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Entries for October 2015 (November 2015 »    December 2015 »    January 2016 »    Archives)

 

The Suck.com origin story

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

From 1996, a Wired article by Josh Quittner about Suck, Carl Steadman and Joey Anuff’s now-legendary website.

Who at HotWired noticed the look of dread and tension on the faces of Carl and Joey when Suck secretly launched like a torpedo on August 28, 1995? Carl tied his desktop machine at HotWired into his server, which was hidden in plain sight among the array of hardware, so he could watch as people logged in to Suck that first day. This is the coldly accurate terror of the new medium: Carl could tell at any second not only how many people were logged in to his server, but in some cases, who they were.

On that first day, a hundred people found Suck — not a bad turnout considering the Boys told only their friends. Naturally, their friends told their friends, and good news travels like a sweet breeze across the Web.

This was critical since Carl had set some ambitious goals: he wanted 1,000 hits by the end of the week, he wanted to be more successful than any HotWired channel by the end of two months, and he wanted to be the Cool Site of the Day within three months.

Suck made each benchmark.

Some notes: 1) Suck was one of the handful of sites that inspired me to start publishing online. Thank you, Carl & Joey. 2) I loved the site so much that I build a parody of it called Sock. They linked to it soon after it went up and I DIED. Can’t link to it because 0sil8, my site from that era, isn’t online right now. 3) I applied for an internship at Hotwired in early 1996. Never heard back. What an alternate timeline that would have been. 4) Reading this made me sad. I love the Web so much, like more than is probably sane and healthy for a non-human entity, but nearly every other good thing in my life has happened because of it. And that Web is going quickly, if not already gone. All good things… and all that, but it still fucking wrecks me.

We Work Remotely

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

From Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols comes This Bridge Will Not Be Gray (at Amazon), a children’s book about how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be painted orange.

In this book, fellow bridge-lovers Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols tell the story of how it happened — how a bridge that some people wanted to be red and white, and some people wanted to be yellow and black, and most people wanted simply to be gray, instead became, thanks to the vision and stick-to-itiveness of a few peculiar architects, one of the most memorable man-made objects ever created.

The kids and I sat down with the book last week and they loved it. The pages on the design of the bridge prompted a discussion about Art Deco, with detours to Google Images to look at photos of the bridge,1 The Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. The next day, on the walk to school, we strolled past the Walker Tower, a 1929 building designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, one of the foremost architects of the 20th century. We were running a little early, so I stopped and asked the kids to take a look and think about what the building reminded them of. “Art Deco” came the reply almost immediately.

I’m really gonna miss reading to my kids — Ollie mostly reads by himself now and Minna is getting close — but I hope that we’re able to keep exploring the world through books together. NYC is a tough place to live sometimes, but being able to read about something in a book, even about a bridge in far-away San Francisco, and then go outside the next day to observe a prime example of what we were just reading is such a unique and wonderful experience.

  1. We also looked at several photos of the bridge under construction, including this one of a construction worker standing on some wires near one of the towers without much separating him and the water below. I’ve heard about this gentlemen from the kids several times since. Like, “remember that guy standing on the wires when the Golden Gate Bridge was being built? I bet he isn’t scared of spiders.”

Moving film posters

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

Pablo Eyre took a number of movie posters featuring photography from their respective movies and replaced the photos with the actual scenes. I imagine this is what movie posters look like in Harry Potter.

(Something must be in the air lately. This video is similar to two other videos I’ve linked to recently: book covers in motion?and a comparison of movie posters and the scenes that inspired them.)

Trippy, freaky animated GIFs from Zolloc

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

Zolloc

Operating under the name of Zolloc, Hayden Zezula makes all sorts of cool, creepy, lovely, trippy animated GIFs. This one is my favorite. (via ignant)

There once was a dildo from Nantucket

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

When whalers from Nantucket set out for their journeys around the world, left at home were their wives, sometimes for three or four years at a time. According to scholars and legend, the wives turned to dildos for comfort as stand-ins for their departed husbands. These devices even had a name, the “he’s-at-home”. As in this passage found in a anonymous diary from that era:

He’s at home is on the mantel.

Ben Shattuck travelled to Nantucket to research the history of he’s-at-homes and found only a single surviving specimen but discovered that the island has been dealing with loneliness for a long while.

But I was starting to see what loneliness looked like, and the weird quality of how heartache from long ago feels so freshly sad — perhaps because those separated by distance are now separated by death. Edward, his wife and daughter are now forever separated, so the ink circle is the mark of their unending relationship. Mattie Coffin and her husband are forever apart, and so the he’s-at-home is the truest bond they have. The above quoted letters could read like journal entries to the deceased: “You was all the world to me,” thought Susan Gifford, “and now you are gone”; “I long to see you. I sit to the window and watch for you as I us’d to, but you do not come.” Loneliness petrifies over time, because it’s our last state, isn’t it? As we’re closed off from the world by last breaths. The fossils of our living loneliness, the letters and shirt collars and photographs boxed up for another generation to find, have eternal shelf lives, timeless as obituaries, fresh today as the ancient honey we keep discovering in Egyptian tombs. Connie’s comment — “Life went on here in Nantucket” — rang with new definition, for her own life, and the life of the dildo owner. Maybe she wasn’t talking about sex at all — maybe she was talking about life going on as it does, or must, for the bereaved.

I know this is a weird segue, but I also need to acknowledge this top-notch exploding cake gag from the article:

Sarah Pope went so far as to send her fiancé a cake to accompany her letter. She preserved the cake in too much alcohol, so that when he opened the package, it exploded. He wrote that he was “nocked higher than a kite” but still ate the cake.

The perfect metaphor for the passionate longing and loneliness felt by couples separated by whaling journeys.

Prime-time soap operas are back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2015

Goodbye anti-heros, hello soap operas. Margaret Lyons writes about the increasing popularity of prime-time soap operas like Scandal, Empire, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and House of Cards.

Game of Thrones’ Outstanding Drama win at the Emmys this year indicates a new era of perceived legitimacy for its genre, and I’m not talking about fantasy: GOT completely operates as a soap. All the scheming and vindictiveness would be perfectly at home on Melrose Place; the disguises, acceptance of the paranormal, and the absence and reemergence of obscure characters can all be found on Passions. (Cersei Lannister and Alexis Carrington would have plenty to talk about.) Soap is not a dirty word, and shows like GOT are helping reposition soapiness as a desirable attribute, not a vice.

I’ve had this theory for awhile that for fans of dramas, all but the very best are indistinguishable from soap operas by season three. As a viewer, you get so caught up in the “what’s gonna happen”, you stop caring so much about how it’s happening, if the show is even any good, or what higher-level themes the producers might be expressing. And the show’s producers feel the need to top themselves with each season, and so the stakes get higher, the plot gets more implausible, the characters get bigger, and themes are increasingly marginalized. This happened, in varying degrees, with Lost, Homeland, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and House of Cards. Even Mad Men and Breaking Bad veered in and out of soap opera territory, but the shows were so good that they never completely went there. And let’s not even talk about season 5 of The Wire.

Mapping the microdistricts of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

Manhattan is home to many small clusters of businesses around a common theme. For example, the Garment District in the west 30s, the Diamond District on 47th St, and, formerly, the Meatpacking District. Here is a short guide to some of them.

A few weeks ago, as I walked to work in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I noticed something unusual — not one, not two, but four tile stores, side by side, on 21st Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. Strange. Then, I remembered rumors about a magical street in Chelsea populated by dozens of flower nurseries. I already knew of Manhattan’s legendary Garment District. I wondered — how many microdistricts could there be in the city?

(thx, david)

Mark Twain’s “new fangled writing machine”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

Mark Twain Typewriter

From the still-excellent Letters of Note, a scan of Mark Twain’s first correspondence typed on the Remington typewriter he bought in 1874. The note, written to his brother, expressed Twain’s hope that the machine would allow him to write more quickly in the near future.

I love that the first line is just a bunch of gibberish — “BJUYT KIOP N LKJHGFDSA:QWERTYUIOP:_-98VX5432QW RT”. Twain (or his two-year-old daughter Susie) likely was just testing out the keys and instead of wasting the paper, started his correspondence below.

In a dictation taken in 1904, Twain recalled seeing and then buying the typewriter.

Nasby and I saw the machine through a window, and went in to look at it. The salesman explained it to us, showed us samples of its work, and said it could do fifty-seven words a minute — a statement which we frankly confessed that we did not believe. So he put his type-girl to work, and we timed her by the watch. She actually did the fifty-seven in sixty seconds. We were partly convinced, but said it probably couldn’t happen again. But it did. We timed the girl over and over again — with the same result always: she won out. She did her work on narrow slips of paper, and we pocketed them as fast as she turned them out, to show as curiosities. The price of the machine was $125. I bought one, and we went away very much excited.

At the hotel we got out our slips and were a little disappointed to find that they all contained the same words. The girl had economized time and labor by using a formula which she knew by heart. However, we argued — safely enough — that the first type-girl must naturally take rank with the first billiard-player: neither of them could be expected to get out of the game any more than a third or a half of what was in it. If the machine survived — if it survived — experts would come to the front, by-and-by, who would double this girl’s output without a doubt. They would do a hundred words a minute — my talking-speed on the platform. That score has long ago been beaten.

Update: In the letter, Twain states he paid $125 for the typewriter, which, according to this inflation calculator, is about $2600 in 2014 dollars, or a couple hundred dollars more than the starting price of the 27-inch 5K iMac. I would love to see the first letter written by Twain on one of those. (via @spsheridan)

Self-healing concrete

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

A group in Wales is testing concrete that can heal itself. Three different techniques are being pursued:

The first technique uses shape-shifting materials, known as shape-memory polymers, to repair large cracks in concrete. When these materials are heated with a small current, they can transform into a different shape that the material has ‘memorised’. The researchers believe that these materials can be embedded into concrete and used to close cracks or make them smaller.

In the second technique, researchers will pump both organic and inorganic healing agents through a network of thin tunnels in the concrete to help repair damage.

In the third technique, the team will embed tiny capsules, or lightweight aggregates, containing both bacteria and healing agents into the concrete. It is anticipated that once cracks occur, these capsules will release their cargos and, in the case of the bacteria, the nutrients that will enable them to function and produce calcium carbonate, which the researchers envisage will heal the cracks in the concrete.

Concrete-patching bacteria. Cool! (via @CharlesCMann)

Update: Dutch microbiologist Hendrik Jonkers has been working on self-healing concrete as well, with products coming to market soon.

(via digg)

Are we thinking about addiction all wrong?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

A group called Kurzgesagt, in collaboration with author Johann Hari, made this video about taking a new approach to understanding addiction. You’ve probably heard of the experiments where rats in cages were given access to drugs. The rats quickly became addicted to them and used them heavily until overdosing. But perhaps the problem is not the drugs but the cage. Later experiments showed that if rats were given plenty of alternate activities, freedom, and room to roam, they were not likely to become heavy drugs users or overdose.

Human studies are more difficult to come by, but it still appears that when available, living life, family, and friends are more addictive than heroin. And so, according to Hari, who wrote a book about all this, what we should be doing is not isolating those who become addicted to drugs, alcohol, and other things. Instead, we should build a society that reconnects people to each other so that the drugs become unnecessary.

In addition to the video and the book, there’s an interactive version of the video as well as an article by Hari on Huffington Post. (via @gavinpurcell)

Book covers in motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2015

From Henning Lederer, a series of 55 vintage book covers gently animated. Lederer previously did an animation of Fritz Kahn’s famous poster, Der Mensch als Industriepalast.

Stop faking food allergies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2015

But for the love of Julia Child and the sake of every other soul in the restaurant, particularly the underpaid line cooks sweating their way through another Saturday night shift, please, please stop describing your food preferences as an allergy.

Neil Swidey on why food allergy fakers need to stop.

A photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2015

Did you know that there’s an alleged photograph of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic? I did not. This is the sonovabitch right here:

Titanic iceberg

The picture was taken the morning of April 15th, 1912, by M. Linoenewald, Chief Steward of the German liner Prinz Adalbert a few miles south of where the Titanic had gone down taking 1,517 souls with her just hours earlier. The news of the disaster hadn’t reached the liner yet, but the Chief Steward noticed red paint on the iceberg and took the photo out of interest.

In a statement by Linoenewald and three other crew members, they said “on one side red paint was plainly visible, which has the appearance of having been made by the scraping of a vessel on the iceberg”.

But a photo of another iceberg with a red gash was taken by the captain of a ship searching for bodies in the vicinity a few weeks later. So maybe this is the bastard:

Titanic iceberg

Anyway, ship-sinker or not, a copy of the first photo recently sold at auction for £21000.

Cassini sippin’ on Enceladus

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2015

Whoa, how have I not heard about this before today: the Cassini spacecraft is going to dive through a jet of water erupting from Enceladus, a Saturnian moon.

Discovering life was not on the agenda when Cassini was designed and launched two decades ago. Its instruments can’t capture microbes or detect life, but in a couple of dozen passes through the plumes of Enceladus, it has detected various molecules associated with life: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, molecular nitrogen, propane, acetylene, formaldehyde and traces of ammonia.

Wednesday’s dive will be the deepest Cassini will make through the plumes, only 30 miles above the icy surface. Scientists are especially interested in measuring the amount of hydrogen gas in the plume, which would tell them how much energy and heat are being generated by chemical reactions in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the moon’s ocean.

That’s pretty crazy…it sounds like science fiction. NASA is doing a wonderful job producing great science with the lean budgets they are given.

Sound designing a life

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2015

The Foley Artist a charming short film on how a Foley artist would sound design a day in an ordinary life. Running hands through spaghetti noodles stands in for hair washing, a spray bottle sounds like rustling sheets, that sort of thing.

See also this fascinating short documentary about what a Foley artist does.

An ode to movie props

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2015

Rishi Kaneria examines the use of props in movies, from the sled in Citizen Kane to the oranges in The Godfather to the cardboard box in Se7en. A transcript is available here.

When used like this props become more than just objects. They become symbols. A symbol that represents a friendship. Or a marriage. Science. Or God.

A prop can be a symbol of reality. Or Illusion. Of the future. Or the past.

And the same prop can symbolize childhood in one film…but death in another. But death can also be symbolized like this. In the Godfather, Coppola associates death with something unexpected: oranges. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s in the foreground of filmmaking. But it’s there if you’re looking for it.

Are cats domesticated?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2015

Some recent science suggests that perhaps cats aren’t as domesticated as some other animals like dogs, sheep, or horses.

It appears that, following the advent of agriculture, wildcats in the Near East and Asia likely began to congregate near farms and grain stores, where mice and rats were abundant. People tolerated the volunteer exterminators, and wildcats became increasingly comfortable with people. Whether this affiliation began five or ten millennia ago, the evidence suggests that cats have not been part of our domestic domain for nearly as long as dogs, which have been our companions for perhaps forty thousand years.

After all, true house cats are only 60-ish years old, dating roughly to the invention of kitty litter.

Or, as one of my favorite short talks (by Kevin Slavin) suggests, perhaps it is humans who have been domesticated by a protozoan parasite that lives within cats, which, when transmitted to humans, makes us want to share funny cat GIFs online.

Interactive bendy map of Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2015

Bendy Map of Manhattan

From Mapzen’s exploration of map projections other than the familiar (and often misleading) Mercator, an Inception-style view of Manhattan (or anywhere you want to point the map to…like Paris or London), inspired by Berg’s Here & There project (which I was a fan of, obviously).

Transforming cities with paper cutouts

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2015

Rich Mccor 01

Rich Mccor 02

Rich McCor’s photography features paper cutouts added to real-life scenes. The Lego Arc de Triomphe made me almost squeal with glee when I saw it this morning. Reminds me of Christoph Niemann’s stuff.

A comparison of movie posters and the scenes that inspired them

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 27, 2015

From Candice Drouet, a short video with side-by-side comparisons of scenes from movies and the movie posters inspired by them.

Saul Bass on his approach to designing movie title sequences

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

In 1977, Herbert Yager interviewed designer and title sequence designer Saul Bass about his approach to designing opening title sequences for films such as North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.

I began as a graphic designer. As part of my work, I created film symbols for ad campaigns. I happened to be working on the symbols for Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones and The Man With The Golden Arm and at some point, Otto and I just looked at each other and said, “Why not make it move?”

It was as simple as that.

I had felt for some time that audience involvement with a film should begin with its first frame.

Until then, titles had tended to be lists of dull credits, mostly ignored, endured, or used as popcorn time.

There seemed to be a real opportunity to use titles in a new way — to actually create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.

No where in that excerpt did Bass or the interviewer reference Bass’ wife and collaborator Elaine Bass, who worked closely with him on almost all of their film projects. In recent years, there’s been a push to recontextualize their working relationship as a partnership. Elaine did start off working as his employee but clearly they worked as true collaborators for much of their careers.

Brilliant visualization of the Pythagorean Theorem

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

Everyone knows that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. What this video presupposes is, fuck yeah math!

Photographs of auto mechanics posed in the style of Renaissance masterpieces

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

Freddy Fabris

Freddy Fabris

From photographer Freddy Fabris, The Renaissance Series, photographs of auto mechanics posed in the style of Renaissance paintings. (via colossal)

View from the Overlook: Crafting ‘The Shining’

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

From 2007, a 30-minute documentary on the making of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Includes interviews with Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, and Sydney Pollack.

The Beatles, live on YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

Did you know The Beatles have a YouTube channel? On which they have only posted three videos in the past year? Do you even know who The Beatles are? I mean, they aren’t on Spotify or any other streaming music service so maybe that won’t be an absurd question soon. After all, current and future generations will have a lot to say about the future popularity of the band and if they don’t hear the music, well…

For now, enjoy a live performance of Revolution from 1968. (Update: I have been informed by music nerds that only the vocals are live on this.)

Puffin Pixels: 8-bit classics

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2015

Robin Hood Puffin Pixels

Perhaps attempting to capitalize on the popularity of Minecraft with young boys, Random Penguin1 has released the Puffin Pixels Series of books. The covers of The Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and four more titles are done in the style of 8-bit video games. The cover illustrations were done by Michael Myers. (via @gavinpurcell)

  1. I know it’s Penguin Random House, but Random Penguin would have been more fun.

The subtle ways in which Pulp Fiction visually inspired Breaking Bad

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2015

There are a few shots in here that are generic to many movies but many others have the feel of definite homage. See also this list of similarities from a couple of years ago.

The moment when Walt spots Jesse’s escaped hostage on the road is very reminiscent of the moment when Butch sees Marcellus. The scene where Walt chooses the weapon to kill someone looks exactly like the scene where Butch wonders what to use as he comes back to rescue Marcellus. In one scene Walt is forced to visit his home and there is a great chance someone is waiting there to kill him. Sounds familiar?

The electronic music map

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2015

Dorothy Electronica Map

From Dorothy, a beautiful print of the history of electronic music mapped onto the circuit board of a theremin, one of the first electronic instruments.

Our Electric Love Blueprint celebrates over 200 inventors, innovators, composers and musicians who (in our opinion) have been pivotal to the evolution of electronic music from the invention of the earliest known sound recording device in 1857 to the present day. Key pioneers featured include Léon Theremin, Bob Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, John Cage, New Order and Aphex Twin.

The very first episode of The Joy of Painting

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2015

The Joy of Painting, hosted by Bob Ross, ran for 11 years on public television for a total of more than 400 episodes. The very first episode ever broadcast was just uploaded to Ross’ YouTube channel.

The Larcenous Curtis Granderson and His Fabulous Metropolitans

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

Mets Allen Ginter

Ahhhh! Dan Barry of The NY Times went all olde tymey in his recap of game four of the NLCS between the Cubs and Mets, sorry, Metropolitans.

The Metropolitans — also known as the “Mets” — sent six safely across the plate before the third inning, mostly as a result of the derring-do of their Bunyanesque first-sacker, Lucas Duda. The mighty Californian smote a home run and a double to tally five of those six runs before the Cubs seemed to comprehend that a game concerning their possible erasure from the 2015 field was well underway.

The ignominious rout of the valiant but overmatched hometown squad turned the deafening cheers of the Chicago multitudes into plaintive keens, for now their agonizing wait for another championship — the last in 1908, during the presidency of the rough-riding Theodore Roosevelt — must continue.

I say! Capital stuff, old chap.

How climate change will affect world economies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

Climate change economics map

A new study from scientists and economists at Stanford and Berkeley has taken a stab at determining how climate change will affect the world’s economic activity. As part of their study, they look at which countries might benefit from climate change and which might lose out. As you might expect, countries in the Northern Hemisphere with cooler climates stand to benefit while the rest of the world will not. Here are some of the projected big winners (the Nordic countries) and losers (the Middle East):

Mongolia +1413%
Finland +516%
Iceland +513%
Russia +419%
Estonia +259%

Saudi Arabia -96%
Kuwait -96%
Oman -94%
United Arab Emirates -94%
Iraq -93%

Canada (+247%) is another one of the potential big winners while the US (-36%) stands to lose out…along with all of Africa, South America, India, and China. This quote by one of the study’s lead authors, really grabbed me by the throat:

What climate change is doing is basically devaluing all the real estate south of the United States and making the whole planet less productive. Climate change is essentially a massive transfer of value from the hot parts of the world to the cooler parts of the world. This is like taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

Among other many things, anthropogenic climate change is an issue of discrimination.1 Rich, predominantly white countries caused the problem and can do the most to limit the damage, but climate change will disproportionately affect poor countries, poor people (even in rich countries), women, and people of color. The rich need to do something about it so that the poor will not suffer. The problem is, the world’s wealthy have a long history of not being incentivized to help anyone but themselves. I hope this will turn out differently…or, as sometimes happens, the desires of the wealthy and the needs of the poor dovetail into action of joint benefit.

  1. In fact, with no offense to those who rightly rail against causes of discrimination around the world, I would go so far to say that this is by far the largest and most important discriminatory issue the world faces today. Climate change will permanently remake the entire world and its economy, and the poor, women, and people of color stand to lose huge.

The Ultimate Beastie Boys Sample Source Collection

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

Some amazing person has collected the full tracks of the songs that were sampled by the Beastie Boys on six of their best-known albums and provided them as a downloadable zip file. That’s 286 tracks, 22 hours of music, and encoded between 256kbps and 320kbps.

Obviously not every sample or drum break can or ever will be identified, but this is about as close as it’s gonna get! With the completion of this eighteen year long ongoing project, I want to personally thank each and every single person out there that has lent insight, shared knowledge, or provided me with any of the tracks that were used to compile this amazing piece of history. It goes without saying that much love, gratitude, and respect is owed to the Beastie Boys for introducing me (and you) to some amazing music via sampling that may otherwise not be heard, let alone acknowledged in this light.

Some of the included tracks:

Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks
Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin’
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Jimi Hendrix - Foxey Lady
Stephen Sondheim - Act I: Company
Peggy Lee - Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

See also Paul’s Boutique Without Paul’s Boutique, where Tim Carmody provides some context behind the Beasties’ sampling:

The remix is fun to listen to, but mostly, it just reminds you that Paul’s Boutique sounds amazing because its sampled sources were amazing. Like De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, released the same year, Paul’s Boutique lifts tracks that would cost a small mint to borrow from today. (Three Feet High has never had an official digital release because the rights holders still can’t sort out the royalties.) The Beatles, The Supremes, The Ramones, Curtis Mayfield, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly, Bernard Hermann, and James Brown (of course) are all there. But mostly, it’s a love letter to old-school New York City hip hop: Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5, The Sugarhill Gang, The Funky 4 +1, and contemporaries like Run-DMC, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy are the glue that holds the whole project together.

Now, if you know Paul’s Boutique well, you can’t hear those older songs any more without hearing Paul’s Boutique. There’s specific moments in those songs that hide there waiting for you to trip over them, like quotations of ancient Greek in an Ezra Pound or TS Eliot poem. Beastie Boys didn’t just find a way to make older music sound new; they found a way to invent their own precursors.

(via @tcarmody)

How dogs get older

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

Amanda Jones

From pet photographer Amanda Jones comes a coffee table book featuring pairs of photographs of dogs, one taken as a puppy and again as an older dog.

Amanda Jones

Amanda Jones

See also The Brown Sisters by Nicholas Nixon and many other time passage photography projects. (via bright side)

Study: quantum entanglement is real

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

The scientists who conducted a study at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands say they have proved that quantum entanglement is a real effect.

The Delft researchers were able to entangle two electrons separated by a distance of 1.3 kilometers, slightly less than a mile, and then share information between them. Physicists use the term “entanglement” to refer to pairs of particles that are generated in such a way that they cannot be described independently. The scientists placed two diamonds on opposite sides of the Delft University campus, 1.3 kilometers apart.

Each diamond contained a tiny trap for single electrons, which have a magnetic property called a “spin.” Pulses of microwave and laser energy are then used to entangle and measure the “spin” of the electrons.

The distance — with detectors set on opposite sides of the campus — ensured that information could not be exchanged by conventional means within the time it takes to do the measurement.

The study, published in Nature, has yet to be verified, but still, exciting!

The Miracle on Google Street View

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

In the New Yorker, Matthew J.X. Malady writes about finding his deceased mother standing outside her house on Google Street View and, more generally, when technology clumsily reminds us of loved ones who are no longer with us.

When I reached my mother’s house, that all changed. First, I noticed that a gigantic American flag had been affixed to the mailbox post at the corner of the driveway. That was new. Then I spotted the fire pit in the front yard that my mom and her husband, my stepfather, used for block parties, and the grill on the patio, and my mom’s car. And then there she was, out front, walking on the path that leads from the driveway to the home’s front door. My mom.

At first I was convinced that it couldn’t be her, that I was just seeing things. When’s the last time you’ve spotted someone you know on Google Maps? I never had. And my mother, besides, is no longer alive. It couldn’t be her.

Facebook in particular has been dinged for inadvertent algorithmic cruelty, but they have recently been making strides in a better direction. (via @tcarmody)

The food deserts of the United States

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2015

Food Deserts

From Nathan Yau at FlowingData, a look at the places in the US where people need to make the longest drives to visit a grocery store.

The nearest grocery store is more than 10 miles away in about 36 percent of the country and the median distance is 7 miles. However, a lot of these areas are rural with few (if any) people who live there.

Wyoming contains very few grocery stores:

Food Deserts

And Nevada is even more of a food desert. Looks like Massachusetts, Delaware, and New Jersey have plenty of grocery stores everywhere. (via feltron)

Coin jar symphony

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2015

Is this for real? 43 people simultaneously tossed coins into jars while standing 15 feet away with only a single miss? Impressive.

If it is fake, how’d they do it? CG? Coins dropped from above each jar? It seems unlikely the broken jar near the beginning of the sequence was done in CG or resulted from a coin falling from above. The coins, jars, and tossing seems real. How about 43 motion-captured green-screened robotic arms accurately tossed the coins and the actors were added in later. Or was it magic?

Michael J. Fox is 54 years old; Christopher Lloyd was 46 in Back to the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2015

Marty Doc age BTTF

If you haven’t heard, today is the day to which Doc, Marty, and Jennifer travel forward in time in Back to the Future II.

Oct 21 2015 BTTF

Because of this and my love of cultural time travel, I thought I’d take the opportunity to point out that Michael J. Fox (aka Marty McFly) is nearly 8 years older now than Christopher Lloyd was when he played Doc Brown when Back to the Future was released in 1985. That’s heavy.

Walking every block in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2015

Matt Green NYC map

Matt Green plans to walk on every single street in NYC. Of an estimated 8-9000 miles of streets, trails, and paths in the city, he has already covered 7000 miles, including what looks like nearly all of Brooklyn.

I am going to walk every block of every public street in all five boroughs of New York City, excluding only the high-speed expressways and parkways that prohibit pedestrian traffic. I will also walk every bridge with pedestrian facilities, as well as many private streets, multi-use greenway paths, pedestrian paths and trails through parks and cemeteries, boardwalks, and accessible stretches of coastline.

It is my understanding that the total length of all the public streets in NYC is somewhere in excess of 6,000 miles. Add the bridges, private streets, paths, and coastline to that, as well as all the blocks I will end up covering more than once, and I expect to have walked more than 8,000 miles before I’m done.

Matt previously walked across the United States and visited every NYC subway station in one go.

William Helmreich is also attempting to walk every block in the city, and he and Green recently met to compare notes.

That video is wonderful, btw…two curious souls fully engaging with their surroundings. If you click on none of the other links in this post, you should at least watch the video. (thx, mike)

Quentin Tarantino’s desired cast list for Pulp Fiction

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2015

Pulp Fiction Cast

Pulp Fiction Cast

Quentin Tarantino is the type of writer/director who writes roles in movies with specific actors in mind. For Pulp Fiction, he wanted Harvey Keitel to play Winston Wolf, Tim Roth to play Pumpkin, and Ving Rhames to play Marcellus Wallace. But he also wanted Michael Madsen to play Vincent (with Travolta as a strong second choice), John Cusack to play Lance, Matt Dillon to play Butch, and Laurence Fishburne to play Jules. Another possibility for Jules was Eddie Murphy, and Tarantino also specified “No Rappers” for that role. Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman weren’t even listed for their respective roles. Gary Oldman, Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Alec Baldwin were considered for several roles but ultimately didn’t appear in the film.

Here’s the full list. (via open culture)

The 50 best non-fiction podcasts

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2015

Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder polled 1600 people to find a list of the 50 best non-fiction podcasts. The list skews nerdy, science, and tech. The top 5 is unsurprising:

1. This American Life
2. Radiolab
3. Serial
4. 99% Invisible
5. WTF with Marc Maron

Focus means saying ‘no’

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2015

In 1997, shortly after Apple’s purchase of NeXT, Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple’s annual developer conference to answer questions from the audience for at least 50 minutes. It was a different time for sure. Apple was reeling, Jobs had just returned as an advisor and then interim CEO, his last company, NeXT, had not succeeded on its own, and the iPod & Apple Stores were years off.

When he arrived at Apple after the NeXT acquisition, Jobs moved swiftly to pare down the number of projects that the company was working on. In this first video, Jobs responds to a question about Apple killing a promising technology called OpenDoc.

Jobs talks about how “focus means saying ‘no’” and how Apple’s loss of focus has made the company less than the sum of its parts and not more. Even at this early stage in Apple’s comeback, you can see the seeds of how it was going to happen.

In the second video, a later questioner tells Jobs “it’s sad and clear that on several accounts you’ve discussed, you don’t know what you’re talking about”, asks him to comment on OpenDoc again, and also tell the audience what “he’s personally been doing for the last seven years”, a reference to his answer to the earlier question in the video above and the failure of NeXT.

Instead of laying into the guy, as a caricature of Steve Jobs might, he responds thoughtfully and almost humbly about how Apple needs to focus on its “larger, cohesive vision” of selling products to people, starting with customer experience rather than technology, and most importantly, making decisions.

Of course, in hindsight, it is obvious how overwhelmingly right Jobs was in his assertions. Since then, Apple has focused relentlessly on what worked and has succeeded brilliantly, beyond anything anyone, save perhaps Jobs, would have ever imagined. I wonder what that cheeky engineer is up to now? (via alphr)

(Also, can we talk about the patches on Jobs’ jeans? That’s not a fashion thing, right? Like, those aren’t $450 jeans made to look worn out. To me, those are obviously Steve’s favorite pair of jeans — probably Levi’s, I can’t tell for sure — patched up because he wants to keep wearing them. No one in technology has been picked apart like Steve Jobs by people looking for clues to who he was as a person and how that informed his business activities.1 Was he an asshole? Was he an artist? Was he just all smoke and mirrors? If we can stoop to the level of assessing a man’s character by the clothes he wears, it seems to me that whatever else he did, Jobs was at once pragmatic and dreamy when it came to products, to objects. What a potent combination that turned out to be.)

Update: The man who takes a swipe at Jobs in the later video was possibly identified on Quora last year by an anonymous person who said they worked on the WWDC event and spoke to the man in question.

The audience member is named Robert Hamisch. Mr. Hamisch was a consultant at a security firm in the 1990’s that did consultant services for Sun Microsystems (their billing and payroll department) for a short period of time. As far as I know, he left the company (the consulting firm, he never worked for Sun directly) and has since retired. He attended the 1997 WWDC sponsored by his security consulting firm, although never had any stake in Sun Microsystems as a whole besides general system security for their billing and payroll department. I don’t know why he specifically asked about Java, but he may have just been frustrated with Jobs and his performance as a whole.

A short web search turned up no information on Hamisch. (thx, charles)

  1. See this whole post as a prime example of this. Lol.

Writing while passive

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2015

In McSweeney’s, Vijith Assar writes about the increasingly pernicious use of the passive voice in the media and how it may have developed, one small step at a time, from:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

to “the ultimate in passive voice”:

Speed was involved in a jumping-related accident while a fox was brown.

What happens to the New Yorkers who die alone?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2015

George Bell

A much tinier number die alone in unwatched struggles. No one collects their bodies. No one mourns the conclusion of a life. They are just a name added to the death tables. In the year 2014, George Bell, age 72, was among those names.

That has changed since the NY Times’ N.R. Kleinfield wrote a piece on the life and death of a random New Yorker: The Lonely Death of George Bell.

The official Star Wars trailer (whatever that means)

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

Trailer: watched. Tickets: bought. Luke Skywalker: still missing.

The unease of impossible idealism and extreme altruism

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar has written a book on people who are wholly devoted to helping others called Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help. At least a few of the books’ subjects were first profiled in the NYer by MacFarquhar, including this amazing story of a couple who adopted 20 children and a Japanese monk confronting his culture’s suicide problem.

David Wolf of The Guardian recently wrote about MacFarquhar and her unique writing style, writing from the perspective of her subjects, like they themselves had written the piece.

MacFarquhar attributes her restlessness with form to getting “productively bored”: “For a profile, I do try to make the piece sound and feel as though it were written by the person themselves, rather than by me. What I’m trying to get at is a sense of intimacy, a sense that you are, insofar as is possible, inside the mind of the person, so that you understand why they’re in love with the ideas they fell in love with, what moves them, what drives them.”

These principles guide most of her stylistic decisions. Anything that diminishes the immediacy of the reader’s access to her subject is thrown out. “People think I’m a total freak for not using the first person,” she says. “The way I think about it is that if you’re making a conventional feature film, all it takes is for the director to walk across the camera just once and you have a completely different relationship to the whole story. For that reason, even though it sometimes means sacrificing great scenes, I take myself out.”

What point of view is that? It’s like a mix of first person and third person. Is one-third person POV a thing?

The Mixtape Volume Nine by The Hood Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

The Hood Internet has released their ninth mixtape. Ninth! The highlight so far as I listen for the first time: Daft Punk’s Around the World mixed with The Weeknd’s Can’t Feel My Face. (via @mathowie)

Update: Downloads and track listing are available on The Hood Internet’s website.

What contact lenses looked like in 1948

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

In 1948, contact lenses were huge hunks of glass that don’t look at all comfortable. And the fittings started with a plaster cast of your eyeball. Ok, probably not plaster but still, ew. (via @FastidiumSum)

A recent Saturday night in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

Astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending a continuous year in space,1 tweeted out a photo by fellow ISS resident Oleg Kononenko of NYC on Saturday night.

NYC Sat Oct 2015

Of the many possibilities, I’d like to point out just three interesting things.

1. Times Square! And not just that, but the whole of central Midtown is now lit up like a Christmas tree from 34th Street to Central Park.

2. The bright spot of light in the upper right corner of the image above is Citi Field. The photo must have been taken during Game 1 of the NLCS between the Mets and the Cubs. The Mets won that game 4-2. #LGM!

3. You’ll notice that the streetlights in much of the city are orange. But in the bottom right corner, in Brooklyn, you can see the future. NYC is currently replacing all of the orange-glowing sodium vapor streetlights with blue-glowing LED lights that are longer lasting and more energy efficient. But they are also brighter and some are already complaining about the harsh blue light.

The new LEDs may be environmentally sensitive, but they are also optically harsh.

“The old lights made everybody look bad,” said Christopher Stoddard, an architect, who lives at the corner of Fuller Place. “But these are so cold and blue, it’s like ‘Night of the Living Dead’ out there.”

“We’re all for saving energy,” his wife, Aida Stoddard, also an architect, said, “but the city can do so much better.”

A few blocks away, Rose Gallitelli taped up black garbage bags on her bedroom windows so that she could sleep. “They’re the heavy-duty kind,” she said.

The lighting refit is scheduled to be completed in two years. The city will look different when it’s done, in real life, on Instagram, and in film. (via @ginatrapani)

Update: Photographer Pari Dukovic has a shot of one of the old sodium vapor street lamps in the New Yorker this week.

  1. Scott also recently broke the American record for the most days spent in space. Today marks his 386th day in space.

Scaling laws and the speed of animals

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2015

Animal Speed Scaling

A recent paper found that the time it takes for an animal to move the length of its own body is largely independent of mass. This appears to hold from tiny bacteria on up to whales — that’s more than 20 orders of magnitude of mass. The paper’s argument as to why this happens relies on scaling laws. Alex Klotz explains.

A well-known example is the Square-Cube Law, dating back to Galileo and described quite well in the Haldane essay, On Being the Right Size. The Square-Cube Law essentially states that if something, be it a chair or a person or whatever, were made twice as tall, twice as wide, and twice as deep, its volume and mass would increase by a factor of eight, but its ability to support that mass, its cross sectional area, would only increase by a factor of four. This means as things get bigger, their own weight becomes more significant compared to their strength (ants can carry 50 times their own weight, squirrels can run up trees, and humans can do pullups).

Another example is terminal velocity: the drag force depends on the cross-sectional area, which (assuming a spherical cow) goes as the square of radius (or the two-thirds power of mass), while the weight depends on the volume, proportional to the cube of radius or the first power of mass. As Haldane graphically puts it

“You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.”

Scaling laws also come into play in determining the limits of the size of animals: The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.

When the Incredible Shrinking Man stops shrinking, he is about an inch tall, down by a factor of about 70 in linear dimensions. Thus, the surface area of his body, through which he loses heat, has decreased by a factor of 70 x 70 or about 5,000 times, but the mass of his body, which generates the heat, has decreased by 70 x 70 x 70 or 350,000 times. He’s clearly going to have a hard time maintaining his body temperature (even though his clothes are now conveniently shrinking with him) unless his metabolic rate increases drastically.

Luckily, his lung area has only decreased by 5,000-fold, so he can get the relatively larger supply of oxygen he needs, but he’s going to have to supply his body with much more fuel; like a shrew, he’ll probably have to eat his own weight daily just to stay alive. He’ll also have to give up sleeping and eat 24 hours a day or risk starving before he wakes up in the morning (unless he can learn the trick used by hummingbirds of lowering their body temperatures while they sleep).

Slaughterhouse 90210 (the book)

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

Slaughterhouse 90210

In 2009, back in the heyday of witty Tumblrs, Maris Kreizman started marrying pop culture imagery with literary quotes on Slaughterhouse 90210. Kreizman has turned her efforts into a book, out last week.

Slaughterhouse 90210 is subversively brilliant, finding the depth in the shallows of reality television, and the levity in Lahiri. A picture of Taylor Swift is paired with Joan Didion’s quote, “Above all, she is the girl who ‘feels things’. The girl ever wounded, ever young.” Tony Soprano tenderly hugs his teenage son, accompanied by a line from Middlemarch about, “The patches of hardness and tenderness [that] lie side by side in men’s dispositions.” The images and quotes complement and deepen one another in surprising, profound, and tender ways.

I am a sucker for the high/low culture thing.

Is the world real? Or are we all just hallucinating?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

Hopes&Fears asked a group of scientists and researchers if reality is actually real or if it’s all an illusion or hallucination.

How do we know this is real life? The short answer is: we don’t. We can never prove that we’re not all hallucinating, or simply living in a computer simulation. But that doesn’t mean that we believe that we are.

There are two aspects to the question. The first is, “How do we know that the stuff we see around us is the real stuff of which the universe is made?” That’s the worry about the holographic principle, for example — maybe the three-dimensional space we seem to live in is actually a projection of some underlying two-dimensional reality.

What makes a Miyazaki film a Miyazaki film?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

Lewis Bond takes a look at the work of master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and what sets him apart from other makers of animated movies, including his work’s realism and empathy.

Watches for graphic designers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

I am not a watch person. Haven’t worn one since high school, no interest in getting an Apple Watch, etc. But this post on We Made This about watches that appeal to graphic designers lists a few watches I would consider wearing. The Braun is a classic, of course:

Design Watches

But this one from Instrmnt is also quite nice, although I would prefer slightly larger numbers:

Design Watches

And for kottke.org superfans only, I would recommend the Timex Weekender.

Design Watches

PS to the superfans: if you don’t like watches, may I interest you in a Vancouver bridge?

The Man Who Designed Manhattan

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

Michael Bierut, How To

Michael Bierut is popping off right now. The School of Visual Arts recently honored him with their Masters Series Award, which includes an exhibition of his work that runs until early November. And he’s also out with a new book with a large title, How to Use Graphic Design to Sell Things, Explain Things, Make Things Look Better, Make People Laugh, Make People Cry, and (Every Once in a While) Change the World.

Update: Bierut’s brief interview in the WSJ is worth a read. I enjoyed his Jack Donaghy-esque take on NYC work fashion:

I always wear a necktie to work. I didn’t claw my way all the way from Ohio just to dress like a farmer.

And his love for Wile E. Coyote:

He had this endless faith and brand loyalty and never thought to try the competition even though Acme products failed him time and time again.

Although in fairness, the deck was stacked against the Coyote (see rule #7). (via @PaulAntonson)

Phones for the people

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2015

From Kevin Slavin and Bunnie Huang on location in Shenzhen, China, a look at what changes when you stop designing phones for companies and start designing them for people. You end up with a variety of phones satisfying different desires, from tiny phones that double as Bluetooth earpieces to phones that look like a race car or a pack of cigarettes or a soda can to phones with built-in lamps.

Diverse Phones

Diverse Phones

Diverse Phones

A spin around the internet reveals many more examples of these kinds of phones: flashlight phones, lighter phones, phones with up to 4 SIM slots, super-rugged phones w/ walkie talkie capability, credit card-sized phones, watch phones, and USB key phones. (via @triciawang)

PhotoMath iOS app can do your homework for you

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2015

PhotoMath

Some iOS apps still seem like magic. Case in point: PhotoMath. Here’s how it works. You point your camera at a math problem and PhotoMath shows the answer. It’ll even give you a step-by-step explanation and solution.

Real-time facial expression reenactment

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2015

From a paper presented at SIGGRAPH Asia by a group from Stanford, a system for tracking the facial expressions from one person and putting them on the face of a second person in real-time. This is crazy. (via @gavinpurcell)

New language for slavery and the Civil War

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2015

Drawing upon the work of colleagues, historian Michael Todd Landis proposes new language for talking about slavery and the Civil War. In addition to favoring “labor camps” over the more romantic “plantations”, he suggests retiring the concept of the Union vs the Confederacy.

Specifically, let us drop the word “Union” when describing the United States side of the conflagration, as in “Union troops” versus “Confederate troops.” Instead of “Union,” we should say “United States.” By employing “Union” instead of “United States,” we are indirectly supporting the Confederate view of secession wherein the nation of the United States collapsed, having been built on a “sandy foundation” (according to rebel Vice President Alexander Stephens). In reality, however, the United States never ceased to exist. The Constitution continued to operate normally; elections were held; Congress, the presidency, and the courts functioned; diplomacy was conducted; taxes were collected; crimes were punished; etc. Yes, there was a massive, murderous rebellion in at least a dozen states, but that did not mean that the United States disappeared.

Why are parents called “mama” and “papa” worldwide?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2015

In seemingly disparate languages around the world, the words for “mother” and “father” are surprisingly similar…usually “mama” or “nana” for “mother” and “papa”, “baba”, “dada”, or “tata” for “father”. It’s tempting to believe these parental words were all derived from a single proto-language, but according to the work of Roman Jakobson, the words come from the first sounds all babies make.

If you’re a baby making a random sound, the easiest vowel is ah because you can make it without doing anything with your tongue or lips. Then, if you are going to vary things at all, the first impulse is to break up the stream of ahhh by closing your lips for a spell, especially since you’ve been doing that to nurse. Hence, mmmm, such that you get a string of mahs as you keep the sound going while breaking it up at intervals.

(via df)

Super recognizers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2015

Gary Collins, a London police constable, is extraordinarily gifted at recalling people’s faces. He’s a super recognizer.

Friends call Constable Collins Rain Man or Yoda or simply The Oracle. But to Scotland Yard, London’s metropolitan police force, he is known as a “super recognizer.” He has a special gift of facial recall powers that enables him to match even low-quality and partial imagery to a face he has seen before, on the street or in a database and possibly years earlier. The last time he had come face to face with Mr. Prince was during a fleeting encounter in 2005.

Aside from Collins, Scotland Yard now employs more than 150 super recognizers who scan the streets and crowds for known criminals.

The most mysterious star in the Milky Way

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2015

Astronomers are interested in the goings-on around a star in our galaxy called KIC 8462852. There appears to be a lot of debris around it, which is a bit unusual and might have any number of causes, including that an extraterrestrial intelligence built all sorts of things around the star.

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.

“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

Boyajian is now working with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The three of them are writing up a proposal. They want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.

Phil Plait has more context on this weirdo star and how the alien angle is pretty far-fetched but also worth checking out.

8-bit Mad Max: Fury Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2015

With its straightforward plot and action sequences, Mad Max: Fury Road would make a pretty good 8-bit video game. (via devour)

Danny Meyer: no more tipping at my restaurants

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2015

Eater has the scoop: Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group is eliminating tipping at all of their full-service restaurants.

Big news out of Manhattan: Dining out is about to get turned on its head. Union Square Hospitality Group, the force behind some of New York’s most important restaurants, will announce today that starting in November, it will roll out an across-the-board elimination of tips at every one of its thirteen full-service venues, hand in hand with an across-the-board increase in prices.

Why are they doing this? In part because cooks get the shaft at restaurants:

Under the current gratuity system, not everyone at a restaurant is getting a fair shake. Waiters at full-service New York restaurants can expect a full 20 percent tip on most checks, for a yearly income of $40,000 or more on average — some of the city’s top servers easily clear $100,000 annually. But the problem isn’t what waiters make, it’s what cooks make. A mid-level line cook, even in a high-end kitchen, doesn’t have generous patrons padding her paycheck, and as such is, on average, unlikely to make much more than $35,000 a year.

I hope this catches on.

Computer Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2015

From Adam Lisagor’s Sandwich Video comes Computer Show, a present-day send-up of a personal computing show set in 1983. The guests and their products are contemporary and real, but the hosts are stuck in 1983 and don’t really know what the web is, what Reddit is, what links are, or anything like that.

“Computer Show” is a technology talk show, set in 1983. The dawn of the personal computing revolution. Awkward hair and awkward suits. Primitive synths and crude graphics. VHS tapes. No Internet. But there’s a twist.

The guests on this show are tech luminaries — experts, founders, thinkers, entrepreneurs…from 2015. They are real, and they are really on “Computer Show” to talk about their thing. Will it go well? Can they break through to the host Gary Fabert (played by Rob Baedeker of the SF-based sketch mainstay Kasper Hauser) and his rotating cast of co-hosts, who know of neither iPhone nor website nor Twitter nor…hardly anything?

The first episode, featuring Lumi, is embedded above and here’s the second episode with Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.

Hopefully they’ll get to make more.

Update: In an interview with Inc., Lisagor shares how Computer Show came about.

So it just became clear to Roxana and Tony, there was something here. Roxana had the idea to make something in this universe. To produce a show like “The Computer Chronicles”.

One day, over Slack, Roxana asked me for the contact info of a producer I know. When I asked why, she told me she had this idea, and also asked if I’d maybe be a contributor on it. When I got more info out of her (she tends to be a little private about her personal projects) and explained to me that she had this idea of a tech talk show set in the early 80’s, where the guests would interview people from modern day, I just about flipped out and lost my mind I was so excited.

Update: While we not-so-patiently await new episodes of Computer Show, at least we can buy the t-shirt.

The man who digitizes newspapers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2015

For more than a decade, retired engineer Tom Tryniski has been digitizing old newspapers from microfilm and making their full text available and searchable online.

Tryniski’s site, which he created in his living room in upstate New York, has grown into one of the largest historic newspaper databases in the world, with 22 million newspaper pages. By contrast, the Library of Congress’ historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has 5 million newspaper pages on its site while costing taxpayers about $3 per page. In January, visitors to Fultonhistory.com accessed just over 6 million pages while Chronicling America pulled fewer than 3 million views.

(via @ftrain)

50 unknown facts about Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2015

50 unknown facts about Star Wars, many gleaned from How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. I’ve heard some of these before, but not many…the list doesn’t include low-hanging fruit like Harrison Ford’s carpentry.

Favorite facts: 1. Early on, Luke Skywalker’s nickname was “Wormy”. Wormy! 2. The actor who portrayed Vader, David Prowse, spoke his dialogue on set not knowing he would be dubbed over. Because of his West Country accent, the other cast members referred to Prowse as Darth Farmer.

Speaking of Harrison Ford’s carpentry, the new biography of Joan Didion has a good story about that time Didion and her husband John Dunne hired Ford to do some construction for them.

Off and on, for over six month, the Dunnes engaged a construction crew to expand the waterside deck, install waxed pine bookshelves, and lay terra-cotta floor tiles. The men tore out prefabricated plywood walls and pulled up “icky green” flooring. Harrison Ford headed the crew. “They were the most sophisticated people I knew,” Ford said. “I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw before cocktails.”

In Vegas, Dunne wrote, “[W]hat had started as a two-month job … [stretched] into its sixth month and the construction account was four thousand dollars overdrawn… I fired the contractor. ‘Jesus, man, I understand,’ he said. He was an out-of-work actor and his crew sniffed a lot of cocaine and when he left he unexpectedly gave me a soul-brother handshake, grabbing my thumb while I was left with an unimportant part of his little finger.” The next day, Dunne realized the only thing separating him and his family from the Pacific Ocean was a clear sheet of Pliofilm where the French doors were supposed to go. “I rehired the contractor,” he wrote. “‘Jesus, man, I understand,’ the contractor said.”

Much later, when Didion’s daughter was ill, Ford did the family a further service.

The following day, Didion flew from Teterboro to Los Angeles on Harrison Ford’s private plane, along with her friend Earl McGrath. Ford “happened to be in New York and heard about Q’s condition … and called to offer to take Joan,” said Sean Michael. “I find that to be a beautiful thing,” he said. “A man you hire to build cabinets, thirty years later is flying you in his private jet to your daughter’s hospital bedside.”

Jesus, man, I understand.

Update: Some of Ford’s comments from the book were taken from Carolyn Kellogg’s reporting on an awards festival.

As if to make up for her absence, a parade of stars was in attendance. Harrison Ford, who was prepared to present her the award, spoke somewhat extemporaneously instead. “I just want to tell you all how much her friendship has meant to me,” he said. Forty years ago, Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were “The most sophisticated people I knew.”

Then a carpenter, Ford was hired by Didion and Dunne to build their beach house in Malibu. “I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw” — he paused — “before cocktails.”

New York Historical Society’s Silicon City exhibit

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2015

Early NYC Computing

The Silicon City exhibit at the New York Historical Society takes a look at the long history of computing in NYC.

Every 15 minutes, for nearly a year, 500 men, women, and children rose majestically into “the egg,” Eero Saarinen’s idiosyncratic theater at the 1964 World’s Fair. It was very likely their first introduction to computer logic. Computing was not new. But for the general public, IBM’s iconic pavilion was a high profile coming out party, and Silicon City will harness it to introduce New York’s role in helping midwife the digital age.

The exhibit opens on November 13, 2015 and runs through next April. The museum is using Kickstarter to help bring the Telstar satellite back to NYC for the exhibit.

Christopher Columbus is not worth celebrating

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2015

Columbus Day is to Native Americans as Uber Day would be to taxi dispatchers. Many schools and other institutions are off today. Vox celebrates with a rundown of nine reasons Christopher Columbus was a murderer, tyrant, and scoundrel.

Population figures from 500 years ago are necessarily imprecise, but Bergreen estimates that there were about 300,000 inhabitants of Hispaniola in 1492. Between 1494 and 1496, 100,000 died, half due to mass suicide. In 1508, the population was down to 60,000. By 1548, it was estimated to be only 500.

Understandably, some natives fled to the mountains to avoid the Spanish troops, only to have dogs set upon them by Columbus’s men.

The Oatmeal was less flattering.

Update: Here’s chapter one of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, the first part of which concerns Columbus. (via @mathowie)

Mo’ money, mo’ happiness

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2015

Four years into a twenty-year study of the mental conditions of kids living in rural North Carolina, a quarter of the participants experienced a dramatic increase in annual income. The researchers used this opportunity to find out how that increase in wealth affected the wellbeing of the kids. What they learned is that even a little money goes a long way.

Not only did the extra income appear to lower the instance of behavioral and emotional disorders among the children, but, perhaps even more important, it also boosted two key personality traits that tend to go hand in hand with long-term positive life outcomes.

The first is conscientiousness. People who lack it tend to lie, break rules and have trouble paying attention. The second is agreeableness, which leads to a comfort around people and aptness for teamwork. And both are strongly correlated with various forms of later life success and happiness.

The Steal Like An Artist Journal

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Kleon Artist Steal Journal

Austin Kleon, whose bestselling books you may have seen in airport bookstores (as well as regular bookstores), is out with a new one: The Steal Like An Artist Journal. The subtitle is A Notebook for Creative Kleptomaniacs, which, aren’t we all? Kleon writes:

For years, people have asked me what kind of notebook I recommend, so I went ahead and made the notebook I always wished existed. Based on my New York Times best-selling book, The Steal Like An Artist Journal will help get your creative juices flowing and record new (and stolen) ideas, thoughts, and discoveries. Think of it as a daily course in creativity: a portable workshop and coursebook, jammed full of inspiration, prompts, quotes, and exercises designed to turn you into a creative kleptomaniac.

Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Jacob Burak in Aeon: “Michelangelo and Raphael; Leibniz and Newton; Constable and Turner. Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Turner and Constable are not alone in the pantheon of epic rivalries between creative giants. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, two of the most brilliant mathematicians and thinkers of the 17th century, laid claim to the development of calculus, the mathematical study of change. Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla both invented electrical systems in the 1880s. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates went head-to-head as pioneers of the computer age. If you Google almost any famous figure along with ‘rivalry’, you’ll find some interesting results.

The Good Dinosaur: “A Stunning Masterpiece”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Charlie Jane Anders of io9 has a great preview of Pixar’s upcoming film, The Good Dinosaur, including some juicy details on how the film was made. Because the film uses many big landscape shots, which would have been impossible to render in a timely fashion using their usual processes, the filmmakers needed to come up with another solution. They ended up using real topographical data and satellite images to render the landscapes.

Enter the U.S. Geographical Survey, which posts incredible amounts of topographical data to its website-including the height above sea level of all of the land features, and lots of satellite images. So Munier and his team tried downloading a lot of the USGS data and putting it into their computer, and then using that to “render” the real-life landscape. And it worked: They were able to take a classic Ansel Adams photograph of the Grand Tetons and duplicate it pretty closely using their computer-generated landscape. And with this data, they could point a digital “camera” anywhere, in a 360-degree rotation, and get an image.

Hail, Caesar!

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Hail, Caesar! is the name of the Coen brothers’ new movie. It stars George Clooney as a movie star (what casting!) who is kidnapped during the shooting of a epic Roman gladiator picture called Hail, Caesar! This one looks fun. And with the exception of The Big Lebowski, the Coen’s fun movies are underrated,…I quite enjoyed both Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading.

Slack, Basecamp, and simplicity as a design goal

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Jason Fried wrote a preview of what’s coming in Basecamp 3. Jim Ray noted on Twitter that “Basecamp vs. Slack will be interesting”. And suddenly I remembered that back in 2002, Jason, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and I hosted a “peer meeting” on Simplicity in Web Design at SXSW.1 The meeting’s description:

As the Web continues to increase in complexity, many designers are looking to simplicity as a tool in designing Web sites that are at once powerful and easy for people to use. Join your peers and colleagues in a discussion facilitated by three working designers who are committed to producing work which is simple: obvious, elegant, economical, efficient, powerful and attractive. We’ll be discussing what simplicity in Web design really means, the difference between Minimalism as an aesthetic and simplicity as a design goal, who is and who isn’t simple, how you can use simplicity to your advantage, and plenty more.

It’s fun to see those two going at it more than 13 years later, still focused on harnessing the power of simplicity to help people get their best work done. (I don’t know what the other guy’s deal is. He’s doing…. something, I guess.)

  1. This was also the year I got food poisoning the first night of the conference, basically didn’t eat anything for 5 days, and lost 10 pounds. Either Stewart or Jason suggested running to a bakery to get cookies for everyone at the meeting, and a little nibble one of those chocolate chip cookies was one of the few things I had to eat in Austin that year.

We have passed Peak Fish

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2015

Bloch Fish

I noted the other day that since the early 1980s, the world has lost about half of its coral reefs. According to a recent study, there’s more to worry about in the sea: the ocean contains half the fish it did 45 years ago.

Professor McIntyre and his contemporaries believed that overfishing was inherently self-correcting. People might catch too much, but then they would stop fishing, letting the stock recover. They did not reckon on improvements in technology such as a monofilament line, factory trawlers, or fish finders that make it possible to catch so many fish so quickly that it can take decades for a stock to recover (if it ever does). Nor did he or his contemporaries understand food webs and ecological connections; reducing stocks of some species has more of an impact than others.

Update: Here’s a PDF copy of the actual report by the WWF. (via @RachelAronson)

Paying the stereotype tax

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

I love this piece from NPR about how poker player Annie Duke uses her male opponents’ stereotypical views of women against them.

I figured it was part of the game that if somebody was at the table who was so emotionally invested in the fact that I was a woman, that they could treat me that way, that probably, that person wasn’t going to make good decisions at the table against me. So I really tried to sort of separate that out and think about it from a strategic place of, how can I come up with the best strategy to take their money because I guess, in the end, isn’t that the best revenge?

She noticed there were three types of chauvinist players and approached each with a different strategy.

VEDANTAM: She says she divided the men who had stereotypes about her into three categories.

DUKE: One was the flirting chauvinists, and that person was really viewing me in a way that was sexual.

VEDANTAM: With the guys who were like that, Annie could make nice.

DUKE: I never did go out on a date with any of them, but you know, it was kind of flirtatious at the table. And I could use that to my advantage.

VEDANTAM: And then there was the disrespecting chauvinist. Annie says these players thought women weren’t creative.

DUKE: There are strategies that you can use against them. Mainly, you can bluff those people a lot.

VEDANTAM: And then there’s a third kind of guy, perhaps the most reckless.

DUKE: The angry chauvinist.

VEDANTAM: This is a guy who would do anything to avoid being beaten by a woman. Annie says you can’t bluff an angry chauvinist. You just have to wait.

DUKE: What I say is, until they would impale themselves on your chips.

I got this link from Andy Baio, who also linked to the video of the specific match referenced in the NPR piece and noted “Phil Hellmuth attributes all of Annie’s wins to luck, all of his own to skill”.

Climate change and boiling frogs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

I made a boiling frogs analogy in my post about coral bleaching this morning.

The oceans are slowly boiling and we’re the frogs who aren’t noticing.

James Fallows has been waging a small war on the use of that analogy for several years now.

You remember our old friend the boiled frog: It’s the staple of any political or business-management speech, used to show that problems that build up slowly can be explained-away or ignored, while ones that happen all of a sudden are more likely to be addressed.

Conservatives use it to talk about the expansion of the socialist state. Liberals use it to talk about climate change. Business managers use it to talk about a slide toward mediocrity. Everyone can use it to talk about something.

And that’s the problem with boiled-frogism. The minor issue is that the metaphor is flat wrong. If you put a frog in a pot of lukewarm water and gradually heat it up, the frog will stay there — until things get uncomfortably warm, at which point it will climb out. But if you drop a frog into a boil of already-boiling water, the poor creature will be so badly hurt and scalded that it will stay there and die.

I’m going to defend my usage just a little. The ocean is literally water that is getting warmer. But other than that, yeah, guilty as charged. (via @jpiz)

The Light L16 camera

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

The Light L16 camera looks interesting, both literally and figuratively. The L16 comes with 16 different built-in lenses, many of which fire at the same time, creating a super high-quality image at a 52-megapixel resolution.1 Having all those lenses firing at once lets you snap photos and decide on things like focal length and depth of field later.

Using a new approach to folded optics design, the Light L16 Camera packs DSLR quality into a slim and streamlined camera body. It’s like having a camera body, zoom, and 3 fast prime lenses right in your pocket. With 16 individual cameras, 10 of them firing simultaneously, the L16 captures the detail of your shot at multiple fixed focal lengths. Then the images are computationally fused to create an incredible high-quality final image with up to 52 megapixel resolution.

Would love to try this out if anyone from Light is reading.

  1. It shoots 4K video too, at 35mm, 70mm, and 150mm.

The placebo effect grows stronger

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

It’s getting more difficult for new painkilling drugs to be approved because the rate of effectiveness vs. placebos in drug tests is falling. But oddly, the drop is only being seen in the US.

Based on patients’ ratings of their pain, the effect of trialled drugs in relieving symptoms stayed the same over the 23-year period — but placebo responses rose. In 1996, patients in clinical trials reported that drugs relieved their pain by 27% more than did a placebo. But by 2013, that gap had slipped to just 9%. The phenomenon is driven by 35 US trials; among trials in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, there was no significant change in placebo responses. The analysis is in press in the journal Pain.

(via @tomstandage)

Major global coral bleaching event underway

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2015

Bleached Coral

A persistent underwater heatwave is causing corals worldwide to bleach, and scientists believe up to 5% of the world’s coral will die permanently.

Hoegh-Guldberg said he had personally observed the first signs of bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the past fortnight, months before the warm season begins. He said the warming pattern indicated bleaching this summer would likely affect 50% of the reef, leaving 5-10% of corals dead. Eakin said seeing bleaching on the reef at this time of year was “disturbing”.

Also, no matter how many times I read this, it never gets less scary:

Since the early 1980s the world has lost roughly half of its coral reefs.

The oceans are slowly boiling and we’re the frogs who aren’t noticing. (via @EricHolthaus)

The Warmth of Other Suns

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2015

Warmth Suns Cover

I read a lot of books by and about white men, many of them dead. So when a friend enthusiastically recommended The Warmth of Other Suns, I jumped at the chance to expand my reading horizons. I’m so glad I did…this is an amazing book.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns is about the Great Migration, the mass movement of African Americans from the Southern US to the Northeast, Midwest, and West between 1910 and 1970. During that time, roughly 6 million African Americans moved north and west to escape Jim Crow laws, discrimination, low wages, the threat of physical violence & death, and everyday humiliation & lack of freedom in the South. In the North, they found freedom, new opportunities, and better lives for their families, but they had less success escaping poverty, racism, and discrimination.

Wilkerson tells the story of the entire Migration by focusing on the paths of three people leaving the South:

Warmth Suns

Ida Mae Gladney, a Mississippi sharecropper pictured above with flowers in her hair, moved to Chicago with her family in 1937 and lived to cast a vote for Barack Obama.

Warmth Suns

George Starling, pictured above on the left, worked in the citrus groves of Florida before leaving for New York in 1945. He found a job as a baggage handler (and unofficial welcoming committee member) on a train, working the north/south lines that ferried millions of black Southerners to their new homes in the North.

Warmth Suns

Robert Foster, the gentleman above in the bow tie, became a surgeon and moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles in 1953. There, he rose to the upper ranks of black society and became personal physician to Ray Charles. Foster left the South so thoroughly behind that his daughter didn’t know many of the details of his Louisiana childhood until she read it in Wilkerson’s book.

Through her compelling straight-forward prose, wonderful storytelling, and diligent journalism, Wilkerson more than convinces me that the Great Migration is the greatest untold, misunderstood, and largely unknown occurrence of the American 20th century. I don’t say this often, but The Warmth of Other Suns is a must-read, particularly if you want to begin to understand the racial issues still confronting the US today.

This is what it looks like to land on Mars

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2015

When the Curiosity rover landed on the surface of Mars, it took high-resolution photos all the way down. Luke Fitch took those photos and stitched them together into a first-person HD video of the rover’s landing.

Update: I was wondering if someone had done a stabilized version of this video and lo:

(via @willhains)

When I’m Gone

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2015

In this story by Rafael Zoehler, a father who dies at 27 wrote his son a series of letters to be opened at several of life’s milestones, including WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR FIRST KISS, WHEN YOU BECOME A FATHER, and WHEN YOUR MOTHER IS GONE. This letter was entitled “WHEN I’M GONE”:

Son,

If you’re reading this, I’m dead. I’m sorry. I knew I was going to die.

I didn’t want to tell you what was going to happen, I didn’t want to see you crying. Well, it looks like I’ve made it. I think that a man who’s about to die has the right to act a little bit selfish.

Well, as you can see, I still have a lot to teach you. After all, you don’t know crap about anything. So I wrote these letters for you. You must not open them before the right moment, OK? This is our deal.

I love you. Take care of your mom. You’re the man of the house now.

Love, dad.

PS: I didn’t write letters to your mom. She’s got my car.

(via @Atul_Gawande)

Kubrick: more like music than like fiction

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2015

How many videos can we watch about the films of Stanley Kubrick? If you’re anything like me, the answer is never enough. This montage hinting at connections between his films is particularly well done.

Hell’s Club, a place where all fictional characters meet

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2015

Mashups are so ubiquitous and overdone that the bar for actually watching one is pretty high. But this one, no joke, might be the best visual movie mashup I’ve ever seen. Hell’s Club is a tour de force of film editing, seamlessly combining scenes from dozens of different films — Austin Powers, Cocktail, Star Wars, Terminator, Staying Alive, Boogie Nights — into one cohesive scene. Give it 30 seconds and you’ll watch the whole thing.

Update: The sequel is just as tight. Amazing what a little color can do to trick the brain.

And here’s an interview with the creator.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2015

That is the question that physicist Lawrence Krauss answers in his book, A Universe from Nothing. The book’s trailer provides a little more context.

Everything we see is just a 1% bit of cosmic pollution in a Universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy. You could get rid of all the things in the night sky — the stars, the galaxies, the planets, everything — and the Universe would be largely the same.

And my favorite line from the trailer:

Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.

(via open culture)

Yale launches an archive of 170,000 Depression-era photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2015

Migrant Woman

Yale has made 170,000 Library of Congress photos of the US from 1935 to 1945 available online, searchable and sortable in many different ways.

In order to build support for and justify government programs, the Historical Section set out to document America, often at her most vulnerable, and the successful administration of relief service. The Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) produced some of the most iconic images of the Great Depression and World War II and included photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein who shaped the visual culture of the era both in its moment and in American memory. Unit photographers were sent across the country. The negatives were sent to Washington, DC. The growing collection came to be known as “The File.” With the United State’s entry into WWII, the unit moved into the Office of War Information and the collection became known as the FSA-OWI File.

Naming names of shooters

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2015

Josh Marshall argues provocatively and persuasively that news media, law enforcement, and everyone else should name the offenders in these mass shootings, in part because the refusal has become an empty sort of action that people can take to “help”.

It is a grand evasion because we need to make ourselves feel better by finding a way to think we are doing ‘something’ even though we’re unwilling to do anything that actually matters. Except for those immediately affected or those in the tightly defined communities affected we also shouldn’t give ourselves the solace of watching teary-eyed memorials or all the rest. Again, as a society we’ve made our decision. I would go so far as to say that it’s good for us to know Mercer’s name since we are in fact his accomplices. It’s good that we know each other.

Withholding knowledge is not the way forward.

Update: From the NY Times back in August, Zeynep Tufekci writes: The Virginia Shooter Wanted Fame. Let’s Not Give It to Him.

This doesn’t mean censoring the news or not reporting important events of obvious news value. It means not providing the killers with the infamy they seek. It means somber, instead of lurid and graphic, coverage, and a focus on victims. It means not putting the killer’s face on loop. It means minimizing or not using the killers’ names, as I have done here. It means not airing snuff films, or making them easily accessible on popular sites. It means holding back reporting of details such as the type of gun, ammunition, angle of attack and the protective gear the killer might have worn. Such detailed reporting can give the next killer a concrete road map.

(via @riondotnu)

Update: Read all the way to the bottom of this Mother Jones article for ways that they have changed how they report on mass shootings.

Report on the perpetrator forensically and with dispassionate language. Avoid terms like “lone wolf” and “school shooter,” which may carry cachet with young men aspiring to attack. Instead use “perpetrator,” “act of lone terrorism,” and “act of mass murder.”

Strike a pose

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2015

This photo of five Secret Service agents bracing themselves against helicopter prop wash is my favorite photo of the week.

Secret Service

It’s like they’re each individually posing for their own super-boss album cover. Larger here.

The decline of Big Soda

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2015

Sales of “full-calorie” soda in the US has decreased by more than 25% in the past 20 years.

The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade and is responsible for a substantial reduction in the number of daily calories consumed by the average American child. From 2004 to 2012, children consumed 79 fewer sugar-sweetened beverage calories a day, according to a large government survey, representing a 4 percent cut in calories over all. As total calorie intake has declined, obesity rates among school-age children appear to have leveled off.

I’ve been a dedicated soda drinker1 since at least high school. But this summer, I started cutting back. The big reason is that my kids are getting old enough to read labels and wonder why I’m consuming so much sugar, the little blighters. “All that sugar is not good for you, right Daddy?” they would say. And they’re completely right of course and I couldn’t argue with them on that point, so I’ve been drinking a lot less of the stuff. I haven’t cut it completely out of my diet but I treat it more or less like every other food or beverage I consume: everything in moderation.

  1. Pepsi, not Coke. And back in Wisconsin, we called it “pop”.

Vertical panoramas of churches

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2015

Richard Silver Churches

Richard Silver Churches

From photographer Richard Silver, vertical panoramic photos of churches that emphasize their often incredible ceilings. (via ignant)

Histography, an interactive timeline of all history

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2015

Histography

Whoa, Histography is a super-cool interactive timeline of historical events pulled from Wikipedia, from the Big Bang to the present day. The site was built by Matan Stauber as his final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. This is really fun to play with and I love the style.

The Life-Changing Magic of Losing Shit

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2015

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up encourages you to examine all of your possessions one by one, ask if they “spark joy”, and if they don’t, get rid of them. Christina Xu recently lost her backpack with some of her most-used and valuable possessions and came away from the experience with a different spin on the KonMari method.

Involuntarily losing shit is the ultimate version of the KonMari method. It brutally takes things away at random and makes you fight to get them back so that you remember and reaffirm the value of each one.

This will henceforth be known as the XuHulk method.

On the declining ebook reading experience

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 01, 2015

When reports came out last month about declining ebook sales, many reasons were offered up, from higher pricing to the resurgence of bookstores to more efficient distribution of paper books to increased competition from TV’s continued renaissance, Facebook, Snapchat, and an embarrassment of #longread riches. What I didn’t hear a whole lot about was how the experience of reading ebooks and paper books compared, particularly in regard to the Kindle’s frustrating reading experience not living up to its promise. What if people are reading fewer ebooks because the user experience of ebook reading isn’t great?

Luckily, Craig Mod has stepped into this gap with a piece asking why digital books have stopped evolving. As Mod notes, paper books still beat out digital ones in many ways and the industry (i.e. Amazon) hasn’t made much progress in addressing them.

The object — a dense, felled tree, wrapped in royal blue cloth — requires two hands to hold. The inner volume swooshes from its slipcase. And then the thing opens like some blessed walking path into intricate endpages, heavystock half-titles, and multi-page die-cuts, shepherding you towards the table of contents. Behbehani utilitises all the qualities of print to create a procession. By the time you arrive at chapter one, you are entranced.

Contrast this with opening a Kindle book — there is no procession, and often no cover. You are sometimes thrown into the first chapter, sometimes into the middle of the front matter. Wherein every step of opening The Conference of the Birds fills one with delight — delight at what one is seeing and what one anticipates to come — opening a Kindle book frustrates. Often, you have to swipe or tap back a dozen pages to be sure you haven’t missed anything.

The Kindle is a book reading machine, but it’s also a portable book store. 1 Which is of great benefit to Amazon but also of some small benefit to readers…if I want to read, say, To Kill A Mockingbird right now, the Kindle would have it to me in less than a minute. But what if, instead, the Kindle was more of a book club than a store? Or a reading buddy? I bet something like that done well would encourage reading even more than instantaneous book delivery.

To me, Amazon seems exactly the wrong sort of company to make an ebook reader 2 with a really great reading experience. They don’t have the right culture and they don’t have the design-oriented mindset. They’re a low-margin business focused on products and customers, not books and readers. There’s no one with any real influence at Amazon who is passionately advocating for the reader. Amazon is leaving an incredible opportunity on the table here, which is a real bummer for the millions of people who don’t think of themselves as customers and turn to books for delight, escape, enrichment, transformation, and many other things. No wonder they’re turning back to paper books, which have a 500-year track record for providing such experiences.

PS. Make sure you read Mod’s whole piece…you don’t want to miss the bit about future MacArthur Genius Bret Victor’s magic bookshelf. <3

  1. And it’s a weird sort of store where you don’t really own what you buy…it’s really more of a long-term lease. Which would be fine…except that Amazon doesn’t call it that.

  2. And I still want an ereader that’s great for more than just books. Which is now the iPad/iPhone I guess?

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