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How to… not do anything the right way

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

The contemporary internet is full to the brim with videos shot from above showing how different foods and crafty things are made. Like this one. Everything is orderly, precise, and moves along at a brisk pace. And then, there’s this:

Cutting tomatoes with a dull knife, folding paper not exactly in half, excruciatingly peeling a hard boiled egg…that sort of thing. Probably not good for folks who have any kind of OCD tendency.

See also this video of the most unsatisfying things in the world. Same general idea but more clever. (via deadspin)

Photos of grand Soviet-era subway stations

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2017

David Burdeny

David Burdeny

Back in the days before the US bankrupted the Soviet Union with the space race and the nuclear arms race, the Soviets spent lavishly on some public works…like these amazing metro stations built in the Stalin era. Photographer David Burdeny got special middle-of-the-night access to these stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg and came away with these great photographs. Could you imagine an NYC subway station with chandeliers? Or even moderately clean walls? (via petapixel)

“Morning Studio” by Nicole Eisenman

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

Nicole Eisenman, Morning Studio

I ran across this painting by Nicole Eisenman this morning on Facebook and it really grabbed my attention. There’s something about the cozy sweatpants vibe of the person with the default Emoji Yellow™ skin in contrast to everything else in the scene that really belongs to the present moment. Looking closer, you’ll notice the surprising realism of the purple milk crate in the foreground, the teeth on the woman’s zipper, the icons on the projected desktop, and the inputs on the back of the projector. But much of the rest of the painting isn’t that detailed — Eisenman is playing with different levels of abstraction in the same painting.

You can take a look at some of Eisenman’s other work here, here, and here. Stylistically, she’s is all over the place, as noted by Roberta Smith in the NY Times:

Few figurative painters are doing what Nicole Eisenman is, jumping back and forth among starkly different styles while inviting us to consider an equally broad range of urgent themes.

Her constant movement may be more familiar in male painters inclined to the abstract. So it’s not surprising that in her interview for the catalog for “Nicole Eisenman: Al-ugh-ories,” her exhibition at the New Museum, she mentions her admiration for two stylistic gadflies, Sigmar Polke and Julian Schnabel.

(thx, laura)

“Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2017

The title of this video is “Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen—MUST WATCH END!!” and there is literally nothing else I can say to entice you to watch it if you’re not already hooked by that.

At a spa in Japan, you can get a back massage from a cat

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2017

Don’t know about you, but I need a cat massage right now. You can’t hear it, but I bet that cat is purring big time as well. (My pal Matt was the first person I’d heard refer to cat kneading as “making muffins”, which is an essentially perfect and cute description. He also calls when a cat sits with all four of its paws tucked up underneath it “loaf-a-kitty”. Again, cute and perfect.)

What if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had swapped genders?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2017

Maria Guadalupe, an economics and political science professor, and Joe Salvatore, a professor of educational theater, recently put on a pair of performances that restaged the three Presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But this time, they had a woman play the Trump role (as “Brenda King”) and a man play the Clinton role (as “Jonathan Gordon”), with each attempting to portray the precise mannerisms, styles, and speech of the respective candidates. How would audiences react to the gender-switched candidates?

Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression — his tendency to interrupt and attack — would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

But the lessons about gender that emerged in rehearsal turned out to be much less tidy. What was Jonathan Gordon smiling about all the time? And didn’t he seem a little stiff, tethered to rehearsed statements at the podium, while Brenda King, plainspoken and confident, freely roamed the stage? Which one would audiences find more likeable?

The audience’s reaction to the performances was surprising.

We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened” — meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman — that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another — a musical theater composer, actually — said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it. Another theme was about not liking either candidate — you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.”

Here’s a clip from one of the rehearsals:

I think it’s important not to take away too much from this experiment (and perhaps the same should be said of televised political debates in general) but after watching that short clip and hearing about the audience’s reaction, I couldn’t help but think of Al Gore. In the lead-up to the election, I’d never thought of Clinton that way — meaning very smart, compassionate, and supremely qualified but ultimately a bit dull and uninspiring a la Gore — but maybe she did lack a critical charisma compared to Trump.

Since the Kennedy/Nixon debates, we’ve known that how candidates handle themselves on television — in debates, interviews, televised speeches, etc. — is critical to the voters’ perceptions of them. Gore, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, John Kerry…they all were bested by more charismatic candidates (Reagan, Obama, Bill Clinton) that were in some cases not as qualified on paper. Even the Bushes (especially Dubya) had an aw shucks-y folksiness that could charm people sympathetic to their message. Perhaps Hillary Clinton belongs on that list as well. (via mr)

Free online lessons in storytelling & moviemaking from Pixar

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2017

In partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar is offering a number of free online lessons in making 3D animated movies and storytelling called Pixar in a Box. Here’s a video introduction of what courses are available:

There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week. Here’s the introductory video for that, featuring Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out.

This is pretty cool. I’m hoping to spend some more time with this over the weekend.

She Persisted, a children’s book by Chelsea Clinton

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2017

She Persisted

Chelsea Clinton and illustrator Alexandra Boiger are coming out with a children’s book in May called She Persisted that highlights 13 American women who changed the world.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

Pre-ordered. Here are the women featured:

Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor — and one special cameo.

Special cameo? Has to be Hillary Clinton, no? See also Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Kindle version) and Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World.

The NYPD’s doppelganger problem and racially unfair policing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2017

Lisa Davis Lisa Davis

For years, a white woman named Lisa Davis was paying the price (sometimes literally) for tickets issued to other women named Lisa Davis living in NYC.

Finally, the DMV told me that I wasn’t the victim of identity theft; there was simply another Lisa S Davis with the same birthday in New York City. Our records were crossed. When cops run a license, they don’t check the person’s address, signature, or social security numbers. They check the name and the birthday, and both the other Lisa S Davis’s and mine were the same. We were, in the eyes of the law, one person, caught in a perfect storm of DMV and NYPD idiocy.

In fighting all of these improperly filed tickets, Davis learned that most of them issued for bullshit “broken windows” misdemeanors in predominately minority neighborhoods.

It was then that it became clear to me: the reason for the tickets wasn’t that these Lisa Davises were petty criminals. The reason was likely that they lived in highly policed areas where even the smallest infractions are ticketed, the sites of “Broken Windows” policing. The reason, I thought, was that they weren’t white.

That could have been the “proof” I offered to the judge. Brownsville’s population is less than 1% white. It almost couldn’t have been me. My neighborhood, though fairly diverse (and cheap) when I moved there in the early 90s, is now 76% white. I have never heard of anyone getting tickets in my neighborhood for any of the infractions committed by the Lisa Davises in neighborhoods of color.

I felt there was only one thing to do. I had to find the Lisa Davises, to untangle myself from them, to talk to them about being Lisa Davises, and to see if they agreed with my supposition: that the real “crime” they had committed was being non-white.

See also Pro Publica’s report published today, Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk.

Steve Reich is calling

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2017

Oh, this is just a little brilliant. Steve Reich is a composer famous for his experimentation with musical looping and phasing. His 1967 piece Piano Phase featured a pair of pianists repetitively performing the same piece at two slightly different tempos, forming a continually evolving musical round. Seth Kranzler took this idea and made a Reich-like piece with two iPhones ringing at slightly different tempos. Here’s a video of the effect in action:

Man, this is nerdy on so many levels and I am here for it.

Update: Here’s a couple more tracks along the same lines: the drum fill from In the Air Tonight and the Amen break.

(via @frank_chimero)

The best medical science images of the year

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2017

Wellcome Images 2017

Wellcome Images 2017

Wellcome Images 2017

The Wellcome Image Awards 2017 recognize the best images related to healthcare and biomedical science taken during the past year.

The Wellcome Image Awards are Wellcome’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. Now in their 20th year, the Awards recognise the creators of informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science. Those featured are selected from all of the new images acquired by Wellcome Images during the preceding year. The judges are experts from medical science and science communication.

From top to bottom, there’s Mark R. Smith’s photo of a baby Hawaiian bobtail squid, neural stem cells growing on a synthetic gel photographed by Collin Edington and Iris Lee, and Scott Echols’ image of a pigeon’s blood vessel network. (via digg)

Black parents talk to their kids about the police

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 10, 2017

Not going to say much about this one. Just watch it…especially if somehow, as a curious, thoughtful person who reads this site regularly, you are unaware of how many in the black community feel about the police and that they have conversations like this with their children about those who are supposed to protect and serve people.

Auto-generated maps of fantasy worlds

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2017

Uncharted Atlas

Uncharted Atlas

Uncharted Atlas

Martin O’Leary is a research scientist who studies glaciers, but in his spare time, he built Uncharted Atlas, a program that auto-generates maps of fantasy lands (like from Game of Thrones or LOTR) and posts them to a Twitter account. The explanation of how the terrain is generated is quite interesting and includes embedded map generators that you can play around with (i.e. prepare to lose about 20 minutes to this).

There are loads of articles on the internet which describe terrain generation, and they almost all use some variation on a fractal noise approach, either directly (by adding layers of noise functions), or indirectly (e.g. through midpoint displacement). These methods produce lots of fine detail, but the large-scale structure always looks a bit off. Features are attached in random ways, with no thought to the processes which form landscapes. I wanted to try something a little bit different.

There are a few different stages to the generator. First we build up a height-map of the terrain, and do things like routing water flow over the surface. Then we can render the ‘physical’ portion of the map. Finally we can place cities and ‘regions’ on the map, and place their labels.

And here’s how the languages for the place names are generated; each map has its own generated language so all of the place names are consistant with each other and different from those regions shown on other maps.

I wanted to produce something which was a step above the usual alphabetic soup of generated placenames, and which was capable of producing recognisably distinct languages. The initial idea was that different regions of each map would have different languages, but I abandoned this because it was too hard to make it clear that this was what was going on, while still having the languages themselves be interesting.

The problem is to generate something like what the constructed languages (conlang) community call a ‘naming language’. This is a light sketch of a language, focusing purely on the parts which are necessary to produce names. So there’s little to no grammar, but a good sense of what the language sounds like, and how it’s written.

WhaleSynth, a neat online toy for generating whale sounds

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2017

WhaleSynth

WhaleSynth is a cool little instrument for making whale sounds. There are three different species of whale to choose from, you can add clicks and sonar echoes, and you can also adjust the depth and number of whales in your chorus. Warning: this might occupy many many minutes of your time but could also soothe frayed political nerves.

How a bad grade on a college paper resulted in a Constitutional amendment

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2017

In college, Gregory Watson got a C on a paper in a government class about an ancient proposed amendment to the US Constitution written by James Madison in 1789.

Gregory was intrigued. He decided to write his paper about the amendment and argue that it was still alive and could be ratified. He got to work, being very meticulous about citations and fonts and everything. He turned it in to the teaching assistant for his class — and got it back with a C.

Motivated by what he considered an unfair grade, Watson spent the next 20 years working to get the amendment ratified. In 1992, Watson’s hard work paid off and the proposed amendment became the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

Now his former teacher thinks he deserves an A+. What a heartwarming story.

Or perhaps a terrifying one. If you look at the maps for the past 5 Presidential elections, you’ll notice that the red states outnumber the blue ones. Republicans dominate governorships and state legislatures too. The consolidation of liberal voters into fewer and fewer states (and cities) is likely to continue, making the state counts more lopsided. If you can get a proposed amendment out of Congress (or a national convention called for by 2/3 of the states), then 3/4 of the states (currently 38) are needed to ratify the amendment and make it the law of the land. Now, this doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Well, Gregory Watson got it done. Just imagine if he had resuscitated a half-ratified amendment outlawing immigration or something.

The importance of social capital in public life

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2017

In 1993, Robert Putnam, who later went on to write Bowling Alone (which inspired Meetup), wrote a piece for The American Prospect called The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life about social capital and its contribution to political and economic well-being of a society. Much has changed since then, but Putnam’s piece is solidly relevant to the political situation in America today.

How does social capital undergird good government and economic progress? First, networks of civic engagement foster sturdy norms of generalized reciprocity: I’ll do this for you now, in the expectation that down the road you or someone else will return the favor. “Social capital is akin to what Tom Wolfe called the ‘favor bank’ in his novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities,” notes economist Robert Frank. A society that relies on generalized reciprocity is more efficient than a distrustful society, for the same reason that money is more efficient than barter. Trust lubricates social life.

Networks of civic engagement also facilitate coordination and communication and amplify information about the trustworthiness of other individuals. Students of prisoners’ dilemmas and related games report that cooperation is most easily sustained through repeat play. When economic and political dealing is embedded in dense networks of social interaction, incentives for opportunism and malfeasance are reduced. This is why the diamond trade, with its extreme possibilities for fraud, is concentrated within close-knit ethnic enclaves. Dense social ties facilitate gossip and other valuable ways of cultivating reputation—an essential foundation for trust in a complex society.

This quote by 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume that leads off the piece succinctly sums up the challenges involved and the potential consequences in not addressing them properly:

Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.

(via @timoreilly)

Alexander and the V Bad, FML Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2017

From Mark Remy, a riff on the classic children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, only this time Alexander has access to a smartphone, apps, and the cloud.

At breakfast Anthony watched ESPN on his tablet and Nick watched “Zootopia” on his tablet but on my tablet the video kept freezing.

I think I’ll move to Australia, where hybrid fibre-coaxial cable networks run at up to thirty megabits per second in major metro areas.

(thx, meg)

Happy 19th birthday, kottke.org!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2017

Kottke Designs

As of today, I’ve been posting and linking to stuff on kottke.org for 19 years. When I started, I was 24 years old, working as a web designer for a small web development shop in Minneapolis. The site started as a offshoot of another site I had at the time, which I worked on in my spare time at home on my Pentium Pro 200 with a 56K modem. I worked at a desk that was really a 70s-style kitchen table I’d bought for $25. I’m sitting at that same table writing this right now. Earlier I was struggling to think of something else that’s been in my life for as long as kottke.org has…I guess this table is it.

Whether you’re a relatively recent reader or you’ve been along for the entire ride, I’d like to thank you for reading the site and for your feedback, gentle typo corrections, encouragement, push-back, and membership support. I’m really glad to be hurtling through space and time with you good people.

See also a retrospective of kottke.org designs I did nine years ago when the site turned 10.

How MLK’s I Have Dream speech was composed

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2017

Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is one of the greatest examples of American oratory. In this video, Evan Puschak looks at how King’s speech was constructed and delivered, examining King’s references to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address & Shakespeare, his use of lyrical techniques like alliteration and anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses), and the mixture of plain and poetic language throughout the speech. Spoiler: King was a rhetorical genius and there’s a lot going on in that speech.

(Fair warning: Trump comes in abruptly at the 6:00 mark. I get the point he’s trying to make with the contrast, but I wish Puschak would have done without it.)

The satirical origins of the meritocracy

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2017

In 1958, Michael Young published a book called The Rise of the Meritocracy as a satirical criticism of the concept of meritocracy. From Wikipedia:

It describes a dystopian society in a future United Kingdom in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society, replacing previous divisions of social class and creating a society stratified between a merited power holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited.

In 2001, Young wrote a piece for The Guardian about his disappointment that the satire had been stripped away from his term and embraced by an elite using it to justify their status.

The business meritocracy is in vogue. If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get.

They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody’s son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side.

So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited.

Salaries and fees have shot up. Generous share option schemes have proliferated. Top bonuses and golden handshakes have multiplied.

As a result, general inequality has been becoming more grievous with every year that passes, and without a bleat from the leaders of the party who once spoke up so trenchantly and characteristically for greater equality.

Perhaps the tide seems to be turning slightly of late, but the meritocracy is thrown around pretty regularly in Silicon Valley as a justification for all sorts of things. Maybe the problem is the Valley doesn’t understand satire…after all, they invented a food product called Soylent. (via @mulegirl)

Some site news: a (temporary) farewell to advertising

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2017

For the past 12 years, working on kottke.org has been my full-time job. For all but two of those years, my primary source of income has come from a small advertisement that appeared on each page of the site served up by The Deck. The Deck was small advertising network that displayed ads on sites like kottke.org, Daring Fireball, swissmiss, MetaFilter, and The Morning News from advertisers like MailChimp, Slack, Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. etc. etc. The ads were small & clean and accompanied by a bit of text and a link; that’s it. No tracking, no targeting, no pop-ups. The ads were tasteful, polite even. In exchange for allowing these companies a small piece of my site to tell you folks about their products and services, I was paid a fixed amount every month, direct-deposited like clockwork into my bank account. I never ever had to think about it — we didn’t even have a contract!1 — all I had to do was write. All in all, a fair trade for everyone involved.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that The Deck ad is no longer on the site. Some months ago, Jim Coudal informed me that the ad network was struggling to attract advertisers. An attempt at restructuring failed and, as of March 31, The Deck is no more. There’s much I could say about the challenges faced by small independent sites now and how drastically the online advertising market has changed in the past few years, but mostly I’d like to thank Jim (and original Deck co-conspirators Jason Fried and Jeffrey Zeldman) for building a service that allowed me do my thing with minimal fuss for so long. Jim, I wish you continued good luck in steering the Field Notes juggernaut.

So, where does that leave kottke.org? Luckily I anticipated something like this happening1 and the launch of memberships back in November has left the site on stable financial ground, even without advertising. Thank you, members! Seriously, you people saved the Building & Loan. And if you’re not yet a member and you find value in what I do here, there has never been a better time to support kottke.org.

Even so, in the interests of necessarily diversifying the revenue of this here very small business, I will be looking at options for replacing The Deck with….something. I have a few leads and ideas but am open to suggestions. Wanna do a year-long sponsorship of one of the best independent sites on the internet? Got a line on a small ad network with tasteful advertising? Do you have experience with online advertising and advice for me? Let’s talk. Chumbox providers need not apply.

  1. You would not believe the looks people gave me when I told them this. My entire livelihood, dependent on a handshake! I dunno, it just never seemed necessary. *shrug*

  2. Which I feel a little clever about except that I should have done the membership thing years ago. Idiot. Just as every problem is actually a opportunity, every success is an chance to consider how you might have done it better.

How technology amplifies authoritarianism

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2017

Jason Ditzian writes about how the Nazis used new technological advances — high-fidelity microphones, public address systems, magnetic tape recording — to rise to power.

And since this amplification invention was new, the novelty added to the mesmerizing effects of a little man shouting atop the biggest soapbox that had ever existed. The quality of sound had a mystical effect upon listeners. It imbued Hitler with godlike powers, making him a deity who could project himself everywhere at once, whether one was standing amid a vast audience or sitting in one’s living room listening to the radio. Sometimes the voice was live; sometimes the voice was recorded in life-like clarity by another cutting-edge German innovation — a reel of magnetic tape.

He compares it to Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, which allows him to instantly soapbox to his millions of followers at all hours of the day and night — “a deity who could project himself everywhere at once” indeed.

With Twitter, every moment is a Trump rally. Everyone in the connected world knows what this unhinged narcissistic compulsive liar is thinking at any given moment. More time, energy, thought and commentary have been given to his minute-by-minute inane bullshit than any other issue of the last two years. And a lot of important things happened in the last two years.

Every NY Times front page in under a minute

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2017

In this short video, Josh Begley shows all of the front pages of the NY Times in chronological order from 1852 to the present. The Times began publishing in 1851 so not every front page is represented, but that’s still more than 50,000 pages in less than a minute. Since they go by so quickly, here are some highlights:

Dec 11, 1861: The Times publishes their first illustrations on the front page. One is a map of Virginia and the other two are political cartoons lampooning James Gordon Bennett, founder of the New York Herald, one of the Times’ main rivals.

Apr 15, 1865: The front page columns were lined with black as they reported on the assassination of Lincoln.

Dec 1, 1896: The hyphen is dropped from “The New-York Times”.

Feb 10, 1897: The slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print” appears for the first time on the front page.

May 30, 1910: The first news photograph appears on the front page, a photo of aviator Glenn Curtiss flying from Albany to NYC at the blistering pace of 54 mi/hr.

May 1, 1926: The Times prints the first photo “radioed” to the newspaper from London. Transmission time: 1hr 45m.

Jul 21, 1969: The first use of 96 pt. type on the front page announces the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon and subsequent moonwalk. The large type will also be used to announce Nixon’s resignation, the first day of 2000, 9/11, and the election of Barack Obama.

Sept 7, 1976: The columns on the front page are widened, reducing their number from 8 to 6.

Oct 16, 1997: The first color photo is printed on the front page of the Times. (The Times Machine scan is in B&W for some reason, but the photo was in color.)

Begley also made Best of Luck With the Wall, a video showing the entire extent of the US-Mexico border.

Snakisms

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2017

Snakisms

From Pippin Barr, Snakisms is a collection of 21 different variations on the old school cellphone game Snake. Each variation is based on a philosophical -ism like stoicism, capitalism, and determinism. For example, in the asceticism game, you lose as soon as you consume a dot. Clever and funny…I laughed pretty hard at narcissism.

Mixtape Volume 10 from The Hood Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2017

The Hood Internet has been pumping out mashups of rap, hip hop, electronic, and indie rock songs for 10 years now. For the 10th installment of their annual mixtape, they have compiled a list of their greatest hits.

It’s now 2017 and here we are with The Mixtape Volume Ten, aaaand wait. What’s with the subtitle — Best of The Hood Internet — is this some sort of greatest hits album from, uh, a website that DJs? Really? Yes. It is exactly that. Much like the first mixtape was a best-of everything we’d made to that point, this ten-year retrospective is 50 of our best blends (blends! there’s another synonym for you) from the catalog that we’ve willed into existence over the last decade. Listen to it, enjoy it or hate it, and together let’s all mourn the ten-year anniversary of the death of mashups.

Here’s to 10 more years! (via @j_blackburn)

Logobook, a catalog of great logos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2017

Logobook

Logobook is a growing catalog of “the finest logos, symbols & trademarks” in the world. The 5000+ logos are divided into groups like letters & numbers, shapes, animals, objects, and nature and are extensively categorized by industry, designer, and country of origin. Great resource.

They’re backed up with new submissions right now, but you can still send them your logos and they’ll get back to you when submissions are open again. (via @buzz)

Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted on top of water

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2017

Artist Garip Ay recently painted van Gogh’s Starry Night (along with his self-portrait) on top of water. Ebru, or paper marbling, is an art form where paint or ink is splattered or “painted” on the surface of water. Typically the painted scene is then transferred to paper with the finished product resembling polished marble stone. But Ay records his marbling on video and the effect is pretty cool.

See also the art of making marbled paper, which is well worth your attention.

The best movie dialogue of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2017

Cinefix lists the best movie dialogue of all time. This is an unorthodox list…not sure many would rate Aaron Sorkin’s movie about Steve Jobs so highly. I enjoyed the shout out to Primer for its realistic-seeming dialogue of the cofounders of a small startup dealing with terrific success.

George W. Bush’s book of paintings of US military veterans

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2017

Profiles In Courage

After leaving office in 2009, George W. Bush famously turned his attention to painting. That pursuit has now resulted in a book of portraits of post-9/11 US veterans painted by Bush called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.

Growing out of President Bush’s own outreach and the ongoing work of the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, Portraits of Courage brings together sixty-six full-color portraits and a four-panel mural painted by President Bush of members of the United States military who have served our nation with honor since 9/11 — and whom he has come to know personally.

The author proceeds from the book will be donated to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, “a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative works to ensure that post-9/11 veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life with a focus on gaining meaningful employment and overcoming the invisible wounds of war”. There’s a certain — I don’t know, let’s call it irony — in Bush honoring those whom he personally caused to be put in the harm’s way in the first place, under false pretenses no less.

An appreciation of the Hubble’s Deep Field images

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2017

More than 20 years ago, the Hubble Space Telescope took a photo of a patch of seemingly dark sky and, lo, it was filled with hundreds and hundreds of galaxies.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

About ten years after that, they looked even deeper into the night sky and observed thousands of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars. The video above is an appreciation of these Deep Field images and what they taught us about the Universe.

In 1995, scientists pointed the Hubble Telescope at an area of the sky near the Big Dipper. The location was apparently empty, and the whole endeavour was risky — what, if anything, was going to show up? But what came back was nothing short of spectacular: an image of over 1,500 galaxies glimmering in a tiny sliver of the universe. Alex Hofeldt helps us understand the scale of this image.

Crushed cans in the style of Ming dynasty ceramics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2017

Lei Xue

Lei Xue

Chinese sculptor Lei Xue has made these crushed cans in the style of Ming dynasty pottery.

The pieces are part of an ongoing series titled Drinking Tea, and unlike the mechanical process of producing cans, each object is sculpted and painted by hand.

So good! See also the ingenious design of the aluminum beverage can.

Nicholas Winton saved 100s of children from the Holocaust

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 23, 2017

In 1938-39 on the eve of World War II, Nicholas Winton established an organization to rescue Jewish children living in Czechoslovakia from the Holocaust by giving them safe passage to Britain, which had recently approved a measure allowing refugees younger than 17 entry into the country. Winton’s organization ended up saving 669 children — future poets, politicians, scientists, and filmmakers among them. Getting these children out of Czechoslovakia was literally a matter of life and death. From Winton’s Wikipedia page:

The last group of 250, scheduled to leave Prague on 1 September 1939, were unable to depart. With Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the same day, the Second World War had begun. Of the children due to leave on that train, only two survived the war.

Although he continued his humanitarian work after the war, Winton rarely spoke of his efforts in saving the children. The full scope of what he had done was revealed only after his wife found a scrapbook in 1988 of the children’s names and the names of the British families that had taken them in. The public learned of Winton’s efforts on a TV show called That’s Life. Winton believed he was attending the show as an audience member, but it was revealed that he was actually sitting amongst about 2 dozen of the now-grown children that he had saved:

For his efforts, Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. He died just a year and a half ago, at the age of 106.

How blind people use iPhones with VoiceOver

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2017

In a short video and accompanying article, David Pogue profiles a little known but highly useful iOS feature called VoiceOver, which helps visually impaired people do anything and everything on their iPhones.

A few years ago, backstage at a conference, I spotted a blind woman using her phone. The phone was speaking everything her finger touched on the screen, allowing her to tear through her apps. My jaw hit the floor. After years of practice, she had cranked the voice’s speed so high, I couldn’t understand a word it was saying.

And here’s the kicker: She could do all of this with the screen turned off. Her phone’s battery lasted forever.

It’s possible that people using VoiceOver to control their phones are more efficient at many tasks than those who use the default interface.

This was very cool: “If I’m in my office and put my headphones on, I’m hearing the phone call and I’m hearing what VoiceOver is saying, all through the headphones. But the person on the other end cannot hear any of the VoiceOver stuff. You don’t know what I’m reading, what I’m doing. I can do all these complicated things without you hearing it. That’s what’s really incredible. If you and I were working together on a three-way call, and you were to text me, ‘Let’s wrap this up’ or ‘Don’t bring that up on this call’-I would know, but the other guy wouldn’t hear it.

Joe showed me how he takes photos. As he holds up the iPhone, VoiceOver tells him what he’s seeing: “One face. Centered. Focus lock,” and so on. Later, as he’s reviewing his photos in the Camera Roll, VoiceOver once again tells him what he’s looking at: “One face; slightly blurry.”

See also how blind people use Instagram and iPhone: a revolutionary device for the blind.

Designing the graphics for the Harry Potter movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2017

Daily Prophet

Quibbler

Mudblood Dangers

MinaLima (aka Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima) is the design studio that designs all of the graphics, signs, newspapers, decrees, posters, labels, maps, book covers, and packaging that you see in the Harry Potter movies.

The range of design styles on display is impressive and captures the films’ combination of humour, horror and fantasy.

On one wall, packaging and adverts for products in a shop owned by the Weasley family combine early 20th century print advertising with humorous taglines and garish colours, while posters promoting the fictional game of Quidditch (below) reference 1950s Olympics adverts.

Official notices and letters use hand written fonts, and pamphlets demonising ‘mudbloods’ — a wizard born to non-wizard parents — are inspired by Soviet progaganda (top).

“One of the best things about working on the Harry Potter films was being able to try out so many different styles, from Victorian letterpress to modern design,” says Lima.

“The Daily Prophet was designed to look very Gothic, as did the architecture of Hogwarts [the boarding school for wizards where the film is set]. When an organisation called the Ministry of Magic takes control in later films, the school becomes a kind of totalitarian state, so we started looking to Russian constructivist design to reflect that,” says Mina.

They also worked on the Fantastic Beasts movie. You can follow their work on Instagram and a bunch of the best stuff is available for purchase on their site.

Delicately detailed illustrations of small Korean convenience stores

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2017

Me Kyeoung Lee

Me Kyeoung Lee

Me Kyeoung Lee

Oh, I really like these. The detail, the delicate realism, the muted but also somehow vibrant colors. Me Kyeoung Lee has been drawing South Korean convenience stores for the past two decades. There appears to be a recent book of her work, but I don’t know if or where it’s available (Google Translate isn’t working on that page). Doesn’t look like prints are available either. Yo 20x200, get on this! (via colossal)

A full rotation of the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2017

All but a few humans have seen no more than half of the Moon with their own eyes. For the rest of us stuck on Earth, we only get to see the side that always faces the Earth because the Earth & Moon are tidally locked; the Moon’s rotation about its axis and its orbit around the Earth take the same amount of time. But NASA’s LRO probe has taken high-resolution photos of all but 2% of the Moon’s surface, which have been stitched together into this video of the Moon’s full 360-degree rotation.

Atheism in the Arab world

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2017

Writing for New Humanist, Brian Whitaker writes about the rise of atheism in the Arab world. The differences between atheism in Christian societies and Arab ones include political considerations, how science is viewed, and how scripture is interpreted.

While there’s little doubt that an Islamic reformation would benefit the Middle East socially and politically, atheists cannot advocate this without sacrificing their principles. Progressive versions of Islam generally view the Qur’an in its historical context, arguing that rules which applied in the time of the Prophet can be reinterpreted today in the light of changing circumstances — but that involves accepting the Qur’an as the supreme scriptural authority.

The status of the Qur’an is a particularly important issue for both followers and opponents of Islam. Whereas Christians usually consider the Bible as divinely inspired but written by humans, the Qur’an is claimed to be the actual words of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic).

Teaser trailer for Deadpool 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2017

I tend not to like superhero movies as a genre — they take themselves far too seriously for something that’s supposed to be fun — but I really enjoyed Deadpool and it looks like Deadpool 2 is going to be more of the same so, yeah, I’ll see that when it comes out.

(This trailer was attached to the front end of Logan, which I also really liked. Yes, the movie took itself very seriously, but it was also a reminder that modern blockbuster movies are stuffed with acting talent and if you give those underutilized actors good material and let them go, good things happen.)

Racing the subway between stops on foot

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2017

In 2012, Francois De La Taille posted a video of himself racing a Paris Metro train from one station to the next, on foot. He exited the train, dashed out of the station, sprinted down the street (after pausing for a bus crossing the road), ran into the next station (after falling on the stairs), and hopped back onto the same train he’d just gotten off of.

Two years later, James Heptonstall did the same thing on the London Tube and, after a slow start, it went viral. Soon, people from all over the world were racing their hometown subway trains: Taiwan, Stockholm, Hong Kong, etc. If you’re wondering whether such a thing would be possible in NYC, the answer is yes, even if you pick the wrong door to start with:

(via @ftrain)

The top 10 coin flips in history

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2017

The Super Bowl is old news at this point and I have a love/hate thing with Bill Simmons going on, but I loved his ranking of the top 10 coin flips in history, which in typical Simmons fashion, crosses a bunch of different boundaries, from technology:

10. The Wright Brothers. In 1903, Wilbur and Orville flipped a coin to see who would attempt the first airborne flight. Wilbur won … and couldn’t keep the plane in the air. They repaired the plane and three days later Orville nailed the second flight, leading Skip Bayless to tweet, “I know this is Orville’s day but I can’t get over that choke job by Wilbur!”

…to sports:

3. Secretariat. Remember when Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps flipped a coin for the first pick of two foals that Bold Ruler had sired? And Phipps won and picked a foal born from Bold Ruler and Hasty Matelda? And Chenery settled for Secretariat, the eventual Triple Crown winner that became the most famous race horse who ever lived? And then Diane Lane played Chenery in Disney’s Secretariat movie that was 25 minutes too long? Poor Ogden Phipps.

…to the #1 pick from the musical world (which you might guess but will have to click through for).

A fire ant colony moves into a giant new space

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2017

This is perhaps the most interesting and engaging 14-minute video about an indoor fire ant colony that you’ll ever see. (The narration merits special mention; it’s somewhere between that of a nature documentary and a trailer for a Michael Bay movie.) This colony has been very successful and is bursting at the seams with worker ants, so a massive new space full of organic soil has been arranged for them.

What happens when you introduce a massive, ravenous fire ant colony to a bin full of soil? Pure awesomeness! In this video, we watch as our favourite Fire Ant colony “The Fire Nation” moves into a bin full of soil called “The Fire Palace”. We observe the amazing tunnel work and constructions they make and witness what makes ants the best architects and designs Mother Nature has to offer.

It’s amazing how quickly and completely the ants transform their habitat into something that suits their needs…they moved almost the entire colony into the new space in only 2 days. I…I kinda want to build my own ant colony now? Looks like I need to start by reading this.

Harrowing illegal abortion stories from before Roe v. Wade

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2017

Before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, most women seeking abortions in the US had to get them illegally. Illegal abortions were often unsafe & painful, and many women died, were injured, or were sexually assaulted by the men performing the procedures. In this video, three women who had abortions before 1973 and a woman who worked at a Brooklyn hospital in that era described their experiences.

“He said, ‘I’m not going to give you any anesthetic’ and he said ‘If you scream, they will hear you.’”

That’s how Connie described the illegal abortion she received in 1953 when she was 16 years old. Now a retired teacher, mother and grandmother, Connie said that after she received the abortion, the man who performed the procedure proceeded to sexually assault her as she lay bleeding on the table.

The rove beetle’s ability to mimic army ants independently evolved many times

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2017

Rove Beetle Ant

Rove beetles have evolved the ability to look and smell enough like army ants that they can live amongst them. Until it’s dinner time.

The impostors look and smell like army ants, march with the ants, and even groom the ants. But far from being altruistic nest-mates, these creatures are parasitic beetles, engaged in a game of deception. Through dramatic changes in body shape, behavior, and pheromone chemistry, the beetles gain their hostile hosts’ acceptance, duping the ants so they can feast on the colony brood.

As you can see in the photo above, the resemblance is strong…the beetle is in the foreground with the larger headed ant behind.

But that’s not even the most amazing part. A recent discovery has shown that rove beetles have evolved this capability at least a dozen separate times, suggesting that certain evolutionary possibilities are more likely than other in the presence of strong environmental factors and traits.

The ant-mimicking beetles all belong to the Staphylinidae, or rove beetles, but don’t mistake them for close relatives: the last common ancestor of the beetles in the study lived 105 million years ago, at about the time that humans split from mice. “What’s exceptional is that this convergent system is evolutionarily ancient,” says Parker. Although most other convergent systems, such as Darwin’s finches, three-spined stickleback, and African lake cichlid fish, are a few million years old at most, this newly discovered example extends back into the Early Cretaceous.

Given this great age, Parker and his co-author Munetoshi Maruyama of the Kyushu University Museum argue that their finding challenges Stephen J. Gould’s hypothesis that if time could be rewound and evolution allowed to replay again, very different forms of life would emerge. “The tape of life has been extremely predictable whenever rove beetles and army ants have come together,” says Parker. “It begs the question: why has evolution followed this path so many times?”

(via @stewartbrand)

Kara Walker reimagines “Washington Crossing the Delaware”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2017

Trump Crossing the Delaware

Not wanting to listen to the news on inauguration day, artist Kara Walker painted. The result is a Trumpian take on Emanuel Leutze’s famous work “Washington Crossing the Delaware”, a copy of which is on display at the Met Museum. I hope I get to see Walker’s version in a museum or gallery someday soon.

George Saunders on “what writers really do when they write”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2017

From The Guardian, a typically illuminating piece from George Saunders on how he approaches writing…and more specifically how he approached writing a novel after so many years of writing short stories. Regarding the writer/reader connection:

This is a hopeful notion, because it implies that our minds are built on common architecture — that whatever is present in me might also be present in you. “I” might be a 19th-century Russian count, “you” a part-time Walmart clerk in 2017, in Boise, Idaho, but when you start crying at the end of my (Tolstoy’s) story “Master and Man”, you have proved that we have something in common, communicable across language and miles and time, and despite the fact that one of us is dead.

Another reason you’re crying: you’ve just realised that Tolstoy thought well of you — he believed that his own notions about life here on earth would be discernible to you, and would move you.

Tolstoy imagined you generously, you rose to the occasion.

A timeline map of the global median age from 1960-2060

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2017

From Aron Strandberg,1 this is a timeline visualization of the age of the world’s population from 1960-2060. The world’s human population has increased rapidly in the last couple centuries, most recently doubling since 1970:

A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).

But watching that video, you’ll realize that the world’s population will not reach 20 or 30 billion in 2050 — human civilization is getting old.

  1. Strandberg was also recently in charge of Sweden’s Twitter account, which they hand over to a random Swedish person each week. That’s where I found his chart.

The facts, fears, and safety of GMO foods

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2017

Kurzgesagt takes a look at the debate over genetically modified foods. Decades of scientific research plainly says that GMO foods are safe to consume, but that’s not the only issue.

Over 90% of all cashed crops in the US are herbicide resistant, mostly to glyphosate. As a result, the use of glyphosate has increased greatly. That isn’t only bad, glyphosate is much less harmful to humans than many other herbicides. Still, this means farmers have a strong incentive to rely on this one method only, casting more balanced ways of managing weeds aside.

That’s one of the most fundamental problems with the GMO debate. Much of the criticism of this technology is actually criticism of modern agriculture and a business practice of the huge corporations that control our food supply. This criticism is not only valid, it’s also important. We need to change agriculture to a more sustainable model.

One thing is for certain…the debate online is polarized.

The internet is photoshopping Mr. Bean into things and it’s great

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2017

Sometimes when the world is crashing down around you, only the dumbest possible thing will do and today’s installment is Mr. Bean photoshopped into various things and I am loving it.

Mr Bean Photoshopped

Mr Bean Photoshopped

Mr Bean Photoshopped

Time capsule: the best media of millennium

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2017

Back in 2000, Amazon ran a poll asking their customers what they thought were the best books, music, and movies of the past 1000 years. The results, archived by the Internet Archive, are a time capsule not only of recently popular works (Braveheart, Millennium by the Backstreet Boys, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling) but also of who was on the internet at that time. It’s interesting that Harry Potter made the list; the first book had only been out in the US for less than a year and a half and the 2nd and 3rd books had been out for less than 6 months.

The winners in each category were The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, and Star Wars. The author of the millennium was J.R.R. Tolkien (runner-up: Ayn Rand), The Beatles and Pink Floyd were the top musical artists, and the directors were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Here are the full top 10 lists:

Books
1. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
4. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - J.K. Rowling
6. The Stand - Stephen King
7. Ulysses - James Joyce
8. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
9. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
10. 1984 - George Orwell

Music albums
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
2. The Beatles (The White Album) - The Beatles
3. Millennium - Backstreet Boys
4. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
5. Abbey Road - The Beatles
6. Thriller - Michael Jackson
7. The Joshua Tree - U2
8. The Wall - Pink Floyd
9. Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis
10. Nevermind - Nirvana

Movies
1. Star Wars
2. Titanic
3. Citizen Kane
4. Gone With the Wind
5. The Godfather
6. Schindler’s List
7. The Matrix
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. Casablanca
10. Braveheart

The myth of Apple’s great design

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2017

In the Atlantic, Ian Bogost takes on the accepted view that Apple has great design, calling it “the biggest myth in technology today”.

At base, such a claim seems preposterous. In 1977, the Apple II made the microcomputer useful and affordable. In 1984, the Macintosh made the computer more usable by the everyperson thanks to the graphical user interface. In 2001, the iPod fit a music library in a pocket. In 2007, the iPhone made computing portable (and obsessive).

But if Apple designs at its best when attending closely to details like those revealed in the construction of its spaceship headquarters, then presumably the details of its products would stand out as worthy precedents. Yet, when this premise is tested, it comes up wanting. In truth, Apple’s products hide a shambles of bad design under the perfection of sleek exteriors.

While I find this piece to be hyperbolic, it hints at where Apple’s design is weakest. Apple is great at designing products but less good at designing the connections between these products and the rest of the world.1 iPhones, iPods, and iPads are great, but you have to go through iTunes to manage their contents. As Bogost notes, the power cords and chargers for their products are often bulky and awkward…you can’t even charge the newest iPhone using the newest Macbook Pro without a separate adapter. Who makes all the apps that people want to use on their iPhones to chat/connect/flirt/collaborate with their loved ones? Facebook, Snap, Google, Slack…not Apple, who initially wasn’t even going to provide a way for 3rd parties to build apps for the iPhone. Almost every attempt by Apple to build services to connect people — remember Ping?! — has failed. Even iCloud, which promised to unite all Apple devices into one fluid ecosystem, was plagued for years with reliability problems and still isn’t as good as Dropbox. How devices, apps, and people interconnect are far more important now than in 1977, 1984, and even 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, and Apple could stand to focus more of their design energy on that experience.

  1. Another way of saying this is when it comes to design trade-offs, Apple prioritizes the integrity of the device over other considerations.

A fictional flight above real Mars

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2017

Using real images of Mars taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Jan Fröjdman created a 3D-rendered flyover of several areas of the planet’s surface.

In this film I have chosen some locations and processed the images into panning video clips. There is a feeling that you are flying above Mars looking down watching interesting locations on the planet. And there are really great places on Mars! I would love to see images taken by a landscape photographer on Mars, especially from the polar regions. But I’m afraid I won’t see that kind of images during my lifetime.

It has really been time-consuming making these panning clips. In my 3D-process I have manually hand-picked reference points on the anaglyph image pairs. For this film I have chosen more than 33.000 reference points! It took me 3 months of calendar time working with the project every now and then.

Watch this in the highest def you can muster…gorgeous.

MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2017

From the MIT Technology Review, the 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2017:

Reversing Paralysis
Self-Driving Trucks
Paying with Your Face
Practical Quantum Computers
The 360-Degree Selfie
Hot Solar Cells
Gene Therapy 2.0
The Cell Atlas
Botnets of Things
Reinforcement Learning

The piece on Hot Solar Cells caught my eye:

Solar panels cover a growing number of rooftops, but even decades after they were first developed, the slabs of silicon remain bulky, expensive, and inefficient. Fundamental limitations prevent these conventional photovoltaics from absorbing more than a fraction of the energy in sunlight.

But a team of MIT scientists has built a different sort of solar energy device that uses inventive engineering and advances in materials science to capture far more of the sun’s energy. The trick is to first turn sunlight into heat and then convert it back into light, but now focused within the spectrum that solar cells can use. While various researchers have been working for years on so-called solar thermophotovoltaics, the MIT device is the first one to absorb more energy than its photovoltaic cell alone, demonstrating that the approach could dramatically increase efficiency.

Winners of the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2017

Underwater 2017

Underwater 2017

In Focus is featuring some of the winning shots from the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards. The top one is Dancing Octopus taken by Gabriel Barathieu and the bottom one is by Qing Lin, who took the photo near Lembeh, Indonesia, which is home to some of the strangest marine life in the world.

If you look at Lin’s photo of the clownfish for more than a second or two — pay attention…this is the nightmarish side to living on the reef that Pixar kept from you in Finding Nemo — you will notice not just three pairs of eyes but six pairs of eyes. In the mouth of each clownfish is a parasitic isopod looking right at the camera. The isopod enters the fish through the gills, attaches itself to the fish’s tongue, feeds on the blood in the tongue until it falls off, and then attaches itself to the tongue stump. And the fish uses the isopod as a replacement tongue! Cool! And gross!

Heinz is actually running ketchup ads created by Mad Men’s Don Draper

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

Heinz Ads Mad Men

In the second episode of the 6th season of Mad Men, ad man Don Draper of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce pitches Heinz on a campaign where you never actually see the product. The ads show French fries, steak, and a hamburger with the tagline “Pass the Heinz” and your mind fills in the missing ketchup bit. Here’s the pitch (which doesn’t exactly land w/ the Heinz folks):

Now, in the real universe, the actual Heinz is running Draper’s ads.

Partly a PR stunt, partly just solid on-brand communications, the campaign is sure to delight fans of the AMC show, which in July will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its premiere. And in a nice touch, the ads are officially being credited to Heinz’s current agency, David Miami, and to Don’s fictional 1960s firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. (Draper and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who approved the idea, are both listed in the credits.)

Heinz tells AdFreak that each one will get its own billboard in NYC. All three ads will also run in the New York Post, and the fries execution will run in Variety too. The ads will get support across Heinz’s social media channels as well.

See also Malcolm Gladwell on The Ketchup Conundrum.

Photos of NYC in the early 1970s

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2017

Vergara NYC

Vergara NYC

Vergara NYC

In the early 1970s, Camilo José Vergara trained his camera on scenes of everyday street life in New York City. His photographs captured kids playing on the street, subway cars before graffiti, sections of the Bronx that look bombed out, and the construction of the World Trade Center in progress.

See also his Tracking Time project, specific locations around the US photographed repeatedly over periods of up to 40 years. Vergara was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2002 for this work.

The first trailer for Coco

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2017

Pixar’s next movie, Coco, is coming out in November and here’s the first trailer.

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.

Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3) directs and the movie is out on November 22.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2017

George Saunders has written his first novel and it’s just as unusual as his short stories. Lincoln in the Bardo is historical fiction about Abraham Lincoln mourning the death of his son Willie, who is caught between lives.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

Buzzfeed has an excerpt of the novel, which takes the form of a collection of quotes.

The boy, frustrated at being denied the attention he felt he deserved, moved in and leaned against his father, as the father continued to hold and gently rock the—
the reverend everly thomas

Sick-form.
hans vollman

At one point, moved, I turned away from the scene and found we were not alone.
roger bevins iii

A crowd had gathered outside.
the reverend everly thomas

All were silent.
roger bevins iii

As the man continued to gently rock his child.
the reverend everly thomas

While his child, simultaneously, stood quietly leaning against him.
hans vollman

Then the gentleman began to speak.
roger bevins iii

Time to bust out the Google Cardboard: the NY Times VR team adapted a part of the novel into a 10-minute VR film.

Here’s a good interview with Saunders about the book and a review by Colson Whitehead. The book has been hovering near the top of the Amazon best sellers list since its release — it was #2 when I looked yesterday but is currently 6th, right after Orwell’s 19841 — and I’ve seen several people in my Instagram feed reading it…or at least socially signaling that they’re reading it. ;)

  1. The current #1 is a hardcover strategy guide for a new Legend of Zelda game that doesn’t come out until next month.

How Vladimir Putin rose to power and Made Russia Great Again

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2017

This video from Vox explains how Vladimir Putin took advantage of the post-Soviet political and economic chaos in Russia to become its leader in a very short period of time and what’s he done with that leadership since then.

Vladimir Putin has been ruling Russia since 1999. In that time he has shaped the country into an authoritarian and militaristic society. The Soviet Union dissolved into 15 new countries, including the new Russian Federation. In Putin’s eyes, Russia had just lost 2 million square miles of territory. But Putin’s regime has also developed and fostered the most effect cyber hacker army in the world and he’s used it to wreak havoc in the West. But the election of Donald Trump brings new hope for the Putin vision. Trump’s rhetoric has been notably soft on Russia. He could lift sanctions and weaken NATO, potentially freeing up space for Putin’s Russia to become a dominant power once again.

Watching this, it’s easy to see how Putin’s progress in Making Russia Great Again, not to mention the authoritarian methods he employs, would be appealing to Trump.

See also Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways.

An epidemic of middle-aged male loneliness

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2017

Um…

Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States, has said many times in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation.

Oh.

Beginning in the 1980s, Schwartz says, study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking.

The research doesn’t get any rosier from there. In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.

Eep!

The Tinderization of the NBA

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2017

Since the late 1980s, the winning percentage of road teams has been rising in the NBA. After speaking to dozens of players, coaches, and team officials, Tom Haberstroh found a fairly accepted answer: “NBA players are sleeping more and drinking less”. Players are taking their careers more seriously and partying less on the road while transportation coordination has improved. Ubiquitous cameras and big sponsorships keep bad behavior in check. An additional factor is that with apps like Tinder and Instagram, companionship can be delivered to a player’s hotel room like Seamless or Postmates without the need to drink at the club for a few hours beforehand.

Indeed, various apps have done for sex in the NBA what Amazon has done for books. One no longer needs to leave home to find a party. The party now comes to you. And lifestyle judgments aside, the NBA road life is simply more efficient — and less taxing — when there aren’t open hours spent trolling clubs.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting laid on the road today versus 15 years ago,” says one former All-Star, who adds that players actually prefer Instagram to Tinder when away from home. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”

The NBA player staring at a 9:30 a.m. team breakfast in a hotel conference room the morning of the game can now log seven or eight hours of z’s and still enjoy a tryst. Thanks to direct messaging and texting, some NBA players even arrange to have keys left at the front desk so dates can be inside the room when a player arrives at the hotel.

As Haberstroh says further down in the article, “Partying is the midrange jumper of nightlife.” (via mr)