rating: 1.0 stars

Room 237SEP 25

John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:

Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.

Just watch "The Shining" again instead.

I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.

As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.

To: Jason Kottke <jason@kottke.org>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"

i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:

*** the price is $13,000.00

*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic

*** nobody has gottten it right

*** i guarantee satisfaction

*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft

*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it

it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.

i look forward to your response

Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??

Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."

Rowling pens Potter updateJUL 08

In a piece for the Pottermore web site, JK Rowling writes an update on how the gang from the Harry Potter books is doing. The piece is an account of the Quidditch World Cup Final written by Rita Skeeter, the gossip columnist from the books. You need a login to read it on Pottermore, but someone uploaded it to Reddit as well.

The Potter family and the rest of Dumbledore's Army have been given accommodation in the VIP section of the campsite, which is protected by heavy charms and patrolled by Security Warlocks. Their presence has ensured large crowds along the cordoned area, all hoping for a glimpse of their heroes. At 3pm today they got their wish when, to the accompaniment of loud screams, Potter took his young sons James and Albus to visit the players' compound, where he introduced them to Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum.

About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror's black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: 'We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.' So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?

That last line is one of a few references to possible new stories in the piece...the last paragraph mentions a new biography of Harry and his pals due out at the end of this month:

And for those who want to know exactly how imperfect they are, my new biography: Dumbledore's Army: The Dark Side of the Demob will be available from Flourish and Blotts on July 31st.

Could Rowling be setting the stage for an eighth Potter book or is she just winding us up?

Smarty PinsJUL 02

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps-based geography quiz...you drop pins on the map to answer questions. You start with a total of 1000 miles and the game subtracts the number of miles you're off by for each answer.

Smarty Pin

I just spent far too long playing this. Can you beat my score of 39? Also, this reminds me of GeoGuessr, which is a lot more difficult.

The putter togethererJUL 02

A person who makes scissors by hand is called a putter, short for putter togetherer. The Putter is a four-minute silent film by Shaun Bloodworth that shows putter Cliff Denton making scissors.

You can order a pair of these handmade scissors at Ernest Wright & Sons; a pair of 6-inch desk scissors are £23, but they come with a lifetime guarantee and I bet you won't find a better pair of scissors anywhere. The wonderful music in that video is by The Black Dog. (via colossal)

A river runs through it (a coffee table)JUL 03

These glass and wood tables made by Greg Klassen to resemble rivers and lakes are completely ridiculous and impractical but I love them.

Greg Klassen table

Alas, they don't come cheap. (via colossal)

How to survive air travelJUL 23

Great piece from Craig Mod about how to survive air travel.

Authorities recommend arriving two hours before international flights. I say four. Get there four hours before your flight. You are a hundred and fifty years old. Your friends laugh at you. Have patience.

Arrive early and move through the airport like the Dalai Lama. You are in no rush. All obstacles are taken in stride, patiently, with a smile. Approach the nearly empty check-in counter. Walk up and say, I'm a bit early but I'm here to check in to ... Marvel at their surprise and then their generosity. Suddenly you are always able to get an exit row or bulkhead seat. Suddenly, sure, they can slip you into Business. Suddenly tickets that are supposedly unchangeable, cannot be modified, are, after a few calls, some frowns, upbeat goodbyes, specially modifiable for you. This is what happens when there is no one behind you in line to check in.

What Mod fails to mention here in regard to supposedly unchangeable tickets and the like is that he's one of the most disarmingly charming motherfuckers in the entire world. And here is the crux of the whole piece:

You are hacking the airport by arriving early, knowing that all the work you could have done at home -- the emails or writing or photo editing -- can be done at the airport.

I don't travel much anymore, but I've begun to arrive at the airport earlier than I need to because I got tired of rushing and I can work from pretty much anywhere with wifi. That mask shit though? That's too much.

Werner the HerzogJUL 25

Werner The Herzog

Magisterial. (via @moleitau)

PalletskateboardspottingJUL 09

Man rides the rails on a giant skateboard made out of a wooden pallet:

That worked way better than I would have expected. (via digg)

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)

Paul's Boutique Minus Paul's BoutiqueTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 29

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

July 25 was probably the 25th anniversary of Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. (Google and a few other sources say the release date was actually June 25, but July 25 is the consensus.) There's a new mural of the group, painted by Danielle Mastrion, at the corner of Ludlow and Rivington, on New York's Lower East Side, where the album cover was shot.

This remix of Paul's Boutique, released a few years ago, has also been recirculating on Twitter and Soundcloud. Caught in the Middle of a Three-Way Mix, by DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot, and DJ Food, recombines the album's original source tracks and a capella verses with audio commentaries and a handful of newer songs.

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

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

It's still wonderful to go back to the roots. In 2012, I found tracks from a handful of playlists and website listings and edited them together to make a Spotify playlist that I called "Paul's Boutique Without Paul's Boutique." It's just the sampled songs, as many of them as I could find, roughly in the order they appear on the album. It's ridiculously fun. I like it better than the three-DJ mix, and I might like it even better than the Beasties' album.

It feels like you're at an amazing party at Adam Yauch's house, the Dust Brothers have control of the record player, and Mike D and Adam Horowitz are watching TV and telling you jokes the whole time. I never want it to end.

Do you have a reservation?JUL 24

Alexis Madrigal wonders: when did the idea of the dinner reservation come about?

Reserving a table is not so much an "industrial age bolt-on" as it's a slippage from the older custom of reserving a ROOM in a restaurant. As my book explains, 18th-cy "caterers" [traiteurs] either served clients in their homes or in rooms at the traiteur's, the first self-styled restaurateurs borrowed from cafes in having lots of small tables in one big room. Throughout the nineteenth century, many big city restaurants continued to have both a (very) large public eating room with numerous, small (private) tables AND a number of smaller rooms that could be reserved for more private meals. (Much as some restaurants have special "banquet facilities" or "special occasion" rooms today.)

See also: the first NY Times restaurant review circa 1859.

The history of informationTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 29

This timeline of the history of information has some outstanding rabbit-holes: multiple entries on the history of magnetic card readers, Plimpton 322 (a cuneiform tablet called "the most famous original document of Babylonian mathematics"), and a whole series on crimes, forgeries, and hoaxes. The most developed entries and companion essays are on books and the book trade (the proprietor is an antiquarian bookseller), and the whole thing has got a noticeably Western Civ slant, but there's something here for everyone.

Minimalist movie posters made out of card stockJUL 03

Spanish design firm Atipo made these nifty minimalist movie posters out of card stock. I really like the one for Rear Window:

Rear Window

The mystery of the Wu-Tang name generatorTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 29

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

You probably know that Donald Glover (actor on Community, writer on 30 Rock) also has a rap career under the stage name Childish Gambino. You may not know that the name "Childish Gambino" comes from a Wu-Tang Name Generator.

That's half of the reason I'm here - I'm dead serious. Like I met RZA and he was like, "you're a cool dude, man - and your name is perfect for you! It's like that computer had a brain!" But yeah, I put my name in a Wu-Tang name generator and it spit out Childish Gambino, and for some reason I just thought that fit.

Now here's where things get a little weird. There are multiple, competing Wu-Tang name generators. (Of course there are.) Most of them seem to work the same way -- they run a script matching your name's characters with a decent-sized database of Wu-sounding words, kind of like a hash. But little differences in the scripts or in the database give you different results.

For instance, at recordstore.com, the "Original Wu Name Generator" (tagline "WE CAN WU YOU!") spits back "Erratic Assassin" (for "Timothy Carmody"), while "Tim Carmody" yields "Well-Liked Assman." These names are both awesome.

But the "Wu-Tang Name Generator" at mess.be ("Become a real Wu warrior, entah ur full name 'n smack da ol' dirty button"), which proprietor Pieter Dom says was made in 2002, is totally different. There, "Timothy Carmody" and "Tim Carmody" return "Shriekin' Wizard" and "Gentlemen Overlord," respectively. Now, while these definitely sound like Wu names, they are definitely The W to the other site's Enter the 36 Chambers.

Here's the weird part: both of these Wu-Tang name generators return the same name for "Donald Glover." It is, of course, "Childish Gambino."

Is it just a quirk that whatever difference crept in affects most names, but not Donald Glover's? Did one of the sites hard-code that result in, to boost its credibility with people who heard the Childish Gambino story? Or is Donald Glover somehow necessarily Childish Gambino, across all possible Wu-accessible worlds, in the same way that "Clifford Smith" is always and only "Method Man," even when he pretends to be an actor?

I don't think we can ever know. But just as Russell Jones was Ol' Dirty Bastard, ODB, Dirt McGirt, Big Baby Jesus, and Ason Unique as well as Osirus, I am content to be known by many names under the Wu.

(Dedicated to "Sarkastik Beggar" and "Lesbian Pimp." Via @hoverbird.)

Worn awayJUL 08

Oh, this is wonderful: Laurin Döpfner took an industrial sander to objects like logs, electronics, a camera, and a walnut, shaved off 0.5 mm at a time, and made a time lapse video of the results.

This is like a full-color MRI process. Could watch it all day. (via colossal)

The unfinished films of Stanley KubrickJUL 11

Narrated by Malcolm McDowell and featuring interviews from many collaborators and colleagues, Lost Kubrick is a short documentary on the films that Stanley Kubrick never finished.

Through interviews and abundant archival materials, this documentary examines these "lost" films in depth to discover what drew Kubrick to these projects, the work he did to prepare them for production, and why they ultimately were abandoned. Some of the unfinished project discussed here are "Napoleon", "The Aryan Papers" and also "A.I" (which we know finally made by Steven Spielberg).

Scorsese's silenceJUN 30

Martin Scorsese uses silence very effectively in his films. Tony Zhou explains:

(via dot info)

The future of birthdaysTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 28

Joanne McNeil charts where the internet of things is headed:

You wake up to a jazzy MIDI version of the "Happy Birthday" song. Your smart thermostat and smoke detector are singing in harmony because today is your day. Your fitness tracker is vibrating in an unfamiliar Morse Code. Searching the internet, you come across a question in the support forums about it, explaining it is the preprogrammed birthday greeting silent alarm that you can disable after pairing the device again and updating your settings. Your bathroom scale, toilet, and garage door also welcome you with birthday wishes. Open up the refrigerator to another friendly jingle. Tropicana, Fage, and Sabra Hummus all wish you happy birthday. Now there's an incoming message. It is the "birthday selfie" it snapped when you reached for the orange juice.

Sometimes, our identity-obsessed web services are creepy because they know so much about us, and sometimes they're creepy because they're just so damned shallow.

Where to stand in solar systemJUL 02

xkcd solid Solar System

From XKCD, an illustration of the solar system's solid surfaces stitched together. Best viewed large (if only to find the "all human skin" label). Randall Munroe is just the best, isn't he?

World's fastest pancake flipperJUL 10

Everyone has a superpower. This guy's superpower is that he can flip mini-pancakes faster than I thought humanly possible.

I love watching stuff like this...here's a guy chopping lemons in half 20 times quicker than Superman himself would.

ps. This is still the world's best pancake recipe.

rating: 4.0 stars

AvatarDEC 29

One of the most difficult things to get right in movies about aliens or the future is matching the cultural and technological sophistication of a people with their environment and history. In Avatar, the Na'vi are portrayed as a Stone Age tribe, living in relatively small groups and essentially ignorant or uninterested in technology beyond simple knives and bows. But the Na'vi are also very physically capable, obviously very intelligent, aware of their global environment, well-nourished, healthy, omnivorous, adaptive, and even inventive. They have domesticated animals, are troubled by few serious natural predators, can live in different environments, have easy access to many varied natural resources (for sustenance and building/making), and can travel and therefore communicate over long distances (dozens if not hundreds of miles a day on their winged animals).

And most importantly, the Na'vi have regular and intimate access to a moon-sized supercomputer -- a neural net supercomputer at that -- that connects them to every other living thing on their world and have had such access for what could be millennia.

It just doesn't add up. The Na'vi are too capable and live in an environment that is far too pregnant with technological possibility to be stuck in the Stone Age. Plot-wise it's convenient for them to be the way they are, but the Na'vi really should have been more technologically advanced than the Earthlings, not only capable of easily repelling any attack from Captain Ironpants but able to keep the mining company from landing on the moon in the first place.

Clickbaiting the 10 CommandmentsJUL 25

Over at McSweeney's, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won't believe what God said to this man...

At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn't Have Other Gods.

37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.

Songs that time forgotJUL 22

Over at Very Small Array, an analysis of the obscurity of hit songs, i.e. which top ten songs from each year since 1900 have remained popular and which have been lost to the sands of time. Of the least popular hit songs:

Don't cry for them. All they need is one Wes Anderson movie to get back in the game.

(via waxy)

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)

A menagerie of birds from the futureJUL 24

The Silva Field Guide to Birds of a Parallel Future, featuring several videos of how futuristic birds might move. For instance, here's a deconstructed bird in the shape of a Borg cube:

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)

Create Your Own EconomyAPR 22

Create Your Own Economy

I don't think he's talked about it on his site yet, but Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out called Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World.

As economist Tyler Cowen boldly shows in Create Your Own Economy, the way we think now is changing more rapidly than it has in a very long time. Not since the Industrial Revolution has a man-made creation -- in this case, the World Wide Web -- so greatly influenced the way our minds work and our human potential. Cowen argues brilliantly that we are breaking down cultural information into ever-smaller tidbits, ordering and reordering them in our minds (and our computers) to meet our own specific needs.

Create Your Own Economy explains why the coming world of Web 3.0 is good for us; why social networking sites such as Facebook are so necessary; what's so great about "Tweeting" and texting; how education will get better; and why politics, literature, and philosophy will become richer. This is a revolutionary guide to life in the new world.

I never properly reviewed Cowen's last book (sorry!), but I found it as enlightening and entertaining as Marginal Revolution is. (via david archer)

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)

The longevity gapJUL 02

The growing inequality between the rich and poor has become one of the key stories of this era. But while the focus is on money, it's really about something much more basic than that: Life. Americans who are affluent already live about twelve years longer than their poor and working class counterparts. And with new technologies on the way, that gap could widen dramatically. The story of the haves and the have-nots could quickly become a story of the haves and the dead. Aeon's Linda Marsa on The Longevity Gap.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

Goodnight MoonJUL 23

Goodnight Moon

From Aimee Bender, an appreciation of Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, a favorite of mine to read to my kids when they were younger.

"Goodnight Moon" does two things right away: It sets up a world and then it subverts its own rules even as it follows them. It works like a sonata of sorts, but, like a good version of the form, it does not follow a wholly predictable structure. Many children's books do, particularly for this age, as kids love repetition and the books supply it. They often end as we expect, with a circling back to the start, and a fun twist. This is satisfying but it can be forgettable. Kids - people - also love depth and surprise, and "Goodnight Moon" offers both.

Haven't read Goodnight Moon in ages...at 4 and 7, my kids protest whenever I suggest it. We're currently powering our way through the third Harry Potter book, which, though I enjoy Potter, is no Goodnight Moon.

Update: How Goodnight Moon overcame bad initial reviews and became a word-of-mouth bestseller.

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.

A fake history of bloggingJUL 18

At The Morning News, Giles Turnbull offers up a fake history of blogging, er, bloggering.

Depending on who you ask, the first bloggering happened in the late 1990s, when the web was still young, and clicking links to pages where you'd click more links was cool. This was in the days when the only use for an animated GIF was to tell people you were still working on your web page. Even if you weren't.

"I invented bloggering," says mad old Laurence Fortey, a mad old internet guy from the old, old days. He can remember hand-coded websites. He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.

Little Starbucks on the PrairieJUL 21

Over at McSweeney's, Gary Almeter reimagines episodes of the Little House on the Prairie TV show to reflect the presence of a Starbucks in Walnut Grove.

Charles inherits the entire estate of a wealthy uncle. Within 24 hours, the Ingallses, who are seemingly rich, suddenly become Harriet Oleson's best pals. They are pressured to make various contributions throughout the community, and they even receive newspaper article offers to chronicle this tremendous change in their lives. Things get even worse when this newfound fortune threatens the family's relationships with their real friends. Meanwhile, Nellie Oleson, to avenge a barista who broke Nellie's doll, replaces the cinnamon at the Starbucks condiments bar with cayenne pepper while Mr. Edwards finally accepts the idea that coffee can be iced.

(via @tadfriend)

Halt and Catch Fire titlesJUL 02

Speaking of Halt and Catch Fire, the title sequence is pretty awesome:

I am also currently trying (and mostly failing) not to have a giant crush on Mackenzie Davis, who plays crack programmer Cameron Howe on the show, reads Infinite Jest in Brooklyn coffee shops, gets anxious about talking on the phone (me too!), and has recently read The Soul of a New Machine (me too!). Am I wrong to think we'd totes be BFFs?!

Update: The Art of the Title did a feature on the H&CF titles, which includes 55 photos of storyboards. Pretty cool to see the process. (via @ScottIvers)

Books on book coversJUL 23

An extensive collection of book covers featuring books. Confused? Maybe an example will help:

Yarn Whisperer

For sale. Knockoff Jeff Koons. $500.JUL 24

A seller on Chinese b2b site Alibaba is offering stainless steel sculptures of balloon animal dogs in the style of Jeff Koons. For as little as $500, you can get your own knock-off copy of Balloon Dog, which sold for $58 million last year.

Koons dog knockoff

Koons' dog was about 10 feet tall but the seller notes they can make them anywhere from 3 feet tall to almost 100 feet tall. Jiminy. I wonder what these things look like? I bet they aren't nearly as precise as the originals, but you never know. See also: Rex Sorgatz's Uber for Art Forgeries. (via prosthetic knowledge)

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)

Maps don't love you like I love youJUL 18

From Flowing Data, 19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won't Believe Your Eyes. Watch. It's the maps listicle to end all maps listicles.

Useless maps

Botanical space flightJUL 24

Bonsai! In! Spaaaaaaaace!!

Bonsai in space

This image is from Exobiotanica, a project that sent various plants about 100,000 feet into the sky.

The 50 greatest summer blockbustersJUL 07

The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.

Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.

Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)

Airship hangar waterpark funtimesJUL 18

In his new video, Casey Neistat and his son visit a German waterpark housed in a giant former airship hangar.

Some information on the structure from the waterpark's web site:

The Tropical Islands Dome is gigantic. In fact, it is the largest free-standing hall in the world: 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and an incredible 107 metres high.

That is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty in standing up and the Eiffel Tower lying on its side. The Tropical Islands Dome covers an area of 66,000 m², the size of eight football fields. And it is high enough to fit in the whole of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, with all its skyscrapers.

(via john hodgman)

rating: 4.5 stars

Annie HallFEB 09

A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.

The future isn't any fun sometimes.

DFW, on the cusp of literary stardomJUL 01

Just after Infinite Jest was published, David Foster Wallace came to Boston and did a radio interview with Chris Lydon. Radio Open Source recently unearthed that interview, probably unheard for the past 18 years, and published it on their site.

When I started the book the only idea I had is I wanted to do something about America that was sad but wasn't just making fun of America. Most of my friends are extremely bright, privileged, well-educated Americans who are sad on some level, and it has something, I think, to do with loneliness. I'm talking out of my ear a little bit, this is just my opinion, but I think somehow the culture has taught us or we've allowed the culture to teach us that the point of living is to get as much as you can and experience as much pleasure as you can, and that the implicit promise is that will make you happy. I know that's almost offensively simplistic, but the effects of it aren't simplistic at all.

Buzz Aldrin's Reddit AMAJUL 08

Buzz Aldrin just did one of Reddit's crowdsourced Q&As. He hits it out of the park with his first answer:

Q: Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?

A: My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was "Magnificent desolation." The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream -- achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate -- there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.

Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away -- no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up -- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.

That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.

Ready to make your own Duchamp?JUL 07

Sometime around 1918 in Buenos Aires, Marcel Duchamp designed a chess set:

Duchamp chess set

Sometime earlier this year, Scott Kildall and Brian Sera used archival photos of the hard-to-find set, turned them into 3D models of the chess pieces, and made a pattern for 3D printing your own set:

Duchamp chess set

The community at Thingaverse is already busy making interesting variations of Duchamp's set...look at this one:

Duchamp Chess 03

Something tells me Duchamp would have loved this whole thing.

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.

Why don't OKCupid's experiments bother us like Facebook's did?TIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 28

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

OK Cupid's Christian Rudder has responded to the outcry over Facebook's experiments with user emotions by... publishing a list of experiments that the dating site has run on its users, along with their results.

And it's not little stuff either! To test its matching algorithms, OKC has selectively hidden users' profile images, their profile text, and even told pairs of users they were a good match when the algo said they weren't, and vice versa.

In short, Facebook may have hid stuff from you, but OK Cupid might have actually lied to you.

But... nobody's really upset about this. Or if they are, they're mostly just upset (or dryly observing, it's hard to tell) that other people aren't upset.

Why? I have some theories:

  1. It's early yet. It took the Facebook story some time to steep before it really picked up steam.
  2. OKC users are less likely to be troubled by this sort of thing than Facebook users are. And people get more upset when they feel like they personally might have been messed with. Hilary Parker pointed out that non-online daters are less likely to get upset on online daters' behalf: even if you don't actively look down on OKC users (and many do), you might be more likely to think they got what they deserved. OK Cupid has a history of disclosing these kinds of numbers, and there's a laissez-faire attitude towards users gaming accounts for their own purposes.
  3. We trust Facebook in a way we don't trust OKC. Facebook is the safe baby internet, with our real friends and family sending us real messages. OKC is more internet than the internet, with creeps and jerks and catfishers with phony avatars. So Facebook messing with us feels like a bigger betrayal.
  4. OKC's matching algorithm may be at least as opaque as Facebook's news feed, but it's clearer to users that site matches and views are generated using an algorithm. Reportedly, 62 percent of Facebook users weren't aware that Facebook's news feed was filtered by an algorithm at all. (That study has a small sample size, but still, we can infer that lots of Facebook users have no idea.)
  5. The results of OKC's experiments are less troubling. Facebook's study showed that our posting behavior (and maybe our feelings) were pretty susceptible to manipulation without a whole lot of effort. OKC's results seemed more complimentary. Sure, lots of people on dating sites are shallow, and sometimes you may have ended up in longer conversations than you might like with incompatible people, but good matches seem to find a way to connect no matter what OKC tells us! So... the algorithm works and I guess we can trust what they tell us? My head hurts. (Jess Zimmerman adds that part of the Facebook intervention was deliberately designed to cause harm, by making people unhappy, at least as mediated through their posts. The difference here depends on whether you think trying to match you up with someone incompatible might be causing them harm.
  6. The tone of the OKC post is just so darned charming. Rudder is casual, self-deprecating. It's a blog post! Meanwhile, Facebook's "emotional contagion" scholarly paper was chillingly matter-of-fact. In short, the scientism of the thing just creeped us the fuck out.
  7. This is related to the tone issue, but OKC seems to be fairly straightforward about why it performed the experiment: they didn't understand whether or how their matching algorithm was working, and they were trying to figure that out to make it better. Facebook seemed to be testing user's emotional expressions partly to solve a scholarly dispute and partly just to see if they could. And most of the practical justifications folks came up with for the Facebook study were pretty sinister: tricky folks into posting more often, into clicking on ads, into buying stuff. (Really, both experiments are probably a mix of product testing and shooting frogs for kicks, but the perception seems to be different.)
  8. The Facebook study had an added wrinkle in that academics were involved in designing the study and writing it up. This raised all sorts of factual and ethical issues about university institutional review boards and the responsibility of the journal's editors and publishers that don't seem to be relevant here. I mean, maybe SOMEbody should be veryifying that experiments done on human subjects are ethical, whether it's in a university, medical, or government context or not, but it's not like someone may have been asleep at the switch. Here, there is no switch.
  9. Maybe we're all just worn out. Between Facebook, this, Uber ratings, and god knows what, even if you're bothered by this kind of experimentation, it's more difficult to stay angry at any one company. So some people are jaded, some people would rather call attention to broader issues and themes of power, and some people are just tired. There's only so many times you can say "see? THIS! THIS is what I've been telling you about!" or "I can't believe you're surprised by this" before you're just like, ¯\_(?)_/¯.

I don't agree with all of these explanations, and all of them feel a little thin. But maybe for most of us, those little scraps of difference are enough.

Update: Here's a tenth reason that I thought of and then forgot until people brought up variations of it on Twitter: Facebook feels "mandatory" in a way that OKCupid doesn't. It's a bigger company with a bigger reach that plays a bigger part in more people's lives. As Sam Biddle wrote on Twitter, "Facebook is almost a utility at this point. It's like ConEd fucking with us."

The World Cup is over. Now what?JUL 19

If you enjoyed the World Cup but don't know how to proceed into the seemingly impenetrable world of soccer, with its overlapping leagues, cups, and tournaments, this guide from Grantland is for you.

Just because the World Cup is over doesn't mean soccer stops. Soccer never stops; that's one of its biggest appeals. There are so many different teams, leagues, club competitions, and international tournaments that, if you want to, you can always find someone to cheer for or some team to root against. It can also be a bit daunting to wade into without any experience. Luckily, you have me, your Russian Premier League-watching, tactics board-chalking, Opta Stats-devouring Gandalf, to help you tailor your soccer-watching habits. And now I will answer some completely made-up questions to guide you along your soccer path.

This was basically my situation after the 2010 World Cup, a soccer fan with nowhere to direct his fandom. What I did was:

1. Picked a player I enjoyed watching (Messi) and started following his club team (FC Barcelona) and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the league that team played in (La Liga). I know a lot more cities in Spain than I used to.

2. Watched as many Champions League matches as I could every year, again more or less following Barcelona.

3. Got into UEFA European Championship, which is basically the World Cup but just for Europe. It's held every four years on a two-year stagger from the WC and the next one is in 2016 in France, which, I'm realizing just now, I should try to attend.

I also watched a few Premier League matches here and there...it's a great league with good competition. What I didn't do is follow any MLS or the USMNT, although after this WC, I might give the Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments some more attention. And qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup start in mid-2015...soccer never ends.

The Final Four of EverythingAPR 28

The Final Four of Everything

In a post on his great blog, The Year in Pictures, James Danziger discusses some of the photography featured in a forthcoming book, The Final Four of Everything, including Danziger's own selections for Iconic American Photographs. The Final Four of Everything seems to be a sequel of sorts to The Enlightened Bracketologist by the same authors...or perhaps just the same book with a much better title.

The secret rites of MinecraftTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 28

"Minecraft is a game about creation," writes Robin Sloan. "But it is just as much a game about secret knowledge."

There's no official manual, so the game's teeming network of devotees, young and old, proper publishers and web-based wildcats, have worked to create them by the score. Not just guides, but wikis, videos, hints, tricks. The rules can only be discovered by observation, reasoning, and experiment. Like science -- or magic:

Imagine yourself a child. Imagine yourself given one of these books: not merely a story of exploration and adventure, but a manual to such.

Imagine yourself acquiring the keys to a mutable world in which you can explore caves, fight spiders, build castles, ride pigs, blow up mountains, construct aqueducts to carry water to your summer palace... anything.

Imagine yourself a child, in possession of the secret knowledge.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this, Robin writes, is how the game "calls forth" the books -- another kind of magic. Is this a function of how much Minecraft players love the game? Or is that arcane, indirect, networked, bottomless well of knowledge, asking to be impossibly filled, what they love about it?

A theory on Jon Snow's parentageJUL 21

If you've been paying attention to the promos for HBO's Game of Thrones series, there's been a lot of Jon Snow sitting on the Iron Throne. When the show started, Snow seemed like a relatively minor character, but his uncertain parentage hinted at possible greater things on the horizon. Here's a video explanation of one of the more popular theories about Snow's parents:

BTW, if you, like me, haven't read the books and have only seen the TV show, the video doesn't contain any outright spoilers, only enriching context. So watch away. And if you've read the books, you probably don't need to watch the video because you're probably already aware of this old theory. If you're interested, there are more theories (and crazy spoilers) where that came from.

The hidden message in the old Milwaukee Brewers logoJUL 07

Somehow I lived in WI for the first 17 years of my life, was a Brewers fan for many of those years, and never realized the old Brewers logo contained the letters "m" and "b" hidden in the ball and glove.

Old Brewers logo

Wow. If your mind is blowing right now too, there's a Facebook group we can join together: Best Day of My Life: When I Realized the Brewers Logo Was a Ball and Glove AND the Letters M and B. (via kathryn yu)

ps. If you've somehow missed the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, here you go. Best kind of natural high there is.

12 Monkeys TV series trailerJUL 18

The first season of a new series based on 12 Monkeys (and La Jetée) is set to debut on Syfy in January; here's the trailer:

(via the verge)

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:

The Imitation GameJUL 21

The Imitation Game is a historical drama about Alan Turing, focusing on his efforts in breaking the Enigma code during WWII. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing. Here's a trailer:

SnowpiercerJUL 18

This is a lie, but I got dozens of emails today asking, "Jason, what movie should I watch tonight?" Whoa, slow down everyone, I've got just the thing: Snowpiercer. It's a Korean film from 2013 that's just now trickling into the consciousness of the rest of the world (c.f. this Grantland piece). The film takes place entirely on a train carrying the last remaining humans speeding forever around a frozen Earth (caused by an overenthusiastic response to climate change) and director Bong Joon-ho takes full advantage of this confined and linear setting. Plus, Tilda Swinton as a Terry Gilliam-ified Maggie Thatcher is worth the price of admission alone.

Snowpiercer is out in ~350 theaters in the US, so if you're not in a major metropolitan area, it might be a little hard to catch. But the movie is also available digitally at Amazon and iTunes.

Elevating bread and butterJUL 18

Bread and butter is often an afterthought at restaurants...the bread can be meh and bland butter served too cold to spread. Chef Dan Richer takes the bread and butter offered at his New Jersey restaurant as seriously as any of the other items on his menu.

Cultured butter is delicious...Per Se serves it as well. (via digg)

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)

The new Haruki Murakami novelTIM CARMODY  ·  JUL 28

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

Slate has an excerpt of Haruki Murakami's new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It's more or less self-contained, a story within a story. But of course, even within the excerpt, those nesting frames start collapsing:

Haida stopped and glanced at the clock on the wall. Then he looked at Tsukuru. He was, of course, Haida the son, but Haida the father had been his same age in this story, and so the two of them began to overlap in Tsukuru's mind. It was an odd sensation, as if the two distinct temporalities had blended into one. Maybe it wasn't the father who had experienced this, but the son. Maybe Haida was just relating it as if his father had experienced it, when in reality he was the one who had. Tsukuru couldn't shake this illusion.

"I just silently accept everything as it is," says another character, Midorikawa. "That's my basic problem, really. I can't erect a decent barrier between subject and object."

There's also magic, death, and jazz, plus a fair bit of discussion about the value of life and imagination. Just a treat.

The Forest Man of IndiaJUL 17

Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has planted every single tree in a forest that covers some 1360 acres of an island in the Jorhat district of India. The forest helps prevent the erosion of the island and is now home to elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other animals. Forest Man is a short documentary film on how this forest came to be.

(via @AdmiralTwombly)

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