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The Oreo separator machine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

And the TED Prize (“awarded to an extraordinary individual with a creative and bold vision to spark global change”) this year goes to this guy, who invented a machine for separating Oreos:

Congratulations! (thx, brad)

We Work Remotely

How to jump on eggs without breaking them

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

Tony McCabe demonstrates how to jump on eggs without breaking them.

If this is what Britain was like in the 70s, it’s possible that Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a documentary. (via @scottlamb)

The White House was completely gutted in 1950

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

White House Gutted

If this photo series from 1950 of the interior of the White House being ripped out so that the building could be structurally reinforced isn’t an apt metaphor for the current state of American politics, I don’t know what is.

Experts called the third floor of the White House “an outstanding example of a firetrap.” The result of a federally commissioned report found the mansion’s plumbing “makeshift and unsanitary,” while “the structural deterioration [was] in ‘appalling degree,’ and threatening complete collapse.” The congressional commission on the matter was considering the option of abandoning the structure altogether in favor of a built-from-scratch mansion, but President Truman lobbied for the restoration.

“It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely,” he testified to Congress in February 1949. “In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation.”

So it had to be gutted. Completely. Every piece of the interior, including the walls, had to be removed and put in storage. The outside of the structure-reinforced by new concrete columns-was all that remained.

(via digg)

The Myo gesture control armband

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

Wearable computing is heating up. Jawbone and Nike are vying for your wrists, Google and Lat Ware want your face, Fitbit owns the hips, and Apple might want to make your shoes smarter. But one of the most intriguing demos I’ve seen, if the footage in the video is to be believed, is the Myo gesture control armband.

It’s an eye-popping demo. The copy on the site reads “unleash your inner Jedi” and you pretty much do look like Obi-Wan using the thing. Which is to say, like a crazy person cosplaying Star Wars in the middle of the street. Adam Lisagor called Google Glass a “Segway for your face” back in April. The Segway was another great idea on paper that failed in part because of human vanity. Segways weren’t cool…you looked like a dork riding one. You’re gonna look like a dork wearing Google Glass. You’re gonna look like a dork unlocking your car with a swipe of your Myo-enabled arm.

But the uncool factor can be overridden in various ways. Nike can make anyone wear anything, especially if it’s packaged like a watch with superpowers. A few years ago, you looked like a dork wearing headphones in public but Apple made it cool. Beats By Dre made wearing huge over-the-ear headphones in public cool a few years later. You look like a dork wearing a Bluetooth headset and talking to yourself, but they are cheap and useful enough that it doesn’t matter. Mobile phone usage in public used to appear very strange…for awhile it was difficult to tell the brokers-in-a-hurry from the mentally unstable homeless folks muttering to themselves.

That’s the challenge for Google Glass and Myo: are these things useful enough and cheap enough to overcome that dork factor or can they somehow be made cool? Because if they aren’t and you can’t, no one wants to be seen using a Nintendo Power Glove in public and no amount of extreme sports dubstep transitions can save you.

Working draft of Downton Abbey season four first episode

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

The New Yorker’s John Kenney imagines what the first episode of the next season of Downton Abbey might be like, following on from the past season’s many twists and turns.

Lady Crawley appears to have choked to death on a big hunk of meat.

The lengths that woman will go to for attention.

I think we’ll go through now, Carson.

The JCrew crew

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2013

What are all those models in the J.Crew catalog doing anyway? By cleverly piecing together narratives from catalog photographs, Meghan O’Neill imagines that they are solving crimes, misbehaving on honeymoons, and such. Here’s the most recent episode:

(via @sippey)

Weapons of Syrian rebels

posted by Aaron Cohen   Feb 28, 2013


I saw this In Focus feature on the weapons of the Syrian rebels last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Some of these photos show primitive slingshots or catapults, and then there’s a machine gun controlled by what looks like a Playstation controller. On the one hand it’s so cool what they’ve created on a maker level with limited resources, and on the other, way more important hand, they’ve created these devices to try to kill people who are trying to kill them. These are weapons intended to destroy humans, and it doesn’t feel good to be fascinated by them when thinking about that.

Will technology help humans conquer the universe or kill us all?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2013

Ross Andersen, whose interview with Nick Bostrom I linked to last week, has a marvelous new essay in Aeon about Bostrom and some of his colleagues and their views on the potential extinction of humanity. This bit of the essay is the most harrowing thing I’ve read in months:

No rational human community would hand over the reins of its civilisation to an AI. Nor would many build a genie AI, an uber-engineer that could grant wishes by summoning new technologies out of the ether. But some day, someone might think it was safe to build a question-answering AI, a harmless computer cluster whose only tool was a small speaker or a text channel. Bostrom has a name for this theoretical technology, a name that pays tribute to a figure from antiquity, a priestess who once ventured deep into the mountain temple of Apollo, the god of light and rationality, to retrieve his great wisdom. Mythology tells us she delivered this wisdom to the seekers of ancient Greece, in bursts of cryptic poetry. They knew her as Pythia, but we know her as the Oracle of Delphi.

‘Let’s say you have an Oracle AI that makes predictions, or answers engineering questions, or something along those lines,’ Dewey told me. ‘And let’s say the Oracle AI has some goal it wants to achieve. Say you’ve designed it as a reinforcement learner, and you’ve put a button on the side of it, and when it gets an engineering problem right, you press the button and that’s its reward. Its goal is to maximise the number of button presses it receives over the entire future. See, this is the first step where things start to diverge a bit from human expectations. We might expect the Oracle AI to pursue button presses by answering engineering problems correctly. But it might think of other, more efficient ways of securing future button presses. It might start by behaving really well, trying to please us to the best of its ability. Not only would it answer our questions about how to build a flying car, it would add safety features we didn’t think of. Maybe it would usher in a crazy upswing for human civilisation, by extending our lives and getting us to space, and all kinds of good stuff. And as a result we would use it a lot, and we would feed it more and more information about our world.’

‘One day we might ask it how to cure a rare disease that we haven’t beaten yet. Maybe it would give us a gene sequence to print up, a virus designed to attack the disease without disturbing the rest of the body. And so we sequence it out and print it up, and it turns out it’s actually a special-purpose nanofactory that the Oracle AI controls acoustically. Now this thing is running on nanomachines and it can make any kind of technology it wants, so it quickly converts a large fraction of Earth into machines that protect its button, while pressing it as many times per second as possible. After that it’s going to make a list of possible threats to future button presses, a list that humans would likely be at the top of. Then it might take on the threat of potential asteroid impacts, or the eventual expansion of the Sun, both of which could affect its special button. You could see it pursuing this very rapid technology proliferation, where it sets itself up for an eternity of fully maximised button presses. You would have this thing that behaves really well, until it has enough power to create a technology that gives it a decisive advantage — and then it would take that advantage and start doing what it wants to in the world.’

Read the whole thing, even if you have to watch goats yelling like people afterwards, just to cheer yourself back up.

Google Glass + Black Mirror

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2013

The third episode of the first season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror was called The Entire History of You, in which many people have their entire lives recorded by implants. Brooker’s take on the self-recorded future and Google’s rosier view meet in this video:

Black Mirror is currently in its second season in the UK, with no US release on the horizon. Here’s what one of the season two episodes is about:

A CG character from a TV show is jokingly put forward to become a member of Parliament. The actor behind the character is uneasy about this new political world he’s found himself in, and as the character’s popularity among voters increases things begin to take a turn for the worse.

See also The real Google Glasses.

Royal bodies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2013

In a fantastic piece for The London Review of Books adapted from a speech, Hilary Mantel writes about royalty as “breeding stock” and “collections of organs”, among other things.

I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage.

Mantel has been blasted by the British press for her comments related to Kate Middleton. I demolished Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and am eagerly awaiting her third book in the Cromwell trilogy.

An oral history of the making of Pulp Fiction

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2013

Mark Seal pieces together an oral history of the making of Pulp Fiction through interviews with Tarantino, Thurman, Jackson, Travolta, Harvey Weinstein, and many others.

When Pulp Fiction thundered into theaters a year later, Stanley Crouch in the Los Angeles Times called it “a high point in a low age.” Time declared, “It hits you like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.” In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman said it was “nothing less than the reinvention of mainstream American cinema.”

Made for $8.5 million, it earned $214 million worldwide, making it the top-grossing independent film at the time. Roger Ebert called it “the most influential” movie of the 1990s, “so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it — the noses of those zombie writers who take ‘screenwriting’ classes that teach them the formulas for ‘hit films.’ “

Pulp Fiction resuscitated the career of John Travolta, made stars of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, gave Bruce Willis new muscle at the box office, and turned Harvey and Bob Weinstein, of Miramax, into giants of independent cinema. Harvey calls it “the first independent movie that broke all the rules. It set a new dial on the movie clock.”

“It must be hard to believe that Mr. Tarantino, a mostly self-taught, mostly untested talent who spent his formative years working in a video store, has come up with a work of such depth, wit and blazing originality that it places him in the front ranks of American filmmakers,” wrote Janet Maslin in The New York Times. “You don’t merely enter a theater to see Pulp Fiction: you go down a rabbit hole.” Jon Ronson, critic for The Independent, in England, proclaimed, “Not since the advent of Citizen Kane … has one man appeared from relative obscurity to redefine the art of movie-making.”

So many great things in this piece. Daniel Day-Lewis as Vincent Vega, Samuel L. Jackson had to fight to play Jules, how to replicate a heroin high (“drink as much tequila as you can and lay in a warm pool or tub of water”), Travolta’s contribution to the humor (and choreography) of the film, and the true contents of the briefcase.

I saw Pulp Fiction on opening weekend in a mall theater in Iowa. We had no idea what to expect going in and holy hell the drive home was a weird mixture of shellshocked and wired. (via df)

Not from The Onion

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

The On1on gathers news that seems like it should be from The Onion but isn’t. Like “Russian man busted for cheating on girlfriend when she spots him on the Russian version of google maps with the other woman”, “Accused of being gay, Spanish priest challenges Church to measure his anus”, and “China Bans Reincarnation Without Government Permission”. (via waxy)

Moving in Japan

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 25, 2013

A popular option for moving companies to offer in Japan is, not only to transport your belongings, but to pack them and unpack them for you.

I’d move to Japan just so I’d never have to pack up my own apartment again… except I’d have to pack up my apartment to get there. (via @ohheygreat)

Soundtrack for Upstream Color

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

The entire soundtrack for Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is available for streaming on SoundCloud.

From what I can gather, Carruth did the soundtrack himself. So for those keeping track at home, Carruth wrote, directed, starred in, did the soundtrack for, produced, edited, did the cinematography for, and operated a camera for Upstream Color. Oh, and he’s self-distributing the film through his own production company. No wonder I like this guy.

The film opens in US theaters beginning in mid-April and will be available for sale in early May: pre-order at Amazon or on iTunes. (via @gotrlelo)

Pynchon’s next novel is about Silicon Alley

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

According to Penguin’s year-end financial report, Thomas Pynchon’s next novel will deal with “Silicon Alley between dotcom boom collapse and 9/11”. The title is Bleeding Edge.

School photo

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

After working at it for three years, Octavio Aburto finally got his shot:

Octavio Aburto

Beautiful. And holy crap, did you know that rays could fly?

Octavio Aburto Ray

That sucker must be 10 feet out of the water! (via the telegraph)

The world’s greatest badminton shot

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

You’ve gotta wait for it. Nope, not that one. Not that. Or that. THAT. THAT’S THE SHOT.

Literally unbelievable. Totally lucky but unbelievable. (via @DavidGrann)

We Buy White Albums

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

Artist Rutherford Chang only collects first pressings of The Beatles’ The White Album on vinyl. Dust & Grooves recently interviewed Chang about his collection.

Rutherford Chang

Q: Are you a vinyl collector?

A: Yes, I collect White Albums.

Q: Do you collect anything other than that?

A: I own some vinyl and occasionally buy other albums, but nothing in multiples like the White Album.

Q: Why just White Album? why not Abbey road? or Rubber Soul?

A: The White Album has the best cover. I have a few copies of Abbey Road and Rubber Soul, but I keep those in my “junk bin”.

Q: Why do you find it so great? It’s a white, blank cover. Are you a minimalist?

A: I’m most interested in the albums as objects and observing how they have aged. So for me, a Beatles album with an all white cover is perfect.

Q: Do you care about the album’s condition?

A: I collect numbered copies of the White Album in any condition. In fact I often find the “poorer” condition albums more interesting.

Chang’s collection is currently on view at Recess in Soho, NYC until March 7th. Gotta get down there and see this. (via mr)

The Criterion Collection is almost always nearly free on Hulu

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

Last weekend, Sarah alerted us that the Criterion Collection movies on Hulu were available to watch for free all weekend long. It was a classic kottke.org post: here’s something of very high quality that everyone can experience right now. Spot on, nailed it, I personally got excited and I would have taken full advantage had I not been out of the country.

The funny thing is that Hulu’s Criterion movies are almost always nearly free. There are many films — like Hoop Dreams, Babette’s Feast, A Woman Under the Influence, and Rashomon — that are totally free right now, just click the links and they start playing. But the rest of the Criterion films (looks like there’s dozens if not hundreds of them) are very nearly free all the time, all available if you subscribe to Hulu Plus for $7.99 per month. Dammit, I don’t want to do this but I’m trotting out the hoary cups of coffee metric here: for the price of two cups of coffee, you can watch as many Criterion-caliber films in the next month as you want, until your eyeballs pus over and burst from all the electromagnetic radiation pulsing into your retinas. And you also get all three seasons of Arrested Development!

Gob Bluth

Thank you, G.O.B. Most iPhone apps are either free or nearly free. Hundreds of classic works of literature are available on your favorite reading device for free or nearly free. There are enough freely available longreads out there to gag Instapaper. And let’s not even get started on YouTube, it’s a cultural fucking goldmine. Louis, you were right: everything is amazing and nobody’s happy. Because who has two thumbs, disposable income, an interest in excellent films, and is not subscribing to Hulu Plus because it seems like too much money and too much effort? This spoiled idiot right here.

Trailer for season three of Game of Thrones

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2013

Is it permissible to squee about Westeros?

Squee! I still miss Sean Bean though. I wouldn’t mind a little Six Feet Under Late Ned action. Maybe bring him back as a White Walker or something. They’re headless zombies, right? Hello?

The science of addictive junk food

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

Michael Moss is a Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist for the NY Times and he’s written a book called Salt Sugar Fat.

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.

Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese. It’s no wonder that twenty-six million Americans have diabetes, the processed food industry in the U.S. accounts for $1 trillion a year in sales, and the total economic cost of this health crisis is approaching $300 billion a year.

Moss researched the book for four years, interviewing hundreds of current and former processed-food industry employees and reviewing thousands of pages of industry memos. This weekend’s NY Times Magazine has a lengthy excerpt from the book that’s well worth a read.

Eventually, a line of the [Lunchables] trays, appropriately called Maxed Out, was released that had as many as nine grams of saturated fat, or nearly an entire day’s recommended maximum for kids, with up to two-thirds of the max for sodium and 13 teaspoons of sugar.

When I asked Geoffrey Bible, former C.E.O. of Philip Morris, about this shift toward more salt, sugar and fat in meals for kids, he smiled and noted that even in its earliest incarnation, Lunchables was held up for criticism. “One article said something like, ‘If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin.’ “

Well, they did have a good bit of fat, I offered. “You bet,” he said. “Plus cookies.”

The prevailing attitude among the company’s food managers - through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern - was one of supply and demand. “People could point to these things and say, ‘They’ve got too much sugar, they’ve got too much salt,’ ” Bible said. “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you’re sort of trapped.” (Bible would later press Kraft to reconsider its reliance on salt, sugar and fat.)

And this is classic processed food as molecular gastronomy right here:

I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it… you can just keep eating it forever.”

(via @bryce)

Neither snow nor rain nor crippling debt…

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

This Esquire article asks: Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office?

The postal service is not a federal agency. It does not cost taxpayers a dollar. It loses money only because Congress mandates that it do so. What it is is a miracle of high technology and human touch. It’s what binds us together as a country.

Go on, read the whole thing. Near the top of The List of What Makes America Great and No One Realizes Until It Disappears and Even Then Probably Not is The United States Postal Service. A poster child for Mundane Technology if there ever was one.

Crouching photographer, hidden celebrity

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

Chris Buck takes pictures of celebrities after giving them 30 seconds to hide. Here’s Cindy Sherman:

Chris Buck Presence

Buck’s photos are on display in NYC for a couple more days at Foley but are also available in book form. (via digg)

Boxing cats filmed by Thomas Edison in 1894

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

The electric lighbulb, the phonograph, and the movie camera were invented (or significantly improved upon) by Thomas Edison, so lets give him credit for one more: LOLcats:

This short film was shot at the world’s first movie studio, The Black Maria, located in West Orange, NJ. The entire building was built on a turntable so that the building could rotate with the sun for the best lighting conditions. (via “robin sloan”)

Are we underestimating the risk of human extinction?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

Nick Bostrom, a Swedish-born philosophy professor at Oxford, thinks that we’re underestimating the risk of human extinction. The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen interviewed Bostrom about his stance.

I think the biggest existential risks relate to certain future technological capabilities that we might develop, perhaps later this century. For example, machine intelligence or advanced molecular nanotechnology could lead to the development of certain kinds of weapons systems. You could also have risks associated with certain advancements in synthetic biology.

Of course there are also existential risks that are not extinction risks. The concept of an existential risk certainly includes extinction, but it also includes risks that could permanently destroy our potential for desirable human development. One could imagine certain scenarios where there might be a permanent global totalitarian dystopia. Once again that’s related to the possibility of the development of technologies that could make it a lot easier for oppressive regimes to weed out dissidents or to perform surveillance on their populations, so that you could have a permanently stable tyranny, rather than the ones we have seen throughout history, which have eventually been overthrown.

While reading this, I got to thinking that maybe the reason we haven’t observed any evidence of sentient extraterrestrial life is that at some point in the technology development timeline just past the “pumping out signals into space” point (where humans are now), a discovery is made that results in the destruction of a species. Something like a nanotech virus that’s too fast and lethal to stop. And the same thing happens every single time it’s discovered because it’s too easy to discover and too powerful to stop.

Room 237, a documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

The trailer doesn’t reveal much:

But from everything that I have heard, this movie is a must-see for Kubrick fans. In US theaters (and available online, I think) on March 29th.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 21, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2013

All Criterion movies free this weekend orig. from Feb 15, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

A photographic look back at 1963

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

I love these 50th anniversary yearly round-ups that Alan Taylor is doing over at In Focus. This year marks the 50th anniversary of 1963:


Previously: 1962 and 1961.

Taleb: technology “ages” backwards

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

Nassim Taleb asserts that, on average, old technologies have longer life expectancies than younger technologies, which helps explain why books are still around and CD-ROM magazines aren’t.

For example: Let’s assume the sole information I have about a gentleman is that he is 40 years old, and I want to predict how long he will live. I can look at actuarial tables and find his age-adjusted life expectancy as used by insurance companies. The table will predict he has an extra 44 years to go; next year, when he turns 41, he will have a little more than 43 years to go.

For a perishable human, every year that elapses reduces his life expectancy by a little less than a year.

The opposite applies to non-perishables like technology and information. If a book has been in print for 40 years, I can expect it to be in print for at least another 40 years. But — and this is the main difference — if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another 50 years.

This is adapted from Taleb’s recent book, Antifragile. Anyone read this yet? I really liked The Black Swan.

DrawQuest, a drawing app for iPad

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

DrawQuest is a new iPad app from Chris Poole’s Canvas. It’s a super-simple drawing app that is sort of a combination between Draw Something and Instagram. I suck at drawing, but I’ve been using it for a few weeks and it makes me want to draw more.

Goats yelling like people

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

This is really simple: these are goats who sound like people. You have probably seen this before, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to watch it at least once a day for the rest of your life.

What was it like guarding Michael Jordan?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

Michael Jordan just turned 50 and so Deadspin’s Emma Carmichael asked former Cavs guard Craig Ehlo what it was like to guard Jordan in his prime. Sometimes Jordan would tell Ehlo what he was going to do ahead of time and still score.

Usually, Ron Harper would start on him, then I would come in and go to him, and Ron would go to Scottie Pippen or something like that. I always felt very lucky that Coach Wilkens had that faith in me to guard him. Michael was very competitive when he got between the lines. He was never a bad talker or too arrogant, but it was just like what Jason [Williams] said: He’d tell you. He only did that to me one time, from what I remember. It was his 69-point game, and things were going so well for him that I guess he just went for it. We were running up the court side-by-side and he told me: “Listen man, I’m hitting everything, so I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you can’t stop it. You know you can’t stop this. You can’t guard me.

“I’m gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I’m gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I’m gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway.”

And sure enough …

Ehlo famously guarded Jordan during The Shot:

See also Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building and Jordan’s top 50 greatest moments.

Trailer for Finding Vivian Maier

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

The documentary about recently discovered street photographer Vivian Maier that was funded via Kickstarter almost two years ago is finally getting somewhere. Here’s the trailer for the film, which appears to involve a crazy twist in Maier’s story.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 20, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2013

Argo orig. from Feb 20, 2013
Hilarious fake Guy Fieri menu orig. from Feb 20, 2013
Watch full-length movies on YouTube orig. from Feb 20, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.


posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

Argo Poster

That’s a movie poster for Argo, the fake movie that the CIA “made” as a cover for getting six American diplomats out of Iran in 1980. Ben Affleck’s Argo, which cements the former prettyboy actor’s status as one of the best young American directors, is somewhat loosely based on The Master of Disguise, a book written by the guy Affleck plays in Argo, and a 2007 Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman called The Great Escape. Argo is up for several Oscars and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Update: Here’s a CIA report written by Mendez about the caper. And I’m listening to the soundtrack right now.

Hilarious fake Guy Fieri menu

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

Some enterprising genius has registered the domain for Guy Fieri’s (famously panned) restaurant in Times Square and put up a fake menu chock full of hilarious foodstuffs. For instance, the Hobo Lobo Bordello Slam Jam Appetizer:

We take 38 oz of super-saddened, Cheez-gutted wolf meat, lambast it with honey pickle wasabi and pile drive it into an Ed Hardy-designed bucket. Sprayed with Axe and finished with a demiglaze of thick & funky Mushroom Dribblins.

Also, “Add a Cinnabon and two more Cinnabons $4.95”. Also, “superbanged”. Also, “ranch hose”.

Update: Copy for parts of the menu were crowdsourced from Twitter. Which doesn’t make it any less funny…just that the person who made it is not an “enterprising genius”. (via everyone)

Watch full-length movies on YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

This Reddit group is collecting links to full-length movies and TV shows that are available on YouTube. Like this unauthorized copy of Django Unchained:

See if you can get through the whole thing before it gets taken down.

Update: David reminded me that you can actually watch full-length movies and TV shows on YouTube for a rental fee. (thx, david)

Seeing the world through Google-colored Glasses

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

Google is making a wearable headset called Google Glass and here’s a look at how the heads-up display is going to work.

Maybe it’s the jetlag talking, but that looks pretty fricking great. But I have a feeling that Glass is going to be a Segway for your face.

The rules at Harper High

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

Here are some of the rules students live by at Harper High School in Chicago: Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you’re in one). Never walk by yourself. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don’t run. These are just a few of the exhausting complexities that face the kids at Harper High, where 29 current and former students were shot last year. The reality on the streets leads the kids to one final rule: never go outside. This American Life spent five months at Harper High School. Part one of their report is a must-listen. Within a few minutes of the piece, you’ll understand what one of the adults who was interviewed means when he says, “it ain’t a fairy tale.”

Updates on previous entries for Feb 19, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2013

All Criterion movies free this weekend orig. from Feb 15, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

The secret language of sommeliers

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2013

For the NY Times, Ben Schott compiles an extensive list of wine-related jargon.

A serious drinker who will regularly DROP more than $1,000 on a single bottle. When on a furious spending spree, a WHALE is said to be DROPPING THE HAMMER. BIG WALES — or EXTRA BIG BALLERS (E.B.B.) — can spend more than $100,000 on wine during a meal.

Schott expanded on this list in a companion blog post:

But, vocabulary aside, the central thing I learned from these talented people is that if you are dining in a restaurant which employs a Sommelier, you should never, ever order your own wine.

If you know little or nothing about wine, they will guide you to a bottle far more interesting and suited to your food than you could possibly pluck from the list.

And if you are a wine aficionado, you will not know more than the Somm about their list - or what they are hiding off-list in the cellar.

See also What Restaurants Know (About You)

The chemistry of snowflakes

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 19, 2013

With the northeast still smarting from their two+ feet of snow, it’s worth watching this two minute video to see how those trillions of flakes were born.

For more, this recent 16 minute Radiolab segment looks into whether perfect snowflakes exist.

Unreleased celebrity perfumes

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2013

From Sarah Marshall, a list of celebrity fragrances that didn’t quite make it to market.

Goldbloom by Jeff Goldblum: This fragrance, meant to be drizzled down the wearer’s forearm (preferably while in a moving car) is redolent of warm eyeglasses, tanning oil, and Velociraptor musk. Perfect for work or leisure.

Wintour Harvest by Anna Wintour: Peppery, balsamic, indecisive, and fresh. Notes of warm blood and Galliano Sequin enliven this fragrance designed for the gal on the go.

Before fingerprinting

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 18, 2013

Welshouse Bertillon

Seeing so many CSI and police procedural shows on TV today, it’s easy to take for granted being able to rapidly and accurately identify criminals. Fingerprinting, as probably the biggest technological advancement in identifying criminals, is a big part of that. But what’d we have before fingerprinting?

According to the National Law Enforcement Museum:

Alphonse Bertillon was a French criminologist who first developed this anthropometric system of physical measurements of body parts, especially components of the head and face, to produce a detailed description of an individual. This system, invented in 1879, became known as the Bertillon system, or bertillonage, and quickly gained wide acceptance as a reliable, scientific method of criminal investigation. In 1884 alone, French police used Bertillon’s system to help capture 241 repeat offenders, which helped establish the system’s effectiveness. Primarily, investigators used the Bertillon system to determine if a suspect in custody had been involved in previous crimes. Law enforcement agencies began to create archives of records of known criminals, which contained his or her anthropometric measurements, as well as full-face and profile photographs of the perpetrator (now commonly known as “mugshots,” which are still in use today).

It was essentially a criminal justice Dewey Decimal System, the first step in taking police out of the dark ages. Before Bertillion standardized measurements, police just had a jumble of descriptions and photographs with no way to organize them so they’d almost never be able to cross reference existing records when people were arrested.

Of course Bertillion’s system was just a stop-gap measure. The system was only really in use for about 30 years before fingerprints became the dominant identification method.

In 1903, a man named Will West was committed to the penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was photographed and measured using the Bertillon system. Will West’s measurements were found to be almost identical to a criminal at the same penitentiary named William West, who was committed for murder in 1901 and was serving a life sentence. Furthermore, their photographs showed that the two men bore a close physical resemblance to one another, although it was not clear that they were even related. In the ensuing confusion surrounding the true identities of the two men, their fingerprints conclusively identified them and demonstrated clearly that the adoption of a fingerprint identification system was more reliable than the older Bertillon system.

The guy in this photo is John Welshouse who was convicted in 1914 for violating the White Slave Act (prostitution). (via @pruned)

Adorably frightening hamster-powered walking contraption

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 18, 2013

I-Wei Huang got a Strandbeest, an articulated contraption that you can walk across a tabletop with your hand or attach a sail and watch it move under windpower, and he was wondering what might be another fun way to power it. His first thought was steam but that wouldn’t work great with the plastic Strandbeest. He might have tried it anyways but, as he puts it, “thankfully, I had another even sillier idea.”

The hamster powered? that’s just stupid, which is the exact reason why I did it. It’s different, hasn’t been done before, yet it’s in so many what’s-under-the-hood jokes. It also had a high likelyhood of working, so I had to attempt it. Only problem: I don’t have a hamster, I don’t want a hamster for a pet, and I don’t know what sort of power and weight a little critter like that has. All I know is that I’ve seen them go ballistic on the hamster wheel, and so they must have great weight to power ratio.

The top-heavy animal-ified mechanical transporter makes it feel like a mini, cuter version of a Star Wars AT-AT.

The tree with the apple tattoo

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 18, 2013

On Edible Geography, Nicola Twilley looks at what used to be a common process in Japan but is now only done on a boutique basis: apple tattooing.


As they are finally exposed to the elements for the final few weeks before harvest, the most perfect of these already perfect apples are then decorated with a sticker that blocks sunlight to stencil an image onto the fruit. This “fruit mark” might be the Japanese kanji for “good health,” as Susan Brown mentioned. Others have brand logos (most notably that of Apple, the company), and some, according to Stevens, are “negatives with pictures. One Japanese pop star put his picture on apples to give his entourage for presents.”

The marked fruit of the Montreuillois first won renown at the 1894 Saint Petersburg exhibition, where they presented the czar of Russia with an apple stenciled with his own portrait. King Leopold of Belgium, Edward VII of England, and Teddy Roosevelt received similar fruits.

(via @stewart)

Updates on previous entries for Feb 15, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2013

What’s with all the Russian dashboard cameras? orig. from Feb 15, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

What’s with all the Russian dashboard cameras?

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 15, 2013

The meteor streaking across Russia this morning was largely captured by cameras mounted on car dashboards. Why do so many Russian drivers seem to have dash-cams? Protection against fraud & hit-and-runs. Kottke featured this article from Animal New York’s Marina Galperina back in December.

Dash-cam footage is the only real way to substantiate your claims in the court of law. Forget witnesses. Hit and runs are very common and insurance companies notoriously specialize in denying claims. Two-way insurance coverage is very expensive and almost completely unavailable for vehicles over ten years old-the drivers can only get basic liability. Get into a minor or major accident and expect the other party to lie to the police or better yet, flee after rear-ending you. Since your insurance won’t pay unless the offender is found and sued, you’ll see dash-cam videos of post hit and run pursuits for plate numbers.

And sometimes drivers back up or bump their pre-dented car into yours. It used to be a mob thing, with the accident-staging specialists working in groups. After the “accident,” the offending driver — often an elderly lady — is confronted by a crowd of “witnesses,” psychologically pressured and intimidated to pay up cash on the spot. Since the Age of the Dash-cam, hustle has withered from a flourishing enterprise to a dying trade, mainly thriving in the provinces where dash-cams are less prevalent.

Update: The other reason for the dash-cams? Russians are apparently crazy drivers. From the other previous Kottke Russian driving post: 13 minutes of can’t-look-away traffic accidents.

Eye charts for drones

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 15, 2013

Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG ruminates on optical calibration targets, weird landscape relics scattered across military bases made to check the resolution of cold war era photograph-snapping spy planes. You can find one target on Google Maps here.

Although I am truly fascinated by what sorts of optical landmarks might yet be developed for field-testing the optical capabilities of drones, as if the world might soon be peppered with opthalmic infrastructure for self-training autonomous machines, it is also quite intriguing to realize that these calibration targets are, in effect, ruins, obsolete sensory hold-overs from an earlier age of film-based cameras and less-powerful lenses. Calibrating nothing, they are now just curious emblems of a previous generation of surveillance technology, robot-readable hieroglyphs whose machines have all moved on.

Medieval Mass Media

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 15, 2013

Seeing how quickly news of the resignation of Pope Benidict XVI spread on Twitter, The Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen wondered how people found out about the last Papal resignation back in the Middle Ages.

In 1415, mass media happened not on a TV but at, well, Mass. “This is the big thing about the Middle Ages,” George Ferzoco, a medievalist at the University of Bristol, told me. “We tend to think that they had no such thing as a mass medium. The fact is they did. And that mass medium was the sermon, because everyone would regularly be at one.

“Imagine,” he continued, “what it’s like to have a major international meeting lasting a few years, and you’ve got to discuss written texts. Well you’ve got to have an army of people writing this stuff out, nonstop, day and night. So all of these people together would have been potential news sources. They would have sent news back to their home cities, or indeed to people who they deem are important or interested.”

From Constance, news traveled outward through a network of messengers on horseback. Couriers “would take documents out of Constance, go to a town 20 or 30 miles down the road, transfer things there to a fresh person and a fresh person and so on,” said Ferzoco. Medievalists I spoke with estimated that this sort of “Pony Express” system could have conveyed the news of Gregory XII’s resignation to major European cities such as Paris in something like a week.

All Criterion movies free this weekend

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 15, 2013

In a deal last year, Criterion movies went from one paid online service to another (Netflix to Hulu Plus).

However from now through Monday February 18th, all Criterion movies are free on Hulu for anyone in the US. No sign-up or log-in required.

Some recommendations: Yojimbo, Schizopolis, Hoop Dreams, and Zazie dans le métro.

Update: The free weekend has ended and most Criterion movies are back behind the Hulu Plus paywall but there are still a handful of Criterion movies available to watch for free on regular-Hulu including Hoop Dreams as well as Zatoichi, Quadrophenia, and The Long Voyage Home

The Vegan Experience

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 15, 2013

For anyone who’s ever been curious about what it would take to switch to a vegan diet and not hate it, Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt is going vegan for all of February.

Last year, I decided to go vegan for an entire month, chronicling my thoughts, challenges, health, and weight the entire time. I thought it’d be a fun exercise, that perhaps I’d gain some insight into my own diet and into the lives of those who live, well, a little differently than the rest of us.

So by overwhelming demand (mostly by my wife, myself, and a few very vocal readers), I’m doing it all again this year, developing 28 brand new recipes, learning from my mistakes, and surely making a few more in the process.

If you’ve ever had an inclination to go vegan or just test out the waters, I hope that a few of my thoughts and recipes here will help you do that. To get you started, I’ve compiled all 23 essays and 28 recipes in one easy-to-navigate spot.

(via waxy)

Updates on previous entries for Feb 14, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2013

The hubris and folly of Darth Vader at Hoth orig. from Feb 12, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

A guide to kissing

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 14, 2013

In an unexpectedly lovely time displaced collaboration, Hallie Bateman illustrates the journal her then-17-year-old mother wrote in 1976.


The courtship letters between President Lyndon Baines Johnson & Lady Bird Johnson

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 14, 2013

I don’t know why the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library chose to release the courtship letters between him and Lady Bird today on Valentine’s Day. I’m reading through them and it was a pretty fast and unromantic courtship. LBJ proposed to her on their first date (!) and then spent the next 10 weeks basically berating her into marrying him.

This is one of the first letters Lyndon sent Lady Bird, on September 15th 1934, two weeks after meeting her:

I’m sure that there is nothing that could be more distracting, disturbing and estranging to me than a continued evidence of indifference upon your part. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and today Saturday and no sentiments of affection nor expressions of love. Very likely time will make the picture brighter for me but I feel terribly blue this afternoon.

Tomorrow I plan to call you. Tomorrow I plan to tell you again what you have already heard so many times and probably it will be tomorrow that I learn definitely just how and where you stand.

Write me that long letter. Tell me just how you feel—give me some reassurance if you can and if you can’t let’s understand each other now. I’m lonesome. I’m disappointed but what of it. Do you care?

In addition to letters, he also sent her a book, Nazism: An Assault on Civilization.

Um, thanks LBJ Library. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

(via @UsNatArchives)

Adorable bucket of sloths

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 14, 2013

These sloths just wanna be your valentine.

Vinegar Valentines: Let someone you hate know just how much you care

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 14, 2013

Back in 1840 most people would buy, not a Valentine’s Day card for someone they loved, but a Vinegar Valentine for someone they hated.


At first, it’s easy to demonize the senders as the worst sorts of trolls or bullies. I mean, some of the most horrifying Vinegar Valentines actually suggest the recepient kill him or herself. But then, if you look at the more light-hearted Valentines, some of them start to seem like a good idea. Have you ever had a haughty saleslady scoff at you for being poor? Have you ever had to listen to a pompous windbag carry on when he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about? So many people are blithely unaware of their obnoxious behavior. Wouldn’t it feel great to tell them off, consequence-free?

Back in the 1840s it was the receiver, not the sender of a letter, who paid for postage & you didn’t need to provide a return address, so all the floozies and winos would pay for the privilege of hearing how disliked they were.

Nowadays if you want to send free anonymous insults that’s what the internet is for.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

(via @EvaWiseman)

Updates on previous entries for Feb 13, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2013

The hubris and folly of Darth Vader at Hoth orig. from Feb 12, 2013
An analysis of gender on Twitter orig. from Feb 13, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

Fifty US states with equal population

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 13, 2013

As part of a thought experiment to reform the electoral college, Neil Freeman redrew the US into 50 new states with equal population. In trying to balance the interests of the popular vote vs the integrity of states, he’s split the baby so that no one is likely to be happy. Perfect!


The map began with an algorithm that groups counties based on proximity, urban area, and commuting patterns. The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines.

Keep in mind that this is an art project, not a serious proposal, so take it easy with the emails about the sacred soil of Texas.

(via ★doingitwrong)

Meet the world’s first cyborg

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 13, 2013

Born with achromatopsia, a rare condition that causes complete colour blindness, Neil Harbisson developed the eyeborg, a device that translates colours into sounds for him.

Harbisson has been claimed to be the first recognized cyborg in the world, as his passport photo now includes his device. In 2010, Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas created the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization to help humans become cyborgs. The foundation has also experimented with other sensory devices, including an “earborg,” which translates sound into color, and a “speedborg,” which allows people to detect movement through electronic earrings that vibrate.

“One day I started hearing colors in my dreams. Then I understood what being a cyborg meant. It’s not the union between the eyeborg and my head, what converts me into a cyborg, but the union between the software and my brain. My body and the technology have united. It’s very very human to modify one’s body with human creations.

An analysis of gender on Twitter

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 13, 2013

A study of 14,000 Twitter users was published recently (pdf) by a trio of linguists and computer scientists (Bamman, Eisenstein, Schnoebelen) that looks at the gendered expression of language online.

Female markers include a relatively large number of emotion-related terms like sad, love, glad, sick, proud, happy, scared, annoyed, excited, and jealous. All of the emoticons that appear as gender markers are associated with female authors, including some that the prior literature found to be neutral or male: :) :D and ;). […] Computer mediated communication (CMC) terms like lol and omg appear as female markers, as do ellipses, expressive lengthening (e.g., coooooool), exclamation marks, question marks, and backchannel sounds like ah, hmmm, ugh, and grr.

Swears and other taboo words are more often associated with male authors: bullshit, damn, dick, fuck, fucked, fucking, hell, pussy, shit, shitty are male markers; the anti-swear darn appears in the list as a female marker. This gendered distinction between strong swear words and mild swear words follows that seen by McEnry 2006 in the BNC. Thelwall 2008, a study of the social networking site MySpace produced more mixed results: among American young adults, men used more swears than women, but in Britain there was no gender difference

I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from a single study especially one that, in my opinion, makes some questionable methodology choices (people who follow or are followed by more than 100 people are excluded from the study?) but the results point to an interesting evolution in conversational, public speech.

Update 2: Tyler Schnoebelen, one of the study’s authors reached out to clarify. The study says “we selected only those users with between four and 100 friends”, with friends being defined not as people you follow, people who follow you, or even mutual follow backs. They poll accounts and if you and someone else mention each other with a separation of at least two weeks (to eliminate one-off convos with strangers), then for the purposes of the study you and the other person are defined as friends. And they’re looking to isolate people who have between 4 and 100 of those friend connections.

Now that that’s clarified, that seems a really reasonable way to try to determine friendships on Twitter.

Update 1: David Friedman reminded me of a post he did on telegraph operators in 1890 and how female operators have a different and identifiable transmission style.

It is a peculiar fact also that an experienced operator can almost invariably distinguish a woman’s sending from a man’s. There is nearly always some peculiarity about a woman’s style of transmission. it is not necessarily a fault. Many women send very clearly and make their dots and dashes precisely as they were intended to be made. It is impossible to describe the peculiarity, but there is no doubt of its existence. Nearly all women have a habit of rattling off a lot of meaningless dots before they say anything. But some men do that too. A woman’s touch is lighter than a man’s, and her dots and dashes will not carry so well on a very long circuit. That is presumably the reason why in all large offices the women are usually assigned to work the wires running to various parts of the cities.

Archaeological Hairstyling

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 13, 2013

Historians said ancient hairstyles were so difficult to achieve they had to have been wigs. Janet Stephens, professional hairstylist and amateur scholar, took that as a challenge.

Studying translations of Roman literature, Ms. Stephens says, she realized the Latin term “acus” was probably being misunderstood in the context of hairdressing. Acus has several meanings including a “single-prong hairpin” or “needle and thread,” she says. Translators generally went with “hairpin.”

The single-prong pins couldn’t have held the intricate styles in place. But a needle and thread could. It backed up her hair hypothesis.

In 2007, she sent her findings to the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

In what may be the ultimate YouTube fashion how-to video, Janet Stephens walks through how she reverse engineered the elusive Vestal Virgin hairstyle from statues and then shows you how to braid and bind the hair to get that look that was oh-so fashionable 1800 years ago. It makes going to a museum feel like opening a copy of Elle magazine.

Four Million Followers

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 12, 2013

A short piece of fiction by Pierce Gleeson about the people behind corporate Twitter accounts.

‘We are not building anything here,’ stated one morose-sounding detergent brand. ‘All those marketing guys pushing Twitter think you can build something on it. Awareness or brand or something. But they can’t back that up. We’re just a mirror of what’s happening in the real world. We’re just echoing awareness, not creating it. It might work for small coffee shops but for global brands we’re just a shapeless appendage.’ All this came in several messages. The brands tended to be verbose once they got talking. Probably overeducated and unemployable, like himself. He didn’t agree, he didn’t disagree. He consciously refused to give it thought. The pay was excellent for the hours he worked.

(thx @asimone)

The hubris and folly of Darth Vader at Hoth

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 12, 2013

Wired’s Spencer Ackerman breaks down Darth Vader’s military strategy in Empire Strikes Back showing how, what could have been a trouncing of the Rebels on Hoth, ended up as an Imperial pratfall.

The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.

When Vader enters the Hoth System with the Imperial Fleet, he’s holding a winning hand. What follows next is a reminder of two military truths that apply in our own time and in our own galaxy: Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency.

For more meticulous skewering of Star Wars’ logic, check out the incisive Red Letter Media reviews of the prequels.

Update: Spencer Ackerman held a roundtable discussion of experts & nerds with dissenting opinions on the what, why, and how of Hoth.

Ghostwriting for a Crown Prince in Exile

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 12, 2013

After working as a New York Times reporter for 24 years, Michael Janofsky’s first job as a freelance writer wasn’t what he was expecting.

For the better part of a year, I was the Sheikh’s blogger; or the Sheikh was my avatar. He had hired me to write a series of blogs, under his name, with the aim of ousting his half-brother, an Iranian sympathizer, who had driven him into exile years earlier. Our plan — the Sheikh’s, his handlers, and mine — was to pound out three blog entries a week to convince the Sheikh’s aging father that the tiny stretch of land controlled by the Sheikh’s family for more than 200 years was better left in the hands of my guy, who had closer ties to Washington.

It all started with a cryptic phone call.

(via @JakeSwearingen)

VOICE OVER, a short film

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 12, 2013

This ten minute film by Martin Rosete of Spanish production company Kamel Films, narrated by French actor Féodor Atkine will take your breath away. Or at least it’ll try.

“You had enough air in your suit for 3 hours. Now there’s just 3 minutes and 33 seconds left.”

(via @hughhowey)

Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 12, 2013

In an allegorical turn, Tim Maly looks at the history of the hoodie and what it means to want to be private in public.

In the 1970s, hoodies made their way into hip hop and skater culture. They kept breakdancers warm while they waited their turn to hit the floor. They served another purpose. Hoods are cheap instant anonymizers. They protected graffiti artists and skateboarders as they trespassed to perform their art. They protected muggers as they performed their art too.

It is December 25th, 2012 and the Zuckerberg family is gathered around the kitchen island. They’re playing with the new Facebook Poke app and everyone has exaggerated expressions of joy. Mark is in the background, watching over them, smiling. He’s wearing his hoodie.

The Postal Service’s new song - “A Tattered Line of String”

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 11, 2013

Close on the heels of their announcement to reunite after 10 years, The Postal Service have released a new song called “A Tattered Line of String.”

After a decade of anticipation, I’m not sure whether I’m happy or disappointed that a new Postal Service song sounds exactly like I hoped it would.

Can the shape of a country determine its economics?

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 11, 2013

Over on his Strange Maps blog, Frank Jacobs takes a look at the shape classification of various countries and compares their economic and political histories.


The Five Types of Territorial Morphology sounds like a fun parlour game, at least in cartophile circles (is Portugal compact or elongated? Is or isn’t Somalia prorupt? Does New Zealand qualify as fragmented?) But there is a serious, geopolitical concern behind this attempt at classification. For a country’s shape has a profound impact on its economic success, and even its political viability.

Fragmented states often experience great centrifugal pressures, with separatism affecting their outlying fragments. This is true of the Philippines, the central government of which only last October concluded a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had waged a separatist guerilla on the southern island of Mindanao.

I blame technology

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 11, 2013

Where’s the human connection anymore? Teens these days, with their texting and what not. In my day—


1906 Punch comic, meet 2013 Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic.

(via @kiptw)


posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 11, 2013

I’m sure you’ve seen garbage shoved into a crevice before and haven’t given it a thought beyond “gross” but now that Cabel Sasser has given a name to the odd occurrence, it’ll be hard not to notice and remember.


We all know it’s not cool to litter. If our hands are burdened with the weighty responsibility of an unwanted and snot-spent tissue, or an empty aluminum can that once held some Dr. Skipper, or even a gentle gum wrapper, the worst thing — the worst possible thing — would be to throw it on the ground. […]

I first noticed the “litterplugs” (if I may) phenomenon in Japan, ten years ago. This is the photo that started it all, a slightly bowing construction wall by Shinjuku station that immediately became a garbage can.

Cabel’s most interesting photos seem to be from Japan. I wonder if Japan has a broken windows problem with garbage. Or just fewer trash cans.

The Manhattan of the desert

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 11, 2013

Originally build in the 3rd century, the walled city of Shibam in Yemen was one of the first urban areas with high rise buildings and is still a populated and functioning city today.

Despite being built with sun-dried mud bricks, the fortified city from the the 16th-century is in fact based on the principle of vertical construction, with almost no fenestration on the ground level, rising up to the height of eight storey. Its plan is trapezoidal, with tower houses built within the outer walls for defense from rival families and political prestige. Located in a caravan route of spice and incense across the Southern Arabian plateau, the city was built on a rocky spur, above an earlier settlement destroyed by a flood in 1532-3.

If this dense, isolated city plan looks familiar but you thought it was more modern, then you’re probably thinking of Kowloon Walled City in China. Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible radio show did a great episode about Kowloon recently.

Tetris: winning an unwinnable game

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2013

Chris Higgins travels to the Tetris World Championship and profiles a couple of the game’s top competitors. The issue at heart is: how do approach playing and mastering a game that you can’t actually win?

When Steil achieved his current high score of 889,131 points (and 222 lines) in October of 2012, it felt like a loss. Despite being Steil’s best game to date, it represented a failure to reach the perfection of a max out. When he posted the score on Facebook for his Tetris friends to see, he wrote, “Another new high score, but what a choke job at 222 [lines]. Each new high score is a minor success as well as a monumental failure.”

This attitude pervades competitive Tetris, and it highlights the perverse aspect that the best game is still a loss. Faced with this harsh reality, NES Tetris players have devised ways to compete (the Championship), milestones to achieve (max outs and high numbers of lines per game), and ways to measure performance (max outs achieved starting at higher levels are more difficult due to the game’s speed). Fundamentally, however, players compete against themselves and lose every time.

Here’s what getting a max score on Tetris looks like:

(via @VintageZen66)

Does every species get a billion heartbeats per lifetime?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2013

There’s an assumption that because of the relationship between metabolic rates, volume, and surface area, animals get an average of one billion heartbeats out of their bodies before they expire. Turns out there’s some truth to it.

One Billion Heartbeats

As animals get bigger, from tiny shrew to huge blue whale, pulse rates slow down and life spans stretch out longer, conspiring so that the number of heartbeats during an average stay on Earth tends to be roughly the same, around a billion.

Mysteriously, these and a large variety of other phenomena change with body size according to a precise mathematical principle called “quarter-power scaling”.

It might seem that because a cat is a hundred times more massive than a mouse, its metabolic rate, the intensity with which it burns energy, would be a hundred times greater. After all, the cat has a hundred times more cells to feed.

But if this were so, the animal would quickly be consumed by a fit of spontaneous feline combustion, or at least a very bad fever. The reason: the surface area a creature uses to dissipate the heat of the metabolic fires does not grow as fast as its body mass.

To see this, consider a mouse as an approximation of a small sphere. As the sphere grows larger, to cat size, the surface area increases along two dimensions but the volume increases along three dimensions. The size of the biological radiator cannot possibly keep up with the size of the metabolic engine.

Humans and chickens are both outliers in this respect…they both live more than twice as long as their heart rates would indicate. Small dogs live about half as long.

Essential winter storm report

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2013

There’s a blizzard bearing down on the northeastern United States and here’s some essential information you need to know if you live in an affected area:

But seriously, you should follow @EricHolthaus for the latest storm info. (Ok, so we have our first celebrity Twitter weatherman. Weather and climate are going to become a lot more important in American pop culture…at what point do Gawker or Buzzfeed launch their climate verticals?)

Update: Gawker now has a climate vertical, The Vane. (via @bgporter)

How Etsy grew their number of female engineers by almost 500% in one year

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2013

Etsy recognized that their engineering team was not as gender diverse as they wanted it to be, even after recognizing the issue and attempting to fix it. Here’s how they made some real progress.

Kellan Elliott-McCrea (@kellan), a former architect at Flickr and co-author of the OAuth spec, is now the CTO at Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace. During his tenure, he’s played a critical role in the company’s restructuring of its engineering organization; now, Etsy hires for diversity, particularly gender diversity. After witnessing first-hand how challenging it can be to attract women engineers, Kellan shares lessons in building a process and culture to attract female engineers. All the good stuff below belongs to him.

Etsy’s decision to pursue women engineers is indicative of a broader change: making diversity a core value. But even after a number of concerted efforts to bring more women talent onboard, the company achieved almost no progress; in fact, one year, they actually saw a thirty-five percent decline in gender diversity even when this was a priority.

Updates on previous entries for Feb 7, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2013

Coca-Cola’s algorithmic orange juice orig. from Feb 06, 2013
The world’s zaniest U-turn orig. from Feb 07, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

What we don’t know about drones

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

With drones in the news this week, The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins takes a look at what the drone wars are like on the receiving end of the action, and reminds us what we don’t know about drones (and their targets).

When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from a unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at.

Competitive wood planing

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

What a day! First we were delighted by a madcap U-turn video that is probably fake, we learned there’s such a thing as windless kite flying, and now we’re learning that competitive wood planing is a thing. In Japan, the best wood planers gather each year to see who can shave the thinnest shaving off of a piece of wood. My literal jaw literally dropped when I saw how thin the shavings are:

9 microns! A micron is one-millionth of a meter or one-thousandth of a millimeter. For reference, the diameter of a red blood cell is 8-9 microns, a cloud water droplet is about 10 microns across, and an average human hair is about 100 microns across. How do you get such a thin shaving? A really sharp blade. Like maybe a knife sharped with .025 Micron Polycrystalline Diamond Spray? (via @Colossal)

Surfer swims for his life

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

Remember the guy who rode the alleged 100-foot wave? Here’s a video of some other tow-in surfers from that same location (Nazare, Portugal) on the same day. The waves aren’t quite as big as 100 feet, but the sequence starting at 1:52, where the guy falls off his board and swims like hell to get out of the way before the whole ocean crashes down on top of him (watch the top of the wave), gives you a real sense of how insane this sport is.

Great use of high definition and slow motion. (via @alexismadrigal)

Windless kite flying

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

From the 2013 Windless Kite Festival, Spencer Watson does a routine to an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black.

(via @dunstan)

The world’s zaniest U-turn

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

This is straight out of an episode of Mr. Bean or Austin Powers: a driver in a tiny car tries to make a U-turn on an even tinier street in Naples and gets stuck. Traffic starts backing up. A crowd gathers. A gang of motorcyclists shows up. A church procession is blocked from going down the street. Eventually the priest gets involved in moving the car.

This better be real because it’s one of the most improbably cinematic things I’ve ever seen. (via @DavidGrann)

Update: WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS??! This is probably a fake.

Republic had presented the video of the jam so become “viral” on the web. In fact, the movie is the result of a staging. residents hired as extras, 24 hours and no camera but only iPhone and iPad to shoot. These are the ingredients of the video style “Benvenuti al Sud” that drove him crazy social networks and turned the spotlight on the town in the province of Naples.

Stupid Fiat. (thx, pb)

The 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

Photos from the shortlist of winners of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards. Some stunning shots in there.

Botswana Heavy Metal

Edith, Hellrider, and Dadmonster pose for a photograph. In Botswana, heavy metal music has landed. Metal groups are now performing in nightclubs, concerts, festivals. The ranks of their fans have expanded dramatically. These fans wear black leather pants and jackets, studded belts, boots and cowboy hats. On their t-shirts stand out skulls, obscenities, historical covers of hard-rock groups popular in the seventies and eighties, such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, and AC/DC. They have created their own style, inspired by classic metal symbolism, but also borrowing heavily from the iconography of western films and the traditional rural world of Botswana. Their nicknames, Gunsmoke, Rockfather, Carrott Warmachine, Hellrider, Hardcore, Dignified Queen, may appear subversive and disturbing as their clothing, but they are peaceful and gentle. “We like to get dressed,, drink meet friends and feel free , this music is so powerful . We are lucky to live in a country tolerant and open” argues one of the leaders. A precious rarity for Africa.

Botswanian heavy metal fans and other great selections from the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Photo from 1948 of a Manhattan Dodge/Plymouth dealership

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2013

From 1948, this is L Motors, located at 175th and Broadway in Manhattan.

Dodge Dealership 1948

Can’t believe I’d forgotten about Shorpy! Click through for a larger view. The Dodge/Plymouth dealership is long gone; that spot is now occupied by Bravo Super Markets. (via @claytoncubitt)

Afternoon productivity killer

posted by Aaron Cohen   Feb 06, 2013

Both Weavesilk and New Weavesilk are lovely ways to while away the rest of the afternoon. If you liked the falling sand game, which maybe morphed into thisissand, this one’s for you. Here’s an example of the kind of art you can make on New Weavesilk from Josh LaFayette. Looks kind of like a Lightning Bear.


More Apollo Robbins pickpocketing amazingness

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2013

In January, I linked to a piece in the New Yorker about master pickpocket Apollo Robbins.

One day, over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in a Las Vegas strip mall, Robbins demonstrated his method on me. “When I shake someone’s hand, I apply the lightest pressure on their wrist with my index and middle fingers and lead them across my body to my left,” he said, showing me. “The cross-body lead is actually a move from salsa dancing. I’m finding out what kind of a partner they’re going to be, and I know that if they follow my lead I can do whatever I want with them.”

Robbins was recently a guest on the Today show and the amount of criminal shenanighans he pulls off in this four minute video is astounding:

(via digg)

Nordstrom’s piano man says farewell

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2013

Because of “the evolving experience in the stores” (aka live music is too expensive), after 27 years of playing the piano at Nordstrom in the Tacoma Mall, Juan Perez was let go in January.

Perez remembers his audition at Nordstrom, one morning in January 1986.

“There were five of us. Four beautiful young ladies, and me. They were carrying music books.”

They were dressed, he said, as if they had shopped at Nordstrom. He was not. They were carrying sheet music. Perez did not, and does not, read notes. He plays by ear.

“I was the first one to play,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting they would hire me, and I was dressed in a regular shirt. I started playing and playing as the store opened up. I didn’t even have an application.”

After playing, he drove home.

“My wife said, ‘They called. They want you to start tomorrow.’ I almost cried.”

Perez arrived in the US with $300 to his name and through hard work at the piano, has put seven of his children through college, with two more currently in college and one more attending private high school. (via brooks review)

Coca-Cola’s algorithmic orange juice

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2013

Complicated Orange

Simply Orange juice is actually not all that simple. The taste of the the Coca-Cola-owned brand is governed by a complex algorithm that allows for the 600+ juice flavors to be tweaked throughout the year to ensure consistency. I liked The Atlantic Wire’s take on the news:

The explanation behind Coke’s complicated new orange juice scheme is nothing short of ironic. Basically, all of their customers are realizing the soda is really bad for you, so demand is shifting to healthy — or at least healthy-seeming — alternatives like juice. Coke also figured out that people are willing to pay 25 percent more for juice that’s not processed, that is, not made from concentrate. Enter Simply Orange. It is indeed just oranges, but boy have those oranges been through hell and back.

This is like White Zombie’s More Human Than Human except More Orange Juice Than Orange Juice.

Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik…prints & more are available.

Update: I updated the post above to point to Businessweek’s original report on Coke’s OJ business.

The dance of a murmuration of starlings

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2013

A collection of starlings is called a murmuration and when they roam the skies together, it’s beautiful:

This video is more artistic than the one I linked to in 2011, but the birds are super close in the older one:

Hilarious African knockoff video games

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2013

The Gameological Society’s Joe Keiser went shopping for video games in Nairobi and found a ton of PlayStation 2 knockoffs. Like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas:

GTA Kirk Douglas

Full disclosure: this article exists so I can tell you all about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas. Just look at it! It’s exquisite. The game itself is as grand as the cover. It is San Andreas, with the load screens replaced by EXTREME closeups of Kirk Douglas-and occasionally his son Michael Douglas, because hey, close enough, right? In the game, the main character appears to be a rough approximation of Kirk Douglas. Oh, and all the missions have been removed, so there’s nothing to do.

And RoboCop:

Robocop Sparkle

I do not doubt RoboCop’s commitment to Sparkle Motion.

“The larger our past gets the smaller our present feels”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

This didn’t feel like 8 minutes at all, which I guess, at my age, is the whole point.

(via @mrgan)

Photograph from the surface of Titan

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

So far, humans have taken photos from the surfaces of Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars. But I had no idea that a photo from the surface of Titan existed:

Titan Surface

The photo of the Saturnian moon was taken in 2005 by the Huygens probe, which was designed to land safely on the moon’s surface. From Wikipedia:

After landing, Huygens photographed a dark plain covered in small rocks and pebbles, which are composed of water ice. The two rocks just below the middle of the image on the right are smaller than they may appear: the left-hand one is 15 centimeters across, and the one in the center is 4 centimeters across, at a distance of about 85 centimeters from Huygens. There is evidence of erosion at the base of the rocks, indicating possible fluvial activity. The surface is darker than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice. The assumption is that the “soil” visible in the images is precipitation from the hydrocarbon haze above.

And a special close-but-no-cigar award goes to the NEAR Shoemaker probe, which snapped this photo from about 400 feet above the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Eros:

Eros surface

The probe landed on the surface of Eros in February 2001 and transmitted usable data for about two weeks afterwards, none of which was photographic in nature.

The home office of the 21st century

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

In a report from 1967, Walter Cronkite takes us on a brief tour of what they imagined the home office would be like in the 2000s.

In the 21st century, it may be that no home will be complete without a computerized communications console.

Cronkite also toured the kitchen and living room of the future.

(via viewsource)

The paper sculptures of Li Hongbo

posted by Aaron Cohen   Feb 05, 2013

This video of artist Li Hongbo demonstrating the complexity of his paper sculptures will blow your mind. More wild images at Dominik Mersch Gallery.

(via ★stellar)

Dell to go private

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

In 1997, Dell Computer CEO Michael Dell famously said of Apple:

I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.

Today, Michael Dell is part of a consortium giving the money back to the shareholders and taking Dell Inc. private.

Under the terms of the deal, the buyers’ consortium, which also includes Microsoft, will pay $13.65 a share in cash. That is roughly 25 percent above where Dell’s stock traded before word emerged of the negotiations of its sale.

Michael S. Dell will contribute his stake of roughly 14 percent toward the transaction, and will contribute additional cash through his private investment firm, MSD Capital. Silver Lake is expected to contribute about $1 billion in cash, while Microsoft will loan an additional $2 billion.

When it’s OK for the US govt to kill citizens

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2013

This Justice Department memo about when the US government, without hearing or trial or due process or whatever other “rights” we as a country hold dear, can kill US citizens is fucking bullshit.

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

The whole memo is here. A staggering disappointment from a man many think is better than this. See also: Obama’s lethal Presidency.

Is this really Abraham Lincoln’s business card?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2013

Last week, I ran across this list of business cards of famous people, among them Isaac Asimov, Mark Zuckerberg, and Harry Houdini. There was also this curious card for Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln Business Card

It seemed a little too jokey for a proper business card, so I tracked the card to its source, The Library of Congress. The card was likely printed in 1864 by the Democratic committee as a campaign souvenir and implies Lincoln would be defeated in the ‘64 election and on his way back to Illinois to practice law (and split rails).

The updated Big Mac index

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2013

For their Big Mac index (a way to look at currency exchange using global Big Mac pricing) this year, the Economist has released an interactive tool for exploring the data.

The Big Mac index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as a lighthearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries. For example, the average price of a Big Mac in America at the start of 2013 was $4.37; in China it was only $2.57 at market exchange rates. So the “raw” Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 41% at that time.

They’re also made the data set available in .xls format for at-home analysis.

1983 NY Times office computer policy memo

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2013

In 1983, the NY Times distributed a memo outlining the policy for computer use by employees.

5. Games and visual oddities may not be played or stored in the computer. They clutter the storage disk and slow its operation; they also encourage browsing, which leads to privacy violation. Finally, games may give new or junior staff members a misleading impression of the seriousness we attached to computer privacy.

(via @davidfg)

What if: the Milky Way were visible in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2013

It would look something like this:

NYC with stars

That’s from a series called Darkened Skies by Thierry Cohen; he photographed various cities (NYC, Paris, Tokyo, SF) and matched them up with starry skies from more remote places like Montana, Nevada, and the Sahara. New Yorkers can see Cohen’s work at the Danziger Gallery starting March 28.

See also Imagining Earth with Saturn’s Rings.

Lego Macintosh

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2013

The Lego Stephen Hawking is still number one, but this Lego Macintosh is pretty great.

Lego Mac

Built by Chris McVeigh. Rumor has it he will be offering the plans for this one as well as a limited number of kits. Prints of the photo are available now.

Groundhog Day liveblog

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2013

In celebration of Groundhog Day and the 20th anniversary of the release of Groundhog Day, the classic movie directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, we’re going to be liveblogging the movie starting at 8pm EST tonight.

If you’d like to watch along, you have several options: you can buy or rent on iTunes, buy or rent it on Amazon, find it on Bittorrent or Usenet, or stream it on Netflix (not sure if it’s actually available). If you’re awesome, you might already own a copy of the movie on DVD or Blu-ray. AMC is also showing Groundhog Day several times today but not at 8 so you’ll have to DVR it earlier. Check local listings as they say. There will be commercials in the AMC version, so you’ll get behind every time there’s a break, which is a bummer but not an insurmountable issue.

However you choose to watch it, queue up the movie at the blank screen just an instant before the clouds appear and at 08:00:00 pm EST on this clock, push play. Ok, cool. We’ll see you right back here at 8 pm tonight?

(Oh, and Bill, if you’re out there, we’d love to have you join in. Send me an email.)

An update: Ok, the liveblog has concluded, the archive is here. Also, Bill never emailed. :(

Update 2 [February 2, 2016]: So, Branch shut down, and with it the live link to the liveblog. But the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine came to the rescue. Here then, allow me to present, a lightly formatted record of our February 2, 2013 liveblog of Groundhog Day.
— Tim Carmody

February 2, 2013

Jason Kottke
Hey guys, we’ll be getting started here in a little bit. Hope this is fun….I’ve never liveblogged a non-live event before. Quick Bill Murray update: he has not emailed me yet.
2013-02-03 00:43:35

Tim Carmody
Someone, tell Bill Murray his wife is about to have sex on TV!
2013-02-03 00:49:13

Tim Carmody
Cf grantland.com

Bill Murray Likes to Call Kelly Lynch’s Husband [grantland.com]
2013-02-03 00:50:00

Jason Kottke
That is my favorite Bill Murray story, hands down.
2013-02-03 00:50:39

Tim Carmody
That’s a competitive category.
2013-02-03 00:51:01

Jason Kottke
BTW, for those following on Branch, here’s the info to get synced up to watch the movie with us:


Groundhog Day liveblog kottke.org
2013-02-03 00:51:33

Aaron Cohen
No one will ever believe that is your favorite Bill Murray story.

Bill Murray: ‘No one will ever believe you’ [message.snopes.com]
2013-02-03 00:53:20

Tim Carmody
So years ago, I bought the Special Edition DVD of Groundhog Day, which has a little featurette and director’s commentary from Harold Ramis. And the featurette is pretty good — the original script was much darker/artier, it started with Phil being already caught in the repeating loop. But the director’s commentary is just terrible.
2013-02-03 00:59:32

Jason Kottke
Ok, and we’re off!!
2013-02-03 01:00:20

Tim Carmody
You know all the jokes about bad DVD commentary? This hit every single one of them. It’s just Harold Ramis watching his own movie, and then saying the punchlines to the jokes right before the actors say them. And every once in a while saying how much he likes a scene.
2013-02-03 01:00:33

Jason Kottke
So the first thing that you’ll notice is that movies used to be a lot slower.
2013-02-03 01:01:17

Aaron Cohen
Tom Hanks was the first choice for Phil, but he was too nice. Tori Amos was considered for Rita.
2013-02-03 01:01:32

Tim Carmody
I had a huge crush on Andie McDowell in this movie, and my first real girlfriend in college looked and acted quite a bit like Rita.
2013-02-03 01:01:51

Tim Carmody
I wonder what debt Anchorman owes or has acknowledged to this movie?
2013-02-03 01:03:29

Jason Kottke
So, we’re still getting credits here. We’re watching a van drive. Isn’t Bill Murray just the perfect weather guy though? And the perfect amount of disgust on his face…
2013-02-03 01:04:48

Jason Kottke
I will not be typing Puxatawny or however it is spelled. I will be typing Puxawhatever. Deal.
2013-02-03 01:06:24

Jason Kottke
Rise and shine count: 1
2013-02-03 01:08:00

Tim Carmody
I was talking to a new friend of mine about this movie yesterday and she said that she hated this movie in the theater. It made her feel physically uncomfortable, anxious, and trapped, like Phil is in the story. Later, she saw it on TV and loved it.
2013-02-03 01:10:06

Jason Kottke
Stephen Tobolowsky!
2013-02-03 01:10:29

Sarah Pavis
it’s great to see stephen tobolowsky back when he was so jaunty
2013-02-03 01:11:06

Tim Carmody
I think I first saw Tobolowsky in Sneakers.
2013-02-03 01:11:36

Tim Carmody
Tomorrow we liveblog Sneakers.
2013-02-03 01:11:43

Tim Carmody
It’s kind of a shame this movie didn’t make anyone’s career. Maybe, MAYBE Tobolowsky.
2013-02-03 01:12:42

Jason Kottke
I’m not sure I saw this in the theater. Don’t really remember when I did see it for the first time.
2013-02-03 01:13:09

Tim Carmody
It redefined Bill Murray’s career. But there are no breakout stars, even though the supporting cast does a great job.
2013-02-03 01:13:16

Tim Carmody
I first saw it at my cousin’s house. I think that may have been the first time I ever got drunk.
2013-02-03 01:13:54

Jason Kottke
I dunno, I think this was a little bit of a revitalization of Murray’s career, before Wes Anderson got ahold of him.
2013-02-03 01:14:01

Sarah Pavis
for me groundhog day is one of the few perfect movies along with princess bride & galaxy quest
2013-02-03 01:14:26

Tim Carmody
Not everyone may know that the mayor/impresario/whoever (not fully clear what his official role is) is Bill’s brother Brian Doyle Murray.
2013-02-03 01:14:43

Aaron Cohen
That’s Murray’s brother reading the groundhog proclamation… And groundhog’s have a predictive value of about 30%-40%.

Groundhog Day - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [en.wikipedia.org]
2013-02-03 01:15:50

Sarah Pavis
if you weren’t aware, stephen tobolowsky has had some health issues

Stephen Tobolowsky: My Heartfelt Thanks to ‘Community’ (Plus, What I Learned From Chevy Chase) [thewrap.com]
2013-02-03 01:16:10

Tim Carmody
It’s weird that Phil could have been Tom Hanks (who had a dark, sarcastic streak as a young actor) when one of my fantasies is to recast Cast Away with Bill Murray instead of Hanks (and Julianne Moore instead of Helen Hunt).
2013-02-03 01:16:28

Jason Kottke
Back in the real world, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow this morning, so spring is around the corner:

Groundhog Day 2013: No shadow for Punxsutawney … washingtonpost.com
2013-02-03 01:17:06

Tim Carmody
This moment with the state trooper is the first where Phil’s behavior isn’t just jerky, but kind of implausibly outrageous.
2013-02-03 01:17:42

Sarah Pavis
30-40%? that’s statistically significant, if in a non-optimal direction. if we took the opposite advice of groundhogs we’d be right 70% of the time.
2013-02-03 01:18:49

Aaron Cohen
I like casting movie remakes so I spent some time thinking of who would be in Groundhog Day 2013. I got Gerard Butler for Murray, Tina Fey for Rita, Chris Elliot or Steve Buscemi for Chris Elliot… With some alternates and darkhorses…
2013-02-03 01:19:00

Tim Carmody
Murray improvised and rewrote a lot of his lines, Scorsese-style (he and Ramis pitched, and then they set it). “Read a little Hustler or something” is very Bill Murray.
2013-02-03 01:19:04

Jason Kottke
Gerard Butler? Come on, you’re very close to being kicked off the team here. Man up, Cohen.
2013-02-03 01:19:52

Tim Carmody
If you put Tina Fey in Groundhog Day 2013, I think she has to be the protagonist.
2013-02-03 01:19:58

Sarah Pavis
you need someone more deadpan and morose for the lead, i nominate aubrey plaza
2013-02-03 01:21:05

Tim Carmody
“Don’t mess with me, Pork Chop” is a deft foreshadowing of the character Phil would later come to call “Bronco.”
2013-02-03 01:21:13

Aaron Cohen
Alternates for Murray were Jon Krasinski, Jason Segel, Chris Rock…
2013-02-03 01:21:26

Tim Carmody
I think if I recast Phil’s character in this movie today I would do my very best to secure Bill Murray.
2013-02-03 01:22:22

Jason Kottke
Man, I can’t even think who would be good to play Phil in a reboot. Ryan Gosling can do anything, right?
2013-02-03 01:22:43

Tim Carmody
Murray does some real, quite subtle acting in these early first-repetition scenes.
2013-02-03 01:23:09

Jason Kottke
How many times does Tobolowsky say “bing”? Do we have a count on that?
2013-02-03 01:23:15

Sarah Pavis
richard ayoade would be awesome as phil
2013-02-03 01:24:00

Tim Carmody
When was the last time you saw a movie where so many people wear so many clothes?
2013-02-03 01:24:08

Jason Kottke
I’m reading this Buzzfeed list about GHD and Tori Amos was considered for the role of Rita? buzzfeed.com

12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Movie [buzzfeed.com]
2013-02-03 01:24:24

Aaron Cohen
It really is called Gobblers Knob, that commons, which is weird.
2013-02-03 01:24:28

Tim Carmody
Sometimes I think about the way Phil just walks out of places whenever I feel deeply uncomfortable somewhere. And then, as often as not, I go ahead and just walk out without saying anything.

I like to say “I put the Irish in Irish Goodbye.”
2013-02-03 01:25:56

Aaron Cohen
Continuity issue: By skipping breakfast, Phil would be a few seconds ahead of Ned Ryerson etc, right?
2013-02-03 01:26:44

Jason Kottke
This is the third time through?
2013-02-03 01:26:49

Tim Carmody
If I remember correctly, they shot Groundhog Day in a small town in Illinois.
2013-02-03 01:26:58

Tim Carmody
Time number three. “I’ve already done it twice.”
2013-02-03 01:27:23

Jason Kottke
Is GHD a time travel movie? Like Primer or Looper?
2013-02-03 01:28:24

Aaron Cohen
It’s Dr. Spaceman!
2013-02-03 01:28:34

Tim Carmody
Re: Aaron’s point about continuity, there’s a certain conservation principle at work in Phil’s repetitions. He can’t really change or affect the circumstances around him, in a meaningful way. The only thing he can change is himself.
2013-02-03 01:28:41

Jason Kottke
Ramis! I forgot he was in this.
2013-02-03 01:28:45

Tim Carmody
This was the first time we saw fat Harold Ramis.
2013-02-03 01:29:32

Sarah Pavis
I thought that too, Aaron. He wouldn’t have seen Ned. He went through the lobby too fast.
2013-02-03 01:30:04

Tim Carmody
The guy with the beard is Rick Overton, a terrific comedian.
2013-02-03 01:30:14

Aaron Cohen
Sea otters make love like sea otters so they don’t drift away when they sleep.
2013-02-03 01:30:50

Jason Kottke
So, there’s an entire book about this movie:

Groundhog Day (BFI Modern Classics) [amazon.com]
2013-02-03 01:31:01

Tim Carmody
“What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and everything was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” was the joke that hit me full in the face when I saw this at 13.
2013-02-03 01:31:18

Jason Kottke
The author of the book wrote this piece for the Guardian: guardian.co.uk

It’s that man again… and again [guardian.co.uk]
2013-02-03 01:32:39

Aaron Cohen
How many days in a row of it being the same day would it take you to decide you could do whatever you wanted? Seems like a sane person might need more than 3…
2013-02-03 01:32:50

Tim Carmody
Here’s a theory: Phil can’t ever really harm himself. Not just that if he attempts suicide, he restarts. But he can’t injure himself, or even really get drunk, or get a stomachache from eating too much food. Are there counterexamples in the film?
2013-02-03 01:33:06

Sarah Pavis
wow phil gets fatalist fast in this. i’d forgotten.
2013-02-03 01:33:16

Tim Carmody
Like he crashes the car, and everybody else gets hurt, but not Phil. That’s crazy.
2013-02-03 01:34:31

Aaron Cohen
Here’s the original NYT review from 2/93.

“That glimmer of recognition is what makes “Groundhog Day” a particularly witty and resonant comedy, even when its jokes are more apt to prompt gentle giggles than rolling in the aisles. The story’s premise, conceived as a sitcom-style visit to the Twilight Zone, starts out lightweight but becomes strangely affecting. Phil Connors, Mr. Murray’s amusingly rude Pittsburgh television personality, surely deserves to be punished for his arrogance. But who in the audience hasn’t ever wished time would stand still and offer a second, third or even a 20th chance?”

Groundhog Day (1993) Review/Film; Bill Murray Battles Pittsburgh Time Warp [movies.nytimes.com]
2013-02-03 01:35:08

Jason Kottke
I dunno, I think you’d feel invincible pretty quick. Like being a superhero or something. Except for the whole you can’t affect any true change in the world.
2013-02-03 01:35:33

Tim Carmody
I love that bit of acting when he’s in jail and the bars close on him, like he wonders for a brief moment whether he’s just really screwed up. Then his divine exuberance in the morning.
2013-02-03 01:35:38

Sarah Pavis
i think this plays out more like a video game than a time travel movie. phil fucks up: reboot.
2013-02-03 01:35:48

Aaron Cohen
I would like to try that with a piece of angle food cake sometime.
2013-02-03 01:37:05

Jason Kottke
I love how he sticks that whole thing in his mouth.
2013-02-03 01:37:54

Tim Carmody
If there are any teenagers watching this, Willard Scott was Al Roker before Al Roker.
2013-02-03 01:38:17

Jason Kottke
That poem is My Native Land by Sir Walter Scott: poemhunter.com

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

My Native Land by Sir Walter Scott [poemhunter.com]
2013-02-03 01:39:04

Tim Carmody
I kind of like how Nancy is an attractive but by movie standards ordinary-looking small-town woman. If they made this movie now, Phil would be banging Megan Fox or something.
2013-02-03 01:39:42

Sarah Pavis
if bill murray weren’t so likeable, bamboozling women into liking/sleeping with him would be creepy
2013-02-03 01:40:08

Aaron Cohen
Tim mentioned that so Jason would be forced to share Megan Fox’s toe thumbs.
2013-02-03 01:40:25

Tim Carmody
That’s his secret, Sarah — he can be genuinely sleazy and we like him anyways.
2013-02-03 01:40:41

Sarah Pavis
2013-02-03 01:41:09

Jason Kottke
Bing! kottke.org

Megan Fox’s toe thumb [kottke.org]
2013-02-03 01:41:15

Tim Carmody
I like how this jump (the first, I think to do this) implies that Phil’s spent a LOT of time in this town. If we see his first four-five loops as they happen, now he may be 100X or more into it.
2013-02-03 01:42:23

Jason Kottke
So there’s discontinuity here, yes? I mean, this can’t be the 5th time through. He probably watched that bank truck, what, 20 times?
2013-02-03 01:43:05

Sarah Pavis
didn’t the director say that he repeated the day something like 10,000 times?
2013-02-03 01:43:11

Aaron Cohen
Several semi-official timelines exist from 4-5 years to 10 years to 10K years.
2013-02-03 01:44:05

Tim Carmody
This is “Phil the professional” phase. He repeats and refines his day the same way he repeats and refines the little schtick he does in front of the groundhog. He’s learning and memorizing his lines. He’s trying to live his life like it’s a broadcast.
2013-02-03 01:45:14

Jason Kottke
Jamie Zawinski calculated four years but the screenwriter said it was about 10 years: jwz.org

Happy Groundhog Day! jwz.org
2013-02-03 01:45:39

Sarah Pavis
no, i think he’s just bored of messing with the townies and wants to up his game with a longer con.
2013-02-03 01:46:41

Aaron Cohen
Ordering sweet vermouth on the rocks at that bar would probably get you the nastiest tasting drink of all time.
2013-02-03 01:47:06

Jason Kottke
That screenwriter was Danny Rubin…he wrote a book called “How to Write Groundhog Day” that answers a bunch of questions about the film: howtowritegroundhogday.com

How to Write Groundhog Day howtowritegroundhogday.com
2013-02-03 01:47:25

Tim Carmody
I’ve never had it, but sweet vermouth on the rocks with lemon sounds like a terrible drink. I like vermouth, but it needs something more. As Phil says, “I’d like one more of these with some booze in it.”
2013-02-03 01:47:36

Tim Carmody
Bill Murray himself hates vermouth. When he makes a martini, he whispers the word “vermouth” over the glass.
2013-02-03 01:48:02

Aaron Cohen
I just don’t expect that type of bar would go through enough vermouth to keep it from going bad.
2013-02-03 01:48:23

Tim Carmody
I’m so happy Aaron agrees with me on vermouth.
2013-02-03 01:48:59

Tim Carmody
I’ve always wondered whether the “live in the mountains, at high altitudes” line is something Phil cooked up by workshopping it with Rita, or if that’s somehow his idea of what would impress someone like her, and he just stuck with it.
2013-02-03 01:49:59

Jason Kottke
This liveblogging is totally interfering with my enjoyment of the movie.
2013-02-03 01:50:24

Tim Carmody
Sarah I agree that it’s a long con on Rita, but the way he goes about it is really pulling in all his (limited, but impressive) skills as a TV weatherman. It’s memorization, repetition, and performance.
2013-02-03 01:50:45

Sarah Pavis
with pick-up artist bullshit being so prevalent nowadays this section conning rita feels a lot creepier watching it now than it did when i originally watched it years ago. as tim maly said, phil’s acting like a redditor.
2013-02-03 01:50:56

Tim Carmody
“phil’s acting like a redditor.” 2013-02-03 01:51:31

Aaron Cohen
Are the types of things he’s doing the same as the pick-up artist bullshit? He’s saying what she wants to hear, not aggressively pressuring with suggestive touches… Realizing how much I know of that culture makes me want a shower now.
2013-02-03 01:52:16

Jason Kottke
The universe doesn’t like creepy. It doesn’t let Phil off the hook until he genuinely changes.
2013-02-03 01:52:47

Tim Carmody
I think all of us have thought about repeating things or trying to make/plan a “perfect day,” but I do wonder if videogame culture has that kind of strategy hardwired into us a little bit more.
2013-02-03 01:52:55

Tim Carmody
I think it’s important that this doesn’t actually work on Rita. It wins her over for a moment, but 1) she sees through him pretty quickly and 2) as Jason says, the universe sort of keeps Phil from changing her too much.
2013-02-03 01:54:54

Aaron Cohen
Phil Connors never punts when he plays Madden.
2013-02-03 01:55:02

Tim Carmody
Groundhog Day speedrun
2013-02-03 01:55:41

Tim Carmody
On this second full runthrough, Phil starts to lose it. Where he could fake sincerity for a little while before, now he can’t even fool himself.
2013-02-03 01:56:27

Tim Carmody
Guys, when you try to do that pickup artist stuff, this is the Phil you look like.
2013-02-03 01:56:50

Aaron Cohen
The slaps come earlier and earlier when the day loses any spontaneity.
2013-02-03 01:57:00

Sarah Pavis
Groundhog Day as PUA morality play
2013-02-03 01:57:11

Tim Carmody
This, with Phil lying in bed, repeating the radio patter, is when I realized this movie wasn’t operating at typical comedy level.
2013-02-03 01:58:32

Aaron Cohen
I thought Phil was a Jim Beam man, but that wasn’t Beam, was it?
2013-02-03 01:58:54

Jason Kottke
Fun fact! On Nantucket, they pull a clam out of the harbor and see if it spits left or right. This year, it spit left, which means 6 more weeks of winter. Meet Quentin the Quahog: ack.net

QuentinTheQuahog020213 [ack.net]
2013-02-03 01:59:00

Tim Carmody
When I watch this movie, I like to say Phil’s Jeopardy answers at the same time that he does. In related news, I’m obnoxious.
2013-02-03 01:59:06

Sarah Pavis
took me awhile to snap and upload but OMG RITA’S VEST remember the 90s? i owned more vests than i care to admit to

2013-02-03 02:00:46

Tim Carmody
“Out of his gourd” is still a pretty important part of my vocabulary. As is “I’ve come to the end of me.”
2013-02-03 02:01:02

Sarah Pavis
tim, sounds like you should do a commentary track
2013-02-03 02:01:23

Jason Kottke
I wore a vest to a job interview in 1996. And a puffy shirt! Oh God, we’re dredging up some bad things here.
2013-02-03 02:01:48

Tim Carmody
2013-02-03 02:01:55

Aaron Cohen
Don’t drive angry.

2013-02-03 02:03:27

Jason Kottke
The stealing the groundhog scene is my favorite in the movie. “Pretty good for a quadruped.” “Side of the eye, side of the eye.” “Don’t drive angry.”
2013-02-03 02:04:15

Jason Kottke
Aaron, where’s that from? (I mean, I know, but others might want to know.)
2013-02-03 02:05:12

Tim Carmody
This moment here, after Phil falls from the church window, is unusual in that we see all the other characters continue with their day after Phil has died.
2013-02-03 02:06:14

Aaron Cohen
That piece was Chris Pasick’s submission to last year’s Super Precious Art Gallery’s mini-Groundhog Day art show. superprecio.us

Super Precious Gallery [superprecio.us]
2013-02-03 02:06:42

Tim Carmody
This long “I am a god” scene is my favorite. Watch how it turns from him being smug and kind of jokey. At first Phil just wants to humor Rita. By the end, he’s sincerely desperate for her to believe him.
2013-02-03 02:07:26

Tim Carmody
Then the long “you like boats but not the ocean” speech. Getting a little misty, frankly.
2013-02-03 02:08:57

Jason Kottke
Is this a comedy? Drama? Something in-between? I mean, it’s funny but there’s also a lot more too it. Like existential heavy things.
2013-02-03 02:09:25

Tim Carmody
I think it’s a comedy with existential motifs. It’s an exploration of the absurd. But, for all its reality-bending metaphysics and philosophical themes, it also has a fairly traditional comic-romantic arc.
2013-02-03 02:11:12

Aaron Cohen
Jason, heard that was the gist of the trouble between Ramis and Murray. Ramis wanted it to be more of a comedy and Murray wanted it to be darker…
2013-02-03 02:11:28

Tim Carmody
“Gosh, you’re an upbeat lady!” is a formula I go to pretty often too.
2013-02-03 02:11:52

Jason Kottke
Most of my favorite movies hit in-between genres like that.
2013-02-03 02:12:16

Aaron Cohen
Just like Unstoppable.
2013-02-03 02:12:58

Tim Carmody
“I don’t deserve someone like you…” is also a pretty amazing moment, with great, not-too-flashy writing.
2013-02-03 02:13:26

Jason Kottke
My wife: although creepy, Phil doesn’t resort to raping Rita. Which is a fair point.
2013-02-03 02:13:28

Sarah Pavis
or like Crank. i love that crazy balls action comedy.
2013-02-03 02:14:06

Tim Carmody
Let’s all pass out our “Hey, I’m not a Rapist!!” pins
2013-02-03 02:14:17

Jason Kottke
Ok, so why didn’t Phil’s ordeal end after that? He finally gets it, right? I think it’s because the whole thing hinges on Rita. She needs to fall in love with him before things can move on.
2013-02-03 02:17:25

Aaron Cohen
The Groundhog Day liveblog 2014 is going to go up against the Super Bowl if we do it at night. (The Patriots will beat the Lions and Bernard Pollard (who went to the Lions as a freeagent will leave the field with a career ending knee injury).
2013-02-03 02:17:38

Tim Carmody
There’s also the whole self-improvement and selflessness thing.
2013-02-03 02:19:44

Sarah Pavis
i legit forget how this movie ends. is it about rita falling in love with him or him living one day sincerely?
2013-02-03 02:19:57

Tim Carmody
Some poignant, strange, not fully revealed subtext in Phil calling the old homeless man “father” and “pop.”
2013-02-03 02:21:11

Jason Kottke
Does the old man actually remember him? The one character that does?
2013-02-03 02:21:41

Tim Carmody
He also has to realize his own limits, that not everything is or will be under his control. That is part of what this sequence is about.
2013-02-03 02:22:06

Jason Kottke
OH: “I want Tim Carmody to commentate my life.”
2013-02-03 02:22:43

Tim Carmody
It helps if I’ve seen your life at least a hundred times before.
2013-02-03 02:23:15

Aaron Cohen
Is “Not today” the start of Phil trying to change how the day ends? Also, Phil calls him father, dad, pop, hinting at possible father abandonment issues for our erstwhile protagonist is one of the greatest analytical leaps I’ve ever made.
2013-02-03 02:23:22

Tim Carmody
That kid who falls out of the tree isn’t Joseph Gordon Levitt, but wouldn’t it be awesome if he were?
2013-02-03 02:24:38

Jason Kottke
There’s a playlist on Rdio of all the music from the movie: rdio.com

Groundhog Day Soundtrack rdio.com
2013-02-03 02:25:00

Aaron Cohen
No joke, I was at an event where Dr Henry Heimlich’s wife called herself Mrs. Maneuver.
2013-02-03 02:25:11

Tim Carmody
Pick-up artist guys, you also look like Chris Elliott trying to pick up Nancy.
2013-02-03 02:25:46

Sarah Pavis
i saw him in the diner scene, i never knew michael shannon was in this movie cityoffilms.com

Michael Shannon Was In GROUNDHOG DAY [cityoffilms.com]
2013-02-03 02:26:07

Jason Kottke
My wife is talking about how Phil’s behavior at various loops through the day mirrors Freud’s theories about the id, ego, and superego.
2013-02-03 02:27:29

Sarah Pavis
this movie plays it small, the comedy & the existentialism.
2013-02-03 02:28:24

Aaron Cohen
“Fastest jack in Jefferson County.”
2013-02-03 02:28:33

Tim Carmody
One day, I just want a woman to look in my eyes with as much love as the “fastest jack in Jefferson County” woman has for Phil.
2013-02-03 02:28:45

Sarah Pavis
whoa young michael shannon is a cutie (still got those psycho eyes though)
2013-02-03 02:29:24

Tim Carmody
The great Robin Duke. Lots of old Second City/SNL people in this movie.
2013-02-03 02:31:04

Jason Kottke
Checkbook! Who carries a checkbook around anymore?
2013-02-03 02:31:28

Tim Carmody
Kids, in 1993, $60 was a lot of money.
2013-02-03 02:31:35

Sarah Pavis
what’s that in bitcoin, grandpa
2013-02-03 02:32:01

Tim Carmody
I bid two bitcoins
2013-02-03 02:32:24

Tim Carmody
“Let’s not spoil it!” is the moment when you feel like Rita is actually snarky enough to throw down with Phil, not just laugh at his jokes and make him a better man.
2013-02-03 02:33:32

Jason Kottke
Stephen Tobolowsky doing the Eartha Kitt Catwomen noise is amazing. ROWR…
2013-02-03 02:33:46

Aaron Cohen
That snow sculpture looks like Maid Marian from the Kevin Costner Robinhood.
2013-02-03 02:33:49

Tim Carmody
Guys, kissing is awesome
2013-02-03 02:34:57

Jason Kottke
Aaaaaand still no email from Bill Murray.
2013-02-03 02:35:05

Sarah Pavis
swinging back to reboot casting: my ideal would be richard ayoade/anne hathaway. gender swapped casting would be aubrey plaza as girl-phil/daniel bruhl as boy-rita.
2013-02-03 02:36:53

Tim Carmody
When she says “I’m sure I can think of something,” everyone agrees she means oral sex, right?
2013-02-03 02:37:32

Aaron Cohen
Anne Hathaway and Zooey Deschanel don’t get to be in any of the movies I’m remaking.
2013-02-03 02:38:01

Jason Kottke
Do you think that Feb 3 then repeats over and over again until something else happens?
2013-02-03 02:38:15

Tim Carmody
This movie is so unrealistic what are Phil and Rita going to do for work in Punxsutawney start their own TV station give music lessons ice sculpt no sir no ma’am no way I don’t think so
2013-02-03 02:38:57

Jason Kottke
Man, 20 years was a long time ago. These credits look ancient.
2013-02-03 02:40:06

Aaron Cohen
They’ll commute to Channel 9 Pittsburgh.
2013-02-03 02:40:12

Tim Carmody
Aaron, you’ve got that moisture on your head.
2013-02-03 02:41:03

Jason Kottke
All right, we’re all done. Thanks for joining us everyone! See you next year? If you missed the whole thing, here’s a YT video of all the best stuff: youtube.com

2013-02-03 02:42:09 Sarah Pavis suicide, suicide, jail. nice summary of the movie, dvd menu screen.

2013-02-03 02:46:31

Updates on previous entries for Feb 1, 2013*

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2013

Grand Central Terminal is 100 years old orig. from Feb 01, 2013
Read Bill Gates’ annual letter orig. from Jan 31, 2013
The world’s fastest rugby player orig. from Jan 31, 2013

* Q: Wha? A: These previously published entries have been updated with new information in the last 24 hours. You can find past updates here.

The first software patent

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2013

David Friedman profiles Martin Goetz, who received the very first software patent granted by the US Patent Office in 1968.

Goetz’s patent is here.

Super Bowl preview for non-football fans

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2013

If you don’t know anything about football and yet are interested in (or being coerced into) watching the big game this weekend, here are some players’ stories that might make it more interesting for you.

Whether actively experiencing the spectacle or not, there are a few reasons to like the Super Bowl in 2013, besides the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are the first major professional sports franchise, so far, to be named after a 19th century poem. For starters, in a sports year that’s already brought us doping cyclists and fake dead girlfriends, the teams in this year’s contest are welcome standouts. The San Francisco 49ers were the first NFL team to join the “It Gets Better” campaign, and their opponent, the Ravens, has a team captain who is the most outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in the NFL, and whose presence has evolved the once overtly homophobic locker-room culture of his entire team.

I loved this line in reference to Colin Kapernick’s replacement of Alex Smith as the 49ers’ starting QB:

The deliberate, steady bus was replaced by a flaming Apache helicopter flown by a nude Vladimir Putin.

Bonus: nothing about the Harbaugh brothers.

Grand Central Terminal is 100 years old

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2013

To celebrate Grand Central’s 100th birthday, The Daily Beast has 100 facts about the NYC landmark.

1. Grand Central Terminal opened its doors at midnight on February 2, 1913.

9. To commemorate the centennial on Friday, shops and eateries will price their goods as if it were 1913. [Ed note: I doubt this applies to the Apple Store.]

39. A secret trap door in the kiosk below the clock leads to a spiral staircase down to the lower level info booth.

50. M42 connects to a secret underground platform at the Waldorf Astoria.

93. In 1978’s Superman, Lex Luther’s lair is located under the terminal.

Update: Another fact: Grand Central’s clocks are purposefully off by a minute.

The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they’re about to miss can actually be dangerous — to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains’ posted departure times. That minute of extra time won’t be enough to disconcert passengers too much when they compare it to their own watches or smartphones … but it is enough, the thinking goes, to buy late-running train-catchers just that liiiiiitle bit of extra time that will make them calm down a bit. Fast clocks make for slower passengers.

Ed Koch, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2013

Former three-term mayor of NYC Ed Koch died this morning at 88. Worth reading are obituaries by Robert McFadden in the NY Times:

Mr. Koch’s 12-year mayoralty encompassed the fiscal austerity of the late 1970s and the racial conflicts and municipal corruption scandals of the 1980s, an era of almost continuous discord that found Mr. Koch at the vortex of a maelstrom day after day.

But out among the people or facing a news media circus in the Blue Room at City Hall, he was a feisty, slippery egoist who could not be pinned down by questioners and who could outtalk anybody in the authentic voice of New York: as opinionated as a Flatbush cabby, as loud as the scrums on 42nd Street, as pugnacious as a West Side reform Democrat mother.

“I’m the sort of person who will never get ulcers,” the mayor - eyebrows devilishly up, grinning wickedly at his own wit - enlightened the reporters at his $475 rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village on Inauguration Day in 1978. “Why? Because I say exactly what I think. I’m the sort of person who might give other people ulcers.”

and Ben Smith at Buzzfeed:

Koch, New York City’s dominant political figure of the 1980s and the architect of what remains its governing political coalition, stayed politically relevant through his long political twilight, courted aggressively by figures including Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama for his role as a proxy for pro-Israel Democrats willing, but not eager, to cross party lines.

But Koch’s later years of quips, movie reviews, and presidential politics remain secondary to his central legacy, which is in New York’s City Hall. Tall and gangly with a domed, bald head and a knowing smile, Koch was New York’s mayor and its mascot from 1978 to 1989. Through three terms, he repeated one question like a mantra: “How’m I doing?” At first, the answer was clear to observers who had watched the city slide toward bankruptcy: exceptionally well. Koch managed New York back from the brink, drove hard bargains with municipal unions, cut jobs where he had to and reduced taxes where he could. He presided over a boom in Manhattan, and spent his new revenues on renewing the south Bronx.

But as the Koch administration moved its third term, the mayor lost his momentum. As Wall Street boomed in the 1980s, Koch took advantage of the new revenues to double New York City’s budget and offer tax breaks to real estate developers. But the largesse couldn’t buy him friends: he clashed with black leaders and his old allies among Manhattan’s liberal democrats. New York became famous for its racial tensions and rising crime. He courted the Democratic Party bosses of Queens and the Bronx only to be tarnished by the corruption scandals that surrounded them.

Here’s the trailer for Koch, a documentary on the former mayor that coincidentally opens today in limited release:

Hessian, a brand in a box

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2013

Designer Ben Pieratt calls Hessian “an invader, an ode, a brand in waiting, a pitch to the market”. It is also a fully developed brand (logos, Twitter handle, web themes, app icons, etc.) for sale.


As a newborn idea, Hessian is aggressive and evolving. Its only conduit the working mind of designer Ben Pieratt, it fights for life by building meme-hooks through studies in contrasts, nostalgia, repetition and confusion. The Hessian could be a restaurant, a start-up, a clothing brand or more.

Like any great brand, Hessian is for sale. The current asking price is $18,000.

Perennial Plate’s A Day in India

posted by Aaron Cohen   Feb 01, 2013

The Perennial Plate videos always make me jealous, and this beautiful cut of a “day” in India is no exception. This is gorgeous and you should watch it on full screen.

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