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Chat Via Bottled Messages: Distant Shore for iPhone

Distant Shore ($0.99, iPhone/iPod Touch) is a profoundly weird application. Is it a game? Is it a chat client? Is it a kind of wish-maker? Well, it's all of these. Let me explain.

Last fall, budding iPhone development powerhouse The Blimp Pilots released Koi Pond, a pond simulator with interactive digital fish. Unexpectedly, it shot to the number 1 spot on the iTunes App Store. A pond simulator as the top iPhone app? Indeed. It was one heck of a pond simulator -- with realistic, soothing water ripples, beautifully animated koi, great sound, and fun features like "finger nibbling" (the fish apparently like to nibble fingers.)

Now, The Blimp Pilots are back with Distant Shore, a kind of "slow chat" application in which you walk along an endless 3D-rendered beach, picking up bottles and reading the messages inside. If you like a message, you can reply to its anonymous sender, creating a little chat thread. You can launch your own messages into the sea, and other people will find them on their own shores. And that's it. You just walk along this beach, picking up and sending messages in bottles.

Here are a few screenshots of walking along the beach:

Your first mission is to look for shells, which appear randomly on the beach. Once you've found five shells, you're granted a fresh bottle which you can use to throw a new message into the ocean. Occasionally you'll run across a bottle with a message in it. You can also find your way to a mailbox which contains replies to your messages. It's all very simple -- you just tap to talk around, tap to pick something up, tap to write a message, and so on. Your bottles and messages are stored in an inventory so you can carry on a bunch of different chats at once.

The messages themselves are of varying quality, of course, as they come from other users around the world. In my testing, I came across people who seemed genuinely interested in reaching out via message-in-a-bottle chat, though it can be hard to think of what to say when you're chatting with a completely anonymous person. Here are some examples of chat messages I received -- on the left is the first message that washed up on my shore; on the right is a chat thread with someone who asked me my age.

Distant Shore chat messages

So there you have it. A strangely peaceful, hard to describe iPhone app. If you're curious what anonymous people have to say, give it a shot -- it only costs one dollar. To buy: Distant Shore ($0.99, iPhone/iPod Touch with wifi), or learn more here (including a gameplay video).

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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