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Entries for May 2015 (June 2015 »    July 2015 »    August 2015 »    Archives)

 

Google and the amazing touch-sensitive dreampants

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

Google just announced Project Jacquard, an effort to introduce interactivity into textiles. Swipe your sofa cushion to change the channel on your TV,1 tap a special “knock” on your collar to unlock your front door, or control your party’s playlist with a few taps of your pants.

  1. Perhaps this is what Steve Jobs meant when he said of the Apple TV, “I finally cracked it”?

We Work Remotely

A swim through Jellyfish Lake

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

Jellyfish Lake in Palau is home to approximately 13 million jellyfish. Their mild stings mean you can snorkel in their midst and capture beautifully surreal scenes like this:

If I had a bucket list, I think a swim in Jellyfish Lake w/ classical accompaniment might be on it. (via colossal)

Eminem’s Lose Yourself in ASL

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

Oh, this is my favorite thing of the month: Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem’s Lose Yourself in American Sign Language.

Great song and a great performance. Em, sign this woman up for your next tour! (via devour)

Update: Amber Galloway Gallego is an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in doing rap and hip-hop concerts.

As an American Sign Language interpreter who specializes in music performance, Gallego has interpreted over 300 rap, R&B, and rock concerts, and has worked with everyone from Aerosmith to Destiny’s Child. After a deaf friend told her that “music wasn’t for deaf people,” she embarked on a quest to prove otherwise; today, she’s hired by major music festivals all over the United States to make auditory performances more relatable for the deaf.

To do so, she employs a tireless mixture of hand signs, facial expressions, body movement, and sensibility.

“Where are the solar powered cars?” and other questions about Mad Max: Fury Road

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

I saw Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday (enjoyed it) but have a few questions.

1. With gasoline in such short supply, I’m surprised the various groups in the movie didn’t take more advantage of solar power to generate energy for electric vehicles and such. Sunshine is obviously abundant in post-apocalyptic Australia and from the looks of what was scavenged from before the nuclear war and the ingenuity on display in getting what they found to function, they should have been able to find even rudimentary solar cells and get them to work.

2. Speaking of energy scarcity, I wonder if the troop-pumping-up and opponent-intimidating function of the flamethrowing guitar player was worth all of the fuel spewed out of the end of his instrument and energy consumed by the incredible number of speakers on his rig.

3. The roads in the movie were in remarkable shape, aside from the swampland. Who was responsible for their upkeep? Even dirt roads need maintenance or they develop potholes and washboarding. And for what reason were they kept in such good condition outside of the Citadel/Gas Town/Bullet Farm area? Aside from Furiosa’s Rig, the chase party, and two smallish motorcycle gangs, I saw no other vehicular traffic on the roads…and who would have been semi-regularly traveling out past the canyon anyway? To where? For what?

4. What was the political and economic arrangement between the Citadel, Gas Town, and the Bullet Farm? Did the Citadel trade their water and crops for gas and bullets? Or was Immortan Joe, as the defender of the lone source of abundant fresh water in the region, the defacto leader of all three groups? The People Eater and Bullet Farmer certainly came a’running when Joe needed help retrieving his wives. There were obviously other sources of water in the region — how else did the biker gangs survive? — so you’d think that Gas Town and the Bullet Farm could have teamed up to squeeze Joe into giving them a better deal or even overthrowing him. Point is, there seemed to be a surprising lack of political friction between the three groups, which seems odd in an environment of scarcity.

5. Surely land was plentiful enough that large solar stills could have generated enough fresh water for people to live on without having to rely on the Citadel for it.

Update: Reddit has a go at answering some of these questions. (via @pavel_lishin)

Mad Max vs. Buster Keaton

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

Turns out, if you take Junkie XL’s soundtrack to Mad Max: Fury Road and pair it with a train chase scene from Buster Keaton’s silent film masterpiece The General, it works pretty well.

Way More than Luck

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2015

While researching this post on some weekend reading from David Foster Wallace, I stumbled across Way More than Luck, an anthology of notable commencement speeches.

Here, in an anthology of some of the finest of the genre, brilliant creative minds in every sector offer their wisdom: David Foster Wallace on living a compassionate life, Debbie Millman on the importance of taking risks, Michael Lewis on the responsibility that good fortune merits — and so many other greats. Some of this advice is grand (believe in the impossible), and some of it is granular enough to check off a life list (donate five percent of your money or your time).

See also The Top 7 Commencement Speeches of All Time.

The man who loved only marbles

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2015

This video features a man who plays with marbles for several hours each day, his custom-built marble alley, and his very patient & understanding wife.

The man has been playing with marbles for 60 years and owns over 1500 marbles, which are stored according to how quickly they move down the track. (via boing boing)

Update: I think this guy’s head would explode if he saw this mega marble run with 11,000 marbles.

(via digg)

The game is the game

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2015

It is what it is. What’s done is done. My name is not my name. My name is my name.1 Derek Donahue found all of the tautologies from The Wire and collected them into one video:

These types of phrases characterize the immovable forces the characters feel govern their lives and actions: poverty, bureaucracy, addiction, institutional corruption, ethnicity, etc.

  1. The juxtaposition of Vondas’ “my name is not my name” from season two and “my name is my name” from Marlo in the final season is one of my favorite little moments in the show. Two men pursuing similar ends going about it in opposite ways.

Design service just for restaurant websites

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2015

This is smart: a startup design service called BentoBox just for designing restaurant websites. Entrepreneur magazine recently profiled the service.

The site conveys important information — location, hours and a phone number are featured prominently, as are frequently asked questions — in a visually appealing way that expresses the restaurant’s high-end yet relaxed atmosphere while also making you hungry.

This is what a restaurant website should do — namely, serve as an extension of its brick-and-mortar presence — and yet so many miss the mark, says Krystle Mobayeni. For years, Mobayeni ran her own web design agency. Clients included Rent the Runway, Sailor Jerry, the School of the Visual Arts, plus a few restaurants, such as David Chang’s Momofuku. While companies in other industries usually had a good handle on their web presence, Mobayeni noticed that the restaurants were struggling. There wasn’t a good platform that anticipated their needs and gave them an easy way to present themselves on the web, and so often, their sites suffered for it.

The number has been steadily dwindling the last few years, but it’s surprising how many restaurant sites are still Flash, don’t work on mobile, and make you work to find the location and opening hours. Some examples of Bento’s work: Parm, Fedora, and The Meatball Shop. Damn, now I’m hungry. (via @adamkuban)

Art history in contemporary life

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2015

Alexey Kondakov takes figures from classical paintings, places them in contemporary scenes, and posts the results on Facebook. Think of cherubs riding the subway, that sort of thing.

Alexey Kondakov

Alexey Kondakov

(via colossal)

Amazon finally fixes the Kindle’s text justification

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2015

Our national full-justification of text nightmare is over…Amazon has finally ditched fully justified text on the Kindle.

But the new app finally gives the boot to the hideous absolute justification of text that the Kindle’s been rocking since 2007. The new layout engine justifies text more like print typesetting. Even if you max out the font size on the new Kindle app, it will keep the spacing between words even, intelligently hyphenating words and spreading them between lines as need may be.

The layout engine also contains some beautiful new kerning options. They’re subtle, but once you see them, you can’t unsee them: for example, the way that the top and bottom of a drop cap on the Kindle now perfectly lines up with the tops and bottoms of its neighboring lines. Like I said, it’s a small detail, but one that even Apple’s iBooks and Google Play Books doesn’t manage to quite get right.

Huzzah! The company is still working through a backlog of converting titles to the new layout, so give it some time if the changes aren’t showing up. (via nextdraft)

Querkles

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2015

Querkles

This looks cool…Thomas Pavitte has reinvented the paint-by-numbers with Querkles. Instead of simple numbered areas to fill in, Querkles cleverly uses overlapping circles that you fill in with different shading techniques or colors to reveal hidden faces. Here’s a short demo of how it works:

Pavitte has two different books available: Querkles and Querkles Masterpiece, featuring famous faces from the art world. See also coloring books for adults.

Trailer for The End of the Tour

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2015

“The more people think you’re really great, the bigger the fear of being a fraud is.” That’s the most resonant line for me from the first trailer for The End of the Tour, the story of a five-day interview between reporter David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace that takes place in 1996, just after Infinite Jest came out.

The movie is based on a book Lipsky published called Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, which I read and thought was great.1 Jesse Eisenberg plays Lipsky and Jason Segel does as much justice to Wallace as one could hope for, I think. I am cautiously optimistic that this movie might actually be decent or even good. (via @jcormier)

  1. I even took place in a roundtable discussion for Vulture about it.

Dior and I

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2015

Dior and I is a fashion documentary about the first haute couture collection designed by Christian Dior’s new artistic director. But from the looks of the trailer, you don’t have to know or care about the fashion industry to get something out of watching a group of people accomplish something creative, difficult, and political under extreme time constraints.

The film is playing at select theaters around the US and should be available next month for streaming and digital download. (via russell davies)

High-rent blight in the West Village

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2015

Shuttered storefronts. Abandoned retail locations. Small businesses that fall like the House of Cards & Curiosities on Eighth Avenue. These are the signs of urban blight we usually associate with economic downturns or poor, forgotten neighborhoods. But these shuttered storefronts are in one of America’s wealthiest neighborhoods; NYC’s West Village. As The New Yorker’s Tim Wu explains, some urban blight emerges when economic times are too good and rents get too high. And we’re not just talking about mom and pop here. Even Starbucks is closing some Manhattan locations due to rent hikes.

Informal entrepreneurship and The Misfit Economy

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2015

Misfit Economy

The Misfit Economy looks intriguing; the subtitle is “Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Informal Entrepreneurs”.

Who are the greatest innovators in the world? You’re probably thinking Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford. The usual suspects.

This book isn’t about them. It’s about people you’ve never heard of. It’s about people who are just as innovative, entrepreneurial, and visionary as the Jobses, Edisons, and Fords of the world, except they’re not in Silicon Valley. They’re in the street markets of Sao Paulo and Guangzhou, the rubbish dumps of Lagos, the flooded coastal towns of Thailand. They are pirates, slum dwellers, computer hackers, dissidents, and inner city gang members.

Across the globe, diverse innovators operating in the black, grey, and informal economies are developing solutions to a myriad of challenges. Far from being “deviant entrepreneurs” that pose threats to our social and economic stability, these innovators display remarkable ingenuity, pioneering original methods and practices that we can learn from and apply to move formal markets.

Screentendo

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2015

Screentendo is an OS X application that converts a selection of your computer screen into a playable Super Mario Bros game. Here’s a demo using the Google logo:

The source code is here if you want to try it out. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Shot in the name of art

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2015

The NY Times has a short documentary on Chris Burden’s Shoot, a conceptual art piece from 1971 in which Burden is shot in the arm by a friend.

Burden passed away earlier this month. (via digg)

Climate music for string quartet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2015

University of Minnesota student Daniel Crawford and geography professor Scott St. George have collaborated on a piece of music called Planetary Bands, Warming World. Composed for a string quartet, the piece uses climate change data to determine the musical notes — the pitch of each note is tuned to the average annual temperature, which means as the piece goes on, the musical notes get higher and higher.

(via @riondotnu)

Movie intro megamix

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2015

A cleverly constructed mashup of all the major Hollywood studio intros — MGM’s roaring lion, Disney’s castle, Paramount’s flying stars, Miramax’s skyline — into one mega-intro.

(via @pieratt)

Some weekend reading from David Foster Wallace

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2015

The Atlantic has republished and reformatted Host by David Foster Wallace on their website. Originally published in 2005, Host was a profile of talk radio host John Ziegler and contained several layers of footnotes, which are beautifully handled in this new online version.

The Nick Berg beheading and its Internet video compose what is known around KFI as a “Monster,” meaning a story that has both high news value and tremendous emotional voltage. As is SOP in political talk radio, the emotions most readily accessed are anger, outrage, indignation, fear, despair, disgust, contempt, and a certain kind of apocalyptic glee, all of which the Nick Berg thing’s got in spades. Mr. Ziegler, whose program is in only its fourth month at KFI, has been fortunate in that 2004 has already been chock-full of Monsters — Saddam’s detention, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Scott Peterson murder trial, the Greg Haidl gang-rape trial, and preliminary hearings in the rape trial of Kobe Bryant. But tonight is the most angry, indignant, disgusted, and impassioned that Mr. Z.’s gotten on-air so far, and the consensus in Airmix is that it’s resulting in some absolutely first-rate talk radio.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary1 of Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College, among the finest ever given IMO.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

That speech is also available as a short book, This Is Water. If you read both of those things and hunger for more, luckily there is so much much more.

  1. I’ve got nothing to say here…I just really couldn’t do a post about DFW without footnoting something. Still miss you, big guy.

Ten things you’ll learn in your first year of business school

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2015

I’ve never had the desire to go to business school or get an MBA, but I found this post by Ellen Chisa about what she learned during her first year at Harvard Business School fascinating. It almost nearly sort of makes me want to think about maybe applying to business school.

People often know what they’re good at (it got them where they are!) Unfortunately, things won’t always go well in your career. How you react and recover impacts everyone around you.

One of the best things I did this year was answering these two questions honestly, for myself:

What is my worst self?
When does my worst self come out?

My worst self: critical, impatient, stubborn, cynical, and sarcastic. It comes out when I feel like I’m not in a position to make an impact, and when I feel undervalued in a situation. It also happens if I think I’m fundamentally “right” and someone disagrees. If it goes on for too long I become incredibly apathetic and don’t do anything.

I have a hard time avoiding this, but I am better at catching it now. When I do catch it, I attempt to apologize to the group, move on, and catch it faster the next time.

Knowing yourself wasn’t really something I was taught in school, nor was it emphasized at home, so I was slow to learn my strengths and weaknesses and how to properly apply them to situations in my life. That struggle continues even today.

A Very Murray Christmas

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2015

Netflix will air a Christmas special starring Bill Murray and directed by Sofia Coppola. That is an amazing collection of proper nouns all together in the same sentence.

Written by Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray and Mitch Glazer and directed by Sofia Coppola, A Very Murray Christmas is described as an homage to the classic variety show featuring Bill Murray playing himself, as he worries no one will show up to his TV show due to a terrible snow storm in New York City. Through luck and perseverance, guests arrive at the Carlyle hotel to help him; dancing and singing in holiday spirit.

(via several kind people)

Expensive wine is for suckers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2015

Wine ratings are all over the place, particularly when price enters the picture. This video explains that the most expensive wine is not always the best tasting wine, but you might prefer it anyway.

(via @riondotnu)

Mapping photos of old NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2015

OldNYC offers a map view of old photos of New York City, drawn from the collection at the New York Public Library. This is fantastic, like a historical Google Street View. For instance, there used to be a huge theater on the corner of 7th Avenue and Christopher St, circa 1929:

7th Ave Chirstopher St 1930

If I didn’t have a thing to do this afternoon, I would spend all day exploring this. So so good. (via @mccanner)

America’s most popular tastes map

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2015

Foursquare Tastes Map

From a Foursquare and Mapbox collaboration, a map of the most popular tastes in each US state.

Every state in the U.S. has a unique flavor, from Chicken Cheesesteak to Chinese Chicken Salad. Foursquare analyzed the data to pinpoint which food or drink is most disproportionately popular in each destination, and worked with Mapbox to create the dynamic map.

Louisiana is crawfish, Vermont is maple syrup, and Texas is breakfast tacos. I love that Nevada is bottle service. All that state wants is to get you drunk in the least fiscally responsible way possible.

Jessica Hische’s secrets revealed!

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2015

Jessica Hische

One of my favorite designers, Jessica Hische (she did the film titles for Moonrise Kingdom), is coming out with a new book in September called In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist’s Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector.

This show-all romp through design-world darling Jessica Hische’s sketchbook reveals the creative and technical process behind making award-winning hand lettering. See everything, from Hische’s rough sketches to her polished finals for major clients such as Wes Anderson, NPR, and Starbucks. The result is a well of inspiration and brass tacks information for designers who want to sketch distinctive letterforms and hone their skills.

Hische made a video offering a quick tour of the book:

A video posted by @jessicahische on

Looks great!

“I Googled how to be a porn star”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2015

Miriam Weeks was in the news last year as the Duke freshmen who performed in pornographic movies as Belle Knox. In this five-part documentary video series, Weeks discusses her decision to work in the porn industry and how it has affected her life.

I’m 18 years old, and I travel across the country having sex with people on camera, and every dollar I make goes to tuition. I’ve built a name for myself. I’m building a brand. I love the porn industry. It makes me feel like a strong independent woman. It’s given me back my sense of self.

Probably NSFW, although all the nudity appears to be blurred.

The birth of bees

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2015

A time lapse of the first three weeks of a bee’s life, from egg to adult, in only 60 seconds.

Some explanation of what’s going on can be found in this video. (via colossal)

An oral history of Industrial Light and Magic

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2015

Star Wars was a film that literally couldn’t be made; the technology required to bring the movie’s universe to visual life simply didn’t exist.

So George Lucas did what any enterprising young director who was destined to change the movie business would do. He invented a company to invent the technology. Wired’s Alex French and Howie Kahn take you inside the magic factory with the untold story of ILM.

Fluffy galaxies discovered

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2015

Researchers using the Keck Observatory have discovered a new kind of galaxy that are large but filled with relatively few stars.

“If the Milky Way is a sea of stars, then these newly discovered galaxies are like wisps of clouds”, said van Dokkum. “We are beginning to form some ideas about how they were born and it’s remarkable they have survived at all. They are found in a dense, violent region of space filled with dark matter and galaxies whizzing around, so we think they must be cloaked in their own invisible dark matter ‘shields’ that are protecting them from this intergalactic assault.”

The night sky in such galaxies would look a lot like our skies do in large cities:

“If there are any aliens living on a planet in an ultra-diffuse galaxy, they would have no band of light across the sky, like our own Milky Way, to tell them they were living in a galaxy. The night sky would be much emptier of stars,” said team member Aaron Romanowsky, of San Jose State University.

(via gizmodo)

America’s bias against the common good

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2015

In The Plot Against Trains, Adam Gopnik muses about how infrastructure in America has become dilapidated in part because we (or at least much of we) believe little good can come from the government.

What an ideology does is give you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interest — and this cuts both ways, including both wealthy people in New York who, out of social conviction, vote for politicians who are more likely to raise their taxes, and poor people in the South who vote for those devoted to cutting taxes on incomes they can never hope to earn. There is no such thing as false consciousness. There are simply beliefs that make us sacrifice one piece of self-evident interest for some other, larger principle.

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.

The ideology of individual autonomy is, for good or ill, so powerful that it demands cars where trains would save lives, just as it places assault weapons in private hands, despite the toll they take in human lives. Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life — what Olmsted called our “commonplace civilization.”

The way he brings it back to trains at the end is lovely:

A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination.

Well, except when you’re on that Snowpiercer train. Although in the end (spoiler!), Curtis brought the train’s segregated society back to “a common view and a singular destination” by crashing it and killing (almost) everyone on it. Hopefully America isn’t headed toward the same end.

The best 300 albums of the past 30 years

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2015

For the 30th anniversary of Spin, the editors compiled a list of the 300 best albums released in the past 30 years. The top 20 includes albums by Nirvana, Pixies, Bjork, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, and DJ Shadow. The #1 album is…….. nevermind, you should go find out for yourself. (via @jblanton)

Conrad and the Steam Plant

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

Conrad Milster is the chief engineer at the Pratt Institute, which means he’s in charge of the 19th-century steam engines that provide the school’s heat and hot water. Dustin Cohen made this lovely short film about Conrad, an oddball who fits right into his life.

On the topic of New York, Conrad says, “It sucks, but it’s the Big Apple!” (via acl)

How Richard Stallman does his computing

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

Richard Stallman, the free software activist and author of some of the world’s most used and useful software, probably uses his computer and the Internet a lot differently than you do. For starters, ethics and privacy concerns trump his need for convenience.

I am careful in how I use the Internet.

I generally do not connect to web sites from my own machine, aside from a few sites I have some special relationship with. I usually fetch web pages from other sites by sending mail to a program (see git://git.gnu.org/womb/hacks.git) that fetches them, much like wget, and then mails them back to me. Then I look at them using a web browser, unless it is easy to see the text in the HTML page directly. I usually try lynx first, then a graphical browser if the page needs it (using konqueror, which won’t fetch from other sites in such a situation).

I occasionally also browse using IceCat via Tor. I think that is enough to prevent my browsing from being connected with me, since I don’t identify myself to the sites I visit.

I never pay for anything on the Web. Anything on the net that requires payment, I don’t do. (I made an exception for the fees for the stallman.org domain, since that is connected with me anyway.)

I would not mind paying for a copy of an e-book or music recording on the Internet if I could do so anonymously, and it were ethical in other ways (no DRM or EULA). But that option almost never exists. I keep looking for ways to make it happen.

Mining the internet for time lapses

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

Software from a group at the University of Washington and Google discovers time lapses lurking in photos posted to the internet. For example, their bot found hundreds of photos of a Norwegian glacier on the Web, taken over a span of 10 years. Voila, instant time lapse of a retreating glacier.

First, we cluster 86 million photos into landmarks and popular viewpoints. Then, we sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world’s most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.

This is like a time machine, allowing you to go back 5 or 10 years and position a camera somewhere to take photos every few days or weeks. Pretty clever.

Wife bonuses and the Primates of Park Avenue

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

Primates Of Park Avenue

Wednesday Martin is an anthropologist and author whose upcoming book, Primates of Park Avenue, examines the wealthy stay-at-home moms of Manhattan’s Upper East Side like any other primate troop.

After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers’ snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns; display rituals; physical adornment, mutilation, and mating practices; extra-pair copulation; and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.

Martin wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times about her findings called Poor Little Rich Women.

And then there were the wife bonuses.

I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a “bonus” over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

Women who didn’t get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.

Please note that Martin’s book is a memoir…not an anthropological study, a memoir. I can’t wait to see how they turn this one into a movie.

Update: Polly Phillips in the NY Post: I get a wife bonus and I deserve it, so STFU.

These pricey pairs of designer footwear will join a lineup of Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Diane Von Furstenburg and Rupert Sanderson heels and a closet crammed with handbags from Prada, Chanel and Anya Hindmarch. Every single one was bought with one of my annual bonuses — the nod from a happy boss for a job well done.

But, in this case, the boss in question is my husband, Al. The role he’s rewarding me for is my work as a stay-at-home wife and mother. And the luxury labels are purchased with the “wife bonus” — 20 percent of his own company bonus — that I’m proud to receive for putting his career before my own, and keeping our lives together.

After all, he readily admits that, without me staying at home with our 19-month-old daughter, Lala — not to mention the support and understanding I offer when his work intrudes on our home life — he couldn’t do his job. And he also knows that if we hadn’t followed his career abroad, I might still be doing very well in my own.

Weird thing #1: Phillips refers to her husband as her boss. No ironic scarequotes. He’s the boss. Which seems to be a point in favor of Martin’s thesis of a lack of empowerment.

Weird thing #2: Why the hell call it a “wife bonus” if their income is completely shared and they each get 20% of the end-of-year bonus? I mean, it seems completely reasonable and equitable that they each get some mad money to spend however they want on above-and-beyond items. Why load that arrangement down with the icky “wife bonus”?

Update: Remember when I said “Martin’s book is a memoir…not an anthropological study”? This is why: it turns out Martin monkeyed with the timelines quite a bit to create a better narrative.

She says she attended grueling exercise classes at Physique 57 to lose her baby weight after her second son’s birth. But the upscale gym did not exist when she claims to have exercised there.

She also describes a posh party where the guests bring the hostess gifts from an upscale macaroon shop. But Ladurée didn’t open in New York until 2011, four years after she had moved.

While at a lunch date just prior to the party, Martin and a friend do an accounting of how much their over-privileged peers spend on personal grooming, clothing and transportation. Her friend refers to Uber, even though the car service didn’t debut in the city until 2011.

The Times reports that the book’s publisher will append a note to future editions of the book explaining the tinkered details and timelines. (via @jtaylorhodge)

Steve Jobs movie trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2015

I have been doing a poor job keeping up with my Steve Jobs-related media. I haven’t had a chance to pick up the new Becoming Steve Jobs book yet. And I had no idea that the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic was still in the works, much less that Michael Fassbender is playing Jobs and Danny Boyle is directing. Here’s the trailer:

The trailer debuted during last night’s series finale of Mad Men, which was possibly the most appropriate venue for it. [Slight spoilers…] Draper always had a Jobs-esque sheen to him, although the final scene showed us that, yes, Don Draper actually would like to sell sugar water for the rest of his life.

Update: A proper trailer has dropped. I don’t know how much we’ll learn about the actual Steve Jobs from the movie, but it looks like it might be good.

Update: Another trailer. This is looking like a strong film.

Bird laughs like a supervillain

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2015

First the bird laughs like a supervillain, then you start laughing like a supervillain, and pretty soon everyone is laughing like a supervillain.

This is the new goats yelling like people, which I still watch about once a week and it always makes me laugh until I’m crying. (via ★interesting)

Slow motion candle magic

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2015

If you hold a lit match an inch or two over the smoking wick of a recently extinguished candle, the candle will light again. If you record that happening with a high speed camera and then slow it way down, it gives you some clues to how that happens:

Hint: wax is a candle’s fuel and smoke is wax vapor… (via digg)

What’s the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you’ve ever read?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2015

From Reddit, dozens of people share their favorite lines from literature, from Nabokov to Milne to Dante. Here are a few of my favorites:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” — A.A. Milne

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. — Carl Sagan

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was. — Joseph Heller

‘Happy,’ I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception - especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence. — Hunter S. Thompson

If you need more, try your luck with these. (via @eqx1979)

Football commentary cheat sheets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2015

Nick Barnes is a football commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle. For each match he does, Barnes dedicates two pages in his notebook for pre-match notes, lineups, player stats, match stats, and dozens of other little tidbits.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes

Wonderful folk infographics. NBC commentator Arlo White also shared his pre-match notes. Both men say they barely use the notes during the match…by the time the notes are done, they know the stuff. (via @dens)

Trophy Scarves

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2015

For his project Trophy Scarves, artist Nate Hill photographed himself “[wearing] white women for status and power”.

Trophy Scarves

Hill says “it’s a satire on black men who like to see white women as status symbols”. NSFW (some nudity)…or you can view censored pics on Instagram.

Octobass!

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2015

The octobass is a string instrument that’s almost twice the size of a bass, so big that it makes a cello look like a violin. Only a few of these instruments exist and The Musical Instrument Museum made a video showing theirs in action:

(via cynical-c)

Gay Talese’s address book

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2015

Writer Gay Talese talks about his address book, in which he has written the names and phone numbers of almost everyone he’s ever had “an encounter” with over the past 50 years.

(via submitted for your perusal)

Only Fish Fall From the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2015

Only Fish Fall From The Sky

From illustrator Leif Parsons, a new children’s book called Only Fish Fall From the Sky.

A dreamworld where it rains fish instead of water, people dance through dinner, and children sleep with tigers — welcome to the imagination of author/artist Leif Parsons, whose detailed dreamscapes make ONLY FISH FALL FROM THE SKY a charming bedtime book sure to fascinate preschoolers and young readers.

Khoi Vinh says:

The pages are exquisitely, elaborately packed with unexpected details that kids (and adults) can pore over for hours.

Instant order…this sounds like my favorite kind of kid’s book, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs crossed with Richard Scarry or something.

RIP Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2015

Mr Burns Dead

Harry Shearer, who voices dozens of characters on The Simpsons including Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders, announced on Twitter that he will be leaving the show. A few things:

1. The Simpsons is still on?

2. Shearer also voices Principal Skinner, Otto, Lenny, McBain, Reverend Lovejoy, Kent Brockman, Scratchy, Dr Hibbert, and dozens of smaller characters.

3. Will they replace him? Or just not use those characters anymore? How can you do the show without Burns, Smithers, Flanders, and Skinner? But if they sound different, how can you do the show with them?

Update: Aaaaaand Shearer is back on the show.

Shearer has signed the same contract as did the other five primary voice actors — Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria — keeping the show’s original cast fully intact, EW has learned. These deals, which run for four seasons (including a network option for seasons 29 and 30), are estimated at more than $300,000 per episode. Fox recently renewed The Simpsons for a 27th and 28th season, which will bring its episode tally to 625.

Perfect cubes of food

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2015

Perfect Food Cubes

From the design shop of Lernert & Sander, a poster of almost a hundred different foods cut into perfect little cubes. No CGI involved, it’s actually food. No idea how they got some of those foods to hang together…particularly the onion, cabbage, and leek. (via colossal)

Minimal maps

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2015

A project by Michael Pecirno, Minimal Maps is a collection of US maps that each depict only a single subject with high-resolution data, from deciduous forest cover to cornfields. Here’s where grass grows in the US:

Grasslands Map

Very little grassland coverage in New England…that’s surprising. Prints are available.

Beyond Clueless

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2015

Beyond Clueless is a full-length documentary movie about teen movies made between the release of Clueless in 1995 and Mean Girls in 2004. A trailer:

The film was financed in part through Kickstarter.

Beyond Clueless will be the first major study — in any medium — of the teen movie revolution that occurred in the ten years that separated the releases of Clueless in 1995 and Mean Girls in 2004. Part historical account, part close textual analysis, part audiovisual mood piece and part head-over-heels love letter to the teen genre, the film will examine more than two hundred films released during this decade-long idyll, in terms of their characters, themes and what they had to say for themselves.

According to the Art of the Title, who did an interview with the filmmakers about the opening title sequence, the is constructed entirely of clips from other movies.

What if all those American teen movies from the ’90s and early 2000s took place in the same universe? What if Crash Override and Cher Horowitz and Laura Palmer all went to the same high school? In the cleverly cut opening to director Charlie Lyne’s essay film Beyond Clueless, their worlds are brought together in one long hallway of jeers and sneers, smug smiles, and adolescent longing.

Made entirely of clips, Beyond Clueless does with editing for film what the album Endtroducing… did with sampling for music. Shepherded by the voice of Fairuza Balk, the film is a bricolage of footage meticulously collected from over 200 films, weaving together an era of cliques and hierarchies, baggy pants and chokers, beepers and laptops, with a dash of apple pie and occultism.

Thing Explainer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2015

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe of xkcd is coming out with a new book called Thing Explainer.

Inspired by his popular comic, “Up Goer Five,” THING EXPLAINER is a series of brilliantly — and simply — annotated blueprints that explain everything from ballpoint pens to the solar system using line drawings and only the thousand most common English words.

So awesome. I love everything about this. Here’s a look at part of one of the blueprints, the Curiosity rover, aka Space Car for the Red World:

Thing Explainer Drawing

Pitfall Jack Black

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

I remember this commercial for Pitfall! but I had no idea Jack Black was in it.

I learned about this from a short profile of Black by Tad Friend, in which the pair hit up Barcade in Chelsea.

He played Punch-Out, Atari Basketball, Donkey Kong, and Lunar Lander, increasingly nimble on the joystick. “It’s all bringing back some foggy déjà vus,” he said. Inside the Discs of Tron cabinet, the black light lit up his checked shirt. “Dude, this!” he said. He commenced making his avatar leap from platform to platform, as he sought to “de-rez” his opponent by throwing disks at him. At every level-completed chime, Black snapped his fingers and did a little dance. “He’s one tough cookie — you gotta get him with a ricochet,” he said, manhandling the controls. “Taste it! Oh, God — why? Why?” Regally, he entered “JA” atop the roll of honor.

A short video tribute to the sounds of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

Watch all the way to the end for some sounds that didn’t make it into the movies.

Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite Maneuver

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

From an alternate universe in 1985, a Star Wars crossover with Star Trek that never happened in which Lord Vader has the Genesis Device.

Paging JJ Abrams. Mr. Abrams to the white courtesy phone please. (via @khoi)

A titanium rainbow

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

Here’s a video of a titanium bar being anodized…it cycles through several different colors before settling on a pinkish hue.

Ok neat, but why does it do that? Anodizing is an adjustment of the oxide levels on the surface of the titanium. The colors are caused by the interference of the light traveling through the oxide and reflecting off the shiny metal surface underneath…different thicknesses produce different colors.1 As the voltage is applied to the metal, more and more oxide builds up, producing the color cycling even shown. Pretty cool!

  1. I don’t think the color is due to Raleigh scattering, but it’s definitely a similar principle.

Radiohead x Cubicolor x Jamie xx

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

Really enjoying this chill remix of Radiohead’s Reckoner by Cubicolor this morning.

The band hasn’t shared anything in over three years, but Radiohead does have a Soundcloud account full of remixes of their stuff, including this remix of Bloom by Jamie xx:

Speaking of Jamie xx, a new track from his upcoming album dropped yesterday. I’ve been wearing out his preview album on Rdio for the past couple of weeks. Good Times. (via @naveen)

Elon Musk’s Quest for a Fantastic Future

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

Ashley Vance has written a book about Elon Musk and it comes out next week.

In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than 30 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.

The Washington Post has a list of memorable quotes from the book.

“He’s kind of homeless, which I think is sort of funny. He’ll e-mail and say, ‘I don’t know where to stay tonight. Can I come over?’ I haven’t given him a key or anything yet.” - Google chief executive Larry Page on Elon Musk, who owns a home in Los Angeles but doesn’t have a place in Silicon Valley, which he visits weekly for his work at Tesla.

Musk took to his Twitter account to dispute two of the quotes on that list, including the one that makes him sound most like a cartoonish supervillain.

It is total BS & hurtful to claim that I told a guy to miss his child’s birth just to attend a company meeting. I would never do that.

Musk also says about the book:

Ashlee’s book was not independently fact-checked. Should be taken w a grain of salt.

Musk recently got in touch with Tim Urban of the excellent Wait But Why to see if he would be interested in an interview about Musk’s work. The first post in that series was posted last week: Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man.

Update: Bloomberg Business has an excerpt from Vance’s book with the intriguing title Elon Musk’s Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla.

Musk, of course, wasn’t just building rockets. In 2003, about a year after he started SpaceX, Musk helped found Tesla Motors, which planned to sell an electric sports car. Musk had spent years pining after a good electric car, and though he had committed $100 million to SpaceX, he would now put an additional $70 million into Tesla and end up as the company’s CEO. It was a decision that would almost break both companies.

Tomorrow’s advance man

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2015

The New Yorker’s Tad Friend on Marc Andreessen’s plan to win the future.

Pessimism always sounds more sophisticated than optimism — it’s the Eden-collapse myth over and over again — and then you look at G.D.P. per capita worldwide, and it’s up and to the right. If this is collapse, let’s have more of it!

The centripetal force of life

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2015

I don’t quite know what I’m doing to myself these days. Last night was an episode of The Americans in which a marriage was ending, another family was trying to keep itself intact, and a young boy struggles to move on after his entire family dies. This morning, I watched an episode of Mad Men in which a mother tries to reconcile her differences with her daughter in the face of impending separation. And then, the absolute cake topper, a story by Matthew Teague that absolutely wrecked me. It’s about his cancer-stricken wife and the friend who comes and rescues an entire family, which is perhaps the truest and most direct thing I’ve ever read about cancer and death and love and friendship.

Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, I had loved her with my whole self. Only now can I look back on the fullness of our affection; at the time I could see nothing but one wound at a time, a hole the size of a dime, into which I needed to pack a fistful of material. Love wasn’t something I felt anymore. It was just something I did. When I finished, I would lie next to her and use sterile cotton balls to soak up her tears. When she finally slept, I would slip out of bed and go into our closet, the most isolated room in the house. Inside, I would wrap a blanket around my head, stuff it into my mouth, lie down and bury my head in a pile of dirty clothes, and scream.

There are very specific parts of all those stories that I identify with. I struggle with friendship. And with family. I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can’t tell them or show them how to do that because I’m me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I’m just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it? God, this is way too much for a Monday.

Turning wood

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2015

From Ben Proudfoot, a short documentary film on master woodturner Steven Kennard.

This is the second of a six part series by Proudfoot called Life’s Work. He’s releasing a video a week until the end of May.

A timeline of human history, from 4004 BC to 1881

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2015

From the David Rumsey Map Collection, a remarkable timeline/history of the world from 4004 BC to 1881 called Adams’ Synchronological Chart. This is just a small bit of it:

Adams Synchronological Chart

According to Rumsey’s site, the full timeline is more than 22 feet long. (via @john_overholt)

Update: A replica of this chart is available on Amazon in a few different iterations…I’m going to give this one a try. Apparently the charts are popular in Sunday schools and such because the timeline uses the Ussher chronology where the Earth is only 6000 years old.

How Osama bin Laden really died

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2015

Seymour Hersh, writing for the London Review of Books, says that the American account of how Osama bin Laden was located, captured, and killed is not entirely true. In particular, he alleges that bin Laden was being held in Pakistan since 2006 and that members of the Pakistani military knew of and supported the raid.

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

And the plan all along was to kill bin Laden…the Pakistanis insisted on it.

It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: ‘Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he’s there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders.

‘Of course the guys knew the target was bin Laden and he was there under Pakistani control,’ the retired official said. ‘Otherwise, they would not have done the mission without air cover. It was clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder.’ A former Seal commander, who has led and participated in dozens of similar missions over the past decade, assured me that ‘we were not going to keep bin Laden alive - to allow the terrorist to live. By law, we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is a homicide. We’ve come to grips with that. Each one of us, when we do these missions, say to ourselves, “Let’s face it. We’re going to commit a murder.”’ The White House’s initial account claimed that bin Laden had been brandishing a weapon; the story was aimed at deflecting those who questioned the legality of the US administration’s targeted assassination programme. The US has consistently maintained, despite widely reported remarks by people involved with the mission, that bin Laden would have been taken alive if he had immediately surrendered.

Hersh is a regular contributor to the New Yorker — he broke the Abu Ghraib story in the pages of the magazine — so I wonder why this story didn’t appear there? Perhaps because it goes against the grain of their own reporting on the subject?

Update: Max Fisher writes in Vox that Hersh’s story has many problems — inconsistencies and thin sourcing to start — and is indicative of Hersh’s “slide off the rails” from investigative journalism to conspiracy theories.

On Sunday, the legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh finally released a story that he has been rumored to have been working on for years: the truth about the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to Hersh’s 10,000-word story in the London Review of Books, the official history of bin Laden’s death — in which the US tracked him to a compound in Abottabad, Pakistan; killed him a secret raid that infuriated Pakistan; and then buried him at sea —- is a lie.

Hersh’s story is amazing to read, alleging a vast American-Pakistani conspiracy to stage the raid and even to fake high-level diplomatic incidents as a sort of cover. But his allegations are largely supported only by two sources, neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies.

The story simply does not hold up to scrutiny — and, sadly, is in line with Hersh’s recent turn away from the investigative reporting that made him famous into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The single source for most of the juiciest details in the piece was the most glaring issue. My Spidey Sense started tingling as I read the latter third…it sounded like Hersh was quoting some dude in a bar who “had a friend who told me this story”. I wonder how much of this was fact-checked and corroborated?

And on Hersh’s affiliation with the New Yorker, they repeatedly rejected the story:

(Indeed, when I first heard about Hersh’s bin Laden story a few years from a New Yorker editor — the magazine, the editor said, had rejected it repeatedly, to the point of creating bad blood between Hersh and editor-in-chief David Remnick — this was the version Hersh was said to favor.)

If you look at Hersh’s page at the NYer, his contributions have dropped off. His only piece in the past two years was a revisiting of his earlier reporting on My Lai. (via @tskjockey)

Update: From Gabriel Sherman at New York Magazine, Why Seymour Hersh’s ‘Alternative’ bin Laden History Did Not Appear in The New Yorker.

When I spoke to Hersh earlier today, it was clear that there is tension. Hersh told me that he published the piece in the LRB because Remnick was not interested in having him write a magazine piece on the bin Laden raid. Hersh explained that, days after the May 2, 2011 SEAL operation, he told Remnick that his intelligence sources were saying Obama’s account was fiction. “I knew right away that there were problems with the story,” Hersh told me. “I just happen to have sources. I’m sorry, but I do.” Hersh told Remnick he wanted to write a piece for the magazine.

“David said, ‘Do a blog,’” Hersh recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do a blog.’ It’s about money. I get paid a lot more writing a piece for The New Yorker [magazine] … I’m old and cranky.” (Remnick declined to comment).

Through reporting of its own, NBC News has confirmed parts of Hersh’s story.

The NBC News sources who confirm that a Pakistani intelligence official became a “walk in” asset include the special operations officer and a CIA officer who had served in Pakistan. These two sources and a third source, a very senior former U.S. intelligence official, also say that elements of the ISI were aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The former official was emphatic about the ISI’s awareness, saying twice, “They knew.”

R.J. Hillhouse claims she should get credit for breaking this story because of two pieces she wrote in 2011, using information from “clearly different” sources.

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2015

Gwyneth Wrong

From juice cleanses to vaccines to gluten to exercise to, uh, vagina steaming, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Gwyneth Paltrow are often found making claims that have little or no scientific evidence behind them. Timothy Caulfield recently wrote a book exploring the world of celebrity pseudoscience called Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

But while much has been written about the cause of our obsession with the rich and famous, Caulfield argues that not enough has been done to debunk celebrity messages and promises about health, diet, beauty, or the secret to happiness. From the obvious dangers, to body image of super-thin models and actors, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s enthusiastic endorsement of a gluten free-diet for almost everyone, or Jenny McCarthy’s ill-informed claims of the risks associated with vaccines, celebrity opinions have the power to dominate our conversations and outlooks on our lives and ourselves.

Julia Belluz of Vox interviewed Caulfield about the book.

JB: So is Gwyneth actually wrong about everything?

TC: It’s incredible how much she is wrong about. Even when she is right about stuff — like telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables — there is always a bit of a tinge of wrongness. She’ll say, “It has to be organic,” for example. She is still distracting us with these untrue details, as opposed to just pushing the honest truth.

See also Your detoxing juice cleanse is bullshit.

Update: I had forgotten about this book, so I was pleased to be reminded of it by this recent interview with Caulfield about celebrity health advice.

Colon cleanse: There is no evidence we need to cleanse our colons or detoxify our bodies. Vagina steaming to detoxify and increase fertility: again, absolutely ridiculous. Getting stung by bees is her latest thing for anti-aging — because, yes, anaphylaxis is so revitalizing. Goop, her website, suggested wearing a bra can cause cancer. This is raising fears, completely science free. I could go on and on and on.

A filtered life

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2015

ESPN’s Kate Fagan with Split Image, a look at depression and suicide in the age of social media.

On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on.

(Life’s never as good as it looks on Facebook or as bad as it sounds on Twitter.)

Handdrawn logos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2015

Seb Lester can somehow freehand draw the logos for the NY Times, Honda, Ferrari, Coca-Cola, and many more.

Watching the video, I didn’t even notice any tracing…it’s all freehand. Keep up with Lester’s drawings on his Instagram account.

Blurred Sex and the City

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2015

The real-life house that served as the stoop of Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment on Sex and the City is blurred out on Google Street View.

Sex And The City House

The house was on the Sex and the City tour for a time, before it was dropped due to pressure from neighborhood residents, and remains a popular tourist attraction. I go by there quite often and there is always someone taking a photo on the stoop. As I’m writing this, the most recent photo of someone standing in front of the stoop was posted to Instagram 16 minutes ago. I can see why the owners would want it blurred out, and it turns out getting your property blurred on Google Street View is a simple process.

P.S. What’s funny about the house is that Sarah Jessica Parker actually lives only a block or two away. I used to see her all the time, walking our respective kids to school. Ollie and I even got caught in a paparazzi shot one day…that’s me in the dark coat right behind Parker and Ollie on the scooter:

SJP

No way to fill out a form to blur out my son’s face though, I reckon. (via @michaeltsmith)

Restaurant traffic meters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

For lunch today, I was hungry for some noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods, one of my favorite places to eat in all of NYC. While preparing to trek to the East Village or up to Bryant Park, a friend told me about a relatively new location on 34th Street, just down the street from the Empire State Building and only 10 blocks from my office. When I looked it up on the website, I noticed something else: a real-time traffic meter that shows how busy each restaurant is.

Xi'an Traffic Meter

What a great idea. The Shake Shack cam is one thing, but I want a meter like this (w/ a forecast option as well) on every restaurant listing in Foursquare. Like Google Maps real-time traffic, except for restaurants.

NYC’s nail salon sweatshops

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

From Sarah Nir at the NY Times, an investigation into the world of NYC nail salons, where workers need to pay a fee to get a job, are underpaid, subjected to abuse, and are crammed into one-bedroom apartments with several other workers.

Qing Lin, 47, a manicurist who has worked on the Upper East Side for the last 10 years, still gets emotional when recounting the time a splash of nail polish remover marred a customer’s patent Prada sandals. When the woman demanded compensation, the $270 her boss pressed into the woman’s hand came out of the manicurist’s pay. Ms. Lin was asked not to return.

“I am worth less than a shoe,” she said.

Prepare to be infuriated over and over as you read this.

The typical cost of a manicure in the city helps explain the abysmal pay. A survey of more than 105 Manhattan salons by The Times found an average price of about $10.50. The countrywide average is almost double that, according to a 2014 survey by Nails Magazine, an industry publication.

With fees so low, someone must inevitably pay the price.

“You can be assured, if you go to a place with rock-bottom prices, that chances are the workers wages’ are being stolen,” said Nicole Hallett, a lecturer at Yale Law School who has worked on wage theft cases in salons. “The costs are borne by the low-wage workers who are doing your nails.”

In a Q&A about the investigation, Nir shares how she became interested in nail salons:

About four years ago, I was at a 24-hour spa in Koreatown. It’s one of the Vogue top-secret best-bet salons — a really unusual place. It was my birthday, and I treated myself to a pedicure at 10 AM. And I said to the woman, “It’s so crazy that this is a 24-hour salon. Who works the night shift?” And she says, “I work the night shift.” And I said, “Well, it’s daytime. Who works the day shift? What do you mean?”

And she said, “I work six days a week, 24 hours a day, I live in a barracks above the salon, and on the seventh day, I go home to sleep in my bedroom in Flushing, and then I come right back to work.”

And I was like, This woman’s in prison. People had to shake her to keep her awake. And then she would do a treatment. I just thought it was crazy.

I don’t see how you can go to a NYC nail salon after reading this article. Even Nir’s tips about being a socially conscious nail salon customer aren’t much help.

Update: Part 2 of Nir’s series on nail salons is out. It’s about the health hazards faced by nail salon workers, including lung disease, miscarriages, and cancer. One woman even lost her fingerprints.

Similar stories of illness and tragedy abound at nail salons across the country, of children born slow or “special,” of miscarriages and cancers, of coughs that will not go away and painful skin afflictions. The stories have become so common that older manicurists warn women of child-bearing age away from the business, with its potent brew of polishes, solvents, hardeners and glues that nail workers handle daily.

A growing body of medical research shows a link between the chemicals that make nail and beauty products useful — the ingredients that make them chip-resistant and pliable, quick to dry and brightly colored, for example — and serious health problems.

Whatever the threat the typical customer enjoying her weekly French tips might face, it is a different order of magnitude, advocates say, for manicurists who handle the chemicals and breathe their fumes for hours on end, day after day.

The prevalence of respiratory and skin ailments among nail salon workers is widely acknowledged. More uncertain, however, is their risk for direr medical issues. Some of the chemicals in nail products are known to cause cancer; others have been linked to abnormal fetal development, miscarriages and other harm to reproductive health.

Update: Governor Cuomo has set up a task force to conduct investigations into the city’s nail salons.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered emergency measures on Sunday to combat the wage theft and health hazards faced by the thousands of people who work in New York State’s nail salon industry.

Effective immediately, he said in a statement, a new, multiagency task force will conduct salon-by-salon investigations, institute new rules that salons must follow to protect manicurists from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in nail products, and begin a six-language education campaign to inform them of their rights.

Nail salons that do not comply with orders to pay workers back wages, or are unlicensed, will be shut down. The new rules come in response to a New York Times investigation of nail salons — first published online last week — that detailed the widespread exploitation of manicurists, many of whom have illnesses that some scientists and health advocates say are caused by the chemicals with which they work.

This is good news…as long as it results in real positive changes and doesn’t just get a bunch of salon workers deported.

Update: The Times continues its nail salon coverage with an interview with Sister Feng, a Chinese social media star who worked as a manicurist in NYC for four years.

Q. The Times reported that some immigrant manicurists said their bosses would withhold tips and verbally or physically abuse them. Did you ever experience this?

A. There were times when my tips were withheld. But as long as I thought my wages weren’t out of line with my labor, I wouldn’t go to my boss and ask for the tips. In nail salons run by Chinese, being verbally abused was commonplace, so I changed workplaces often. But it never happened in salons run by Koreans. I was never physically beaten.

(via mr)

Asking “who’s the customer?”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

If you’ve bought a ticket to an event in the past, oh, 15-20 years, chances are you got it from Ticketmaster. Chances are also pretty good that you think Ticketmaster completely sucks, mostly because of the unavoidable and exorbitant convenience fee they charge. And that probably has you wondering: if everyone who uses the service hates Ticketmaster so much, how are they still in business? Because ticket buyers are not Ticketmaster’s customers. Artists and venues are Ticketmaster’s real customers and they provide plenty of value to them.

Ticketmaster sells more tickets than anybody else and they’re the biggest company in the ticket selling game. That gives them certain financial resources that smaller companies don’t have. TM has used this to their advantage by moving the industry toward very aggressive ticketing deals between ticketing companies and their venue clients. This comes in the form of giving more of the service charge per ticket back to the venue (rebates), and in cash to the venue in the form of a signing bonus or advance against future rebates. Venues are businesses too and, thus, they like “free” money in general (signing bonuses), as well as money now (advances) versus the same money later (rebates).

Read that whole Quora answer again…there’s nothing in there about TM being helpful for ticket buyers. It turns out asking “who’s the customer?” is a great way of thinking about when certain companies or industries do things that aren’t aligned with good customer service or user experience.1

Take Apple and Google for instance. Apple sells software and hardware directly to people; that’s where the majority of their revenue comes from. Apple’s customers are the people who use Apple products. Google gets most of their revenue from putting advertising into the products & services they provide. The people who use Google’s products and services are not Google’s customers, the advertisers are Google’s customers. Google does a better job than Ticketmaster at providing a good user experience, but the dissonance that results between who’s paying and who’s using gets the company in trouble sometimes. See also Facebook and Twitter, among many others.

Newspapers, magazines, and television networks have dealt with this same issue for decades now.2 They derive large portions of their revenue from advertisers and, in the case of the TV networks, from the cable companies who pay to carry their channels. That results in all sorts of user hostile behavior, from hiding a magazine’s table of contents in 20 pages of ads to shrieking online advertising to commercials that are louder than the shows to clunky product placement to trimming scenes from syndicated shows to cram in more commercials. From ABC to Vogue to the New York Times, you’re not the customer and it shows.

This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but “who’s the customer?” got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they’re located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that’s a big problem for consumers.

Update: I somehow neglected to include the pithy business saying “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”, which originated in a slightly different phrasing on MetaFilter.

Update: One example of how maximizing shareholder value can work against good customer service comes from a paper by a trio of economists. In it, they argue that co-ownership of two or more airlines by the same investor results in higher prices.

In a new paper, Azar and co-authors Martin C. Schmalz and Isabel Tecu have uncovered a smoking gun. To test the hypothesis that institutional investors gain market power that results in higher prices, they examine airline routes. Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United’s top five shareholders — all institutional investors — own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United’s largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.

How exactly might this work? It may be that managers of institutional investors put pressure on the managers of the companies that they own, demanding that they don’t try to undercut the prices of their competitors. If a mutual fund owns shares of United and Delta, and United and Delta are the only competitors on certain routes, then the mutual fund benefits if United and Delta refrain from price competition. The managers of United and Delta have no reason to resist such demands, as they, too, as shareholders of their own companies, benefit from the higher profits from price-squeezed passengers. Indeed, it is possible that managers of corporations don’t need to be told explicitly to overcharge passengers because they already know that it’s in their bosses’ interest, and hence their own. Institutional investors can also get the outcomes they want by structuring the compensation of managers in subtle ways. For example, they can reward managers based on the stock price of their own firms — rather than benchmarking pay against how well they perform compared with industry rivals — which discourages managers from competing with the rivals.

(via @krylon)

  1. BTW, asking who the customer is doesn’t help in every situation where bad service and contempt for the customer rears its ugly head. See cable companies, mobile carriers, and airlines. Companies also have other conflicts of interest that interfere with good customer experience. Apple, for instance, does all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of the people buying their products. And as the Ticketmaster example shows, determining a company’s true customer isn’t just a matter of where the revenue comes from. It’s never simple.

  2. This is a potential problem with kottke.org as well. Almost all of my revenue comes from advertising. My high regard for the reader keeps me pretty honest (I hope!), but it’s difficult sometimes.

Kickstarter and failure

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2015

From James Grimmelmann, a short smart piece on the nature of Kickstarter, riffing off the recent piece in the NY Times about a high-profile failed KS project. He argues that “Kickstarter is a tool for managing risk”, for shifting part of the inevitable risk of creative projects from the creator to the backers.

The Kickstarter model shifts some of this creative risk onto backers. By fronting the money, they climb in the boat with the creator. Ideally, they make a rational calculation about how much they’re willing to lose if sinks. (Kickstarter’s required disclosures are supposed to help backers make this decision.) And ideally also, the unique personal appeal of the project gives them a good reason to take on that risk. (Kickstarter’s required video and other personalizing touches are supposed to help create this solidarity.)

Grimmelmann’s is the most useful description of Kickstarter I’ve ever heard. Without risk (i.e. a real possibility of failure), creative projects aren’t creative enough. This is part of the reason that Kickstarter is not a store.

Augmented hands

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2015

Augmented Hand

Augmented Hand Series is an interactive software system created by Golan Levin, Chris Sugrue, and Kyle McDonald. You stick your hand in and on the screen you see your hand with an extra thumb, one fewer knuckle in each finger, fingers with springs in them, variable sized fingers, and the ultra freaky Breathing Palm.

(via prosthetic knowledge)

Auto-widened Seinfeld and The Simpsons

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2015

Artist JK Keller has digitally widened1 episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld to fit a 16:9 HD aspect ratio. Watching the altered scenes is trippy…the characters and their surroundings randomly expand and contract as the scenes play out.

Keller also HD-ified an episode of the X-Files and slimmed an old episode of Star Trek into a vertical aspect ratio. (via @frank_chimero)

  1. At least I think that’s how they were created. The videos were posted without explanation — aside from their titles “LEaKeD TesT footagE frOM seiNfelD RemaSter In hiGh-defiNiTiON” and “animAtORs rEdraw old SimPsons epIsodeS fOr hdTv” — so it’s hard to say for sure.

The Remarkable Apple Computer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2015

Early Apple Article

From 1977, is this the first news article written about Apple Computer? Sheila Craven wrote about the fledgeling computer maker in the second issue of Kilobaud, The Small Computer Magazine.

“My interview with the two Steves took place while they were still in the folks’ garage,” Craven tells Business Insider. She remembers it this way:

“I flew up from LA, and the two Steves picked me up in a red Chevy Luv Truck, tossed my suitcase in the back, and put me between them in the front seat. We went someplace for lunch, and talked about their plans.

Of course, Steve Jobs did all the talking. After lunch we drove to his parents home in Palo Alto-never went inside the house-straight to the garage. On a workbench sat a PC board. above the workbench on a shelf sat a TV set where wires dangled from it to the PC board.

The whole time Steve Jobs was talking, explaining, outlining future plans for marketing and development, he was just about dancing on his tippy toes in his tennies. Then Woz sat at the workbench, initiating the operating system (I suppose) to demonstrate a program. Woz was pretty quiet. I got that he was the engineering brain power, and Jobs was the idea guy.

One of the things Jobs told me was that they would make certain there would be an Apple in every classroom and on every desk, because if kids grew up using and knowing the Apple, they would continue to buy Apples and so would their kids. The computers would be donated by Apple Computer. I understand that when that article came out, orders starting pouring in, and Apple Computer was seriously launched.”

The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2015

Artists and Writers Cookbook

Published in 1961 with an introduction by Alice B Toklas, The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook features recipes and wisdom from dozens of writers and artists, including Harper Lee, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Pearl Buck, Upton Sinclair, John Keats, and Burl Ives. Lee shared her recipe for crackling cornbread:

First, catch your pig. Then ship it to the abattoir nearest you. Bake what they send back. Remove the solid fat and throw the rest away. Fry fat, drain off liquid grease, and combine the residue (called “cracklings”) with:

1 ½ cups water-ground white meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk

Bake in very hot oven until brown (about 15 minutes).

Result: one pan crackling bread serving 6. Total cost: about $250, depending upon size of pig. Some historians say this recipe alone fell the Confederacy.

And Marcel Duchamp offers up a preparation of steak tartare:

Let me begin by saying, ma chere, that Steak Tartare, alias Bitteck Tartare, also known as Steck Tartare, is in no way related to tartar sauce. The steak to which I refer originated with the Cossacks in Siberia, and it can be prepared on horseback, at swift gallop, if conditions make this a necessity.

Indications: Chop one half pound (per person) of the very best beef obtainable, and shape carefully with artistry into a bird’s nest. Place on porcelain plate of a solid color — ivory is the best setting — so that no pattern will disturb the distribution of ingredients. In hollow center of nest, permit two egg yolks to recline. Like a wreath surrounding the nest of chopped meat, arrange on border of plate in small, separate bouquets:

Chopped raw white onion
Bright green capers
Curled silvers of anchovy
Fresh parsley, chopped fine
Black olives minutely chopped in company with yellow celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Each guest, with his plate before him, lifts his fork and blends the ingredients with the egg yolks and meat. In center of table: Russian pumpernickel bread, sweet butter, and bottles of vin rosé.

Not to be outdone, MoMA published their own artists’ cookbook in 1977, featuring contributions from Louise Bourgeois, Christo, Salvador Dali, Willem De Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Here’s Warhol’s recipe:

Andy Warhol doesn’t eat anything out of a can anymore. For years, when he cooked for himself, it was Heinz or Campbell’s tomato soup and a ham sandwich. He also lived on candy, chocolate, and “anything with red dye #2 in it.” Now, though he still loves junk food, McDonald’s hamburgers and French fries are something “you just dream for.”

The emphasis is on health, staying thin and eating “simple American food, nothing complicated, no salt or butter.” In fact, he says, “I like to go to bad restaurants, because then I don’t have to eat. Airplane food is the best food — it’s simple, they throw it away so quickly and it’s so bad you don’t have to eat it.”

Campbell’s Milk of Tomato Soup
A 10 3/4-ounce can Campbell’s condensed tomato soup
2 cans milk
In a saucepan bring soup and two cans milk to boil; stir. Serve.

Digital deformations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2015

Using professional-grade visual effects combo Arnold and Maya, Lee Griggs makes art. Like these Deformations:

Lee Griggs

Lee Griggs

And Abstract Portraits:

Lee Griggs

(via ignant)

Amazon drops gendered categories for toys

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2015

According to a friend of someone on Amazon’s taxonomy team, Amazon has removed the gender taxonomy of toys and games. Here’s the before and after:

Amazon Gender Toys

That’s not to say you still can’t shop for boys and girls toys on Amazon (jeez, those pages bum me out), but taking it out of the standard list of categories is a nice first step.

Now, how about you do something about this Amazon Mom thing? What’s wrong with Amazon Family?

Berlin in 1945

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2015

Seven minutes of color film footage of Berlin in 1945, right after the end of World War II. Lots of bombed out buildings, soldiers, bicycles, rebuilding, and people going about their daily business.

Be sure to watch all the way to the end…there’s an incredible aerial shot of the Brandenburg Gate and the Unter den Linden that shows the scale of damage done to the city’s buildings. More of that aerial footage here. (via devour)

Web Mandelbrot

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2015

Mandelbrot

This web app allows you to explore the Mandelbrot set interactively…just click and zoom. I had an application like this on my computer in college, but it only went a few zooms deep before crashing though. There was nothing quite like zooming in a bunch of times on something that looked like a satellite photo of a river delta and seeing something that looks exactly like when you started. (via @stevenstrogatz)

Every David Beckham hairstyle

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2015

In celebration of English footballer David Beckham’s 40th birthday, ESPN commissioned Helen Green to take us on an animated voyage through Beck’s many hairstyles.

Beckham's Hair

See also every David Bowie hairstyle (also by Green), every Prince hairstyle, and David, a piece of video art by Sam Taylor-Wood of Beckham sleeping for an hour and seven minutes.

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