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A visual history of lunchboxes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2017

Lunchboxes 01

Lunchboxes 02

Lunchboxes 03

I have rarely clicked on a link as quickly as this one for A Visual History of Lunchboxes. For Design Observer, John Foster looked through the National Museum of American History’s online collection of lunchboxes and pulled out some gems.

My childhood lunchboxes didn’t make either collection’s cut. In grade school, I carried this Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox before switching to a red plastic Return of the Jedi lunchbox for the first couple years of middle school.

This haggard-looking eagle is a metaphor for American democracy right now

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2017

Haggard Eagle

This eagle represents how many of us feel about the repeated attempts on the freedom and well-being of American citizens by the majority Republican Congress and the current Presidential administration: victimized but still resolute and proud. We feel you, eagle…it seems as though it’s already been years since January 20.

This photo was taken by Klaus Nigge on Amaknak Island in Alaska and has put Nigge in the running for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. (via in focus)

An appreciation of Norm MacDonald’s comedy

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2017

In a new video, Evan Puschak explores the comedy of Norm MacDonald. Even if you don’t care for MacDonald’s work, you may come away from this with more respect for his comedy and craft. Me? I can’t even tell if MacDonald is funny anymore…I hear that deadpan-but-smiling voice and I just start to laugh in a purely Pavlovian way.

How to Talk Minnesotan: The Power of the Negative

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2017

In the Upper Midwest, particularly in Minnesota and the northern part of Wisconsin (where I’m originally from), there’s a tendency to never say exactly what you’re thinking. Which, dontcha know, can lead to some misunderstandings when communicating with people who didn’t grow up in the area. This short video, taken from a longer documentary on How to Talk Minnesotan, demonstrates how a Minnesotan speaker uses negative words (e.g. bad, not, can’t, worse) to express positive feelings. For example, a translation of the phrase “I’m so excited, I can’t believe it!!” into Minnesotan yields:

A guy could almost be happy today if he wasn’t careful.

Radiohead: Lift

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2017

What’s that? You want to see Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke riding in an elevator accompanied by a revolving cast of odd people getting on and off at even stranger floors of an apartment building? Ok, here you go. The song is fan-favorite Lift, which was first recorded in the late 90s but not officially released until this year on OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017. The video contains a few Easter eggs for hardcode fans, including some cameos:

Perhaps some of Radiohead’s notoriously devoted fans will recognize Thom Yorke’s girlfriend, Italian actress Dajana Roncione, in the opening of the band’s new music video for “Lift.” Accompanying her, and pushing all of the buttons on the lift, is Yorke’s daughter Agnes.

Bilbo Baggins, The Drug Lord of the Rings

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2017

Bilbo Smoke

In a epic series of tweets, Matt Wallace reveals the secret truth behind the J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy: it’s a story about Middle Earth’s drug wars.

Here it is, straight-up: The Hobbit economy makes no fucking sense unless Hobbits are running a secret drug empire spanning Middle Earth.

That’s right, the unassuming, perpetually dismissed and ignored ‘harmless’ little Hobbits. They are the Walter White of Middle Earth.

It all started with Sauron. He was indeed trying to conquer Middle Earth……’s illegal pipe weed drug trade. He was the original kingpin.

So the Elves — NOTORIOUSLY anti-pipe weed, the Elves — band together to topple Sauron’s massive drug empire. And they do.

Enter Hobbits, seizing an opportunity. No one would EVER suspect them. They fill the Sauron gap, start manufacturing/distributing pipe weed.

The genius move is they UTILIZE their profile among the other races. They’re openly like, “Yeah pipe weed it’s a harmless lil Hobbit habit.”

“You know us Hobbits,” they say, “smokin’ our pipe weed, being lazy an’ shit.” They turn their illicit product into a comical affectation.

Meanwhile, the Hobbits are stringing humans OUT on pipe weed. Making mad gold. Everyone’s got a dope house filled with gourmet cheese.

See also other alternate tellings of familiar stories: A People’s History of Tattooine (and other Star Wars theories), Hermione Granger and the Goddamn Patriarchy, and Daniel is the real bully in Karate Kid.

SpaceX blooper reel for their reusable rocket booster

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2017

Now that SpaceX has successfully landed their reusable orbital rocket booster a number of times, they can look back with humor in this blooper reel of their somewhat less successful early efforts. New technology always requires trial and error (and error and error)…just ask NASA and the US government testing rockets back in the earlier days of the space program:

Downsizing

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2017

Director Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) is coming out with his latest film in December. Downsizing, which stars Kristin Wiig, Matt Damon, and Christoph Waltz, is about a world where humans are able to shrink themselves down to five inches tall.

When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to over-population, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.

I’ve been waiting on this one since posting about nano sapiens last year:

When humans get smaller, the world and its resources get bigger. We’d live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars that use less gas, eat less food, etc. It wouldn’t even take much to realize gains from a Honey, I Shrunk Humanity scheme: because of scaling laws, a height/weight proportional human maxing out at 3 feet tall would not use half the resources of a 6-foot human but would use somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 of the resources, depending on whether the resource varied with volume or surface area. Six-inch-tall humans would potentially use 1728 times fewer resources.

I’m sure the movie skews more toward a generic fish-out-of-water tale rather than addressing the particular pros and cons of shrinking people down to the size of hamsters (e.g. cutting human life span by orders of magnitude), but I will still be first in line to see this one.

When eating at Pizza Hut was an experience

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2017

Retro Ramblings remembers when, in the 80s, eating at Pizza Hut was an experience and not just a matter of grabbing a bite at a fast food joint.

From the moment you walked in the place, you knew it was something special. You knew this was going to be something you’d remember, and it all started with the decor. The interior didn’t look like a fast food joint with it’s huge, sprawling windows, and cheap looking walls, or tiled floors. When you walked in, you were greeted by brick walls, with smaller windows, that had thick red fabric curtains pulled back, and a carpeted floor. It just felt higher-class than walking into McDonalds or Burger King.

The booths were high-backed, with thick padded vinyl seats and back rests. The high backs was also different from your usual eating out experience. These high backs gave you a sense of privacy, which was great for a date night. Also great for a date night were the candles on the tables. Those little red glass candles that were on every table, and were lit when you got to your seat. It was a little thing, but when added to everything else, it was quite the contribution. Your silverware was wrapped in a thick, cloth napkin that beat the heck out of the paper napkins everyone else was using at the time. And you could always count on the table being covered by a nice, red and white, checkered table cloth.

Pizza Hut was the #1 eating-out destination for me as a kid. My family never ate out much, so even McDonald’s, Arby’s, or Hardee’s was a treat. But Pizza Hut was a whole different deal. Did I enjoy eating salad at home? No way. But I had to have the salad bar at Pizza Hut. Did I normally eat green peppers, onions, and black olives? Nope…but I would happily chow down on a supreme pizza at Pizza Hut. And the deep dish pan pizza…you couldn’t get anything like that in rural Wisconsin, nor could you easily make it at home. Plus it was just so much food…you could eat as much as you wanted and there were still leftovers to take home. Plus, with those high-backed booths, you could play paper football without having the extra points go sailing into the next booth.

Halt and Catch Fire music playlist for season 4

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2017

Season four of Halt and Catch Fire finds the show in the 90s and the music has changed accordingly. Here’s the official playlist on Spotify.

See also the playlists for season 3, 1985, 1984, and many more from the show, including playlists for each main character.

Objects, a coffee table book of artifacts related to the New York City subway

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2017

NYC Subway objects

NYC Subway objects

From the team that brought us the reissues of the NASA Standards Manual and the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual comes New York City Transit Authority: Objects by Brian Kelley (@ Amazon), a book full of photographs of artifacts related to the NYC subway and other transit systems in the city.

Kelley started collecting MTA MetroCards in 2011, and he quickly became fascinated by other Subway-related objects. This catalogue is the first of its kind — presenting a previously uncollated archive of subway ephemera that spans three centuries.

Kelley posts photos of many of the artifacts he’s found on Instagram.

A man got to have a code

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2017

In a multi-part series, ScreenPrism will be looking at the codes and values of some of the main characters in The Wire. The first installment is about Jimmy McNulty, who is “good po-lice” but also doesn’t always take personal responsibility for his actions (“what the fuck did I do?”).

The first ever sketch of Wonder Woman

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2017

Original Wonder Woman

This is the first ever sketch of Wonder Woman by H.G. Peter from 1941. On the drawing, Peter wrote:

Dear Dr. Marston, I slapped these two out in a hurry. The eagle is tough to handle — when in perspective or in profile, he doesn’t show up clearly — the shoes look like a stenographer’s. I think the idea might be incorporated as a sort of Roman contraption. Peter

The Wonder Woman character was conceived by William Moulton Marston, who based her on his wife Elizabeth Marston and his partner Olive Byrne. (Reading between the lines about WW’s creation, you get the sense that Elizabeth deserves at least some credit for genesis of the character as well.) On the same drawing, Marston wrote back to Peter:

Dear Pete — I think the gal with hand up is very cute. I like her skirt, legs, hair. Bracelets okay + boots. These probably will work out. See other suggestions enclosed. No on these + stripes — red + white. With eagle’s wings above or below breasts as per enclosed? Leave it to you. Don’t we have to put a red stripe around her waist as belt? I thought Gaines wanted it — don’t remember. Circlet will have to go higher — more like crown — see suggestions enclosed. See you Wednesday morning - WMM.

From Wikipedia:

Wonder Woman was created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston (pen name: Charles Moulton), and artist Harry G. Peter. Olive Byrne, Marston’s lover, and his wife, Elizabeth, are credited as being his inspiration for the character’s appearance. Marston drew a great deal of inspiration from early feminists, and especially from birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger; in particular, her piece “Woman and the New Race”. The character first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941 and first cover-dated on Sensation Comics #1, January 1942. The Wonder Woman title has been published by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986.

William, Elizabeth, Olive seemed like really interesting people. They lived together in a polyamorous relationship (which I imagine was fairly unusual for the 1940s) and William & Elizabeth worked together on inventing the systolic blood pressure test, which became a key component in the later invention of the polygraph test. Olive was a former student of William’s and became his research assistant, likely helping him with much of his work without credit.

Update: The upcoming film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biographical drama about the lives of William, Elizabeth, and Olive. Here’s a trailer:

The Imaginary Worlds podcast also had an episode on the genesis of Wonder Woman (featuring New Yorker writer Jill Lepore, who wrote The Secret History of Wonder Woman):

(via @ironicsans & warren)

Time lapse of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2017

Wall Drawing 797 is a conceptual artwork by Sol LeWitt consisting of instructions that anyone can use to make a drawing. I found this at The Kid Should See This1 and I cannot improve on their description:

How does one person’s actions influence the next person’s actions in a shared space? Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings explore this intricate visual butterfly effect in the collaborative art entitled Wall Drawing 797, a conceptual piece that can be drawn by following LeWitt’s instructions. (He died in 2007.)

“Intricate visual butterfly effect” is such a good way of putting it. I have a huge wall right above my desk…I kind of want to make my own Wall Drawing 797 now.

  1. You should be reading The Kid Should See This even if you don’t have children. It’s always so good and interesting.

Beyonce’s How To Make Lemonade box set

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2017

How To Make Lemonade Beyonce

Last month, Beyonce released a collector’s edition box set of her latest album called How To Make Lemonade. The set is $300 and includes Lemonade on vinyl as well as downloadable digital versions of the audio and visual albums. But the star of the show here is the 600-page coffee table book full of photos, stories, and poetry about the making of the album.

Lemonade Beyonce

Lemonade Beyonce

Lemonade is still my favorite album of the past few years.