keeps passing in the village even when you are not playing, so if you don’t play for a while then it tends to get overgrown with weeds and so on.

Anyway, this led to the true story that is told in this surprisingly moving comic – click to read it in full.


Things 72: Art

Flaubert: “Art is born of restraint and dies of freedom”

Dorothy Gambrell (Cat and Girl): “Great stuff is usually made within very set boundaries […] the importance of a medium lies in its limitations.” (link)

Antony Gormley: “A lot of public art is gunge, an excuse which says, ‘we’re terribly sorry to have built this senseless glass and steel tower but here is this 20-foot bronze cat'”

Kanji that transform into the animal they represent. A brilliant example of art within tight boundaries.

See the rest of the series here (although beware potentially NSFW imagery at the bottom of the page, after the polls, depending on what they have posted recently).

Here’s a really amazing example of art vs limitations: using only the ramblings of a reluctant drunk man for the audio, make a video about the story of a historical figure. Somehow, moderately famous actors are involved in the project. The result is fascinating (although does contain moments of the more unpleasant consequences of drunkenness):
Drunk History – Nicola Tesla

Putting captions on pictures of cats is an emerging art form I have been monitoring for some time. I previously put together my top 10 cats from 2007 and 2008; here, belatedly, are my top 10 cat images spotted in the first half of 2009.

Roger Ebert asserts that “Video games can never be art” Why is he wrong?
(See these posts on Penny Arcade for context and their own responses).

Last week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked what would be the best thing I could buy that would maximise hours saved per pound spent. This produced a wide range of responses, largely depending on which assumptions people chose to question.

  • Yasmin suggests Red Bull (and similar) to save time by needing less sleep.
  • Alam suggests a clone of myself
  • Xuan suggests slaves and a washing machine.
  • Angela suggests two books that could improve one’s efficiency and so save time – The Miracle of Mindfulness and Making Time. (Funnily enough I already own the latter… but I haven’t found time to read it yet).
  • John suggests grated cheese.
  • Phil points out anything free that saves any time would maximise the metric, such as DropBox. This technically lies outside the “buy” requirement. He also suggests a combi-microwave and a smartphone, and then finally a device to prevent time-wasting by cutting off internet access between certain hours.
  • Simon specifically attempted to address the “I” part of the question by recommending an iPad as being a particularly good purchase for me, by switching to digital goods (music, movies, comics, books); “Imagine all that time not wasted, going to shops, ordering physical products online and searching for things you can’t find.” I don’t exactly agree, but that’s a huge discussion for another time.

Finally, Laurence suggests a Time Machine, and insightfully adds:

The inevitable complexity of all the proposed solutions reminds me of
the following quote:

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create
the universe.”
– Carl Sagan

I had planned to make simple estimates for the “hours saved per pound spent” for each answer and declare a winner, but due to the range and complexity of answers this now falls out of the remit of Things and will instead be posted over on my analytical blog, Tower of the Octopus (which now has its own domain) once I find time to make such estimates.


Things 4: Dog Run, Wire Hang, Cat Herd

(Originally sent December 2007)

This week’s film – one line review
Hitman came close to the so-bad-it’s-good mark, but seemed mainly aimed at those familiar with the game, and so didn’t really work for me.

Next week’s film
I’m going to see  Enchanted some time next week.
Imdb rating:  8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%

Watch Enchanted Trailer in Entertainment |  View More Free Videos Online at

Prognosis: The trailer made it look somewhat meta-trite and obvious, but the animated parts look beautiful and the reviews are insanely positive, so I guess it must be good.

How far can a dog run into the woods?

Answer to last week’s puzzle
Because once you’ve found it, you stop looking.

In the vein of the brilliant quotes presented at the Riverside [A recent work-related meeting during which some mixed metaphor quotes had been presented – metatim 25/04/2010]:
Ross [my university flat-mate]: “I wouldn’t trust him with a barge-pole.”

Wire Hang is a beautifully simple and original concept for a 2-minute-distraction kind of game. I’ve never seen what happens beyond the one-block point – does the game end?

Another great viral video – if you’ve not seen it before, or in fact even if you have, have fun trying to guess what it’s actually advertising before the end:



Below is a photo I took of my best free-running buddy, running into a spot of trouble.