A People's History of TattooineJUL 17

In the same vein as the Zinn/Chomsky Lord of the Rings commentary is A People's History of Tattooine, a Twitter conversation that Jacob Harris kicks off thusly:

What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

Some other highlights:

"more civilized time?" Check your privilege, Obi Wan

the Tusken People. Raiders presumes some malevolent intent

all I'm saying is that I don't blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man

like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park

The Grand Budapest Hotel reviewedJUL 17

There are 46 reviews (and counting) of The Grand Budapest Hotel on TripAdvisor, which is ranked "#1 of 1 hotels in The Republic of Zubrowka".

As an elderly women I was thoroughly delighted by the attention of the staff! Particularly the concierge, what a thoughtful generous man! Wish I could take him home to service me there! I also loved the food and the chocolate treats from mendls. Tip top!

See also Schrute Farms on TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor reviews for the Overlook Hotel. Oh and The Grand Budapest Hotel movie is now available for digital rental. (via @khoi)

A do-over on childhood drawingsJUL 17

Artist Telmo Pieper took some drawings he did when he was four years old and digitally fleshed them out.

Telmo Pieper

See also making toys out of children's drawings and collaborating with a four-year-old. (via @santheo)

How ramen noodles are madeJUL 17

Sun Noodle makes the ramen noodles for a host of the top ramen shops in NYC, LA, and elsewhere (Ivan, Momofuku, etc.)...here's a look at how the noodles are made in their New Jersey factory:

See also how to make hand-pulled noodles and Sun Noodle's fresh ramen kits are available for retail (via devour)

Rant against birthday dinnersJUL 17

At The Bold Italic, an anonymous San Franciscan rails against the practice of going out to dinner with a group of friends for your birthday.

Look, I don't think I'm a cheap ass, but I typically spend under $100 on a birthday gift for my own mother. And this is San Francisco; your friends are going to range from hella rich to hella poor, and the whole premise of these group dinners makes things uncomfortable for everyone. It's not that I think birthdays need to be extravagant exercises in theme and creativity; I'm just saying there are lots of things you could do on your birthday, and a huge dinner is one of the worst. For less money and less hassle, everyone could pitch in and rent a suite at a fancy hotel with a pool. Do that. Do anything else.

(via @arainert)

Distance Over TimeJUL 16

In his mid-20s, James Golding was diagnosed with cancer. In the hospital, he weighed 84 pounds and was given a 5% chance of living. Five years later, he embarked on a journey to France to break the record for most distance ridden on a bike in 7 days. This video follows Golding through his record-breaking attempt.

The video was produced by the same team that did the lovely Experiments in Speed video.

The rise and fall of American smokingJUL 16

US smoking chart

Over the past century, adult per capita cigarette consumption in the US rose from nearly nothing in 1900 to a peak of more than 4000 cigarettes per year in the early 60s and then fell to the current rate of around 1000/yr. Currently, smoking in the US correlates highly with level of education and poverty.

Smoking, as it happens, also appears to be highly correlated with both poverty and education levels in the United States: 27.9 percent of American adults living below the poverty line are smokers, while just 17 percent of those living above it are, according to the CDC; 24.7 percent of American adults without a high school diploma are smokers, while 23.1 percent of those with one are. Only 9.1 percent of those with an undergraduate degree, and 5.9 percent of those with a graduate degree are smokers.

According to Wikipedia, the US is 51st among nations in annual smoking rates. Eastern Europe and Russia hold all the top spots, but their per capita rates (~2800/yr) are all lower than the rate in the US in the 60s. But that's nothing compared to Scotland...their rate was once 7000 cigarettes per year. (via @dens)

Cyclomaniacs 2JUL 16

Occasionally I'll go to my page of addictive Flash games to revisit some old favorites. I mostly play games on my phone now, but some of these are still pretty good. One of my absolute faves is a game called Cyclomaniacs, which I've played all the way through several times over the years. Last night I discovered there's a Cyclomaniacs 2. So good.

The polar flipJUL 16

Earth Magnetic Field

According to data collected by a European satellite array, the Earth's magnetic field is shifting and weakening at a greater pace than previously thought. One of the reasons for the shift might be that the magnetic North and South poles are swapping positions.

Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner.

You can read up on geomagnetic reversals on Wikipedia. A short sampling:

These periods [of polarity] are called chrons. The time spans of chrons are randomly distributed with most being between 0.1 and 1 million years with an average of 450,000 years. Most reversals are estimated to take between 1,000 and 10,000 years. The latest one, the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal, occurred 780,000 years ago. A brief complete reversal, known as the Laschamp event, occurred only 41,000 years ago during the last glacial period. That reversal lasted only about 440 years with the actual change of polarity lasting around 250 years. During this change the strength of the magnetic field dropped to 5% of its present strength.

Can I get some reverb on that GIF?JUL 15

Audacity is a sound editing program, but it turns out you can open and edit image files with it. With varying results, mostly of the glitch art variety:

Audacity Image

(via 5 intriguing things)

A Disappearing PlanetJUL 15

From ProPublica, an alarming series of graphs and charts on animal extinction: A Disappearing Planet.

Animal species are going extinct anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the rates that would be expected under natural conditions. According to Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction and other recent studies, the increase results from a variety of human-caused effects including climate change, habitat destruction, and species displacement. Today's extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

(via @SrikarDR)

If Doctor Who were American...JUL 15

Back in February, Smug Mode chose American counterparts for all of Doctor Who's past incarnations. We're talking Dick Van Dyke as the 2nd Doctor, Gene Wilder for the 4th Doctor, and Donald Glover as the 11th Doctor. Here's a nicely done faux 50th anniversary video celebrating those Doctors:

(via @moth)

A day in the life of NYC taxisJUL 15

This clever and well-done visualization shows where individual NYC taxis picked up and dropped off their fares over the course of a day.

Day Life Taxi

Mesmerizing. Has anyone done analysis on which drivers are the most effective and what the data shows as the most effective techniques? The best drivers must have their tricks on where to be at which times to get the most fares. (via @dens)

Infant shirts for adultsJUL 14

Jokey t-shirts for infants are almost never funny but putting the same shirts on adults is the best idea ever.

I Pooped Today

All the designs featured are actually available for sale -- here's that I Pooped Today shirt -- just click on the "See all styles" button for adult options. Ok, just one more:

Gigglebelly Train

(via @mulegirl)

The Craft Your Own Bitters Kit

Cocktails have been having a bit of a moment over the past few years and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. To that end, Hella Bitter is doing a Kickstarter campaign for a make your own bitters kit. From their NYC HQ, the small company bottles their own line of aromatic and citrus bitters, available at fine stores around the country, and with The Craft Your Own Bitters Kit, they're encouraging you make a batch of customized bitters in the comfort of your home.

Last summer, I got to help the Hella Bitter crew make a batch of bitters in their Queens kitchen. They make their bitters using the same all-natural ingredients included in the kit and following the same basic process. For the kit, they've scaled down and tweaked the recipe and skipped the part where you peel citrus until your pores burn (and then you peel *more* citrus). Cocktail nerds, if you've got your home bar game down pat and are looking to expand your horizons, check out the Kickstarter campaign for The Craft Your Own Bitters Kit.

LoTR DVD commentary from Zinn and ChomskyJUL 14

This is an old piece from McSweeney's, but it's absolute gold and I can't believe I've been missing it all these years. In it, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn record a DVD commentary for the first Lord of the Rings movie. So, so good.

Zinn: You've spoken to me before about Mordor's lack of access to the mineral wealth that the Dwarves control.

Chomsky: If we're going to get into the socio-economic reasons why certain structures develop in certain cultures... it's mainly geographical. We have Orcs in Mordor -- trapped, with no mineral resources -- hemmed in by the Ash Mountains, where the "free peoples" of Middle Earth can put a city, like Osgiliath, and effectively keep the border closed.

Zinn: Don't forget the Black Gate. The Black Gate, which, as Tolkien points out, was built by Gondor. And now we jump to the Orcs chopping down the trees in Isengard.

Chomsky: A terrible thing the Orcs do here, isn't it? They destroy nature. But again, what have we seen, time and time again?

Zinn: The Orcs have no resources. They're desperate.

Chomsky: Desperate people driven to do desperate things.

Zinn: Desperate to compete with the economic powerhouses of Rohan and Gondor.

Chomsky: Who really knows their motive? Maybe this is a means to an end. And while that might not be the best philosophy in the world, it makes the race of Man in no way superior. They're going to great lengths to hold onto their power. Two cultures locked in conflict over power, with one culture clearly suffering a great deal. I think sharing power and resources would have been the wisest approach, but Rohan and Gondor have shown no interest in doing so. Sometimes, revolution must be --

Zinn: Mistakes are often --

Chomsky: Blood must be shed. I forget what Thomas Jefferson --

Here's part two. And the same writers, Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, also did one for The Return of the King.

Mobility on demandJUL 14

Helsinki has announced plans to integrate all transportation within the Finnish city into a single system with a single payment structure and run it as a public utility.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

As the Helsinki Times' headline reads, the future resident of Helsinki will not own a car.

The Bike BrothersJUL 11

In 1986, the BBC produced a short documentary film on the Taylor brothers, a trio of professional cyclists from the 1930s and 40s. The three of them operated a bicycle shop, which turned out handmade bikes for decades.

Delightful. Don't miss one of the brothers putting the racing stripes on a frame by hand starting at around 12:00. You can read a bit more about the brothers here and here. (via @cdevroe)

Song ExploderJUL 11

On each episode of the Song Exploder podcast, Hrishikesh Hirway interviews musicians about how their songs were made..."where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made." I listened to this episode about the House of Cards theme song via this 99% Invisible episode and the inaugural episode features Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service talking about The District Sleeps Alone Tonight:

Ten most memorable film editsJUL 11

From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.

(via @brillhart)

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