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

 

Some science book reading lists

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2015

From John Horgan, a list of 25 Terrific Science(y) Books. There are some unorthodox picks here (next to some no-brainers):

Ulysses, by James Joyce, 1922. Yeah, it’s a work of fiction, but as I argued a few years ago, Joyce was a more astute observer of the mind than anyone before or since. He exemplifies Noam Chomsky’s dictum that we will always learn more about ourselves from literature than from science.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962. This sneaky, subversive assault on conventional notions of scientific truth and progress triggered a revolution itself within the philosophy of science. Be sure to note where Kuhn compares scientists with drug addicts.

From Steven Weinberg, a list of the 13 best science books for the general reader. Solid list. But The Origin of Species is more than a little tough for the lay reader; I tried reading it a few years ago and it was a slog. I recommend The Elegant Universe and The Making of the Atomic Bomb w/o reservation.

We Work Remotely

Artificial Killing Machine

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2015

Artificial Killing Machine

Artificial Killing Machine is an art installation that listens to a public database on US military drone strikes. When there’s a strike, a cap gun fires for every death.

This time based work accesses a public database on U.S. military drone strikes. When a drone strike occurs, the machine activates, and fires a children’s toy cap gun for every death that results. The raw information used by the installation is then printed. The materialized data is allowed to accumulate in perpetuity or until the life cycle of either the database or machine ends. A single chair is placed beneath the installation inviting the viewers to sit in the chair and experience the imagined existential risk.

The goal of the project is to breathe humanity back into data:

When individuals are represented purely as statistical data, they are stripped of their humanity and our connection to them is severed. Through the act of play and the force of imagination, this project aims to reconnect that which has been lost.

(via prosthetic knowledge)

Google Ocean View

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2015

Google Ocean View

Google Street View includes views from under the Earth’s oceans. You can tour shipwrecks, swim with humpback whales, and virtually dive down to dozens of coral reefs.

P.S. You can also climb Yosemite’s El Capitan on Google Street View, which is SO OMG TERRFIYING THAT I CANT BE BOTHERED TO CORRECTM Y TPYING. Are anyone else’s palms soaking wet right now? (via mr)

What’s going on in Greece?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

Socrates once wrote, “He is richest who is content with the least.” Even the great Greek philosopher would be feeling a little too rich today in Greece where citizens, greeted by news that the nation’s banks would be closed for the week, lined up at ATMs and employed the Socratic method with the repetition of the question: “Where the hell’s my money?” And if you’ve taken a look at your stock portfolio, there’s a decent chance you’ve asked your broker the same question. Here’s an overview of the Greek economic crisis from NYT Upshot, and the latest updates from BBC.

This global economy stuff is all Greek to me. If you’re feeling the same, you might appreciate Quartz’s guide to everything you need to know about this unfolding Greek tragedy, Mashable’s list of the five things you need to know about the meltdown, and Felix Salmon’s helpful explainer.

Michael Lewis explains the Greek financial crisis by comparing it to a Berkeley pedestrian.

He simply wants to stress to you, and perhaps even himself, that he occupies the high ground. In doing so, he happens to increase the likelihood that he will wind up in the back of an ambulance.

I Am Chris Farley

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

I Am Chris Farley is a feature length documentary on the comedian and movie star. Here’s a trailer:

The film is out in theaters on July 31 and will be available as a digital download in August. (via buzzfeed)

Update: I caught I Am Chris Farley the other day on Spike TV and it was great. Worth seeking out. (FYI, it’s on Amazon Instant.) Ian Crouch has a review of the movie for the New Yorker.

A new documentary, “I Am Chris Farley,” which d’ebuts Monday night on Spike TV, frames the sketch as an unqualified triumph, the moment when Farley became a national star. But in the book “The Chris Farley Show,” a rich and illuminating oral history compiled, in 2008, by Tanner Colby and Farley’s older brother, Tom, it is the source of controversy among those who were there. Jim Downey, who wrote the sketch, insisted that Farley’s dancing ability elevated it, so that the audience was celebrating his audacious performance rather than merely mocking his appearance. People were laughing with Farley, not at him-that distinction being one of the essential tensions of Farley’s career. Bob Odenkirk, though, who was a writer on the show, recalled the entire thing as “weak bullshit,” and said that Farley “never should have done it.” Chris Rock, a cast member at the time, viewed it as a dangerous turning point for Farley. “That was a weird moment in Chris’s life,” he said. “As funny as that sketch was, and as many accolades as he got for it, it’s one of the things that killed him. It really is. Something happened right then.”

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project is a new initiative to digitize and make available online the records collected by the The Freedmen’s Bureau near the end of the Civil War. The records detail the lives of about 4 million African Americans and will be available by the end of 2016.

FamilySearch is working in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the California African American Museum to make these records available and accessible by taking the raw records, extracting the information and indexing them to make them easily searchable online. Once indexed, finding an ancestor may be as easy as going to FamilySearch.org, entering a name and, with the touch of a button, discovering your family member.

The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized near the end of the American Civil War to assist newly freed slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia. From 1865 to 1872, the Bureau opened schools, managed hospitals, rationed food and clothing and even solemnized marriages. In the process it gathered priceless handwritten, personal information including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records on potentially million African Americans.

What an amazing resource this will be…many families out there will learn about the ancestors for the first time. The documents are currently 9% indexed and you can sign up to help at discoverfreedmen.org.

Tens of thousands of volunteers are needed to make these records searchable online. No specific time commitment is required, and anyone may participate. Volunteers simply log on, pull up as many scanned documents as they like, and enter the names and dates into the fields provided. Once published, information for millions of African Americans will be accessible, allowing families to build their family trees and connect with their ancestors.

(via open culture)

800-track playlist of 90s alt/indie hits in chronological order

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

Behold, 55 hours of music from the 90s, focused on alt-indie music, organized in chronological order. For logistical reasons, it’s split up into three playlists:

Here are some notes on the list’s construction as well as links for the Spotify versions. I was 16 in 1990 and this was exactly the kind of music I listened to for most of the decade. I’m actually afraid to listen…I don’t know what secrets these tracks will unlock in the dark reaches of my soul.

Birdyonce

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2015

Before we embark on the important business of another work week, we should all appreciate the simple genius of a bird walking in time to Beyonce’s Crazy in Love.

See also bird laughs like a supervillain and goats yelling like people.

Walt Disney’s corporate strategy chart

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2015

From 1957, this is a drawing of the synergistic strategy of Walt Disney Productions, or what Todd Zenger of Harvard Business Review calls “a corporate theory of sustained growth”.

Disney Synergy Chart

The boxes on the chart have changed, but since the appointment of Bob Iger as CEO, Disney has seemingly doubled down on Walt’s old strategy with their increased focus on franchises.

Disney’s dominance can be boiled down very simply to one word: franchises. Or rather, an “incessant focus on franchises” in the words of former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo.

“Everything we do is about brands and franchises,” Rasulo told a group of financial analysts last September. “Ten years ago we were more like other media companies, more broad-based, big movie slate, 20 something pictures, some franchise, some not franchise. If you look at our slate strategy now, our television strategy, almost every aspect of the company, we are oriented around brands and franchises.”

Franchises are well suited to extend across multiple parts of a big business like Disney, particularly because it’s a repeating virtuous cycle: movies drive merchandise sales and theme park visits, which in turn drives interest for sequels and spin-offs, rinse, repeat, reboot.

I wonder if more tech companies could be using this strategy more effectively. Apple does pretty well; their various hardware (iPhone, iPad, Mac), software (iOS, OS X), and services (iCloud, App Store, iTunes Store) work together effectively. Microsoft rode Office & Windows for quite awhile. Google seems a bit more all over the place — for instance, it’s unclear how their self-driving car helps their search business and Google+ largely failed to connect various offerings. Facebook seems to be headed in the right direction. Twitter? Not so much, but we’ll see how they do with new leadership. Or old leadership…I discovered Walt’s chart via interim Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Translating Seinfeld

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2015

Translating episodes of Seinfeld (and other sitcoms that rely on wordplay) is not an easy task. The Verge’s Jennifer Armstrong has a piece that focuses mostly on the struggle to translate Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer’s antics for a German audience.

Seinfeld’s Jewish references posed a unique challenge: as Sebastian explained, “The Germans have a certain you-know-what with the Jewish.” Her editor was worried about some of Seinfeld’s Jewish jokes. “We better not say it like that,” she remembered her editor saying, “because the Germans may be offended.” She added later, recalling the incident to me, “They should be offended, in my understanding. They did it!”

Sebastian appreciated Seinfeld’s direct approach to Jewish history. She wanted to use jokes in direct translation, but the editor wouldn’t let her. She lost several battles. It was a fine line: Der Suppen-Nazi? Sure. Subtle reference to an uncle who survived a concentration camp? Not so fast. An entire episode based on George being mistaken for a neo-Nazi was problematic. So were references to the TV miniseries Holocaust and the film Schindler’s List. Take Elaine’s voiceover narration in “The Subway” episode when her train gets stuck: “We are in a cage. … Oh, I can’t breathe, I feel faint. Take it easy, it’ll start moving soon. Think about the people in the concentration camps, what they went through.”

(via mr)

Beyond Tufte

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2015

From designer Karl Sluis, a list of nine great book about information visualization not written by Edward Tufte. Gonna keep my eye out for Stephen Few’s Now You See It and David McCandless’ The Visual Miscellaneum, but Herbert Bayer’s World Geographic Atlas is a little too rich for my blood.

Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2015

Antidote Book

“Success through failure, calm through embracing anxiety…” This book sounds perfect for me. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.

Self-help books don’t seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth — even if you can get it — doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life, and work often bring as much stress as joy. We can’t even agree on what “happiness” means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it the wrong way?

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it’s our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty — the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.

I learned about the book from Tyler Cowen, who notes:

[Burkeman] is one of the best non-fiction essay writers, and he remains oddly underrated in the United States. It is no mistake to simply buy his books sight unseen. I think of this book as “happiness for grumps.”

Given Cowen’s recent review of Inside Out, I wonder if [slight spoilers ahoy!] he noticed the similarity of Joy’s a-ha moment w/r/t to Sadness at the end of the film to the book’s “alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty”. Mmmm, zeitgeisty!

Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2015

Inside the Making of Dr. Strangelove is a 45-minute behind-the-scenes documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s kooky masterpiece (and one of my two favorite movies).1

And speaking of Kubrick, director Marc Forster is making a trilogy of films based on Kubrick’s script for The Downslope, a movie about the Civil War. *tents fingers* Interesting…

  1. The other is Rushmore.

How New Orleans drastically reduced their inmate population

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2015

About the time Katrina struck, New Orleans was the jail capital of America, incarcerating people at four times the national average. Since that time, the city has reduced its local inmate population by 67%. What was the trick? First, they stopped treating jailing like a business. And second, they built a smaller jail. No really. That was a key factor. And get this; during the period New Orleans stopped jailing so many people, there has been an overall reduction in crime. Smaller jails. Less crime. Jazz hands.

[This item is syndicated from Nextdraft, but I had to add a little something about induced demand. Like building bigger roads resulting in more traffic (not less), building bigger jails means you want to fill them with criminals. Kudos to New Orleans for building a smaller jail and finding ways to adjust to the reduced supply of jail cells. -jkottke]

Photographic firsts and the earliest born person ever to be photographed

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2015

From Petapixel, a list of photographic firsts, including the first photograph (1826), the first digital photograph (1957), the first photo of the Sun (1845), and the first photograph of a US President (1843).

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, was the first president to have his photograph taken. The daguerreotype was shot in 1843, a good number of years after Adams left office in 1829. The first to have his picture taken in office was James Polk, the 11th President, who was photographed in 1849.

Adams was born in 1767, which got me thinking about a long-standing interest of mine: who was the earliest born person ever photographed? The Maine Historical Society believes Revolutionary War vet Conrad Heyer was the earliest born. Born in 1749, he crossed the Delaware with Washington before sitting for this portrait in 1852.

Conrad Heyer

But according to the Susquehanna County Historical Society, John Adams (no apparent relation to the above Adams) was born in 1745 and was photographed at some point before he died in 1849. Other contenders with unverified ages include Revolutionary War vet Baltus Stone (born somewhere between 1744 and 1754 according to various sources) and a former slave named Caesar, photographed in 1851 at the alleged age of 114, which would mean he was born around 1737.

Still, that’s photographs of at least two people who were born in the 1740s, at least five years before the start of the French and Indian War. As children, it’s possible they could have interacted with people who lived through England’s Glorious Revolution in 1688 or even the English Civil War (1642-1651). The Great Span lives on.

The Broccoli Tree

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2015

The Broccoli Tree

The Broccoli Tree

The Broccoli Tree

For the past two years, Patrik Svedberg has been photographing a single Swedish tree and posting the results to Instagram.

The tree is the protagonist, but rather a passive one, letting the plot unfold around it. Each photo contains a story of its own. It’s all in the details and very often with a humorous twist. Just “beautiful” would bore me to death.

(via @jaycer17)

10 most controversial movies of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2015

Brown Bunny, Cannibal Holocaust, The 120 Days of Sodom, and The Last Temptation of Christ… they are among the most controversial movies of all time.

Perhaps a little NSFW. (via devour)

The Population Bomb defused

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2015

In the 1960s, the idea of an overpopulated planet took hold, sparked by the publication of The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich.

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

Ehrlich advocated radical population control methods, including voluntary incentivized sterilization, a tax on things like diapers, and adding chemicals to temporarily sterilize people into the food and water supply. Retro Report has a look at how the Population Bomb was defused by a combination of different factors, including urbanization, the Green Revolution, and a decrease in poverty.

The voice of Siri explains the art of voiceover

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2015

On Vox, Phil Edwards has a feature on Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri, and how the art of voiceover is changing in the digital world.

Siri needs to be able to say just about everything in the English language, and that took a lot of hard work.

“I recorded four hours a day, five days a week for the month of July,” Bennett says. For a voice actor, that workload causes a lot of strain. “That’s a long time to be talking constantly. Consequently, you get tired.”

The original Siri “was to sound otherworldly and have a dry sense of humor,” Bennett says. She added that to her take on the character, even as she focused on staying consistent and clear.

Shopping with movie trailers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2015

Thetake

TheTake identifies products and places in movies so you can purchase or visit. For instance, there are dozens of products listed from Jurassic World…you can even play the trailer and product matches will pop up. (via @pieratt)

The Pocket Book of Boners by Dr. Seuss

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2015

Pocket Book Of Boners

The Pocket Book of Boners, composed of four short books published in 1931, was the first published work illustrated by Dr. Seuss. Two of the four books, Boners and More Boners, were illustrated by Seuss — Still More Boners, and Prize Boners for 1932 were the other two. Other books in the series included The Omnibus Boners, The 2nd Boners Omnibus, and Bigger & Better Boners. After the publication of The Pocket Book of Boners, the Pittsburgh Press ran an article called Craze for Boners Stages Comeback in Recent Book.

Cat goes on unexpected flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2015

This rule never seems to make it into any of the pre-flight checklists: please remove all cats from inside your wings before takeoff.

(via @holgate)

Take down the Confederate flag. Now.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2015

Atop the South Carolina statehouse, both the national and state flags flew at half mast yesterday. But not the Confederate Flag. The symbolic reasons loom large. The literal reason was uncovered by a reporter.

The flag is part of a Confederate War Memorial, and is not on a pulley system, so it cannot be lowered, only removed.

That actually sounds like an ideal solution. In The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues we should take down the Confederate Flag.

That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it.

Custom Citibike key

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2015

Ted Power’s Citibike key broke, so he pried the chip out of it and 3D printed a new key with a built-in bottle opener.

Citibike Key Bottle

Power used Shapeways’ printing service to make the key. His exact key isn’t publicly available on the site, but you can print this cool multi-tool replacement. (via @dens)

Crafted by Morgan Spurlock

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2015

Crafted is a 25-minute documentary from Morgan Spurlock about artisanship in the contemporary age, profiling knife makers, potters, and restaurateurs who still do things more or less manually. A trailer:

The documentary was created to explore the mindset of today’s artisan and determine how artisanship has evolved along with — or, at times, in spite of — new technologies that allow instantaneous sharing of knowledge and sourcing of ingredients. Brave creators are breaking from the norm and returning to their roots to master age-old art forms that are more relevant than ever in today’s world.

I have often joked about what I do here at kottke.org as being artisanal or handcrafted. (Free range links! Ha!) But watching the trailer the other day, I realized that maybe it’s not so much of a joke. Compared to the industrialized information factories of Buzzfeed, Facebook, and Twitter (or even the NY Times or Gawker), what I do is handcrafted. There’s no assembly line. I read a bunch of stuff and then write about just a few relevant things. It’s inefficient as hell, but most of the time, it results in a good product. (I hope!) In the site’s best moments, it really does feel, to me, like I’m treating people “like they’re in my house” rather than just pumping out content widgets.

The moment in the trailer that particularly resonated with me was the discussion of risk.

A single injury can have far-reaching consequences. If I injure my hands, I can’t feed my family.

I worried we’d be forced to quit from bankruptcy.

“If I injure my hands, I can’t feed my family”; I don’t handcraft knives, but that applies to me as well. If my wrists go, goodbye computer time. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how sustainable my business is in the age of industrialized content…my job seems a lot riskier to me than it did just a couple of years ago. But there’s still room in the world for handcrafted knives and food in a world of Henckels and McDonald’s, so maybe it’s possible for a small handcrafted information service like kottke.org to survive and even thrive in the age of Facebook and Buzzfeed. (via @mathowie)

Eating your blood type

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2015

While reading this otherwise excellent article written by US soccer player Christie Rampone, I discovered a type of diet I’d never heard of before, the blood type diet (italics mine).

Age and parenting make me think about longevity. I definitely believe one big reason for my longevity has to do with the dietary and fitness changes I made after being diagnosed with auto-immune conditions after giving birth to my youngest daughter Reece in 2011. For example, I’ve gone gluten-free and have started to eat to my blood-type. Also, a friend introduced me to a natural ingredient called EpiCor to help strengthen my immune system. I have taken EpiCor daily for the past three years and it has become a beneficial part of my daily routine of rest, recovery, working out, eating healthy, and being in airports and hotels more than my own house.

From Wikipedia, an overview of the diet:

The underlying theory of blood type diets is that people with different blood types digest lectins differently, and that if people eat food that is not compatible with their blood type, they will experience many health problems. On the other hand, if a person eats food that is compatible, they will be healthier.

That theory is, in turn, based on an assumption that each blood type represents a different evolutionary heritage. “Based on the ‘Blood-Type’ diet theory, group O is considered the ancestral blood group in humans so their optimal diet should resemble the high animal protein diets typical of the hunter-gatherer era. In contrast, those with group A should thrive on a vegetarian diet as this blood group was believed to have evolved when humans settled down into agrarian societies. Following the same rationale, individuals with blood group B are considered to benefit from consumption of dairy products because this blood group was believed to originate in nomadic tribes. Finally, individuals with an AB blood group are believed to benefit from a diet that is intermediate to those proposed for group A and group B.”

As you might have already guessed, there is no evidence that eating your blood type is beneficial nor do the claims of differing lectin digestion have scientific merit. Homeopathic nonsense.

All 15 Pixar movies ranked

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2015

Tim Grierson and Will Leitch did a pretty good job in this list of All 15 Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best.

We went back-and-forth on the top two here, but we ultimately had to go with [Wall-E], the most original and ambitious of all the Pixar movies. The first half-hour, which basically tells the story of the destruction of the planet and the devolution of the human race without a single line of dialogue, is total perfection: It’s almost Kubrickian in its attention to detail and perspective, though it never feels cold or ungenerous.

Piece-of-shit Cars 2 is rightly parked at the bottom of the heap, Wall-E is obviously #1, and they correctly acknowledged Up as overrated. I would have rated the original Toy Story lower and Ratatouille higher, but overall: well done.

Cooling the mark out

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2015

Earlier this month, the NY Times ran a piece about a NYC psychic who bilked a man out of more than $700,000. But, says Louis Menand, aren’t psychics always ripping people off?

But was there any point at which Ms. Delmaro’s services were legit? Is the distinction between crooked and uncrooked psychics meant to turn on the eye-poppingness of the sums involved? If I told you I was going to build a gold bridge to the other realm and charged you fifty bucks, would that not constitute fraud? There are no bridges to the other realm. If you charge a man to build him one, you’re taking money under false pretenses.

Where the psychic went wrong though was in failing “to cool the mark out”, aka insure that he accepted his loss so he didn’t run to the police.

The classic exposition of the practice of helping victims of a con adapt to their loss is the sociologist Erving Goffman’s 1952 article “On Cooling the Mark Out.” Like everything by Goffman, it’s worth reading if you want to know what much of life is really all about. (If you don’t, you can skip it.) “After the blowoff has occurred,” Goffman explained, about the operation of a con, “one of the operators stays with the mark and makes an effort to keep the anger of the mark within manageable and sensible proportions. The operator stays behind his team-mates in the capacity of what might be called a cooler and exercises upon the mark the art of consolation. An attempt is made to define the situation for the mark in a way that makes it easy for him to accept the inevitable and quietly go home. The mark is given instruction in the philosophy of taking a loss.” What happened stays out of the paper.

Super Mario Bros was designed on graph paper

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2015

In talking about an upcoming game (more on that in a bit), Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss the process they used in designing the levels for the original Super Mario Bros. Much of the design work happened on graph paper.1

Super Mario Graph

Back in the day, we had to create everything by hand. To design courses, we would actually draw them one at a time on to these sheets of graph paper. We’d then hand our drawings to the programmers, who would code them into a build.

Here’s the full video discussion:

Now, about that game… Super Mario Maker is an upcoming title for Wii U that lets you create your own Super Mario Bros levels with elements from a bunch of different Mario games. So cool…I might actually have to get a Wii U for this.

  1. This is pretty much the same process I used when designing levels for Lode Runner back in the day.

Nine dead in Charleston shooting

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2015

From the NY Times, Nine Are Killed in Charleston Church Shooting; Gunman Is Sought.

An intense manhunt was underway Thursday for a white gunman who opened fire on Wednesday night at a historic black church in this city’s downtown, killing nine people before fleeing.

The police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

Chief Mullen said that law enforcement officials, including the F.B.I. and other federal agencies, were assisting in the investigation of a shooting that left six women and three men dead.

Chief Mullen said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and attended the meeting for about an hour before open firing. Among the dead, according to reports, was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.

MoMA adds the LGBT rainbow flag to their collection

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2015

MoMA Rainbow Flag

MoMA has announced that they’ve acquired the Rainbow Flag for their permanent collection. The flag has been a symbol of the LGBT community around the world since its creation in 1978. As part of the acquisition, MoMA Curatorial Assistant Michelle Millar Fisher interviewed the man who designed the flag, artist Gilbert Baker.

And I thought, a flag is different than any other form of art. It’s not a painting, it’s not just cloth, it is not a just logo — it functions in so many different ways. I thought that we needed that kind of symbol, that we needed as a people something that everyone instantly understands. [The Rainbow Flag] doesn’t say the word “Gay,” and it doesn’t say “the United States” on the American flag but everyone knows visually what they mean. And that influence really came to me when I decided that we should have a flag, that a flag fit us as a symbol, that we are a people, a tribe if you will. And flags are about proclaiming power, so it’s very appropriate.

So the American flag was my introduction into that great big world of vexilography. But I didn’t really know that much about it. I was a big drag queen in 1970s San Francisco. I knew how to sew. I was in the right place at the right time to make the thing that we needed. It was necessary to have the Rainbow Flag because up until that we had the pink triangle from the Nazis — it was the symbol that they would use [to denote gay people]. It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things. Plus, it’s a natural flag — it’s from the sky! And even though the rainbow has been used in other ways in vexilography, this use has now far eclipsed any other use that it had…

Zookeepers posing like Chris Pratt in Jurassic World

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2015

Actual zookeepers taking photos of themselves doing Chris Pratt’s Jurassic World velociraptor taming move is a thing. Here’s the original:

Jurassic Zoo

And the imitators:

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Found them here and here. If you find others, send them along!

Update: Laurel sent this one in from the California Academy of Sciences:

Jurassic Zoo

Update: Several more zookeepers being awesome via @ohmygoat1, @susiethefivetoedsloth, @parrotman_jon, and @kati_speer.

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Update: Ok, a few more via @MrDABailey, The Minnesota Zoo, The Georgia Aquarium, and Reddit.

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Jurassic Zoo

Update: One last photo brings this meme to a fitting close. This is Chris Pratt himself, taming some children during a recent visit to a local children’s hospital.

Jurassic Zoo

(via @alexcarvalho)

Update: Ok, ok, one more and then that’s it, America needs to move on. Here’s the Dinosaur Curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History taming some actual dinosaurs, long-dead though they may be:

Jurassic Zoo

(via @thanland)

Slow-motion video of a vinyl record playing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2015

You might remember seeing this microscopic photo of vinyl record grooves a few months ago. Ben Krasnow has one-upped that with this slow-motion video of a record player’s needle riding in the groove of a record.

(via @bradleyland)

Before They Pass Away

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2015

From 2010 to 2013, photographer Jimmy Nelson travelled the world documenting some of the world’s last remaining indigenous cultures. The result is Before They Pass Away (also available in book form).

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson

Peoples photographed include Huli, Maasai, Maori, Drokpa, Himba, and more than a dozen others. (via ignant)

The truth about foie gras

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

In a video called America’s Most Controversial Food, Zagat explores the controversy surrounding foie gras, including a visit to a production facility and interviews with chefs, a PETA representative, and an avian expert.

I eat meat (and foie gras) but many of the chefs in this video come off looking smug, petulant, and idiotic. I believe I’ve said this before, but I think in 50 years time, the idea of people eating animals will be widely viewed as wrong and barbaric, akin to how many feel about fur and animal testing now. (via devour)

Update: In a Washington Post column entitled Free Willy!, Charles Krauthammer makes a similar case for the future extinction of raising animals for meat.

We often wonder how people of the past, including the most revered and refined, could have universally engaged in conduct now considered unconscionable. Such as slavery. How could the Founders, so sublimely devoted to human liberty, have lived with — some participating in — human slavery? Or fourscore years later, how could the saintly Lincoln, an implacable opponent of slavery, have nevertheless spoken of and believed in African inferiority?

While retrospective judgment tends to make us feel superior to our ancestors, it should really evoke humility. Surely some contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations. The only question is: Which ones?

I’ve long thought it will be our treatment of animals. I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating.

(thx, patrick)

The slow adoption of the three-pointer technology in the NBA

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

Tyler Cowen writes about Steph Curry, the current dominance of the three-point shot, and how the reality of new technology lags in relation to its promise.

What took so long? At first the shot was thought to be a cheesy gimmick. Players had to master the longer shot, preferably from their earliest training. Coaches had to figure out three-point strategies, which include rethinking the fast break and different methods of floor spacing and passing; players had to learn those techniques too. The NBA had to change its rules to encourage more three-pointers (e.g., allowing zone defenses, discouraging isolation plays). General managers had to realize that Rick Pitino, though perhaps a bad NBA coach, was not a total fool, and that the Phoenix Suns were not a fluke.

This longer article on the rise of the three-pointer in the NBA by Tom Haberstroh provides further context to Cowen’s thoughts.

Airplane aerobatics are hilarious

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

If you are ever down and need an instant pick-me-up, watch this video of an aerobatic pilot doing tricks with his daughter as a passenger for the first time and your mood will improve greatly. The good stuff starts at about 50 seconds in.

Oh my, that laugh! (via @ianpierce)

What is the best charitable cause in the world?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson examines the act of giving and goes in search of the best charitable cause in the world.

Perhaps the most piercing lesson from effective altruism is that one can make an astonishing difference in the world with a pinch of logic and dash of math.

See also Doing Good Better.

All six Star Wars films at once

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

All six films1 from the Star Wars series played at the same time, superimposed on top of each other.

Watch this while you can…I imagine it’ll get taken down in a few hours/days.

  1. Until Disney decides to reboot episodes 1-3 in another 10 years, we are stuck with six Star Wars films in the canon. As Yoda once said, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.”

Fading at the finish

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2015

Sam Peterman is a sophomore in high school near Buffalo who runs track. She also has a condition called neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS) that causes her to faint after every race she runs, right into the waiting arms of her father soon after she crosses the finish line.

Dr. Blair Grubb, a professor at the University of Toledo who has studied syncope extensively, characterized NCS in a 2005 article in The New England Journal of Medicine as the autonomic nervous system’s failure to keep blood pressure high enough to maintain consciousness.

Physical activity, he said, pools blood in the lower half of the body, reducing blood flow to the heart. In response, the heart pumps more vigorously. In people with NCS, the brain misreads that as high blood pressure and tries to lower the pressure, which leads to decreased blood flow to the brain and, thus, fainting.

Peterman often does not remember the ends of races — she blacked out the last 60 meters of a recent race — which has prompted her father to wonder why she faints after races and not during. See also No pain, possible gain. (via @atul_gawande)

Flying with my dad

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2015

Me Dad Flying

Growing up, I had a pretty conventional childhood. In the northern Wisconsin of the 70s and 80s, that meant living in the country, dogs and cats, making ramps for our bikes in the driveway, Oscar Meyer bologna sandwiches for lunch, and a nuclear family of four that split into two soon after Ronald Reagan took office. But conventional childhoods are a myth. Every kid has some weird thing that distinguished their experience from everyone else’s. My weird thing is that I spent a lot of time in and around airplanes when I was young.

My dad joined the Navy after high school but couldn’t fly because of his eyesight. But sometime later, he got his private pilot’s license. In the 1970s, after bouncing around between two dozen different jobs and business ideas, he took a small rented airplane and turned it into a thriving freight and commuter airline called Blue Line Air Express.1 At its height, his company had 8 planes, a small fleet of cars and trucks,2 more than a dozen employees, and hangars at several different airports around northern WI. He and his employees delivered packages and people3 all over the tri-state area, from Chicago and Milwaukee to Minneapolis and Duluth.

Blue Line Air Express Logo

And every once in awhile, I got to tag along. I remember one time in particular, we got up early on a Saturday, drove to a nearby town, hopped in the plane, and made it to Minneapolis, usually a two-hour drive, in time for breakfast. I’d go with him on deliveries sometimes; we’d drive a small piece-of-shit truck4 up to this huge FedEx hub in Minneapolis, load it full of boxes, and drive an hour to some small factory in a Wisconsin town and unload it. Once he had to deliver something to a cheese factory and my sister and I got a short tour out of it.

For family vacations, we would jump in the plane to visit relatives in the Twin Cities or in St. Louis. We flew down with some family friends to Oshkosh to attend the huge airshow. When I was in college, my dad would sometimes pick me up for school breaks in his plane. It was just a normal thing for our family, like anyone else would take a car trip. The only time it seems weird to me is when people’s eyes go wide after I casually mention that we had a runway out behind the house growing up.5

Backyard Runway

One of the last times I went flying with my dad, before it finally became too expensive for him to keep up his plane,6 we were flying into a small airport where he still kept a hangar. It was a fine day when we set out but as we neared our destination, the weather turned dark.7 You could see the storm coming from miles away and we raced it to the airport. The wind had really picked up as we made our first approach to land; I don’t know what the windspeed was, but it was buffeting us around pretty good. About 50 feet off the ground, the wind slammed the plane downwards, dropping a dozen feet in half a second. In a calm voice, my dad said, “we’d better go around and try this again”.8

The storm was nearly on top of us as we looped around to try a second time. It was around this time he announced, even more calmly, that we were “running a little low” on fuel. Nothing serious, you understand. Just “a little low”. There was a heavy crosswind, blowing perpendicular to the runway. Landing in a crosswind requires the pilot to point the airplane into the wind a little.9 Or more than a little…my memory probably exaggerates after all these years, but I swear we were at least 30 degrees off axis on that second approach. Just before touching down, he oriented the plane with the runway and the squawk of the tires let us know we were down. I don’t think it was much more than a minute or two after landing that the rain, thunder, and lightning started.10

But the thing was, I was never scared. I should have been probably…it was an alarming situation. I’d been flying with my dad my whole life and he’d kept me safe that whole time, so why should I start worrying now? That’s what fathers are supposed to do, right? Protect their children from harm while revealing the limits of the world?

  1. The internet is amazing. I originally wrote this piece for Quarterly as part of a physical package of stuff that was sent out to subscribers. While doing some research for it, I found an image of an old Blue Line brochure, which I distinctly remember from when I was a kid. From there, I was able to figure out the font and recreate the logo. Two of the items in my Quarterly package featured the logo: a balsa-wood airplane and a leather luggage tag. Blue Line flies again! It was very satisfying to use my professional skills (internet sleuthing and design) to “resurrect” my dad’s old business.

  2. There was a car or two stashed at every airport Blue Line regularly flew in to. To simplify the logistics, the key to the ignition was usually left under the rear wheel well of the car. Which was occasionally a problem w/r/t disgruntled former employees.

  3. Living and dead…transporting cadavers was a particularly lucrative business.

  4. My dad’s fleet of cars and trucks were optimized for cost and performance…if you could load 1200 pounds of boxes into something without busting the springs and get it there at 80 MPH on the freeway, it didn’t matter if the fenders were rusted off.

  5. Oh, did I not mention that earlier? We lived on a farm and rented out all the land to nearby farmers…all except the runway that my dad had cut into the field behind the house so that he could commute by plane to whatever airport he needed to be at that day. As you do.

  6. Blue Line went out of business soon after my parents divorced, but my dad kept a plane and a hangar. Sometimes he transported freight for money but mostly just flew as a hobby and transportation. Private piloting was cheaper back then, especially when your plane was long since paid for, the price of gas was obscenely low by today’s standards, gear/radios were cheaper, and you were also a mechanic (as my dad was).

  7. The Midwest is like this in the summer. Radar shows nothing, then, boom, thunderstorm.

  8. That droningly relaxed pilot voice you hear while thumbing through the latest issue of the inflight magazine? My dad never talked like that outside of an airplane but every single thing he said inside one sounded unbelievably steady and serene.

  9. It is seriously weird that the runway you’re landing on is not directly in front of you. This video gives you a taste of what it’s like. Start at the 3:10 mark…that’s some crazy sideways flying.

  10. And this is far from the craziest thing that ever happened to my dad while flying. Once we had to go pick him up in a nearby corn field after an emergency landing.

    But my favorite story he tells is when he landed on a runway in winter in a twin-engine plane and discovered shortly afterwards that the entire surface was black ice. So the brakes didn’t work. And it was too late to throttle up again and take off. And there’s a lake at the end of the runway. Thinking quickly, he throttles up one of the engines, spins the plane around 180 ° on the ice, and then throttles up both engines to stop the plane. That sounds like total action movie BS, but my dad insists it really happened. Regardless, I love to hear him tell that story.

MarI/O

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2015

SethBling wrote a program made of neural networks and genetic algorithms called MarI/O that taught itself how to play Super Mario World. This six-minute video is a pretty easy-to-understand explanation of the concepts involved.

But here’s the thing: as impressive as it is, MarI/O actually has very little idea how to play Super Mario World at all. Each time the program is presented with a new level, it has to learn how to play all over again. Which is what it’s doing right now on Twitch. (via waxy)

Minecraft playdates

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2015

Minecraft Playdate

Chris Ware’s cover for this week’s issue of the New Yorker featuring a Minecraft playdate is spot on.

Clara has spent hours, days, weeks of the past two years building and making navigable block worlds fuelled from the spun-off fizz of her accreting consciousness: giant ice-cream-layered auditoriums linked to narrow fifty-foot-high hallways over glass-covered lava streams, stairs that descend to underground classrooms, frozen floating wingless airplanes, and my favorite, the tasteful redwood-and-glass “writer’s retreat.” (It has a small pool.) She made a meadow of beds for my wife-a high-school teacher who craves unconsciousness-and a roller coaster to take her there. Though Clara mostly “plays” Minecraft by herself, the game allows her friends to drop into these worlds, too, and I’ve even spent some strange virtual afternoons as a floating block-self, guided by my angelic block-hammer-wielding block-daughter, zipping around a dreamscape that feels, really, less like life and maybe more like death, but in a sweet sort of way. If architecture somehow mirrors the spaces we carve in our memories and make in our minds, then something pretty interesting is going on here.

Ollie wanted a Minecraft playdate for his birthday, basically him and three or four of his friends sitting around playing the game on various devices. We managed to talk him into some good old fashioned real-world bowling instead, but I doubt that will work next year.

Essential Mix from Jamie xx and Four Tet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2015

For your weekend, a 2-hour-long set from Jamie xx and Four Tet for BBC Radio 1’s Essential Mix.

Double tornadoes, double rainbows, double hailstones

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2015

Storm-chasing photographer Kelly DeLay recently took a photo of a massive storm supercell featuring two simultaneous tornadoes.

Kelly Delay

About 30 minutes after snapping that once-in-lifetime photo, DeLay captured a shot of the same supercell with one tornado, a double rainbow, and several streaking hailstones:

Kelly Delay

That’s like the everything bagel of storm photography. (via 500px iso)

Derelict

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2015

Derelict is a feature-length black & white film that splices about an hour of Alien and 90 minutes of Prometheus together into a single narrative.

‘Derelict’ is an editing project for academic purposes. ‘Prometheus’ wasn’t exactly an Alien prequel, but this treats it as such by intercutting the events of Alien with Prometheus in a dual narrative structure. The goal was to assemble the material to emphasize the strengths of Prometheus as well as its ties to Alien.

(via ★interesting)

Flatpack skyscrapers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2015

An update as to what’s going on in China with prefab skyscrapers: Zhang Yue’s company recently completed a 57-story building in just 19 days. And they’re still planning on building a skyscraper taller than the Burj Khalifa in a matter of months.

The revolution will be modular, Zhang insists. Mini Sky City was assembled from thousands of factory-made steel modules, slotted together like Meccano.

It’s a method he says is not only fast, but also safe and cheap.

Now he wants to drop the “Mini” and use the same technique to build the world’s tallest skyscraper, Sky City.

While the current record holder, the 828m-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai, took five years to “top out”, Zhang says his proposed 220-storey “vertical city” will take only seven months — four for the foundations, and three for the tower itself.

And it will be 10m taller.

The computer collector

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2015

Lonnie Mimms has a gigantic collection of vintage computers, software, and peripherals. You don’t realize the scope of the collection until you see him walking around the Apple pop-up exhibit he built inside of an abandoned CompUSA.

Get with The Program

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2015

The Program is an upcoming film about the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity). It’s based on David Walsh’s book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

Every Person in New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2015

Every Person In NY Book

Jason Polan has turned his long-term project to draw each and every person in New York into a book coming out in August. As a long-time Polan fan, I’m looking forward to this.

Design can change the world?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2015

I love this piece from Jennifer Daniel about self-congratulatory “design can change the world” rhetoric.

Design can change the world. Are you kidding me? Are we having a debate or a therapy session?

Designers will do anything to convince themselves we are not in a service industry. Why are we so desperate to make ourselves feel better? Because we feel GUILTY and we have to reconcile what we do professionally with the world we live in. We WANT to save the world so we repeat our daily affirmations on our way to work…

“Design can change the world.”

…on our way to yoga…

“Design can change the world.”

This debate as is an attempt to assuage the guilt we already have and know we have because we’re here doing THIS instead of something truly meaningful.

(via @jimray)

The mighty morphing Hillary logo

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2015

Hillary Logo Multiple

Soon after the logo for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was revealed, I wrote “I am not a big fan of the arrowed H”. Well, the campaign’s clever use of the logo has won me over. Quartz’s Annalisa Merelli explains.

It is through all these iterations that Clinton’s logo fully displays its iconic value: It is highly recognizable despite the changes, and the much-criticized right-facing red arrow is now appears as it was likely meant to: pointing the way forward. The different backgrounds aren’t just an innovative graphic solution-they are the visual embodiment of the values Clinton is building her campaign around. It vehicles a leadership based on collectivity and inclusiveness rather than the elitist individualism Clinton is often accused of.

Amy Winehouse documentary

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2015

Amy is a documentary film about the life and career of singer Amy Winehouse. The director is Asif Kapadia, who also directed the excellent Senna, one of my favorite documentaries from the past few years. Here’s the trailer:

The film studio behind the movie, A24, has been making some interesting films: Ex Machina, Bling Ring, Obvious Child, A Most Violent Year, The End of the Tour, Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, etc.

The birth of breaking news

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2015

The completion of the US transcontinental railroad in 1869 in Utah was also the birthplace of the newsflash. The news was delivered via telegraph through a clever scheme: the famous golden spike and a silver hammer were each wired to the telegraph so that when hammer struck nail, the circuit completed and the news raced out along telegraph wires to the rest of the nation.1

Where were you when you heard the news of the completion of the transcontinental railroad?

  1. At least, that was the plan. It is said the hammer swingers missed the spike and so the telegraph operator had to message “DONE” instead.

The Shadow in the Darkness

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2015

Meet Joe Bollard. Joe lost his eyesight at the age of 2. In this video, he talks about his experience of being blind and the great difference having a guide dog has made in his life.

(thx, kevin)

The Soviet Union’s abandoned space shuttle

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2015

Buran

Buran

From Ralph Mirebs, photos of the abandoned Baikonur Cosmodrome, which houses the remains of the Buran programme, the Soviet version of the Space Shuttle program. (thx, tim)

The Jurassic Park dossier

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2015

As a kid, Michael M collected a notebook full of information related to Jurassic Park, as if he worked in the computing department of InGen, the company that built the park.

The dossier is fairly thick and contains numerous completely made-up documents like dinosaur tooth records, DNA diagrams, and correspondence between myself, my imaginary colleagues and some of my friends from school whom I’d somehow managed to rope into my delusions.

Broadly, the dossier consists of the impossibly dull minutiae of park admin leading up to the events of the movie. I essentially gave myself a boring office job in my spare time outside of school. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating insight into the mind of the type of pubescent idiot who never had a sun tan.

Jurassic Park Dossier

Jurassic Park Dossier

Jurassic Park Dossier

Love this. I definitely did stuff like this when I was a kid, but not nearly as elaborate. (via @robinsloan)

The Earth Moves

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2015

Filmmaker John Walter is making a film called The Earth Moves about Einstein on the Beach, the 1976 opera composed Philip Glass and directed by Robert Wilson. Walter and his team are soliciting funds to complete the film on Kickstarter.

In 2011, the original creators of Einstein on the Beach brought the opera to life again for what will most likely be its last presentation in their lifetime. Einstein on the Beach is an opera like no other. Telling its story requires a documentary like no other.

We completed shooting and editing The Earth Moves and we are all working very hard to finish the film for upcoming film festivals this fall. Now we need your support to fulfill the costs of color correction, media licensing, and sound mixing. Time is of the essence and every contribution helps our mission to complete this film.

Any additional support beyond the goal will go towards expanding the distribution of the film through educational markets and independent theaters nationally.

Sunday Sketches

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2015

Christoph Niemann’s Sunday Sketches are typically great, but this one from last Sunday really grabbed my attention:

Niemann Brush Dress

So good. I am also a sucker for this one:

Niemann Magritte

Bacterial handprint

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2015

Tasha Sturm, a lab technician at Cabrillo College, had her 8-year-old son put his handprint on a prepared petri dish and then incubated it for several days. This was the result:

Bacteria Handprint

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my hands about 4,000 times. Bacteria is cooooool though:

Bacteria Handprint Closeup

(via colossal)

Bridge of Spies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2015

Steven Spielberg is directing Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies, a movie about the negotiation to release U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from Soviet custody. Here’s the trailer:

The script was punched up by none other than the Coen brothers.

The Fallen of World War II

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2015

This is an amazing video visualization of military and civilian deaths in World War II. It’s 18 minutes long, but well worth your time.

There’s an interactive component as well, allowing you to explore the data. (via @garymross)

The Martian trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2015

I have not read the book it’s based on, but the movie version of The Martian, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, looks quite promising:

I am going to have to science the shit out of this.

Apollo 13 with a touch of Interstellar…I can do that.

Update: A second trailer has been released:

And I have since read the book, which was good. But it will make a better movie.

Theory: the Harry Potter series is about mental illness

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2015

This is an interesting theory about the Harry Potter series: the whole thing is about a mentally ill young boy (Harry) who is institutionalized by his parents (the Dursleys) in a mental institution (Hogwarts) and the contents of the books are Harry’s fantasy.

In the Harry Potter series, his parents are famous wizards, who were famous in all the world for their unparalleled love for the boy Harry, which set the whole series in motion, killing them and leaving the boy a scarred orphan. (This is a fantasy, crafted as the direct opposite of the way in which children usually end up scarred — through abuse and neglect.)

If we interpret the story as Harry’s fantasy, then the Dursleys are Harry’s real parents, and the Potters are imaginary. The Durselys either can’t cope with the increasingly-delusional boy living with them, or perhaps they are merely abusive, and it’s the abuse that’s making him delusional. In any event, the parent-figures constantly mistreat him, favor the brother, and inflict endless cruelty and humiliation on him. One day, Harry snaps, and Dudley (who is really Harry’s brother) is severely injured, in a way requiring repeated hospital treatments. (In the delusion, Harry imagines that a pig’s tail is magically grown from Dudley’s buttocks.) As a result of this incident, Harry is taken away to a “special school.”

Apple Watch and Jerry Seinfeld are conspiring to get you healthy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2015

Marco Arment writes about how the Activity circles on his Apple Watch have made him more active.

I’m traveling this weekend, and I’ve been doing something I’ve never done: I’ve been using the hotel’s gym. Any Apple Watch owners can probably guess why: I have a good run going on my daily Activity circles, and I want to keep it going.

Ever since getting the Apple Watch, not only have I been getting more consistent exercise, but I’m pushing myself further. I take more walks, and I walk faster and further than ever before. I’ve been walking Hops around the same streets for four years, but now I’ve been discovering new streets and paths just to extend our walking distance and try to beat my previous walks.

Reading this and looking at the chart of his completed Activity circles reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Apple Watch: Don’t Break the Chain.

How to get your kids to eat everything

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2015

This advice from Amanda Hesser on how to get young kids to eat everything is 1000% solid gold:

You may wonder how we get our kids to eat kale and clams, and here is the answer: we make them (we’re warm but firm), and we don’t offer choices. Psychologists will tell you that kids respond to consistency and confidence. While I can’t say I’m great at this when it comes to bedtime, I never waver at the table. People don’t want to hear this because we live in the Age of Coddling but I strongly believe that kids need and actually crave guidance and direction, especially when they’re young. And since I also believe that we should eat the same meals as our kids — showing unity and companionship — I don’t want to eat boring food, so they’re not getting boring food.

This is exactly what we did with our kids and while it’s super difficult to be consistent and firm, especially with a picky kid, I recommend this approach wholeheartedly. My kids definitely have their preferences and would eat pizza and burgers for every meal if given the chance, but they eat a wide variety of different foods — including a lot of stuff I personally don’t care for (oysters and mussels for starters) — and are always up for trying new things. How else are they supposed to discover that they really like Sri Lankan food? (Which they do.)

Sea is for Cookie

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2015

Sea is for Cookie

Magisterial. The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai, modified by Reddit users Put_It_All_On_Red and photosonny. (via @craigmod)

How the iPhone surprised and then crushed the Blackberry

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

The full story is behind a paywall,1 but the WSJ’s The Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry is kind of amazing. The piece is an excerpt from Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry.

The next day Mr. Lazaridis grabbed his co-CEO Jim Balsillie at the office and pulled him in front of a computer.

“Jim, I want you to watch this,” he said, pointing to a webcast of the iPhone unveiling. “They put a full Web browser on that thing. The carriers aren’t letting us put a full browser on our products.”

Mr. Balsillie’s first thought was RIM was losing AT&T as a customer. “Apple’s got a better deal,” Mr. Balsillie said. “We were never allowed that. The U.S. market is going to be tougher.”

“These guys are really, really good,” Mr. Lazaridis replied. “This is different.”

“It’s OK — we’ll be fine,” Mr. Balsillie responded.

RIM’s chiefs didn’t give much additional thought to Apple’s iPhone for months. “It wasn’t a threat to RIM’s core business,” says Mr. Lazaridis’s top lieutenant, Larry Conlee. “It wasn’t secure. It had rapid battery drain and a lousy [digital] keyboard.”

“RIM’s chiefs didn’t give much additional thought to Apple’s iPhone for months.”

“RIM’s chiefs didn’t give much additional thought to Apple’s iPhone for months.”

“RIM’s chiefs didn’t give much additional thought to Apple’s iPhone for months.”

Oof. (via @craigmod)

  1. You know how to circumvent the WSJ’s paywall, right? You paste the title of the piece — in this case, The Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry — into Google and click on the story from the search results or in Google News. Boom, instant access.

The kindergarten class in the forest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

Eliza Minnucci teaches a kindergarten class in Quechee, Vermont and every Monday, her students spend the entire school day outside in the forest. The results have been more than encouraging. I love this anecdote about what the forest setting can provide for students of all temperaments and abilities.

When Minnucci started this forest school experiment two years ago, she knew it would be good for the rowdy boys who clearly need to run around more than the typical school day offers.

What she didn’t expect is how good it would be for the kids who can sit still and “do” school when they’re 5 years old. She gives the example of a boy last year.

Inside the classroom, he was one of her best students. But when he got outside and kids were climbing a tree, he couldn’t get very high. “I think he was a little surprised to not be meeting his peers’ ability,” says Minnucci.

Then, partway up the tree, he fell. And got a bit scraped up. “I felt terrible,” Minnucci says. “I thought, ‘Oh this poor guy. He failed.’”

But two weeks later, when the kids were climbing the tree again, he looked over at them. “I want to try the tree,” he said.

“And he went to the tree and he got higher than he’d been before and he was beaming,” says Minnucci. “And I thought, ‘Oh, this good, this is good!’ This is a kid who may have gone so far before he met challenge that he wouldn’t have known what to do when he got there.”

Kids who are good at school need to understand there’s more to life than acing academics, says Minnucci. And students who aren’t excelling at the academic stuff need to know there’s value in the things they are good at. Doing school in the forest offers “something really important” to everyone, she says.

(via @riondotnu)

Superwolves, pizzly bears, emerging hybrid species, and climate change

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

Because of climate change and other activities caused by humans (invasive species, habitat loss), hybridization of species is resulting in things like super-sized coyotes, pizzly bears (grizzly/polar bear hybrids), and other animals that may not be ideally suited to survive.

Some scientists and conservationists see the coywolf as a nightmare of the Anthropocene — a poster child of mongrelization as plants and animals reshuffle in response to habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. Golden-winged warblers increasingly cross with blue-winged warblers in the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada. Southern flying squirrels hybridize with northern flying squirrels as the southern species presses northward in Ontario. Polar bears mate with grizzlies in the Canadian Arctic along the Beaufort Sea to produce “pizzly bears.”

All of this interbreeding upsets the conventional notion of species as discrete, inviolable entities. Moreover, some scientists and conservationists warn that hybridization will degrade biodiversity as unusual species are lost to genetic homogenization.

Partly scientists fear hybrids will be less fit than organisms that have evolved in place over eons. And often that is true, but the problem solves itself over time as hybrids lose out in the competitive race for survival.

Reasons people shoot other people

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

From Parents Against Gun Violence, a few of the reasons people shot people in May 2015.

My fiancee and I had an argument, so I open-carried my gun to a park and shot four random people.

The bartender put Clamato in my beer when I wanted tomato juice, so I shot him and his dog.

I found suspicious calls on my boyfriend’s phone, so I shot him. He was armed at the time too.

Rather than let my ex-wife win custody, I shot my own daughter to death.

Click through for the whole depressing list and links to news articles about each incident.

Your iPhone is tracking you like Lester Freamon from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

Freq Locations

Since iOS 7 came out in 2013, your iPhone’s Location Services has included a little-known feature called Frequent Locations, which keeps very detailed track of every distinct location you visit. How detailed? This, precisely, was when I was in my apartment over a three-day period last month:

Freq Locations

All told, my phone recorded all 33 different locations I’ve visited in NYC since April 15, including 84 visits to my apartment and 54 visits to my office, down to the minute and a ~130-foot radius. The feature is on by default if you’ve got Location Services switched on, so you can find your information by opening the Settings app and going to Privacy > Location Services > System Services (at the bottom) > Frequent Locations. You can also turn the feature off if you wish.

Apple says the feature is used to learn your favorite places and the data is kept only on the phone:

Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device and won’t be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.

It’s likely that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and the NSA (until recently) are collecting this same sort of data about you regardless of what sort of phone you use, except that these organizations do not share Apple’s public commitment to privacy. (via @dunstan)

The quiet introvert revolution

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2015

Susan Cain, author of the excellent Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has launched Quiet Revolution, a resource “to unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all”. There’s already quite a bit there…you can take a test to see if you’re an introvert, five ways to deal with an open office plan, learn how to connect with extroverts, and 15 ways you can be a better parent to your introverted kid.

Understand that your child’s temperament is due to biology. Think your child can just “get over” hating raucous birthday parties? Think again. Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains are “wired” differently, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. She writes that children’s temperaments are innate (although parents play an important role in nurturing that temperament).

Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains use different neurotransmitter pathways, and introverts and extroverts use different “sides” of their nervous systems (introverts prefer the parasympathetic side, which is the “rest and digest” system as opposed to the sympathetic, which triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” response). Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortices, which is the area of the brain associated with abstract thought and decision-making. If your child tends to be more cautious and reserved than her extroverted peers, rest assured that there’s a biological reason for it.

In praise of chairs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting looks at the use of production design in movies. Specifically chairs. Chairs can tell you something about the world the film is set in, the characters who use them, or a specific situation.

Salad days: the gentrification of the self

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

Gen X was never supposed to get older. But a pair of recent essays by Tim Carmody and Choire Sicha show that the second third Greatest Generation is not immune to pivoting one’s emotional startup when midlife approaches. In The Iceman List, Carmody reevaluates 80s movie heroes and finds the more traditionally Reagan-esque characters might have had a point.

But today, in the 2010s, Top Gun is a treat. It’s as clean and shiny as a new dime. The cliches that later action films overloaded with world-building and backstory here present themselves unadorned, in all their purity. Cruise is just so charming, brimming with so much energy, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t really know how to act yet. A bunch of Navy aviators singing Righteous Brothers in the bar looks like fun. Now that pilots, airmen, and aviators can serve in the US military openly without anyone asking who they sleep with, it’s super that Iceman and Slider might be gay. And guess what?

Maverick is kind of a jerk. Iceman is totally right about him. In fact, Iceman is right about almost everything. We didn’t notice this in the 1980s because everything about how the film is constructed tells us to sympathize with Maverick and hate Iceman’s guts.

My God, we’ve become Ed Rooney. We are eating it. (Well, Ferris was a dick.) Sicha started smoking as a teenager in the 80s but after quitting recently, desires to “make a senior citizen’s arrest” of his younger smoldering self, the Iceman to the Tom Cruise of his youth.

It’s like KonMari, except easy, because the only things you throw out are your cigarettes and your entire sense of self.

My friend Emily said she was happy for me, but wistful, too. The last smoker quitting seemed like another kind of gentrification. Now I’m gone, too, along with the gas stations and all the stores that aren’t 7-Eleven. But the emotional rent was just too high.

Quitting smoking is the khakis of existence. Quitting smoking is the Chipotle on St. Marks Place. I am totally not cool. I may as well be someone’s stupid Brooklyn dad. My hair is its natural color. Most days I’m just wearing whatever. I do yoga endlessly. What am I now?

I can feel this gentrification of the self coming in my life. As someone who watched TV and used the internet 23 hours out of every day for the past 30 years, I’m wary of how much screen time my kids get. All that TV in my youth probably wasn’t a good idea and the internet these days isn’t what it used to be, right? In a talk at XOXO last year, Hank Green said:

You have no obligation to your former self. He is dumber than you and doesn’t exist.

Ok! Pivot I will. Get off my lawn, younger self!

Tree of Codes contemporary ballet performance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

Tree Of Codes Jamie xx Olafur Eliasson

Director and choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson, music producer Jamie XX (new album!), and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet are collaborating on a contemporary ballet performance based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.

Award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor’s groundbreaking practice embraces dance, science, film, music, and technology to generate intriguing, expansive works. For Tree of Codes, McGregor is collaborating with artist Olafur Eliasson and producer/composer Jamie xx to create a contemporary ballet. Eliasson’s large-scale projects, including The New York City Waterfalls and The weather project at the Tate Modern, have captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Mercury Prize-winning Jamie xx blurs the boundaries between artist and audience in sonic environments like the one he created with his band, The xx, at the Armory in 2014.

Triggered by Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (an artwork in the form of a book which was in turn inspired by Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz), this new, evening-length work features a company of soloists and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor.

Two performances are planned so far: at the Manchester International Festival (July 2-10) and the Park Avenue Armory (Sept 14-21). (thx, michelle)

Time travel for financial gain

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

Tyler Cowen was recently asked how he’d best use a time machine for financial gain. Here was the specific query:

Suppose you had a time machine you that you solely wanted to use for financial gain. You can bring one item from the present back to any point in the past to exchange for another item that people of that time would consider of equal value, then bring that new item back to the present. To what time period would you go, and what items would you choose to maximize your time-travel arbitrage?

Cowen notes some difficulty with an obvious approach:

The obvious answer encounters some difficulties upon reflection. Let’s say I brought gold back in time and walked into the studio of Velazquez, or some other famous painter, and tried to buy a picture for later resale in the present. At least some painters would recognize and accept the gold, and gold is highly valuable and easy enough to carry around. Some painters might want the gold weighed and assayed, but even there the deal would go fine.

The problem is establishing clear title to the painting, once you got back home. It wouldn’t turn up on any register as stolen, but still you would spend a lot of time talking to the FBI and Interpol. The IRS would want to know whether this was a long-term or short-term capital gain, and you couldn’t just cite Einstein back to them. They also would think you must have had a lot of unreported back income.

So establishing present ownership of a past item is an issue…as is authentication via carbon dating. I don’t have a specific scheme in mind, but I would think any general approach would also need to minimize the butterfly effect of your trade so that, for example, your existence in the present is not disrupted. So you can’t trade Leonardo an iPhone 6 for the Mona Lisa. But maybe you could trade $1 for a winning ticket for last week’s $300 million lottery jackpot…or would the numbers change somehow because of your visit? What if you bought 100,000 shares of Apple stock in 2003? How would that action effect the present? What is a large enough action to make you rich but with a small enough effect to keep the present otherwise unchanged? Since I didn’t see any super-compelling solutions in the comments at MR, I’m gonna open the comments here…I know someone has been thinking about this extensively or has a link to a good discussion elsewhere. Please stay on topic, mmm’kay?

The Russian trolling agency

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

In the NYT Magazine, Adrian Chen reports on the hoaxes that often target American communities from a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia. Meet the trolls who work at The Agency.

The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention.

Tarantino’s film homages

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

From The Flintstones to Band of Outsiders to Miller’s Crossing, here’s a look at some of the films referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s movies.

(via devour)

Gradient food photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

Britney Wright takes photos of food arranged in size and color gradients.

Food Gradients

Food Gradients

Food Gradients

Follow Wright on Instagram and buy her prints.

The Tribe

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

The Tribe is set at a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The film employs no subtitles or voiceovers; all communication is sign language and non-verbal acting. Here’s the trailer…somewhat paradoxically, you’ll want to use headphones or turn the sound up.

Winner of multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards (including the coveted Critics’ Week Grand Prix), Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe is an undeniably original and intense feature debut set in the insular world of a Ukrainian high school for the deaf. The Tribe unfolds through the non-verbal acting and sign language from a cast of deaf, non-professional actors — with no need for subtitles or voice over — resulting in a unique, never-before-experienced cinematic event that engages the audience on a new sensory level.

(thx, paul)

A Soyuz spacecraft docking with the ISS

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

Could you imagine floating out in the vastness of space, even the relatively tiny vastness of space in low Earth orbit, in a tiny space capsule waiting to hook up to a slightly larger space station and if something goes wrong, you might die? But on the other hand, look at that incredible view! This HD video of a Soyuz capsule docking with the International Space Station gives you a small sense of how that might feel.

The docking itself takes place starting at around 17:00. The whole thing takes a bit longer than I remember from that Gravity movie. (via @badastronomer)

The Case for Andy Warhol

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2015

From Sarah Urist Green of The Art Assignment (and former curator of contemporary art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art), The Case for Andy Warhol, in which Green discusses Warhol’s importance as an artist.

Like Jay Z but far earlier, he understood that to be an artist in a market economy meant not being “a businessman” but being “a business, man”. And he turned himself into a globally recognized brand.

In Flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2015

Mark Vanhoenacker is a Boeing 747-400 pilot for British Airways who also happens to have a wonderful almost lyrical way with words. In this NY Times piece, Vanhoenacker gives an overview of how a London-to-Tokyo flight functions, from take-off & landings to what pilots see in the dark night skies to the determination of altitude.

Three altimeters in the cockpit — two bright digital readouts, and one old-school device with hands that turn like those of a clock — show 31,000 feet.

Yet we know that we are probably not as close to 31,000 feet as these altimeters suggest. We are somewhat lower; or perhaps we are higher. One thing is certain — it would be easy to find a dozen airliners flying over different parts of the world, all of whose altimeters displayed 31,000 feet, none of which are at the same altitude.

How is this possible?

Planes calculate their altitude by measuring air pressure. The air lies most heavily on places that are lowest, the places that have the most air piled above them. A barometric altimeter (baros, meaning weight) equates high air pressure — lots of air weighing down — with low altitude. As a plane climbs, there is less air above it. The altimeter senses less air weight and reports a higher altitude.

There’s a problem, however. Air pressure is not constant. It varies across the Earth. It also varies in each place as time and weather pass.

And I love this bit about the names of the geographic waypoints used to navigate the area around Boston:

Boston has etched a particularly rich constellation onto the heavens above New England. There is PLGRM, of course; CHWDH, LBSTA and CLAWW; GLOWB and HRALD for the city’s newspapers; while SSOXS, FENWY, BAWLL and OUTTT trace the fortunes of the city’s baseball team in long arcs across the stars. There’s a NIMOY waypoint; Leonard was born in Boston.

The piece is adapted from Vanhoenacker’s new book, Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot. My dad was a professional pilot for many years1 and I’ve always loved flying, so I’m definitely going to give this a read.

  1. I wrote about my dad’s aviation career for one of my Quarterly packages. I should dig that up and publish it here…it’s a good story.

Some odd things about self-driving cars

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2015

Jan Chipchase writes about Twelve Concepts in Autonomous Mobility, aka behavioral and design considerations of self-driving vehicles. You may not have thought of some of these.

Nanny mode: vehicles that are assigned to pick up young children from school, but end up trailing them at a discreet distance because the kids prefer to walk home alone.

Car surprise: when you come across your car somewhere where you didn’t expect it to be and witness your vehicle engaging in unexpected activities e.g. pickup up flowers at the mall: the equivalent of catching your parent or kid smoking or shoplifting.

And why is Google, an advertising company, interested in self-driving cars? Perhaps this:

Trailer trashing: where dodgy looking vehicles are assigned to trail an otherwise apparent owner either as a joke or to send a message e.g. a hearse sent by a debt collection agency to scare-up payment. You’ll also see this happen with more aggressive companies who send a vehicle around to their competitors to send a message, recruit their staff or to gather intelligence. Task Rabbit or San Da ha + autonomous mobility + intent. The most obvious market for this will be straight-up advertising.

In 2015, you can follow brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In 2023, the brands follow you! Around town!

Messi’s Copa del Rey golazo

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2015

This goal by Lionel Messi in the Copa del Rey final over the weekend is just out of this world.

You’ll notice:

1. He takes on three defenders at once and beats them all by himself, even though they had him pinned against the sideline.

2. There is only a brief moment during his run that the ball is more than a foot and a half away from his feet. The combination of his fierce pace and that delicate delicate touch is unstoppable.

3. The ball never gets away from him because by the time that he kicks it, he has already moved to receive it. This is most evident on his final touch, right before he tucks it inside the near post…he’s already moved to the left to receive the pass before he taps it to himself.

4. How did he find the space between the keeper and the near post for that?

5. ARGGFJESNCKGHMEPSCC!!!!!!

Update: ESPN Sport Science breaks down Messi’s goal by the numbers…how fast he accelerated, touches/sec, and the angle at which he shot at goal.

Trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Shining

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2015

If you take Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and mix in elements of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the result is pretty good.

(via devour)

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