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The Legacy of Philip Glass

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2019

Philip Glass Whitney

From the NY Times, Philip Glass Is Too Busy to Care About Legacy.

“I’m pragmatic,” Mr. Glass said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 years. We don’t even get to know what’s going to happen after someone dies. We need to wait until everyone who knew them is dead, too.”

If that’s true, it won’t be until nearly 2100 when a full measure of Mr. Glass’s footprint will be possible. But some weighing can start now. The most instantly recognizable voice in contemporary music, he opened a new chapter in operatic history, pushing the bounds of duration and abstraction. At a time when the most lauded composers disdained overproduction, Mr. Glass wrote unashamedly for everyone and everything — and all stubbornly in the distinctive style he created, establishing a model for serious artists moving from the opera house to the concert hall to the film studio, garnering both Met commissions and Academy Award nominations.

But if the question is whether, a century from now, his operas will get new productions, his symphonies will circulate more frequently, or pianists will take on his études, Mr. Glass couldn’t care less.

“I won’t be around for all that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Austin Kleon expanded on this piece with some thoughts about lineage vs legacy.

I like this idea of thinking about lineage vs. legacy, because it means you can sort of reframe any worrying about immortality and how you’re going to project yourself into the future, and think more about what you’re taking from the past and what you’re adding to it that creates a more interesting and helpful present.

Brent Simmons celebrates 20 years of blogging. "The best time to start a blog is 20 years ago. The second-best time is today."

The Colossal is one of my favorite websites and they recently introduced a membership program. If you're a Colossal reader, join me in supporting their efforts!

Climate scientists badly underestimated how quickly the effects of climate change would arrive. Here's how they got it wrong. "Many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities."

Steve Wozniak & David Heinemeier Hansson allege that Goldman Sachs' Apple Card algorithm discriminates against women applicants. "We love our technology but we are no longer in control."

Rating the horse emojis from iOS, Facebook, Android, etc. "This horse is lacking both mouth and nostrils, which could lead to exercise intolerance."

A company called Emergy Foods is growing "steaks" made of fungi with a process that's a bit like making cheese or miso.

Communities facing relocation as they struggle with melting ground and a rising sea. "Pelly Island, a remote island about 100 kilometres west of Tuktoyaktuk, recede as much as 30-40 metres a year."

You've got to admire the dedication. A very, very detailed look at all the changes and additions to the emojis in iOS 13.2, including falafel, maté, and a gender-neutral zombie.

Lovely project in Chicago, where a 70-foot long section of sidewalk is now paved with yellow bricks to mark the former home of Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Paging all modern oligarchs, and French ministries and museums. “The ‘Château du Bouilh’ was tailor made for the last King of France, and has been left virtually untouched since the country’s Revolution.” It’s now for sale.

There's no quick links archive yet. If you'd like to see 'em all, follow @kottke on Twitter.

Painting with CSS

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2019

Diana Smith CSS painting

Believe it or not, the image above was made using only HTML & CSS by developer Diana Smith. It’s coded by hand and built for Chrome — you can check it out here. The source code and accompanying CSS is not as extensive as you might think.

As Andy Baio notes, Smith’s creations render less well in other browsers. Who knew Internet Explorer 8 for Windows 7 was a Cubist master?

Diana Smith CSS Cubist

You can view several other of Smith’s creations here, here, and here.

See also Tatsuo Horiuchi, the Excel Spreadsheet Artist. (via waxy)

Highlights from The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2019

The Fifth Season is the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy of fantasy/science fiction novels by N.K. Jemisin. Each book in the trilogy won the Hugo Award for best novel the year after its release. It took me awhile to get into, but once I was hooked the book went pretty quickly. Here are the passages I highlighted on my Kindle for one reason or another. (See past book highlights.)

Note: This ebook didn’t have real page numbers, only Kindle location markers. Sorry about that.

Further note: I’ve been reading Kindle books checked out from my local library via Libby. It’s been challenging because the loan period is typically not long enough for how slowly I read. But I did discover that you can view your notes and highlights for all of your Kindle books, including expired ones, so I don’t need to worry about exporting them before my loan ends.

Location 52 (I like the obviousness of the opening lines):

Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.

Location 102:

There is an art to smiling in a way that others will believe. It is always important to include the eyes; otherwise, people will know you hate them.

Location 208 (see Addressing Climate Change Is Not About Saving the Planet):

When we say “the world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.

Location 1,161:

The people we love are the ones who hurt us the most, after all.”

Location 1,488 (saving this for the next time someone argues about the “natural order of things” or similar bullshit):

Survival doesn’t mean rightness. I could kill you right now, but that wouldn’t make me a better person for doing so.”

Location 2,061 (on surviving in the immediate aftermath of loss):

So you must stay Essun, and Essun will have to make do with the broken bits of herself that Jija has left behind. You’ll jigsaw them together however you can, caulk in the odd bits with willpower wherever they don’t quite fit, ignore the occasional sounds of grinding and cracking. As long as nothing important breaks, right? You’ll get by. You have no choice.

Location 2,298 (emphasis mine):

Once Damaya would have protested the unfairness of such judgments. The children of the Fulcrum are all different: different ages, different colors, different shapes. Some speak Sanze-mat with different accents, having originated from different parts of the world. One girl has sharp teeth because it is her race’s custom to file them; another boy has no penis, though he stuffs a sock into his underwear after every shower; another girl has rarely had regular meals and wolfs down every one like she’s still starving. (The instructors keep finding food hidden in and around her bed. They make her eat it, all of it, in front of them, even if it makes her sick.) One cannot reasonably expect sameness out of so much difference, and it makes no sense for Damaya to be judged by the behavior of children who share nothing save the curse of orogeny with her.

Location 2,311:

The world is not fair, and sometimes it makes no sense.

Location 2,703:

“Home is people,” she says to Asael, softly. Asael blinks. “Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”

Location 3,359 (the uncanny valley of hyper-graceful motion):

The stone eater’s arm rises, so steadily that the motion surpasses graceful and edges into unnatural.

Location 3,546:

Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.

Location 4,155 (out of context this is weird but it made me lol):

Did you need a dick — any dick, even my mediocre, boring one — that bad?”

Location 4,314:

We are creatures born of heat and pressure and grinding, ceaseless movement. To be still is to be… not alive.

Location 4,369:

She loves her son. But that doesn’t mean she wants to spend every hour of every rusting day in his presence.

Location 4,446 (ISO an affection dihedron):

They can’t stand sex with each other directly, but vicariously it’s amazing. And what do they even call this? It’s not a threesome, or a love triangle. It’s a two-and-a-half-some, an affection dihedron.

Fewer highlights than usual…lots of plot = fewer highlights, I think. I enjoyed reading this book, but it also didn’t propel me right into the next book in the series (unlike The Three-Body Problem). Maybe in a month or two?

The Gorgeous Metro Stations of Uzbekistan

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2019

Tashkent Metro

Tashkent Metro

Tashkent Metro

Once a stop along the Silk Roads from Europe to Asia, the city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan boasts many cultural treasures but perhaps the most unlikely is the city’s metro system and its colorful & artistic stations. In 2018, not long after a photography ban was lifted, Amos Chapple took a series of photos of Tashkent’s metro.

See also Photos of Grand Soviet-Era Subway Stations. (via @bennglazier)

A Solar Eclipse from the Edge of Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2019

For a BBC series called Earth from Space, the team at Sent Into Space attached a VR camera to a balloon and sent it up to an altitude of about 20 miles — high enough to see the blackness of space and Earth’s curvature — to take a 360° video of the total solar eclipse that occurred in August 2017. The video above is a hyperlapse of the event while this one from the BBC is slower, annotated, and in full 360° VR.

See also Patrick Cullis’ epic adventure in trying to snap a photo of the total solar eclipse from the edge of space. (via @alexkorn)

“I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2019

Mary Cain was on her way — and quickly. As detailed in a 2015 NY Times piece by Elizabeth Weil, Cain ran a mile in 5:03 as a 7th grader and by the time she was a high school sophomore, ran the 1,500 meters in 4:11.01. Her high school track coach didn’t know how to coach her properly, so when Nike called, she joined a legendary coach training a team of fellow track stars to see how far she could go. And according to Cain, that’s when everything fell apart.

A big part of this problem is that women and girls are being forced to meet athletic standards that are based on how men and boys develop. If you try to make a girl fit a boy’s development timeline, her body is at risk of breaking down. That is what happened to Cain.

After months of dieting and frustration, Cain found herself choosing between training with the best team in the world, or potentially developing osteoporosis or even infertility. She lost her period for three years and broke five bones. She went from being a once-in-a-generation Olympic hopeful to having suicidal thoughts.

This May, at the age of 23, Cain ran competitively for the first time in 2.5 years and won a four-mile race in NYC.

Update: Shannon Palus writing at Slate about Cain’s recent revelations:

Cain’s story might be superlatively horrifying, and her accusations go well beyond simple misunderstanding of female biology. (They include her coaches essentially ignoring her admission that she was depressed and cutting herself. The Oregon Project was shut down in October, after Salazar was banned from coaching for doping violations.) But the treatment of her weight, and the lack of understanding of how extreme workouts were affecting her body, is part of a much broader problem, and not just one that affects women with large brand partnerships. Many, if not most, female runners, from elite athletes to those training for their first 5Ks, will suffer at some point because of a lack of recognition of their physical needs, and how their bodies differ from men’s.

The best excuse for some internet wanderings

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Xavi Bou, Ornitography

This “exit post” marks the end of my five days guest-editing this venerable and beloved blog, thanks to Jason for letting me play in this fantastic space for a third visit. It’s always quite a fun ride, and the best excuse for some internet wanderings.

I hope you enjoyed what I shared here. I encourage you to have a look at my newsletter Sentiers. Check out the archives and subscribe to keep up with where my curiosity takes me.

To recap and perhaps to give you a second chance at discovering them, here are some of my favourite posts. Every time I’m here I enjoy paying special attention to planes and space, as with Lifting bodies and the X-37B. There was something hopeful in Cleaning trash from rivers before it reaches the ocean. One of the most popular posts was The fantastic fungi pictures of Alison Pollack and it’s easy to see why, while Death Stranding’s world building intersects with fashion and design wasn’t as well shared but is a space I enjoyed looking at. I always end up writing about libraries, this time with Helsinki has a library to learn about the world, the city, and each other, and with another kind of library, The Internet Archive is now working to preserve vinyl LPs. Ok Google, cause some mischief and The Drone Chronicles 2001-2016 point to some interesting corners of technology.

The header image is from Xavi Bou’s Ornitographies.

Polygon looks at the past 10 years in pop culture

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Mad Max: Fury Road

Is this the first salvo in the end of year barrage of reviews? Polygon are going all out anyway, with a review of the whole decade! “Looking back at the past 10 years in pop culture.” There’s lots to read and I can’t say I’ve gone over the whole thing yet but it’s a fun mix.

The second decade of the 21st century was marked by seismic shifts in media and entertainment — loot boxes, games as a service, esports, livestreaming, virtual reality, smartphones, streaming services, “binge” watching, cloud computing, corporate consolidation, and a blockbuster takeover of the box office. It’s tempting to dismiss those items as big-picture developments rather than changes that affect us personally. But as we increasingly rely on pop culture as the lens through which we process the world around us — and, as ever, a mirror that reflects that world back at us — it’s important to take a breath every so often to ponder how we got here and what it all means.

They’ve got a bunch of lists, some which are actually lists of lists by various team members, like The best movies of the 2010s (some surprising choices as well as some Fury Road and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), or doing one detailed selection like The best comics of the 2010s, and also some deeper dives in individual topics, like Why Minecraft is the most important game of the decade.

Counting Minecraft among the most influential games of the 2010s is a no-brainer. According to its developer, Mojang, Minecraft recently became the bestselling video game of all time, beating out Tetris by moving over 176 million units. Unlike Tetris, it hit that number in a single decade. (Emphasis mine.)

Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, the Louvre’s first Virtual Reality project

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Still from Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass

An incredible 80 percent of the Louvre’s 10 million yearly visitors find their way to the Salle des États to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. It’s so popular that it wasn’t included in the ongoing Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, for fear that the bustle to the painting would make it “practically unvisitable.” The curators used the opportunity to put together the museum’s first-ever virtual reality project, offering visitors a seven-minute experience of a work titled Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass.

Visitors can strap themselves into the state-of-the-art headsets and learn snippets of information about Leonardo’s famous sitter, Lisa del Giocondo, as well as his artistic method and the history of the painting. It will immerse them in what could be the surroundings beyond the frame of what is depicted in Leonardo’s masterpiece, and, at the end, invite them to climb aboard an imagined version of Leonardo’s visionary flying machine—a sketch of which is also included in the exhibition—and soar across the landscape surrounding Mona Lisa’s luxuriant loggia.

Still from Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass

An interesting detail to this initiative is that although digital experiences like this are usually meant to broaden a museum’s public and draw more visitors, the Louvre definitely doesn’t need to be better known. They put this project together because “The museum still wants to amplify whatever it does beyond those who can actually set foot in the museum.”

The initiative is part of a broader plan to make culture accessible to a wider public. Efforts have been underway in France to redistribute some of its cultural resources around the country. The French culture minister Franck Riester plans to introduce a number of small-scale digital museums around France that will showcase high-resolution digital copies of works from the country’s 12 national public collections, including the Louvre, with people in remote regions. With more than $3 million invested in the plan, the small digital museums—dubbed “micro-folies”—are expected to number 1,000 within three years.

The ambitious plan to establish a National Park System in China

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai

Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai is set to become China’s first national park, opening in 2020. It’s part of the Chinese government’s plan to follow the US model of national parks by replacing seven different departments with one, the National Park Administration.

Jonathan Jarvis, the Director of the United States National Park Service under President Obama, visited China to observe some of the past efforts and the new initiatives being put forth. Jarvis was interviewed by AJ Cortese at Pandaily.

Obviously China has had a high priority on economic development for a long time so it was actually refreshing to see them at least state politically, that they want conservation to be the priority. Because, frankly, if you’re going to have a real national park system it can’t just be about visitation or economical development and tourism it has to have a foundation in conservation and historical preservation as well.

We met with local mayors and provincial leaders and they clearly had gotten the message that they were now going to be evaluated in terms of their accomplishments and career status based on ecological conservation and not economic development. What’s interesting was they were asking us to help them figure out what that means because most of them had been trained professionally in economic development, which was to build something: a road, a hospital, a library or a school in these remote communities and now they were being challenged with ecological conservation at the same time as improving the lives of the local communities.

China has said politically that they want to have a complete national park system by 2030. Of course China is hosting the convention of biodiversity next year in October 2020, and I would anticipate that China will be announcing sometime in 2020, this sort of trajectory towards having a complete system with actual designation of at least the first slate, and then another slate and then another. They are trying to do what the US did over 100 years, starting in 1916, in just 10 years. This doesn’t surprise me because that’s kind of the way China does things.
(Emphasis mine.)

Privacy on DNA sites might be threatened by a newly granted warrant

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

20 million people (a figure for the US I imagine) have uploaded their genetic profiles to consumer DNA sites like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and GEDmatch. The first two have pledged to keep their users’ genetic information private and the third severely restricted access. But a warrant granted in Florida might supersede their good intentions.

Last week, however, a Florida detective announced at a police convention that he had obtained a warrant to penetrate GEDmatch and search its full database of nearly one million users. Legal experts said that this appeared to be the first time a judge had approved such a warrant, and that the development could have profound implications for genetic privacy.

Other agencies are sure to try to get similar warrants, so lets not forget that at the scale these services have reached, there are now implications for everyone, not just those who sent their DNA for analysis.

If that comes to pass, the Florida judge’s decision will affect not only the users of these sites but huge swaths of the population, including those who have never taken a DNA test. That’s because this emerging forensic technique makes it possible to identify a DNA profile even through distant family relationships.

In 2018, California police used GEDmatch data to identify a man they believe is the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo. Since then, other police forces have followed suit, turning tools meant to find relatives, into ones that can be used to search family trees for criminals.

Because of the nature of DNA, every criminal is likely to have multiple relatives in every major genealogy database. Without an outcry, Professor Murphy and others said, warrants like the one obtained by Detective Fields could become the new norm, turning all genetic databases into law enforcement databases.

Benjamin Sack’s impossible cityscapes

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 07, 2019

Benjamin Sack, Peregrinations

These are absolutely stunning! Piranesi meets Escher meets… reminds me of someone else I can’t put my finger on.

“Over many years my interest in architecture and cityscapes has evolved.” [These pieces have] “become a way and means of expressing the infinite, playing with perspective and exploring a range of histories, cultures, places.”

Benjamin Sack, Canto IV

Benjamin Sack, Samsara

His exhibit in Berlin runs until January 22 2020.

Algorithmic entertainment is bringing dull sameness

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 06, 2019

The troubling age of algorithmic entertainment

Navneet Alang provides a good overview of the many ways in which the ever growing influence of various algorithms is transforming all forms of media, from motion smoothing, to “Spotify-core” music, to TikTok’s influence over length and memorable hooks.

The algorithmic delivery of music thus forms what, for Spotify, is a virtuous circle. But it also suggests that tech platforms don’t just deliver content, but that they shape it too, prioritizing quick hits and short tracks because those are the things that generate the most engagement.

Those platforms and their algorithms change not only the form of the content we consume but the way we consume it, like Netflix’s current test to allow speeding up of video playback, like some of us do when listening to podcasts.

Netflix is aware that people want to rush through content — not just to enjoy it, but also to then participate in the cultural conversation that’s around it. Is everyone at work talking about Succession, Fleabag, and that new true crime podcast, but you’re behind on all of them? Well, rip through them at double speed so you aren’t left out.

Alang argues that while we’ve always played around with how we read, view, or listen to art, we are now in front of something of a different magnitude.

But the sheer ubiquity of the streaming platforms for how we get content now suggests that the dominance of algorithms and their place in the attention economy aren’t entirely neutral or value-free. Disney, for example, is quietly placing classic Fox films into its so-called “vault,” where it hides movies from distribution for a while to drum up hype when they are re-released. One imagines this is so they can put them back on their forthcoming streaming service, to much delight.

Alas, as with so many things around the internet and “digital,” what was originally an opportunity for every little niche and taste to get its place in the sun, is instead being dumbed down into an “algorithmed” and business optimized mass of sameness.

Indiana Bell moved a functioning building in 1930

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 06, 2019

Indiana Bell building

In 1930, Indiana Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, needed a larger building for their headquarter. The problem? The old building needed to stay in operations at all times, providing an essential service to the city. Instead of tearing it down or simply moving to a new building, they decided to move it to a different part of the lot and build on the existing location. Just that.

The massive undertaking began on October 1930. Over the next four weeks, the massive steel and brick building was shifted inch by inch 16 meters south, rotated 90 degrees, and then shifted again by 30 meters west. The work was done with such precision that the building continued to operate during the entire duration of the move. All utility cables and pipes serving the building, including thousand of telephone cables, electric cables, gas pipes, sewer and water pipes had to be lengthened and made flexible to provide continuous service during the move. A movable wooden sidewalk allowed employees and the public to enter and leave the building at any time while the move was in progress. The company did not lose a single day of work nor interrupt their service during the entire period.

Incredibly most of the power needed to move the building was provided by hand-operated jacks while a steam engine also some support. Each time the jacks were pumped, the house moved 3/8th of an inch.
(Emphasis mine.)

Indiana Bell building

Indiana Bell building
(Via the excellent The Prepared newsletter.)