Akira Kurosawa, a master of movementMAR 23

New Every Frame a Painting! In this installment, Tony Zhou shows how Akira Kurosawa used movement in his films to terrific effect.

Dope Rider rides againSUSANNAH BRESLIN  ·  MAR 20

Since I wasn't a High Times reader in 1975, I missed the debut of Dope Rider, a totally trippy, startlingly surrealistic comic strip starring a Wild West skeleton and created by Paul Kirchner. Thankfully, Kirchner has uploaded the entire Dope Rider oeuvre and shared the back story on what may be one of the comic world's stranger strips. The psychedelic comic features dope trading, Hells Angels references, and lines like, "The best things about being high is the view."

dope-rider.jpg

(via Gawker)

Seveneves by Neal StephensonAPR 15

Stephenson Seveneves

Neal Stephenson has made the first 26 pages of his upcoming book, Seveneves, available on his website. About the book:

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain...

Five thousand years later, their progeny-seven distinct races now three billion strong-embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown... to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

The novel is out on May 19.

Green Eggs and HamFEB 20

Green Eggs and Ham

After writing The Cat in the Hat in 1955 using only 223 words, Dr. Seuss bet his publisher that he could write a book using only 50 words. Seuss collected on the wager in 1960 with the publication of Green Eggs and Ham. Here are the 50 distinct words used in the book:

a am and anywhere are be boat box car could dark do eat eggs fox goat good green ham here house I if in let like may me mouse not on or rain Sam say see so thank that the them there they train tree try will with would you

From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale, the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.

But I don't know...foreach ($items as $value) doesn't quite have the same sense of poetry as the original Seuss.

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 Hidden Effects of Cheap OilMAR 31

Today's drop in crude-oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014, may be as disruptive as the quadrupling of oil prices that created the oil shock of 1974.

For most of us, lower oil prices simply translate as better prices at the gas pump. But the value of oil has big consequences around the world. From Moisés Naím in The Atlantic: The Hidden Effects of Cheap Oil.

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The Enigma wristwatchAPR 01

Engima Watch

Forget the Pebble or Apple Watch. Wouldn't you rather wear a fully functional three-rotor Engima machine wristwatch?

The idea here wasn't to make the smallest one possible. I decided to make a device that was practical and useable. And something that looks like it was from WW2. Something that could actually be used in the field in place of a real Enigma machine. Obviously there were some limitations. I could have a 26 key keyboard for a start so I had to come up with a UI that would work with a minimal number of keys. I bought a small 128x64 OLED, a suitable battery and started breadboarding it all up. With it working on a normal Arduino I bought an Arduino Pro Mini (or a good replica!) and started looking at getting it running on that.

For reference, here's what an actual Enigma machine looks and how it works.

The first and final frames of 55 filmsSUSANNAH BRESLIN  ·  MAR 20

I really love this video featuring the opening and closing shots of fifty-five movies presented side-by-side, "First and Final Frames." Created by Jacob T. Swinney.

My favorites: "Tree of Life," "Raging Bull," "Melancholia."

After the PartyMAR 31

The New Yorker has an excerpt of the fourth volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle.

Throughout our childhood we three had sat chatting, that was what I was used to, but this was the first time we had done it without Dad living in the house, and the difference was immense. Knowing that he couldn't walk in at any moment, forcing us to think about what we were saying and doing, changed everything.

We had chatted about everything under the sun then too, but never so much as a word about Dad, it was a kind of implicit rule.

I had never thought about that before.

But we couldn't talk about him now, that would have been inconceivable.

Why?

Modern day VHSAPR 07

Modern Day VHS

Someone pretending to be a Parisian hipster who only watches VHS versions of modern shows & movies like Game of Thrones and Interstellar created these VHS covers as an April Fools joke. These are actually pretty great. (via subtraction)

Top new typefaces of 2014MAR 31

Cooper Hewitt typeface

Although I am slowly coming around1 to Massimo Vignelli's assertion that designers should only use a handful of typefaces, I enjoyed seeing Typographica's list of their favorite typefaces of 2014.

Typeface design and distribution is in a state of rapid change. Last year we noted its diffusion around the globe, and that trend persists. The majority of font production is no longer concentrated in a few regional epicenters.

That goes for corporate epicenters as well. The independence of type designers themselves is increasingly evident. Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm. Only a handful of the selections in this year's list were published by companies with more than ten employees.

I discovered that one of the selections, a beautiful custom typeface made for the reopening/rebranding of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (sample shown above), has been made available by the museum for free download (including a web fonts version).

  1. I mean, not really. But when 95% of everything sucks, paring down to only the good stuff is a seductive idea, isn't it? Also, Vignelli's NYC subway map was not good and would have benefitted from a less Swiss approach.

Two women leading parallel lives are getting to know each other through dataSUSANNAH BRESLIN  ·  MAR 19

dear-data.jpg

Giorgia Lupi, who lives in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, who lives in London, are engaged in a long-distance, postcard-based data exchange in order to get to know each other better: "Dear Data." They've only met in person twice, and they're both interested in data, so they're sending each other postcard drawings of data about their day-to-day lives.

Each week we collect and measure a particular type of data about our lives, use this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then drop the postcard in an English "postbox" (Stefanie) or an American "mailbox" (Giorgia)!

Eventually, the postcard arrives at the other person's address with all the scuff marks of its journey over the ocean: a type of "slow data" transmission.

By creating and sending the data visualizations using analogue instead of digital means, we are really just doing what artists have done for ages, which is sketch and try to capture the essence of the life happening around them. However, as we are sketching life in the modern digital age, life also includes everything that is counted, computed, and measured.

We are trying to capture the life unfolding around us, but instead we are capturing this life through sketching the hidden patterns found within our data.

The data appears on the front of the postcard, and a key explaining how to read the data appears on the back of the postcard. (via Coudal)

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.

Cancer: The Emperor of All MaladiesMAR 24

Oh, this sounds fantastic: PBS is set to air a six-hour documentary series, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, starting at the end of March. How have I not heard about this before today?

This "biography" of cancer covers its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the 20th century to cure, control and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The series also features the current status of cancer knowledge and treatment -- the dawn of an era in which cancer may become a chronic or curable illness rather than its historic death sentence in some forms.

The series is based on Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which is one of the most interesting books I've read in the past few years. Ken Burns is executive producing and Barak Goodman is directing.

Thanks to Sarah Klein at Redglass Pictures for letting me know about this. Redglass created a pair of videos for the series featuring Terrence Howard and Ken Jeong talking about their experiences with cancer.

Update: All three parts of the series are available on the PBS site for the next two weeks or so.

The easy way to care for your jeansMAR 26

Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean made a video for Mr. Porter about how to care for your new pair of jeans.

I remember reading his original post on the topic and boggling at the concept of wearing a new pair of raw selvage jeans for an entire year before washing them. (I still have never done such a thing. I'm just not that fancy.)

This made me cackle like a goose hopped up on goofballsAPR 13

rating: 4.5 stars

ArgoFEB 20

Argo Poster

That's a movie poster for Argo, the fake movie that the CIA "made" as a cover for getting six American diplomats out of Iran in 1980. Ben Affleck's Argo, which cements the former prettyboy actor's status as one of the best young American directors, is somewhat loosely based on The Master of Disguise, a book written by the guy Affleck plays in Argo, and a 2007 Wired magazine article by Joshuah Bearman called The Great Escape. Argo is up for several Oscars and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Update: Here's a CIA report written by Mendez about the caper. And I'm listening to the soundtrack right now.

The 100 Best Books of the Decade So FarAPR 09

Best Books 2010s

From the Oyster Review, a publication by online bookseller Oyster, a list of the 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far. Good to see The Emperor of All Maladies, Cleopatra: A Life, Bring Up the Bodies, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore on there, among others.

Bracket for the worst things on the InternetAPR 03

From Jon Bois at SBNation, The Worst Internet Things bracket. Some of the worst things and their seedings include:

(16) Person who types "wow" in front of retweet
(9) Atheists who love to argue
(7) All internet discourse about bacon
(8) People who complain about BuzzFeed
(2) iTunes
(5) Kickstarters for weddings

How Apple Watch is madeMAR 24

Apple Watch

From product designer Greg Koenig, a fantastic display of Kremlinology on how he thinks Apple makes the Apple Watch, based on the available evidence (production videos, patents, product specs).

In the above shot, blanks are placed in an immersion ultrasonic tester. What Apple is looking for is the presence of voids or density variances within the structure of the blank that, under stress, could lead to part failure or surface defects as material is removed in further machining processes. This level of inspection is, to put it mildly, fastidious beyond where most other companies would go (save Rolex). Immersion ultrasonic inspection is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines; not only does this step take time, it also is typically performed by custom built machines of tremendous expense.

If you don't have the time or energy to read through the whole thing, at least skip to the final two paragraphs about manufacturing as ritual.

Also, Koenig's Twitter stream is full of interesting nuggets about Apple. Here are a few that caught my attention:

Redesigning how people dieMAR 21

From the cool devices in our hands, to the software on our screens, to the smooth stylings of Jony Ive's Apple product video voiceovers, it's clear this is the era of design. Since design has touched and changed so many parts of our lives, isn't it time that we redesigned death? The chief creative officer at one of the top design firms in the world thinks it is:

With just a little attention, it seemed -- a few metaphorical mirrors affixed to our gurneys at just the right angle -- he might be able to refract some of the horror and hopelessness of death into more transcendent feelings of awe and wonder and beauty.

From Jon Mooallem in California Sunday Magazine: Death, Redesigned. (I like where you're going with the embalming and the eternal darkness, I just think it could pop a little more.)

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Ex Machina soundtrackAPR 14

A new listen-while-you-code/write/design favorite.

I really liked the movie. Matt Zoller Seitz's review captured it well.

The beautiful thinking gameAPR 02

Judging by interviews, neither Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi seems like the smartest tool in the shed, but they both possess a keen mind for football as Simon Kuper explains. Messi, who appears to listlessly sandbag his way through the early part of matches, is actually using the time to size up his opponent:

It was a puzzling sight. The little man was wandering around, apparently ignoring the ball. The official explained: "In the first few minutes he just walks across the field. He is looking at each opponent, where the guy positions himself, and how their defense fits together. Only after doing that does he start to play."

And Rooney uses visualization (or as Shaq would call it, dreamful attraction), just like Allen Iverson:

"Part of my preparation," he told the writer David Winner for ESPN The Magazine in 2012, "is I go and ask the kit man what colour we're wearing, if it's red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You're trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a 'memory' before the game. I don't know if you'd call it visualizing or dreaming but I've always done it, my whole life."

A footballer's exceptional visual memory was on display recently when FC Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez was quizzed about 5 particular goals he's scored out of 57 total across almost 500 matches for his club:

He gets them all correct, even what the scores were when they happened, the final scores, who else scored in each match, and even the team's position in La Liga.

A quick P.S. for Messi. On Feb 16, 2015, Zito Madu wrote an article titled Is Lionel Messi even good anymore?

Plainly put, Messi is a shadow of his former self. He's much more cynical, more selfish and power-hungry. How else can the departure of Martino and friction with Enrique be explained? It's a power play by a man who feels his powers waning. Consider: after Barcelona's 5-0 victory against Levante, Messi had only managed 37 goals and 18 assists in all competitions. A far cry from the player who once scored 82 goals in one season.

At 27 years old, we might be witnessing the twilight of Messi's career. It's a shame for a player who seemed to be on a tear just a few years ago.

It was a weirdly cynical take that contained a kernel of truth. A little over a month later on Mar 23, Jeff Himmelman wrote a piece called Lionel Messi Is Back On His Game.

But in the new year, Messi has finally started to look like himself again; he has been on fire, racking up hat tricks and leading the league in scoring. His legs and his extraordinary bursts of energy -- the engine of his game -- are back, and a move to the right flank from the congested middle has freed him to do what he does best: making slashing runs at defenders with speed, creating space and chances.

On the evidence of the last week, it has become possible to wonder whether Messi might actually be better than ever. The best reason to think so was the first half of Barcelona's game against Manchester City on Wednesday, in the round of 16 of the Champions League European club championships. From the start, Messi spun passes into tight spaces and flew up and down the field with a boyish abandon that was nowhere to be found last year.

In that Man City game, Messi nutmegged both Milner and Fernandinho:

In a recent study released by CIES Football Observatory, Messi was judged to be the best forward in the world over the first three months of 2015. Ronaldo? 29th place. Eep.

Update: Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas demonstrates his remarkable memory, recalling scores from matches from up to 15 years ago he didn't even play in. (via @adamcohen15)

Because these are the breaksMAR 23

I am a total sucker for great wave photography. Like these photos from Ray Collins.

Ray Collins

Ray Collins

Ray Collins

Prints are available of Collins' photos and many of them have been collected into a coffee table book called Found at Sea. (via @naveen)

Hillary Clinton logo typefaceAPR 14

Inspired by the logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential run, designer Rick Wolff created an entire uppercase alphabet for a typeface he's calling Hillvetica.

Hillvetica

From his Twitter stream, it appears that Wolff is attempting to make an actual Hillvetica font so stay tuned. FYI, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut designed the logo. The simplicity is appealing, but overall I am not a big fan of the arrowed H.

Update: The Washington Post made a little text editor so you can write whatever you want in Hillvetica. The Clinton campaign has already put it to use:

rating: 4.5 stars

Inglourious BasterdsDEC 18

This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:

Inglourious Basterds

Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.

The "impossible" science of free divingMAR 26

This article on the science of free diving is fascinating. Boyle's Law predicted that the human body couldn't survive depths past 100 feet -- after which, the lungs would rupture -- but millions of years of evolution has equipped the human body with all sorts of tricks to survive at depths of over 900 feet.

Lundgren, among others, demonstrated how these phenomena might counteract Boyle's law. He recruited volunteer firemen from a fire brigade in the Swedish city of Malmo, submerged them up to the neck in water, and used a heart catheter to measure the increase in blood circulation in the chest. Lundgren discovered the body was able to counteract the increased outside water pressure by reinforcing vessels in the walls of the lungs with more blood, in much the same way we increase tire pressure by adding more volume of oxygen to the inside of a tire.

Boyle's Law had not been overturned. Scientists simply hadn't taken into account the effect this counterforce could exert to allow survival underwater. "A lot of blood, much more than was usually thought, can be transferred from the blood circulation out in the tissues into the blood vessels of the lung," Lundgren said, placing that amount at about half a gallon. The extra, densely packed blood can act as a bulwark, exerting a counterforce against the increased pressure pushing inward by the water.

The US Forest Service's Cocktail Construction ChartAPR 01

Cocktail Construction Chart

This is...weird. The National Archives contains a Cocktail Construction Chart made in an architectural style, for some reason, by the US Forest Service in 1974.

Cocktail Construction Chart

Update: Kenny Herzog at Esquire did some digging and found out some of the chart's backstory.

If it does, royalties might be due to the family of late Forest Service Region 8 Engineer Cleve "Red" Ketcham, who passed away in 2005 but has since been commemorated in the National Museum of Forest Service History. It's Ketcham's signature scribbled in the center of the chart, and according to Sharon Phillips, a longtime Program Management Analyst for Region 8 (which covers Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, though Ketcham worked out of its Atlanta office), who conferred with her engineering department, there's little doubt Ketcham concocted the chart in question. "They're assuming he's the one, because the drawing has a date of 1974, and he was working our office from 1974-1980," she said. And in case there'd be any curiosity as to whether someone else composed the chart and Ketcham merely signed off on it for disbursement, Phillips clarified that, "He's the author of the chart. I wouldn't say he passed it along to the staff, because at that time, he probably did that as maybe a joke, something he did for fun. It probably got mixed up with some legitimate stuff and ended up in the Archives."

I contacted the librarian at the Forest History Society and found similar information. An archivist pulled a staff directory from the Atlanta office (aka "Region 8") from 1975 and found three names that correlate with those on the document: David E. Ketcham & Cleve C. Ketcham (but not Ketchum, as on the document) and Robert B. Johns (presumably aka the Bob Johns in the lower right hand corner). Not sure if the two Ketchams were related or why the spellings of Cleve's actual last name and the last name of the signature on the chart are different.

However, in the past few days, I've run across several similar charts, most notably The Engineer's Guide to Drinks.1 Information on this chart is difficult to come by, but various commenters at Flowing Data and elsewhere remember the chart being used in the 1970s by a company called Calcomp to demonstrate their pen plotter.

Engineers Guide to Cocktails

As you can see, the Forest Service document and this one share a very similar visual language -- for instance, the five drops for Angostura bitters, the three-leaf mint sprig, and the lemon peel. And I haven't checked every single one, but the shading employed for the liquids appear to match exactly.

So which chart came first? The Forest Service chart has a date of 1974 and The Engineer's Guide to Drinks is dated 1978. But in this post, Autodesk Technologist Shaan Hurley says the Engineer's Guide dates to 1972. I emailed Hurley to ask about the date, but he couldn't point to a definite source, which is not uncommon when you're dealing with this sort of thing. It's like finding some initials next to "85" scratched into the cement on a sidewalk: you're pretty sure that someone did that in 1985 but you'd have a tough time proving it.

FWIW, if I had to guess where this chart originated, I'd say that the Calcomp plotter demo got out there somehow (maybe at a trade show or published in an industry magazine) and every engineer took a crack at their own version, like an early internet meme. Cleve Ketcham drew his by hand while others probably used the CAD software running on their workplace mainframes or minicomputers.

Anyway, if anyone has any further information about where these CAD-style cocktail instructions originated, let me know. (thx, @john_overholt & tre)

  1. Other instances include these reprints of drawings from 1978 on eBay and an advertisement for a Cocktail Construction drawing in the Dec 1982 issue of Texas Monthly.

The Hateful Eight teaser trailerAPR 17

This is the teaser trailer for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, the movie whose script leaked, was cancelled, was planned to be released as a book, and then uncanceled.

Update: I'm getting emails and tweets saying this trailer is fake. And if it is fake, is there a non-fake leaked trailer out there or...?

Update: Just to be clear, this is totally fake and constructed from bits of other movies, etc.

A history of the Cabbage Patch Kid crazeAPR 17

From Vice's American Obsessions video series, a piece on the Cabbage Patch doll craze of the 1980s.

The idea for the Cabbage Patch doll was brazenly stolen from the original creator by Xavier Roberts, whose Wikipedia entry currently begins:

Xavier Roberts (born October 31, 1955, Cleveland, Georgia), misappropriater of Cabbage Patch Kids, is an American artist, businessman, thief and asshole.

His profile also states that he went on to create a series of bear toys called The Foreskin Bears. LOL. (via devour)

Guillaume Cornet's dense city illustrationsAPR 01

I love Guillaume Cornet's fanciful and intricate drawings. He's done Paris, New York, and a London apartment building, among others.

Guillaume Cornet

Guillaume Cornet

Guillaume Cornet

Society6 recently put a camera on Cornet while he did his Paris drawing, condensing 75 hours of painstaking work into a 2-minute time lapse.

My favorite little detail highlighted by Society6 is the appearance of the Emmet minifig in the NYC illustration, complete with the Piece of Resistance.

Guillaume Cornet

Game of Thrones pre-season briefingAPR 08

From Gawker, a quick two-minute video guide to what all of the characters in Game of Thrones are up to as season five gets underway this Sunday. Major spoilers for those who aren't caught up through the end of season four.

John Oliver interviews Edward SnowdenAPR 06

Last night on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took on the topic of government surveillance and traveled to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden. After some softball questions -- "Do you miss Hot Pockets?" -- Oliver presses Snowden on his personal responsibility with regard to the information he revealed.

This pink 1971 Chevrolet Impala donk is impressiveSUSANNAH BRESLIN  ·  MAR 19

This is a donk.

It can be yours for $65,000.

Angelina Jolie continues her preventive battle with cancerMAR 24

Two years ago, Angelina Jolie wrote in the NY Times1 about her choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. Today, she is back with an update on her choice to have another elective preventive surgery, the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. "Your CA-125 is normal," he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.

But that wasn't all. He went on. "There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer." I took a pause. "CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages," he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.

I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn't live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren.

I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.

  1. I wrote a post on Jolie's first article with more information about the genetic issues surrounding her choice.

Coloring books for adultsAPR 06

The two top-selling books on Amazon right now are a pair of coloring books for adults by Johanna Basford: Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden.

Basford Coloring Book

Basford Coloring Book

Basford Coloring Book

Fans of the books have been posting examples of their coloring-in online; this one is from occasionalartist:

Basford Coloring Book

What This Says™ about contemporary culture is left as an exercise to the reader. Right after you finish coloring your flowers, of course.

Simple rules for healthy eatingAPR 20

From pediatrics professor Aaron Carroll, a list of guidelines for sensible & healthy eating.

1. Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods. These include fruits and vegetables. But they also include meat, fish, poultry and eggs that haven't been processed. In other words, try to buy food that hasn't been cooked, prepared or altered in any way. Brown rice over white rice. Whole grains over refined grains. You're far better off eating two apples than drinking the same 27 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce glass of apple juice.

What's more interesting than the guidelines is the admission up front that they're not supported by rigorous science...and neither is nutrition in general. In the absence of science, "everything in moderation" seems to be the recommended course. (via @jimray)

All hail air conditioningMAR 23

Here's The Economist's obituary of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore.

Among a number of 20th-century luminaries asked by the Wall Street Journal in 1999 to pick the most influential invention of the millennium, he alone shunned the printing press, electricity, the internal combustion engine and the internet and chose the air-conditioner. He explained that, before air-con, people living in the tropics were at a disadvantage because the heat and humidity damaged the quality of their work.

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Play Pac-Man in Google MapsMAR 31

Ok, April Fools' is still idiotic, but this is pretty cool: you can play Pac-Man in any neighborhood on Google Maps.

Pac-Man Google Maps

NYC's West Village is a fun place to play. See also Pac-Manhattan, a real-life game of Pac-Man played on the streets of Manhattan in 2004 by a group of ITP students, including Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley.

Teaching evolution to religious studentsMAR 27

James Krupa teaches a mandatory biology class at the University of Kentucky and some students have a difficult time because Krupa refuses to shy away from evolution.

Rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about human evolution in high school biology. Those who did usually attended high schools in large urban centers like Louisville or Lexington. Given how easily it can provoke parents, the teaching of human evolution is a rarity in high school, so much so in Kentucky that it startled me when I first arrived.

The story of our evolutionary history captivates many of my students, while infuriating some. During one lecture, a student stood up in the back row and shouted the length of the auditorium that Darwin denounced evolution on his deathbed -- a myth intentionally spread by creationists. The student then made it known that everything I was teaching was a lie and stomped out of the auditorium, slamming the door behind him. A few years later during the same lecture, another student also shouted out from the back row that I was lying. She said that no transitional fossil forms had ever been found -- despite my having shared images of many transitional forms during the semester. Many of her fellow students were shocked by her combativeness, particularly when she stormed out, also slamming the door behind her. Most semesters, a significant number of students abruptly leave as soon as they realize the topic is human evolution.

I personally don't understand the compatibility of evolutionary biology and Christianity Krupa emphasizes in his class, but I guess it helps to meet people halfway?

Slow motion CD spinningMAR 26

From the Slow Mo Guys, a video shot at 170,000 frames/sec of a CD shattering after being spun at 23,000 RPM. Worth watching until (or skipping to) the end to see exactly how the disc fractures.

(via digg)

The 2015 names of the yearMAR 25

Oh my, I had forgotten about the Name of the Year site and how amazing it is. Each year, they collect the most unusual names in the world and pit them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. Here are some of the names in the running for the 2015 Name of the Year:

Swindly Lint
Dr. Electron Kebebew
Flavious Coffee
Lancelot Supersad Jr.
Jazznique St. Junious

(A reminder...these are actual names of actual people. Somehow.)

Littice Bacon-Blood
Dr. Wallop Promthong
Infinite Grover
Genghis Muskox
Malvina Complainville
Beethoven Bong
Amanda Miranda Panda

Some Hall of Name inductees include Tokyo Sexwale, Nimrod Weiselfish, Doby Chrotchtangle, Tanqueray Beavers, and Vanilla Dong.

The making of NHL '94MAR 23

NHL 94

Blake Harris, the author of Console Wars, has written a piece on how NHL '94 came to be. For those unaware, NHL '94 is one of the greatest sports video games ever created. This is the sort of attention to detail that made it so great:

For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team's organist played different songs. 'That's not a problem, actually,' explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), 'I can do that.' True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn't just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA's sound studio he asked:

'The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?'

'Definitely the way she plays it!' Brook answered, after a laugh.

I think I might have to bust out the Genesis this week. Anyone wanna come over?

FKA BiggieAPR 16

Terry Urban's 8-song mashup album of FKA Twigs and Notorious B.I.G.

Why not FKA Biggs? Or Notorious T.W.I.G.S.? Twiggie Smalls? (via @frank_chimero)

A Year in SpaceMAR 26

On Friday, astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will be launched into space, where they will spend an entire year on the International Space Station. Time is doing a documentary series on Kelly's stay in space.

On March 27, the veteran of three previous space flights will take off for the International Space Station (ISS) and, along with cosmonaut Misha Kornienko, remain aloft for a full year. Meantime, Scott's twin brother Mark, a veteran of four space flights, will remain on the ground. The two men with their matching backgrounds, similar health and identical genomes, will serve as the perfect controlled experiment to learn more about how the human body handles weightlessness-and what can be done to minimize the damage during long-term trips to Mars and elsewhere.

The trailer is available here. Kelly and Kornienko will be the fifth and sixth people to spend at least a year in space...cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent 437 straight days in space in 1994-5.

Finnish schools to teach topics, not subjectsMAR 23

Finland is planning on phasing out teaching by subject (math, geography, etc.) and replace it with a teaching-by-topic approach.

Subject-specific lessons -- an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon - are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city's upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call "phenomenon" teaching -- or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take "cafeteria services" lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union -- which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

As a generalist, wannabe polymath, and obvious fan of a scattershot approach to knowledge gathering & dissemination, I approve. (via qz)

Update: From the Finnish National Board of Education: Subject teaching in Finnish schools is not being abolished.

The news that Finland is abolishing teaching separate subjects has recently hit the headlines world-wide. Subject teaching is not being abolished although the new core curriculum for basic education will bring about some changes in 2016.

(via @adamcreen)

This guest blogger says thanks for readingSUSANNAH BRESLIN  ·  MAR 20

Krang.jpg

I had a great time guest-blogging here this week! Thanks so much to Jason and to everyone who read, some of the smartest, most interesting readers I've found online. It was really a thrill. It was like being Krang inside the exosuit, but in a good way.

When Jason originally put out the call on Twitter for a guest blogger, he tweeted, "It's a paid gig or you can do it for the lolz and we'll donate the fee to a charity of your choosing." So we're donating the money to Girls Write Now, a terrific New York City-based non-profit that pairs talented at-risk teen girls with professional writer mentors to create the next generation of great women writers.

You can find me online here or on Twitter.

Update (from Jason): Thanks, Susannah! It's been great having you here. I just dropped your fee into the coffers of Girls Write Now. If some of you would like to do the same, you can donate here; it'll only take you a couple minutes.

And since Susannah was too courteous to promote her recently published short story, The Tumor, I'll do it.

The opening boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost ArkMAR 25

The Art of the Scene looks at how Raiders of the Lost Ark came to be and how the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the main character and the "look and feel" of the rest of the film.

I love that Lucas got the idea for the boulder from a Scrooge McDuck comic book. (via devour)

The Directors Series: Stanley KubrickAPR 13

From Cameron Beyl, a three-hour video essay on the films of Stanley Kubrick. The essay splits Kubrick's career into five parts: the early independent features (Fear & Desire, Killer's Kiss, The Killing), the Kirk Douglas years (Paths of Glory, Spartacus), the Peter Sellers comedies (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove), the Master Works (2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining), and the final features (Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut).

Beyl has just begun his second extended essay, on David Fincher. (via openculture)

The Brontosaurus is back, baby!APR 07

Brontosaurus

After years of the Flintstones lying to me, I'd just gotten used to the idea of the Brontosaurus not actually being a dinosaur. But a recent study of the classifications given to various species and genera within the diplodocid group of dinosaurs has determined that the Brontosaurus and the Apatosaurus are different enough to be two separate species.

Very broadly, their tree confirmed established ideas about the evolutionary relationships among diplodocids. But the scientists also concluded that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were different enough to belong in their own genera. Many of the anatomical differences between the two dinosaurs are obscure, Tschopp says, but Apatosaurus's stouter neck is an obvious one. "Even though both are very robust and massive animals, Apatosaurus is even more so," he adds.

Tschopp and his team thought very carefully about their decision to reinstate Brontosaurus, and they expect some pushback. "We knew it would be a major finding because Brontosaurus is such a popular name," he says. "I'm pretty sure there will be a scientific discussion around this. I hope there will be. That's how science works."

Huzzah! Now reinstate Pluto to full planetary status and we'll be all set. See also The Kindly Brontosaurus. (via @coudal)

Cognitive Cooking with Chef WatsonAPR 14

Chef Watson

Watson, IBM's evolving attempt at building a computer capable of AI, was originally constructed to excel at Jeopardy. Which it did, handily beating Jeopardy mega-champ Ken Jennings. Watson has since moved on to cooking and has just come out with a new cookbook, Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson.

You don't have to be a culinary genius to be a great cook. But when it comes to thinking outside the box, even the best chefs can be limited by their personal experiences, the tastes and flavor combinations they already know. That's why IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education teamed up to develop a groundbreaking cognitive cooking technology that helps cooks everywhere discover and create delicious recipes, utilizing unusual ingredient combinations that man alone might never imagine.

In Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson, IBM's unprecedented technology and ICE's culinary experts present more than 65 original recipes exploding with irresistible new flavors. Together, they have carefully crafted, evaluated and perfected each of these dishes for "pleasantness" (superb taste), "surprise" (innovativeness) and a "synergy" of mouthwatering ingredients that will delight any food lover.

1995: The Year the Future BeganMAR 27

Netscape 1995

The New Yorker's Louis Menand reviews a new book by W. Joseph Campbell, 1995: The Year the Future Began.

Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky is one of the five things that happened in 1995 that Campbell believes opened the door to the future. The others are the O. J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Dayton negotiations that settled the Bosnian war, and the rise and fall of the Internet browser Netscape Navigator.

The list certainly reflects the inchoate spirit of the age. But that is not Campbell's point. His point is that our contemporary (American) world started with a White House sex scandal; the murder trial of a former football star; a set of agreements hammered out among foreign heads of state on an Air Force base in Ohio; a loner who thought that blowing up a federal office building was justified on political principles; and a computer program that ultimately lost the "browser wars" to Microsoft. You have to admire a historian who proposes to extract reverse-prediction gold from that material.

I graduated from college in 1995 so I'm probably biased, but that year does seem like a cultural turning point in many ways. Interested to read Campbell's book.

Mike Tyson's crowdsourcing his best knockoutsMAR 23

Martin Scorsese is reportedly set to direct a biopic on Mike Tyson with Jamie Foxx in the title role. Tyson has compiled a video of each of his 44 knockouts and wants his fans' help in choosing his top 10 for Foxx to study.

The top 10 from this video are definite contenders.

The 50th LawJUN 23

The 50th Law

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.

He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.

The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".

We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.

The Ballad of Geeshie and ElvieMAR 27

The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie is a good old fashioned musical detective story told by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

In the world of early-20th-century African-American music and people obsessed by it, who can appear from one angle like a clique of pale and misanthropic scholar-gatherers and from another like a sizable chunk of the human population, there exist no ghosts more vexing than a couple of women identified on three ultrarare records made in 1930 and '31 as Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. There are musicians as obscure as Wiley and Thomas, and musicians as great, but in none does the Venn diagram of greatness and lostness reveal such vast and bewildering co-extent. In the spring of 1930, in a damp and dimly lit studio, in a small Wisconsin village on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the duo recorded a batch of songs that for more than half a century have been numbered among the masterpieces of prewar American music, in particular two, Elvie's "Motherless Child Blues" and Geeshie's "Last Kind Words Blues," twin Alps of their tiny oeuvre, inspiring essays and novels and films and cover versions, a classical arrangement.

Yet despite more than 50 years of researchers' efforts to learn who the two women were or where they came from, we have remained ignorant of even their legal names. The sketchy memories of one or two ancient Mississippians, gathered many decades ago, seemed to point to the southern half of that state, yet none led to anything solid. A few people thought they heard hints of Louisiana or Texas in the guitar playing or in the pronunciation of a lyric. We know that the word "Geechee," with a c, can refer to a person born into the heavily African-inflected Gullah culture centered on the coastal islands off Georgia and the Carolinas. But nothing turned up there either. Or anywhere. No grave site, no photograph. Forget that -- no anecdotes. This is what set Geeshie and Elvie apart even from the rest of an innermost group of phantom geniuses of the '20s and '30s. Their myth was they didn't have anything you could so much as hang a myth on. The objects themselves -- the fewer than 10 surviving copies, total, of their three known Paramount releases, a handful of heavy, black, scratch-riven shellac platters, all in private hands -- these were the whole of the file on Geeshie and Elvie, and even these had come within a second thought of vanishing, within, say, a woman's decision in cleaning her parents' attic to go against some idle advice that she throw out a box of old records and instead to find out what the junk shop gives. When she decides otherwise, when the shop isn't on the way home, there goes the music, there go the souls, ash flakes up the flue, to flutter about with the Edison cylinder of Buddy Bolden's band and the phonautograph of Lincoln's voice.

This piece originally appeared in the NY Times Magazine, but it works much better online, interspersed with videos and musical snippets cleverly embedded in the text. One of my favorite things I've read all month.

The ingenious design of the aluminum beverage canAPR 14

The aluminum soda can is a humble testament to the power and scope of human ingenuity. If that sounds like hyperbole, you should watch this video, which features eleven solid minutes of engineering explanation and is not boring for even a second.

More science/engineering programming like this please...I feel like if this would have been on PBS or Discovery, it would have lasted twice as long and communicated half the information. For a chaser, you can watch a detailed making-of from an aluminum can manufacturing company:

(via devour)

Make your own Star Wars BB-8 rolling ball droidAPR 20

When the first trailer for JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie came out, we all assumed the rolling ball droid was CGI (and perhaps based on this 2008 xkcd post). Then an actual working model of the droid, called BB-8, showed up on stage at Star Wars Celebration. Minds blew. Industrial design student Christian Poulsen figured out how to make his own version of BB-8 by hacking a Sphero:

The Loch Ness soup ladleAPR 15

Behold, the world's greatest kitchen utensil, the Nessie Ladle.

Nessie Ladle

Haas Unica rides againAPR 07

Haas Unica

Conceived in the late 1970s as a hybrid of three of the most popular (and some would say, overused) sans-serif typefaces in the world, Haas Unica didn't make the digital jump to personal computers in the 1980s. It was nearly forgotten, but has been revived by Monotype, which released Neue Haas Unica as a webfont today.

Unica® was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif - a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk. Designed by Team '77 and released to great acclaim in 1980, Unica went missing under a heap of legal disputes and has never been available as a full, digital typeface. Until now.

Unica's story starts in the 1970s. Electronic, on-screen phototypesetting was gaining popularity, but most sans-serif typefaces on the market had been designed earlier, in the era of metal type. The revered Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland, saw the chance to develop a new sans-serif face that was optimized for the new technology and filled the gap in the market. To develop their new product, they turned to Swiss type design trio, Team '77 (André Gürtler, Christian Mengelt and Erich Gschwind).

Team '77 set out to design a font based on Helvetica but drawing on other sans-serif typefaces, principally Univers. The name they gave it would also be a hybrid of the two.

The original name for Helvetica was Neue Haas Grotesk. Haas + Univers + Helvetica = Haas Unica.

Update: Several digital versions of Haas Unica have been available prior to this one.

For many years a digital version of Unica was available from Scangraphic (and Elsner+Flake) but it was pulled from the market due to a complaint by Linotype who claims the Haas rights. In 2008, Cornel Windlin did a Semibold for the the Schauspielhaus Zürich identity, used in 2009-10. Later, Louise Paradis created a revival named Unica Intermediate while doing research for the TM retrospective.

(via @typographica)

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