The Prayer of Saint FrancisAPR 08

I am not a religious person, but Reverend Smith spoke a few lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis on an episode of Deadwood I watched recently and I can't stop thinking about it. The prayer in full:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Reverend put it slightly differently:

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love, than to be loved...

Believer in eternal life or not, that's a way of living life I can get behind.

Celebrities who look like mattressesAPR 08

Oh, this is the dumbest thing but it made me laugh today: Celebrities that Look Like Mattresses.

Mattress celeb

Mattress celeb

How on Earth did they find these pairings? Has Google perfected their Mattress Recognition technology? (via @Rebeccamead_NYC)

The A-to-Z of danceAPR 07

Super-cool video from i-D of dance styles for each letter of the alphabet.

(via @Han)

UPS trucks don't turn leftAPR 07

Well, they do sometimes but not very often. Left turns cross traffic, which wastes time and causes accidents. So UPS routes are designed with mostly right turns...three rights make a left, you know.

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy.

I wonder though, does this make the drivers unhappy?

First episode of Silicon ValleyAPR 07

HBO put the entire first episode of Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley up on YouTube:

Old masters, new mediaAPR 07

In a five part series called "emoji-nation", Ukrainian Nastya Ptichek mixes the work of well-known painters with graphical elements of new media. In the second part of the series, the works of Edward Hopper are augmented with social media interface icons:

Nastya Ptichek

The first part finds emoji doppelgangers for works of fine art while the third part uses paintings as movie poster imagery for the likes of Kill Bill and Home Alone (paired with Munch's The Scream). For part four, Ptichek places modal dialogs over art works:

Nastya Ptichek

And part five plays around with several Google interface elements:

Nastya Ptichek

Love this kind of thing. Feels like I've seen something like it before though. Anyone recall?

A tour of the accents of the British IslesAPR 07

Using Google Earth, dialect coach Andrew Jack gives a tour of the accents of Great Britain and Ireland.

The audio is originally from this BBC program. See also Peter Sellers doing various English accents. (via devour)

Cobain gone for 20 yearsAPR 06

Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain at the age of 27. Many have written of the anniversary, but I liked Dennis Cooper's piece published in Spin a few weeks after Cobain's death.

Cobain's work nailed how a ton of people feel. There are few moments in rock as bewilderingly moving as when he mumbled, "I found it hard / It's hard to find / Oh well, whatever / Nevermind." There's that bizarre, agonized, and devastating promise he keeps making throughout "Heart-Shaped Box": "Wish that I could eat your cancer when you turn black." Take a look in his eyes the next time MTV runs the "Heart-Shaped Box" video, and see if you can sort out the pain from the ironic detachment from the horror from the defensiveness.

(via NYT Now app)

Watch The Unknown KnownAPR 06

Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.

The anternetAPR 04

Researchers at Stanford have observed that foraging harvester ants act like TCP/IP packets, so much so that they're calling the ants' behavior "the anternet".

Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP, is an algorithm that manages data congestion on the Internet, and as such was integral in allowing the early web to scale up from a few dozen nodes to the billions in use today. Here's how it works: As a source, A, transfers a file to a destination, B, the file is broken into numbered packets. When B receives each packet, it sends an acknowledgment, or an ack, to A, that the packet arrived.

This feedback loop allows TCP to run congestion avoidance: If acks return at a slower rate than the data was sent out, that indicates that there is little bandwidth available, and the source throttles data transmission down accordingly. If acks return quickly, the source boosts its transmission speed. The process determines how much bandwidth is available and throttles data transmission accordingly.

It turns out that harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave nearly the same way when searching for food. Gordon has found that the rate at which harvester ants -- which forage for seeds as individuals -- leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability.

A forager won't return to the nest until it finds food. If seeds are plentiful, foragers return faster, and more ants leave the nest to forage. If, however, ants begin returning empty handed, the search is slowed, and perhaps called off.

(via wordspy)

Slow TVAPR 04

Slow television is the uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event from start to finish. Early efforts included burning Yule logs on TV around Christmas and driver's views of complete British rail journeys (not to mention Andy Warhol and the pitch drop experiment), but Norwegian public television has revived the format in recent years. The first broadcast was of a 7-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo, which was watched at some point by ~20% of Norway's population. You can watch the entire thing on YouTube:

Not content with that, in 2011 an entire ship voyage was broadcast for 134 continuous hours. The entire voyage is available for viewing, but you can watch a 37-minute time lapse of the whole thing if you can't spare the 5½ days:

As the show progressed and the ratings climbed (half of the Norwegian population tuned in at some point), the show became an interactive event, with people meeting the ship along to coast in order to appear as extras in the cast. Some even followed in smaller boats, filming as they went along in the ship's wake.

Other shows included 12 hours about firewood (including 8 uninterrupted hours of a burning fireplace), 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream (which some felt was too short), 100 hours of Magnus Carlsen playing chess, a 30-hour interview with a noted author, and several continuous hours of sweater production, from shearing to knitting.

Shows currently in the planning stages include A Day in the Life of a Snail and "a 24-hour-long program following construction workers building a digital-style clock out of wood, shuffling planks to match each passing minute". The slow TV concept might soon be coming to American TV as well.

P.S. Does this 10-hour video of Tyrion Lannister slapping Joffrey count as slow TV? Either way, it's great.

Vatican to scan all their manuscriptsAPR 04

Vatican manuscripts

The Vatican is beginning the process of digitizing its extensive library of books and manuscripts, previously only available to a select few scholars and historians. Their plan calls for an initial 3000 manuscripts to be scanned, with the rest of the 82,000 other documents to hopefully follow.

That's 41 million pages spanning nearly 2,000 years of church history that will soon be clickable, zoomable, and presumably, printable. When all is said and done, you'll be able to read the Psalms handwritten across 13th-century vellum on your iPhone -- so long as you speak ancient Greek.

2001 behind-the-scenes photosAPR 03

From a large collection of photos shot on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, two of my favorites:

2001 Behind 01

2001 Behind 02

Those are a pair of smooth criminals right there.

Unleash the maps!APR 03

Viele Map Close

Last week, the New York Public Library released a massive collection of maps online...over 20,000 maps are available for high-resolution download. An incredible resource.

The Libertarian Police DepartmentAPR 03

Tom O'Donnell imagines how the police would function in a totally libertarian society.

I was shooting heroin and reading "The Fountainhead" in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

"Bad news, detective. We got a situation."

"What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?"

"Worse. Somebody just stole four hundred and forty-seven million dollars' worth of bitcoins."

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. "What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?"

"Not yet. But mark my words: we're going to figure out who did this and we're going to take them down ... provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so."

"Easy, chief," I said. "Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair."

(via @moleitau)

MTV Amp complete playlistAPR 03

My friend Aaron has compiled an Rdio playlist of every song ever played on MTV's Amp, a show from the mid-90s that featured electronic music. Lots of Underworld, Prodigy, Aphex Twin, and Orbital on here.

Some songs weren't available on Rdio, but there's more than 18 hours of music here.

Shaun the Sheep MovieAPR 03

Holy cow, Aardman is making a Shaun the Sheep Movie! Here's a teaser trailer:

The movie will be out in March 2015 and the plot centers on the sheep going to the big city to retrieve the Farmer. As I wrote last year, Shaun the Sheep is wonderful family entertainment. I wonder how the lack of dialogue will translate to the feature length format? (thx, greg)

The weight loss gameAPR 03

2008 article by Clive Thompson on how Weight Watchers is like a RPG (role playing game).

Think about it. As with an RPG, you roll a virtual character, manage your inventory and resources, and try to achieve a goal. Weight Watchers' points function precisely like hit points; each bite of food does damage until you've used up your daily amount, so you sleep and start all over again. Play well and you level up -- by losing weight! And the more you play it, the more you discover interesting combinations of the rules that aren't apparent at first. Hey, if I eat a fruit-granola breakfast and an egg-and-romaine lunch, I'll have enough points to survive a greasy hamburger dinner for a treat!

Even the Weight Watchers web tool is amazingly gamelike. It has the poke-around-and-see-what-happens elegance you see in really good RPG game screens. Accidentally snack on a candy bar and ruin your meal plan for the day? No worries: Just go into the database and see what spells -- whoops, I mean foods -- you can still use with your remaining points.

And those 35 extra points you get every week? They're like a special buff or potion -- a last-ditch save when you're on the ropes.

It's funny how quaint this seems now...the quantified self and gamification of diet & health is everywhere now. (via @arainert)

Skydiver almost hit by meteoriteAPR 03

No idea if this is an April Fools thing or not, but skydiver Anders Helstrup claims that a rock whooshed past him during a wingsuit flight in 2012. And he caught the incident on video:

The relevent bit starts at about 25 seconds in. Here's a news story and a longer version of the video report with English subtitles:

Although Helstrup is still not completely convinced that it was indeed a meteorite that flew past him, the experts are in no doubt.

"It can't be anything else. The shape is typical of meteorites -- a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded," said geologist Hans Amundsen.

He explained that the meteorite had been part of a larger stone that had exploded perhaps 20 kilometres above Helstrup.

Amundsen thinks he can make out coloured patches in the stone, and believes that in that case it may be a breccia -- a common type of meteorite rock.

According to the article, the search is on to find the meterorite on the ground. I poked around a bit for information on a fireball sighting over Norway on the date in question (June 17, 2012) but didn't find anything. Smells like a hoax to me, but if it's real, it's the first time a post-fireball meteor has been observed and filmed while still falling.

Update: Even Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy allows this may be real.

The history of the movie trailerAPR 03

Filmmaker IQ has a nice exploration of the history of the movie trailer. And yes, they actually used to play at the end of (i.e. "trail") the film.

Coming into the 1960s, a new generation of star directors began to redefine the trailer - among them was the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. Instead of showing scenes from the movie, Hitchcock, who had become quite well known to audiences from his "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series, cashed in on his celebrity... taking audiences on a tour using his gallows humor style in this trailer for 1960's Pscyho.

The reemergence of Cubism in film and commercial art in the 1960s was not lost on another emerging filmmaker - Stanley Kubrick. Having experimented with fragmented cutting styles in the trailer to 1962's Lolita, Kubrick comes back strong in 1964's "Dr. Strangelove" with a trailer that I consider one of the most bold and brazen pieces of movie advertising ever made.

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