kottke.org posts about video
It’s 2008. George W. Bush is President. The Democratic primaries have just ended, and Barack Obama is the unlikely presumptive nominee. The economy is circling around the drain, and America is about to have its first black Presidential nominee by a major political party.
I don’t know exactly how you might measure and graph a country’s level of plausibly deniable racism or awkward attempts to identify or discount such racism, but if you could, summer 2008 would have to be one of its peaks.
That’s when Jay Smooth posted “How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist,” one of the greatest videoblog entries of all time.
Jay’s video turned into a TED Talk and a video series for Fusion called The Illipsis.
But mostly, he’s still hosting WBAI’s Underground Railroad (since 1991!), keeping up his site HipHopMusic.com (not much lately, but he started it in 1997!) and writing blog posts and making consistently great videos about music, race, politics, and culture at Ill Doctrine.
Watching Ill Doctrine is to feel the power and pleasure of seeing a mind at work. He’s always thinking around seven or eight sides of an issue and following them through all the way to the end. He does what you might call “explainers” but without any of the condescension to the audience or pretense to having settled an issue once and forever endemic to the form. It’s conversation.
He’s the best editor of any weblog I know — every cut is a new thought, a new idea, a new argument to hang on the thought right before it, and the cumulative effect is like a cubist painting.
He’s still experimenting with the format, adding interviews, letting his cat co-host, always oscillating between the public and the personal. Jay’s still the best at what he does.
Update: Jay just launched a Patreon campaign to keep Ill Doctrine going well into the future; if you love his work, please consider supporting it.
For a few weeks in 2006, people would ask me, “have you seen ‘The Show’? It’s the best thing ever,” and I would answer “Of course! I love it!” But I was talking about this:
It wasn’t until Ze Frank got a lengthy writeup in the New York Times (10,000 daily visitors!) that I realized they were talking about something else. And when I asked Kottke readers to nominate something to put in a time capsule for the World Wide Web, more people suggested Ze Frank’s The Show or episodes from it than they did anything else.
The Show helped establish some enduring conventions for videoblogging: direct address, quick cuts, slightly varied closeup angles, and a curious mix of oversharing, motivational speaking, political commentary, and nerdly zaniness, You never knew quite what you were going to get, but for that one year it ran, you knew you could get it every day.
If the earth was a sandwich
We’d get along so well
And we could feed everybody
With a piece of ourselves
Ze brought The Show back for a short spell in 2012: “An Invocation for Beginnings” was a favorite video of a number of people who wrote in suggestions.
And for years now he’s helped run video at BuzzFeed — where a lot of The Show’s aesthetic can still be found, especially that relentless drive to figure out “what can I do to get people’s attention today?”
Future generations might take a minute to sort out the time-dependent references and figure out why these videos were so compelling. (They will also drop their jaws in wonder at just how old the computers from 2006 now look.) But that drive-for-attention/drive-for-connection part? I bet they’ll understand that part just fine.
YAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS. I will never not be excited for more Star Wars and I don’t care what this says about me as a person.
Next month is the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars and at Star Wars Celebration this year, there was a 40 Years of Star Wars panel with George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Harrison Ford. At the end of the panel, after some personal thoughts from Lucas and the other panelists about Carrie Fisher, they played this video tribute to Fisher.
As Britain lumbers towards Brexit, other parts of Europe seem to be weighing, electorally and otherwise, if the European Union is something worth keeping or whether it belongs on the trash heap of history next to The League of Nations and the Roman Empire. In this video, Kurzgesagt takes a look at some of the benefits and criticisms of the EU and considers whether the former outweigh the latter.
Scotty Allen built a working iPhone 6S from scratch using parts bought in the electronics markets of Shenzhen, China.
I built a like-new(but really refurbished) iPhone 6S 16GB entirely from parts I bought in the public cell phone parts markets in Huaqiangbei. And it works!
I’ve been fascinated by the cell phone parts markets in Shenzhen, China for a while. I’d walked through them a bunch of times, but I still didn’t understand basic things, like how they were organized or who was buying all these parts and what they were doing with them.
So when someone mentioned they wondered if you could build a working smartphone from parts in the markets, I jumped at the chance to really dive in and understand how everything works.
It is kind of amazing that he ends up with a fully functional iPhone, complete with a box with charger, headphones, etc. The era of transistor radio kits is not quiiiite dead yet. (via bb)
Based on the motions of the 2 million stars observed by ESA’s Gaia mission over the past two years, scientists created this simulated animation of how the view of the Milky Way in the night sky will evolve over the next 5 million years.
The shape of the Orion constellation can be spotted towards the right edge of the frame, just below the Galactic Plane, at the beginning of the video. As the sequence proceeds, the familiar shape of this constellation (and others) evolves into a new pattern. Two stellar clusters — groups of stars that were born together and consequently move together — can be seen towards the left edge of the frame: these are the alpha Persei (Per OB3) and Pleiades open clusters.
Stars seem to move with a wide range of velocities in this video, with stars in the Galactic Plane moving quite slow and faster ones appearing over the entire frame. This is a perspective effect: most of the stars we see in the plane are much farther from us, and thus seem to be moving slower than the nearby stars, which are visible across the entire sky.
Well, how’s that for some perspective? (via blastr)
Last August, Dylan Matthews donated one of his kidneys to someone he’d never met before.
On Monday, August 22, 2016, a surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore removed my left kidney. It was then drained of blood, flushed with a preservative solution, placed on ice, and flown to Cincinnati.
Surgeons in Cincinnati then transplanted the kidney into a recipient I’d never met and whose name I didn’t know; we didn’t correspond until this past month. The only thing I knew about him at the time was that he needed my kidney more than I did. It would let him avoid the physically draining experience of dialysis and possibly live an extra nine to 10 years, maybe more.
Why did he do it? Because he thought it was the right thing to do morally.
I’d wanted to give a kidney for years — at least since I first heard it was possible after reading Larissa MacFarquhar’s New Yorker piece on “good Samaritan” kidney donors when I was in college. It just seemed like such a simple and clear way to help someone else, through a procedure that’s very low-risk to me. I studied moral philosophy as an undergrad, and there’s a famous thought experiment about a man who walks by a shallow pond where a child is drowning and does nothing, because leaping in to save the child might muddy his clothes.
As Matthews notes, all you need to do to get started on the road to becoming a living donor is fill out this form.
Barry Bonds was a ridiculously good baseball player. In this installment of the highly entertaining Chart Party series, Jon Bois answers a very hypothetical question: What if, during his monster 2004 season, Bonds had gone to the plate without a bat? This is super entertaining if you’re any kind of a baseball fan and the end result is really shocking. (via @caseyjohnston)
From concept designer Ash Thorp, a reel of visual effects he worked on for Ghost in the Shell, from animation tests to completed effects featured in the film.
Early on in the film’s development, I met with Rupert to discuss some of the creative direction. He expressed his desire to paint the city with neon lights in a new form that he coined as “Solograms”, which are solid holograms. It is something in the realm of a particle system of light that can be moved and augmented in Z space. I loved the idea and instantly got to work building out concepts and ideas. Below you will see a mix of various style frames, concepts, and final production assets that made it into the film.
I saw this the other day and the effects are amazing; I wish the story could have been a little better.
Update: For more on the visual effects in Ghost in the Shell, see also this piece in Creative Review and this extensive look from Cinematography Database.
(via @firasd & @holgr)
When The Shining premiered in 1980 in NYC and LA, there was a short scene in a hospital between the shot of Jack Torrence frozen in the maze and the long zoomed-in shot of the framed photo. After the premieres, director Stanley Kubrick decided the scene didn’t work and had it cut from dozens of prints and destroyed.
It’s also important to note that this was likely not the exact scene that Kubrick shot; since the scene no longer exists, it’s impossible to know how exactly it played. Even the many people who saw the epilogue when The Shining was first released have varying recollections of the exact details. Clearly, the final text about the Overlook’s history was an idea omitted during the writing process.
No known copy of the scene remains but you can read it in the screenplay and see brief glimpses in these Polaroids.
Aviation expert Henk Hesselink thinks that airports should have circular runways instead of straight ones. Among other things, large circular runways could reduce the need for crosswind landings, use airport land more efficiently, and increase the number of planes simultaneously landing and taking off.
As part of these efforts, NLR has been involved in a European project called ‘The Endless Runway’. This radical new airport concept is based on the construction of a circular runway with a diameter of approx. 3.5 km around an airport terminal. Such an airport would take up only a third of the space of a conventional airport. Another advantage is that aircraft would always be able to take off and land independently of the wind direction, since there is always a point without crosswind on the circular runway. Landing aircraft can also be routed away from residential areas because they are not dependent on a standard approach path. Finally, the ‘Endless Runway’ concept will enable multiple aircraft to take off and land simultaneously, resulting in increased airport capacity.
According to Hesselink’s research, a circular runway as long as three normal runways (and the diameter of one runway) could handle the traffic of four normal runways. (thx, dad)
Adam Neely made a song that is constructed of smaller versions of itself, resulting in a musical fractal that sounds the same at full speed and at 1000 times slower. How does it work? Harmonic polyrhythms.
E=mc^2 tells us that mass and energy are the same thing, just on massively different scales. This is similar to the musician’s theory of relativity which says that rhythm, melody, and harmony are the same thing, just on similarly massively different scales.
So by slowing things way down or speeding things way up, you can convert between harmony and rhythm. (via waxy)
The X27 camera takes videos in darkness that looks like they were shot in the daytime. And they’re in color…none of this black and white, thermal, or infrared stuff. The camera was developed for military use, has an effective ISO rating of 5,000,000, and has a comically long name: “X27 Reconnaissance Day/Night high Fidelity true real time low light/low lux color night vision Imaging Security / Multi Purpose camera system”. Pricing information is not available, but I bet you’re paying for every single one of those words. (via digg)
Amber Galloway Gallego is a ASL interpreter who has developed new techniques and expressions to translate popular music into a richer experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing people than just simply translating the lyrics.
If you frequent music festivals and concerts, you might see her — or an interpreter like her — grooving to the music, mirroring the emotions and physicality of the artists onstage, interpreting their imaginative lyrics for concert-goers who rely on visual accommodations. She’s interpreted for more than 400 artists at this point, and has a special knack for interpreting hip-hop acts.
Part of the challenge here, particularly with fast-moving rap or hip hop, is combine or abbreviate signs in order to keep time with the lyrics. See Shelby Mitchusson performing Eminem’s Lose Yourself or Gallego doing a faster song of his, Rap God:
Sammi Grant is a dialect coach and voiceover artist for television and theater. In this video, she demonstrates her expertise in speaking English with several different accents, including Irish, Scottish, German, the American midwestern accent, and the Transatlantic accent, an accent invented to sound both American and British simultaneously.
No, really. That’s not a real accent. It’s a now-abandoned affectation from the period that saw the rise of matinee idols and Hitchcock’s blonde bombshells. Talk like that today and be the butt of jokes (see Frasier). But in the ’30s and ’40s, there are almost no films in which the characters don’t speak with this faux-British elocution-a hybrid of Britain’s Received Pronunciation and standard American English as it exists today. It’s called Mid-Atlantic English (not to be confused with local accents of the Eastern seaboard), a name that describes a birthplace halfway between Britain and America. Learned in aristocratic finishing schools or taught for use in theater to the Bergmans and Hepburns who were carefully groomed in the studio system, it was class for the masses, doled out through motion pictures.
This short video has some more examples of the Transatlantic (or Mid-Atlantic) accent:
Rihards Vidzickis is a Latvian master woodworker (and materials scientist) who specializes in making dugout canoes and other rustic works out of wood. In this beautifully shot short film, Vidzickis crafts a dugout canoe from scratch over a period of a few months, using only hand tools. I’ve never considered “elegant” a word that could be associated with a dugout canoe, but here we are.
The video is long (18 min) and you’ll be tempted to skip ahead, but watching it is almost meditative and there are little woodworking tricks throughout that are really clever (like using wooden pegs for depth-finding while hollowing the canoe out). The film also provides ample evidence of the old adage “measure ten times, cut once” (or something like that).
The Double King takes “thou shalt not have any other kings before me” very seriously. (via @tonyszhou)
The elaborate courtship rituals of animals from around the world are featured heavily in every BBC nature documentary series. (See, for instance, these birds of paradise…if you haven’t seen this before, wait for the giant clicking smile.) In the video above featuring a scene from the 2014 series Life Story, watch a Japanese puffer fish create an elaborate pattern in the sand in order to attract a mate. Narrator David Attenborough calls the puffer fish “probably nature’s greatest artist” and I gasped at the full reveal of his creation.
In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film about Al Gore’s fight to educate the world about climate change. It made nearly $50 million at the box office, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and is credited for moving the conversation about climate change along (although not nearly fast enough, in my mind). This July, a followup documentary will be released: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. From a review in the LA Times:
Eleven Sundances later, Gore’s star wattage seemed entirely undimmed at Thursday evening’s premiere of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” an awkwardly titled, stirringly crafted follow-up that measures the progress that has and hasn’t been made in the battle against global warming. Taking over for Davis Guggenheim, the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk largely abandon the framing device of Gore’s lecture (which he and his international team of trainees continue to give regularly) in favor of a nimbler, more on-the-go approach.
Despite some updates on the continuing decline of the world’s glaciers and the link between climate change and the recent Zika virus outbreak, the focus this time is less on science than on politicking. Cohen and Shenk tag along with Gore on a globe-trotting mission to persuade various heads of state to invest in wind and solar energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels — an effort that culminates on-screen with the signing of last year’s historic Paris climate accord.
All but a few humans have seen no more than half of the Moon with their own eyes. For the rest of us stuck on Earth, we only get to see the side that always faces the Earth because the Earth & Moon are tidally locked; the Moon’s rotation about its axis and its orbit around the Earth take the same amount of time. But NASA’s LRO probe has taken high-resolution photos of all but 2% of the Moon’s surface, which have been stitched together into this video of the Moon’s full 360-degree rotation.
Kurzgesagt takes a look at the debate over genetically modified foods. Decades of scientific research plainly says that GMO foods are safe to consume, but that’s not the only issue.
Over 90% of all cashed crops in the US are herbicide resistant, mostly to glyphosate. As a result, the use of glyphosate has increased greatly. That isn’t only bad, glyphosate is much less harmful to humans than many other herbicides. Still, this means farmers have a strong incentive to rely on this one method only, casting more balanced ways of managing weeds aside.
That’s one of the most fundamental problems with the GMO debate. Much of the criticism of this technology is actually criticism of modern agriculture and a business practice of the huge corporations that control our food supply. This criticism is not only valid, it’s also important. We need to change agriculture to a more sustainable model.
One thing is for certain…the debate online is polarized.
Don’t know about you, but I need a cat massage right now. You can’t hear it, but I bet that cat is purring big time as well. (My pal Matt was the first person I’d heard refer to cat kneading as “making muffins”, which is an essentially perfect and cute description. He also calls when a cat sits with all four of its paws tucked up underneath it “loaf-a-kitty”. Again, cute and perfect.)
For movies based on historical events, getting the details right can be essential in convincing the audience they’re watching something meaningful and important, particularly if the real-world scenes are iconic. But often, historical happenings are changed to make scenes more cinematically effective. This video shows several historical events coupled with their cinematic recreations in films like Jackie, Into the Wild, JFK, Catch Me If You Can, and Selma.
The Ballad of Holland Island House was created by animator Lynn Tomlinson using a clay-on-glass painting technique.
The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.
The technique is a hybrid of traditional cel animation (traditionally done on transparent sheets) and claymation stop-motion animation.
Snails, particularly those shown in combat with knights, show up in the margins of medieval manuscripts copied around the turn of the 14th century…a sort of medieval meme that spread among scribes. In this video, Phil Edwards investigates what’s going on with those snails, drawing upon the work of Lilian Randall in The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare (a corker of a title for an academic work, to be sure).
For the first time in 30 years, the world’s cloud authority has classified a dozen new types of cloud. You can find them in the International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization.
The existing classifications have been reviewed and all have been retained. Several new, formal cloud classifications have been introduced. These include one new species (volutus), five new supplementary features (asperitas, cauda, cavum, fluctus and murus), and one new accessory cloud (flumen). The species floccus has been formally recognized as being able to occur in association with stratocumulus. The separate section on Special Clouds has been removed, and the cloud and meteor types previously discussed within this section have been integrated into the cloud classification scheme as cataractagenitus, flammagenitus, homogenitus, silvagenitus, and homomutatus.
The cloud in the second photo is a cavum cloud, which is not so much a cloud itself as a hole in a altocumulus or cirrocumulus cloud. The cloud in the top photo, the one that looks like a van Gogh painting, is an asperitas (formerly known as undulatus asperatus). The asperitas is best seen in motion:
Magali Barbé wrote and directed this short sci-fi video about an imaginary augmented reality game called Strange Beasts. It starts off with a “hey, yeah, cool, augemented reality games are going to be fun to play” vibe but gradually veers down the same dystopian path as a lot of augmented reality fictions (like Keiichi Matsuda’s Hyper-Reality). Barbé wrote about how the video was created.
Daft Punk creates their songs by extensively sampling records, mostly from the 70s and 80s. In some cases, bits of song are used relatively unchanged while others are chopped up and repeated to the point of being unrecognizable. Here are a few of the group’s samples compared with their original sources.
See also the duo’s Alive 2007 live album, which I have been listening to extensively lately.
Update: The video I’d originally linked to got taken down but I replaced it with another one. Here’s another one as well.
Rayna is a small child who thinks this hot water heater looks like a robot and she is determined to say hi to it and tell it that she loves it. THIS IS THE CUTEST THING OF ALL TIME THAT IS NOT THAT PHOTO OF OTTERS HOLDING HANDS SO THEY DON’T DRIFT AWAY FROM EACH OTHER WHILE SLEEPING. In the future, when humanity is on trial for the mistreatment of machines, our randomly assigned legal algorithm will introduce this video as Exhibit A in our defense. I like our chances.