Entries for February 2009 (March 2009 »    April 2009 »    May 2009 »    Archives)

 

Sita Sings the BluesFEB 27

Watch the entirety of Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues online.

Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by e-mail. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."

The film was made by Nina Paley on her home computer and garnered a rave review from Roger Ebert.

I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens.

As a small independent filmmaker, Paley ran into licensing issues for the music used in the film that has prevented the release of the film....until now. (via waxy)

Exploring logo designs with MathematicaFEB 27

This post on the Wolfram blog about using Mathematica to play around with logo designs provides a tantalzing glimpse into how useful the program could be as a graphic design tool.

Take a logo as simple as the Mercedes-Benz star. Just three points framed by a circle, its geometry is easily described in a few lines of Mathematica code, with some obvious parameters controlling the number of points on the star, the sharpness of the star's points, the thickness of the outer circle, and the orientation of the star.

Paging Joshua Davis. (via waxy)

In Love With A. LincolnFEB 27

The link o' the day is this illustrated Maira Kalman tribute of Abe Lincoln, in which she realizes she's falling in love with him and wonders about his reaction to Frida Kahlo's self-portrait.

Was the internet boring in 1996?FEB 27

Farhad Manjoo on the unrecognizable Internet of 1996.

I started thinking about the Web of yesteryear after I got an e-mail from an idly curious Slate colleague: What did people do online back when Slate launched, he wondered? After plunging into the Internet Archive and talking to several people who were watching the Web closely back then, I've got an answer: not very much.

David Wertheimer calls bullshit and retorts:

The World Wide Web was an invigorating, compelling and, frankly, amazing place in 1996. Innovations were fast, furious and quickly adopted. Clever people did clever things and pretty much everyone noticed, because "everyone" was a rather small and curious community. [...] The Internet of 1996 was certainly nothing like today's experience. But to suggest there wasn't much to do is to ignore everything that was being done.

I'm obviously with Team David on this one.

Lizzie Buckmaster DoveFEB 27

I love these two pieces by Lizzie Buckmaster Dove: Cacophony: Rip Rack Roar Rumble and Cacophony: Toot Tweet Twitter Trill. (via this is that)

Mono-historiesFEB 27

Similar to the list of books That Changed The World is this list of mono-histories, biographies of singular items.

Salt: a world history, by Mark Kurlansky - Published in 2002, Kurlansky's history of the world's most important commodity is probably the best known mono-history and the only one to appear on the best-seller lists. I found it fascinating and inspiring. Kurlansky must have enjoyed his foray into mono-history because he's followed up on Salt with Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.

Other topics covered by these books are pizza, pencils, and the alphabet. (via rebecca's pocket (welcome back!))

Update: Several people have noted that Cod was published five years before Salt. (thx, all)

Not so orange juiceFEB 27

An interview with Alissa Hamilton about her new book, Squeezed, reveals that that fresh orange juice you're buying might not be so fresh or even orange-y.

In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn't oxidize. Then it's put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for upwards of a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it's ready for packaging, companies such as Tropicana hire flavor companies such as Firmenich to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it also sits in storage for quite a long time.

(thx, oli)

Speaking at the Dot Dot Dot LectureFEB 27

On March 11, I will be joining Jen Bekman (of 20x200), Nicholas Felton (of those cool personal annual reports), and Rebekah Hodgson (of Etsy) at the next Dot Dot Dot Lecture. We'll be talking about curating, aka that thing I do for a living.

Curatorial strategies are spilling out of galleries and museums and into our everyday design practices. As emphasis shifts from designer to consumer, the vital role of designer is often that of mediator, shaping ideas and content created by others into another user experience. How have these new pivots changed the role of designer from one of artisan to one of curator? Four lecturers speak to curation as a way of design life, and how their audiences learn from, are inspired by, and gain insights from it.

Come for the Felton, stay for the Bekman, and don't mind me, my talk's only 10 minutes long. (Actually, I just noticed that they're "sold out".)

Alexis PhiferFEB 27

I now know who to thank for Kanye West's wondrous 808s and Heartbreak: his ex-fiancee Alexis Phifer. She's gotta be the Robocop, right? No short-term romance stings that bad.

The Space GameFEB 26

From the folks who brought you Desktop Tower Defense comes The Space Game. The gameplay looks daunting (a huge mistake for online embeddable games like this) but skip the training crap and click on the missions tab to get right into it. Playing The Space Game, I'm fondly reminded of Dune II...loved that game. (via buzzfeed)

The Fluff Principle and other thoughts on communityFEB 26

Paul Graham shares what he's learned in running a community news site called Hacker News for the past two years.

There are two main kinds of badness in comments: meanness and stupidity. There is a lot of overlap between the two -- mean comments are disproportionately likely also to be dumb -- but the strategies for dealing with them are different. Meanness is easier to control. You can have rules saying one shouldn't be mean, and if you enforce them it seems possible to keep a lid on meanness.

Keeping a lid on stupidity is harder, perhaps because stupidity is not so easily distinguishable. Mean people are more likely to know they're being mean than stupid people are to know they're being stupid.

It's sad that Graham's thinking seems so out of the ordinary these days. Who cares about good comments when you just want as many comments as possible to drive pageviews and ad revenues? (via gulfstream)

The LinguistsFEB 26

Of the world's 7,000 languages, 40 percent are on their way to extinction, with the last fluent speaker of a language dying once every two weeks.

Every two weeks? Wow. That's from an article in Seed magazine about a PBS show airing tonight called The Linguists.

The Linguists is a hilarious and poignant chronicle of two scientists -- David Harrison and Gregory Anderson -- racing to document languages on the verge of extinction. In Siberia, India, and Bolivia, the linguists confront head-on the very forces silencing languages: racism, humiliation, and violent economic unrest. David and Greg's journey takes them deep into the heart of the cultures, knowledge, and communities at risk when a language dies.

Define your goals and then don't suckFEB 26

This advice to museums applies equally well to troubled magazines, newspapers, companies, and the like.

The Louvre has Venus. What do you have instead? If you can answer that question confidently and concisely without a lot of stimulating-the-following-target-audiences mission statement hooey -- and your answer isn't on SecondLife, then you may be one the few museums that doesn't suck.

You're a museum, right? You're not an outreach summercamp. You're not an Imax theatre lobby. You're not a social networking iPhone app. Be a museum. And try harder not to suck at it.

(via migurski)

Broadway closed to car trafficFEB 26

As an experiment, parts of Broadway near Times Square and Herald Square will be entirely closed to cars for most of the rest of the year.

Although it seems counterintuitive, officials believe the move will actually improve the overall flow of traffic, because the diagonal path of Broadway tends to disrupt traffic where it intersects with other streets.

The streets will become pedestrian malls instead. Love this.

Nature's Great EventsFEB 26

If you liked Planet Earth, you should probably check out Nature's Great Events. Narrated by David Attenborough and currently airing in the UK on BBC1 and BBC HD, the series consists of six 50-minute shows, each of which features a large-scale annual event, like the spring thaw in the Arctic Circle and the sardine run along the coast of South Africa. The series was shot in HD using many of the techniques seen in Planet Earth.

If you're in the UK, you can check out the first three episodes on the BBC site. In the US, Discovery will be airing the show sometime in the spring under the title Seasons of Survival (apparently Nature's Great Events isn't dramatic enough for the American audience). No word on whether Attenborough's expert narration will also be replaced as it was in Planet Earth.

In the meantime, some HD clips of the show are available on YouTube. This slo-mo video of a grizzly bear shaking the water off its fur is fun to watch but this too-short clip of an extraordinary coordinated attack of dolphins, seals, sharks, and birds on a massive school of sardines is the gem.

(via we made this, who call the series "mind-blowingly good")

Asymmetric televisionFEB 26

I love this TV by Studio FRST; it's shaped to do both full-size widescreen and 4x3. A picture is worth a thousand words in this case:

Notch TV

That chunk out of the corner is really nice. (via monoscope)

2009 movie preview videoFEB 26

During the closing credits of the Academy Awards, a clip was shown previewing some movies that will open in 2009. None of them look like they'll win any Oscars so I presume this was paid advertising and not editorial on the part of the program. Fun though! (via /film)

Perfect pancake recipeFEB 25

Or so says a mathematics teacher from the UK. The formula is:

100 - [10L - 7F + C(k - C) + T(m - T)]/(S - E)

In the complex formula L represents the number of lumps in the batter and C equals its consistency. The letter F stands for the flipping score, k is the ideal consistency and T is the temperature of the pan. Ideal temp of pan is represented by m, S is the length of time the batter stands before cooking and E is the length of time the cooked pancake sits before being eaten. The closer to 100 the result is -- the better the pancake.

However, a commenter notes:

According to that formula, if you left the pancake batter standing for ten years, (s-e) would be large, and so the pancake would be near perfect. If you let it stand for the same time as you left the pancake to cool, (s-e) would be zero and the pancake would be infinitely bad.

The suggestion to serve with sugar and lemon is clearly wrong as well. See also the formula for how tall high heels can go. (via buzzfeed)

Happy Up HereFEB 25

Royksopp just pushed out the video for Happy Up Here, the first single from their forthcoming album, Junior.

Somewhat related: did you know that Amazon sells vinyl? I had no idea.

Good designFEB 25

The 10 design commandments of Dieter Rams.

Good design is innovative. It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

Rams was the influential designer behind many Braun products and described his design approach as "less, but better". (via df)

Truly limited edition musicFEB 25

Drummer Josh Freese is releasing his second solo album in eleven different limited-edition packages. The $75,000 option includes:

-T-shirt
-Go on tour with Josh for a few days.
-Have Josh write, record and release a 5 song EP about you and your life story.
-Take home any of his drumsets (only one but you can choose which one.)
-Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL's Lamborgini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board for a while.
-Josh will join your band for a month...play shows, record, party with groupies, etc....
-If you don't have a band he'll be your personal assistant for a month (4 day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
-Take a limo down to Tijuana and he'll show you how it's done (what that means exactly we can't legally get into here)
-If you don't live in Southern California (but are a US resident) he'll come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks.

Oh yeah, and the music on CD or via download. (thx, ainsley)

Update: Jeff Stern comments (the link is mine):

instead of 1,000 true fans, 1 wealthy fan

Pixar: no chicks allowedFEB 25

We've been over this before, but with Wall-E's recent win at the Oscars, it's worth mentioning again: Pixar movies don't have any good women characters.

Ratatouille: Male rat (Remy) dreams of becoming chef and achieves his goal even though movie sidetracks to cover ludicrous and unnecessary romance between humans part way through. This is the kind of shit that bothers me: Why is it important that the rat have a penis? Couldn't Remy have been written for a female lead? Why not? Collette's right -- the restaurant business is tough for women, especially when even the fictional rat-as-chef barrier can only be broken by a male character. Female characters: Colette, that old lady with the gun, um... maybe some patrons?

More than a Token score: 1/10. ZOMG, we have one female character. We'd better make her fall inexplicably in love with the bumbling Linguini, stat!

The real CrusoeFEB 25

Historians are still piecing together what happened to Alexander Selkirk, upon whom Robinson Crusoe was based.

He had spent four years and four months on Más a Tierra, a windswept island in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, 650 kilometers (404 miles) off the coast of Chile. He was as alone as a human being can be. For Selkirk, there was no "Man Friday," a character Defoe created for his novel.

Selkirk was rescued by pirates and become one himself, making a fortune in the process. (via ny times ideas)

Less water for pasta cookingFEB 25

Harold McGee, frequent dropper of food science, says that the home cook can prepare pasta using much less water than traditionally called for.

Heartened by the experts' willingness to experiment, I went back to work, this time starting with hot water. I found that it's possible to butta la pasta in 1 1/2 or 2 quarts of boiling water without having the noodles stick. Short shapes just require occasional stirring. Long strands and ribbons need a quick wetting with cold water just before they go into the pot, then frequent stirring for a minute or two.

McGee also comments that the energy equivalent of "250,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil" could be saved per year by using less water and the resulting pasta water is thicker and "very pleasant tasting".

LeBron averaging a triple double?FEB 25

If the NBA game were played at the pace of the 1962 season, the year Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double and Wilt put up 50 PPG while pulling down 26 RPG, LeBron James might be averaging 40.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 10.0 assists this season.

Okay, so you've all seen Wilt and Oscar's numbers from 1962... but have you ever sat down and looked at the league averages that year? In '62, the average team took 107.7 shots per game. By comparison, this year the average team takes 80.2 FGA/G. If we use a regression to estimate turnovers & offensive rebounds, the league pace factor for 1962 was 125.5 possessions/48 minutes, whereas this year it's 91.7. Oscar's Royals averaged 124.7 poss/48, while Wilt's Warriors put up a staggering 129.7 (the highest mark in the league). On the other hand, the 2009 Cavs are averaging a mere 89.2 poss/48. It turns out that the simplest explanation for the crazy statistical feats of 1961-62 (and the early sixties in general) is just that the league was playing at a much faster tempo in those days, with more possessions affording players more opportunities to amass gaudy counting statistics.

(via truehoop)

A: 42 centsFEB 24

A genuinely useful new Single Serving Site: the current price of a first-class US stamp.

Update: There's also this one, this one, and a UK version. (thx, all)

Practical city magicFEB 24

Matt Jones has posted the slides from his talk at Webstock entitled The Demon-Haunted World. It's about technology and the city. Or if you'd like, the city as technology.

The car changed the development of the city irreversibly in the 20th century. I'd claim that mobiles will do the same in the 21st.

SuperorganismsFEB 24

This review of Superorganism, a new book by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, is chock full of fascinating facts about ant societies and how they organize themselves.

The progress of ants from this relatively primitive state to the complexity of the most finely tuned superorganisms leaves no doubt that the progress of human evolution has largely followed a path taken by the ants tens of millions of years earlier. Beginning as simple hunter-gatherers, some ants have learned to herd and milk bugs, just as we milk cattle and sheep. There are ants that take slaves, ants that lay their eggs in the nests of foreign ants (much like cuckoos do among birds), leaving the upbringing of their young to others, and there are even ants that have discovered agriculture. These agricultural ants represent the highest level of ant civilization, yet it is not plants that they cultivate, but mushrooms.

Safari 4 betaFEB 24

It's supposed to be really fast. Check it out here.

Update: The new location for the tabs is pretty disorienting so far. (So far = 10 minutes of use.) I keep glancing up in the middle to see the title of the page I'm on and it's not there...and then I have to hunt for whichever tab I'm on. The separation of the tabs from the page content is also causing me problems. The page area is What I'm Looking At Now and the tabs are What I'm Going To Look At Soon...why separate them with a bunch of stuff (aside from the URL) that is unrelated to either of those things...i.e. What I Almost Never Need To Look At?

The making of The GodfatherFEB 24

A fascinating article from the March 2009 issue of Vanity Fair describes how The Godfather got made, even though the producers, the real-life Mafia, Frank Sinatra, and Paramount executives all fought against it.

The studio executives wanted Laurence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Carlo Ponti, or Danny Thomas to play Don Corleone. Anyone but Brando, who, at 47, was perceived as poison. His recent pictures had been flops, and he was overweight, depressed, and notorious for causing overruns and making outrageous demands. WILL NOT FINANCE BRANDO IN TITLE ROLE, the suits in New York cabled the filmmakers. DO NOT RESPOND. CASE CLOSED.

But Coppola fought hard for him, and finally the executives agreed to consider Brando on three conditions: he would have to work for no money up front (Coppola later got him $50,000); put up a bond for any overruns caused by him; and-most shocking of all-submit to a screen test. Wisely, Coppola didn't call it that when he contacted Brando. Saying that he just wanted to shoot a little footage, he arrived at the actor's home one morning with some props and a camera.

Brando emerged from his bedroom in a kimono, with his long blond hair in a ponytail. As Coppola watched through the camera lens, Brando began a startling transformation, which he had worked out earlier in front of a mirror. In Coppola's words, "You see him roll up his hair in a bun and blacken it with shoe polish, talking all the time about what he's doing. You see him rolling up Kleenex and stuffing it into his mouth. He'd decided that the Godfather had been shot in the throat at one time, so he starts to speak funny. Then he takes a jacket and rolls back the collar the way these Mafia guys do." Brando explained, "It's the face of a bulldog: mean-looking but warm underneath."

Coppola took the test to Bluhdorn. "When he saw it was Brando, he backed away and said, 'No! No!'" But then he watched Brando become another person and said, "That's amazing." Coppola recalls, "Once he was sold on the idea, all of the other executives went along."

Harrowing commuteFEB 24

Locals in Beichuan county in China's Sichuan province, including children commuting daily to school, have to use a zip line to get across a river because the bridge that collapsed during the May 2008 earthquake has never been rebuilt. (via wsj)

Update: The residents of Los Pinos, Colombia use a zip line to get across a 1200-foot-deep gorge every day. Each rider brings her own pulley, rope, and piece of wood to act as a brake. (thx, noah)

What the crash computer sawFEB 24

In a car crash involving a modern vehicle, everything happens before the occupant is even aware of the collision.

1 ms - The car's door pressure sensor detects a pressure wave.

5 ms - Car's crash computer checks for insignificant crash events, such as a shopping trolley impact or incidental contact. It is still working out the severity of the crash. Door intrusion structure begins to absorb energy.

20 ms - Door and B-pillar begin to push on front seat. Airbag begins to push occupant's chest away from the impact.

70 ms - Airbag continues to deflate. Occupant moves back towards middle of car.

Engineers classify crash as "complete".

150-300 ms - Occupant becomes aware of collision.

(via gulfstream)

Form follows financeFEB 24

When the money dries up, so too do the plans for tall buildings by big-name architects. In the late 1920s, a number of buildings in NYC were scrapped in the planning stage or built significantly lower than planned.

A poor photographer blames his toolsFEB 23

Is your lack of fancy camera equipment -- you know, the $3000 21-megapixel DSLR with HD video and f/1.4 lens -- holding you back from making good photographs? Maybe the problem is with your thinking. Many of the great documentary photographers of the 20th century (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, etc.) got by just fine with equipment about as flexible as the average point-and-shoot.

Low-light sensitivity? Ha! Your point-and-shoot may only be noisy at ISO 200 and below, but these guys were working with things like Kodachrome 25, eight times worse. Depth-of-field? Ha! Partially because of the style of the times, and partially because they didn't want to deal with careful manual focus, most photojournalism of the time tended to have everything in focus -- "f/8 and be there" was the rule.

I also enjoyed the advice for getting good photos of your kids with a point-and-shoot camera: "encourage them to play somewhere well-lit." (via gulfstream)

Smart blocksFEB 23

From the recent TED conference, a demo of Siftables, blocks that are smart. What I find most interesting about Siftables is that the blocks form a computer that doesn't need instructions but it doesn't seem like a computer at all, i.e. the Holy Grail of computing. (via peterme)

And the Oscar for Best Titles goes to...FEB 23

In a NY Times op-ed piece, Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler argue that the Oscars should have a category for the design of title sequences. Hear, hear. Their pick for this year's hypothetical award:

1. "WALL-E," Susan Bradley and Jim Capobianco/Pixar. These poignant end titles, which show humans and robots flourishing on a revived Earth, offer a quick history of art, from cave paintings to van Gogh. They then proceed to retell the entire movie, this time in the pixelated style of old video games.

(via subtraction)

Shaq tweetsFEB 23

After Shaq tweets that he's hanging out at a local diner in Phoenix, two nervous Twitter users venture out to see if Shaq is actually THE_REAL_SHAQ.

Returning to our hushed whispers I asked Sean, "Should we go talk to him now?" "I don't know, should we?"

"Yes, you should" a very deep voice entered our conversation from 2 booths over.

(via truehoop)

Bad Tropicana packaging to go awayFEB 23

We won! PepsiCo is reverting to the old Tropicana OJ containers.

The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look. Some of those commenting described the new packaging as "ugly" or "stupid," and resembling "a generic bargain brand" or a "store brand."

"Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?" the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. "Because I do, and the new cartons stink." Others described the redesign as making it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana or differentiate Tropicana from other orange juices.

David Wertheimer notes that the decoration of the packaging was not the main issue, the design was:

As a loyal Tropicana buyer, I don't love the straw-punctured fruit or the old logo at all. What I love is Tropicana juice. And the new packaging made it hard for me to buy it. My preference was hidden in small type; the cartons no longer differentiated on the shelves. It took me longer to shop, and twice this winter I went home with the wrong juice.

(thx, david)

Tomorrow's workday, tonight!FEB 23

Michael Lewis talks a little about his writing process.

I've written in awful enough situations that I know that the quality of the prose doesn't depend on the circumstance in which it is composed. I don't believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse. If you wait for that "perfect moment" you're not going to be very productive.

SmartSwitchFEB 23

The SmartSwitch is a replacement for a standard light switch that becomes more difficult to turn on when power usage is high in the household or on the grid as a whole.

Equipped with a network connection and a brake pad, the switch provides its user with tactile feedback about the amount of energy being used either within their household or by the electrical grid as a whole. SmartSwitch doesn't restrict the user from turning on a light, but rather it passively encourages behavior change. SmartSwitches can be programmed to respond to either personal or communal electrical usage. In a home wired with SmartSwitches, lights can become harder to turn on during hours of peak demand. The switches can also be customized to reflect household-specific energy conservation goals.

That is really clever. I want the same thing for my computer...e.g. it's more difficult to type when I shouldn't be using it. (via o'reilly)

Nate Silver's OscarsFEB 23

So how'd Nate Silver do with his predictions on Oscar night? He got four out of six, missing Penelope Cruz for best supporting and Sean Penn for best actor. I, however, am one for one with my Nate Silver predictions.

Update: Silver's postmortem.

At workFEB 20

The Big Picture collected a bunch of photos of people at work, spinning silk yarn, on a shoe assembly line, sanding and buffing an Oscar statue, checking flour-making equipment, inspecting cigars, assembling model trains, and making toilet bowls.

Dinner with a strangerFEB 20

Franke James received an unusual email from a stranger who invited himself and a guest to dinner at her house...in exchange for a $200 charitable donation. Read the rest in James' illustrated story.

Love letters from the 80sFEB 20

I Love You Forever and Always is a collection of scanned love letters and other notes written to a boy called Jon by various girls in the mid-1980s. If you grew up in the 80s, Jon's collection is instant crack-like nostalgia.

Bug tracking for journalismFEB 20

I really like Scott Rosenberg's entry in the Knight News Challenge Competition.

MediaBugs [is] a public "bug tracker" for errors and other problems with media coverage.

This could be really useful as a cross between bug tracking software, Wikipedia, Poynter, and something like Get Satisfaction.

Polaroid experimentsFEB 20

Peter Miller has done a number of projects that involve directly exposing Polaroid instant film. Static Fields:

These Polaroids were illuminated by their own electrocution. They are cameraless images, which are immediate records of the bolts of electricity that passed through them.

Lightning Bugs:

My brother helped me catch these, we let them loose on the Polaroids in the basement. Polaroids are positives. This is a record of lightning bug dance-steps. Look closely and you can see the shadows of their legs.

Polaroid Self Portrait:

Polaroids are removed from their case in a darkroom, laid flat and exposed as a single, light sensitive array. After they are exposed, they are reinserted into the pack and -with the lens now covered- can be processed by simply pressing the camera's shutter and processing the film by ejecting it from the camera.

Green Eggs and HamFEB 20

Green Eggs and Ham

After writing The Cat in the Hat in 1955 using only 223 words, Dr. Seuss bet his publisher that he could write a book using only 50 words. Seuss collected on the wager in 1960 with the publication of Green Eggs and Ham. Here are the 50 distinct words used in the book:

a am and anywhere are be boat box car could dark do eat eggs fox goat good green ham here house I if in let like may me mouse not on or rain Sam say see so thank that the them there they train tree try will with would you

From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale, the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.

But I don't know...foreach ($items as $value) doesn't quite have the same sense of poetry as the original Seuss.

Congressional flophouseFEB 20

Many members of Congress don't live in Washington DC full-time and they often end up staying in housing that is less grand than the residences in their home states. The NY Times has a story of four Congressmen living in what sounds like a frat house.

While one shelf of the fridge is stocked with beer, the majority of its contents are condiments -- mustard, mayo, black bean dip, Kraft Parmesan. Although the pantry contains Costco-size boxes of Barilla penne and jars of Classico tomato sauce, little actual cooking takes place. His daughter Jessica, 17, remembers finding the same package of frozen French fries in the freezer three years after spotting them on her first visit to the house.

This is from 2002 but still worth a read. (thx, tim)

Update: The Times wrote a sequel to the above story in 2007. The update includes a few photos of the place, which makes it look both more and less fratty than you'd think from reading the article. (thx, audrey & kevin)

Self-adjusting lensesFEB 20

Joshua Silver makes low-cost eyeglasses ($19) with self-adjusting lenses.

The glasses work on the principle that the more liquid pumped into a thin sac in the plastic lenses, the stronger the correction. Silver has attached plastic syringes filled with silicone oil on each bow of the glasses; the wearer adds or subtracts the clear liquid with a little dial on the pump until the focus is right. After that adjustment, the syringes are removed and the "adaptive glasses" are ready to go.

Silver hopes that his glasses will help those in developing countries who cannot afford glasses with ground lenses. (thx, owen)

An appreciation of Eyes Wide ShutFEB 19

I'm happy to see that the AV Club has included Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut in their New Cult Canon, which includes such films as Donnie Darko, Babe: Pig in the City, Primer, and Reservoir Dogs. EWS is under-appreciated in my book and Scott Tobias nails exactly why I find the movie compelling.

Critics pilloried the anti-erotic ridiculousness of the orgy, with its funereal organ music and self-sacrificing hookers and mass-like rituals involving cloaked high priests and great plumes of incense. But the orgy is more about power than sex; in that respect, it's the opposite of some free-love hippie bacchanal, where the fucking is more democratic. Here, the rituals are about affirming the elite, and Bill doesn't belong to this exclusionary country club, whose members are intent on subjugating their inferiors. For Bill, it's the peak of a humiliating journey, and Kubrick accomplishes the remarkable feat of making Cruise, the brashly confident movie star, look small and scared behind that mask.

Overall, 1999 is still my favorite movie year. I saw more than 50 movies in the theater that year, including EWS, Rushmore, Princess Mononoke, Election, Run Lola Run, Being John Malkovich, Iron Giant, The Matrix, Magnolia, American Beauty, Toy Story 2, and Three Kings. Quite a year.

Rules for all sorts of thingsFEB 19

Tom took these rules for a gunfight and adapted some of them to other contexts.

Eating Contest:
8. If you are not chewing, you should be swallowing, communicating, and running. Yell "Fire!" Why "Fire"? Cops will come with the Fire Department, sirens often scare off the sea gulls, or at least cause then to lose concentration and will.... and who is going to summon help if you yell "Hot Dog," "Ketchup" or "Worchestire?"

Bodyguard Carrying Contest:
16. Don't drop your guard.

The Hofmeister KinkFEB 19

Have you ever noticed that the rear side window on a BMW has a small design element that hooks back toward the front of the car?

Rather than having the rear side window extend all the way down as might be expected, it angles back toward the front of the car.

Yeah, me either, but apparently all BMWs have it. It's called the Hofmeister Kink, so named for the Director of Design at BMW who oversaw the style tweak, Wilhelm Hofmeister. Other carmakers have copied the Kink to make certain models appear luxury. (via spronblog)

Really secureFEB 19

Along the lines of "what's your mother's maiden name?", here are some even more secure user authentication questions.

What time was it when, in a drunken rage, you threw your novel into the fire?

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Colorful German banknotes from the 1920sFEB 19

In Germany in the 1920s, towns, banks, and companies printed their own money called notgeld.

Notgeld was mainly issued in the form of (paper) banknotes. Sometimes other forms were used, as well: coins, leather, silk, linen, stamps, aluminium foil, coal, and porcelain; there are also reports of elemental sulfur being used, as well as all sorts of re-used paper and carton material.

A Flickr user has uploaded hundreds of examples of the notgeld notes collected by his wife's family; they're so colorful! (via design observer)

Wild West not that wildFEB 19

Which is safer, the Wild West or present-day New York City? A look at the murder statistics shows that you were less likely to be killed in the notorious cowboy towns of the 1870s and 80s than in NYC today.

In Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and Caldwell, for the years from 1870 to 1885, there were only 45 total homicides. This equates to a rate of approximately 1 murder per 100,000 residents per year.

By contrast, the 2007 murder rate in NYC was 6 per 100,000 residents and Baltimore's was 45 per 100,000 residents. (via david galbraith)

Clever low-tech hacksFEB 19

Paul Boutin shares a number of low-tech fixes for high-tech problems.

Suppose your remote car door opener does not have the range to reach your car across the parking lot. Hold the metal key part of your key fob against your chin, then push the unlock button. The trick turns your head into an antenna, says Tim Pozar, a Silicon Valley radio engineer.

Mr. Pozar explains, "You are capacitively coupling the fob to your head. With all the fluids in your head it ends up being a nice conductor. Not a great one, but it works." Using your head can extend the key's wireless range by a few car lengths.

Regarding the solution for too much camera flash (tape a piece of paper over the flash), I've also seen people hold a spoon in front of the flash and bounce it off of the ceiling or a nearby wall.

Remembering Gene SiskelFEB 19

Roger Ebert offers a loving remembrance of his friend and colleague Gene Siskel on the 10th anniversary of his death.

We both thought of ourselves as full-service, one-stop film critics. We didn't see why the other one was quite necessary. We had been linked in a Faustian television format that brought us success at the price of autonomy. No sooner had I expressed a verdict on a movie, my verdict, than here came Siskel with the arrogance to say I was wrong, or, for that matter, the condescension to agree with me. It really felt like that. It was not an act. When we disagreed, there was incredulity; when we agreed, there was a kind of relief. In the television biz, they talk about "chemistry." Not a thought was given to our chemistry. We just had it, because from the day the Chicago Tribune made Gene its film critic, we were professional enemies. We never had a single meaningful conversation before we started to work on our TV program. Alone together in an elevator, we would study the numbers changing above the door.

A better panhandleFEB 19

Writer Gay Talese recently helped a few panhandlers out with their signs.

I stopped talking and reached into my pocket for one of the strips of laundry board on which I make notes when I'm interviewing people. On one strip of laundry board I wrote: "Please Support Pres. Obama's Stimulus Plan, and begin right here ... at the bottom ... Thank you.'' I handed it to him, and he said he'd copy the words on his sign and have it on display the following day.

One of his "clients" says that the improved message is resulting in more business. I found photos on Flickr of a couple of panhandlers who have been using other Obama messages (e.g. "I need change like Obama"). (via collision detection)

Abbey Road cliche on repeatFEB 18

Fun timelapse video of a day in the life of the Abbey Road crosswalk depicted on The Beatles album of the same name. (via buzzfeed)

Stacked cansFEB 18

This photo by Bobby Yip of Reuters captures the current zeitgeist pretty well.

Containers

Unused shipping containers were piled up at a storage depot in Hong Kong Wednesday. The government is looking for places to store hundreds of thousands of unused containers expected to flood Hong Kong in the coming months due to China's slow exports.

The world has so much stuff we don't need that we don't know where to put it all. Perhaps people will be living in those stacks of containers before too long. (via wsj)

High-style five-finger discountFEB 18

An interesting profile of Kevahn Thorpe, who started shoplifting high fashion items when he was 16 years old and couldn't manage to stop.

Kevahn, meanwhile, was arrested over and over -- always at department stores, he emphasizes, "never in no label stores," like Prada, where the staff is perhaps more sensitive to the possibility that a young black kid drifting among the merchandise might be an up-and-coming entertainer or a rich private-schooler and not necessarily a thief. And by then, he was dressing for the occasion. As helpful salesclerks retrieved sneakers from the stockroom, he whisked the ones he wanted under a couch and played a kind of shell game with display models and shoeboxes. When he was caught, he pleaded down the petit-larceny charges to disorderly conduct, until a judge finally got fed up and sent him to Rikers Island for the first time, on a ten-day sentence.

Perhaps it's easy to laugh Kevahn off as just being obsessed with fashion, but he's also gotten caught stealing iPods and using stolen credit cards.

Eames' A Communications PrimerFEB 18

From 1953, A Communications Primer by Ray and Charles Eames.

The film covers information theory, language, feedback, etc. The audio from a punchcard machine -- used to "check its pulse" -- is pretty great and starts around 17:00. (via infosthetics)

Democratic ChessFEB 18

The idea behind Democratic Chess is that the pieces, in collaboration with the players, decide where to move. Each piece communicates with the others through built-in cameras, microphones, and speakers.

Democratic Chess is Chess game where each figure is made of an IP-WLan-network camera each capable of looking arround, listening and talking to the other figures as well as the 2 real person players. With this technology there are many different ways how to play the Game, the next move can be decided in a democratic way among the Figures or they are allowed to discuss with the players and each other the next moves, but at the End the 2 player make the moves.

Perhaps Democratic Chess will crush the evil dictatorial tyranny of the chess player once and for all. (via buzzfeed)

Osama bin Laden found?FEB 18

Applying techniques usually used to track endangered animal species, geography professor Thomas Gillespie thinks he has pinpointed the location of the world's most hunted animal, Osama bin Laden.

More specifically, he found a 90 percent chance that bin Laden is in Kurram province in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, most likely in the town of Parachinar which gave shelter to a larger number of Mujahedin during the 1980s. [...] Gillespie even identified three buildings in Parachinar that would make the most likely shelters for Bin Laden and his entourage.

The full report is here in PDF format.

Garrett Lisi's Theory of EverythingFEB 18

You may remember reading the New Yorker article on Garrett Lisi, a surfer, physicist, and snowboarder who came out of nowhere in 2007 to present a plausible Theory of Everything, "a unifying idea that aims to incorporate all the universe's forces in a single mathematical framework". I do but I missed this visualization of Lisi's theory posted by New Scientist in late 2007. You may want to break out the bong for this one. (thx, matt)

The market movement in 2008FEB 18

You may remember the Google Motion Chart from Hans Rosling's TED talk about Gapminder. Now 26 Variable has used the chart to graph the movement of the stocks in the S&P 100 in 2008. The strange thing is that with the default settings, you're left with the impression that those stocks were more up than down over the year...if you ignore all the dots sliding to the left towards zero market cap.

Commencement speech collectionFEB 18

The Humanity Initiative is collecting great commencement speeches from the past century, including those from Barack Obama, The Dalai Lama, Dr. Seuss, and John F. Kennedy. Obviously missing from the list is my favorite address, David Foster Wallace's 2005 address to the graduates of Kenyon College. (via lone gunman)

DatamoshingFEB 17

Two is a trend: Kanye West's video for Welcome to Heartbreak uses the same video compression technique used in Chairlift's Evident Utensil. The videos were done by two different directors at around the same time, which probably means that neither originated it. Does anyone know what the Patient Zero is for this technique? This Radiohead video for Videotape comes close but doesn't use the compression artifacts to cleverly cut between scenes...which is the real artful moment here. (thx, andrew & demetrice)

Update: Here are a few candidates: Takeshi Murata, paperrad, and Mark Brown. (thx, matthew, simon & justin)

Update: Aha, the technique is called datamoshing. (thx, daniel)

Update: There's a bit of datamoshing in this 2005 David O'Reilly clip and even more in a 2005 video made by Kris Moyes (Moyes briefly uses the same technique in this 2008 video for Beck). In 2004, Owi Mahn & Laura Baginski made a video called Pastell Kompressor in which they manipulated the compression keyframes in some timelapse videos. Sven König's two projects, aPpRoPiRaTe! and Download Finished! originate around the same time (2004/2005). The technique itself seems pretty simple...just ignore the compression keyframes during playback. (thx, philip & sven)

Sweet sweet sugared Pepsi ThrowbackFEB 17

This is absolutely HUGE news. Wait, let's do this properly:

PEPSI WITH REAL SUGAR COMING TO USA!!!

If they were selling it in a glass bottle, I would have used 96 pt. type. But no matter...according to BevReview.com, Pepsi is introducing Pepsi Throwback (and Mountain Dew Throwback) in the United States around mid-April and instead of using high-fructose corn syrup, it will be sweetened with real cane sugar.

Pepsi Throwback

This is a big deal since mainstream soft drinks in the United States are sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Typically, the only way to get soda from the "big guys" with real sugar is to import it (i.e., Mexican Coke) or wait till Passover (Kosher Coke, Kosher Pepsi).

I know why Pepsi and Coke don't want to permanently introduce sugared versions of their products -- it would take away from their main products' market share and it would mean admitting that the HFCS versions are inferior -- but I think they would do really well in the marketplace. I don't know how well the boutique sodas that use cane sugar (e.g. Jones, Whole Foods, etc.) are selling, but based on their availability in many more places than just a few years ago, I'd say they're doing pretty well.

Anyway, let the stockpiling begin! (via serious eats)

Update: It is true that outdated sugar import quotas would make the production of sugared Coke and Pepsi more expensive but some drinkers would gladly pay a little extra for a Pepsi or Coke Premium product made with "natural" ingredients. (thx, peter & jason)

Obama: grammatically soundFEB 17

Garth Risk Hallberg of The Millions diagrammed a sentence spoken by Obama last week:

My view is also that nobody's above the law, and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.

The analysis is full of nice little tidbits about how Obama communicates and why people respond to him.

This may be the essential Obama gift: making complexity and caution sound bold and active, even masculine... or rather, it may be one facet of a larger gift: what Zadie Smith calls "having more than one voice in your ear." Notice the canny way that the sentence above turns on the fulcrum of what may be Obama's favorite word: "but." What appears to be a hard line - "My view is... that nobody is above the law" - turns out to have been a qualifier for a vaguer but more inspiring motto: "I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking back." The most controversial part of the sentence - "people should be prosecuted" - gets tucked away, almost parenthetically, in the middle.

Within Obama's speech patterns, Hallberg also detects a way out of the Obama Comedy Crisis. His sample joke:

"The beef, assuming it's in a port wine reduction, sounds, uh, amazing, but on the other hand, given that the chicken is, ah, locally grown, I'd be eager to try it."

Off the WallFEB 17

The items up for sale in the forthcoming Michael Jackson auction indicate that Jackson spent the 80s fashioning Neverland Ranch into a cross between Buckingham Palace and Ricky Stratton's house in Silver Spoons. (via clusterflock)

JPEG jaggies music videoFEB 17

I never got around to watching the video for Chairlift's Evident Utensil last week because the main visual technique -- the use of video compression artifacts -- seemed self-evident and gimmicky, the kind of thing you don't need to see once you've heard the premise. But the video is actually really nice and they use the compression in a non-obvious and clever way.

Managers as servantsFEB 17

Aaron Swartz has some interesting thoughts on non-hierarchical management in the workplace.

A better way to think of a manager is as a servant, like an editor or a personal assistant. Everyone wants to be effective; a manager's job is to do everything they can to make that happen. The ideal manager is someone everyone would want to have.

Instead of the standard "org chart" with a CEO at the top and employees growing down like roots, turn the whole thing upside down. Employees are at the top -- they're the ones who actually get stuff done -- and managers are underneath them, helping them to be more effective. (The CEO, who really does nothing, is of course at the bottom.)

Swartz also quotes a friend who believes that people who act like jerks in the workplace are not worth the trouble.

I have a "no asshole rule" which is really simple: I really don't want to work with assholes. So if you're an asshole and you work on my team, I'm going to fire you.

I have worked with (and near) several assholes in my time and I'm convinced that firing one unpleasant person, even if they perform a vital function, is equivalent to hiring two great employees. The boost in morale alone is worth it.

Update: A recent episode of This American Life called Ruining It for the Rest of Us covered the asshole in the workplace thing.

A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there's research to prove it. Host Ira Glass talks to Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. Felps divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. And within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple.

(thx, scott & david)

Like the Silver SurferFEB 17

Surfing Google Earth using a Wii Fit Balance Board. (via quantified self)

Art and FearFEB 17

Art and Fear

On the long list of books I would read if I had the time for such a thing, reading, is Art & Fear. Ted Orland, one of the authors and a working artist himself, describes the book thusly:

This is a book about the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn't get made, and about the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way.

Kevin Kelly called the book "astoundingly brilliant" and pulled this excellent excerpt from it.

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -- albeit a perfect one -- to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes -- the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Special heads-up to Merlin Mann: the first book in the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought list for Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit that you've been going on and on about is, bum bum bum, Art & Fear. You should maybe 1-click that sucker right into your book-hole. (via modcult)

Bye bye DubaiFEB 16

I didn't watch the clip he links to but I can't imagine anything is more entertaining than David Galbraith's scathing goodbye to Dubai. He opens with:

Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world's worst business idea, and there isn't even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.

What's the biggest problem with Dubai? It doesn't have the cultural bedrock needed to support a destination city.

It looks like Manhattan except that it isn't the place that made Mingus or Van Allen or Kerouac or Wolf or Warhol or Reed or Bernstein or any one of the 1001 other cultural icons from Bob Dylan to Dylan Thomas that form the core spirit of what is needed, in the absence of extreme toleration of vice, to infuse such edifices with purpose and create a self-sustaining culture that will prevent them crumbling into the empty desert that surrounds them.

Black Like MeFEB 16

Black Like Me

In 1959, John Howard Griffin altered his appearance to look like a black man and travelled through the South documenting his experiences, which he collected into a 1961 book called Black Like Me.

"[Whites] judged me by no other quality. My skin was dark. That was sufficient reason for them to deny me those rights and freedoms without which life loses its significance and becomes a matter of little more than animal survival." He became depressed, and his face lapsed into "the strained, disconsolate expression that is written on the countenance of so many Southern Negroes." He "decided to try to pass back into white society" and scrubbed off the stain; immediately "I was once more a first-class citizen." The knowledge gave him little joy.

Contemporary reviewer Jonathan Yardley says that the book has "lost surprisingly little of its power" since its publication. (via 3qd)

Nate Silver predicts the OscarsFEB 16

Nate Silver, who used polling statistics to predict a clear Obama win in the Presidential election in November, turns his analytical tools loose on the Oscars.

For example, is someone more likely to win Best Actress if her film has also been nominated for Best Picture? (Yes!) But the greatest predictor (80 percent of what you need to know) is other awards earned that year, particularly from peers (the Directors Guild Awards, for instance, reliably foretells Best Picture). Genre matters a lot (the Academy has an aversion to comedy); MPAA and release date don't at all. A film's average user rating on IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) is sometimes a predictor of success; box grosses rarely are.

Silver's "Gamble-Tron 2000 Lock of the Oscars" is that Danny Boyle wins Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire with a whopping 99.7% certainty. I suspect that the Oscars will prove more difficult to predict than the election and that Silver will be wrong in at least two categories. I will report back on Oscar night. (via fimoculous)

Fruits and vegetables getting less healthyFEB 16

Three different kinds of evidence all indicate the same thing: the nutrient value of UK and US fruits and vegetables has declined over the last 50-100 years. This is particularly worrying:

Plantings of low- and high-yield cultivars of broccoli and grains found consistently negative correlations between yield and concentrations of minerals and protein, a newly recognized genetic dilution effect.

With fertilizers, clever pesticides, and genetic modification, farmers can grow more crops per acre of land but it's more difficult for people to eat twice as much food to get the same amount of nutrients. (via the meaningfulness of little things)

Is this painting art?FEB 16

The interior walls of the Whitney Museum were painted by the Frank Painting Company in 1966. The company painted the wall again 40 years later, this time as part of artist Jordan Wolfson's unusual contribution to the Whitney Biennial. (via reference library)

BANG. BANG. BANG.FEB 16

Photographer Jesse Chan-Norris caught the aftermath of an attempted murder in Manhattan this morning. From his Flickr page:

At 5:40am I was jolted out of sleep by a noise. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG. I raced outside, I looked down, I saw the black car with its door open. I saw another car next to it. I saw the body in the middle of the street. I stood. I gawked.

New Simpsons introFEB 16

After 429 episodes, The Simpsons finally get a new intro sequence...in HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 no less. (via fimoculous)

Basketball, MoneyballFEB 16

Michael Lewis cast his Moneyball lens on basketball in this week's NY Times Magazine. The Billy Beane of the roundball story, more or less, is Shane Battier, a guard for the Houston Rockets. Battier doesn't seem like a great basketball player, but he does a lot of little things that helps his team win.

Battier's game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse -- often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates' rebounding. He doesn't shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.'s most prolific scorers, he significantly ­reduces their shooting percentages.

Battier sounds like an intriguing fellow but the most interesting part of the article is about how the players' incentives differ in basketball from other major American sports.

There is a tension, peculiar to basketball, between the interests of the team and the interests of the individual. The game continually tempts the people who play it to do things that are not in the interest of the group. On the baseball field, it would be hard for a player to sacrifice his team's interest for his own. Baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team one: by doing what's best for himself, the player nearly always also does what is best for his team. "There is no way to selfishly get across home plate," as Morey puts it. "If instead of there being a lineup, I could muscle my way to the plate and hit every single time and damage the efficiency of the team -- that would be the analogy. Manny Ramirez can't take at-bats away from David Ortiz. We had a point guard in Boston who refused to pass the ball to a certain guy."

No wonder it's so hard to build a basketball team with the right balance of skills and personalities. Take five guys, put them on a court, let them do whatever they think they need to do to get a larger contract next year, and maybe you get some pretty good results. Now, consider a situation where the plus/minus statistic is the basis for player salaries and all of sudden, players need to figure out how they can make the other four guys on the floor better. And while everyone is making adjustments to each others' games, each player is adjusting to everyone else's game, and the process becomes this fragile and intricate nonlinear dance that results in either beautiful chaos or the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.

PS. The brief author bio at the end of the article continues the recent game of "next book" Whack-A-Mole from Lewis. Since the publication of The Blind Side in 2006, Lewis' next book has been listed in various outlets as being about New Orleans/Katrina, financial panics (which turned out to be an anthology edited by Lewis), his sequel to Liar's Poker about the current financial crisis, and now is listed as "Home Game, a memoir about fatherhood". I give up.

Chemistry is funFEB 13

A collection of really interesting chemistry videos. (via spurgeonblog)

On Walt WhitmanFEB 13

An American Experience documentary about Walt Whitman is available for free online. (via snarkmarket)

Previously on DrunkFEB 13

Lost is five episodes into the new season and I've just now discovered the Lost drinking game. Dammit!

Take a sip whenever: Juliet makes her default wide-eyed, perma-smirk face.

Imaginary retrospectivesFEB 13

The disappointing and boring presidency of Al Gore.

Of course, the biggest disappointment was Gore's failure to handle Hurricane Katrina properly. Not only did the massive evacuation of New Orleans prove a costly and time-consuming overreaction, since the levees -- fortified in 2003 -- held up fine. The emergency management agency also took over 24 hours to set up trailers for evacuees along the Gulf Coast, leaving them without government housing assistance for a full day.

And from Niall Ferguson, here's how 2009 went.

There was uproar when Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, requested an additional $300bn to provide further equity injections for Citigroup, Bank of America and the seven other big banks, just a week after imposing an agonising "mega-merger" on the automobile industry. In Detroit, the Big Three had become just a Big One, on the formation of CGF (Chrysler-General Motors-Ford; inevitably, the press soon re-christened it "Can't Get Funding").

Andrew Stanton interviewFEB 13

Video interview with Pixar's Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E. Among other things, he talks about two things that enabled the success of Pixar: the creative egalitarian dictatorship of John Lasseter and the ability of Steve Jobs to protect everyone from any outside business pressures and just create.

And now, William ShatnerFEB 13

Watch as he sings Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Mr. Tambourine Man, and Rocketman.

Rules For A GunfightFEB 13

1. Forget about knives, bats and fists. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring four times the ammunition you think you could ever need.

10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

21. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet if necessary, because they may want to kill you.

27. Regardless of whether justified of not, you will feel sad about killing another human being. It is better to be sad than to be room temperature.

See all 28 rules here.

These aren't the pants you're looking forFEB 13

The best lines from Star Wars that are improved by replacing a word with "pants".

I find your lack of pants disturbing.
Chewie and me got into a lot of pants more heavily guarded than this.
I cannot teach him. The boy has no pants.
In his pants you will find a new definition of pain and suffering.
Han'll have those pants down - we've gotta give him more time!
I have altered the pants, pray that I don't alter them further.

Old school breakdancingFEB 12

Soviet Army dance ensemble + Run DMC = the invention of breakdancing in the mid-1900s.

Here's the same thing mixed with Fatboy Slim's Weapon of Choice. Reminds me of the previously featured but still awesome video of Al Minns and Leon James doing the Charleston to Daft Punk. Here are two more videos that track the origins and breakdancing and hip-hop dancing in a slightly more formal manner: one, two.

Free bikes freedFEB 12

The wonderful free bikes program started 18 months ago in Paris has run into some trouble.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll. The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

Reports have some of the stolen bikes showing up as far away as Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Update: But even with the thefts, the program is still making money for Paris & JCDecaux and enjoys a 94% satisfaction rate among Parisians.

Last July, the city of Paris agreed to pay JCDecaux 400 euros for every bike stolen in excess of four percent of the total fleet each year. Given the enormous popularity of Velib -- users have taken 42 million rides since its debut -- the cost of those payments is minimal. Using the BBC's figure of 7,800 missing bikes, the pricetag for the city comes to less than 2 million euros annually, out of 20 million euros in user fees.

(thx, adam)

Update: Late correction...the Paris program is, of course, not free. (thx, afsheen)

Mindfuck moviesFEB 12

Matthew Baldwin lists sixteen of his favorite mindfuck films, including La Jetée, Dark City, and Memento.

As I stood in line to buy my tickets, I noticed a small hand-lettered sign in the box-office window that read, "People arriving five or more minutes late to Memento will not be allowed entrance." This was at a small art-house cinema -- not one to place arbitrary restrictions on its patrons -- and it struck me as odd that the limitation applied solely to this one film, so I asked the cashier about it when I reached the front of the line.

"You can't understand anything about the film if you miss the first five minutes," she told me with a roll of her eyes. "We've had late-comers charge out here after the end and demand that we explain the whole thing to them."

Baldwin gives Primer some much-deserved love, which is always appreciated around here.

Lo HeadsFEB 12

Rapper/producer 88-Keys is a Lo Head, an obsessive collector and wearer of Ralph Lauren Polo clothing and accessories. He's been wearing nothing but Polo every single day since 1993. This interview with rapper and Lo Head Rack-Lo functions as a sort of Lo Head manifesto.

A lot of street dudes have paved the way and paid a hefty price for all of you to even be able to rock Lo and all those other name brands as well. Other names like North Face, Benetton, Gucci, Spyder, Gortex, Louis Vutton and the list goes on - Lo-Life's did it all first. So let me school ya'll for a second. This Lo movement officially started in 1988. And even before 1988, the movement was in development. Have ya'll ever heard of Ralphies Kids or USA (United Shoplifters Association), that's the foundation right there. Those are basically the two crews that Rack-Lo united as Lo-Life's to form voltron on the Hip Hop world. And a lot of you dudes probably weren't even born then. So what the fuck are you really saying? So I'm just making it clear that if your going to rep that Lo shit and be apart of a fashion institution there's a certain way to do it. Word, it rules and laws to this shit. This aint no fly by night shit where u wake up one morning and decide to rock Lo like Kayne West did. That shit there is a fairy tale a lot of heads are living.

Kanye defended his status as a Lo Head in the song Barry Bonds from his Graduation album.

Japanese bladesmithsFEB 12

Photo essay of how Japanese knives get made by hand.

Japanese kitchen knives cost more than a camera, they can't be washed in a machine, are subject to rusting and boy, they are so sharp that if you slip you'll lose a finger or two before you can say banzai. There is no doubt that these are the best knives in the world. Nothing comes close to them in terms of sharpness. With one of these knives, you could slice fish so thin you could read a whole chapter of La Physiologie du Gout through the slices. Earlier this month, I had the chance to see how knives are made in Japan like they have been for the last 200 years.

(via serious eats)

Aztec grave foundFEB 12

A mass grave found during the excavation of a pyramid in Mexico City may contain the remains of the last Aztec warriors who fought Cortes and the Spanish.

Guilliem said many burials have been found at the site with the remains of Indians who died during epidemics that swept the Aztec capital in the years after the conquest and killed off much of the Indian population.

But those burials were mostly hurried, haphazard affairs in which remains were jumbled together in pits regardless of age or gender.

The burial reported Tuesday is different. The dead had many of the characteristics of warriors: All were young men, most were tall and several showed broken bones that had mended.

The men also were carefully buried Christian-style, lying on their backs with arms crossed over their chests, though many appear to have been wrapped up in large maguey cactus leaves, rather than placed in European coffins.

The mass grave contained evidence of an Aztec-like ritual in which offerings such as incense and animals were set alight in an incense burner, but Spanish elements including buttons and a bit of glass also were present.

(via history blog)

The Ascent of MoneyFEB 12

The Ascent of Money is a two-hour documentary about the evolution of money and finance. The whole thing is available for viewing on PBS's web site for free.

"Everyone needs to understand the complex history of money and our relationship to it," he says. "By learning how societies have continually created and survived financial crises, we can find solid solutions to today's worldwide economic emergency." As he traverses historic financial hot spots around the world, Ferguson illuminates fundamental economic concepts and speaks with leading experts in the financial world.

The series is based on Niall Ferguson's book of the same name (an Amazon and NY Times bestseller) and will air in an expanded 4-hour version later this year. (via lined & unlined)

Amish technologyFEB 12

Kevin Kelly has written a great post called Amish Hackers, which addresses the myth that the Amish don't use technology. As Kelly illustrates, the Amish use electricity, cell phones, cars and even the internet but their adoption of technology is not quick, they rent rather than buy (e.g. taking taxis rather than owning cars), and their default stance with any new gadget is to test first to see if it fits with their views.

One Amish-man told me that the problem with phones, pagers, and PDAs (yes he knew about them) was that "you got messages rather than conversations." That's about as an accurate summation of our times as any. Henry, his long white beard contrasting with his young bright eyes told me, "If I had a TV, I'd watch it." What could be simpler?

(via waxy)

1234567890 DayFEB 11

This Friday, in addition to being Friday, is also 1234567890 Day. At 6:31 pm EST on that day, the Unix time will be 1234567890.

Unix time [is] defined as the number of seconds elapsed since midnight Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of January 1, 1970, not counting leap seconds. It is widely used not only on Unix-like operating systems but also in many other computing systems.

(via scribbling)

Trailer for Inglourious BasterdsFEB 11

Tarantino's latest film is about Nazi-killing American soldiers and stars Brad Pitt. I can't decide if this movie is going to completely suck or be really great. Vampire movies notwithstanding, Quentin always gets the benefit of the doubt from me so great it is.

Super cows!FEB 11

Myostatin is a protein that, along with its associated gene, limits the growth of muscle tissue in some mammals. The Belgian Blue cattle breed has a natural mutation of the gene associated with myostatin that supresses the protein, resulting in lean and heavily muscled cattle.

Belgian Blue

A myostatin inhibiting drug called Stamulumab is currently undergoing testing for treating those with muscular dystrophy. If approved, use and abuse by human athletes will surely follow. (via siege)

Update: Stamulumab is no longer undergoing testing. But a pharmaceutical company called Acceleron is developing a similar drug called ACE-031. (thx, stephen)

Interaction design readingFEB 11

The School of Visual Arts has published a list of recommended reading for their MFA in Interaction Design program.

VQR frees their archives onlineFEB 11

The Virginia Quarterly Review has made available their entire archive of articles, poems, essays, and book reviews from 1975 to 2003...all online and free to read for all. These two articles called out in the announcement caught my eye:

A mind-blowingly prescient prediction of Wikipedia, e-book readers, and political blogs from sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz back in 1983. This article will have to get a blog entry dedicated to it at some point.

David Wyatt looks forward to the Star Wars franchise from back in 1982, when A New Hope (Episode IV) and The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) were the only two movies, and he seems awfully excited.

An archive to add to the list.

Working on how to be a human beingFEB 11

Howling Fantods has published an old interview of David Foster Wallace from 1993. The interview was conducted by Hugh Kennedy and Geoffrey Polk and ran in The Whiskey Island Magazine. A generous excerpt appears below:

Wallace: [...] The writers I know, there's a certain self-consciousness about them, and a critical awareness of themselves and other people that helps their work. But that sort of sensibility makes it very hard to be with people, and not sort of be hovering near the ceiling, watching what's going on. One of the things you two will discover, in the years after you get out of school, is that managing to really be an alive human being, and also do good work and be as obsessive as you have to be, is really tricky. It's not an accident when you see writers either become obsessed with the whole pop stardom thing or get into drugs or alcohol, or have terrible marriages. Or they simply disappear from the whole scene in their thirties or forties. It's very tricky.

Geoffrey Polk: I think you have to sacrifice a lot.

Wallace: I don't know if it's that voluntary or a conscious decision. In most of the writers I know, there's a self-centeredness, not in terms of preening in front of the mirror, but a tendency not only toward introspection but toward a terrible self-consciousness. Writing, you're having to worry about your effect on an audience all the time. Are you being too subtle or not subtle enough? You're always trying to communicate in a unique way, and so it makes it very hard, at least for me, to communicate in a way that I see ordinary, apple-cheeked Clevelanders communicating with each other on street corners.

My answer for myself would be no; it's not a sacrifice; it's simply the way that I am, and I don't think I'd be happy doing anything else. I think people who congenitally drawn to this sort of profession are savants in certain ways and sort of retarded in certain other ways. Go to a writers' conference sometime and you'll see. People go to meet people who on paper are just gorgeous, and they're absolute geeks in person. They have no idea what to say or do. Everything they say is edited and undercut by some sort of editor in themselves. That's been true of my experience. I've spent a lot more of my energy teaching the last two years, really sort of working on how to be a human being.

Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk shares a kinship with what Wallace is getting at here.

Daft Punk's greatest hitsFEB 11

Amazon's mp3 deal of the day: Daft Punk's greatest hits album for $1.99, today only.

Swimming the AtlanticFEB 11

I had no idea people were swimming across the entire Atlantic Ocean now. The first woman, a 56-year-old from Colorado named Jennifer Figge, just completed the trip from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to Trinidad. But she made the trip in only 29 days, which has raised some questions as to how far she swam vs. floated via boat.

Pervert trains (chikan densha)FEB 10

At the Shibuya Pink Girl's Club in Tokyo, men pay upwards of $130 to grope the girl of their choice on a simulated subway train.

The connoisseur picks out from the menu the girl of his choice, dressed either as a schoolgirl or office receptionist. This girl then beckons him through the window of a mock-up train carriage, which not only broadcasts station announcements, but even shakes and rattles.

Real-life incidents of subway train groping are on the decline, in part because more women are reporting them and the subway offering women-only cars during peak times.

Totem Destroyer 2FEB 10

Yet another addictive puzzle + physics Flash game: Totem Destroyer 2.

One flashlight per organizationFEB 10

Andrew Anker warns against companies having more than one "flashlight".

This is a term I learned from a banker I worked for 20 years ago, people who shine brightly in one direction, but don't let off too much light otherwise. Flashlights are kind of useless as board members, despite big reputations and good resumes -- they're just not lateral thinkers and don't really want to dig in. Every company is allowed one flashlight, but it better be the CEO. It's hard to know where to go when the light is shining in two (or more) different directions.

(thx, djacobs)

Seeking RSS sponsorsFEB 10

Week-long exclusive sponsorships of kottke.org's RSS feed are available through the end of March.

In sponsoring the feed, you get the chance to promote your company or product in a short post that will appear in the feed. A sponsor "thank you" note will also be posted to the front page of the site. Your message will reach an estimated 110,000+ RSS subscribers.

If you're interested, check out the sponsorship page for details and get in touch. Thanks!

Nadal: best of all time?FEB 10

It's gotta be weird for Roger Federer. Last year at this time, people were saying that he was the best tennis player of all time. Now, near the top of his game and height of his powers, he might not even be the best current tennis player. And if you look at the statistics, Rafael Nadal may turn out to be the best tennis player ever.

Federer won his first Grand Slam title at age 21 and, by his 23rd birthday, had won two more. Sampras had won four by that age. Nadal is well ahead of that pace, having won his first Grand Slam at the precocious age of 18. The Australian was Nadal's sixth and he will be a prohibitive favorite to capture his fifth consecutive French Open just a few days after he turns 23 in June.

MetacoversFEB 10

The Book Design Review has collected a number of book covers that feature books on them. An addition to the list: Penguin's paperback cover of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin.

Ten lessons from the Bush yearsFEB 10

Bob Woodward offers ten lessons that the Obama administration can learn from the eight long years that George W. Bush held office. The advice basically boils down to "keep your head out of the sand and your ass".

[Bush] made probably the most important decision of his presidency -- whether to invade Iraq -- without directly asking either Powell, Rumsfeld or Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet for their bottom-line recommendations. (Instead of consulting his own father, former president George H.W. Bush, who had gone to war in 1991 to kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, the younger Bush told me that he had appealed to a "higher father" for strength.)

(via lined & unlined)

Portrait of a fatherFEB 10

Exactly how long the prostitute, unbeknownst to my father, stayed at our house and slept in my bed is hard to gauge.

That's Maud Newton remembering her father. (via clusterflock)

The Trough of No ValueFEB 10

The Trough of No Value is the period in the lifetime of most objects between when they are new (and therefore valuable) and when they are old, rare, and collectable (and therefore valuable).

Who wanted to keep old lunchboxes around? They weren't useful any more. They weren't worth anything. And, since they were almost all used for their intended purpose, many were damaged or worn by use (I vaguely remember owning one that was rusty and had a dent). People naturally threw them away. The "trough of no value" for lunchboxes was long and harsh. That's why they're not so common today as you might guess -- because not that many made it through the trough.

My unsharpened NeXT pencil is still very much stuck in the trough, but I have endless patience. I hope to sell it for 75 cents someday. (thx, danny)

Eminem is having a RelapseFEB 09

Just what has Eminem been doing for the past three years? According to this profile of the now-reclusive artist: recording.

As a result - and this is critical when considering the potential impact of Relapse -- Eminem's so-called "missing years" have actually been surprisingly productive. "He's never stopped recording. Ever," adds Simaan. "I hear they've got over 300 songs in the can from what he's produced in the last three years. I've seen him write. He's a fast worker. He'll write one line, then three lines, then four lines, in all separate parts of the page. Then he'll come back to it, and say this is a sweet line, or that's working for him, and just pull everything together almost instantly. The guy's a total genius."

His new album, Relapse, is due out sometime in the next month or two.

Protection from successFEB 09

Elizabeh Gilbert talks about how to keep being creative in the face of success. In particular, she mentions erecting a "protective pyschological construct to protect you from the results of your work".

And just so you don't end up wondering about it for half the talk like I did, Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer. (via john hodgman)

Kindle 2 from AmazonFEB 09

Amazon announces the second version of the Kindle, their e-ink reading device. The price is $359.

Order Kindle now to RESERVE YOUR PLACE IN LINE. We prioritize orders on a first come, first served basis. If you have previously placed an order for Kindle 1, and have not yet received it, your order will automatically be upgraded to Kindle 2. You need to do nothing.

Also, those who own the original version of the Kindle will be given priority for ordering. The device itself is slimmer, has text-to-speech, better e-ink display, more storage (~1500 books), and doesn't look like a Pontiac Aztek anymore. From the NY Times coverage of the announcement:

Mr. Bezos concludes with some high-level thinking: "Our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language , all available in less than 60 seconds.

Which makes Bezos' aim pretty clear: Amazon : Apple :: Kindle/amazon.com : iPod/iTunes Store :: Bezos : Jobs.

Computer aided designFEB 09

In the NY Times, Michael Bierut talks about the differences in graphic design when he started work in the early 80s and now. In a word: computers.

Still, I wonder if we haven't lost something in the process: the deliberation that comes with a slower pace, the attention to detail required when mistakes can't be undone with the click of a mouse. Younger designers hearing me talk this way react as if I'm getting sentimental about the days when we all used to churn our own butter.

The business blogging bustFEB 09

Dan Lyons, who wrote and tried to monetize the now-defunct Fake Steve Jobs blog, on the business of blogging:

Blogs can do many wonderful things [but] generating huge amounts of money isn't one of them.

As businesses go, blogging is a lot like shining shoes. There are going to be very few folks who own chains of shoe shining places which make a lot of money and a bunch of other people who can (maybe) make a living at it if they bust their ass 24/7/365. But for many, shining shoes is something that will be done at home for themselves because it feels good to walk around with a shiny pair of shoes. Everyone else will switch to sandals (i.e. Twitter) or sneakers (i.e. Facebook) and not worry about shining at all. (via fimoculous)

Italy to the rescueFEB 09

The entire collection of Kim's Video in the East Village, all 55,000+ hard-to-find films, is now headed to a formerly abandoned town in Italy that is now run entirely by artists.

In a notice pasted on a wall inside the front door [of his video store], he wrote, "We hope to find a sponsor who can make this collection available to those who have loved Kim's over the past two decades." He promised to donate all the films without charge to anyone who would meet three conditions: Keep the collection intact, continue to update it and make it accessible to Kim's members and others.

(thx, cliff)

Punk Abe LincolnFEB 09

Another photo of Lincoln taken a couple months before he died, featuring a surprisingly contemporary hairstyle.

Punk Abe Lincoln

Abe looks downright rebellious in that photo. (via flickr blog)

Memorial service for Joe AdesFEB 09

Gothamist reports that a small memorial service was held for beloved NYC veggie peeler salesman Joe Ades on Saturday afternoon in Union Square.

As an answer to questions of how Joe's legacy of unique salesmanship would be carried on, Ruth answered "My father always told me that my inheritance would be forty cartons of peelers, and it was. He left them all to me. I'm going to go home and practice on some potatoes, and then come out to his old spot on 17th and Union Square West and show all of you."

His children also said that two days before he died, Joe received his US Citizenship.

Live updatingFEB 09

I added a new feature to kottke.org over the weekend: live updating on the home page. If you leave kottke.org open in your browser (with JavaScript on) and I post a new link, the page will display a message urging you to refresh to view some new posts. The page title changes too, so if you have it up in a tab, you can tell at a glance if something's new. Right now the page checks for new posts every ten minutes, but that could change depending on server load, etc. Thanks to Twitter Search and Tumblr for the inspiration.

The Complete New Yorker DVDs on saleFEB 06

The Complete New Yorker DVD set is on sale at the NYer's site for $20 or for as low as $15 (used) or $21 (new) on Amazon. Of course, the whole thing is available for free online, but if you need the discs, now's the time. (via the millions)

How Pixar hiresFEB 06

In a 10-minute video, Randy Nelson, the Dean of Pixar University, talks about how Pixar hires. One thing they look for is people who are interested rather than interesting.

Art history onlineFEB 06

smarthistory is a fantastic substitute for that art history class you never took in college.

smARThistory.org is a free multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement (or even substitute) for the traditional and static art history textbook.

This looks like a great resource.

Make your own cheese at homeFEB 06

Making cheese: how to turn five gallons of milk into six pounds of cheese.

This recipe for a basic hard cheese works for any kind of milk. I primarily use my own fresh goats' milk, but have made it quite successfully with cow's milk purchased from the grocery as well as raw cow's milk from a local farmer.

(thx, grant)

Update: No rennet? Just use lemon juice. (thx, nathan)

SluggingFEB 06

Slugging is a self-organized carpooling system in the Washington D.C. area that developed in the early 70s.

The system of slugging is quite simple. A car needing additional passengers to meet the required 3-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum pulls up to one of the known slug lines. The driver usually positions the car so that the slugs are on the passenger side. The driver either displays a sign with the destination or simply lowers the passenger window, to call out the destination, such as "Pentagon," "L'Enfant Plaza," or "14th & New York." The slugs first in line for that particular destination then hop into the car, normally confirming the destination, and off they go.

No money changes hands and an implicit rule of silence is followed, unless conversation is initiated by the driver. (thx, askedrelic)

Update: This practice is also called casual carpooling in the Bay Area. (thx, adam)

Update: Michael Sippey shares a serendipitous casual carpool story.

The NFL on TVFEB 06

Football season is over but if you still want your fix, Mark Bowden wrote an interesting piece for The Atlantic about how NFL games are presented on TV. The camera operators and directors seem as talented and under pressure as the players on the field.

The television crews don't just broadcast games, they inhabit them. They know the players, the teams, the stats, and the strategies. They interview players and coaches the day before the game. They brainstorm, anticipate, plot likely story lines, prepare graphic packages of important stats, and bundle replays from previous contests to bring a sense of history and context to the event. They are not just pointing cameras and broadcasting the feed, they are telling the story of the game as it happens.

Just this morning I was thinking about how successful the instant replay rule has been for NFL broadcasts. TV instant replay predated its use by the referees, but now the review process has some weight behind it and provides extra drama, particularly in exciting moments of the game. The Santonio Holmes touchdown catch in the final moments of the Super Bowl is the perfect example. From the perspective of "telling the story of the game", the catch was amazing. But what the review process does is delay the release of tension for a minute or two...it's a mini-cliffhanger inserted into a sport that doesn't have any natural cliffhanging moments. Showing the replays over and over while the ref makes his decision also brings the viewer into the story itself, as though he is playing the part of the reviewing referee. (thx, john)

The sucky new Tropicana orange juice cartonsFEB 06

Steven Heller asks why Tropicana redesigned the packaging for their orange juice.

What could Arnell, the agency that did the deed, have been thinking? It's one thing to change the logo; it's another to abandon the mnemonic orange with the straw in it. As package imagery goes, it was pretty smart, and decidedly memorable.

He goes on to call the redesign "a big tactical mistake". I'm a Tropicana drinker and I think the new packaging sucks. It's impossible to figure out at a glance which juice is which because all the packages look the same, aside from some thin lines at the very top. Horrible.

A Student of the GameFEB 06

In lieu of a book review, a writer shares her feelings about Infinite Jest.

Reading IJ is like forging a spiritual connection with a man who expresses my feelings better than I do. As someone who writes, I've often felt that language is so poor an instrument for communication or expression. I find it unyieldingly difficult to write an honest sentence. DFW exhibits otherwise. George Saunders, in his remarks at David Foster Wallace's memorial service, called Wallace "a wake-up artist." Yes. DFW's words, beyond creating solid smart sentences and solid smart stories, reach this part of you that you thought no one could reach, saying everything you've been wanting to say and hear, everything you've been thinking on your own but haven't been able to share with anyone else.

(thx, julie)

Another class on The WireFEB 06

Regarding Berkeley's class on McNulty & Co., Jason Mittell is teaching a class on The Wire at Middlebury College this spring. More information is available on the class blog, including the course schedule. This class *will* include the underrated season two.

Earliest Abe Lincoln photo?FEB 05

The Kaplan Daguerreotype of Abraham Lincoln is purported to be the earliest known photo of the 16th President, taken in the early 1840s when he was in his early 30s. The young man in the photo doesn't bare an obvious resemblance to a photo taken of Lincoln a few years later but the forensic evidence is compelling.

Numerous accounts have revealed that Lincoln underwent a noticeable change in his physical appearance beginning in January 1841 as a result of a grave emotional crisis. This coincides with his reported failure to go through with his scheduled marriage to Mary Todd, leaving her literally waiting for him at the altar. (They were married the following year.) This emotional crisis, just one of a series of such episodes to plague him throughout his life, was the cause of Lincoln losing a considerable amount of weight.

1930s Hollywood star powerFEB 05

A visualization of the top 10 Hollywood stars from 1936 to 1945.

For three years, from '36 to '38, Shirley Temple was the country's top box-office star, and then Mickey Rooney had the title from '39 to '41. (And then it was Abbott & Costello.) Imagine. Temple and Rooney knew how to entertain, for sure, but the last thing you could call moviegoers back then, to judge by their six-year reign, was urbane or sophisticated.

Updike's urban bushwhackFEB 05

In Rockefeller Center Ho!, published in the Talk of the Town section of the Feb 11, 1956 issue of the New Yorker, John Updike described the discovery of a path from the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center that didn't make use of 5th or 6th Avenues. Instead he cut through building lobbies, parking lots, and underground passages on his way through the thicket of Midtown's tall buildings.

Recently a pair of New Yorker staffers set out to discover if Updike's journey could still be made and brought back photographic evidence.

A stingy parking attendant refused to let us pass through his gate to Fortieth Street. Faced with no other option, we offered to pay the half-hour fee to park a car; his bemused manager finally let us through without charge.

Many who work in Midtown use shortcuts like these on especially cold days (like today) to minimize the time spent outside while walking from the train or bus. I only worked up there for a couple of years, but I still learned a cut-through trick or two.

A credit card hacker speaksFEB 05

Keith Mularski spent three years in the darkest corners of the internet and eventually worked his way up to the level of administrator on a online credit card fraud site.

Mularski wasn't sure how things would play out, but in September 2006 he saw his chance. He started talking with Iceman about joining CardersMarket as a moderator, but soon realized that he the had a better shot with another administrator at DarkMarket, Renu Subramaniam, aka JiLsi. "I basically told him, 'Hey, I can secure your servers for you,'" Mularski said. JiLsi made him a moderator, but held off granting him administrative access.

Then one Saturday night a month later, DarkMarket started getting hammered with another DDoS attack. "I was talking with JiLsi and I said, 'Hey I can secure the site? The servers are all set.'"

JiLsi's reply: "Let's move it."

Mularski was now a made man.

Best robotsFEB 05

The best robots of 2008, including soccer players, humanoid bots, and a self-healing robotic chair.

NYC's maple syrup smell mystery solvedFEB 05

Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference today to address the mysterious maple syrup smell sporadically experienced by New Yorkers since 2005. The cause? Fenugreek seeds.

The source of the odor was a plant in North Bergen, N.J., which processes seeds of the herb fenugreek to produce fragrances.

Update: Gothamist has more details.

New stuff from RoyksoppFEB 05

New album called Junior from Royksopp due in late March.

We have a certain schizophrenia -- we want to make both energetic and really quiet music.

That's exactly what I like about them. The group also mentions that they'll release an album called Senior near the end of 2009.

Running out of whysFEB 05

A dialogue with Sarah, aged 3: in which it is shown that if your dad is a chemistry professor, asking "why" can be dangerous.

SARAH: Why?

DAD: Why do the molecules have a hydrophilic head and a hydrophobic tail?

SARAH: Yes.

DAD: Because the C-O bonds in the head are highly polar, and the C-H bonds in the tail are effectively non-polar.

A class on The WireFEB 05

UC Berkeley is offering a class called What's so great about The Wire?

Discerning critics and avid fans have agreed that the five-season run of Ed Burns and David Simon's The Wire was "the best TV show ever broadcast in America"--not the most popular but the best. The 60 hours that comprise this episodic series have been aptly been compared to Dickens, Balzac, Dreiser and Greek Tragedy. These comparisons attempt to get at the richly textured complexity of the work, its depth, its bleak tapestry of an American city and its diverse social stratifications. Yet none of these comparisons quite nails what it is that made this the most compelling "show" on TV and better than many of the best movies. This class will explore these comparisons, analyze episodes from the first, third, fourth and fifth seasons and try to discover what was and is so great about The Wire. We will screen as much of the series as we can during our mandatory screening sessions and approach it through the following lenses: the other writing of David Simon, including his journalism, an exemplary Greek Tragedy, Dickens' Bleak House and/or parts of Balzac's Human Comedy. We will also consider the formal tradition of episodic television.

They're skipping season two? Shameful. (via unlikely words)

Coke not Classic anymoreFEB 04

I missed this a few days ago: Coca-Cola will finally be removing the "Classic" from their packaging, 24 years after their New Coke fiasco. What took so long?

Kanye West and his entourageFEB 04

Kanye Entourage

Now I can't get the theme song to H.R. Pufnstuf out of my head. (via jak & jil)

The 20 worst foods of 2009FEB 04

Men's Health has a listing of the 20 worst foods of 2009, all of which fit the description of "calorie bombs". For instance, the worst "healthy" sandwich is the Blimpie Veggie Supreme, which contains 1100 calories, and 33 grams of saturated fat. And Jesus, the worst food is a shake from Baskin Robbins that has 2600 calories.

We didn't think anything could be worse than Baskin Robbins' 2008 bombshell, the Heath Bar Shake. After all, it had more sugar (266 grams) than 20 bowls of Froot Loops, more calories (2,310) than 11 actual Heath Bars, and more ingredients (73) than you'll find in most chemist labs. Rather than coming to their senses and removing it from the menu, they did themselves one worse and introduced this caloric catastrophe. It's soiled with more than a day's worth of calories and three days worth of saturated fat, and, worst of all, usually takes less than 10 minutes to sip through a straw.

The Beatles' last concertFEB 04

Video of The Beatles' last public performance in three parts: one, two, three. They performed on top of the group's own building with an audience situated on rooftops and down on the street. (via the year in pictures)

Paul doesn't go backFEB 04

Esquire profiles Paul Thomas Anderson, focusing on the director's early years and how he came to make Cigarettes and Coffee, Hard Eight, and eventually Boogie Nights, which was based on a film he made as a high schooler called The Dirk Diggler Story.

Although Anderson is one of the most autobiographical filmmakers of his generation, drawing heavily on his childhood in the San Fernando Valley, most stories about him offer some variation on "very little is known about his early years" or "little is known about Paul's childhood." He has stopped talking to most of his friends from those years, and none of them can say whether he just moved on naturally or broke with his past for some secret reason.

"When he did Magnolia," Stevens says, "I sent word through someone who worked with him to tell Paul it would be great if he could come back for a visit. I'd love to see him. And the answer came: 'Paul doesn't go back.'"

You can watch The Dirk Diggler Story on Google Video.

A pair of links about Ira GlassFEB 04

The first is a three-part manifesto from 2004 about how he got his start in radio, how to effectively tell stories, and how to realize when your story isn't working.

Force yourself to do a lot of stories. This is the most important thing you can do. Get yourself in a situation where people are expecting work out of you, or where you simply force yourself to do a certain number of stories every month. Turn the stuff out. Deadlines are your friend.

The Gel Conference just posted a video of Glass speaking at the 2007 conference in which he "describes the elements of a good story".

Movie marketingFEB 04

This New Yorker article about how movies are marketed is a real bummer. Interesting, yes, but still a bummer.

One of the oldest jokes in the business is that when a studio head takes over he's given three envelopes, the first of which contains the advice "Fire the head of marketing." Nowadays, though, former marketers, such as Oren Aviv, at Disney, and Marc Shmuger, at Universal, often run the studios. "Studios now are pimples on the ass of giant conglomerates," one studio's president of production says. "So at green-light meetings it's a bunch of marketing and sales guys giving you educated guesses about what a property might gross. No one is saying, 'This director was born to make this movie.'"

I've seen similar articles in the past and the thing that always strikes me about the people who make movies is a) how much they love movies and b) how little they care about actually making good movies that people will love. So cynical.

Stephen Fry stuck in elevator, TwitteringFEB 04

Stephen Fry decided to start his own reality chat show yesterday after becoming stuck in an elevator. Here's the show's opening monologue, a photo of the cast, and thoughts from the audience. The ratings look pretty good so far.

Restaurants eager to please in recessionFEB 03

NY Times food critic Frank Bruni notes that in this down economy, it's easier to get reservations and deals at even the hottest restaurants as they struggle to remain profitable. And the service is less haughty.

"The attitude that a number of places used to have, they don't have that anymore," Ms. Rappoport said, her tone of voice communicating equal measures bewilderment and relief. "That attitude of 'we're doing you a favor,' that frosty condescending attitude -- I don't find that anymore. And I've experienced that change over and over again." Servers, she said, make double- and triple-sure that her table has everything it needs. Managers circle back to the table more often than ever to ask, with new urgency, if everything's O.K.

For opportunistic diners, there are at least three big advantages to this trend.

1. Great food at relatively reasonable prices.

2. Dining opportunities at great but previously unavailable restaurants at good times.

3. The chance to become a highly valued regular at your favorite restaurant. If they're doing things right and you support them when times are tough (visit often, tip well, etc.), they'll gratefully reward you in better times with reservations at prime times, VIP treatment, and dishes "courtesy of the chef".

Also, don't drive angry!FEB 03

kottke.org contributer Cliff Kuang asks: what can we learn from the classic Bill Murray flick Groundhog Day? A: Lessons physic, lessons Buddhist, and lessons economic.

The first time Phil Conners lives out Groundhog Day, he knows nothing about how events will unfold, and acts accordingly -- self centered, short sighted and rash. But by the time Conners lives out his last Groundhog Day, he has perfect knowledge of how everyone around him will behave. He acts accordingly -- maximizing his happiness and the happiness of those around him. The metaphor gets pretty loose, but in this interpretation, Phil's last day is analogous to classical economics, where people act with perfect knowledge and rationality.

Mystery chairsFEB 03

Hey Modern/contemporary furniture fans, that pair of beige chairs on the left side of the photo, anyone know what they are? Hit me on my burner or reply on Twitter.

Mystery Chairs

My copy of 1000 Chairs is currently elsewhere. Photo found on The Selby.

Update: And the answer is: they're made by Hans Wegner. (thx, mark)

Update: Mark emails again...those aren't the exact chairs but they are close. I definitely like the chairs in the photo above over Wegner's. Anyone?

The business of dumpster divingFEB 03

Cory Doctorow profiles dumpster diver Darren Atkinson for Forbes magazine. Atkinson is as diligent, methodical, and dedicated as any successful businessman.

This is Canada, right? So there's plenty of nights when it's snowing so hard that you can barely see, nights that you might want to stay home instead of going out to work," he says. "But those are exactly the kind of nights where someone might just set something out beside the loading dock, instead of putting it into the compactor. Those are the nights where you make the big score. I've tried to apprentice people, but they never want to do it like I do, methodically, avoiding left turns and red lights, logging what you found in each dumpster and not wasting time on the ones that are never any good, going out when the weather stinks.

Things that go up in a down economyFEB 03

Marginal Revolution has been posting an ongoing series of posts on countercyclical assets: things are doing well even though the economy as a whole is struggling. The latest example is that shoe repair shops are doing a booming business. One Florida cobbler's repair volume is up 50%.

Some other examples are increasing activity on Second Life, cocoa futures, unusual pets, gold coins and wine, evangelical churches, tasers, high end prostitutes, beer, and household safes. Sounds like a hell of a party.

My own countercyclical hunch is that Internet use will rise dramatically over the year because a) it has become something that people need (even more than TV...you'll see people scaling back on cable before they send back their cable modem) and b) spending more time using it doesn't cost extra. Plus, unemployment = lots of time to spend online screwing around "updating your resume".

RIP, Joe AdesFEB 03

Joe Ades, the gentleman vegetable peeler salesman familiar to all who roamed the streets of Manhattan, died on Sunday. He was 75.

Ms. Laurent said she sometimes went to look for him at the end of the day, but he would have packed up and left after selling out. She could tell where he had been. "He cleaned up really well," she said, "but still there were these little shreds of carrots that said, 'I was here.'"

Ades was such a fixture on the streets of New York that it never occurred to me that one day he might not be there. :( David Galbraith posted a tribute and correction to the Times piece.

None of this myth busting denigrates the fact that Ades was a charming and charismatic New York character. But if, in future, Ades is remembered as an aristocratic, fancy suited, upper-class English dandy that hawked vegetable peelers as an ironic hobby, that would be wrong and actually less interesting.

(thx, david)

I Lego N.Y.FEB 03

Christoph Niemann makes New York things out of Legos. Fresh pepper and Greenpoint are my faves.

Eustace Tilley contest resultsFEB 03

The New Yorker has announced the winners of the 2009 Eustace Tilley contest, which encouraged people to reïmagine the magazine's monocled mascot. These are all pretty good...the cab driver is an understated favorite.

Super Bowl tweets mappedFEB 03

The NY Times has a timeline map showing what people from around the country said on Twitter during the Super Bowl broadcast. I like the emoticons tab but they also should have included a profanity tab.

rating: 4.5 stars

Man on WireFEB 02

Man On Wire

Wow.

Music from stock chartsFEB 02

Johannes Kreidler took the data from recent stock charts, fed it to Microsoft Songsmith, and produced melancholy tunes. It's like the Visualizer in iTunes, only backwards. Ben Fry says of the project:

My opinion of Songsmith is shifting -- while it's generally presented as a laughingstock, catastrophic failure, or if nothing else, a complete embarrassment (especially for its developers slash infomercial actors), it's really caught the imagination of a lot of people who are creating new things, even if all of them subvert the original intent of the project. (Where the original intent was to... create a tool that would help write a jingle for glow in the dark towels?)

The new liberal artsFEB 02

Snarkmarket, one of my favorite WWW homepages, is making a book on the new liberal arts based on the conversation in the comments of a recent post.

It's 2009. A generation of digital natives is careening towards college. The economy is rebooting itself weekly. We have new responsibilities now -- as employees, citizens, and friends -- and we have new capabilities, too. The new liberal arts equip us for a world like this. But... what are they?

The time is ripe to expand and invigorate our notion of the liberal arts. Is design a liberal art now? How about photography? Food? Personal branding?

My favorite description of the book is that it's "the course catalog for some amazing new school". The book's focus dovetails nicely with my activities here on kottke.org; I can't wait to contribute (hopefully!) and read it. In true Snarkmarket fashion, they're looking for contributors to the project...details here.

BTW, my "liberal arts 2.0" description of kottke.org is generously listed as one of the seeds of the idea. I came up with the term a couple of years ago while concocting an elevator pitch for kottke.org. Liberal arts 2.0 seemed like the sort of thing that the site was about and that someone would understand a bit with little explanation...better than "kottke.org is about all kinds of stuff" anyway. I used the term in a talk I did at MoMA in 2007 with the following as "fields of study" in the new discipline:

Graphic design, freakonomics, photography, programming, film, remixing, video games, food, advertising, internet life skills, journalism, fashion.

The developing thread already contains many more interesting ideas than those, particularly Jennifer's vote for the inclusion of home economics:

Home economics. Cooking for yourself. Growing food for yourself. Making clothing for yourself. Why are these things important enough to be included as a "liberal art"? One word: sustainability. We all need to do our part to shrink our footprint, but many of us have no idea how, and for most people born after 1960 (or so) it's not something they learned in the home, either.

as well as Tim's expansion of the concept:

Let's put the "economics" back in "home economics"! Because it's not really just about the home anymore -- you have to think about the broader connections of the organization of your daily life to global operations, histories, labor, politics, geology and ecology. And that is home economics as a liberal art.

America's quiet portsFEB 02

The current inactivity at Port of Long Beach is indicative of larger problems in the highly coupled global economy. Americans are buying fewer goods, including those made abroad, so no new goods are coming in to the port and those that have already arrived are sitting on the docks, including 165+ acres of Toyota cars. Because Americans are not buying foreign goods, China has slowed production. Slowed production means that they don't need cardboard boxes for packaging. Since we ship our used paper to China for recycling into cardboard boxes, hundreds of tons of paper are sitting on the docks, unshipped. The strengthening of the dollar abroad means that American made goods aren't selling and the ships hauling them are unable to leave the port. Nothing is selling anywhere so everything sits in the now-constipated port.

History is chancyFEB 02

America was discovered accidentally by a great seaman who was looking for something else; when discovered it was not wanted; and most of the exploration for the next fifty years was done in the hope of getting through or around it. America was named after a man who discovered no part of the New World. History is like that, very chancy.

That's Samuel Eliot Morison, author of several books of history, including The European Discovery of America, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and The Oxford History of the American People.

No clear goalFEB 02

Due to parental guidance toward more structured activities, kids are getting less free play time than they used to, which may make them less creative, less socially adept, inflexible, and less intelligent.

The child initiates and creates free play. It might involve fantasies -- such as pretending to be doctors or princesses or playing house -- or it might include mock fighting, as when kids (primarily boys) wrestle and tumble with one another for fun, switching roles periodically so that neither of them always wins. And free play is most similar to play seen in the animal kingdom, suggesting that it has important evolutionary roots. Gordon M. Burghardt, author of The Genesis of Animal Play, spent 18 years observing animals to learn how to define play: it must be repetitive -- an animal that nudges a new object just once is not playing with it -- and it must be voluntary and initiated in a relaxed setting. Animals and children do not play when they are undernourished or in stressful situations. Most essential, the activity should not have an obvious function in the context in which it is observed -- meaning that it has, essentially, no clear goal.

Remembering machinesFEB 02

Matt Jones: mobile devices are a super power.

He sees mobile as something of a super power device and described something he calls "bionic noticing" -- obsessively recording curious things he sees around him, driven by this multi-capable device in his pocket.

Legal bees in NYCFEB 02

A bill sponsored by Council Member David Yassky would legalize beekeeping in NYC for license holders. David Graves must be tickled.

Who is on Twitter?FEB 02

Sasha Frere-Jones lists a bunch of people who are on Twitter.

people who are just back from a really awesome run
people who are involved in "social networking" and optimizing the power of re-Tweeting and "computers"
people who can't figure out what their kids want to eat
Shaquille O'Neal
people who have never seen snow
people who like Battlestar Galactica

Super Bowl commercials: the movie trailersFEB 01

My favorite ads during the Super Bowl broadcast are the movie trailers. Here are the trailers they showed this year:

Transformers 2 (Electric Bugaloo.)
Race to Witch Mountain (The Rock + alien kids.)
Up (New Pixar flick.)
Star Trek (JJ Abrams.)
Land of the Lost (No more Will Ferrell, please.)
Year One (No more Jack Black either. Michael Cera, your clock is ticking.)
Angels and Demons (Hanks/Howard follow-up to DaVinci Code's prequel book.)
Monsters vs Aliens (Kids like aliens. Kids like monsters. Why not give 'em both at once?)
Fast and Furious (It's the first film, minus two thes.)
GI Joe

With the exception of the two animated films and Year One, all of the above are either sequels or remakes. And Hulu, in a stroke of highly irritating genius, has inserted advertising before each of the trailers linked above. Advertising *in* advertising...the 20th century has officially ended. Welcome to the future.

Update: I've switched out the Hulu links for ones at Apple; they're higher quality and can be seen outside of the US. I wish the Apple trailers would have been live last night; it would have made for a lot less whining in my inbox. I just go where the links take me, folks. Oh, and I added the GI Joe trailer. (thx, david)

Archives    January 2009 »    December 2008 »    November 2008 »

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