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The Sculptor Tasked with Completing Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

In this meditative short film, Etsuro Sotoo talks about what made him want to spend 41 years working as a sculptor in an attempt to finish Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. From a website dedicated to Sotoo:

In 1978 Etsuro Sotoo arrived in Barcelona. He had just graduated in Fine Arts, he had just one year of experience as an Art teacher. When impressed by the unfinished temple: “It was the most fabulous pile of stones I had ever seen” …He asked for a job as a stonecutter. He wanted to continue the Nativity façade (the only façade that, thanks to his work, would be declared by Unesco World Heritage). He did a test and they gave him the position. Since then, he has completed what Gaudí did not even have time to think about. When he finished with the gaps, he started with the architect’s notes. When the tracks are over, it’s up to him to make decisions.

According to the video, Sotoo even converted to Catholicism as a way for him “to know Gaudí”. (via craig mod)

America Is Refusing to Learn How to Fight the Coronavirus. Instead, we have "a pattern of failure following failure, with each successive failure normalized by the last".

New nonfiction from Nicholson Baker – Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act.

After early success, Israel is facing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases. This bit seems relevant to the reopening schools debate: "Schools — not restaurants or gyms — turned out to be the country’s worst mega-infectors."

Cities should greatly reduce the number of cars allowed and give the reclaimed space back to the people. Here's what that could look like in NYC.

Whoa: "The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled by a 5-4 margin that nearly half of Oklahoma is an Indian reservation in the eyes of the criminal-justice system."

PRINT magazine revisits a 1968 piece called The Black Experience in Graphic Design and interviews Black creatives about what's changed. "It is hard to believe that this article was written in 1968. More than 50 years later, very little has changed."

Fascinating new DNA evidence suggests early migration from South America (specifically from what is now Colombia) to eastern Polynesia sometime before circa 1150 ACE, possibly arriving even before western Polynesians did.

"There's overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system is racist. Here's the proof." A massive review of studies of racial bias in policing, our legal system, etc.

The formation of "social pods" (small, trusted groups that isolate together) can be very helpful in limiting the damaging effects of long-term social isolation.

Nerissa Zhang, who is a Black woman, sent her startup's pitch deck to several VCs who publicly stated wanting to invest in Black-owned startups. She got 0 responses – until she sent the same messages from her co-founder husband's email.

New!  An archive of the Quick Links. You can find them @kottke on Twitter too.

The 2020 Audubon Photography Award Winners

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

Audubon 2020 Contest

Audubon 2020 Contest

From more than 6000 submissions, the National Audubon Society has selected the winners of The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards, featuring some of the best bird photography of the year. The top photo, of a cormorant diving for dinner, is by Joanna Lentini and the second photo, of a thirsty hummingbird, was taken by Bibek Ghosh.

The New Normal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

This Is Fine

For Vox, David Roberts writes about how “shifting baselines” affect our thinking and how easily overwhelmingly large issues like climate change or a pandemic can become normalized.

Maybe climate chaos, a rising chorus of alarm signals from around the world, will simply become our new normal. Hell, maybe income inequality, political dysfunction, and successive waves of a deadly virus will become our new normal. Maybe we’ll just get used to [waves hands] all this.

Humans often don’t remember what we’ve lost or demand that it be restored. Rather, we adjust to what we’ve got.

The concept of shifting baselines was introduced in a 1995 paper by Daniel Pauly. Roberts explains:

So what are shifting baselines? Consider a species of fish that is fished to extinction in a region over, say, 100 years. A given generation of fishers becomes conscious of the fish at a particular level of abundance. When those fishers retire, the level is lower. To the generation that enters after them, that diminished level is the new normal, the new baseline. They rarely know the baseline used by the previous generation; it holds little emotional salience relative to their personal experience.

And so it goes, each new generation shifting the baseline downward. By the end, the fishers are operating in a radically degraded ecosystem, but it does not seem that way to them, because their baselines were set at an already low level.

Over time, the fish goes extinct — an enormous, tragic loss — but no fisher experiences the full transition from abundance to desolation. No generation experiences the totality of the loss. It is doled out in portions, over time, no portion quite large enough to spur preventative action. By the time the fish go extinct, the fishers barely notice, because they no longer valued the fish anyway.

And it’s not just groups of people that do this over generations:

It turns out that, over the course of their lives, individuals do just what generations do — periodically reset and readjust to new baselines.

“There is a tremendous amount of research showing that we tend to adapt to circumstances if they are constant over time, even if they are gradually worsening,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon. He cites the London Blitz (during World War II, when bombs were falling on London for months on end) and the intifada (the Palestinian terror campaign in Israel), during which people slowly adjusted to unthinkable circumstances.

“Fear tends to diminish over time when a risk remains constant,” he says, “You can only respond for so long. After a while, it recedes to the background, seemingly no matter how bad it is.”

Ok, I’ll let you just read the rest of it, but it’s not difficult to see how shifting baselines apply to all sorts of challenges facing the world today. I mean the lines “You can only respond for so long. After a while, it recedes to the background, seemingly no matter how bad it is.” seem like they were written specifically about the pandemic.

Acceptable Risk

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

Acceptable Risk

Some Americans obviously aren’t troubling themselves with this but many of us are constantly running risk calculations in our heads for every little thing we do and don’t do during the course of the week during the pandemic.

Is it ok to visit the grocery store more than once this week? Can my kid have a playdate with her friend? Has her friend’s family been careful about seeing other people and how do I even ask them about it without sounding judgmental? Should I order that thing online or go to the store for it? Is it safe to take a roadtrip to a neighboring state? (Where the hell are we supposed to stop to use the bathroom?) Can I get a haircut? Do I need to order that thing online or do I just want it? Should schools reopen in the fall? And if they do, should I send my kids? Is eating at a restaurant safe for the staff? Can a friend come over for dinner? Can my son safely play in a baseball league? Will there be too many people not wearing masks in the store that I need to visit to get this one thing? Should I keep going to my favorite coffee shop when the barista just can’t seem to keep his mask up over his nose?

It goes on and on and on and IT’S EXHAUSTING. Comic from XKCD.

A History of Policing in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

This video provides a quick overview of the history of policing in America through the lens of race, from the slave patrols in the South to the violent and discriminatory policing of Black migrants in the North in the midst the Great Migration. At its conclusion, historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness, asks a very direct question:

And so the question that has to be asked in the wake of George Floyd — and I think this question is being asked and answered by more white people than I’ve seen in my lifetime is — do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights and dignity and lives of Black and, in too many cases, brown, Indigenous, and Asian populations in this country?

This video is a snippet from an hour-long podcast episode of NPR’s Throughline called American Police (transcript here). (via @GeeDee215)

A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

From January to the end of June, over 500,000 people died of confirmed cases of Covid-19. In order to demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic, James Beckwith made a time lapse map of each Covid-19 death.

Each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded. Each day is 4 seconds long, and at the top of the screen is the date and a counter showing the total numbers of deaths. Every country that has had a fatality is included.

As was the case with the pandemic, the video starts slow but soon enough the individual sounds and blips build to a crescendo, a cacophony of death. The only way this could be made more ominous & upsetting is by including the first song off of Cliff Martinez’s Contagion soundtrack as a backing track. As Beckwith notes in the description: “It is likely a sequel will need to be made.” (via open culture)

The Ideology of American Policing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

For What the police really believe, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp interviewed several former police officers and policing experts to find out how police think of themselves, their jobs, and the communities they are supposed to be protecting and serving.

Police officers across America have adopted a set of beliefs about their work and its role in our society. The tenets of police ideology are not codified or written down, but are nonetheless widely shared in departments around the country.

The ideology holds that the world is a profoundly dangerous place: Officers are conditioned to see themselves as constantly in danger and that the only way to guarantee survival is to dominate the citizens they’re supposed to protect. The police believe they’re alone in this fight; police ideology holds that officers are under siege by criminals and are not understood or respected by the broader citizenry. These beliefs, combined with widely held racial stereotypes, push officers toward violent and racist behavior during intense and stressful street interactions.

New Cartoons from The Far Side’s Gary Larson

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

Gary Larson New Work

In 1995, after his massively popular single-panel cartoon The Far Side had run daily in newspapers for 15 years, cartoonist Gary Larson retired at the top of his game and scarcely a peep has been heard from him since. Until recently. Back in September, Larson launched a website for The Far Side with a daily archival cartoon. But then yesterday, Larson revealed that he’s been working on some new stuff with “a digital tablet” (likely an iPad).

The “New Stuff” that you’ll see here is the result of my journey into the world of digital art. Believe me, this has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. (True, I don’t get out much.) But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there — a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run and sometimes coming up with “Cow tools.” (Let’s not get into that.) But as a jazz teacher once said to me about improvisation, “You want to try and take people somewhere where they might not have been before.” I think that my approach to cartooning was similar — I’m just not sure if even I knew where I was going. But I was having fun.

There are only three new pieces so far, but I’d guess more are on the way. The new stuff is more painterly and definitely has that drawn-in-Procreate feel to it, but the Larson’s trademark humor is very much in evidence.

The Indigenous Peruvian Trap Music of Renata Flores

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Quechua is an indigenous language family spoken by millions of people in the Andean region of South America, primarily in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. It was the main language of the Inca empire and today is the most widely spoken pre-Columbian language in the Americas. In her music, Peruvian singer/songwriter Renata Flores combines modern forms like hip hop, electronic, and trap music with native instruments and vocals sung in Quechua. Here’s the video for one of her most popular songs, Tijeras:

Flores also does covers of pop songs (Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Fallin’ by Alicia Keys) and she first captured people’s online attention with a Quechua cover of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel performed when she was 14 years old:

Rosa Chávez Yacila wrote an article for Vice about Flores and her music last year. Her use of Quechua in pop music brought the language out of private spaces into the public.

It’s very common for many Quechua speakers to not teach their children or grandchildren the language because they consider this knowledge as a burden. To explain the shortage of active bilingualism in Peru, the linguist Virginia Zavala uses the concept of “linguistic ideologies,” which are the ideas that people have about languages. For example: French is the language of love; German sounds rough; Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are similar.

Quechua, similarly to other indigenous languages, is associated with poverty, rural life, and illiteracy. These ideas have been shaped by history and society to the point that people hold on to these beliefs as if they were universal truths. And these “truths” are deeply embedded in their conscious thought process. Value hierarchies also exist with languages. Some are “worth” more than others.

The end result is that many native Quechua speakers believe that using Quechua in public is unnecessary after learning Spanish. Either by shyness or shame, they reserve their maternal tongue for private spaces and intimate conversations.

Japanese Aquariums’ Flowchart of Penguin Relationships

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Penguin Love Flowchart

A pair of aquariums in Japan have published flowcharts that track the relationships of their penguins.

Penguins, the way they waddle around and protect their eggs, are often thought of as cute, cuddly and romantic. But those who observe them for extended periods know they have a dark side. Two aquariums in Japan, Kyoto Aquarium and Sumida Aquarium, keep obsessive tabs on their penguins and maintain an updated flowchart that visualizes all their penguin drama.

As Kyoto-based researcher Oliver Jia points out, penguin drama can include serious crushes and heartbreaks but also adultery and egg-stealing. And these Japanese aquariums have it all charted in a flowchart that can be studied for hours.

(via @pomeranian99)

Behind the Scenes with Danny MacAskill

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Trials rider Danny MacAskill (one of our favorite athletes around these parts) has recently started sharing some behind-the-scenes looks at some of the coolest tricks he’s done for his videos. The video above shows him trying to barrel roll his bike with a trailer attached, which he likens to “doing a rally [race] with a caravan on the back”. What’s fascinating is that it takes him forever to get the maneuver down, but once he does, he’s able to do it over and over again — “gradually, then suddenly” in action. You can see the finished product in his Danny Daycare video.

Two more behind-the-scenes videos he’s done so far: the backwards roll and the log slide (which also takes him forever to do but he’s then able to repeat three more times in a row).

Doublespeak: Language Designed to Mislead While Pretending Otherwise

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Linguist William Lutz, former editor of the Quarterly Review of Doublespeak, went on CSPAN in 1989 to promote his book, Doublespeak. The video above is a 7-minute distillation of his thoughts on what he calls “language designed to mislead while pretending not to”. (Watch Lutz’s full interview here.)

You can read the first chapter of Doublespeak; an excerpt:

Doublespeak is not the product of carelessness or sloppy thinking. Indeed, most doublespeak is the product of clear thinking and carefully designed and constructed to appear to communicate when in fact it doesn’t. It is language designed not to lead but mislead. It is language designed to distort reality and corrupt thought… In the world created by doublespeak, if it’s not a tax increase, but rather “revenue enhancement” or “tax base broadening”, how can you complain about higher taxes? If it’s not acid rain, but rather “poorly buffered precipitation”, how can you worry about all those dead trees?

See also On Bullshit and Donald Trump. (via dunstan)

A Portrait of a Direct Descendent of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Jefferson Grandson

For his Descendents series, Drew Gardner takes photographs of people done up to look like their famous ancestors. The Smithsonian Magazine recently featured Gardner’s photo of Shannon LaNier recreating a portrait of his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson. Here’s the description of Jefferson’s portrait on the White House website:

The portrait of Jefferson was completed in Philadelphia before mid-May 1800 when he left that capital for Monticello. The face has the glow of health, a warm complexion. The sitter here looks directly at us and does so with candor, as our equal. The splendid eyes and mouth convey reason and tolerance.

At odds with that glowing description is LaNier’s very existence; he’s here today because Thomas Jefferson raped his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Sally Hemings. Says LaNier of Jefferson:

He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it. He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.

Check out this video for a look at how the portrait was made and more of LaNier’s thoughts about it. (via open culture)

A Mind Sang

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2020

A Mind Sang is an inventive short film about “perception, rebirth, and transformation”. What I most liked about watching was how effortless it was to see the transitions between all the optical illusions — but it wasn’t too easy. A great sense of pacing by filmmaker Vier Nev. Read an interview with Nev about his film on Vimeo’s blog. (via @mikeindustries)