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    Adam's Tour Diaries #3: RIGHT out of West Wing

    Woke up at 10 a.m. again. I have to be careful. I like sleeping in too much. I can’t calcify into this bus.

    In D.C., Jamie and I headed over to USA Today to do some press about the tour. I hit a bookstore to buy a couple of Haruki Murakami novels I’d not yet read (one is a compendium of short stories) and settled in for a little writing and autograph signing (we sell autographed pix at the merch table, and Jamie and I must sign hundreds of autographs a day).

    Jamie tried singing. Didn’t work out too well …

    My friend and statistician Chip and his wife came by the theater a little early to talk about stuff in my dressing room. The theater in D.C., the Warner, is the second smallest of our tour. Not the house; the stage. This required some interesting problem-solving, and leaving a couple things onstage throughout the show, but it didn’t affect the performance. The house in D.C. is lovely.

    In Brief: LEGO Ideas Next Set May be Their Best

    LEGO Ideas (formerly Cuusoo), has really taken off in the past year or so. The program, which allows users to submit their own creations and theme ideas for voting and review, has produced eight sets (and spawned a whole line of Minecraft sets) since it began in 2008. This year saw the release of the Mars Curiosity Rover set, a space-themed Exo Suit, the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and the very popular Research Institute. The first two Ideas sets to be released next year have also been announced: there's a Big Bang Theory playset, as well as what may be the best set I've seen in a while: Birds. Designed by Tom Poulsom, this set includes a Blue Jay, Hummingbird, and Robin, each on their own stands and with a flower to boot. The set is 580 pieces and priced at $45, going on sale Jan 1. These sets usually sell out really quickly, and LEGO has not been known to do second runs after they're gone.

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    Quadcopter Racing with First Person Video!

    We've tested different types of quadcopters before, but have never flown them like this! Norm tags along a meetup of local FPV quadcopter racers--people who build and race mini quads by flying them with first-person video cameras. We learn about how FPV quadcopters work, why they're so much fun to spectate, and witness some unbelievable stunts! (Thanks to Charpu, Pablo Lema, and Eric Cheng for their quad footage!)

    Making a Miniature Sword from a Nail

    I'm not sure what I like most about this short video from DIY channel InspiretoMake: the fact that he's making a beautiful miniature sword from a nail, the time-lapse macro video, the dramatic music, or that the guard of the sword is just an even smaller nail. Wonderful!

    Remembering the Wonders in Famous Monsters Magazine

    In the world of science fiction, fantasy and horror fandom, one man's enthusiasm for genre film was arguably stronger than anyone else's. With the founding of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, Forrest J. Ackerman created a must-read genre guide that inspired generations of fans. The magazine, and the enormous collection of memorabilia Ackerman accumulated throughout the years, proved to be a true testament to his love of fantastic film and literature.

    In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King sang the praises of Famous Monsters: “I didn’t just read my first issue of Famous Monsters,” King wrote. “I inhaled it…I poured over it…I damn near memorized that magazine and it seemed eons until the next one...Ask anyone who has been associated with the fantasy- horror –science fiction genres in the last thirty years about this magazine and you’ll get a laugh, a flash of the eyes, and a stream of bright memories – I practically guarantee it.”

    King wasn’t kidding. Just a few of the fans who grew up loving Famous Monsters include Rick Baker, Frank Darabont, John Landis, Kirk Hammett from Metallica, Peter Jackson, Joe Dante, and countless others. In Ackerman's massive movie poster collection, there was a one sheet for Close Encounters autographed in silver marker by Steven Spielberg: “A generation of fantasy lovers thank you for raising us so well.” Guillermo Del Toro also recently told the New Yorker that he discovered Famous Monsters in the magazine section of the Supermarket, and he was determined to learn English so he could read it.

    Ackerman (or Forry, as he was known) had been a collector of movie memorabilia since 1926. When he was in his twenties, he would write to Carl Laemmle, the president of Universal, for movie stills from their classic horror films, and would travel by streetcar to pick up them up. (He eventually accumulated 125,000 stills). His collection included every issue of the old sci-fi pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, which he bought when they were new. He owned a copy of Frankenstein that was autographed by Mary Shelley when she was 19. He also had the creature from the black lagoon costume a janitor at Universal took home for his kid to wear on Halloween. Not to mention Bela Lugosi’s cape, the model pterodactyl the original King Kong battled, one of the model Martian ships from the original War of the Worlds, and much, much more.

    Forry’s collection never stopped growing, and like a malevolent 50’s science fiction monster, it ended up consuming his house, a four story, eighteen-room mansion in the hills of Los Feliz, which he dubbed the “Ackermansion.” According to one report, the house became so overcrowded with memorabilia that Ackerman and his wife had to park on the streets because their garage was too full.

    The Ackermansion was open for tours every weekend, and making the pilgrimage to Forry’s home was a badge of honor for any true monster fan. Its been estimated that over 50,000 people came to visit when he lived there, and when you arrived, he would greet you through the intercom: “Who dares disturb the tomb of the vampire?” And yes, Ackerman was also the co-creator of Vampirella.

    Ackerman also coined the term “sci-fi” and he told GQ Magazine that he would say “science fiction” every night before he goes to sleep because if he died before he awoke, he wanted “science fiction” to be his last words. Who better to write the definitive magazine on monsters?

    Adam's Tour Diaries #2: What a Jerk!

    By the time I woke up in Philly on the bus, I was already an asshole.

    Dammit, I overslept.

    I didn’t think it was possible: I wake up at 6 a.m. every morning in San Francisco; that’s 9 a.m. on the East Coast. But I guess I was tired. That and the blackout curtains on my bus are REALLY good. By the time I looked at my phone to see the time, it was 10:40!

    Crap! I’d made plans with Paul of Paul and Storm to head to a museum and have lunch. Plans for 10 a.m. He’d been hanging out and was at the bus in a minute. But what a jerk! (Me, I mean.)

    We didn’t have time for the museum (because I had a matinee), but we did enjoy a lovely lunch together with Paul’s awesome daughter. They dropped me back off at my bus in time for sound check. Bye, Paul! See you at Wootstock in SF in January!

    Wow do I look crazy here.

    The matinee crowd in Philly was terrific. Super raucous. Some great interactions on stage. I had a couple hours between the matinee and evening show, and managed to see another friend, Jill, with whom I had a lovely dinner. Very social day.

    The evening Philly crowd was even more raucous than the afternoon crowd, but just a smidgen.

    Adam's Tour Diaries #1: On the Road Again

    After a lovely and relaxing three-hour Amtrak trip (the train is my FAVORITE method of travel) and a 90-minute car ride, I arrived in Williamsport, PA., for the start of our fall MythBusters: Behind the Myths tour.

    BEST way to travel. I promise I’m having more fun than my face suggests.

    We’d performed the show throughout Australia and New Zealand this summer, and the show still felt fresh in my mind. I arrived backstage to find us hamstrung in one of our set pieces by a technical snafu. No worries. We reorganized the first act about 30 minutes before showtime, and the new running order went very smoothly.

    The stage was a bit cramped, so we had some tile-puzzling to do to make all of our stuff fit, but fit it did. We have a great and resourceful road crew.

    I also got to see the bus I’d be traveling in. It’s going to be home for more than a month, and I settled in, putting my stuff away and knolling (you know how I am).

    Show and Tell: 3A Dead Cosmonaut Figure

    For this week's Show and Tell, Adam and Norm geek out over collecting highly-detailed sixth-scale figures, like this alternate reality cosmonaut from artist Ashley Wood and ThreeA productions. We take it out of the box for the first time at the cave and marvel at its intricate details!

    Time-lapse Refitting of an Airbus A380 Airliner

    Airline Emirates produced this time-lapse look at the refitting of an Airbus A380--the world's largest passenger airliner--for the 3-C maintenance check. The entire process, which includes taking out over 1,600 components from inside the cabin and engine pylons, is documented in this awe-inspiring video. Bonus: this time-lapse of the six month process of building two massive oil production platforms is equally impressive.

    In Brief: Three Intriguing Things about Interstellar

    We discussed Chris Nolan's Interstellar on the last episode of Still Untitled, but here's further reading and watching if you want to learn more about the interesting post-production challenges of the film. On the audio side, The Soundworks Collection profiles supervising sound editor and sound designer Richard King about the foley work done on the film to meet Nolan's exacting standards. The sound of trucks being driven through cornfields is just as thoughtfully recorded the imagine sound of a spacecraft flying through a wormhole. Next up is a report by Director Jim Hemphill about his experience watching Interstellar in all six of its projection formats: 70mm, 70mm IMAX, digital IMAX, 35mm, 4K digital, and 2K digital. His findings are pretty surprisingly--the size of film or the resolution that it's projected isn't the only factor determining the viewing experience. And finally, Wired (who is being guest edited by Nolan this month) has a short story about the physical IMAX film platters needed to project Interstellar.

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    Tested: The Show — Jamie Hyneman's Racing Spiders Project

    Jamie takes the stage at our live show to introduce his Racing Spiders project, an experiment in implementing a new linkage system that has never been tested before. Instead of individual motors responsible for each of the mechanical spider's legs, Jamie's design is powered by just two motors. The movement is mesmerizing!

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Driving Rock Crawlers

    RC cars are supposed to be fast. Even if you’re not racing, the whole idea is to be speedy, right? Whether you’re slinging dirt or tearing down the street, you should be doing it like you’re on fire. That opinion does not stem from some unquenchable need for speed (I like slow airplanes). The main factor is that I require a challenge in order to enjoy RC…and where’s the challenge in driving a slow car? This mentality is what kept me away from RC rock crawlers for so long, despite their huge popularity. These are cars that are slow, sometimes really slow, on purpose. Hmm, no thanks.

    On the other hand, this column is all about exploring every aspect of RC. So I couldn’t very well ignore rock crawlers forever. With only marginal excitement, I obtained a rock crawler and endeavored to find out what all the fuss is about. I can tell you now that I’m really glad I took the plunge. Despite their pedestrian speeds, I found that these vehicles offer unique challenges of their own.

    What is a Rock Crawler?

    As the name implies, rock crawlers are designed to climb rocks and rough terrain that other RC cars can’t handle. Crawling has expanded over the years to include more than just negotiating rock piles. These days, the term “crawler” encompasses technical rock crawlers, rock racers, and trail rigs.

    Technical rock crawling is all about getting your vehicle over impossible obstacles. This activity is filled with radical, purpose-built machines. Rock racing is actually a full-scale racing sport in addition to RC. There are different aspects of rock racing, but the gist is that it combines elements of offroad speed as well as ridiculous obstacles (and mud, and noise). Trail rigs can still climb like a mountain goat, but they aren’t competition machines. They’re more about cruising with friends. Many trail rig drivers like to deck out their rides with scale details and drive them in places that normal RC cars dare not go.

    In Brief: Stanley Kubrick's Boxes

    I'm in a bit of a Kubrick kick lately. After visiting the Kubrick touring exhibit last year, I picked up several books related to the show--the companion book from the original Berlin exhibition, a book about artist Ken Adams' set designs for Kubrick's films, and most recently, Taschen publishing's massive tome celebrating and studying Kubrick's films. (So bummed I missed out on Taschen's $1,000 2001: A Space Odyssey book). A friend referred me to this 2004 article published in the Guardian about Kubrick's legendary personal archive of research and reference material stored in his Childwick estate, offering just a glimpse into the director's organizational obsessions. The story is republished at Cinephilia & Beyond, a website that I can't believe I've only heard about recently--you could spend hours here poring over essays about all aspects of filmmaking. Also embedded below is a 45 minute short documentary on Kubrick's archives.

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    Tested: The Show — A Story in 256 Pixels

    As the resolution and pixel density of digital screens are skyrocketing, we take a step back to appreciate the artistry of telling a story with the limitations of 8-bit graphics. Jeremy Williams celebrates the history and potential of pixel art in this presentation from our live show! (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Tested: The Show — Cooking with Cricket Flour

    For our live show in San Francisco, Megan Miller of Bitty Foods gave a presentation about the possibilities of cricket flour--cooking and baking with flour made with insects. Here's why that's not such a strange idea, and how the idea can have an impact on the way we think about food production for a growing global population. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Making of Benedict Cumberbatch's Wax Statue

    In the past two months, we've showcased several examples of excellent sculpting work: Frank Ippolito's sculpture for the Farnsworth Project, Immortal Masks' sculpts for silicone masks, and Mike Hill's lifelike portraits of horror actors. But we haven't explored the sculptural work done for wax statues, like the ones made famous by Madame Tussauds galleries. It turns out that the artists at Madame Tussauds document the making of new figures in their collection, and this new making-on video for Benedict Cumberbatch's wax figure is fascinating to watch.