Entries for October 2008 (November 2008 »    December 2008 »    January 2009 »    Archives)

 

Fingeric, an iPhone game by 2pxOCT 31

Thanks to this week's RSS sponsor, 2px and their iPhone game, Fingeric. Fingeric is a digital dexterity game -- digital as in fingers, mind you -- that uses several touchscreen gestures in concert to test how quick your fingers are. It reminds me a bit of Warioware crossed with Whac-A-Mole. Fingeric is mindless fun, perfect for zoning out on the subway or while waiting for a friend.

I checked out their other games too...Rolo, a puzzle game, ended up being fun and irritating (in a good way...like the Rubik's Cube). Both Rolo and Mastermind, 2px's game based on the board game of the same name, have favorable reviews on the iTunes Store.

IDEA 08: no girls allowedOCT 31

This continues to be annoying: yesterday's IDEA conference had 12 speakers, all men. Blech. The Web 2.0 Summit has the same problem. And I stopped updating this because it got too depressing.

Letterpress business cards on strange paperOCT 31

The Virgil O. Stamps Letterpress Laboratory prints business cards on all sorts of papers and surfaces, including children's coloring book pages, duct tape, old National Geographic pages, antique book pages, and any sort of cardboard scraps. Pretty cool.

132 drawings of birdsOCT 31

20x200 has a really nice special edition print by Jason Pollan of 132 drawings of birds from the Museum of Natural History. There's something very old school about this print, like it's the work of an obsessed 1870s ornithologist.

Pumpkin artOCT 31

A bunch of creatively carved pumpkins. Preemptive strike: yes, I know about the Obama pumpkins, no need to email.

Skippy Racer, a beautiful machineOCT 31

Jason's right, the Skippy Racer is a beautiful thing.

Skippy Racer

Larger photo here.

The new President's cabinet?OCT 31

A bunch of editors, pundits, and analysts choose who they would like to see in the next President's cabinet. Current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gets many votes to stay on in that capacity. Warren Buffett also gets a couple of votes for Secretary of the Treasury.

BTW, Treasury? Might be time for an updated name...The Department of the Treasury sounds like that part of the government responsible for safeguarding the nation's jewels, pieces of eight, and fragments of the True Cross.

The Lost Years and Last Days of David Foster WallaceOCT 30

Rolling Stone has put the entire piece about David Foster Wallace up on their web site. Previously.

Majority judgement voting systemOCT 30

Michel Balinski and Rida Laraki have come up with a new voting scheme that they say will yield more accurate results in elections. It's called majority judgement. Instead of voting for one particular candidate, voters are asked to evaluate all the candidates on a scale from something like "excellent" to "reject". Here are the results of a trial that they ran in Orsay in France (scroll for English)...and you can see how the results differ from the official election results. To put this in a bit of US-centric context, imagine a voting system where honestly evaluating your feelings about the executive readiness of a third-party candidate like Ralph Nader doesn't necessarily harm a major party candidate's chances of getting elected. (*cough* Al Gore *cough* 2000 election.)

They're running an online majority judgement experiment using the 2008 US Presidential candidates...go sign up and vote. (thx, judy)

Something's fishy about these financial modelsOCT 30

Jonah Lehrer answers the burning question of the day: what do cod fish have to do with the current financial crisis?

The [cod population] models were all wrong. The cod population never grew. By the late 1980's, even the trawlers couldn't find cod. It was now clear that the scientists had made some grievous errors. The fishermen hadn't been catching 16 percent of the cod population; they had been catching 60 percent of the cod population. The models were off by a factor of four. "For the cod fishery," write Orrin Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, in their excellent book Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future, "as for most of earth's surface systems, whether biological or geological, the complex interaction of huge numbers of parameters make mathematical modeling on a scale of predictive accuracy that would be useful to fishers a virtual impossibility."

In the same way, incorrect but highly lucrative financial models caused people to take on too much risk and leverage.

Spend the night at the Guggenheim in NYCOCT 30

Thanks to artist Carsten Holler, you can spend a night in the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

Revolving Hotel Room is an art installation comprising three outfitted, superimposed turning glass discs mounted onto a fourth disc that all turn harmoniously at a very slow speed. During the day the hotel room will be on view as part of the Guggenheim's theanyspacewhatever exhibition, which runs from October 24, 2008-January 7, 2009. At night, the art installation becomes an operative hotel room outfitted with luxury amenities.

The view from the rotating bed.

Holler was previously responsible for the seriously fun-looking slides in the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall a couple of years back.

What's in your food?OCT 30

What I Learned Today is reading the labels of the food she consumes to see what's in them and then researching each component. First up, her yogurt.

cultured pasteurized grade A low fat milk: It's cultured, which means bacteria has been added to it to ferment the lactose and galactose (milk sugars) and convert them into lactic acid. Milk is fermented in order to increase the shelf-life, add taste, and increase digestibility. It's pasteurized, which means it's been heated to destroy some viable pathogens. It's Grade A, meaning it complies with the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments "Grade A" milk program, which is based on the FDA's Pasteurized Milk Ordinance requirements to be shipped interstate. It's low fat which mean it's gone through a centrifuge which separates the fat from the the rest of the product.

Even food ingredient labels become literature with many layers when governmental agencies and large food companies get involved. That's a lot of information disseminated in so few words.

Ma Gastronomie, influential cookbookOCT 30

Michael Ruhlman lets us know that a new edition of Ferdinand Point's long-out-of-print cookbook, Ma Gastronomie, is being republished in the United States. The book was a big influence on Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller.

Success is the sum of a lot of little things done correctly.

New Errol Morris political "switch" adsOCT 30

Errol Morris recently shot a new series of "switcher" ads regarding the 2008 presidential election. Only this time, he found people who are voting for a candidate who inspires them (Barack Obama) instead of against a candidate who let them down (George W Bush).

In introducing the site, Morris offers a taxonomy of what he calls "real people ads", political ads featuring the views of average everyday people.

And then there's the self-created interview ad that is a product of recent advances in technology. Camcorders that can be taken anywhere. We've seen self-reporting from the Iraq War and video diaries created by soldiers. The photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib are part of this phenomenon. Ultimately, video-blogging and self-reporting finds its expression in campaigns like the "Joe the Plumber." As I understand it, the McCain campaign has posted on its Web pages a request for people to film themselves and discuss why they are Joe the Plumber or Hank the Laminator or Frank the Painter. The intention is to collect these testimonials and then cut them together for a tax revolt television ad.

The most embarrassing musicOCT 29

Last.fm keeps track of all the music you play but they also keep track of the music that people don't want the world to know they listen to: the Most Unwanted Scrobbles. The Beatles, Radiohead, Britney, and Avril top the uncharts. The Britney and Avril I can understand. The Beatles and Radiohead...perhaps the perception of overratedness leads people to keep those tastes private? (thx, graham)

Update: Ohhh, ok. Radiohead and The Beatles are so high on the list because 1) so many people have those two bands in their playlists that they get deleted so much out of sheer numbers, and 2) those two bands are no good for recommendation engines -- you like pop music? I recommend The Beatles -- so people exclude them. (thx all)

Simpsons spoof Mad MenOCT 29

Video of the Simpsons Halloween episode opening that spoofs the Mad Men intro.

The counter-intuitive comparison of all thingsOCT 29

The goal of the creators of The Big Chart, The Counter-Intuitive Comparison Institute of North America (CICINA), is to find the single best thing in the world through an NCAA basketball tournament-style bracketing system. This video explains their plans.

Is the Bilbao Guggenheim better than McDonald's french fries?Are penguins better than Miracle Grow? Can anything beat heated seats on a cold November day?

(via design observer)

The next JordanOCT 29

TrueHoop's Henry Abbott makes a list of all the "next Michael Jordans" that have come into the NBA in recent years. Harold Miner! I haven't thought about that guy in years.

The Wire gets politicalOCT 29

Some of the cast of The Wire appeared in a "get involved" commercial for Barack Obama. Related: Carcetti for Mayor tshirts, re-elect Clay Davis shirts, and Pray for Clay campaign buttons. (thx, farhad)

Pantone Rubik's CubeOCT 29

Turn the left slice topwise in style: Pantone + Rubik's Cube = Pantone Rubik's Cube. (via monoscope)

The changing newspaperOCT 29

Nice look at the evolution of the front page of the LA Times from 1881 to 2003.

I selected a front page from every other decade, starting with the very first edition of the paper in 1881. Note the shifting hierarchy of images (yellow), advertising (orange) and editorial content (blue). The small black arrows are links to related content elsewhere within the paper.

They also look at the front pages of the web site from 1996 - 2006.

Kanye, Radiohead, mashupOCT 29

Love Lockdown + Reckoner. Kanye mashed up with Radiohead, I pretty much gotta post it. (via delicious ghost)

iTrailOCT 29

When we were up in Vermont earlier this month, we rode the single chair to the top of the mountain at Mad River Glen and then hiked down. Before we left, we installed iTrail on Meg's phone. iTrail uses the iPhone's GPS capability to track your progress along a trail, jogging path, etc. The reviews at the iTunes Store aren't glowing but we found that it worked pretty well for us. Here are a couple of graphs generated by iTrail of our hike:

iTrail Graphs

iTrail also allows data export to a Google Docs speadsheet. From there, you can import that data into Google Maps, like so:

iTrail Google Maps

It's not perfect (we weren't doing 8.2 mph at the beginning of the hike) and GPS mapping apps are hardly new, but I've never done this before and it feels like living in the future.

A story told in emoticonsOCT 29

Rives shares a typographic fairy tale in three minutes. It's a O}-

John McCain vs Barack Obama dance-offOCT 28

I don't know if this has been linked around everywhere or not, but this surprisingly realistic video of a dance-off between Barack Obama and John McCain tickled every last bone in my body. I watched it at least four times.

New Pepsi logoOCT 28

What do I think about the new Pepsi logo? Eh. Companies spend way too much time, effort, and money building up feelings about logos -- like decades and billions of dollars -- and then they just go and change it all. Of course the new logo and colors are similar to the old ones and it's variations on a theme but the new designs feel like someone's idea of what packaging is going to look like 10 years from now, an approach that never seems to work out well (see Back to the Future II). Coca-Cola had such success refreshing their brand with a simple take on their classic look and logo, why can't Pepsi do the same with this classic look?

The Unfinished SwanOCT 28

The Unfinished Swan is a maze game set in an entirely white world and you use a gun that shoots black paint balls to navigate your way around. Check out the demo video:

(via snarkmarket)

Volkswagen = world's largest companyOCT 28

Volkswagen was briefly the world's largest company in terms of market cap today.

Volkswagen briefly became the world's largest company by market capitalisation on Tuesday as panic-buying by hedge funds desperate to cover losses caused its value to shoot up by up to €150bn.

Porsche revealed that it owned 74% of VW instead of the previously assumed 35%...which caused panicked buying by hedge funds. (via mr)

Obama is up to speed on the Pollan DoctrineOCT 28

Senator Obama doesn't need to be paged...he's already read Michael Pollan's piece on US food policy.

I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen [sic] about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That's just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

I wonder if McCain had a chance to read it. (thx, tim & jeremy)

RJDJ, maybe the best iPhone app out there?OCT 28

Here's how to use the RJDJ iPhone app. You install the app, plug your headphones in, launch it, and press "Now Playing". A song plays, the app starts to sample the sounds in your environment, and those sounds are remixed in real time and played back to you. It might be the coolest thing ever. Check out this video and this other video for a quick look at how RJDJ works. The first video shows some songs that use the iPhone's accelerometer to modify and scratch the beat. (via waxy)

PS. It might only be the coolest app in theory...it's also flaky as hell. It was working fine for me and then crapped out...there's no music now, only sound sampling and it's really quiet. Maybe you need to use the Apple headphones with the mic?

Mo' postmodernismOCT 28

An appreciation of the postmodern masterpiece that is the music video for Mo' Money, Mo' Problems (Puffy, Biggie, Mase, etc.).

So there it is: a weird/powerful truism about social politics delivered in a catchy, post-modern package that uses parody, found video, and cutting-edge video techniques (and let's not sell Hype Williams short for a second -- check out the shots of Puffy and Mase in the yellow suits -- I mean, what the hell is that?!), all montaged together with an off-handed mastery (check out how some of the transitions are deliberately not on-beat) to create something that felt so like the future that it could never really be the future. Just like all videos for pop singles, it was dug, and it was forgotten. And so it goes. Somewhere out there there is a list of videos that really truly did something new, and this one belongs on that list.

(via fimoculous)

How to make a globeOCT 28

Awesome video of how they make globes in a globe factory.

How many coins?OCT 27

Earlier this evening, I needed to take some coins that had been piling up to the Coinstar machine. Before I left, I uploaded a photo of the coin bags to Flickr and queried the masses: how much money in the bags?

How did the crowd do? Certainly not as well as the villagers at the 1906 livestock fair visited by Francis Galton.

In 1906 Galton visited a livestock fair and stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal's weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 gave it a go and, not surprisingly, not one hit the exact mark: 1,198 pounds. Astonishingly, however, the median of those 800 guesses came close -- very close indeed. It was 1,208 pounds.

Nate Silver I am not, but after some rudimentary statistical analysis on the coin guesses, it was clear that the mean ($193.88) and median ($171.73) were both way off from the actual value ($426.55). That scatterplot is brutal...there are only a handful of guesses in the right area. But the best guess by a single individual was just 76 cents off.

To be fair, the crowd was likely misinformed. It's difficult to tell from that photo how fat those bags were -- they were bulging -- and how many quarters there were.

Touchscreen folliesOCT 27

SNL's Fred Armisen shows off his interactive touchscreen skills on some political maps of the US.

Check out Michigan...I can make it bounce.

Nice commentary on TV news anchor busywork. See also Anderson Cooper's magic pie chart. (And sorry, Hulu = US viewers only.)

Update: For non-US viewers, here's an alternative link that includes the clip in question and a bunch of other stuff. And please don't yell at me for using Hulu...it's often the only alternative and it's relatively easy to watch outside of the US. (thx, nebel)

The Olsen twinsOCT 27

I don't know if you'll enjoy reading a NY Times profile of the Olsen Twins, but I was oddly fascinated.

Mary-Kate's contribution to the enterprise is a collector's knowledge. She has been buying vintage Lanvin and Givenchy, among other classic labels of the mid-20th century, for a number of years. (Unlike Ashley, Mary-Kate continues to act, having played, with a perfect semblance of haze and obfuscation, a born-again Christian drug dealer on the third season of "Weeds." This year she appeared opposite Ben Kingsley in the film "The Wackness.") Ashley is the more entrepreneurial, the one who will tell you how much she admires Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Naked sushi modelingOCT 27

The confessions of a first-time naked sushi model.

As the reality of what I'd gotten myself into set in, I began to have doubts. Maybe my parents were correct and I was, in fact, an absolute loon. Who the fuck does this? Maybe I should have avoided the spicy food at lunch. What if these freaking booties cause my toes to cramp? What if I twitch my arms? What if I look terrible in this position? What if I can't stop myself from laughing my ass off?

If you live in NYC, you can give the naked sushi thing a try. NSFW.

Michael Pollan: less oil and more sunshine for food productionOCT 27

Michael Pollan, who I have spoken of previously, wrote an open letter in a recent issue of the NY Times magazine to the whoever prevails in the November presidential election. Pollan is concerned with contemporary American food policy.

There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I'm urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine. True, this is easier said than done -- fossil fuel is deeply implicated in everything about the way we currently grow food and feed ourselves. To put the food system back on sunlight will require policies to change how things work at every link in the food chain: in the farm field, in the way food is processed and sold and even in the American kitchen and at the American dinner table. Yet the sun still shines down on our land every day, and photosynthesis can still work its wonders wherever it does. If any part of the modern economy can be freed from its dependence on oil and successfully resolarized, surely it is food.

This is a really long piece but essential, important reading dripping with great stuff. If you don't have time to read it, Michael Ruhlman summed up Pollan's main points in a more bite-sized form. An even more abridged version of Pollan's recent food advice would be:

For people: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

For the United States: "We need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

The more I read of Pollan's writing, the more I wish he were the Secretary of Agriculture or the head of the USDA or something. Paging Mr. Obama...

Google Earth on iPhoneOCT 27

Wow, Google Earth is now available for the iPhone. The early reviews at the iTunes Store are mixed; looks like it's crashing a lot. (via df)

Flickr image pilfered for $235 Paul Smith t-shirtOCT 27

Noted Processing practitioner Robert Hodgin had one of his designs lifted from Flickr and it found its way onto a $235 Paul Smith t-shirt.

I put the shirt on and it fit fine. I couldn't stop smiling. The whole thing was so damned surreal. Here I am in a Paul Smith changing room trying on a shirt that features a design element stolen from my Flickr site!

"It fits perfectly," I told the salesman. "It's like I made it myself," I joked and smiled at Lance.

"You did make it yourself," the man replied, oblivious to the inside joke but wanting to play along.

Lance asked the salesman if he knew anything about the print on the shirt. He said something about hobos and the passing of knowledge or something. I was too distracted to pay attention. I said I will take it and he led us to the cashier. $235 later, I was walking out of the store with my very own personalized Paul Smith shirt.

Andrew Johnston, RIPOCT 27

The season's final Mad Men recap is up at The House Next Door, but it was not written by its usual writer, Andrew Johnston. Johnston passed away yesterday at age 40 after a lengthy battle with cancer. RIP.

Getting people to voteOCT 27

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman suggests that just asking people whether they are going to vote is a good way to get them to actually vote.

Those effects would be small at the margin, but there are those effects that are small at the margin that can change election results. You call and ask people ahead of time, "Will you vote?" That's all. "Do you intend to vote?" That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it. It's a completely trivial manipulation, but saying 'Yes' to a stranger, "I will vote"...

(via marginal revolution)

Update: Or perhaps not. This paper by Dustin Cho finds that there's no "statistically significant" correlation between intending to or being asked if you're going to vote and actually voting. (thx, max)

Loan Shark iPhone appOCT 24

A big thank you to kottke.org's first RSS feed sponsor, FoggyNoggin Software, makers of the Loan Shark iPhone App (check it out in the iTunes Store). Loan Shark is a tricked out loan calculator for your iPhone or iPod Touch. Here are a few capabilities from the web site:

One-tap Extra Payment
Making an extra payment on your loan each year can dramatically reduce the cost of your loan. With Loan Shark, you can easily see what that extra payment will save you over time.

Compare Loans
Want to compare loans to see which is best? Loan Shark lets you compare up to 9 loans side-by-side.

Nearby Banks
Using the iPhone or iPod Touch's built-in location sensor, Loan Shark can retrieve a list of nearby banks, making shopping for a loan that much easier.

Loan Shark also helps you calculate how long it will take to pay off credit cards...almost a necessity in today's slumping economy. Loan Shark is $4.99 at the App Store, an amount that would no doubt be offset by how much it saves you in future interest payments.

Garamond powerline OCT 24

Garamond Powerline, a typeface made out of photos of powerlines. The "quick brown fox..." sample at the bottom is kind of awesome. (via waxy)

The completed Metropolitan Life TowerOCT 24

Shorpy has posted a photo of the Metropolitan Life Tower taken in 1909, the year the building was completed. I recently wrote posts about the building and about an odd death that occurred there. (thx, finn)

Twitter trendsOCT 24

Twitter is fast becoming the real-time zeitgeist of the web hive mind. (Sorry, I don't know what that means either.) Anyway, I've been playing around with Twist, which tracks trends on Twitter and graphs the results. Two of the most interesting trends I've found are:

drunk, hangover - The drunk talk spikes on Friday and Saturday nights, followed by hangover talk on the following mornings. There's a similar correlation on Facebook.

monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday - This one is really interesting. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday get many more mentions than the three other days of the week, which shows the importance of the weekend in contemporary society. Wednesday is the low point, which turns the graph into a representation of hump day, only inverted.

Any other interesting trends that you've noticed?

Update: My wife reminds me that Plodt is tracking explicit Twitter trends...you can create personal or collective graphs by assigning values to words like so: *mood 8* or *weather 5*. Here's a good example of a collective poll about how the candidates did during the debate at Hofstra.

Mapping newspaper political endorsementsOCT 24

Philip Kromer took the newspaper endorsement data from the Editor and Publisher page I linked to this morning and mapped the results. The states are colored according to FiveThirtyEight's current projections and those newspapers with larger circulations have larger circles. From Kromer's blog post:

This seems to speak of why so many on the right feel there's a MSM bias - 50% of the country is urban, 50% rural, but newspapers are located exclusively in urban areas. So, surprisingly, the major right-leaning papers are all located in parts of the country we consider highly leftish. The urban areas that are the largest are thus both the most liberal and the most likely to have a sizeable conservative target audience.

Photos of NYC signsOCT 24

A collection of photos of signs located in NYC from 14th St to 42nd St in Manhattan. Many of the photos were taken in the 80s and 90s and the signs they depict are already gone. The photos are extensively annotated...this is a real history lesson.

I'm sure it made sense to George LucasOCT 24

Five reasons why Luke Skywalker is a complete idiot.

You: "Okay, if you can just use your Force powers to get in to the palace and all the way to Jabba, then let's just have you go in right now and get Han out."

Luke: "No, that's stupid. I'm going to get myself captured. Because then you see, we'll be taken to the sarlacc pit and then, when we're on the skiff, I'll get sent out first and then R2-D2 will manage to get to the top of Jabba's sail barge and shoot out my lightsaber, and then with Lando's help, we'll just rescue everyone and then everything will be fine!"

You: "That is the stupidest plan I've ever heard of."

Luke: "I've thought of everything."

Interview with Mad Men's creatorOCT 24

Great interview with Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men. Gender roles are a big focus of the show, something that wasn't necessarily apparent in the first two shows when I thought it was going to be some sort of lopsided misogyny-fest.

And the big intellectual skirmish going on was "Is it great that we're so different, men and women, or is there no difference at all?" No difference at all is where is started. Let's have equality and legistlate it like that. And then it became so much more complicated when you added sex to it and biologically the relationship is always sexist in some way. What's sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom. We're wired that way to some extent. Women become more aggressive and it becomes strange for men.

(via fimoculous)

NY Times endorses ObamaOCT 24

In a huge shocker, the NY Times has endorsed Barack Obama for President. They also have an interactive feature that shows the newspaper's past endorsements, from Lincoln in 1860 to the last Republican candidate endorsed, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

According to Editor and Publisher, Obama is leading McCain in newspaper endorsements by more than 2-to-1, including most of the major papers. Obama: LA Times, NY Times, Sacramento Bee, SF Chronicle, SJ Mercury, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, NY Daily News, The Houston Chronicle. McCain: San Diego Union-Tribune, Tampa Tribune, Boston Herald, New York Post, Dallas Morning News, The Detroit News.

Answers from Frank BruniOCT 24

The NY Times restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, has been answering reader questions all week...it's worth a read if you care at all about food and dining out.

Tricky's EnglishnessOCT 23

The musician Tricky talks about Englishness in this interview.

We've always been violent, but now it's stupidity, people kicking heads in for no reason. When I was a kid we used to fight or rob the people we wanted to fight or rob, we didn't walk along the street, kick someone's head in, and film it on a mobile phone. Now you've got a guy stood at the bus stop, minding his own business, and eight guys jump him and beat the fuck out of him, or stab him to fuck for no reason. It's like these video games, you can go on a video game, shoot someone twenty times and they get back up again. I don't want to sound like an old man, but when I was growing up we had films like Get Carter and Scarface. Scarface was one of the best gangster films ever. But those films were more about the threat of violence that makes it a violent. Now people use violence as a marketing tool, that's the problem we're having right now.

Tricky also rightly defends English food; I've never had anything bad to eat there, at least in London.

Historic Paris photographyOCT 23

It seems like I've linked to this before but why not again? Paris en Images is a huge collection of historic photos of Paris.

At Folsom Prison by Johnny CashOCT 23

New two-disc edition of Johnny Cash's live set at Folsom Prison in mp3 format. (What do you call a two-disc album in mp3 format? A 51-songer? A 100-megabyter?)

Stamps with beautiful typographyOCT 23

A collection of postage stamps designed by type designers. (via do)

PopTech streaming liveOCT 23

The PopTech conference has started in Maine and on the web. They're streaming the whole conference live on their web site.

Tall mountains, long riversOCT 23

BibliOdyssey has collected a number of charts which compare the heights of mountains and lengths of rivers by laying them all out next to each other. (Ok, kinda difficult to explain...just go take a look.) I had a chance to buy a copy of one of these maps a few years ago (not sure if it was an original print or what; it looked old) but passed it up because I didn't have the money. Wish I would have bought it anyway. (via quips)

Foods of the 80sOCT 23

Top 10 foods associated with the 80s. Go back in time with jawbreakers, Cool Ranch Doritos, Tab, and Capri Sun. (No Fruit Roll-ups?)

Branded ecstasy pillsOCT 23

Photos of 99 different ecstasy pills with logos on them, including those with McDonald's, Mercedes, MTV, Harry Potter, and Apple logos.

Tweet, tweet, free tacosOCT 22

Fun evening activity: type whatever crazy shit is happening on TV into Twitter Search and watch the wittisicms and not-so-witticisms roll by. Example: in game one of the World Series tonight, someone stole a base and every single person in the United States won a free taco from Taco Bell. Instant tweetalanche.

Nerdy political needsOCT 22

Matt Haughey lists a bunch of ways that political candidates can get his nerdy vote.

I've been thinking lately about a dream candidate for my nerd habits, my nerdy business, and the way I live my nerdy life. Regardless of party affiliation, if you're running for an office from as small as city council all the way up to president, if you hit on any/all of these things, you just might get my vote.

Universal healthcare, universal broadband, and a renewed commitment to science are on his list...anything missing?

2008 foliage mapOCT 22

Sorry I'm a little late on this one, but here's the US foliage map for 2008.

Boycott! Saigon Grill!OCT 22

Love this.

A federal judge has awarded $4.6 million in back pay and damages to 36 delivery workers at two Saigon Grill restaurants in Manhattan, finding blatant and systematic violations of minimum-wage and overtime laws.

We live right around the corner from one of the SGs and have avoided eating there despite the decent and close Vietnamese food. The fired workers were out in front of the place protesting for months and months...it's great to see hard work pay off like that, particularly when the protestors probably couldn't actually afford to be out there.

Famous and homelessOCT 22

A list of famous people who have been homeless, most of the "lived in their car" variety. The list includes Hilary Swank, Jim Carrey, Ella Fitzgerald, David Letterman, and William Shatner.

As close to a biography of David Foster Wallace as you'll getOCT 22

In 1996, an editor from Rolling Stone named David Lipsky spent a lot of time with David Foster Wallace and wrote a biographical piece that was eventually not published in the magazine. When Wallace died last month, RS sent Lipsky to interview his family and friends. The resulting piece, The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace, is a unique combination of a look at a writer at the top of his game and a man at the end of his life. It was very difficult for me to read, for reasons which I may never really understand. Wallace meant a lot to me, full stop.

Here are some bits from the article that resonated with me. On the about-face that happened with his professors a University of Arizona after The Broom of the System1 was published:

Viking won the auction for the novel, "with something like a handful of trading stamps." Word spread; professors turned nice. "I went from borderline ready-to-get-kicked-out to all these tight-smiled guys being, 'Glad to see you, we're proud of you, you'll have to come over for dinner.' It was so delicious: I felt kind of embarrassed for them, they didn't even have integrity about their hatred."

On expectations:

The five-year clock was ticking again. He'd played football for five years. He'd played high-level tennis for five years. Now he'd been writing for five years. "What I saw was, 'Jesus, it's the same thing all over again.' I'd started late, showed tremendous promise -- and the minute I felt the implications of that promise, it caved in. Because see, by this time, my ego's all invested in the writing. It's the only thing I've gotten food pellets from the universe for. So I feel trapped: 'Uh-oh, my five years is up, I've gotta move on.' But I didn't want to move on."

On self-consciousness:

"I remember this being a frequent topic of conversation," Franzen says, "his notion of not having an authentic self. Of being just quikc enough to construct a pleasing self for whomever he was talking to. I see now he wasn't just being funny -- there was something genuinely compromised in David. At the time I thought, 'Wow, he's even more self-conscious than I am.'"

On fame:

At the end of his book tour, I spent a week with David. He talked about the "greasy thrill of fame" and what it might mean to his writing. "When I was 25, I would've given a couple of digits off my non-use hand for this," he said. "I feel good, because I want to be doing this for 40 more years, you know? So I've got to find some way to enjoy this that doesn't involve getting eaten by it."

On shyness:

He talked about a kind of shyness that turned social life impossibly complicated. "I think being shy basically means self-absorbed to the point that it makes it difficult to be around other people. For instance, if I'm hanging out with you, I can't even tell whether I like you or not because I'm too worried about whether you like me."

And I don't even know what this is all about:

"I go through a loop in which I notice all the ways I am self-centered and careerist and not true to standards and values that transcend my own petty interests, and feel like I'm not one of the good ones. But then I countenance the fact that at least here I am worrying about it, noticing all the ways I fall short of integrity, and I imagine that maybe people without any integrity at all don't notice or worry about it; so then I feel better about myself. It's all very confusing. I think I'm very honest and candid, but I'm also proud of how honest and candid I am -- so where does that put me?"

You have to get the magazine to read the whole thing; it's worth it. Rolling Stone also has an interview with Lipsky about the article.

[1] Oh to have been wrong about the prediction I made here.

Choosing Flickr photos by colorOCT 22

Idée Multicolr Search Lab is pretty amazing. You select up to ten colors and it returns Flickr photos with those colors. I couldn't stop playing with this.

Skills every woman should knowOCT 22

While not as good as Popular Mechanics' list of 100 Skills Every Man Should Know, here's a list of 30 Skills Every Woman Should Have Before Turning 30. Now someone do one for "Every Person".

Feynman on school textbooksOCT 22

Richard Feynman on the "perpetual absurdity" of school textbooks.

The same thing happened: something would look good at first and then turn out to be horrifying. For example, there was a book that started out with four pictures: first there was a windup toy; then there was an automobile; then there was a boy riding a bicycle; then there was something else. And underneath each picture it said, "What makes it go?"

I thought, "I know what it is: They're going to talk about mechanics, how the springs work inside the toy; about chemistry, how the engine of the automobile works; and biology, about how the muscles work."

It was the kind of thing my father would have talked about: "What makes it go? Everything goes because the sun is shining." And then we would have fun discussing it:

"No, the toy goes because the spring is wound up," I would say. "How did the spring get wound up?" he would ask.

"I wound it up."

"And how did you get moving?"

"From eating."

"And food grows only because the sun is shining. So it's because the sun is shining that all these things are moving." That would get the concept across that motion is simply the transformation of the sun's power.

(via rw)

An intimate look at ObamaOCT 21

A fantastic series of photos from Time photographer Callie Shell of Barack Obama. Shell has been photographing Obama since 2004.

Obama listens from a back stairwell as he is introduced in Muscatine, Iowa. It was his second or third speech of the day. Unlike many of the politicians I have photographed in the past, I find it is easy to get a photograph of Obama alone. He lets his staff do their jobs and not fuss over him.

I loved that he cleaned up after himself before leaving an ice cream shop in Wapello, Iowa. He didn't have to. The event was over and the press had left. He is used to taking care of things himself and I think this is one of the qualities that makes Obama different from so many other political candidates I've encountered.

Two staffers had just passed this site and done two pull-ups. Not to be outdone, Obama did three with ease, dropped and walked out to make a speech.

It's always the little things.

Obama is the new blackOCT 21

For some kids in the less diverse areas of the country, any black stranger is Obama.

I've heard from 2 different friends with very young children being raised in, ahem, more homogeneous areas of the country who have taken to calling any black strangers Obama.

Paper plane contestOCT 21

Upcoming: paper plane contest in NYC on November 1. (via cory (nice portal!))

John Hodgman on loveOCT 21

John Hodgman tells a story of aliens, love, Enrico Fermi, and people who are both sexy and deformed.

Interview with a former heroin dealerOCT 21

An interview with the North London Turk, who was one of the biggest heroin dealers in Europe.

Me, my former brother-in-law Yilmaz Kaya, and an Istanbul babas [godfather] named the Vulcan founded the Turkish Connection -- that's a network that smuggles heroin from Afghanistan across Turkey into Europe. Up until the early 90s, Turks had been bringing it in piecemeal. An immigrant would bring in ten keys, sell it, buy a shop in Green Lane and pack it in. We were the first to start bringing it in 100-kilo loads. Stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap...

(via gulfstream)

A catfish by any other name would taste as good?OCT 21

The catfish is the latest Asian import to threaten the USA-produced version.

If Vietnamese growers can be believed, tra may be the most efficient way on earth to make animal protein. It takes three acres of grazing land to grow a single 700-pound cow. That same land, flooded and turned over to channel catfish ponds will generate 25,000 pounds of catfish. But in Vietnam, those three acres will bring in up to 1 million pounds of tra. The question that fish farmers outside of Southeast Asia ask is whether the Vietnamese are competing on a level playing field. And if not, they wonder, are the Vietnamese grabbing up huge swaths of the global white-fish market at the expense of environmental and consumer safety?

Under pressure from the Chinese, the Vietnamese are even trying to cross the tra with the giant Mekong catfish, which grows up to ten feet long and can weigh 1000 pounds.

Borromean ringsOCT 21

Borromean rings are a configuration of three rings arranged so that no two rings are interlocked but all three together are. No need for the oven...that completely baked my noodle. A blog I regularly read (can't remember which one right now) recently started to compile a list of metaphors in search of subjects...these rings should be right at the top of the list. (via clusterflock)

Update: Here it is, Russell Davies' Analogy Library. (thx, rod & zach)

Mirrors turning to look at youOCT 20

The mirrors in rAndom International and Chris O'Shea's Audience project chat amonst themselves until something catches their collective eye.

When members of the audience occupy the space, the mirrors inquisitively follow someone that they find interesting. Having chosen their subject, they all synchronise and turn their heads towards them. Suddenly that person can see their reflection in all of the mirrors. They will watch this person until they become disinterested, then either seek out another subject or return to their private chatter. The collective behaviour of the objects is beyond the control of the viewer, as it is left entirely to their discretion to let go of their subject.

This Vimeo video is a good look at how the project works. (via sippey)

Update: New from O'Shea is Hand From Above.

Unsuspecting pedestrians will be tickled, stretched, flicked or removed entirely in real-time by a giant deity [on a large screen].

PhotoSwapOCT 20

PhotoSwap is a simple iPhone app: you take a photo, the app sends it to another user at random, and you get a random one in return. Check out a review and a bunch of photos people have received through the app. (thx, david)

Bottled water considered harmfulOCT 20

NY Times editorial: don't bother with bottled water, drink tap instead.

While a lot of bottled water may be as pure as promised in those alluring commercials, the real problem is telling which is which. Public water supplies are regulated by the federal government. Not so for bottled water. The Food and Drug Administration does have some oversight, but bottled water is not very high on their long list of priorities.

Conspiracy theorists have no time for reasonOCT 20

I love this list of conditions that would have to be true if Obama really is a radical Marxist terrorist.

...and/or that those of his friends/colleagues/co-conspirators to whom he did reveal his true agenda, (William Ayers, et al) have also maintained absolute perfect silence/mendacity on the topic, forever, as no one who actually knows Obama has ever said, "You know, once he's got a couple of drinks in him, he starts going on about Che and finishing the Revolution;"

Indie PublishingOCT 20

Indie Publishing

Someday I'm going to make my own book, from start to finish. It's something that I've wanted to do for awhile, a physical parallel to building a web site from scratch. When I do, Ellen Lupton's Indie Publishing will be my guide. At 170-some pages it's not exhaustive, but the book does briefly touch all the bases: typography, cover design, binding types, and examples of several different types of books. There's also a section on handmade books with hands-on directions for making your own book -- folded books, stitched pamphlets, or stab bound -- without having to visit the printer.

What are the Japanese up to right now?OCT 20

As part of the Japanese census, people were asked to keep a record of what they were doing in 15 minute intervals. The data was publicly released and Jonathan Soma took it and graphed the results so that you can see what many Japanese are up to during the course of a normal day.

Sports: Women like swimming, but men eschew the water for productive sports, which is the most important Japanese invention.

Early to bed and early to rise... and early to bed: People start waking up at 5 AM, but are taking naps by 7:30 AM.

Fascinating.

The television of your dreamsOCT 20

The picture color on your television as a kid may influence the color of you dreams.

Do you dream in black and white? If so, the chances are you are over 55 and were brought up watching a monochrome television set.

Interestingly, studies indicate that dreams were in color before black and white TV came along.

Truthful TV title cardsOCT 20

Truthful TV title cards. Heroes becomes No One Dies Ever, Mad Men is Drink Smoke Fuck, and Lost is Winging It.

Obama is Marketer of the YearOCT 20

Barack Obama deservedly wins Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year for 2008.

London tube map videoOCT 17

Nice 25-minute documentary on the London Tube map, "the pinnacle of London Transport's modernist design".

Bomb sniffing laundromatsOCT 17

One of the tactics that the British used against the IRA was to open a laundromat. No, really.

The plan was simple: Build a laundry and staff it with locals and a few of their own. The laundry would then send out "color coded" special discount tickets, to the effect of "get two loads for the price of one," etc. The color coding was matched to specific streets and thus when someone brought in their laundry, it was easy to determine the general location from which a city map was coded.

While the laundry was indeed being washed, pressed and dry cleaned, it had one additional cycle -- every garment, sheet, glove, pair of pants, was first sent through an analyzer, located in the basement, that checked for bomb-making residue. The analyzer was disguised as just another piece of the laundry equipment; good OPSEC [operational security]. Within a few weeks, multiple positives had shown up, indicating the ingredients of bomb residue, and intelligence had determined which areas of the city were involved. To narrow their target list, [the laundry] simply sent out more specific coupons [numbered] to all houses in the area, and before long they had good addresses.

Clever. (via schneier)

Airport security theaterOCT 17

I don't know if this is sadly hilarious or hilariously sad. Jeffrey Goldberg took all sorts of crazy stuff through airport security -- "al-Qaeda T-shirts, Islamic Jihad flags, Hezbollah videotapes, inflatable Yasir Arafat dolls (really), pocketknives, matches from hotels in Beirut and Peshawar, dust masks, lengths of rope, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, eight-ounce tubes of toothpaste (in my front pocket), bottles of Fiji Water (which is foreign), and, of course, box cutters" -- and almost nothing was ever taken away from him or was a source of concern for airport security personnel.

We took our shoes off and placed our laptops in bins. Schneier took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled "saline solution."

"It's allowed," he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don't fall under the TSA's three-ounce rule.

"What's allowed?" I asked. "Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?"

"Bottles labeled saline solution. They won't check what's in it, trust me."

They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schneier held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, "This is okay, right?" "Yep," the officer said. "Just have to put it in the tray."

"Maybe if you lit it on fire, he'd pay attention," I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schneier would carry two bottles labeled saline solution-24 ounces in total-through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. "Two eyes," he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

So hard to pick just one excerpt from this one...it's full of ridiculousness. I don't care how many blogs the TSA launches, this is a farce. (thx, anthony)

UnschoolingOCT 17

A small number of kids in NYC are going to what their parents call "unschool" (i.e. home schooling with an unstructured urban twist).

With Benny, Mr. Lewis went on to say, "we embraced a hybrid between home-schooling and unschooling. It's not structured, it's Benny-centric, we follow his interests and desires, and yet we are helping him to learn to read and do math." They read to him hours every day. "It's about trying to find things we both enjoy doing," Ms. Rendell said, "rather than making myself a martyr mom. The terror of home-schooling is you have to be super on all the time, finding crafty things to do."

Here's the Babble article on unschooling mentioned in the article.

No season 3 for Mad Men?OCT 17

The NY Post reports that Mad Men has not been renewed for another season. Yet. Eep.

Around the TV business, the news that no plans were in place yet for a new season was greeted with surprise. "I can't believe they haven't renewed it yet," said an executive at HBO, which now sheepishly regrets it did not sign the series about Madison Avenue in the 1950s and '60s when it was offered several years ago.

(via fimoculous)

Update: Variety reports that the show will return.

AMC has formally exercised its option for a third season of the period drama.

However, the show's creator is looking for more money and may not return. (thx, fladam)

The Blogging ScholarshipOCT 17

The College Scholarships Foundation is offering a $10,000 blogging scholarship.

Do you maintain a weblog and attend college? Would you like $10,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on. We're giving away $10,000 this year to a college student who blogs.

Here's the 2007 winner's blog (and the two runners up). The application deadline is October 30. Get blogging!

Survival of the fittest Playboy PlaymateOCT 17

In lean times, men look for women who can work and in times of plenty, they want women who can reproduce.

The Environmental Security Hypothesis says that in tough times men will prefer women who are good at production, generally older, taller, heavier, less curvaceous women with less body fat. In good times, they will prefer women who are good at reproduction, generally younger, shorter, lighter, more curvaceous women.

A pair of social psychologists looked for signs of this in the pages of Playboy magazine.

Consistent with Environmental Security Hypothesis predictions, when social and economic conditions were difficult, older, heavier, taller Playboy Playmates of the Year with larger waists, smaller eyes, larger waist-to-hip ratios, smaller bust-to-waist ratios, and smaller body mass index values were selected. These results suggest that environmental security may influence perceptions and preferences for women with certain body and facial features.

Last night the Bee Gees saved my lifeOCT 17

The 103 beats/minute of the Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive is the perfect beat for performing chest compressions during CPR.

In a small but intriguing study from the University of Illinois medical school, doctors and students maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions doing CPR while listening to the catchy, sung-in-falsetto tune from the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever."

(via clusterflock)

Brad Pitt in MoneyballOCT 17

Brad Pitt's gonna star in a movie adaptation of Moneyball? (thx, brian)

Inspiration for graphic designersOCT 17

Goodness blog asked a bunch of designers about books that they found helpful in their development as creative people, no graphic design books allowed.

New blog by James SurowieckiOCT 16

James Surowiecki, who writes the biweekly financial column for the New Yorker, has started a finance blog on the NYer site called The Balance Sheet.

What's inside Angelina Jolie?OCT 16

Angelina Jolie, powers of a ten. By Eamesfiddle.

kottke.org's honest readershipOCT 16

Yesterday I ran a poll asking if any kottke.org readers had ever purchased a term paper for use in school. More than 1600 of you responded, and almost 99% of you have never purchased a paper.

Fenway as scale modelOCT 16

A fake tilt-shift photo of Fenway Park in Boston makes the ballpark look like a scale model. I seemingly will never tire of this gimmick. (via let's go mets)

Banjo used in brain surgeryOCT 16

Due to a hand tremor, musician Eddie Adcock was having trouble playing the banjo. During the surgery to fix the problem, the doctors had Adcock play his banjo to isolate the problem in his brain and then they made the repair. Video here. (via delicious ghost)

10 reasons why newspapers won't reinvent newsOCT 16

A list of reasons that newspapers won't (can't?) reinvent news.

The culture of newspaper management is a dysfunctional relic of a low-bandwidth, monopoly era. It still hasn't adapted to the lessons of Web 2.0, it's generally beholden to a short-term stock price instead of a long-term re-investment strategy and it simply refuses to accept that you can't expect 20 profit margins in a competitive market. Instead of leading, it is a legacy anchor.

An overly harsh list, but good food for thought.

The eyeballing gameOCT 16

The eyeballing game tests how good you are at lining things up. I got a 4.46 on my first try, but my hand slipped on one of them so I'm going to try again... Leave your best (or worst) score in the comments. (via core77)

Update: 4.34. I suck at parallelograms and triangle centers.

kottke.org on FacebookOCT 16

kottke.org now has a Facebook page. I don't know what this is good for exactly, but there it is. Become a fan! (kottke.org also has a Twitter account if you'd like to read the site that way.)

Old MacBook Pros, $700 offOCT 16

Amazon is selling old MacBook Pros for $700 less than they were going for just two days ago. If you've ever wanted Apple hardware at a good value, now's your chance. (via daringfireball)

Finding good stuff on the webOCT 15

Learn how designer Michael Surtees finds good stuff on the web without having to use an RSS reader.

Writing term papers for moneyOCT 15

This guy used to write term papers for money...and it partially financed his first house.

The term paper biz is managed by brokers who take financial risks by accepting credit card payments and psychological risks by actually talking to the clients. Most of the customers just aren't very bright. One of my brokers would even mark assignments with the code words DUMB CLIENT. That meant to use simple English; nothing's worse than a client calling back to ask a broker -- most of whom had no particular academic training -- what certain words in the paper meant. One time a client actually asked to talk to me personally and lamented that he just didn't "know a lot about Plah-toe." Distance learning meant that he'd never heard anyone say the name.

I'm curious...have you used term paper writing services in the past? I've whipped up a little poll: Have you ever bought a term paper? It's anonymous so please be honest. (via clusterflock)

Best news photosOCT 15

Vanity Fair has a list of the 25 best news photographs. Many are familar but I had never seen the photo of Roman Polanski sitting outside his house after his wife's murder. (Quite a few of these photos are disturbing. Viewer beware.)

Modulex: Legos for grown-upsOCT 15

In the 1960s, the designer of the modern Lego brick formed a new company to make a product for adults called Modulex.

In the early 1960's Godtfred was building a new house and, naturally, he tried to model the structure with Lego bricks. The problem was that the Lego brick, with an aspect ratio of 6:5, was different than standard European construction modules of 1:1. Rather than contend with the problems of using regular Lego bricks he simply had new, special bricks molded for him. Bricks that would allow him to more closely copy his architectural plans.

The blocks were intended for use by architects. Reference Library has another look at these Legos for grown-ups. (via things)

The blogging houseplantOCT 15

When houseplants start blogging, you know the trend is on its way out.

The plant interface system, which is built around technology developed by Satoshi Kuribayashi at the Keio University Hiroya Tanaka Laboratory, uses surface potential sensors to read the weak bioelectric current flowing across the surface of the leaves. This natural current fluctuates in response to changes in the immediate environment, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, electromagnetic waves and nearby human activity. A specially developed algorithm translates this data into Japanese sentences, which are used as fodder for the plant's daily blog posts.

(via waxy)

When Obama wins...OCT 15

According to the latest polls, we might be close to finding out what happens When Obama Wins...

Haruki Murakami reading reportOCT 15

The Millions has a brief report on a Haruki Murakami reading that took place recently in Berkeley, CA.

Writing a story for me is just like playing a video game. I start with a word or idea, then I stick out my hand to catch what's coming next. I'm a player, and at the same time, I'm a programmer. It's kind of like playing chess by yourself. When you're the white player, you don't think about the black player. It's possible, but it's hard. It's kind of schizophrenic.

Murakami sounds like a cool cat. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of my favorite novels, one of those books I read at exactly the right moment in my life, like I needed it.

The women of parkourOCT 15

The NY Times reports that a growing number of women are taking up parkour.

"There are certain disadvantages to doing parkour as a woman," Zanevsky said. "The most annoying is if you're training alone, as I do in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, the unwelcome attention from guys. You get catcalls, because you're doing these weird movements.

And there's a video! (via fimoculous)

Seeking kottke.org RSS feed sponsorsOCT 14

Hear ye! I'm trying something new on kottke.org. Sponsorships of kottke.org's RSS feed are now available on a weekly basis. Sponsorships are exclusive and begin next week. If you're interested, check out the sponsorship page for details and get in touch.

P.S. The feed sponsorship idea was borrowed from John Gruber's Daring Fireball. I'd urge you to head on over to check out his sponsorship opportunities, but the DF feed is fully booked through the end of the year. (!!)

P.S.2. Advertising on the site proper continues to be handled expertly by The Deck. If you'd like to advertise on the site, read up on your options there.

New Apple MacBooksOCT 14

Apple announced new MacBooks and MacBooks Pro today and as Apple's new releases always seem to do, the new models make the old ones look like a pile of puke. (My year-old MacBook Pro suddenly looks like an antique.) To show off their new lineup and manufacturing process, they've produced a little video. Jonathan Ive is one earnest dude.

Brand posters for moviesOCT 14

Movie posters that list all the product placements in the films. (via quips)

Gladwell on early- and late-blooming geniusesOCT 14

Now that he has a book coming out on the subject of genius and high achievement, the New Yorker finally lets Malcolm Gladwell write about David Galenson's work on age and innovation. (A previous effort was Gladwell's first article to be rejected by The New Yorker.) For an overview of Galenson's work, check out my post from August.

The most interesting bit of Gladwell's piece is his discussion of the economics of the two different types of artist. The conceptual artist's talent is noticed and rewarded immediately. But conceptual innovators need more help to reach their full potential.

Sharie was Ben's wife. But she was also-to borrow a term from long ago-his patron. That word has a condescending edge to it today, because we think it far more appropriate for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to be supported by the marketplace. But the marketplace works only for people like Jonathan Safran Foer, whose art emerges, fully realized, at the beginning of their career, or Picasso, whose talent was so blindingly obvious that an art dealer offered him a hundred-and-fifty-franc-a-month stipend the minute he got to Paris, at age twenty. If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan, and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.

Gladwell discusses the article in a podcast and will be answering reader questions about it later in the week.

Hitchens: vote for ObamaOCT 14

Christopher Hitchens endorses Obama for President.

To summarize what little I learned from all this: A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact -- if it happens to be a fact -- that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.

To hammer home his point, Hitchens compares McCain to Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. Oh yes, he went there.

The Elements of [programming] StyleOCT 14

Read in the right way, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style becomes an important reference for software development.

5.21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat
Young writers Inexperienced programmers will be draw at every turn toward eccentricities in language. They will hear the beat of new vocabularies abstractions, the exciting rhythms of special segments of their society industry, each speaking a language of its own. All of us come under the spell of these unsettling drums; the problem for beginners is to listen to them, learn the words, feel the vibrations, and not be carried away.

Quirky maps and charts for NYC wayfindingOCT 14

Christoph Niemann shares a series of his New York City cheatsheets, including tips for getting on and off the subway at the proper points, muffin poking (you know, for checking freshness), and a door opening maneuver called "The Northside Eagle".

Whenever I rode the subway with my two older boys, I tried to hold on to their hands at all times. In the process, I developed a special move. I think anyone who saw it must have been impressed.

I would hold the boys' hands as we briskly made our way out of the station, then, just as we reached the turnstiles, I would let go. We would pass through the turnstiles simultaneously, and so smoothly that the boys' hands would still be up in the air when we got to the other side, where I would grab their little fingers again in one fluid motion. (Requires practice.)

These are great fun.

Muji ChronotebookOCT 14

The Muji Chronotebook combines the flexibility of a plain paper notebook with the utility of a daily planner.

For each function or feature you add, you lose a purpose. A blank sheet that could've been used in a million different ways can now only be used for a few. Artists aren't going to buy a calendar if they're looking for something to sketch on. Writers aren't going to pick up to-do lists to use as a journal. This isn't a bad thing per se -- by narrowing down on a purpose, a blank sheet of paper can become more useful and relevant to certain people.

Each page of the Chronotebook has a analog clock in the middle, around which you can freely form appointments (just draw a line to the time for the meeting), sketch, make lists, or anything else the mostly blank page beckons you to do. Fantastic idea.

Update: Here's the same idea in whiteboard form. (thx, michael)

Meeting in-betweenOCT 14

Need to find a central meeting spot between two locations? Try MeetWays. It'll even find you a restaurant for a coffee or bite. (thx, kristen)

Useful black holesOCT 13

A list of 15 uses of tiny black holes, including hazardous waste disposal, cheap transport, and hanging posters without tacks.

Kennedy's catchy jingleOCT 13

From The Living Room Candidate, a site which houses presidential campaign commercials from 1952-present, comes a 1960 commercial for John F. Kennedy. How the ad positions Kennedy reminds me of the delicate fusion that Barack Obama is attempting with his relative newness to politics and readiness for the job.

Do you want a man for President who's seasoned through and through but not so doggoned seasoned that he won't try something new? A man who's old enough to know and young enough to do...

What a great ad...I wish they still made 'em like this. You may remember seeing this on Mad Men.

Photos of the SunOCT 13

The Big Picture collects photos of the Sun. I've featured a number of these on kottke.org before but it never hurts to look often at the Sun.

The Atlantic redesignOCT 13

The Atlantic is getting a redesign. Changes are already afoot over at the web site and Pentagram's blog has an extensive look at the magazine's new look, designed by Michael Bierut, Luke Hayman, and their team. I love the proposed Helvetica cover. The inspiration for the throw-back logo came in part from an appearance of an old issue of the magazine on Mad Men (Bierut is a fan).

BTW, the new cover tells of an article on blogs -- Will Blogs Kill Writing? -- that you will likely be hearing about from all corners of the web when the issue is released next week.

Here is New YorkOCT 13

Here is New York

This slim booklet has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages, and I finally decided to give it a shot yesterday. Here is New York is amazing book, perhaps the most succinct and apt description of New York City ever put on paper. In the hands of E.B. White, NYC is at once a city of inches and multitudes, of loneliness and excitement, of riches and squalor, of permanence and transience. The particulars of the city have changed, as White himself admits, but the first half of the book could well have been written yesterday instead of 1949. With apologies to Mr. White and his publishers, an extended excerpt:

New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual (if he wants it, and almost everybody wants or needs it) against all enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute. Since I have been sitting in this miasmic air shaft, a good many rather splashy events have occurred in town. A man shot and killed his wife in a fit of jealousy. It caused no stir outside his block and got only small mention in the papers. I did not attend. Since my arrival, the greatest air show ever staged in all the world took place in town. I didn't attend and neither did most of the eight million other inhabitants, although they say there was quite a crowd. I didn't even hear any planes except a couple of westbound commercial airliners that habitually use this airshaft to fly over. The biggest ocean-going ships on the North Atlantic arrived and departed. I didn't notice them and neither did most other New Yorkers. I am told this is the greatest seaport in the world, with six hundred and fifty miles of water front, and ships calling here from many exotic lands, but the only boat I've happened to notice since my arrival was a small sloop tacking out of the East River night before last on the ebb tide when I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I heard the Queen Mary blow one midnight, though, and the sound carried the whole history of departure and longing and loss. The Lions have been in convention. I've not seen one Lion. A friend of mine saw one and told me about him. (He was lame, and was wearing a bolero.) At the ballgrounds and horse parks the greatest sporting spectacles have been enacted. I saw no ballplayer, no race horse. The governor came to town. I heard the siren scream, but that was all there was to that -- an eighteen-inch margin again. A man was killed by a falling cornice. I was not a party to the tragedy, and again the inches counted heavily.

I mention these merely to show that New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along (whether a thousand-foot liner out of the East or a twenty-thousand-man convention out of the West) without inflicting the event on its inhabitants; so that ever event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul. In most metropolises, small and large, the choice is often not with the individual at all. He is thrown to the Lions. The Lions are overwhelming; the event is unavoidable. A cornice falls, and it hits ever citizen on the head, every last man in town. I sometimes think the only event that hits every New Yorker on the head is the annual St. Patrick's Day parade, which is fairly penetrating -- the Irish are a hard race to tune out, and they have the police force right in the family.

And a smaller bit from near the end of the piece:

The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sounds of the jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

White was referring to the nuclear threat from the Soviet Union but he could easily have been talking about 9/11, or even the current financial crisis threatening to take down one of the city's most prominent institutions.

This American Life on the financial crisisOCT 13

This radio program made the rounds last week, but I finally got caught up this weekend so I'll add my voice to the chorus urging you to listen to This American Life's episode on the financial crisis, Another Frightening Show About the Economy. Paired with The Giant Pool of Money from back in May, this is an excellent overview of what's going on in the financial markets right now. The hosts of the two shows are also doing a daily blog/podcast thing at Planet Money In addition, the last half of this week's TAL concerns the political angle of the financial mess. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but check it out if you're into that sort of thing.

Molecular gastronomy for four-year-oldsOCT 13

Slate writer Sara Dickerman's 4-year-old son won't eat his vegetables so she decided to try some molecular gastronomy to fool the kid into eating his broccoli in little spheres.

The tomato water doesn't really transform into spheres so much as blobs with little tails of clear gelatin. And here my son begins to get really nervous; realizing that he will have to eat not only something tomato-flavored but something that in shape and overall texture most closely resembles a tadpole.

Star Wars A to ZOCT 13

A set of nicely illustrated Star Wars ABC cards. A is for Ackbar, S is for Sarlacc, etc.

Stock market charts, in contextOCT 13

Phil Gyford, wearing his finest pair of Tufte trousers, takes a chart of the FTSE that the Guardian ran on Saturday and places it on a scale that shows the fluctuations of Friday's market compared to the full value of the index.

This particular annoyance is the graphs of share prices in the press and on TV. It is standard practice to start the y-axis at a number much higher than zero, in order to magnify the ups and downs of the market.

Best sports journalismOCT 12

In a recent column, ESPN sports writer Bill Simmons shared his list of best sports pieces ever written. Max from The Millions took Simmons' list and found many of the articles were available online for your complementary reading pleasure. Authors include Gay Talese, Roger Angell, George Plimton, and David Foster Wallace.

Beyond FlashOCT 10

Jonathan Harris recently gave a talk at a Flash conference, attended by a community of people that pride themselves on producing amazing work, and his constructive criticism didn't go over too well.

With a number of notable exceptions, most of the work I see coming from the Flash community is largely devoid of ideas. There is great obsession with slickness, surface, speed, technology, and language, but very little soul at the core, very little being said. I believe that in the long run, ideas are the only things that survive.

That seems about right.

Letters from Norman MailerOCT 10

This collection of letters written by Norman Mailer over the course of the last 60 years is a revealing portrait of the author and an interesting look at the history of the last half of the 20th century.

I'm rather depressed these days. It's been years since anything I've done has turned out successfully -- with a few rare exceptions -- and I'm falling into the thing which afflicted you a couple of years ago -- a failure of the will, shall we say. My ambitions seem far beyond my talents, and light-years beyond the vicissitudes of my character, and I think of this enormous novel I'm now starting, which could well take ten years, and if done properly, it must be unpublishable except in green-backed French "dirty" editions, and I'll be middle-aged when it's done, and somehow I just don't believe in myself the way I used to, and indeed, worst of all, it doesn't even seem terribly important. I'm beginning to have the tolerance of the defeated -- people I would have despised a few years ago now seem bearable -- after all, I say to myself, I haven't done very well with all the luck I had, and perhaps I do wrong to judge them.

I particularly like the letters written to William F. Buckley, Jr., a man whom Mailer called a friend but with whom he disagreed vehemently on political issues. Don't see much of that today, publicly at least.

Death by kisses, an unusual tombstoneOCT 10

After posting about the Metropolitan Life Tower the other day, I was looking through some recent email and discovered one from a week ago that by chance contained a very unusual story about the building. Filmmaker Pes was researching for a film in Woodlawn Cemetery when he came across the odd tombstone of a 15-year-old boy who had died on his birthday:

LOST LIFE BY STAB IN FALLING ON
INK ERASER, EVADING SIX YOUNG
WOMEN TRYING TO GIVE HIM
BIRTHDAY KISSES IN OFFICE
METROPOLITAN LIFE BUILDING

A NY Times story from February 16, 1909, Stabbed to Death in Office Frolic, reveals how George Millitt died.

Yesterday he came down and remarked that it was the anniversary of the wreck of the Maine. He explained that he knew it because the ship had been blown up on his birthday and that he was 15 yesterday.

At once the girls began to tease him. They told him that on such an occasion he desereved a kiss, and every one of them vowed that as soon as office hours were over she would kiss him once for every year that he had lived. He laughingly declared that not a girl should get near him, and was teased about it all day.

As 4:30 o'clock came, and the boy's work was over, the girls made a rush for him. They tried to hem him in, and he tried to break their line. Suddenly he reeled and fell, crying as he did so.

"I'm stabbed!"

A blade used for scraping ink was in Millitt's breast pocket and caused the mortal wound. (thx, amid)

The Shopsin's philosophyOCT 10

This NY Times article about Shopsin's is full of wisdom and bullshit (sometimes both at the same time) from owner Kenny Shopsin.

"I dedicate myself to consuming all sorts of ideas," says Shopsin, an avid reader and Internet crawler. "Eventually something inside me, probably skewed by my erotic feelings about breasts and things like that, assembles a product and just shoots it up." For example, a recent item on the food blog Serious Eats about foods on a stick led to the State Fair combo plate: corn-dog sausage, s'mores pancakes and chicken-fried eggs. New dishes are printed on the menu the same day: "I spent almost $3,000 on toner in the last three months," Shopsin says.

Love it. Check out the video of Shopsin cooking his mac 'n' cheese pancakes.

The Dark Knight, Wall-E, and complete The Wire out on DVD/Blu-rayOCT 09

If kottke.org had a movies and TV store, here's what I'd be selling today:

- The Dark Knight on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Dec 9.
- Wall-E on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Nov 18.
- The Wire: The Complete Series on DVD. Out Dec 9.

Megamovies, TV shows as days-long moviesOCT 09

In a 1999 essay about The Sopranos written after its first season, Vincent Canby suggested that the show was an example of a relatively new form of television, the megamovie.

"Berlin Alexanderplatz," "The Singing Detective" and "The Sopranos" are something more than mini-series. Packed with characters and events of Dickensian dimension and color, their time and place observed with satiric exactitude, each has the kind of cohesive dramatic arc that defines a work complete unto itself. No matter what they are labeled or what they become, they are not open-ended series, or even mini-series.

They are megamovies.

That is, they are films on a scale imagined by the big-thinking, obsessive, fatally unrealistic Erich von Stroheim when, in 1924, he shot "Greed," virtually a page-by-page adaptation of Frank Norris's Zola-esque novel, "McTeague." Stroheim intended it to be an exemplar of cinematic realism.

Megamovies take television seriously as a medium. They have dramatic arcs that last longer than single episodes or seasons. Megamovies often explore themes and ideas relevant to contemporary society -- there's more going on than just the plot -- without resorting to very special episodes. Repeat viewing and close scrutiny is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the material and its themes. They're shot cinematically and utilize good actors. Plot details sprawl out over multiple episodes, with viewers sometimes having to wait weeks to fit what might have seemed a throwaway line into the larger narrative puzzle.

Episodes of these megamovies, Canby argued presciently, are best watched in bunches, so that the parts more easily make the whole in the viewer's mind. For many, bingeing on entire seasons on DVD or downloaded via iTunes has become the preferred way to watch these shows. If stamina and non-televisual responsibilities weren't an issue, it would be preferable to watch these shows in one sitting, as one does with a movie.

Since The Sopranos kick-started things in 1999, the megamovie has become a far more common occurrence on TV. Virginia Heffernan recently stated that the creators of nearly all hour-long dramatic series are aiming to make megamovies. I've collected a few examples of megamovies accompanied by their total running times below. The list is incomplete but represents several of the best-known and -appreciated megamovies out there.

The Sopranos, 81 hours 46 minutes
Lost*, 61 hours 59 minutes
Mad Men*, 18 hours 6 minutes
Six Feet Under 57 hours 45 minutes
Deadwood*, 36 hours
The Wire, 60 hours 45 minutes
The West Wing, 111 hours 56 minutes

For The West Wing, that's 4 days and 16 hours of continous watching. An asterisk marks megamovies that are as-yet incomplete. In the case of Deadwood, it's as if the film projector broke about halfway through the movie, only no one got their money back and eveyone left the theater pissed.

Update: In his review of the third episode of Mad Men this season, Andrew Johnston talks about the two dominant forms of TV drama and how The Sopranos and Mad Men fits in. (thx, stephen)

The Ambition of the Independent Video GameOCT 09

By substituting "independent video game" for "short story" in The Ambition of the Short Story, (mashedmarket) turned the essay into a manifesto of sorts for indie game developers.

The Triple-A game is exhaustive by nature; but the world is inexhaustible; therefore the Triple-A game, that Faustian striver, can never attain its desire. The independent video game by contrast is inherently selective. By excluding almost everything, it can give perfect shape to what remains. And the independent video game can even lay claim to a kind of completeness that eludes the Triple-A game -- after the initial act of radical exclusion, it can include all of the little that's left.

Kate Moss artOCT 09

A collection of artworks featuring Kate Moss, including a self-portrait drawn with lipstick.

Manny being MannyOCT 09

Conventional wisdom and prevailing opinion among hardcore Boston Red Sox fans is that LA Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez finally sulked his way out of a Boston Red Sox uniform by basically phoning it in and causing trouble for his team for a couple of months earlier in the season, which phoning and trouble resulted in a trade of Ramirez to LA for very little in return. Two rebuttals have surfaced recently that seem more plausible to me. The first is Facts About Manny Ramirez by Joe Sheehan. Sheehan uses some of those pesky facts to illustrate that on the field, Manny played as well or better during the supposed phoning-it-in period than he has in the past.

When he played, Ramirez killed the league. He hit .347/.473/.587 in July. His OBP led the team, and his SLG led all Red Sox with at least 25 AB. The Sox, somewhat famously, went 11-13 in July. Lots of people want you to believe that was because Manny Ramirez is a bad guy. I'll throw out the wildly implausible idea that the Sox went 11-13 because Ortiz played in six games and because veterans Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek has sub-600 OPSs for the month.

Four days before he was traded, Manny Ramirez just about single-handedly saved the Red Sox from getting swept by the Yankees, with doubles in the first and third innings that helped the Sox get out to a 5-0 lead in a game they had to win to stay ahead of the Yankees in the wild-card race.

In Manny Being Manipulated, Bill Simmons attempts to answer the question, Ok, so why did Manny suddenly want to be traded and, more importantly, why did the Red Sox actually oblige? Simmons' answer: Scott Boras, Ramirez's agent and "one of the worst human beings in America who hasn't actually committed a crime". According to Simmons, it all boiled down to mismatched incentives and following the money.

Manny's contract was set to expire after the 2008 season, with Boston holding $20 million options for 2009 and 2010. Boras couldn't earn a commission on the option years because those fees belonged to Manny's previous agents. He could only get paid when he negotiated Manny's next contract. And Scott Boras always gets paid.

Boras could only get paid for representing Ramirez if Manny signed a new contract. Which he will next year because as part of the trade, the Dodgers agreed to waive his 2009 option and allow him to become a free agent. And the Red Sox went along because they decided they'd rather have a good relationship with Scott Boras going forward instead of a weird relationship with Ramirez. As for Manny, he gets paid either way, rarely appreciated the weird pressure/adulation put on him and every other Red Sox player by Boston fans, and, I get the feeling, likes swinging a bat, no matter what team he plays for.

Tongans invade Texas townOCT 09

The NY Times picks up the story of the high school football team with a number of Tongan players covered a couple of days ago on kottke.org.

City officials have patiently assisted Tongan residents acclimate to a new culture, Faiva-Siale said. Compromises have been reached to accommodate large family gatherings at funeral rituals that last for days. And the city has promoted alternatives to the slaughtering of pigs at home for open-pit cooking. A mobile health unit helps to provide free flu shots and medical checkups.

Theft with help from craigslistOCT 09

A man dressed as a road maintenance worker robbed an armored car in Washington State. As part of his getaway plan, he hired some people via Seattle craigslist to also dress up as road maintenance workers and mill around where the armored car was located.

"I came across the ad that was for a prevailing wage job for $28.50 an hour," one of the unwitting decoys, named Mike, said to the NBC station. As it turns out, they were simply placed there to confuse cops who were looking for a guy wearing a virtually identical outfit.

The thief then escaped down a river on an inner tube. (thx, greg)

$1 food in NYCOCT 08

You can still get food for $1 at some eating establishments in NYC, even outside of the McDonald's Dollar Menu.

The Metropolitan Life TowerOCT 08

The Metropolitan Life Tower is located on the east side of Madison Square Park at 1 Madison Avenue. It has quietly become one of my favorite buildings in the city; I find myself peering up at it whenever I'm in the area. (I took a photo of the building while in line at the Shake Shack last spring...it's a lovely color in the late afternoon light.) Inspired by a photo posted recently to Shorpy that shows the tower under construction -- and before the addition of the building's iconic clock -- I did some research and discovered three things.

Metropolitan Life Building

One. Modeled after the bell tower of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, the Metropolitan Life Tower was completed in 1909 and at 700 feet, it was the tallest building in the world until the Woolworth Building was completed four years later.

Two. The NY Times ran a story in December 1907 about the eventual completion of the structure and how it would take over as the world's tallest building, surpassing another then-unfinished building, the Singer Tower. In the era before widely available air travel, the building's vantage point was remarkable.

The view from the top was of a new New York. No other skyscrapers obstructed the vista in either direction. Passing the green roof of the Flatiron Building, the gaze literally spanned the Jersey City Heights and rested on Newark and towns on the Orange Mountains, fifteen miles away.

To the southward the skyscrapers bulked like a range of hills in steel and mortar, the Singer tower rising in the midst, a solitary watch tower on a peak. This hid the harbor, but to the left beyond the bridges, reduced at this height to gray cobwebs, the eye caught the sunlight on the sea -- a long strip of shimmering silver beyond Coney Island and the Rockaways.

Three. Star architect Daniel Libeskind is allegedly working on an addition to the Metropolitan Life Building, an addition that by some accounts would reach 70 stories. You can guess how I feel about the prospect of one of those residential glass monstrosities literally and emotionally dwarfing the existing 50-story clock tower, Libeskind or no. Of course, the Metropolitan Life Tower may never have become so iconic had Metropolitan Life's plans for a 100-story tower one block north not been scrapped because of the Great Depression. They only finished 32 floors of that building, which today houses the celebrated restaurant, Eleven Madison Park.

The financial crisis, a Pokemon parableOCT 08

This is perhaps the most succinct explanation of the current financial crisis I had read: The Financial Crisis, as Explained to My Fourteen-Year-Old Sister.

Kevin: Imagine that I let you borrow $50, but in exchange for my generosity, you promise to pay me back the $50 with an extra $10 in interest. To make sure you pay me back, I take your Charizard Pokémon card as collateral.

Olivia: Kevin, I don't play Pokémon anymore.

Kevin: I'm getting to that. Let's say that the Charizard is worth $50, so in case you decide to not return my money, at least I'll have something that's worth what I loaned out.

Olivia: Okay.

Kevin: But one day, people realize that Pokémon is stupid and everyone decides that the cards are overvalued. That's right -- everybody turned twelve on the same day! Now your Charizard is only worth, say, $25.

The only thing that's missing is the part of the explanation where the parents swoop in and pay Kevin full value for that Pokémon card, which allows him to keep lending money in exchange for cardboard rectangles.

Starship TroopersOCT 08

Hulu has added Starship Troopers to the lineup. (Not available outside the US, sorry.)

Update: Perhaps those outside of the US would like to use something like this to watch movies and TV on Hulu? (thx, stewart)

Can helium balloons carry off a child?OCT 08

In the opening credits of the 80s TV show Webster, the title character is shown lifted into the sky by a dozen helium balloons. Mena Trott recently enlisted her young daughter in an attempt to prove, a la Mythbusters, that a few balloons won't actually lift anyone anywhere.

Update: Mythbusters actually tackled this question in 2004. (thx, javier)

Suburban mom's duet with StingOCT 08

Seattle mom Jessica Ketola recently got to go up on stage for a soundcheck with Sting and The Police. Sting was so impressed with her voice that he invited her to sing with him during the concert.

The stage manager didn't help. "Sting never shares a microphone," he muttered to Ketola as she waited in the wings before the concert. "So don't [expletive] up." But in true fairy-tale tradition, a white knight swept in with a bottle of water and a few reassuring words. "He says that to me every night, too," Sting confided.

Here's a video of the soundcheck and one of Ketola killing it on Don't Stand So Close to Me. (via girlhacker)

Mad Men typographyOCT 08

Mark Simonson takes an extensive look at the typography of Mad Men and concludes that a surprising amount of the type is set in fonts that either weren't around in the early 60s or weren't yet popular in the US.

Then there is the Gill Sans (c. 1930) problem. Gill is used quite a lot in the series, mainly for Sterling Cooper Advertising's logo and signage. Technically, this is not anachronistic. And the way the type is used -- metal dimensional letters, generously spaced -- looks right. The problem is that Gill was a British typeface not widely available or popular in the U.S. until the 1970s. It's a decade ahead of its time in American type fashions.

There's also the Arial problem in the ending credits.

How to embalm a dead bodyOCT 08

An editor from The Morning News goes to a mortuary and learns how to embalm a dead body.

"Once I worked on an old man with a really bad moustache, like the kind a teenager would grow. It was really crooked and misshapen, so I shaved it off. At the funeral his family kept coming up saying, 'Oh, where's his moustache?' Apparently, it was supposed to look that way."

The closer to its living self a body looked, the happier a family would be. And keeping families happy, I'd learn as the night went on, was the main objective of Carla's work, and a task she took very seriously.

Apparently watching every episode of Six Feet Under does not prepare you to be a funeral director.

Short story ambitionsOCT 07

An ode to the short story.

The novel is insatiable -- it wants to devour the world. What's left for the poor short story to do? It can cultivate its garden, practice meditation, water the geraniums in the window box. It can take a course in creative nonfiction. It can do whatever it likes, so long as it doesn't forget its place -- so long as it keeps quiet and stays out of the way. "Hoo ha!" cries the novel. "Here ah come!" The short story is always ducking for cover. The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.

Junk drawer photosOCT 07

Paho Mann photographs other people's souls junk drawers and medicine cabinets.

My work explores the persistent mark of individuality in a culture that brands, packages, and relentlessly promotes conformity. Even among those who attempt to fit into society, there is an amazing wealth of information each individual reveals in near-privacy, spaces such as junk-drawers and medicine cabinets. The near-private nature of these spaces force the viewer to contend with the natural desire of humans to collect, categorize, and by doing so, manage to give clues about their personality and identity.

(via the moment)

Nerdy personal libraryOCT 07

Jay Walker made a lot of money and used some of it to finance a ridiculously huge and nerdy library in his house. Wired has a tour.

The massive "book" by the window is a specially commissioned, internally lit 2.5-ton Clyde Lynds sculpture. It's meant to embody the spirit of the library: the mind on the right page, the universe on the left. Pointing out to that universe is a powerful Questar 7 telescope. On the rear of the table (from left) are a globe of the moon signed by nine of the 12 astronauts who walked on it, a rare 19th-century sky atlas with white stars against a black sky, and a fragment from the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell in Russia in 1947--it's tiny but weighs 15 pounds. In the foreground is Andrea Cellarius' hand-painted celestial atlas from 1660. "It has the first published maps where Earth was not the center of the solar system," Walker says. "It divides the age of faith from the age of reason."

(via design observer)

A Brief History of the Twenty-first CenturyOCT 07

Chuck Klosterman pens a brief history of the 21st century. I think he may have missed his calling as a science writer or 7-foot tall multiracial time traveller.

JUNE 11, 2041: In a matter of weeks, the entire Internet is replaced by "news blow," a granular microbe that allows information to be snorted, injected, or smoked. Data can now be synthesized into a water-soluble powder and absorbed directly into the cranial bloodstream, providing users with an instantaneous visual portrait of whatever information they are interested in consuming. (Sadly, this tends to be slow-motion images of minor celebrities going to the bathroom.) Now irrelevant, an ocean of Web pioneers lament the evolution. "What about the craft?" they ask no one in particular. "What about the inherent human pleasure of moving one's mouse across a hyperlink, not knowing what a simple click might teach you? Whatever happened to ironic thirty-word capsule reviews about marginally popular TV shows? Have we lost this forever?" "You just don't get new media," respond the news-blowers. "You just don't get it."

It was tough to pick just one excerpt...the Digger True candidacy and animals getting smarter thing were particularly fun threads. (if it's klosterman, it's gotta be via fimoculous)

Cans of mackerel are prison currencyOCT 07

In the US federal prison system, cans of mackerel have replaced outlawed cigarettes as the de facto form of currency.

"It's the coin of the realm," says Mark Bailey, who paid Mr. Levine in fish. Mr. Bailey was serving a two-year tax-fraud sentence in connection with a chain of strip clubs he owned. Mr. Levine was serving a nine-year term for drug dealing. Mr. Levine says he used his macks to get his beard trimmed, his clothes pressed and his shoes shined by other prisoners. "A haircut is two macks," he says, as an expected tip for inmates who work in the prison barber shop.

See also the economics of POW camps.

Book design competition resultsOCT 07

The AIGA has posted their 50 Books/50 Covers selections from 2007. It's worth fighting through the stupid Flash interface to check out these covers (click "View the 365:AIGA Year in..." and then on "Book design"). The covers are on display in NYC until 11/26/2008. (via book design review)

Intimidating cultural appropriationOCT 07

The high school football team in Euless, TX (population 52,900) starts their games by performing the haka, a chanting dance used to intimidating effect by New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team. What's odd/interesting about this is that the Maori chant was appropriated by the team's contingent of Tongan players -- whose parents moved to the town to work at DFW airport -- and has led to a greater sense of acceptance of the Tongans into the larger community. How's that for multiculturalism?

Literal music videosOCT 07

The literal video version of A Ha's Take On Me...that is, the words of the song are changed to reflect what actually happens in the video.

Band montage! Pipe wrench fight!

This. Is. Brilliant. (via andre)

Update: Here's a slight twist on the theme...a meta song with lyrics about the lyrics. I like the built-in laugh track. (thx, elsa)

Update: And here's the literal version of Tears for Fears' Head Over Heels.

Sustainable farming on the La Cense Beef ranchOCT 07

Speaking of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, as we were just yesterday, he made a TV series based on his photographs. Information on how to actually view the series is scarce but a clip is available on the Earth From Above site about the sustainable farming practices used on the La Cense Beef ranch. Meg and I order from La Cense from time to time and it's good beef.

Tilt-shift videoOCT 07

Tilt-shift camera lenses have been around for awhile and have been typically used in architectural photography to straighten perspective lines. A few photographers have recently begun to make what look like photographs of scale models, using these lenses to control the angle and orientation of the depth of field. Vincent Laforet or Olivo Barbieri for example.

Pretty freaky, right? Keith Loutit has posted three videos to Vimeo that use the same effect. Seeing those miniatures in motion really blows your noodle. (via waxy)

Update: Director Matt Mahurin used the tilt-shift technique in music videos in the early 90s. Take Bush's Everything Zen video for example. (thx, siege)

How to make a New Yorker coverOCT 07

Illustrator Bob Staake explains the process behind his cover on this week's politically themed New Yorker, including rejected alternatives and a video progression of the finished design. Staake still uses a copy of Photoshop 3.0 on MacOS 7 to do his illustrations. That was a great version of Photoshop...I remember not wanting to switch myself. (via df)

Update: Staake uses OS X with MacOS 9 running in the background:

Let me clear up today's rumor: I do NOT work in OS 7. I use OSX and run classic (9.0) in the background. Photoshop 3.0? Yes, STILL use that.

100 skills you should knowOCT 06

A list of 100 skills every man should know. The annotated version of the list starts here. My dad taught me almost all of the skills you should teach your kids.

Toy Story 2 vs Dark KnightOCT 06

Anytime is a good time for a well-cut movie trailer mashup: here's The Dark Knight version of the Toy Story 2 trailer. (via buzzfeed)

Calvin Trillin's food tour of NYCOCT 06

One of the most popular events of the annual New Yorker Festival is Calvin Trillin's food-oriented walking tour of SoHo, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, and Little Italy. According to the New York Times, one of the tour's favorite destinations is Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, also one of my top lunch destinations.

Standing outside, dipping his roll into peanut sauce, he said he liked to eat standing up. "If I couldn't eat in a four-star restaurant again, it would mean nothing to me," he said. "But if someone said I couldn't eat any more cilantro, I would be very upset."

Photos of earth from aboveOCT 06

The Big Picture has a selection of photographs from Yann Arthus-Bertrand, who is the answer to the question "hey, who takes those amazing aerial photos of all these different places on earth?" Many more images are available on Arthus-Bertrand's web site and in his many books.

Some of these photos are coming to NYC in May 2009 in an exhibition in Battery Park City.

Root beer at Ssam BarOCT 06

Remember the fun we had reading about this root beer tasting a few months back? The #1 root beer from that tasting, Sprecher (from Wisconsin), is now available on the root beer section of the menu at Ssam Bar. My Moscato d'Asti-addled brain forgot to get a bottle to go when I was there last, but I'll be back for you soon, Sprecher.

Personal identity guidelinesOCT 06

We've seen personal annual reports, but now Christopher Doyle has devised a set of personal identity guidelines for himself.

The image above is from a spread marked Full Colour Vertical_Private. The following 'key identity formats' are, of course, Full Color_Vertical, Full Colour Seated_Casual and Full Colour Seated _Formal.

The incorrect uses are hilarious.

Distressed jeans factoryOCT 06

David Friedman of the excellent Ironic Sans blog took some photos of a Kentucky denim factory that distresses jeans for high-end designers.

I used to scoff at paying a premium for jeans that come with holes in them already. Then I saw just how much work goes into distressing jeans, and I realized that these people are artists. You can't just have any loose threads, you have to have the right loose threads. They can't just be faded. They have to be the right color. A lot of work goes into making these jeans look just right.

On editing (photographs)OCT 06

A photographer talks about how he edits his photos and collects editing approaches from other photographers as well.

You usually have a hunch, but the great thing about photography is that it's so unpredictable, so you never quite understand how and when a good photograph comes about. But when editing, I do contact sheets, then machine prints and then select from that.

And when asked what makes one image stand out more than another, is it emotional or an intellectual reaction he answers: "It must be intuitive. If it were intellectual, I'd be able to explain what happens. That's why I'm a photographer. I express myself visually, not verbally.

Two main themes emerge: 1) take some time off from your images in order to evaluate them more fairly, and 2) edit with an outside party, someone you trust to be tough but fair. (via conscientious)

The New Yorker endorses ObamaOCT 06

The New Yorker devotes the entire Talk of the Town section in their latest issue to their endorsement for President. As you might guess, Obama gets the endorsement and John McCain receives no quarter from the editors. The key part of the article concerns the candidates' possible appointments to the Supreme Court and their consequences. A more conservative court scares the shit out of me.

HIV older than previously thoughtOCT 06

A new study suggests that HIV jumped from apes to humans around the turn of the 20th century, which coincides with the development of colonial cities in sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV was and remains a "relatively poorly transmitted" virus, he said, so the key to the success of the virus was possibly the development of cities such as Leopoldville in the early 1900s.

The large numbers of people living in close proximity would have allowed more opportunity for new infections.

"I think the picture that has emerged here, is that changes the human population experienced may have opened to the door to the spread of HIV," he said.

TSA Communication PlatesOCT 03

Evan Roth has been putting metal plates with messages and symbols cut into them into his carry-on luggage when he goes through security at the airport.

Here's Roth's idea, which he calls "TSA Communication" and tells me has already made it through three trial airport runs: Take a metal plate, stencil and cut out a message -- words or an image -- place the plate at the bottom of your carry-on bag, and watch what happens as the TSA employee operating the airport X-ray machine notices ... or doesn't notice.

So far, he's used plates with outlines of the American flag, a "NOTHING TO SEE HERE" message, and something he calls The Exact Opposite Of A Box Cutter, a plate with a box cutter shape cut out of it.

Fashion models transformedOCT 03

Several photo series of fashion models transforming into different outfits. It's amazing how different they can look with changes in makeup, hair, and clothes.

Helvetica MonopolyOCT 03

A Helvetica-themed version of Monopoly. (via df)

Power of noodlesOCT 03

I know I've posted this one before but I'm probably gonna post it each time I run across it.

That's chef Kin Jing Mark stretching and dividing dough into super-thin noodles. Seeing this when I was a kid made a great impression on me about the wonder of mathematics.

Flight pattern mapsOCT 03

A map of the world showing a simulation of all of the air traffic in a 24-hour period. Here's a higher-quality video. Like Aaron Koblin's Flight Patterns videos, only not just covering North America.

Best info about the financial crisisOCT 03

The Money Meltdown is a one-page site which aims to provide visitors with the best places to go online to get a handle on the current financial crisis. (thx, robin)

Liveblogging the VP debateOCT 02

I'll be liveblogging the substantive parts of the Vice Presidential candidate debate. Updates below.

Update @ 10:44pm: Ok, the debate is over.

Evolving walking shapesOCT 02

A mesmerizing video that shows computer generated geometric shapes that have evolved to walk in all sorts of crazy ways. The shapes are generated using the Darwin@Home software. Some of them resemble young children just learning to walk or crawl. The final "beast" is particularly elegant.

Clever ads by studentsOCT 02

Ten creative advertising ideas from students. The Smart Car and Match.com concepts are particularly clever.

23 of the toughest math questionsOCT 02

DARPA is soliciting research proposals for people wishing to solve one of twenty-three mathematical challenges, many of which deal with attempting to find a mathematical basis underlying biology.

What are the Fundamental Laws of Biology?: This question will remain front and center for the next 100 years. DARPA places this challenge last as finding these laws will undoubtedly require the mathematics developed in answering several of the questions listed above.

(via rw)

Twelve Virtues of RationalityOCT 02

The Twelve Virtues of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky. From the top:

The first virtue is curiosity. A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth. To feel the burning itch of curiosity requires both that you be ignorant, and that you desire to relinquish your ignorance. If in your heart you believe you already know, or if in your heart you do not wish to know, then your questioning will be purposeless and your skills without direction. Curiosity seeks to annihilate itself; there is no curiosity that does not want an answer. The glory of glorious mystery is to be solved, after which it ceases to be mystery. Be wary of those who speak of being open-minded and modestly confess their ignorance. There is a time to confess your ignorance and a time to relinquish your ignorance.

Texting drives viewing of subtitled movies?OCT 02

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas made an interesting observation the other day while discussing foreign language films:

"People will now go to films with subtitles, you know," she added. "They're not afraid of them. It's one of the upsides of text-messaging and e-mail." She smiled. "Maybe the only good thing to come of it."

The abundance of scrolling tickers on CNN, ESPN, and CNBC may be even more of a contributing factor...if in fact people are more willing to see films with subtitles. (via ben and alice)

What are you doing here?OCT 02

A supercut of every utterance of the phrase "what are you doing here?" on Doctor Who, including dozens of variations. Wow.

Feeling cold after an icy glance?OCT 02

Spreading nasty rumors can make people feel literally dirty and being socially excluded from a group can make you feel cold.

John Bargh, a psychologist at Yale who was not involved in the research, said the finding made "perfect sense." In an e-mail message, he noted that a brain region called the insula tracks both body temperature and general psychological states, and it may be here where social perceptions and sensations of warmth or coldness are fused.

Migrating Americans in new HBO showOCT 01

HBO is developing a series set 25-40 years in the future when Americans are fleeing the country en masse and settling elsewhere in the world.

In his research for "Americatown," Winters had explored possible nightmare scenarios that could bring the U.S. to a collapse decades down the road, like the price of oil skyrocketing and natural disasters reaching catastrophic proportions. Then suddenly oil hovered near $150 a barrel this summer, floods hit the Midwest and the South and Wall Street crashed under the weight of the mortgage crisis.

(via bygone bureau)

2001, a search odysseyOCT 01

Google has released a search engine that only searches their index from 2001. kottke.org is in there. (via waxy)

Michael Kors' Mad Men influenceOCT 01

Fashion designer Michael Kors based his 2008 fall collection in part on Mad Men. The maturity of dress on the show is part of what attracted him:

Aren't we ready for that again? For some maturity? I have to tell you, I am sick and tired of hair down to there and crotch-high hemlines. It's so obvious. For Fall I was really trying to bring back buttoned-up sexy -- think Grace Kelly. So cool, so poised. She never reveals a thing and you can't take your eyes off of her. I mean, watch "Rear Window." That's smart sexy; it's interesting sexy. And it's grown-up sexy. You want a tip on looking hot? Wear reading glasses and a fitted dress. Simple.

He's right about Grace Kelly. I watched Rear Window recently and she's something else in it.

Essential comicsOCT 01

Fifty things every great comics collection needs.

Because comic books are read in a way that we invest a lot of ourselves in the telling, because they're visual in nature, and because for generations they were among the only art forms available for a child to easily own, they can be powerful nostalgic items. It's always great to have a few comics around that you either remember reading or simply recall wanting more than anything in the world. You may be surprised by how much of your comics reading since has been shaped by those feelings.

NYC buildings that should goOCT 01

NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff chooses a list of NYC buildings that are so bad they should be torn down to make way for other possibilities.

So the list will not include affronts that are merely aesthetic. To be included, buildings must either exhibit a total disregard for their surrounding context or destroy a beloved vista. Removing them would make room for the spirit to breathe again and open up new imaginative possibilities.

Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, and the Javits Center are deservedly included.

Routefinder wrist mapsOCT 01

Strange Maps ran across a wristwatch-like contraption from the 1920s that holds little scrolls of paper used for navigation, an analog version of Hertz's NeverLost and other in-car GPS navigation systems.

This fantastic contraption, called the 'Routefinder', showed 1920s drivers in the UK the roads they were travelling down, gave them the mileage covered and told them to stop when they came at journey's end. The technology -- a curious cross between the space age and the stone age -- consisted of a little map scroll inside a watch, to be 'scrolled' (hence the word) as the driver moved along on the map. A multitude of scrolls could be fitted in the watch to suit the particular trip the driver fancied taking.

Ill-advised movie sequelsOCT 01

Some of these don't seem like such a good idea. (These are actual sequels being written/produced/considered/etc.)

Blade Runner 2
Pirates of the Caribbean 4
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Cars 2
Toy Story 3
Ghostbusters 3
I Am Legend 2
Donnie Darko 2

Ok, Beverly Hills Chihuahua isn't a sequel but rivals Blade Runner 2 for the worst idea on the list.

Archives    September 2008 »    August 2008 »    July 2008 »

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