Link About It: This Week’s Picks

Frank Gehry tells off contemporary architecture, Google maps the desert on camelback and Marcel the Shell returns in our weekly look at the web


1. Google Desert View

While a robot-operated car is Google’s vehicle of choice for mapping streets, a 10-year-old camel named Raffia is doing the job of mapping the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Equipped with Google’s Trekker camera, the guide-lead camel takes to the sand at 6am to capture the best light upon the barren landscape.

2. The Single-Brick Lego Pinhole Camera

While Lego cameras are not new, the one graphic design student Ryan Howerter made for himself sets the bar quite high. The entire pinhole camera was crafted from a single standard size 2×2 Lego brick—and it works. Howerter hollowed out the brick, added a brass shim and cut out a pinhole. A little bit of photo paper sits inside and the rest is mini-photo history.

3. Prizm Environment Adapting Speaker

If you ever casually laptop-DJ’d a dinner party or backyard get together, you know how hard it can be to read a crowd and play just the right music. Now a French startup is designing a streaming device called Prizm to save you from the awkwardness of playing 2 Chainz when your friends are feeling Coltrane. Prizm will mix and match music based on its users’ profiles, and adapt to its environment by measuring sound levels in the room.

4. Autistic Boy Bonds with Siri

While many iPhone users have looked to Siri for answers, one autistic boy has forged a friendship with the helpful robotic assistant. Gus, who is communications-impaired, found a sympathetic ear in Siri, who could chat endlessly with the boy about his interests. The relationship has also been therapeutic—the boy’s mother writes that Gus has had an easier time holding conversations with people in the real world.


5. Google’s New Inbox App

This is not your standard Gmail application. Google’s new, and as of now limited release Inbox app presents information in an entirely different way, aimed at tackling the overwhelming influx many email users face daily. You can bundle, highlight and hone everything housed within. It’s all still experimental but it reflects a solid effort at thinking outside of the traditional (in)box.

6. Architecture is Pure Shit

When the world’s greatest (or worst, depending on who you ask) living architect speaks, everyone pays close attention. Especially when he says that 98% of architecture today is pure shit and gives the audience the middle finger. That’s exactly what Frank Gehry did at a recent awards ceremony in Spain. The 85 year old then made clear that true architects care only about their work and their next project, while critics and criticism are basically a waste of time.

7. Kickstarter for Joan Didion Documentary

Joan Didion is not just the voice of a generation, but considered one of the most influential American writers alive. Despite wide recognition for her giant repertoire, Didion’s nephew, documentarian John Dunn, notes that no one has ever tried to tackle her story. Now Dunn is directing a documentary about his Aunt Joan, and seeking out funding through Kickstarter. It’s obviously a story people want to hear and campaign support has already gone well above the initial goal of $80,000, with no sign of slowing down.

8. NYC Airport Overhaul

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans to greatly improve NYC’s two airports, both LaGuardia and JFK. While specifics have yet to be announced—like when construction will begin and who will fund it—a design competition will begin by the end of November, giving participants 60 days to develop their plans.


9. Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made

Aiming to cash in even further on the craze surrounding the third and final film in the The Hobbit Trilogy, New Zealand Air released a hilariously over the top safety film to be shown on all flights. Moving from actual airport to full on fantasy land, the four and half minute video instructs viewers on proper emergency landing procedures and how to buckle their seat belts, all the while flying on a massive CGI eagle.

10. Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?

Those who visited the Green Tea Gallery booth during Frieze London last weekend were offered complimentary vegetable soup—which turned out to be a live performance piece. Artists Ei and Tomoo Arakawa, with the help of their mother, made soup using ingredients sourced from Fukushima, Japan (where the nuclear disaster occurred, after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake damaged the plant). Though the shiitake mushroom and daikon radishes were certified safe by the Japanese Farmers Association (no radioactivity detected), it was clear that there was a psychological barrier many audience members had when confronted with the soup; even Arakawa’s mother was anxious about serving soup to younger guests—these mixed feelings of ambiguity and trust are what the United Brothers wanted to explore in this installation, called “Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?

11. Don DeLillo on Taylor Swift

This week, Taylor Swift had a song off her new album 1989 hit #1 on the Canadian iTunes charts. Though this sounds like typical Swift news, the catch was that “Track 3” was eight seconds of static—due to an iTunes Store glitch in the country, leaving adoring fans (who dropped $1.29 to download it) confused. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, The Atlantic tapped none other than the author of “White Noise,” Don DeLillo, to review the white noise track in this short satirical piece.

12. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is Back

After a two-year hiatus, adored YouTube character Marcel the Shell (who indeed sports a rocking pair of kicks) made a triumphant return in his third video installment this week, coinciding with a new book release as well. The new stop motion short film features the introverted Marcel (voiced by comedian Jenny Slate) locked out of the house, discussing his particular woes living the shell life, but ends on an upbeat note. His favorite saying is “Life’s a party, rock your body.”

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily on Twitter and published weekly every Saturday morning.