If you’re an old person, like me, wondering what Snapchat is and why it turned down Facebook’s offers to buy them for a huge sum of money, this is a good place to start.

WELSH0041398971703Philip Welsh, a 65-year-old taxi dispatcher, lived a very simple life in Silver Springs — no internet, no email, no text messages, no electronic footprint to speak of. He had the habit of leaving his door unlocked and letting neighbors come and go as they please.

One night last February, Welsh watched a bit of TV, then sacked out for the night. Someone entered Welsh’s home in the middle of the night and brutally murdered him to death. It remains the only unsolved murder in Montgomery County, Maryland this year.

The Washington Post has a story that serves as both a touching profile about Welsh’s life of quiet solitude and a look at modern police forensics that relies so heavily on our electronic breadcrumbs to solve crimes.

“Detectives have tried to piece together the final weeks of Philip’s life by talking to those who were close to him. And it is not just the dearth of electronic records that present a challenge. Detectives have found no enemies of Philip and very little physical evidence. They declined to say how he was killed — only that it was from blunt force trauma — out of caution that doing so could compromise the investigation. Jones, the police captain, said he does not think the case was random. ‘We’re still pounding, and we’re still talking to people,’ he said. ‘It’s frustrating.’”

A strange peak into modern police investigations that aren’t quite yet CSI but do rely on more than just pounding the pavement.

This five-minute extended trailer for the Flash TV show, a spinoff of The CW’s ‘Arrow’ is essentially the pilot episode condensed to the broad strokes. But, boy, does this look like it’ll make a nice companion piece to Arrow.

Compare this to the recently released trailer for Fox’s ‘Gotham’, which feels like an unnecessary prequel to the Batman saga. It feels calculating in a really depressing, pandering sort of way.

Anyway, back to The Flash. Seeing Barry Allen and Ollie Queen on the small screen together makes me wish we could get a guest appearance from the Superman of Smallville and have them build toward a Justice League. Flash looks fun and if it can be half as good as Arrow (one of the best shows on tv period) then comic book fans will be in for a treat. [via io9]

Love this data visualization of Manhattan as a living organism from Joey Cherdachuk.

BatmanBatmobileFirstLookYou’ve probably seen this one by now, surely, but I’m struck by how calculated Zack Snyder and Warner Brothers are being about the promotion of this movie, which doesn’t come out until next summer and is currently shooting. Doesn’t this reveal seem a bit … early?

They surely feel confident about the look of Ben Affleck’s Batman suit, and it is a nice homage to the Frank Miller short cowl. If I had to guess: producers will eventually reveal this to be the grey/navy blue incarnation of the suit — a first given Batman has always had a black suit in the movies.

Snyder’s ‘Man of Steel’ is less good in hindsight. Not even Affleck incredibly looking the part of Batman can make me feel anything other than cautious optimism for this one. I wasn’t worried when Affleck was cast as Batman and I’m certainly not worried about him not. What does concern me is Snyder and Warner Brothers. I want this movie to not suck so hard.

This is pretty crazy: “An international team of scientists has developed a process that allows them to pinpoint a person’s geographical origin going back 1,000 years. Known as the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) tool, the method is accurate enough to locate the village from which the subject’s ancestors came, and has significant implications for personalized medical treatment. The new tool was created by Dr. Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield and Dr. Tatiana Tararinova from the University of Southern California. Whereas previous methods have only been able to trace the origin of a person’s DNA to within some 700 km (435 miles), the new method can track worldwide populations back to the islands or villages they descend from, with a 98 percent success rate.”

“What follows is an incomplete list of ‘The End of’ stories from The Atlantic. I compiled them while procrastinating a copy-writing project, AKA The End of Productivity,” writes Joe Donatelli. In all, the influential magazine has published more than 75 stories with that subject headline since 2010, however, Donatelli had to stop there.

The sad thing is, aside from Dick Cheney’s kill squad, most of the things the Atlantic claims “the end of” are doing just fine, like men, women, cats, candy, property, and the iPhone. It’s almost as obnoxious a linkbait tactic as the common listicle or quiz.

The NBA has thrown down the hammer on Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling by suspending him for life over his racist comments. But, Abdul-Jabbar has weighed in with a decidedly more intelligent and nuanced reaction:

Make no mistake: Donald Sterling is the villain of this story. But he’s just a handmaiden to the bigger evil. In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.

So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.

The big question is “What should be done next?” I hope Sterling loses his franchise. I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison. I hope the Clippers continue to be unconditionally supported by their fans. I hope the Clippers realize that the ramblings of an 80-year-old man jealous of his young girlfriend don’t define who they are as individual players or as a team. They aren’t playing for Sterling—they’re playing for themselves, for the fans, for showing the world that neither basketball, nor our American ideals, are defined by a few pathetic men or women.

Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs.

As my friend Brian Lindenmuth said: “Kareem Abdul Jabbar writes a column, I read it. That simple whether he’s writing about Girls or Donald Sterling. Love this guy.”

Here here.

Abdul-Jabbar is the only person asking why this particular moment has galvanized the smoking gun toward Sterling, who has always been reprehensible, but only now are people faking outrage over Sterling’s actions.

“If you were to cross paths with one of your farming ancestors (circa 7,500 to 2,000 B.C.), he’d shove you to the ground, kick sand in your face, and jog off into the sunset with your mate slung over his shoulder. And even with somebody else’s partner slung over his other shoulder, you’d probably never catch up to him. Such has been our musculoskeletal decline in only a handful of millennia.”

Life_In_The_Age_Of_Casual_Magic_article_story_largeDrew McWeeeny wonders if special effects have lost their specialness:

I believe that I have maintained an active sense of wonder as I’ve gotten older, and part of that is a choice I made long ago as a film fan. Every time I walk into the theater, I am rooting for the filmmaker. I want to start from the position of loving movies, not from a soured stance of demanding that each and every film dazzle me all over again. What gets me to turn on a movie is when I see someone who is given every resource they would ever need and then some, and they make something that doesn’t even try. That is infuriating. When I see studios play it safe, that is infuriating. When I see filmmakers who seem to have just given up and taken the path of least resistance, that is infuriating.

Because if we do live in an age of casual magic, then we should recognize this as a gift, not a curse. Instead of lamenting about how much has been done and retreating into endless imitation and repetition, how about we take this as a challenge to expand what we can imagine?

We don’t need to see anyone else tell us a Campbell-style hero’s journey story, and we don’t need more origin stories and we don’t need a prequel to every other film already in existence. We don’t. What we need are people who look at the tools available to them who say, “There are things we have never tried that we can finally try, and I want to be first.” We need filmmakers who take these tools and push them so far, who try such unexpected new things with them that they end up having to create new tools just to get there.

What he’s scratching at is that visual effects work is so easy to add to a movie that it has almost overwhelmed them — especially when it comes to summer blockbusters. The story serves the explosions not the other way around. To me, that’s why ‘Gravity’ and the recent ‘Captain American’ resonated so, because everything served the story.

Anyway, McWeeny really scratches at something that’s front of mind for a lot of movie goers these days — especially genre fans.