Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Psychic predictions, LFL women, fairytale art lead most popular blog posts of 2013

Web surfers visiting Tech-media-tainment most enjoy articles about year-ahead predictions, LFL wardrobe malfunctions and fairytale art.
What follows is a list of the most popular stories on TMT in descending order from 2013.
  1. Psychic predictions for 2013: Barack Obama’s life ‘in grave danger,’ Joe Biden diagnosed with senile dementia. (Jan. 1, 2013
  2. New LFL uniforms, same wardrobe malfunctions. (May 7, 2013
  3. Fairytale art for adults. (Jan. 29, 2013
  4. 10 entertaining websites, including You Had One Job! and Blackboards in Porn. (June 30, 2013
  5. Lingerie Football League is finished, replaced by Legends Football League. (Jan. 27, 2013
  6. Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2013. (Jan. 3, 2013
  7. Public treats porn performers, nude models like criminals. (Jan. 17, 2013
  8. The 12 best LFL players. (Feb. 17, 2013
  9. Sexy Tinker Bell art. (July 26, 2013
  10. Sexy Cinderella depictions. (July 25, 2013
  11. U.S. maps showing movie and TV show locations. (June 6, 2013
  12. ‘Wizard of Oz’ alive and well thanks to the public domain. (March 7, 2013
  13. Yahoo Mail has gotten really slow and buggy lately (May 22, 2013
  14. Fun art inspired by ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ (March 8, 2013
  15. Tumblr terminated my account, killed my three blogs. (May 20, 2013
  16. Porn parodies of Oscar-winning movies. (Feb. 24, 2013
  17. Bonnie McKee’s ‘American Girl’ could bring waves of foreign men to U.S. (July 21, 2013
  18. 10 celebrity-related Tumblr blogs. (May 17, 2013
  19. Fairytale princesses reimagined as superheroes, college students, sloths. (July 28, 2013
  20. Absurd morality against sexy women who model extends to Europe. (Jan. 18, 2013
I neglected to do a list of the top blog posts from 2012. So here they are:
  1. Best uncensored Lingerie Football League wardrobe malfunction photos. (Dec. 3, 2012
  2. Pop culture artists love to reimagine fairytale characters. (Feb. 1, 2012
  3. Lingerie Football League uniforms aren’t functional; Wardrobe malfunctions continue. (May 29, 2012
  4. YourVersion targeted by Chinese hackers. (Dec. 1, 2012
  5. Google prudish about Lingerie Football League. (Sept. 3, 2012
  6. TSA agents can’t keep their hands off porn stars. (May 24, 2012
  7. Tiger Woods is back … and so are businesses capitalizing on his fame. (March 30, 2012
  8. Adam Levine, Kyra Sedgwick, other celebs talk about getting felt up by TSA agents. (May 23, 2012
  9. Cee Lo Green’s cat, star of ‘The Voice.’ (March 27, 2012
  10. Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2012. (Jan. 1, 2012
  11. Funny TSA graphics, cartoons and photos. (March 21, 2012
  12. Lego ‘Finding Bigfoot.’ (March 5, 2012
  13. TSA agents like to pat down pretty ladies. But why? (Dec. 11, 2012
  14. ‘Finding Bigfoot’ – a guilty pleasure TV show. (Feb. 29, 2012
  15. Lego dioramas of reality TV shows, including ‘The Voice’, ‘AGT’ and ‘Wipeout.’ (Oct. 7, 2012
  16. More Lego recreations of reality TV: ‘Billy the Exterminator’ and ‘Hillbilly Handfishin’.’ (March 25, 2012
  17. McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger with Bacon: Advertising vs. reality. (May 21, 2012
  18. The intersection of art and porn. (Sept. 9, 2012
  19. Science fiction, horror and fantasy stories in the public domain. (Feb. 6, 2012
  20. Leap Motion, 3D printers and Google Glass predicted to be hot products in 2013. (Dec. 29, 2012
Photo: LFL standout and beautiful woman Liz Gorman. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Respect for lawyers and other oddball predictions for 2014

Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard thinks people in 2014 will suddenly stop hating lawyers and treat them like heroes.
Yeah, right.
In a story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Allard predicted that 2014 will be a “rebound year for law schools, their students and the profession.”
Here are two of his predictions for the New Year:
  1. Ten years from now, people will look back at 2014 and say it marked the start of the new world of law: a renaissance where the respect and reputation of lawyers and law schools began to rise by measurable benchmarks.
  2. Significantly, in 2014 the ABA will lead the way to restoring the national reputation of law as an honorable, noble profession. For example, next year the ABA will begin a national two-year conversation around its activities to celebrate the upcoming 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Even children will learn that we are a nation of laws, and many will be able to answer the trivia question: “Who signed the Magna Carta on a grassy field in Runnymede in 1215?” Answer: “No one – it was ‘sealed’ by King John.”
2014 food trends 

The National Restaurant Association issued its forecast for what will be hot in 2014.
For starters, it says ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes) and traditional ethnic breakfast items (e.g. huevos rancheros, shakshuka, ashta) will be big in the New Year.
Leading the top trends for restaurants are local-sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce and hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens).
The top ethnic cuisines and flavors of 2014 will be Peruvian, Korean and Southeast Asian (e.g. Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian).
Trends showing big declines include Greek yogurt, sweet-potato fries and organic coffee, the restaurant group said.
Restaurant consultant group Baum + Whiteman LLC expects Hipster Asian, Jewish Fusion, Filipino dishes, Mexican sandwiches and Mideast cooking “beyond Spain and Greece” to emerge in the New Year.
Better-for-you dining, including the acceleration of the Paleo diet, will continue to grow, the consultants say. The Paleo diet focuses on food from the Stone Age, such as meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm, predicts that the rising cost of beef will mean that chicken will be big again in 2014, but so will pork. Restaurants will be “pushing the parameters of proteins” next year, Technomic said. Pork is “the latest protein star … appearing in regional barbecue items, in Hispanic and other ethnic fare, in charcuterie and as pulled-pork sandwiches. Also getting time in the spotlight are lamb and game meats, from duck to bison.”

Hot music acts 

Music discovery app Shazam issued its list of acts expected to have break-through years in 2014.

The Shazam team selected the artists by starting with qualitative industry tastemaker selections and then ranked them using quantitative data from Shazam queries of those artists.
The performers expected to make headlines in 2014 are:
  • Action Bronson – Queens native Bronson lists early influences as Wu-Tang Clan. He launched his first album 2011 but gained huge Shazam tags in 2013 after releasing several hotly tipped mix tapes. 
  • August Alsina – August’s single “I Luv This Shit” has been one of the most Shazamed rap tracks of 2013 and his mix tape tracks are also gaining traction with hip-hop heads. 
  • Banks – Born Jillian Banks, she started writing music as a teenager in suburban LA and released an acclaimed EP in 2013. 
  • Jhene Aiko – Collaborations with Drake and Big Sean thrust her into the public eye in 2013. Now, after releasing a mix tape, “Sail Out,” Aiko looks set for big things. 
  • Kid Ink – XXL Magazine listed Kid Ink among artists like Danny Brown and Macklemore in its 2012 Freshman Class feature. Signed with RCA/Epic, Kid Ink is set to release his first album under a major label this year. 
  • Lucy Hale – Best known for her role as Aria Montgomery on the ABC Family series, “Pretty Little Liars,” Hale is set to be the next country star. 
  • Martin Garrix – Dutch DJ best known for his track, “Animals,” Garrix is the youngest person ever to top the Beatport charts. (Pictured above.)
  • Rich Homie Quan – Georgia native and artist for the Island Jam label, Quan has been named by the New York Times as one of “Atlanta’s rising generation of rappers … who deliver lines with melody and heart, like singers on the verge of a breakdown.” 
  • Sam Smith – London-born Smith contributed the soaring vocals on Disclosure’s 2013 hit, “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La.” He prefers the raw soul style in the vein of his favorite artists, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin. 
  • Vance Joy – Originally from Melbourne, Vance Joy has already achieved success in his native Australia with his single, “Riptide,” and is set to break globally this year. 
Music industry executives at the 10th annual Advertising Week conference in New York City were asked to make predictions about notable trends in 2014, Billboard reported.
“Music sponsorships in North America will pay artists and record labels more than Pandora, Spotify and YouTube combined,” Marcie Allen, founder/president, MAC Presents, said. MAC Presents creates sponsorship programs among top artists, fashion labels and brands.

Political predictions 

Republican political consultant Karl Rove made his annual predictions. Chief among them is fallout from President Barack Obama’s problem-plagued Affordable Care Act rollout.
Here are some specifics:
Mr. Obama’s Gallup disapproval rating will end higher than this week’s 53%.
Republicans will keep the House with a modest pickup of 4-6 seats.
The GOP will most likely end up with 50 or 51 Senate seats.
Tens of millions more Americans will lose their coverage and find that new ObamaCare plans have higher premiums, larger deductibles and fewer doctors. Enrollment numbers will be smaller than projected and budget outlays will be higher. The White House will blame insurers and Republicans for the law’s continuing failures. At year’s end, Kathleen Sebelius will still be HHS Secretary. Support for ObamaCare will drop below 30%, causing congressional Democrats to clamber for major changes and delays. The administration will resist most such ideas, except lifting the individual mandate penalty for 2014.
Outside of politics: “Duck Dynasty” will set another cable viewership record. Miley Cyrus will fade as a cultural phenomenon. Sandra Bullock will win an Oscar for “Gravity.” Peyton Manning will win a fifth MVP award and the Seattle Seahawks their first Lombardi Trophy.

Photos: 2014 art from ChristmasStockImages.com; Mexican breakfast photo by Ricardo (rvacapinta on Flickr); Dutch DJ Martin Garrix (photo Jasper K from Wikimedia Commons).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Psychic predictions for 2014 about royal family, celebrities

For those who believe in this sort of thing, psychics are in agreement about England’s Prince William and Duchess Kate having another baby soon.
Three psychics say Kate will become pregnant with her second child in 2014. Two say it will be a girl.
Here are some predictions for the new year by four notable psychics:
Los Angeles psychic Judy Hevenly gave her annual predictions to the San Bernardino County Sun.
  • Kate Middleton pregnant with second child. 
  • Last year of reign for Queen Elizabeth. 
  • Pope Francis hospitalized for lung infection. 
  • Academy Awards swept by “12 Years a Slave,” winning Best Movie, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor/Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score. 
  • Chelsea Clinton announces pregnancy and has baby boy. 
Hollywood psychic Christian Dion made a bunch of 2014 predictions, according to ONTD.
  • Royal couple William and Kate: “A great year and toward the end of this year and the beginning of next one the new baby announced. Little girl.” 
  • Late-night talk shows: “When Jimmy Fallon goes to the Tonight Show, he will be an amazing success, (given time). Good year for Kimmel. Not so good for Conan. Leno, on his way out, but not without a fight. It’s going to be really tough for Seth Meyers, but I do think in the end will be ok.” 
  • “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm: “His year for an Emmy.” 
  • Heart-throb actor Ryan Gosling: “So broken up from Eva Mendes at the moment, but they’ll be back together! Then engaged.” 
  • Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: “I see a really bad year for these two including a break up.” 
  • Reality TV family the Kardashians: “Believe it or not, this year sees the beginning of the end for the trailer trash morons.” 
  • Prince Harry: “Royal Engagement, Cressida Bonas.” 
Celebrity psychic Thomas John gave his predictions and was featured in the Hollywood Reporter and Life & Style magazine.
  • Jessica Biel is pregnant. 
  • Blake Lively is pregnant. 
  • Katy Perry and John Mayer split. 
  • Sharon Stone makes a huge comeback in a great picture and is given many awards. 
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: I just don’t get a warm feeling from this couple, and my sense is that they are on their way to a breakup. Strangely, I see another child coming to Angelina, too, in the next two years. I feel there isn't much chemistry here, and the connection is basically based on the kids. I definitely see them growing apart. A split and separation is definitely in basically inevitable for these two in the next two years, and I feel it could happen in 2014 or early 2015. 
  • Miley Cyrus: She is going to enter rehab at some point next year, but her career is going to remain strong. 
  • Prince William and Duchess Kate: They are already planning a second pregnancy, which I predict will happen by the beginning of 2015 – we will likely (hear) rumors in 2014 about it, and confirmation of it towards the end of the year. The second baby will be a girl, and make a great playmate for baby George. I also see William being announced as the King of England in 2014. 
Sidney Friedman, the “Mentalist to the Stars,” made his 2014 predictions in a press release.
  • Edward Snowden will return to the United States and will NOT face trial. 
  • Pope Francis announces plans for a visit to North America. Chicago will be one of the destinations. (And although it’s been revealed the Pope will visit the Middle East for two days, the trip actually will extend to four days.) 
  • Kanye and Kim’s wedding will be televised live. Some of the revenue will go to charity. 
  • Snow falls in southern Florida. 
  • The Chicago Cubs will make it to the World Series. 
Photo: Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement on Nov. 16, 2010. Photo by UK_repsome.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Business cliches are ‘table stakes’

Lately I’ve seen a resurgence of the business cliche “table stakes,” a term used to describe something important to a company.
As a search term on Google, “table stakes” spiked last month. In November, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly described price competitiveness as “table stakes” for the consumer electronics retailer.
Just last week, I saw the term used by an online advertising researcher in an article titled, “Programmatic Is Table Stakes.”
NPR reported in June that the term seemed to be popping up all over the place. It’s one of many gambling terms favored by business executives, along with “double down” and “go all in,” NPR said.

Related article: 

9 Buzzwords That Can Make You Sound Dumb (American Express Open Forum; Nov. 25, 2013)

Photos: Poker chips by Play Among Friends.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Google robots dominate DARPA competition

Two robot-makers recently acquired by Google dominated the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, held Dec. 20-21 in Homestead, Fla. The competition is a lead-up to the DRC Finals, which will be held sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.
The purpose of the competition is to advance the development of robots that can aid in disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011. The contest is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Robots at last week’s event had to drive a vehicle, walk over rough terrain, climb a ladder, remove debris, open a door, cut through a wall, close three types of valves, and carry and connect a fire hose. Sixteen teams took part in the robotics trials.
Schaft, a spin-out of the University of Tokyo that was acquired by Google in recent months, won the contest with 27 out of a possible 32 points, MIT Technology Review reported.
The teams that came in second and fourth used a humanoid robot called Atlas, built by another Google-owned company, Boston Dynamics. Those teams from IHMC and MIT, respectively, developed software to run the robots. The third-place team was from Carnegie Mellon University.
The eight teams with the highest scores will receive up to $1 million in funding to prepare for the final round, where a winner will get $2 million.

Related articles: 

Japanese Team Dominates Competition to Create Generation of Rescue Robots (New York Times; Dec. 22, 2013)

Google’s Schaft robot wins Darpa rescue challenge. (BBC; Dec. 23, 2013)

Photos from DARPA: The S-One robot from Schaft raises its arms in victory after successfully climbing an industrial ladder at the DRC Trials (top); Ian, an Atlas robot with IHMC Robotics, successfully cuts a hole in a wall.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The public domain: Hollywood’s go-to source for movie ideas

Hollywood often recycles stories for movies. And among the best stories to use are those in the public domain.
Studios love to make movies that have built-in audiences, where people are already familiar with the stories and characters. Many such stories are in the public domain and therefore are owned by everyone. They’re part of our shared culture, just like our history.
Public domain stories also are free for anyone to use and for artists to experiment and play with. The creators were compensated during a limited period of monopoly protection and now the public at large can benefit from them.
Two major motion pictures in theaters now are based on public domain works. Disney’s “Frozen” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” (1845). The historical drama “12 Years a Slave” is based on an 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup.
What follows is a list of movies in production or awaiting release based on literature in the public domain.
  • The Bible: At least six movies based on the Bible are coming to theaters soon. “Noah” stars Russell Crowe as the Old Testament ark builder. Will Smith is working on “The Redemption of Cain,” based on the story of Cain and Abel. Warner Bros. is developing a movie called “Methuselah,” based on the biblical 1,000-year-old man. Christian Bale is set to play Moses in the Ridley Scott film “Exodus.” Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus in “Son of God.” Brad Pitt is looking to play the title role in the Warner Bros. film “Pontius Pilate.”
  • Plays by William Shakespeare: This fall saw the release of two films based on Shakespearean plays: “Much Ado About Nothing” from director Joss Whedon and “Romeo and Juliet” starring Hailee Steinfeld. Coming soon are “Cymbeline” starring Ethan Hawke and Ed Harris; and “Macbeth” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
  • Classic fairy tales: After the success of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Hollywood took a renewed interest in fairy tales as source material for movies. Angelina Jolie is playing the evil fairy in “Maleficent,” based on the “Sleeping Beauty” story. Director Kenneth Branagh is making “Cinderella,” starring Lilly James and Cate Blanchett. Two movies of “Beauty and the Beast” are in the works, one from director Christophe Gans and starring Vincent Cassel and the other from director Guillermo del Toro and starring Emma Watson. Disney is making a live-action musical “Into the Woods,” which features such fairy tale characters as Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. Filmmaker Henry Selick is set to direct a live-action version of “A Tale Dark and Grimm,” which features Hansel and Gretel and other Brothers Grimm characters. Meanwhile, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 2,” a sequel to the revisionist fairy tale is in the works.
  • Classic children’s stories: Robert Downey Jr. is set to star as Geppetto in a live-action “Pinocchio.” (A stop-motion animation adaptation of the work by director Guillermo del Toro is on indefinite hold.) Disney is making “Alice in Wonderland 2,” a sequel to its 2010 hit. Disney also is doing a live-action movie of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” Two Peter Pan origin story movies are in the works: “Pan” from director Joe Wright and “Peter and the Starcatchers” from director Gary Ross. Director Guy Ritchie is working on a new version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate tale “Treasure Island.” Several Wizard of Oz movies are in the works: the sequel to “Oz the Great and Powerful,” the animated “Dorothy of Oz” and possibly “Twisted Land of Oz” from Warner Bros. Director David Fincher is developing an adaptation of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
  • Charles Dickens stories: Director Mike Newell’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel “Great Expectations” was released in select theaters last month. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane. Red Bull Media House is making “Twist,” a parkour action version of the Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.” Sony Pictures is making “Dodge & Twist,” based on the characters Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Warner Bros. is developing a third “Sherlock Holmes” movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as the famed detective. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures is remaking “Young Sherlock Holmes,” which depicts Holmes and buddy Watson as teenagers.
  • Tarzan: Director David Yates is directing a live-action “Tarzan” for Warner Bros. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ King of the Apes also is being adapted as an animated movie featuring Kellan Lutz called “Tarzan 3D.”
  • Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s monster is the subject of several upcoming movies. First up is “I, Frankenstein” starring Aaron Eckhart, which is set for release Jan. 24. Paul McGuigan is directing an update of “Frankenstein” for 20th Century Fox, starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. The Fox version of Mary Shelley’s 19th century novel is told from the perspective of Igor, played by Radcliffe. This year also saw the release of “Frankenstein’s Army.”
  • Dracula: Universal Pictures is making “Dracula Untold,” which is described as an origin story for the famous vampire. The film stars Luke Evans and is directed by Gary Shore. Tom Cruise is slated to star as Dracula’s nemesis in the Universal film “Van Helsing.”
  • Classic literature: David Goyer plans to direct an adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas revenge tale “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Actor Johnny Depp is working on a big-screen modern-day re-imagining of “Don Quixote” for Disney. Paramount Pictures is developing a “Huck and Finn,” a modern-day interpretation of Mark Twain’s most famous characters. MGM wants to make a new movie based on the 1880 novel “Ben-Hur.” Screenwriter Albert Torres is working on a feature adaptation of the Dark Horse graphic novel “The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde,” which is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”
  • Legends and mythology: Two Hercules movies are on the way. First up is “The Legend of Hercules” starring Kellan Lutz as the Greek hero. It’s set for release on Jan. 10. Next is “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner. DreamWorks has teamed with director Scott Waugh to make a Robin Hood movie called “Merry Men.” Warner Bros. is making a live-action movie “Merlin” about the wizard from Arthurian legend. Warner Bros. also is developing “Arthur & Lancelot” from the same legend.
This is just a sampling of upcoming movies based on public domain literature. I’ve listed other examples in previous articles on the subject. They’re almost too numerous to mention at this point.

Related reading: 

15 years ago, Congress kept Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. Will they do it again? (The Washington Post; Oct. 25, 2013)

Why you should care about the public domain. (Feb. 22, 2012)

Public domain works flourishing on TV: Dracula, Sleepy Hollow and more. (Oct. 25, 2013)

Photos: Posters from “12 Years a Slave” and “Frozen.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame slowly inducting actual rock acts

In recent years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has seemed more interested in inducting pop music acts than traditional rock groups.
For instance, it chose disco queen Donna Summer, Swedish pop group ABBA, crooner Neil Diamond and top 40 artist Madonna.
True to form, this year the hall selected Hall and Oates, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens.
But surprisingly they also picked some actual rock music acts: Nirvana, Kiss and Peter Gabriel. The 2014 class of inductees was announced Tuesday. (See article by Reuters.)
There are still lots of deserving rock bands who have been passed over for recognition, including Yes, Chicago, Journey, Boston, Cheap Trick, the Cars and Def Leppard.
But they’re making progress.

Photo: Cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind.” 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are Amazon and Google trying to make the robot apocalypse happen?

Internet giants Amazon and Google have taken a serious interest in robotics lately.
Amazon is developing a fleet of flying delivery robots called Amazon Prime Air. It also is increasing its use of robots in its warehouses, using technology it acquired from Kiva Systems.
Meanwhile, Google is working on self-driving cars. Plus, on Friday, Google revealed that it purchased Boston Dynamics, maker of robots that resemble mechanical pack mules and Terminators.
Boston Dynamics made Atlas, a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 330-pound monster that walks on two legs and is the stuff of nightmares. It was designed with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help respond to disasters, such as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011. But it looks like the killer robots from the Terminator movies.
Atlas and a bunch of similar robots will be competing in a DARPA competition this week in Homestead, Fla.
The New York Times reports that Google has purchased eight robotics companies in the last half year. Google isn’t saying exactly what it has in mind with the technology.
Advancements in robotics have some people wringing their hands about safety and security.
Robots also are making it more cost effective to do manufacturing in the U.S. again. For instance, Apple’s new factory in Texas to make the Mac Pro computer is highly automated.
Quite a few articles were written this year about the potential for job losses related to increased use of robots. (See articles by the Huffington Post, Associated Press, New York Times and Mindflash.)
Welcome to the future.

Related reading: 

Meet the real life Terminator: Most advanced robot ever is able to walk through battlefields as bullets fly and even nuclear disaster zones to rescue the injured. (The Daily Mail; July 12, 2013)

Amazon unveils futuristic plan: Delivery by drone. (CBS; Dec. 2, 2013)

Amazon Tests 30-Minute Delivery Via Helicopter Drones. (IBD; Dec. 2, 2013)

Before Amazon’s Drones Come the Robots. (Wall Street Journal; Dec. 8, 2013)

Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android. (New York Times; Dec. 4, 2013)

Photos: Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics; Amazon Prime Air drone. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What does 2014 hold for post-apocalyptic movies?

2013 was a banner year for post-apocalyptic movies.
At least eight movies were released theatrically that dealt with life on Earth after apocalyptic events, including “Oblivion,” This Is the End” and “Pacific Rim.”
And 12 more such themed movies are still awaiting their U.S. premieres. They include “Snowpiercer” starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, which takes place in a new ice age.
Scheduled for release in 2014 are the alien invasion film “Edge of Tomorrow” starring Tom Cruise, apes-take-over-the world flick “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and zombie apocalypse film “Resident Evil 6.”
Then in 2015, the latest movie in the Mad Max series premieres, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
I count at least seven more major Hollywood movies in production that take place after apocalyptic events.

Photos: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” poster, and Tom Hardy as Mad Max in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” 

See also: Comprehensive list of post-apocalyptic movies.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: Soft-core porn or mainstream entertainment

There was a difference of opinion in my household tonight about whether the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” is legitimate mainstream entertainment.
I think it is, but my wife called it “soft-core porn.”
Although the annual show contains no nudity or sexual situations, the idea of attractive young women prancing around in underwear creates the impression that it only appeals to prurient interests.
The show, which is basically a one-hour commercial for the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand, is packed with pop music and crazy fashions that marry haute couture with Las Vegas showgirl wear. It’s a spectacle of sights and sounds.
This year’s show, which aired tonight on CBS, featured musical performances by Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, A Great Big World and Neon Jungle.
Standout performances included Swift and Fall Out Boy joining up for the latter’s hit single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” and Ian Axel of A Great Big World singing “Say Something.”
In years past, the show featured some great song mash-ups, but they’ve mostly given way to live performances recently. I did enjoy the use of the (censored) Miley Cyrus tune “F.U.” and the David Guetta track “I Wanna Go Crazy” with Will.i.am this year.
I like the combination of pop music, stage theatrics and over-the-top costumes with wings, feathers and lace. And yes, the pretty ladies are nice to look at too. But it’s not soft-core porn.

Photos: Behati Prinsloo struts past singer Taylor Swift (top); models Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel and Prinsloo at the 2013 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lego ‘Tanked’ diorama

Continuing my hobby of making Lego dioramas of reality TV shows, here are a couple of photos of my toy depiction of Animal Planet’s “Tanked.”
It’s a mixed media diorama since I could only find a few boring silver Lego fish to use. So I brightened it up with some miscellaneous plastic toy fish.
“Tanked,” now in its fifth season, follows the operations of Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, owned by brothers-in-law Brett Raymer and Wayde King.

Related websites: 

Animal Planet’s website for “Tanked.”

Wikipedia entry on “Tanked.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TV midseason report card: Passing grades for ‘Almost Human,’ ‘Agents of SHIELD’

TV networks are at the midyear mark of the 2013-14 season. So it’s a good time for reflection.
Among the new shows I started watching this fall, Fox sci-fi cop series “Almost Human” and ABC comic book-hero drama “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” are keeping my interest, but barely. Both are competently made, but lack the must-see factor of some of the serial dramas I watch.
On “Almost Human,” the pairing of Karl Urban and Michael Ealy as human and android cop partners is the best thing about the show. The actors have great chemistry. I wish the plots were a little darker and deeper though. There needs to be some through line or story arc for the series otherwise it’s just a cop procedural set in the future. Yawn.
And for the love of God, give something more substantial for supporting actors Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly to do. They’re both wasted on this show. They just walk around the office and relay information to the main characters.
As for “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” it’s a favorite of my 10-year-old son, but I could take it or leave it. It needs more danger and better villains.
I tried watching “The Tomorrow People,” but it got old fast. A few episodes in and the show felt redundant and pointless. I didn’t care much for the protagonists either. I was hoping for more of a “Heroes” or “X-Men” vibe, but the characters were vanilla and they all shared similar superpowers. Boring.
I also canned Lifetime’s “Witches of East End.” I enjoyed watching the lovely Julia Ormond, Madchen Amick and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, but the show moved at a glacial pace. It kept hitting the same notes over and over without advancing the story. Viewers need regular payoffs to keep watching. I didn’t feel rewarded.
Among returning shows, I crossed off my watch list CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” now in its fifth season. Too many characters dying and coming back to life. Too many doppelgangers (actress Nina Dobrev had three look-alike roles at one point). Too many of the same angsty conversations. I had had enough.
I’m frankly pretty sick of vampires at this point. I declined to watch new vampire shows “The Originals” on the CW and “Dracula” on NBC for that reason.
My favorite returning shows are “The Walking Dead” on AMC, “Supernatural” on the CW, “Revolution” on NBC and “American Horror Story” on FX.
Shows I like to watch with my kids include NBC’s “The Voice,” Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” and Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time.”
Midseason replacement shows on my potential watch list include the CW’s “The 100,” NBC’s “Crossbones” and “Believe,” and ABC’s “Killer Women.”

Photos: “Almost Human” promotional art.