lowbrowculture collects stories and ideas from John Kelly

BMW Films: The Escape

In 2001, BMW hired a bunch of amazing directors like John Frankenheimer and Tony Scott to create some short films for them. Branded content. The two common threads in each film were the make of car (obviously) and Clive Owen as “The Driver”

Fifteen years later, we’ve got a new one. This time it’s been directed by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp and starring Dakota Fanning and Jon Bernthal.

In case you missed it, here’s Tony Scott’s one from the original series, starring Gary Oldman as the Devil. It’s mid-career Tony Scott in all his most bonkers.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Needs to Quit It With the Accents →

The Ringer nails it:

Here is an abridged list of things that Joseph Gordon-Levitt almost, but not quite, sounds like in Oliver Stone’s Snowden, out last week:

  • Three kids stacked on top of each other inside of a trench coat
  • The moment in a 2000s comedy when the third male lead realizes he’s been shot with a tranquilizer gun
  • A prank caller whose heart just isn’t in it
  • Someone Shailene Woodley would waste her early 20s on
  • A short story where an old frog teaches a young frog how to build a boat, and then dies
  • An outtake from a YouTube review of the iPhone voice changer app
  • Edward Snowden

Ten Bullets

I have a bit of an obsession with Casey Neistat. Or rather, I’m obssessed with Casey Neistat’s process. He’s messy but organised, chaotic but meticulous. Watching this video made in 2010 about the 10 rules for Tom Sachs’ studio (Casey Neistat was one of Tom Sachs’ studio assistant), you can really see where he got a lot of his ideas.

What's Making me Happy - Week of August 22nd

These Mysterious Symbols Have Been in 19 Video Games and No One Knows Why

A strange sigil has been cropping up in (mostly indie) games and, thanks to some amazing detective work on the part of some redditors, it appears to be pointing to some kind of ARG. Is this Frog Fractions 2? Is lowbrowculture.com Frog Fractions 2? If you want to get deeper down the rabbit hole of this, I can recommend the /r/gamedetectives subreddit which consumed a lot of my productivity last week, especially their work on Overwatch’s apparent “Sombra ARG”, where it’s perfectly reasonable to take a random line of source code from a web page, run it through a Vigenére cipher (using the passphrase gained from a previous bit of detective work) and then diff’ing the resulting “datamoshed” image with an original image to get even more clues. I love this stuff. (Incidentally, this is the second week in a row an article from Patrick Klepek has been making me happy. He’s doing amazing work at Vice.)

Fake human sacrifice filmed at Cern, with pranking scientists suspected

Let’s just take a look at the lede to this story:

Spokeswoman at high temple of particle physics suggests ‘scientific users’ of the Geneva facility ‘let their humour go too far’ with staging of occult rite

Holy shit. Something about the phrase “pranking scientists suspected” doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Disney’s Practical Guide to Path Tracing

Walt Disney Animation studios have put up a primer on a super-technical high-tech subject presented as if it was a 1950s documentary. It’s really informative and really charming. See also Disney’s Practical Guide to Snow Simulation.

How much faster would it be to render Toy Story in 2011 compared to how long it took in 1995?

Speaking of Pixar, Quora has some real gems hidden away deep in its belly. Like this fascinating 2011 answer from Craig Good, Pixar boffin, about the render times for the original cinema release of Toy Story vs the 2010 remaster.

All Mapped Out

Popbitch goes deep into the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Maps, digging into the music theory behind what makes it so unique and why it turns up under so many pop songs. Why did the Black Eyed Peas sample the intro? Let’s take a look at the drum tab to find out, shall we?

What's Making me Happy - Week of August 15th

Spaceplan (game)


I’ve got a real soft spot for ‘clicker’ games. Things like Cookie Clicker and Candy Box just hoover up my productivity (honestly, I went to look up the URLs for these and I just lost 20 minutes to Cookie Clicker again). Spaceplan does nothing new with the formula, but it’s very slickly done and, unlike most other games of the genre, this one actually has a well-written story.

No Man’s Sky (game)

No Man's Sky

No Man’s Sky is a peaceful, colourful slice of sci-fi. When people ask me what it’s like, I say it’s very Minecrafty. You travel to galaxies to collect resources that allow you to travel to more galaxies and collect more resources. And you do this again and again until you’ve explored the universe. The act of doing this is so serene and calming, it’s a lovely refresher from the usual hyperkinetic games that come out this time of year. Also, there’s a lovely story doing the rounds of people naming the planets they find after dead relatives as a way to remember them. Pull-quote: “It’s one of 18 quintillion planets now and no one else may ever find it but I know it’s there and it has her name on it. That’s good enough for me.”

Hikea (video)

Web series where people take drugs assemble Ikea furniture. In the first episode, Giancarlo and Nicole take acid and build a chest of drawers and it’s actually super sweet.

A Burglar’s Guide to the City (book)

Geoff Manaugh (BLDGBLOG) is one of my favourite writers. In his book A Burglar’s Guide to the City, he talks about how burglars have used architecture to plan their robberies. If, like me, your favourite parts of heist films like Ocean’s Eleven are the bits where they construct elaborate recreations of the places they’re about to rob, then this book is right up your street.

Phone Sex Operators (article)

A series of portraits of the people on the other end of phone sex lines. Their stories are fascinating

“My first night was on a Saturday at midnight. It was a gentleman who I believe called himself Bob. He told me about his first experience with a glory hole. He explained that he had no one he felt comfortable telling this to, and I felt a strange intimacy between us, though it was rooted in a fantasy. I think it’s easier to release repressed desires to a non-judgmental, fictional person, because there are no consequences in the outside world.”

Trailer for Rogue One

No more teaser trailers or trailer teases, this is the real thing. And here’s my HOT TAKE, basically my thoughts as they happened watching the trailer:

  1. Forrest Whitaker doing a weird breathy accent is super distracting. Is that supposed to be a British accent?
  2. Oh God, what if they try to make Ben Mendelsohn do a British accent?
  3. This looks every inch a Gareth Edwards film.
  4. It looks like they’re trying to set up K-2SO as the comic relief. If those are the best laughs they could pick out for the trailer, oh dear.
  5. Felicity Jones seems like she’s stuck in the Tomb Raider school of action acting.

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. It looks great, really nailing the 70s aesthetic with a cinéma vérité feel. But Edwards’ last film, Godzilla, was let down by its characters and nothing in this trailer suggests things have improved.

What's Making Me Happy - Week of August 1st

In an effort to push out the jive and bring in the love, I’m going to more of an effort to talk about the things that are bringing me joy.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

It never quite shakes off its influences (basically all of Spielberg’s early 80s films - Jaws, E.T., Close Encounters and Poltergeist), but as a piece of summer fluff, Stranger Things was surprisingly entertaining. It’s less cliffhanger-y than the other Netflix original shows, but it’s managed to achieve a pretty compelling vibe that draws you back for more. I’m interested to see what they do for season 2 now that they’ve basically tapped the 80s Spielberg well dry.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants is a big dopey sci-fi thriller about the discovery of huge pieces of a statue from an ancient civilisation. And the whole thing is told in an epistolary manner, where each chapter is the transcript of an interview. So the information is drip-fed to the reader, increasing the tension. It’s not going to win any literary awards, but it’s so fast-paced and cinematic, it’s a great summer read.

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

A lot of great news came out of Comic Con. We got a rad Doctor Strange trailer, a pretty decent Wonder Woman trailer. But my absolute favourite news so far has been the announcement that Brie Larson will be playing Carol Danvers in the Captain Marvel film. This is some perfect casting.

Films You’d Love Your Kids to See

The Lighthouse Cinema here in Dublin are running a “Films you’d love your kids to see” season. Now, I question the logic of programming for kids and scheduling shows way too late for kids to actually attend. Still, I’m not going to turn up an opportunity to see The Goonies in the cinema.


If, four months ago, you had asked me about my expectations for AMC’s adaptation of Preacher, I would have probably given you the vocal equivalent of the poop emoji. But the finale this week capped what turned out to be an unexpectedly great season of an unexpectedly great show. It’s not a straight one-for-one adaptation of the comic, but they absolutely nailed the tone of the books. Definitely worth checking out.

Hello Hugo

Last week, I began the process of moving this site from Jekyll to Hugo. Jekyll is great. Really great, actually. It was my first real experiment with static sites and it was really fun and taught me a lot. But I’ve been starting to feel its limits. I pumped in everything from the past iterations of my blog, through Wordpress and Tumblr, leaving me with over 1,400 posts. So building the site with Jekyll each time I wanted to update it was slowwwww. Jekyll’s other big draw – its GitHub integration is amazing – is great if you’re hosting your site there. But I’m not. I’m self-hosting. So I started looking at Hugo.

I also had a look at Middleman, which has some impressive names using it, but was just a deeply unpleasant experience as an end-user1.

So for funtimes, I wanted to see how long it would take a fresh, vanilla install of the three most popular static site generators – Jekyll, Middleman and Hugo – to render the 1,400+ individual markdown files that make up this blog.

35.35 real 31.04 user 2.50 sys

22.47 real 30.61 user 3.97 sys

8.12 real 8.96 user 1.45 sys

It’s hard to argue with this kind of performance improvement, but what sealed the deal was the fact they include a built-in hugo import jekyll command that can get you started migrating your site across. I had my entire site migrated across in less than an hour.

  1. Middleman feels as if it’s been written for robots and not humans. To build your site in Jekyll, you type jekyll build, which is easy to remember. To build it in Hugo, you just type hugo, which is almost impossible to forget. To build your site in MM, you type bundle exec middleman build, which yes, is easy enough to remember after you’ve done it a couple of times but my God, it’s so clunky and basically tells you everything you need to know about what it’s like to use Middleman. [return]

Versioning, Licensing, and Sketch 4.0 →

It seems like we’re moving to the world where app subscription models are the norm and I’m worried about what this means for the future of some of my favourite apps. In December, YNAB announced it was moving to a web-based, subscription model. In January, it was forced to change its strategy a little in the face of a severely negative response.

But the Sketch model seems like a pretty great compromise. Buy a license and you’ll receive a year’s worth of free upgrades. After that, no more upgrades (besides bug-fix upgrades) but your software will continue to work. This seems like a really clever and consumer-friendly way of addressing this problem.

The Trailers for Ghostbusters (2016) and the Art of Editing Comedy →

Tony Zhou (of the excellent Every Frame a Painting) takes a look at the difference between the US and UK trailers for the new Ghostbusters and how a few frames can make all the difference between a joke that hits and a joke that lands.