HBO will premiere the critically acclaimed authorized documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck later this year on May 4. Here's the trailer:
Looks promising. The film is directed by Brett Morgen, who also did the excellent The Kid Stays in the Picture documentary about Robert Evans. And the name comes from a late-80s mixtape made by Cobain.
Halt and Catch Fire season two is starting on May 31! And there's a five-minute clip to whet your whistle! And it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors!
The exclamation points mean that I am excited for the new season without explicitly saying so!! (via @kathrynyu)
For their new ad campaign, Apple gathered some photos that people had taken with their iPhones and are featuring them on their website and on billboards. Here are a few I found particularly engaging.
I've said it before and it's just getting more obvious: the iPhone is the best camera in the world.
Better out than in. That's the unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service. And they seem to mean it. In Norway, there is no death penalty and there are no life sentences. NYT Magazine's Jessica Benko visited Norway's Halden Prison and experienced what she described as its radical humaneness:
Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere -- these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.
Even the food was good.
The best meal I had in Norway -- spicy lasagna, garlic bread and a salad with sun-dried tomatoes -- was made by an inmate who had spent almost half of his 40 years in prison.
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This Garden of Eden-themed serpent rug by Fornasetti belongs in a bedroom.
The Wall Street Journal explores "The Cult of Fornasetti."
Have you always dreamed of owning the home where Tony Montana married Elvira Hancock? The "Scarface" estate known as El Fureidis can be yours for only $34M.
But many of the classic features of the mansion are still in place: an 18-foot-high central dome adorned with 24-karat gold leaf in the Byzantine-style alcove, as well as a formal dining room ceiling depicting a scene of Alexander the Great conquering Persepolis in 330 B.C. (also designed with 24-karat gold leaf).
NB: The house isn't in Coral Gables, FL. It's in Montecito, CA.
Here's a relatively exhaustive exploration of "Scarface" shooting locations, including the elevator scene and the chainsaw scene. (via Damon Brown)
Photoshop 1.0 came out in 1990 and didn't have layers, live preview, multiple levels of undo, or many other features. See some current Photoshop experts wax nostalgic and wrestle with the lack of features in this entertaining video.
We've come a long way, baby.
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)
My answer to that question, having read nothing about it beyond this article, is "it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but what an interesting thing to think about". This theory about how humans and wolves (and later, dogs) teamed up to outcompete Neanderthals for food is being forwarded by anthropologist Pat Shipman, author of the new book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction.
Modern humans formed an alliance with wolves soon after we entered Europe, argues Shipman. We tamed some and the dogs we bred from them were then used to chase prey and to drive off rival carnivores, including lions and leopards, that tried to steal the meat.
"Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired," said Shipman. "Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows.
"This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off -- often the most dangerous part of a hunt -- while humans didn't have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey. Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation."
At that time, the European landscape was dominated by mammoths, rhinos, bison and several other large herbivores. Both Neanderthals and modern humans hunted them with spears and possibly bows and arrows. It would have been a tricky business made worse by competition from lions, leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores, including wolves.
"Even if you brought down a bison, within minutes other carnivores would have been lining up to attack you and steal your prey," said Shipman. The answer, she argues, was the creation of the human-wolf alliance. Previously they separately hunted the same creatures, with mixed results. Once they joined forces, they dominated the food chain in prehistoric Europe -- though this success came at a price for other species. First Neanderthals disappeared to be followed by lions, mammoths, hyenas and bison over the succeeding millennia. Humans and hunting dogs were, and still are, a deadly combination, says Shipman.
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.
This is the rope seal securing the doors of Tutankhamun's tomb, unbroken for more than 3200 years until shortly after Harry Burton took this photo in 1923. A description from National Geographic:
Still intact in 1923 after 32 centuries, rope secures the doors to the second of four nested shrines in Tutankhamun's burial chamber. The necropolis seal -- depicting captives on their knees and Anubis, the jackal god of the dead -- remains unbroken, a sign that Tut's mummy lies undisturbed inside.
How did the rope last for so long? Rare Historical Photos explains:
Rope is one of the fundamental human technologies. Archaeologists have found two-ply ropes going back 28,000 years. Egyptians were the first documented civilization to use specialized tools to make rope. One key why the rope lasted so long wasn't the rope itself, it was the aridity of the air in the desert. It dries out and preserves things. Another key is oxygen deprivation. Tombs are sealed to the outside. Bacteria can break things down as long as they have oxygen, but then they effectively suffocate. It's not uncommon to find rope, wooden carvings, cloth, organic dyes, etc. in Egyptian pyramids and tombs that wouldn't have survived elsewhere in the world.
There are only a dozen images so far, but this Tumblr comparing art from before the 16th century and contemporary images of hip hop is fantastic. My favorites:
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 <firstname.lastname@example.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."
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."
Koa Smith rides in the barrel of a wave for almost 30 seconds...it just goes on and on and on.
This video is a bit misleading. The ride is shown twice but the first time through it's slowed down so it lasts more than a minute. The full-speed replay starts at 2:01 and is still impressive. (via digg)
In Alaska, people search for the cost of a gallon of milk. In Alabama and Florida, people search for the cost of abortions. In other states, vasectomies, facelifts, and taxis are popular searches. The map was compiled using the autocomplete results for "how much does a * cost"... for each of the 50 states. (via mr)
Funny or Die digitally inserted the singer Michael Bolton into Office Space, where he plays Michael Bolton, the Initech programmer.
Leslie Rice (whose work you see here) is a second-generation tattoo artist who's been tattooing for twenty years, and here's the number one thing he's learned: "Women are tougher than men."
"Women and men have a very different approach to traumatic things like getting tattoos. Women are far more willing to accept it and go with the flow, whereas men will try and fight it, so you end up in this horrible situation where men end up vomiting and passing out and falling on the floor, and the women don't tend to do that."
(via Needles and Sins)
Whoa! Robert Durst has been arrested in New Orleans in connection with the killing of his friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000.
Robert A. Durst, the scion of a New York real estate family, was arrested on Saturday in New Orleans on a warrant issued in a homicide investigation by Los Angeles County, law enforcement officials said.
For years, questions have swirled around Mr. Durst about the unsolved killing of a close friend and confidante in Los Angeles 15 years ago, and about his first wife's disappearance in 1982 and the shooting and dismemberment of a Texas neighbor in 2001.
Durst is the subject of the HBO series The Jinx, which I have been obsessed with over the past few weeks. The final episode airs tonight. Jinx director Andrew Jarecki must be freaking out...the arrest might be due to new evidence uncovered by Jarecki during the production of the show.
For his book Preservation, Blake Little drenched his subjects in honey and took their photos, mid-drizzle. A bit NSFW.
Hello! I'm going to be off for the next week and Susannah Breslin will be editing the site in my stead. From her bio:
I created one of the internet's first sex blogs, The Reverse Cowgirl, and I've been called a "modern-age Studs Terkel." In 2008, TIME named me one of the top 25 bloggers of the year. I'm best known for my longform investigation of the Great Recession's impact on the porn industry: "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?" I've written for Harper's Bazaar, Details, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire, Variety, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The LA Weekly. I've appeared on CNN, NPR, and "Politically Incorrect."
Her newest work is a new short story called The Tumor that was drawn from her breast cancer diagnosis a few years ago. Susannah has long sent me interesting links and emails, so I'm excited to see what she gets up to this week. Welcome, Susannah!
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)
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.
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."
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.
The New York Times would like to tell you how to keep your hair during chemo.
Hair loss is one of the most obvious side effects of cancer treatment. Now, a growing number of breast cancer patients are freezing their scalps as a way to preserve their hair during chemotherapy.
The hair-saving treatment, widely used in Europe, requires a specialized frozen cap worn tightly on the head before, during and for a couple hours after a chemotherapy session. The method can be time consuming, expensive and uncomfortable, but numerous women swear by the results.
I was vaguely aware of this option when I was getting ready to undergo the chemo in early 2012. I recall researching it, but I never looked into it seriously. I wonder how the experience would've been different had I not emerged from it looking like this:
Clearly, I wasn't a happy camper.
When I was originally diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in November of 2011, we didn't know whether or not I would have to do chemotherapy. But after I had surgery, we knew that I would. Previously, I'd thought, Hey, what's a little hair? Of course, when you're told you're going to go bald, that's another story. I cried. Not because I was going to lose my hair, but because I would lose my hair and then everyone would know.
I went wig shopping, but I never bought one. The American Cancer Society sent me a hideous free brunette wig that showed up one day in a brown envelope in the mail, and I stuck it in a drawer. I didn't wrap a scarf around my head like Elizabeth Taylor. Sometimes, I wore my husband's USMC baseball hat. More often than not, I walked around exposed: I was six-two, I was bald, and I was angry. I felt humiliated, but I did it anyway. I hated that I was sick, yet I was hellbent on refusing to hide the fact that I was. I startled people, and eventually it dawned on me that I wasn't me anymore, I was The Sick Person, and what everyone saw when they saw me was the looming specter of human frailty.
As far as chemo, it seemed like enough to go through it -- the port in the chest, the needle in the hole, the free fall of the drugs -- without freezing my head at the same time. But that was me. The cancer fled. My hair grew back. That was that.
I'm dreading it. No hope of solving any equations that day, what with the pie-eating contests, the bickering over the merits of pi versus tau (pi times two), and the throwdowns over who can recite more digits of pi. Just stay off the streets at 9:26:53, when the time will approximate pi to ten places: 3.141592653.
The New Yorker's Steven Strogatz on why pi matters.
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Holy crap! Bjork's released something she's calling a "moving album cover," although it appears it's basically the video for the song "Family" on her Vulnicura album. It's about the darkest, strangest, most beautiful thing I've seen on the internet in a while. The video is a collaboration between Bjork and Andrew Thomas Huang.
(thx This Isn't Happiness)
Beautiful video of the Himalayas shot from a helicopter flying at up to 24,000 feet high.
For the New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about movie soundtracks, with an emphasis on the scores for the 2014 crop of films.
This year's Oscar nominations for Best Original Score did the field few favors, overlooking some significant work. Jonny Greenwood, increasingly known as much for his film music as for his contributions to Radiohead, has yet to be acknowledged by the Academy, despite his idiosyncratic, imaginative collaborations with the director Paul Thomas Anderson, most recently in "Inherent Vice." Jason Moran deserved a nod for his "Selma" score, which oscillates between subdued moods of hope and dread, avoiding the telltale gestures of the great-man bio-pic. (The Aaron Copland trumpet of lonely American power is in abeyance.) Most baffling was the omission of Mica Levi's score for "Under the Skin," which, like Greenwood's work for Anderson, moves from seething dissonance to eerie simplicity and back again.
I listen to movie soundtracks quite a bit; they're good to play while working. Here are a few I've enjoyed from 2014:
As part of Errol Morris Week on Grantland1, Alex Pappademas did a great interview with Morris about his work. Morris has interviewed serial killers, Holocaust deniers, rapists, and the architect of the Vietnam War but said that the person that most challenged his capacity for empathy was Donald Rumsfeld.
He's confident right now! He doesn't have to wait 100 or 500 years. He doesn't care. I really care whether I'm right or wrong. I really do care. And probably for lots of reasons. I don't want to be seen as a dumbass, I don't want to be seen as someone who believes in something that's absolutely false, untrue, something that can't be substantiated, checked. I believe that there's some deep virtue in pursuing truth. Maybe it's the highest virtue. I believe that. Whether you can attain it or not, you can pursue it. It can be a goal. It can be a destination. I don't believe that's Donald Rumsfeld's goal. I believe that Robert S. McNamara really wanted to understand what he had done and why he had done it. You know, we remain a mystery to ourselves, among the many, many, many other mysteries there are. And McNamara's struggle with his own past -- I was deeply moved by it. I think he's a war criminal, I think he sees himself as a war criminal, but I like him.
Update: Another recent interview, by Brin-Jonathan Butler, is being offered as a 99¢ Kindle Single.
Robert Wright has a new book out soon called The Evolution of God. Andrew Sullivan has a review.
From primitive animists to the legends of the first gods, battling like irrational cloud-inhabiting humans over the cosmos, Wright tells the story of how war and trade, technology and human interaction slowly exposed humans to the gods of others. How this awareness led to the Jewish innovation of a hidden and universal God, how the cosmopolitan early Christians, in order to market their doctrines more successfully, universalised and sanitised this Jewish God in turn, and how Islam equally included a civilising universalism despite its doctrinal rigidity and founding violence.
Last month's issue of The Atlantic contained an excerpt.
For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God's will?
I loved two of Wright's previous books, The Moral Animal and especially Nonzero. (via marginal revolution)
Ok, Pluto fans. They evicted Pluto from our solar system's planetary pantheon, but a NASA mission launched in 2006 is nearing the dwarf planet with its cameras. We'll soon have photos of Pluto that are much more high resolution than we currently have, which means scientists will need names for all the new geographic features. The Our Pluto site has been set up to help suggest and vote on names for these features. Naming themes include historic explorers, travelers to the underworld, and scientists and engineers. Go vote! (via slate)
I love watching people who are particularly adept at food prep and this guy preparing teh tarik certainly fits the bill. His pour seems to violate at least two of Newton's three laws of motion.
This guy and this other guy have some serious skills as well.
These gentlemen making parathas is still my all-time favorite food prep video, but these are good as well. (via cyn-c)
Camponotus fellah (which you almost certainly know is a species of carpenter ant) have a lot of incentive to stick together. The worker ants that live and work alone enjoy only a tenth of the lifespan of their more social co-workers. While that stat is extreme, it's not necessarily unique.
Isolation can also enfeeble rats, mice, pigs, rabbits, squirrel monkeys, starlings, and parrots.
And of course humans. What is it about being together that makes us -- and the ants -- more healthy? From The New Yorker's Emily Anthes: Marching One by One.
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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.
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.
In 1940, Germany published a tourist map of occupied Paris intended for use by German soldiers on leave.
From Amanda McCall, a selection of Ben & Jerry's flavors featuring women.
McCall made these because Ben & Jerry's hasn't done such a good job highlighting women with their products:
Over the past three decades, Ben & Jerry's has created over twenty flavors honoring various famous people, and only two of those people have been female: Tiny Fey's character on 30 Rock ("Liz Lemon's Greek Frozen Yogurt", released in 2013 ) and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter ("Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie", released briefly in 2009).
There are currently no female flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (even Tina Fey would agree that, while "Greek frozen yogurt" is certainly a healthy ice cream alternative, it is not the same as ice cream), despite the fact that women consume significantly more ice cream than men do.
The best thing about the Butter Pecancé Knowles flavor is that butter pecan ice cream is actually the singer's favorite flavor.
"I love my butter pecan ice cream," she says, "but I also love to work out. We all have our issues. Mine is arms and legs, keeping them tight and toned. It takes work, believe me."
Ben & Jerry's! Let's make this happen! (via @amateurgourmet)
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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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 Truman Show delusion is how some psychiatrists are describing the condition of psychotic patients who believe they are filmed stars of reality TV programs.
Another patient traveled to New York City and showed up at a federal building in downtown Manhattan seeking asylum so he could get off his reality show, Dr. Gold said. The patient reported that he also came to New York to see if the Twin Towers were still standing, because he believed that seeing their destruction on Sept. 11 on television was part of his reality show. If they were still standing, he said, then he would know that the terrorist attack was all part of the script.
As for the movie itself, for all its popularity and critical success when released, it's little-remembered today. And unfairly so; the "realness" about our increasingly mediated lives remains a hot topic of debate.
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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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?
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.
2015 seems like a pretty good year to do a documentary about Back to the Future. Here's a trailer:
The scope of the film has changed since the project started -- it was originally just about the DeLorean Time Machine -- and so the production team has gone back to Kickstarter to fund completion of the film. (via @ystrickler)
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:
A thought-provoking post from Laurie Frick: "Will a Data-Selfie Boost Your Immune System?"
In the future I imagine human data portraits manifested from reams of personal tracking data gathered invisibly as we move thru the day. Genuine data-selfies. We are so close to gathering every possible morsel of data about us, imagine what could be possible once you owned every bit of data gathered about you. After some thought, I decided it's more than just seeing personal data and abstract patterns of you. It's about what these patterns will tell us about ourselves. Data collected about us will unfold a personal narrative and story to reveal a hidden part of us we are trained to ignore, a way to know ourselves and anticipate what comes next. Perhaps seeing the abstract patterns and rhythms of your self-tracking data is a short-cut to mindfulness. A quick and dirty way to boost your immune system, the benefits of meditation and self-reflection without much effort.
Frick makes art out of data. She also made an app called FRICKbits that empowers you to turn your data into art.
This metaphorical explanation of the post-2008 Irish banking crisis works equally well as an explanation for contemporary global financial markets in general.
Mary is the proprietor of a bar in Dublin. She realises that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronise her bar -- she will go broke.
To solve this problem, she comes up with a new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.
She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
Word gets around about Mary's 'drink now, pay later' marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Mary's bar.
Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Dublin -- all is starting to look rosy.
By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages.
Consequently, Mary's gross sales volume increases massively.
A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary's borrowing limit.
He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.
At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders figure a way to make huge commissions, and transform these customer loans into Drinkbonds and Alkibonds. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets.
The new investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as 'AAA' secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics. They have had a 'rating house' certify they are of good quality.
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.
I straight-up loved this movie. It's a fascinating look at the creative process of a team with strong leadership operating at a very high level. The trailer is pretty misleading in this respect...the main story in the film has little to do with fashion and should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked with a bunch of people on a project. Others have made the comparison of Anna Wintour with Steve Jobs and it seems apt. At several points in the film, my thoughts drifted to Jobs and Apple; Wintour seems like the same sort of creative leader as Jobs.
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.
This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:
Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.
A group of astronomy enthusiasts rented a plane and flew through the shadow cast by the recent eclipse of the Sun. One passenger took the following video. Look at that shadow creeping across the cloud cover! So cool.
P.S. Still super excited for the 2017 eclipse! (via slate)
In order to keep the Harry Potter gravy train going, Scholastic and Bloomsbury are releasing a fully illustrated version of each of the seven Harry Potter books over the next seven years. Here's the cover for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:
The book will contain 100+ full-color illustrations done by Jim Kay. (via buzzfeed)
"Severed goat heads keep turning up in nearby Prospect Park," reports Adrien Chen. Was it religious sacrifice? A prank? Something else?
A mysterious flood of goat heads is the only interesting thing that has happened in Park Slope since I moved to the neighborhood three years ago. Yes, the rush to blame a little-understood religion practiced largely by immigrants smacked a bit of lazy xenophobia, but the idea of Park Slope as a hotbed of animal sacrifice, in addition to child-friendly bars, was undeniably intriguing. In a city where everyday occurrences are casually weighed against the events of September 11, 2001, it was shocking to find that so many of my neighbors and I were actually shocked. The goat heads seemed to rear out of some shadow New York City that was even gnarlier than the pre-Guiliani version I'd seen in the movies, and at the edge of Brooklyn's most thoroughly gentrified neighborhood, to boot. When New York asked me to investigate the goat heads, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to see if the world they hinted at lived up to the hype."
His investigation includes a Freedom of Information Law request ("'I'VE SEEN AS MUCH AS SEVEN SQUIRRELS DEAD IN THE PARK,' went one report. 'I'VE SEEN ONE THAT'S DECAPITATED'"), a Vodou priest, and multiple trips to the butcher.
If you and a friend are walking around Manhattan trying to find dinner, this is how the conversation will go:
It's funny because it's true. That's a clip from We'll Find Something, a short film by Casey Gooden starring Upstream Color's Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz.
Ok, this is one of the strangest photos I've ever seen. In the background, there's a building on fire and in the foreground, there's a football game going on like there's not a building on fire right there. From their photographic recap of 1965, In Focus has the story:
Spectators divide their attention as the Mount Hermon High School football team in Massachusetts hosts Deerfield Academy during a structure fire in the Mount Hermon science building on November 24, 1965. The science building was destroyed, and Mount Hermon lost the football game, ending a two-year-long winning streak.
Update: The photo above reminded some readers of this photo, taken by Joel Sternfeld in 1978.
You'll notice the fireman buying a pumpkin while the house behind him burns, although there's a bit more to the story than that.
In 1996, a building burned outside the stadium during the LSU/Auburn game:
(via @slowernet & @davisseal)
Ok, I'm starting to feel better about Inside Out, Pixar's upcoming animated feature that takes place mostly inside the mind of a young girl. The first trailer featured a bunch of gender stereotypes and mostly left me scratching my head, but the second trailer is solid: