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Entries for March 2015 (April 2015 »    May 2015 »    June 2015 »    Archives)

 

How to play “Wolf Hall”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

Mike Poulton adapted Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage. The play premiered last year in the UK and just began its run on Broadway here in NYC. There’s a book version of the adaptation that contains some notes that Mantel wrote for the actors playing the various characters. The New York Review of Books has an excerpt of Mantel’s notes; here’s Anne Boleyn:

You do not have six fingers. The extra digit is added long after your death by Jesuit propaganda. But in your lifetime you are the focus of every lurid story that the imagination of Europe can dream up. From the moment you enter public consciousness, you carry the projections of everyone who is afraid of sex or ashamed of it. You will never be loved by the English people, who want a proper, royal Queen like Katherine, and who don’t like change of any sort. Does that matter? Not really. What Henry’s inner circle thinks of you matters far more. But do you realize this? Reputation management is not your strong point. Charm only thinly disguises your will to win.

The BBC aired a six-part TV version of Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies that finished up a month ago, and PBS will start showing it this weekend. I’ve watched all but the last part and it’s really well done.

We Work Remotely

The Hidden Effects of Cheap Oil

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

Today’s drop in crude-oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014, may be as disruptive as the quadrupling of oil prices that created the oil shock of 1974.

For most of us, lower oil prices simply translate as better prices at the gas pump. But the value of oil has big consequences around the world. From Moisés Naím in The Atlantic: The Hidden Effects of Cheap Oil.

Play Pac-Man in Google Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

Ok, April Fools’ is still idiotic, but this is pretty cool: you can play Pac-Man in any neighborhood on Google Maps.

Pac-Man Google Maps

NYC’s West Village is a fun place to play. See also Pac-Manhattan, a real-life game of Pac-Man played on the streets of Manhattan in 2004 by a group of ITP students, including Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.

Richard Feynman: fire is stored sunshine

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

In 1983, the BBC aired a six-part series called Fun to Imagine with a simple premise: put physicist Richard Feynman in front of a camera and have him explain everyday things. In this clip from one of the episodes, Feynman explains in very simple terms what fire is:

So good. Watch the whole thing…it seems like you get the gist about 2 minutes in, but that’s only half the story. See also Feynman explaining rubber bands, how trains go around curves, and how magnets work.

After the Party

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

The New Yorker has an excerpt of the fourth volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle.

Throughout our childhood we three had sat chatting, that was what I was used to, but this was the first time we had done it without Dad living in the house, and the difference was immense. Knowing that he couldn’t walk in at any moment, forcing us to think about what we were saying and doing, changed everything.

We had chatted about everything under the sun then too, but never so much as a word about Dad, it was a kind of implicit rule.

I had never thought about that before.

But we couldn’t talk about him now, that would have been inconceivable.

Why?

Top new typefaces of 2014

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2015

Cooper Hewitt typeface

Although I am slowly coming around1 to Massimo Vignelli’s assertion that designers should only use a handful of typefaces, I enjoyed seeing Typographica’s list of their favorite typefaces of 2014.

Typeface design and distribution is in a state of rapid change. Last year we noted its diffusion around the globe, and that trend persists. The majority of font production is no longer concentrated in a few regional epicenters.

That goes for corporate epicenters as well. The independence of type designers themselves is increasingly evident. Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm. Only a handful of the selections in this year’s list were published by companies with more than ten employees.

I discovered that one of the selections, a beautiful custom typeface made for the reopening/rebranding of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (sample shown above), has been made available by the museum for free download (including a web fonts version).

  1. I mean, not really. But when 95% of everything sucks, paring down to only the good stuff is a seductive idea, isn’t it? Also, Vignelli’s NYC subway map was not good and would have benefitted from a less Swiss approach.

How musicians die

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2015

In a series of three articles, Dianna Kenny examines the life expectancy of pop musicians, the myth of the 27 Club1, and how genre affects popular musicians’ life expectancy. It is from the third article that this chart is taken:

Cause of death by genre for musicians

For male musicians across all genres, accidental death (including all vehicular incidents and accidental overdose) accounted for almost 20% of all deaths. But accidental death for rock musicians was higher than this (24.4%) and for metal musicians higher still (36.2%).

Suicide accounted for almost 7% of all deaths in the total sample. However, for punk musicians, suicide accounted for 11% of deaths; for metal musicians, a staggering 19.3%. At just 0.9%, gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all the genres studied.

Murder accounted for 6.0% of deaths across the sample, but was the cause of 51% of deaths in rap musicians and 51.5% of deaths for hip hop musicians, to date. This could be due to these genres’ strong associations with drug-related crime and gang culture.

Heart-related fatalities accounted for 17.4% of all deaths across all genres, while 28% of blues musicians died of heart-related causes. Similarly, the average percentage of deaths accounted for by cancer was 23.4%. Older genres such as folk (32.3%) and jazz (30.6%) had higher rates of fatal cancers than other genres.

In the case of the newer genres, it’s worth pointing out that members of these genres have not yet lived long enough to fall into the highest-risk ages for heart- and liver-related illnesses. Consequently, they had the lowest rates of death in these categories.

(via mr)

  1. The 27 Club is a group of musicians who died at the age of 27. Membership includes Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Robert Johnson.

Flying with Virgin Galactic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2015

Virgin Galactic

From Vanity Fair’s William Langewiesche, who has written extensively on the aviation industry and is a pilot himself, a detailed account of what happens during a space flight on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Accelerating through Mach 0.95, the aircraft wobbles as shock waves develop on its wings and tails. This is known as a burble, and it marks the entry into supersonic flight. The shock waves change the airflow over the conventional control surfaces — the elevons — and render them almost useless, forcing the pilot in supersonic flight to fly entirely by trimming the stabilizers on the tail. Flying by trim is difficult to do well, but with pilots like these the passengers probably don’t need to worry. At Mach 1, the pilot rolls the pitch trim aft to a pre-determined position, and the spaceship responds by bending the flight path upward at a rate that pushes the passengers straight down into their seats with a force of 2.5 Gs. The passengers are now experiencing a total of 5.5 Gs, divided between two distinct vectors, and are rotated onto their backs as the spaceship accelerates ever more steeply upward. As they approach the vertical, nearing Mach 2, the pilot rolls the trim forward to capture the position, and 2.5 Gs are stripped away. Pointing straight up, the ship rockets into air growing so thin that the aerodynamic speeds decrease rapidly even as the ship keeps accelerating through Mach 3. At around that time, after about one minute of burn, and when an onboard instrument shows that the vehicle has sufficient energy to follow a ballistic path into space, the pilots shut down the rocket motor. The effect for the passengers, who are lying on their backs, facing straight up, is to go immediately from a condition of three Gs to the zero-G state called weightlessness.

Every TV news report on the economy

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2015

From Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, here’s how every single news report on the economy plays out:

Dennis and Pamela People are affected by numbers, and since they have a child, you’ll empathize with what they say while I nod in their direction.

“Well, it’s been hard because of the numbers.”

“Yeah, it has been hard, mainly because of the numbers.”

Brooker, you may remember, is the creator of Black Mirror. (via mr)

John Oliver: down with April Fools’ Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2015

John Oliver says April Fools’ Day is terrible and we shouldn’t take part in it.

Pranks are terrible. Anyone who claims to be excited for April Fools’ Day is probably a sociopath. Because what they are really saying is, “I cannot wait to hurt the people close to me”.

Audiovisual illusion: Bar or far?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2015

If you play this video (click the sound on) and look at the man on the left side, it sounds like he’s saying “bar”. But if you look at the man on the right, it look like he’s saying “far”!

And if you close your eyes, it’s “bar” again. (via @arainert)

Update: This is called the McGurk effect.

The McGurk effect is a perceptual phenomenon that demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in speech perception. The illusion occurs when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound. The visual information a person gets from seeing a person speak changes the way they hear the sound. People who are used to watching dubbed movies may be among people who are not susceptible to the McGurk effect because they have, to some extent, learned to ignore the information they are getting from the mouths of the “speakers”.

Update: The Vine clip I previously posted just yanked the bar/far comparison from a AsapSCIENCE video, so I’ve replaced the imposter with the real thing. (via @michaelck & jess)

Teaching evolution to religious students

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

James Krupa teaches a mandatory biology class at the University of Kentucky and some students have a difficult time because Krupa refuses to shy away from evolution.

Rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about human evolution in high school biology. Those who did usually attended high schools in large urban centers like Louisville or Lexington. Given how easily it can provoke parents, the teaching of human evolution is a rarity in high school, so much so in Kentucky that it startled me when I first arrived.

The story of our evolutionary history captivates many of my students, while infuriating some. During one lecture, a student stood up in the back row and shouted the length of the auditorium that Darwin denounced evolution on his deathbed — a myth intentionally spread by creationists. The student then made it known that everything I was teaching was a lie and stomped out of the auditorium, slamming the door behind him. A few years later during the same lecture, another student also shouted out from the back row that I was lying. She said that no transitional fossil forms had ever been found — despite my having shared images of many transitional forms during the semester. Many of her fellow students were shocked by her combativeness, particularly when she stormed out, also slamming the door behind her. Most semesters, a significant number of students abruptly leave as soon as they realize the topic is human evolution.

I personally don’t understand the compatibility of evolutionary biology and Christianity Krupa emphasizes in his class, but I guess it helps to meet people halfway?

The radical humaneness of Norway’s prison system

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

Norway Prison

Better out than in. That’s the unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service. And they seem to mean it. In Norway, there is no death penalty and there are no life sentences. NYT Magazine’s Jessica Benko visited Norway’s Halden Prison and experienced what she described as its radical humaneness:

Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.

Even the food was good.

The best meal I had in Norway — spicy lasagna, garlic bread and a salad with sun-dried tomatoes — was made by an inmate who had spent almost half of his 40 years in prison.

Teaser clip from season two of Halt and Catch Fire

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

Halt and Catch Fire season two is starting on May 31! And there’s a five-minute clip to whet your appetite! And it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors!

The exclamation points mean that I am excited for the new season without explicitly saying so!! (via @kathrynyu)

1995: The Year the Future Began

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

Netscape 1995

The New Yorker’s Louis Menand reviews a new book by W. Joseph Campbell, 1995: The Year the Future Began.

Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky is one of the five things that happened in 1995 that Campbell believes opened the door to the future. The others are the O. J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Dayton negotiations that settled the Bosnian war, and the rise and fall of the Internet browser Netscape Navigator.

The list certainly reflects the inchoate spirit of the age. But that is not Campbell’s point. His point is that our contemporary (American) world started with a White House sex scandal; the murder trial of a former football star; a set of agreements hammered out among foreign heads of state on an Air Force base in Ohio; a loner who thought that blowing up a federal office building was justified on political principles; and a computer program that ultimately lost the “browser wars” to Microsoft. You have to admire a historian who proposes to extract reverse-prediction gold from that material.

I graduated from college in 1995 so I’m probably biased, but that year does seem like a cultural turning point in many ways. Interested to read Campbell’s book.

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2015

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie is a good old fashioned musical detective story told by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

In the world of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and ‘31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie’s “Motherless Child Blues” and Geeshie’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.

Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers’ efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word “Geechee,” with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that — no anecdotes. This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the ’20s and ’30s. Their myth was they didn’t have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves — the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands — these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman’s decision in cleaning her parents’ attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn’t on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden’s band and the phonautograph of Lincoln’s voice.

This piece originally appeared in the NY Times Magazine, but it works much better online, interspersed with videos and musical snippets cleverly embedded in the text. One of my favorite things I’ve read all month.

Illustrated version of the 1st Harry Potter book

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

In order to keep the Harry Potter gravy train going, Scholastic and Bloomsbury are releasing a fully illustrated version of each of the seven Harry Potter books over the next seven years. Here’s the cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

Potter

The book will contain 100+ full-color illustrations done by Jim Kay. (via buzzfeed)

The “impossible” science of free diving

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

This article on the science of free diving is fascinating. Boyle’s Law predicted that the human body couldn’t survive depths past 100 feet — after which, the lungs would rupture — but millions of years of evolution has equipped the human body with all sorts of tricks to survive at depths of over 900 feet.

Lundgren, among others, demonstrated how these phenomena might counteract Boyle’s law. He recruited volunteer firemen from a fire brigade in the Swedish city of Malmo, submerged them up to the neck in water, and used a heart catheter to measure the increase in blood circulation in the chest. Lundgren discovered the body was able to counteract the increased outside water pressure by reinforcing vessels in the walls of the lungs with more blood, in much the same way we increase tire pressure by adding more volume of oxygen to the inside of a tire.

Boyle’s Law had not been overturned. Scientists simply hadn’t taken into account the effect this counterforce could exert to allow survival underwater. “A lot of blood, much more than was usually thought, can be transferred from the blood circulation out in the tissues into the blood vessels of the lung,” Lundgren said, placing that amount at about half a gallon. The extra, densely packed blood can act as a bulwark, exerting a counterforce against the increased pressure pushing inward by the water.

Relationship advice from Al Swearengen

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

Ask Polly, by Heather Havrilesky,1 is surely one of the best advice columns out there. In yesterday’s installment, Havrilesky adopted the voice of Deadwood’s Al Swearengen to answer a letter about a boyfriend’s troublesome relationship with a married woman.

It sounds like you’re feeling less than your full fucking self, and for good reason! The hour requires some unvarnished words and since you made mention of your passion for Deadwood, David Milch’s brilliant portrait of the Wild West (largely unsung and partially unfinished thanks to some big-city cocksuckers at HBO, who’d sooner brand their own foreheads with a flat iron than allow a man of the pen to complete the masterpiece for which his name will henceforth be praised), I’d like to sally forth in a style befitting the scoundrels, whores, dirt-worshippers, and hoopleheads of that melancholy town. Be forewarned, though, the language herein might lead some to imagine that yours truly has been pillaging Doc’s stash of chloroform, more typically reserved for offering animals a merciful exit from this mortal plane. Suffice it to say that skeptical cocksuckers and those with delicate sensibilities might be well-advised to seek respite elsewhere. You can help your delicate sensibilities by turning the fuck away.

  1. Who I still think of as being from Suck and probably always will.

New York City, after dark

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

From New York Magazine, a big feature on NYC after midnight. Several people shared their stories, including Bebe Buell:

In 1974, I was on Hudson and Horatio — it was still pretty shady over there at the time - and I could not get a cab. This big giant Cadillac pulls up, and a guy and a girl were in it. It was obviously a pimp and his girl. And the guy goes, “My name is Magic. Do you need a ride?” Who in their right mind would get in that car? But I did. His name was Magic, her name was Angel, and it was like a scene out of a Scorsese movie. I just remember the tranny girls yelling, “You go, girl!” They thought I had gotten a trick or something. I don’t know what made me think it was going to be okay. Angel let me know, “Don’t worry, honey, we’re not serial killers.” And for some godforsaken reason, I believed them.

And Alec Baldwin, who has always been interested in Saturday Night Live:

I was told that there was a place called Louis’s Toy Bar on the Upper East Side. And it was this narrow sliver of a shop that obviously had sold antique clothes or something. And this guy Louis who owned it would put out plates of, like, Velveeta cheese and crackers and very modest kinds of canapes. I was told, back then, that all the cast of the original Saturday Night Live went there after the show; this was their haunt, this was their after-party-after-party Copacabana. And I went there countless times, eating Velveeta cheese, waiting for them, and they never came. They never showed up.

And Lydia Lunch:

I made money by standing on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 8th Street, shaking down women with children, saying I worked for the Cancer Foundation, until I got $10. I could live on that. The rent at my apartment on 12th Street between A and B was $75 a month.

And Dr. Jason D’Amore, formerly a resident at Bellvue:

One night, we got this guy in who was riding his Harley down the FDR at high speed, and he got run over by a semi, and he comes in and is very close to death. […] So this guy, he was covered head-to-toe in iron crosses and swastikas and white-power tattoos. I’m looking around, and I’m D’Amore, and the ortho guy was Schwarzbaum, and we had to call neurosurgery, and that was Goldberg, and we intubated him and we got him stabilized and into the operating room, and he’s totally sedated, and I leaned down and said, “Dude, I just wanted you to know a bunch of Jews just saved your ass.”

And Colin Quinn:

It’s easier to be nostalgic now. It’s easier to look at it now and say, “Oh, I miss Taxi Driver.” Suddenly, we’re all like French film students who romanticize New York, even though when you lived it, it was bad. There were so many heroin dealers. If you were on, like, Avenue B and C, and somebody goes, “You want heroin?” and you said no, they’d get mad at you, like you were going browsing in a store and not buying anything. “You’re wasting our time! Trying to make money here.”

And Alexis Swerdloff:

The hand-delivered invite was a velvet-wrapped VHS tape. Five minutes and 42 seconds long, the video had Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Ananda Lewis, Todd Oldham, Veronica Webb, Ben Stiller, Pauly Shore, Derek Jeter, and dozens of other ’90s luminaries hyping Puff Daddy’s 29th-birthday party on November 4, 1998. Chris Rock said to leave your posse at home, Magic Johnson instructed guests to arrive at 10 p.m. on the dot, and Will Smith directed people to a 212 number in order to RSVP for the secret location. “It’s gonna be all that,” cooed Tyra Banks.

And there’s so much more…go read the whole thing. The photos are great too. Look for the one with Edith Piaf singing at a club; it’s just her in 1950 on a tiny stage with no microphone singing to people while they eat dinner. Man, if I had a time machine…

Slow motion CD spinning

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

From the Slow Mo Guys, a video shot at 170,000 frames/sec of a CD shattering after being spun at 23,000 RPM. Worth watching until (or skipping to) the end to see exactly how the disc fractures.

(via digg)

The easy way to care for your jeans

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean made a video for Mr. Porter about how to care for your new pair of jeans.

I remember reading his original post on the topic and boggling at the concept of wearing a new pair of raw selvage jeans for an entire year before washing them. (I still have never done such a thing. I’m just not that fancy.)

A Year in Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2015

On Friday, astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will be launched into space, where they will spend an entire year on the International Space Station. Time is doing a documentary series on Kelly’s stay in space.

On March 27, the veteran of three previous space flights will take off for the International Space Station (ISS) and, along with cosmonaut Misha Kornienko, remain aloft for a full year. Meantime, Scott’s twin brother Mark, a veteran of four space flights, will remain on the ground. The two men with their matching backgrounds, similar health and identical genomes, will serve as the perfect controlled experiment to learn more about how the human body handles weightlessness-and what can be done to minimize the damage during long-term trips to Mars and elsewhere.

The trailer is available here. Kelly and Kornienko will be the fifth and sixth people to spend at least a year in space…cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent 437 straight days in space in 1994-5.

Feminist Ben & Jerry’s flavors

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2015

From Amanda McCall, a selection of Ben & Jerry’s flavors featuring women.

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

McCall made these because Ben & Jerry’s hasn’t done such a good job highlighting women with their products:

Over the past three decades, Ben & Jerry’s has created over twenty flavors honoring various famous people, and only two of those people have been female: Tiny Fey’s character on 30 Rock (“Liz Lemon’s Greek Frozen Yogurt”, released in 2013 ) and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter (“Hannah Teter’s Maple Blondie”, released briefly in 2009).

There are currently no female flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (even Tina Fey would agree that, while “Greek frozen yogurt” is certainly a healthy ice cream alternative, it is not the same as ice cream), despite the fact that women consume significantly more ice cream than men do.

The best thing about the Butter Pecancé Knowles flavor is that butter pecan ice cream is actually the singer’s favorite flavor.

“I love my butter pecan ice cream,” she says, “but I also love to work out. We all have our issues. Mine is arms and legs, keeping them tight and toned. It takes work, believe me.”

Ben & Jerry’s! Let’s make this happen! (via @amateurgourmet)

The 2015 names of the year

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2015

Oh my, I had forgotten about the Name of the Year site and how amazing it is. Each year, they collect the most unusual names in the world and pit them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. Here are some of the names in the running for the 2015 Name of the Year:

Swindly Lint
Dr. Electron Kebebew
Flavious Coffee
Lancelot Supersad Jr.
Jazznique St. Junious

(A reminder…these are actual names of actual people. Somehow.)

Littice Bacon-Blood
Dr. Wallop Promthong
Infinite Grover
Genghis Muskox
Malvina Complainville
Beethoven Bong
Amanda Miranda Panda

Some Hall of Name inductees include Tokyo Sexwale, Nimrod Weiselfish, Doby Chrotchtangle, Tanqueray Beavers, and Vanilla Dong.

Cloud tank special effects

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2015

To simulate unusual cloud formations in movies (like Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Independence Day), special effects artists injected paint into tanks containing water with two different densities.

A cloud tank consists of a bottom layer of salt water and a top layer of fresh water and when various forms of liquid are injected into tank, clouds are produced. This was the common technique that Hollywood used for decades to capture supernatural weather.

The developer of the cloud tank effect, Scott Squires, wrote a post detailing how it was accomplished.

Next white liquid tempra paint is injected in the fresh water portion (top), usually just a few inches from the dividing line of the fresh and salt water. Think of a large syringe with an aquarium tube going into the water. When the tempra paint is injected it billows outward like cumulus clouds and will tend to sink a bit. But the salt water prevents it from going lower so the ‘cloud’ tends to flatten it’s base on the salt water line and and billow outward, similar to real clouds based on air pressure levels. Avoid going below into the saltwater since the clouds will just drop to the bottom of tank.

Fashion advice from Fran Lebowitz

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2015

I loved every opinionated moment of this interview with Fran Lebowitz about fashion. Where do I even start? Some choice bits:

Yoga pants are ruining women.

Shirts don’t go bad, they’re not peaches.

I feel very strongly that almost the entire city has copied my glasses.

Dry…clean. These words don’t go together. Wet clean — that is how you clean. I can’t even imagine the things they do at the drycleaner. I don’t want to know.

I have to say that one of the biggest changes in my lifetime, is the phenomenon of men wearing shorts. Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It’s disgusting. To have to sit next to grown men on the subway in the summer, and they’re wearing shorts? It’s repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can’t take them seriously.

Now people need special costumes to ride bicycles. I mean, a helmet, what, are you an astronaut??

Of course, more people should wear overcoats than those damned down jackets. Please. Are you skiing, or are you walking across the street? If you’re not an arctic explorer, dress like a human being.

I, myself, am deeply superficial.

Feeling good about an outfit is the point at which that outfit finally becomes good.

So good.

The opening boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2015

The Art of the Scene looks at how Raiders of the Lost Ark came to be and how the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the main character and the “look and feel” of the rest of the film.

I love that Lucas got the idea for the boulder from a Scrooge McDuck comic book. (via devour)

Flying through an eclipse

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

A group of astronomy enthusiasts rented a plane and flew through the shadow cast by the recent eclipse of the Sun. One passenger took the following video. Look at that shadow creeping across the cloud cover! So cool.

P.S. Still super excited for the 2017 eclipse! (via slate)

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

Oh, this sounds fantastic: PBS is set to air a six-hour documentary series, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, starting at the end of March. How have I not heard about this before today?

This “biography” of cancer covers its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the 20th century to cure, control and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The series also features the current status of cancer knowledge and treatment — the dawn of an era in which cancer may become a chronic or curable illness rather than its historic death sentence in some forms.

The series is based on Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past few years. Ken Burns is executive producing and Barak Goodman is directing.

Thanks to Sarah Klein at Redglass Pictures for letting me know about this. Redglass created a pair of videos for the series featuring Terrence Howard and Ken Jeong talking about their experiences with cancer.

Update: All three parts of the series are available on the PBS site for the next two weeks or so.

Angelina Jolie continues her preventive battle with cancer

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

Two years ago, Angelina Jolie wrote in the NY Times1 about her choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. Today, she is back with an update on her choice to have another elective preventive surgery, the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. “Your CA-125 is normal,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.

But that wasn’t all. He went on. “There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.” I took a pause. “CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,” he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.

I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.

I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.

  1. I wrote a post on Jolie’s first article with more information about the genetic issues surrounding her choice.

How Apple Watch is made

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

Apple Watch

From product designer Greg Koenig, a fantastic display of Kremlinology on how he thinks Apple makes the Apple Watch, based on the available evidence (production videos, patents, product specs).

In the above shot, blanks are placed in an immersion ultrasonic tester. What Apple is looking for is the presence of voids or density variances within the structure of the blank that, under stress, could lead to part failure or surface defects as material is removed in further machining processes. This level of inspection is, to put it mildly, fastidious beyond where most other companies would go (save Rolex). Immersion ultrasonic inspection is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines; not only does this step take time, it also is typically performed by custom built machines of tremendous expense.

If you don’t have the time or energy to read through the whole thing, at least skip to the final two paragraphs about manufacturing as ritual.

Also, Koenig’s Twitter stream is full of interesting nuggets about Apple. Here are a few that caught my attention:

The sameness of Pixar’s women

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2015

For years, one of the knocks on Pixar was the lack of main characters who are women in their movies. 2012’s Brave and this summer’s Inside Out have addressed this criticism to an extent1. But Alex of every flavored bean noticed that, in contrast to the diversity of male faces, female characters in Disney/Pixar’s recent movies all have the same face.

Pixar Female Faces

Boys in animated movies have faces that are square, round, skinny, fat, alien-looking, handsome, and ugly. The only face that girls get to have is some round snub-nosed baby face. That’s not right.

Great observation.

Update: This piece has generated some interesting comments on Good, including this one from Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb.

This is idiotic and obviously written by someone who (A) can’t draw and (B) has an axe to grind. The female characters they show have very varied faces. Yes the face shapes are all softer feminine shapes, but they purposely didn’t include female characters from those same movies with less feminine faces, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, or the Witch or the Cook in Brave, or any of the older female characters, like the fairy godmother, or… whatever. All the princes and male romantic leads in these movies have the same face shape as well but NO, she takes old men and villains and comedy relief characters to “prove” how sexist animation is. This is just stupid.

If you want literally dozens of examples of other characters omitted from the list see the other comments below.

(via @ckoerner)

  1. Although the gender stereotypes on display in the first trailer for Inside Out is not helping matters.

All hail air conditioning

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

Here’s The Economist’s obituary of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore.

Among a number of 20th-century luminaries asked by the Wall Street Journal in 1999 to pick the most influential invention of the millennium, he alone shunned the printing press, electricity, the internal combustion engine and the internet and chose the air-conditioner. He explained that, before air-con, people living in the tropics were at a disadvantage because the heat and humidity damaged the quality of their work.

Mike Tyson’s crowdsourcing his best knockouts

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

Martin Scorsese is reportedly set to direct a biopic on Mike Tyson with Jamie Foxx in the title role. Tyson has compiled a video of each of his 44 knockouts and wants his fans’ help in choosing his top 10 for Foxx to study.

The top 10 from this video are definite contenders.

The making of NHL ‘94

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

NHL 94

Blake Harris, the author of Console Wars, has written a piece on how NHL ‘94 came to be. For those unaware, NHL ‘94 is one of the greatest sports video games ever created. This is the sort of attention to detail that made it so great:

For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team’s organist played different songs. ‘That’s not a problem, actually,’ explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), ‘I can do that.’ True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn’t just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA’s sound studio he asked:

‘The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?’

‘Definitely the way she plays it!’ Brook answered, after a laugh.

I think I might have to bust out the Genesis this week. Anyone wanna come over?

Finnish schools to teach topics, not subjects

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

Finland is planning on phasing out teaching by subject (math, geography, etc.) and replace it with a teaching-by-topic approach.

Subject-specific lessons — an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon - are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching — or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union — which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

As a generalist, wannabe polymath, and obvious fan of a scattershot approach to knowledge gathering & dissemination, I approve. (via qz)

Update: From the Finnish National Board of Education: Subject teaching in Finnish schools is not being abolished.

The news that Finland is abolishing teaching separate subjects has recently hit the headlines world-wide. Subject teaching is not being abolished although the new core curriculum for basic education will bring about some changes in 2016.

(via @adamcreen)

High definition Pluto needs names

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

HD Pluto

Ok, Pluto fans. They evicted Pluto from our solar system’s planetary pantheon, but a NASA mission launched in 2006 is nearing the dwarf planet with its cameras. We’ll soon have photos of Pluto that are much more high resolution than we currently have, which means scientists will need names for all the new geographic features. The Our Pluto site has been set up to help suggest and vote on names for these features. Naming themes include historic explorers, travelers to the underworld, and scientists and engineers. Go vote! (via slate)

Because these are the breaks

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

I am a total sucker for great wave photography. Like these photos from Ray Collins.

Ray Collins

Ray Collins

Ray Collins

Prints are available of Collins’ photos and many of them have been collected into a coffee table book called Found at Sea. (via @naveen)

Akira Kurosawa, a master of movement

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

New Every Frame a Painting! In this installment, Tony Zhou shows how Akira Kurosawa used movement in his films to terrific effect.

Redesigning how people die

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2015

From the cool devices in our hands, to the software on our screens, to the smooth stylings of Jony Ive’s Apple product video voiceovers, it’s clear this is the era of design. Since design has touched and changed so many parts of our lives, isn’t it time that we redesigned death? The chief creative officer at one of the top design firms in the world thinks it is:

With just a little attention, it seemed — a few metaphorical mirrors affixed to our gurneys at just the right angle — he might be able to refract some of the horror and hopelessness of death into more transcendent feelings of awe and wonder and beauty.

From Jon Mooallem in California Sunday Magazine: Death, Redesigned. (I like where you’re going with the embalming and the eternal darkness, I just think it could pop a little more.)

This guest blogger says thanks for reading

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

Krang.jpg

I had a great time guest-blogging here this week! Thanks so much to Jason and to everyone who read, some of the smartest, most interesting readers I’ve found online. It was really a thrill. It was like being Krang inside the exosuit, but in a good way.

When Jason originally put out the call on Twitter for a guest blogger, he tweeted, “It’s a paid gig or you can do it for the lolz and we’ll donate the fee to a charity of your choosing.” So we’re donating the money to Girls Write Now, a terrific New York City-based non-profit that pairs talented at-risk teen girls with professional writer mentors to create the next generation of great women writers.

You can find me online here or on Twitter.

Update (from Jason): Thanks, Susannah! It’s been great having you here. I just dropped your fee into the coffers of Girls Write Now. If some of you would like to do the same, you can donate here; it’ll only take you a couple minutes.

And since Susannah was too courteous to promote her recently published short story, The Tumor, I’ll do it.

Hysterical Literature explores women, sex, and aging

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

hysterical-literature.jpg

You may have seen artist Clayton Cubitt’s NSFW Hysterical Literature project. On YouTube, the videos have been viewed nearly 50 million times. The recipe is simple: a woman, a book, and a Hitachi Magic Wand. In the latest installment, Janet, who’s in her early sixties, reads Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s a lovely meditation on women, sexuality, and age. The project is also on view at MASS MoCA’s Bibliothecaphilia show.

Dope Rider rides again

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

Since I wasn’t a High Times reader in 1975, I missed the debut of Dope Rider, a totally trippy, startlingly surrealistic comic strip starring a Wild West skeleton and created by Paul Kirchner. Thankfully, Kirchner has uploaded the entire Dope Rider oeuvre and shared the back story on what may be one of the comic world’s stranger strips. The psychedelic comic features dope trading, Hells Angels references, and lines like, “The best things about being high is the view.”

dope-rider.jpg

(via Gawker)

How a data-selfie could boost your immune system

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

data-art.jpg

A thought-provoking post from Laurie Frick: “Will a Data-Selfie Boost Your Immune System?

In the future I imagine human data portraits manifested from reams of personal tracking data gathered invisibly as we move thru the day. Genuine data-selfies. We are so close to gathering every possible morsel of data about us, imagine what could be possible once you owned every bit of data gathered about you. After some thought, I decided it’s more than just seeing personal data and abstract patterns of you. It’s about what these patterns will tell us about ourselves. Data collected about us will unfold a personal narrative and story to reveal a hidden part of us we are trained to ignore, a way to know ourselves and anticipate what comes next. Perhaps seeing the abstract patterns and rhythms of your self-tracking data is a short-cut to mindfulness. A quick and dirty way to boost your immune system, the benefits of meditation and self-reflection without much effort.

Frick makes art out of data. She also made an app called FRICKbits that empowers you to turn your data into art.

The first and final frames of 55 films

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

I really love this video featuring the opening and closing shots of fifty-five movies presented side-by-side, “First and Final Frames.” Created by Jacob T. Swinney.

My favorites: “Tree of Life,” “Raging Bull,” “Melancholia.”

Update: Swinney has released a second installment of First and Final Frames.

A lion gets a CAT scan

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 20, 2015

Apparently, this is what it looks like when a lion is getting a CAT scan.

lion-cat-scan.jpg

(via Amanda Macias)

Mad Max: Fury Road international trailer drops, explodes in your face

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 19, 2015

The “Mad Max: Fury Road” international trailer features fire and blood, colorful explosions, and Charlize Theron screaming. What a lovely day, indeed. BRB, I gotta go get in line.

(via This Isn’t Happiness)

Life lessons from a tattooer

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 19, 2015

batman-tattoo.jpg

Leslie Rice (whose work you see here) is a second-generation tattoo artist who’s been tattooing for twenty years, and here’s the number one thing he’s learned: “Women are tougher than men.”

“Women and men have a very different approach to traumatic things like getting tattoos. Women are far more willing to accept it and go with the flow, whereas men will try and fight it, so you end up in this horrible situation where men end up vomiting and passing out and falling on the floor, and the women don’t tend to do that.”

(via Needles and Sins)

Two women leading parallel lives are getting to know each other through data

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 19, 2015

dear-data.jpg

Giorgia Lupi, who lives in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, who lives in London, are engaged in a long-distance, postcard-based data exchange in order to get to know each other better: “Dear Data.” They’ve only met in person twice, and they’re both interested in data, so they’re sending each other postcard drawings of data about their day-to-day lives.

Each week we collect and measure a particular type of data about our lives, use this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then drop the postcard in an English “postbox” (Stefanie) or an American “mailbox” (Giorgia)!

Eventually, the postcard arrives at the other person’s address with all the scuff marks of its journey over the ocean: a type of “slow data” transmission.

By creating and sending the data visualizations using analogue instead of digital means, we are really just doing what artists have done for ages, which is sketch and try to capture the essence of the life happening around them. However, as we are sketching life in the modern digital age, life also includes everything that is counted, computed, and measured.

We are trying to capture the life unfolding around us, but instead we are capturing this life through sketching the hidden patterns found within our data.

The data appears on the front of the postcard, and a key explaining how to read the data appears on the back of the postcard. (via Coudal)

James Joyce invented words and they are awesome

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 19, 2015

james-joyce.jpg

James Joyce is the greatest writer the world has ever known. Arguably! He didn’t even bother confining himself to the known language. He created words of his own.

A few highlights from “17 Words Invented by James Joyce”:

Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunnt-rovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk. This is Joyce’s most famous word creation. It’s from Finnegans Wake, and it’s supposed to sound like a thunderclap. Which it does. If you can figure out how to pronounce it.

Peloothered. This means you’re drunk. Someone calls you this in Ireland, and you know you’re blotto.

Smilesmirk. Girls on Instagram have basically perfected this one.

Update: Ryan Goodlett advises: “I’ve found after a handful of languages that Icelandic sounds the best.” Agreed! And Kevin Krebs suggests: “you’ll want to follow @FW_WOTD.” Michael Schwartz says: “You might want to try james Joyce or Kool Keith.” I got six out of ten. How embarrassing.

This pink 1971 Chevrolet Impala donk is impressive

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 19, 2015

This is a donk.

It can be yours for $65,000.

How to turn hollow point bullets into a flowering flower pot

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 18, 2015

bullet-flowers.jpg

This guy turned recovered Federal HST pistol bullets into a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend.

I started out with a box of Federal 9x19mm HST 147gr pistol ammunition. This was a box of 50 rounds purchased at the Gun Bunker in Shrewsbury PA for $35 plus tax. I fired 6 of these cartridges into a 30” tall trash can filled with water. I did this from an elevated firing position, striking the water perfectly perpendicular. I used a Beretta 92FS Inox pistol with a 5” barrel, and a Freedom Armory Machine Works Grenadier 45 suppressor (as to not alarm the neighbors). This caused the hollowpoints to expend nearly perfectly, with nothing to deform them before they were fully decelerated by the water. One of the six did not expand, and was discarded. A firearm with a significantly longer or shorter barrel would have probably affected the expansion. I was about 10 feet above the trash can, but I still managed to get splashed from this.

Wealthy women are putting their babies in Birkin bags

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 18, 2015

An Hermes Birkin bag costs between $10,000 and $150,000, and women of a certain income bracket who own Birkin bags are putting their babies in them.

There are babies in blue Birkin bags, babies in green Birkin bags, babies in patterned Birkin bags, babies in unknown original color Birkin bags, and babies in bougainvillea ostrich Birkin bags.

This woman made her daughter a Birkin bag Halloween costume.

Who started the Baby-in-a-Birkin trend?

maggie-simpson-birkin-bag.jpg

It appears Maggie Simpson is the culprit.

Tony Montana is selling his Scarface mansion

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 18, 2015

Have you always dreamed of owning the home where Tony Montana married Elvira Hancock? The “Scarface” estate known as El Fureidis can be yours for only $34M.

scarface-house.jpg

But many of the classic features of the mansion are still in place: an 18-foot-high central dome adorned with 24-karat gold leaf in the Byzantine-style alcove, as well as a formal dining room ceiling depicting a scene of Alexander the Great conquering Persepolis in 330 B.C. (also designed with 24-karat gold leaf).

NB: The house isn’t in Coral Gables, FL. It’s in Montecito, CA.

Here’s a relatively exhaustive exploration of “Scarface” shooting locations, including the elevator scene and the chainsaw scene. (via Damon Brown)

Female amputees grapple with prosthetics for men

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 18, 2015

woman-amputee.jpg

Motherboard has an interesting story about how women who lose limbs are finding prosthetic devices are made for men: “Man Hands.”

When Jen Lacey gets her toes done, she does both feet, even though one of them is made of rubber. “I always paint my toenails,” she says, “because it’s cute, and I want to be as regular as possible.” But for a long time, even with the painted toes, her prosthetic foot looked ridiculous. The rubber foot shell she had was wide, big and ugly. “I called it a sasquatch foot,” she jokes. “It’s an ugly man foot.”

Part of the problem is that most prosthetic devices are designed by men and most prosthetists are men.

There are a few reasons for all this male-centric design. The history of prosthetics is, in large part, a history of war. One of the earliest written records of a prosthetic device comes from the Rigveda, an ancient sacred text from India. Ironically, that amputee is a woman—the warrior queen Vishpala loses her leg in battle and is fitted with a replacement so she can return and fight again. But after that, the history of prosthetics is nearly entirely a history of men—Roman generals, knights, soldiers, dukes.

Every year, 30 percent of those undergoing an amputation are women. In other words, it’s the 70 percent that’s male that drives the market.

When Irish eyes are literally smiling

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

Copyranter says this is the best St. Patrick’s Day ad ever made.

See also: Mouth Eyes, Madonna’s “Bedtime Story,” and “Born with Three Mouths.”

Behold ROBOPRIEST!

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

robopriest.jpg

I, for one, welcome our new ROBOPRIEST overlords. I found ROBOPRIEST on artist Josh Ellingson’s website. The robot costume-for-two was intended to perform wedding ceremonies and is the brainchild of Ellingson and Selene Luna, a 3’10” performance artist. It speaks in a robot voice, has flashing eyes, and the interior of its hatch is decorated with dirty pictures.

The idea of ROBOPRIEST started as a joke on Twitter between me and Selene Luna, an actress friend of mine in Los Angeles. We were trying to come up with funny ideas to collaborate on wedding services.The joke then turned into reality when Selene asked me to build ROBOPRIEST for her one woman show, “Sweating the Small Stuff” in San Francisco. The costume consisted mostly of cardboard and foam rubber with a skeleton of plastic hula hoops. The “eyes” are speakers equipped with voice-activated electro-luminescent wire. The audio for ROBOTPRIEST’s voice and various sound-effects were created by sound designer, Jim Coursey.

Its components include children’s toy claws, silver lame, ductwork, an iPod, and a harness that enables Luna to operate the costume from inside while riding piggyback on Ellingson.

Selene pilots ROBOPRIEST from a harness attached to my back. The harness is called The Piggyback Rider and is really just a backpack strap with a bar that runs along the bottom. This allowed Selene to comfortably stand on my back and easily hop off if needed. The top of ROBOPRIEST is equipped with a hatch from which Selene can address her minions. The inside of the hatch is decorated with a collage of nudie magazine clippings (NSFW), something that I thought appropriate for the insides of a repressed robot’s head at the time, although it may just have been all the hot-glue fumes getting to me.

Ellingson’s site has sound clips and a video of ROBOPRIEST announcing himself, and there are lots of photos on Flickr showing the build process.

Say hello to chemo and goodbye to bald

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

The New York Times would like to tell you how to keep your hair during chemo.

Hair loss is one of the most obvious side effects of cancer treatment. Now, a growing number of breast cancer patients are freezing their scalps as a way to preserve their hair during chemotherapy.

The hair-saving treatment, widely used in Europe, requires a specialized frozen cap worn tightly on the head before, during and for a couple hours after a chemotherapy session. The method can be time consuming, expensive and uncomfortable, but numerous women swear by the results.

I was vaguely aware of this option when I was getting ready to undergo the chemo in early 2012. I recall researching it, but I never looked into it seriously. I wonder how the experience would’ve been different had I not emerged from it looking like this:

susannah-breslin-bald.jpg

Clearly, I wasn’t a happy camper.

When I was originally diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in November of 2011, we didn’t know whether or not I would have to do chemotherapy. But after I had surgery, we knew that I would. Previously, I’d thought, Hey, what’s a little hair? Of course, when you’re told you’re going to go bald, that’s another story. I cried. Not because I was going to lose my hair, but because I would lose my hair and then everyone would know.

I went wig shopping, but I never bought one. The American Cancer Society sent me a hideous free brunette wig that showed up one day in a brown envelope in the mail, and I stuck it in a drawer. I didn’t wrap a scarf around my head like Elizabeth Taylor. Sometimes, I wore my husband’s USMC baseball hat. More often than not, I walked around exposed: I was six-two, I was bald, and I was angry. I felt humiliated, but I did it anyway. I hated that I was sick, yet I was hellbent on refusing to hide the fact that I was. I startled people, and eventually it dawned on me that I wasn’t me anymore, I was The Sick Person, and what everyone saw when they saw me was the looming specter of human frailty.

As far as chemo, it seemed like enough to go through it — the port in the chest, the needle in the hole, the free fall of the drugs — without freezing my head at the same time. But that was me. The cancer fled. My hair grew back. That was that.

This light blooms like a flower

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

These Shylights are amazing. Kinetic ceiling lights that resemble blooming flowers, unfurling parachutes, descending ghosts.

The concept is based on nyctinasty, the process by which flowers open and close due to light or temperature changes.

“We wanted to find this exact moment, where the difference is in an object, when it is dead or when it starts to become alive.”

(via This Isn’t Happiness)

Patrick Bateman business card iPhone case

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 17, 2015

If you’ve seen “American Psycho,” you’ll likely remember the scene where Patrick Bateman and his peers pull out their business cards like Old West gunfighters pulled out their firearms. Now you can have Bateman’s card — “That’s bone. And the lettering is something called Silian Rail.” — in the form of an iPhone case.

patrick-bateman-phone-case.jpg

As for Silian Rail, according to IMDb:

This is not a real font, the name was invented by Bret Easton Ellis for the novel. In the film, the actual font seen on the business card is Garamond Classico SC.

You can watch the full scene here. (via The Cut)

How time changes when you’re dying

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

A week ago, Paul Kalanithi, who was 37, died from lung cancer. He had recently finished his neurosurgery residency at Stanford and was a father to an infant daughter.

He was also a writer. If you haven’t read his “How Long Have I Got Left?” or “Before I Go,” you should.

In this video, he talks about how time changes as you face your mortality. “Clocks are now kind of irrelevant to me,” he says. “Time, where it used to have kind of a linear progression feel to it, now feels more like a space.”

Fornasetti snake rug

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

This Garden of Eden-themed serpent rug by Fornasetti belongs in a bedroom.

fornasetti-snake-rug.jpg

The Wall Street Journal explores “The Cult of Fornasetti.”

Bjork reveals her moving album cover for Family

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

Holy crap! Bjork’s released something she’s calling a “moving album cover,” although it appears it’s basically the video for the song “Family” on her Vulnicura album. It’s about the darkest, strangest, most beautiful thing I’ve seen on the internet in a while. The video is a collaboration between Bjork and Andrew Thomas Huang.

(thx This Isn’t Happiness)

Severed goat heads are haunting Brooklyn

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

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“Severed goat heads keep turning up in nearby Prospect Park,” reports Adrien Chen. Was it religious sacrifice? A prank? Something else?

A mysterious flood of goat heads is the only interesting thing that has happened in Park Slope since I moved to the neighborhood three years ago. Yes, the rush to blame a little-understood religion practiced largely by immigrants smacked a bit of lazy xenophobia, but the idea of Park Slope as a hotbed of animal sacrifice, in addition to child-friendly bars, was undeniably intriguing. In a city where everyday occurrences are casually weighed against the events of September 11, 2001, it was shocking to find that so many of my neighbors and I were actually shocked. The goat heads seemed to rear out of some shadow New York City that was even gnarlier than the pre-Guiliani version I’d seen in the movies, and at the edge of Brooklyn’s most thoroughly gentrified neighborhood, to boot. When New York asked me to investigate the goat heads, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to see if the world they hinted at lived up to the hype.”

His investigation includes a Freedom of Information Law request (“‘I’VE SEEN AS MUCH AS SEVEN SQUIRRELS DEAD IN THE PARK,’ went one report. ‘I’VE SEEN ONE THAT’S DECAPITATED’”), a Vodou priest, and multiple trips to the butcher.

Snoop Dogg’s Peaches N Cream lyric video

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

Snoop Dogg’s next album, BUSH, doesn’t drop until May 12, but until then, we’ve got a very cool lyric video for the first single, “Peaches N Cream,” featuring Charlie Wilson and directed by Wolf & Crow.

The hardest working man in Japanese porn

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

Details has a long, strange profile of Shimiken, the “king of Japanese porn.”

On a sunny Saturday morning in eastern Tokyo, a silver Audi pulls into a parking lot and sparks pandemonium. Out of the driver’s seat bounces a small, stocky man with bulging biceps, spiky orange hair, and a broad smile spread across his effulgent, spray-tanned face. He bounds onto the pavement wearing a hoodie and a T-shirt that reads SEX INSTRUCTOR. To his left, the mostly male crowd leans forward, en masse. “Shimiken!” several shout, and a clatter of smartphone shutter sounds follows like a round of applause.

“Let’s go,” Shimiken whispers to a handler attempting to clear a path through the throng. He raises one arm over his head to air-high-five his riveted fans. It’s the morning of the Japan Adult Expo, and the crowd has been waiting for tickets. Inside, they’ll get to meet the stars of their wildest fantasies. Outside, they’ve already caught a glimpse of something rarer: the man who has actually lived them all.

Apparently, Shimiken, who is 35, is “beset by XXX exhaustion” because, he says, “the number of male porn stars in Japan is less than that of Bengal tigers.”

Fury end title sequence

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

I finally got a chance to watch “Fury” last weekend, and the part of the movie that was the most compelling to me was the end title sequence. The sequence terrifyingly captures the slamming chaos of war. (Contains graphic imagery.)

The main title sequence and the end title sequence were created by Greenhaus GFX.

Meet guest editor Susannah Breslin

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2015

Hello! I’m going to be off for the next week and Susannah Breslin will be editing the site in my stead. From her bio:

I created one of the internet’s first sex blogs, The Reverse Cowgirl, and I’ve been called a “modern-age Studs Terkel.” In 2008, TIME named me one of the top 25 bloggers of the year. I’m best known for my longform investigation of the Great Recession’s impact on the porn industry: “They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?” I’ve written for Harper’s Bazaar, Details, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire, Variety, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The LA Weekly. I’ve appeared on CNN, NPR, and “Politically Incorrect.”

Her newest work is a new short story called The Tumor that was drawn from her breast cancer diagnosis a few years ago. Susannah has long sent me interesting links and emails, so I’m excited to see what she gets up to this week. Welcome, Susannah!

Robert Durst arrested on eve of Jinx finale

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2015

Robert Durst

Whoa! Robert Durst has been arrested in New Orleans in connection with the killing of his friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000.

Robert A. Durst, the scion of a New York real estate family, was arrested on Saturday in New Orleans on a warrant issued in a homicide investigation by Los Angeles County, law enforcement officials said.

For years, questions have swirled around Mr. Durst about the unsolved killing of a close friend and confidante in Los Angeles 15 years ago, and about his first wife’s disappearance in 1982 and the shooting and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor in 2001.

Durst is the subject of the HBO series The Jinx, which I have been obsessed with over the past few weeks. The final episode airs tonight. Jinx director Andrew Jarecki must be freaking out…the arrest might be due to new evidence uncovered by Jarecki during the production of the show.

Update: On November 7, 2016, Durst pled not guilty to Berman’s murder.

The beauty of pi puts infinity within reach

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2015

I’m dreading it. No hope of solving any equations that day, what with the pie-eating contests, the bickering over the merits of pi versus tau (pi times two), and the throwdowns over who can recite more digits of pi. Just stay off the streets at 9:26:53, when the time will approximate pi to ten places: 3.141592653.

The New Yorker’s Steven Strogatz on why pi matters.

Dalek relaxation video

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2015

It’s been a hectic week and now that it’s Friday, let’s all chill with this relaxation video narrated by a Dalek.

Exhale. EXHALE! EX!!!-HALE!!! Ps. Make your voice sound like a Dalek. (via digg)

Crayon sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2015

These crayon sculptures by Hoang Tran are amazing.

Hoang Tran

Hoang Tran

Hoang Tran

Hoang Tran

Hoang Tran

Select sculptures are available on Etsy. (via ignant)

Desire map of the 50 states

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2015

What States Want

In Alaska, people search for the cost of a gallon of milk. In Alabama and Florida, people search for the cost of abortions. In other states, vasectomies, facelifts, and taxis are popular searches. The map was compiled using the autocomplete results for “how much does a * cost”… for each of the 50 states. (via mr)

Photoshop experts using Photoshop 1.0

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2015

Photoshop 1.0 came out in 1990 and didn’t have layers, live preview, multiple levels of undo, or many other features. See some current Photoshop experts wax nostalgic and wrestle with the lack of features in this entertaining video.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Super slow motion video of popping a balloon underwater

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2015

This video, shot at 36,000 frames per second, shows a balloon popping underwater. I am not quite sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this.

For instance, the air bubbles do not immediately rise to the surface…it takes them about 20-25 ms to get in the mood. Compare with a slow motion video of popping a water balloon in air:

Again, watch how it takes for gravity to kick in. It’s like Wile E. Coyote after having run off a cliff, hanging in midair holding a sign that says “EEP!” (via @BadAstronomer)

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2015

HBO will premiere the critically acclaimed authorized documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck later this year on May 4. Here’s the trailer:

Looks promising. The film is directed by Brett Morgen, who also did the excellent The Kid Stays in the Picture documentary about Robert Evans. And the name comes from a late-80s mixtape made by Cobain.

Fire? What fire? Football!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2015

Mt Hermon Fire

Ok, this is one of the strangest photos I’ve ever seen. In the background, there’s a building on fire and in the foreground, there’s a football game going on like there’s not a building on fire right there. From their photographic recap of 1965, In Focus has the story:

Spectators divide their attention as the Mount Hermon High School football team in Massachusetts hosts Deerfield Academy during a structure fire in the Mount Hermon science building on November 24, 1965. The science building was destroyed, and Mount Hermon lost the football game, ending a two-year-long winning streak.

Update: The photo above reminded some readers of this photo, taken by Joel Sternfeld in 1978.

Joel Sternfeld Fire

You’ll notice the fireman buying a pumpkin while the house behind him burns, although there’s a bit more to the story than that.

In 1996, a building burned outside the stadium during the LSU/Auburn game:

(via @slowernet & @davisseal)

Update: Sarah Lyall of the NY Times goes long on the Mount Hermon photo, which was very much real and celebrated when it was initially published.

Even at the time, when the photograph was reprinted around the world, people thought it was too weird to be real. “My colleagues maintain it is a real picture, but I believe it is of the April fool type,” wrote Phil F. Brogan, an editor at The Bulletin newspaper in Bend, Ore. (“I can assure you that the picture was not faked,” replied Arthur H. Kiendl Jr., the headmaster of Mount Hermon, the Massachusetts prep school where the game took place.)

In fact, the photograph, of Mount Hermon’s game against Deerfield Academy on Nov. 20, 1965, was an instant classic. Though the photographer, Robert Van Fleet, never received much in the way of money for it, it was named the Associated Press sports photograph of the year. It was featured on the back page of Life magazine. It was reproduced in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the United States, including The New York Times, often accompanied by supposedly amusing captions about Rome burning, the teams’ “red-hot rivalry” and the like.

Hydrothermal hints of the potential for life on Enceladus

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2015

Enceladus

Two teams of NASA scientists have discovered evidence that hydrothermal vents on the Saturnian moon of Enceladus show signs of “active hot-water chemistry”. Why is that exciting? Because similar chemistry occurs deep in the Earth’s oceans *and* can support life. Phil Plait explains.

We see these vents in the ocean bottom on Earth, too. The water there is very hot, heated by tectonic processes inside Earth’s crust. It brings up minerals and nutrients, and life thrives there. A lot of the processes are the same as what’s imagined is happening on Enceladus; minerals are dissolved in hot water that spews up into the cold ocean, precipitating out. A lot of it is sulfur based, but amazingly life exists there anyway. The environment is highly toxic to humans-huge pressure, boiling water near the vents, freezing a bit farther away, and loaded with icky chemicals-but as a scientist once said, “Life finds a way.”

Between the evidence of past flowing water on Mars, Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes, Europa’s underground ocean, and Enceladus, it seems increasingly probable we’ll find life somewhere else in the solar system. That’s a pretty exciting prospect! (via @ericholthaus)

Update: It was also announced today that the Hubble has detected signs of a salty underground ocean on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

New observations of the moon using Hubble support this. Ganymede has a weak magnetic field, and, like on Earth, this generates an aurora-the glow created when high-speed subatomic particles slam into the extremely thin atmosphere. This glow is brightest in ultraviolet, and so astronomers used the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (my old camera!) on Hubble to observe Ganymede. STIS is quite sensitive to UV and detected the aurora.

Now this part is a bit tricky: Jupiter has a powerful magnetic field as well, which interacts with Ganymede’s. As they do, the aurora changes position over time, moving up and down in latitude. However, the observations show that the aurorae do not change nearly as much as expected if Ganymede were solid. The best way to explain this is if the moon has a salty ocean under its surface. The ocean would have its own magnetic field and would resist the influence of Jupiter’s magnetic field, which in turn keeps the aurora steadier.

Turns out there’s water all over the place in the solar system. How about that?

The real subway map of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2015

Real subway map of Manhattan

From Thrillist, the real subway map of Manhattan, your one-stop shop for Manhattan neighborhood stereotypes. (via @mkonnikova)

This Book Is a Planetarium by Kelli Anderson

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2015

This Book Is A Planetarium

One of my design heroes, Kelli Anderson, is coming out with a pop-up book called This Book Is a Planetarium. What’s unique about this book is that the pop-up elements are functional contraptions, in the vein of her record player wedding invitation. There’s a tiny planetarium:

This Book Is A Planetarium

and a speaker for your smartphone:

This Book Is A Planetarium

The news comes via a video profile of Anderson’s work by Adobe. So cool.

We’ll Find Something

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2015

If you and a friend are walking around Manhattan trying to find dinner, this is how the conversation will go:

It’s funny because it’s true. That’s a clip from We’ll Find Something, a short film by Casey Gooden starring Upstream Color’s Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz.

Update: The full film has been released online and it is excruciating to watch if you’ve ever had bad relationship moments while traveling.

Back in Time, a Back to the Future documentary

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

2015 seems like a pretty good year to do a documentary about Back to the Future. Here’s a trailer:

The scope of the film has changed since the project started — it was originally just about the DeLorean Time Machine — and so the production team has gone back to Kickstarter to fund completion of the film. (via @ystrickler)

Progress, but Eyes remain on the Prize

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

President Obama delivered two key messages during his speech in Selma over the weekend. One, it’s a mistake to suggest that racism is banished in America.

We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true.

And two, we’ve made a lot of progress:

If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

It’s worth putting politics and cynicism aside long enough to consider that on Saturday, a black President spoke at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. There’s a long way to go, but that’s a hell of a 50 years.

New trailer for Inside Out

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

Ok, I’m starting to feel better about Inside Out, Pixar’s upcoming animated feature that takes place mostly inside the mind of a young girl. The first trailer featured a bunch of gender stereotypes and mostly left me scratching my head, but the second trailer is solid:

Zoolander and Hansel walk the runway at Paris Fashion Week

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

First the actual Michael Bolton pops up in Office Space and now Derek Zoolander and Hansel are walking an actual runway show during Paris Fashion Week:

A video posted by @erindoherty_glamour on

A video posted by @erindoherty_glamour on

Is this what we have to look forward to for the next 10 years, late-90s/early-00s media remixed for an aging and increasingly wealthy Generation X? Bring it on?

Update: Here’s the video of the whole show; the Zoolander appearance happens right at the beginning.

And as if there were any doubt, the stunt was a promo for Zoolander 2, which will come out in 2016.

Update: At one point, Zoolander grabbed the phone out of someone’s hand and walked with it. Here’s the video of that.

The someone turns out to be Jerome Jarre, a big Vine star who gets paid by brands to do this sort of thing all the time so chances are it was staged. Sorry, there are no more genuine moments left, it’s all fake from now on.

No-talent ass clown

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

Funny or Die digitally inserted the singer Michael Bolton into Office Space, where he plays Michael Bolton, the Initech programmer.

(via devour)

The Century of the Self

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2015

From filmmaker Adam Curtis, a four-part documentary series on “how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy”. Here’s part one:

And continue with part 2, part 3, and part 4. Here is a good review:

This is a powerful and arresting documentary series — I ended up watching all four episodes back to back in a marathon effort. It was that gripping. I had felt similarly about his more recent documentary about the rise of neo conservatism and arab fundamentalism and the similarity in their techniques for recruiting followers (and their mutual need of each other in that project) — but ‘The Century of the Self’ (TCS from now on), is much grander in its scope. It seeks to analyse the different conceptions of the self in the twentieth century, and how these conceptions were ultimately used by corporations to manipulate consumers into purchasing their products. Curtis takes large swipes at corporate capitalism in this documentary, but his target is even wider than this — he seeks to tell a story about the relationship between the differing conceptions of individualism and the capitalist, democratic institutions (corporations and governments) which organise themselves around these conceptions.

(thx, kyle)

Buy now, pay later

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2015

This metaphorical explanation of the post-2008 Irish banking crisis works equally well as an explanation for contemporary global financial markets in general.

Mary is the proprietor of a bar in Dublin. She realises that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronise her bar — she will go broke.

To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around about Mary’s ‘drink now, pay later’ marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Mary’s bar.

Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Dublin — all is starting to look rosy.

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.

Consequently, Mary’s gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary’s borrowing limit.

He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank’s corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into Drinkbonds and Alkibonds. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets.

The new investors don’t really understand that the securities being sold to them as ‘AAA’ secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. They have had a ‘rating house’ certify they are of good quality.

Long wave is looooooong

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2015

Koa Smith rides in the barrel of a wave for almost 30 seconds…it just goes on and on and on.

This video is a bit misleading. The ride is shown twice but the first time through it’s slowed down so it lasts more than a minute. The full-speed replay starts at 2:01 and is still impressive. (via digg)

Honey portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2015

For his book Preservation, Blake Little drenched his subjects in honey and took their photos, mid-drizzle. A bit NSFW.

Blake Little

Blake Little

(via slate)

Supernova reruns

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2015

Astronomers have been able to view the same supernova in a distant part of the Universe several times due to the gravitational lensing effect of a cluster of galaxies in-between here and there. From Dennis Overbye in the NY Times:

Supernovas are among the most violent and rare events in the universe, occurring perhaps once per century in a typical galaxy. They outshine entire galaxies, spewing elemental particles like oxygen and gold out into space to form the foundations of new worlds, and leaving behind crushed remnants called neutron stars or black holes.

Because of the galaxy cluster standing between this star and the Hubble, “basically, we got to see the supernova four times,” Dr. Kelly said. And the explosion is expected to appear again in another part of the sky in the next 10 years. Timing the delays between its appearances, he explained, will allow astronomers to refine measurements of how fast the universe is expanding and to map the mysterious dark matter that supplies the bulk of the mass and gravitational oomph of the universe.

Scientists expect the supernova to reappear in the next few years. Gravitational lensing was predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity and as Overbye writes, “the heavens continue to light candles for Albert Einstein.”

ASCII fluid dynamics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2015

A video of the output of an ASCII fluid dynamics simulator.

Sloshy! (via waxy)

Mr. Holmes

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2015

In Mr. Holmes, Ian McKellen plays a post-retirement Sherlock Holmes who has moved to the country to take up beekeeping. Here’s the trailer:

Update: Not that the first trailer was bad or anything, but this new one provides much more of a sense of what the film is about.

I’m going to watch the shit out of this movie.

The Himalayas from 20,000 ft.

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2015

Beautiful video of the Himalayas shot from a helicopter flying at up to 24,000 feet high.

(via ★interesting)

1940 Nazi tourist map of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2015

Nazi Tourist Map Paris

In 1940, Germany published a tourist map of occupied Paris intended for use by German soldiers on leave.

The year in movie soundtracks, 2014

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2015

For the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about movie soundtracks, with an emphasis on the scores for the 2014 crop of films.

This year’s Oscar nominations for Best Original Score did the field few favors, overlooking some significant work. Jonny Greenwood, increasingly known as much for his film music as for his contributions to Radiohead, has yet to be acknowledged by the Academy, despite his idiosyncratic, imaginative collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson, most recently in “Inherent Vice.” Jason Moran deserved a nod for his “Selma” score, which oscillates between subdued moods of hope and dread, avoiding the telltale gestures of the great-man bio-pic. (The Aaron Copland trumpet of lonely American power is in abeyance.) Most baffling was the omission of Mica Levi’s score for “Under the Skin,” which, like Greenwood’s work for Anderson, moves from seething dissonance to eerie simplicity and back again.

I listen to movie soundtracks quite a bit; they’re good to play while working. Here are a few I’ve enjoyed from 2014:

Ye olde hip hop

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2015

There are only a dozen images so far, but this Tumblr comparing art from before the 16th century and contemporary images of hip hop is fantastic. My favorites:

Hip Hop Art

Hip Hop Art

The short lives of alienated ants

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

Camponotus fellah (which you almost certainly know is a species of carpenter ant) have a lot of incentive to stick together. The worker ants that live and work alone enjoy only a tenth of the lifespan of their more social co-workers. While that stat is extreme, it’s not necessarily unique.

Isolation can also enfeeble rats, mice, pigs, rabbits, squirrel monkeys, starlings, and parrots.

And of course humans. What is it about being together that makes us — and the ants — more healthy? From The New Yorker’s Emily Anthes: Marching One by One.

Did humans and wolves team up to kill off the Neanderthals?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

My answer to that question, having read nothing about it beyond this article, is “it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but what an interesting thing to think about”. This theory about how humans and wolves (and later, dogs) teamed up to outcompete Neanderthals for food is being forwarded by anthropologist Pat Shipman, author of the new book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction.

Modern humans formed an alliance with wolves soon after we entered Europe, argues Shipman. We tamed some and the dogs we bred from them were then used to chase prey and to drive off rival carnivores, including lions and leopards, that tried to steal the meat.

“Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired,” said Shipman. “Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows.

“This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off — often the most dangerous part of a hunt — while humans didn’t have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey. Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation.”

At that time, the European landscape was dominated by mammoths, rhinos, bison and several other large herbivores. Both Neanderthals and modern humans hunted them with spears and possibly bows and arrows. It would have been a tricky business made worse by competition from lions, leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores, including wolves.

“Even if you brought down a bison, within minutes other carnivores would have been lining up to attack you and steal your prey,” said Shipman. The answer, she argues, was the creation of the human-wolf alliance. Previously they separately hunted the same creatures, with mixed results. Once they joined forces, they dominated the food chain in prehistoric Europe — though this success came at a price for other species. First Neanderthals disappeared to be followed by lions, mammoths, hyenas and bison over the succeeding millennia. Humans and hunting dogs were, and still are, a deadly combination, says Shipman.

(via @robinsloan)

Shot on iPhone 6

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

For their new ad campaign, Apple gathered some photos that people had taken with their iPhones and are featuring them on their website and on billboards. Here are a few I found particularly engaging.

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

I’ve said it before and it’s just getting more obvious: the iPhone is the best camera in the world.

Update: Apple has added a section for films shot on iPhone 6.

Errol Morris interviewed

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

As part of Errol Morris Week on Grantland1, Alex Pappademas did a great interview with Morris about his work. Morris has interviewed serial killers, Holocaust deniers, rapists, and the architect of the Vietnam War but said that the person that most challenged his capacity for empathy was Donald Rumsfeld.

He’s confident right now! He doesn’t have to wait 100 or 500 years. He doesn’t care. I really care whether I’m right or wrong. I really do care. And probably for lots of reasons. I don’t want to be seen as a dumbass, I don’t want to be seen as someone who believes in something that’s absolutely false, untrue, something that can’t be substantiated, checked. I believe that there’s some deep virtue in pursuing truth. Maybe it’s the highest virtue. I believe that. Whether you can attain it or not, you can pursue it. It can be a goal. It can be a destination. I don’t believe that’s Donald Rumsfeld’s goal. I believe that Robert S. McNamara really wanted to understand what he had done and why he had done it. You know, we remain a mystery to ourselves, among the many, many, many other mysteries there are. And McNamara’s struggle with his own past — I was deeply moved by it. I think he’s a war criminal, I think he sees himself as a war criminal, but I like him.

Update: Another recent interview, by Brin-Jonathan Butler, is being offered as a 99¢ Kindle Single.

  1. Yeah cool guys, but it’s always Errol Morris Week here at kottke.org.

Cartoonists don’t understand net neutrality

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

This collection of political cartoons depict the FCC’s recent ruling on net neutrality as Big Government throttling the free internet, except that every caption has been replaced with “the cartoonist has no idea how net neutrality works”. Here’s one example followed by the unadulterated cartoon:

Cartoon Net Neutrality

Cartoon Net Neutrality

The zingers get zinged. (via @john_overholt)

Becoming Steve Jobs

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

A new biography of Steve Jobs is coming out in March, written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, a pair of technology journalists who have covered Jobs and the personal computer revolution for decades. John Gruber has read it and calls it “remarkable”.

It is, in short, the book about Steve Jobs that the world deserves. You might wonder how such a book could be written without Jobs’s participation, but effectively, he did participate. Schlender, in his work as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewed Jobs extensively numerous times spanning 25 years. Remember the 1991 joint interview with Jobs and Bill Gates? That was Schlender. As the book makes clear, Jobs and Schlender had a very personal relationship.

The book is smart, accurate, informative, insightful, and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Schlender and Tetzeli paint a vivid picture of Jobs the man, and also clearly understand the industry in which he worked. They also got an astonishing amount of cooperation from the people who knew Jobs best: colleagues past and present from Apple and Pixar — particularly Tim Cook — and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.

Instant pre-order.

Update: A glitch in Amazon’s Look Inside the Book feature gave Luke Dormehl a sneak peek at some of the book’s details, including that Tim Cook offered Jobs a part of his liver and Jobs talked about buying Yahoo.

Another interesting tidbit: Steve Jobs and Disney boss Bob Iger talked about buying Yahoo! together at one point, a move that would have given Apple an “in” in the search business.

While the question of Apple buying Yahoo! has been raised plenty of times over the years, this is the first time there’s been a serious suggestion that Jobs considered such an acquisition.

Buying Yahoo! would have given Apple access to a host of patents, web services and other tools in a fiercely competitive sector. Yahoo! would have been an interesting fit for Apple (which is probably why it didn’t happen), but it’s fascinating to consider what might have been.

Update: Excerpts of the book are starting appear. Fast Company has a Tim Cook-related excerpt as well as an interview with Cook conducted by Schlender and Tetzeli.

One afternoon, Cook left [Jobs’] house feeling so upset that he had his own blood tested. He found out that he, like Steve, had a rare blood type, and guessed that it might be the same. He started doing research, and learned that it is possible to transfer a portion of a living person’s liver to someone in need of a transplant. About 6,000 living-donor transplants are performed every year in the United States, and the rate of success for both donor and recipient is high. The liver is a regenerative organ. The portion transplanted into the recipient will grow to a functional size, and the portion of the liver that the donor gives up will also grow back.

Man violates laws of gravity while pouring tea

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2015

I love watching people who are particularly adept at food prep and this guy preparing teh tarik certainly fits the bill. His pour seems to violate at least two of Newton’s three laws of motion.

This guy has some serious skills as well.

These gentlemen making parathas is still my all-time favorite food prep video, but these are good as well. (via cyn-c)

Tutankhamun’s unbroken rope seal

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2015

King Tut Rope Seal

This is the rope seal securing the doors of Tutankhamun’s tomb, unbroken for more than 3200 years until shortly after Harry Burton took this photo in 1923. A description from National Geographic:

Still intact in 1923 after 32 centuries, rope secures the doors to the second of four nested shrines in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. The necropolis seal — depicting captives on their knees and Anubis, the jackal god of the dead — remains unbroken, a sign that Tut’s mummy lies undisturbed inside.

How did the rope last for so long? Rare Historical Photos explains:

Rope is one of the fundamental human technologies. Archaeologists have found two-ply ropes going back 28,000 years. Egyptians were the first documented civilization to use specialized tools to make rope. One key why the rope lasted so long wasn’t the rope itself, it was the aridity of the air in the desert. It dries out and preserves things. Another key is oxygen deprivation. Tombs are sealed to the outside. Bacteria can break things down as long as they have oxygen, but then they effectively suffocate. It’s not uncommon to find rope, wooden carvings, cloth, organic dyes, etc. in Egyptian pyramids and tombs that wouldn’t have survived elsewhere in the world.

Google’s new offices

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2015

The plans for Google’s new offices in Mountain View blew me away. Not so much the reconfigurable office spaces1 but the greenhouse canopies. If those canopies actually work, they could result in a workspace that combines the best parts of being outdoors (the openness, the natural light & heat, greenery) with the benefits of working indoors (lack of wind & rain, moderate temperatures).

  1. I’m skeptical. Can spaces made for any purpose be right for any single purpose? Swiss Army knives aren’t that great at slicing bread.

The Algorithmic Sea

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2015

For years, one of the holy grails of computer generated visual effects was realistic looking water. Millions of dollars and rendering hours spent. Now, using just 185 lines of WebGL JavaScript code, you can get super-realistic ocean waves rendered right in any modern web browser at 60 frames/sec.

Wow. Wow wow. (via ★interesting-links)

Dancing mathematics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2015

Dancing Math

Mathematical functions depicted as stick figure dance moves. (via @mulegirl)

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