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The World’s Most Beautiful Gas Stations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

one of the world's most beautiful gas stations

I pulled some of my favorite images of gas stations from the following sources: Get Pumped: 8 Filling Stations Fueled By Great Design, It’s a Gas!: The Allure of the Gas Station, Gas Station Design — The World’s 10 Best Filling Stations for 2017, It’s Weird, But We’re Super Inspired by Gas Station Design, and Sometimes, Gas Stations Are Beautiful. May these buildings and their less attractive brethren soon fade into obsolescence, be converted to electric car/bike charging stations, or be repurposed for other things.

A list of the 100 best sitcoms of all time. Frasier over Fleabag? No thank you.

How Filippo Brunelleschi, Untrained in Architecture or Engineering, Built the World’s Largest Dome at the Dawn of the Renaissance.

For a number of reasons (like a new less-lively ball), MLB hitters are having trouble getting on base this season, "maintaining a .233 batting average, the lowest mark in the league's 150-year history".

I'd been unaware of recent goings-on at Vimeo: they've repositioned themselves as a "B2B SaaS company" and will spin out of IAC as an independent company later this year.

This is potentially exciting: James Burke wants to make a new Connections series. Yes, please.

Ibram X. Kendi is launching a new podcast next month: 'Be Antiracist with Ibram X. Kendi'

The US ranks 44th on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

This is the most succinct description of the American pandemic I've seen (by @jbouie): "the pandemic made it very clear that we live in a society and a good chunk of americans said 'no thanks'"

Quick Links Archive

Thom Yorke, From The Basement

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

In 2005, Thom Yorke recorded a 15-minute set for the From The Basement series — just him, a piano, and a microphone. He sang Videotape from In Rainbows and Last Flowers & Down Is the New Up from In Rainbows Disk 2. Lovely.

See also Radiohead, From The Basement.

Low Poly Landscapes

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

landscape painting by Elyse Dodge

Lovely work here by Elyse Dodge — these look like half-finished renderings by the machine that’s simulating our universe. You can keep up with her work on Instagram or get some for yourself in her shop. (via moss & fog)

  listen to the latest episode of kottke ride home  

Shadows in the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2021

Always a treat to watch a new time lapse storm video from Mike Olbinski. It’s in 8K as well, so if you have the bandwidth and the screen resolution, this is going to look extra good. You can see more of Olbinski’s breathtaking videos here as well as plenty more cloud content. kottke.org: home of fine cloud products. (via colossal)

The Otherworldly Sounds of Ice

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2021

The holes drilled into Arctic, Antarctic, and glacial ice to harvest ice cores can be up to 2 miles deep. One of my all-time favorite sounds is created by dropping ice down into one of these holes — it makes a super-cool pinging noise, as demonstrated in these two videos:

Ice makes similar sounds under other conditions, like if you skip rocks on a frozen lake:

Or skate on really thin ice (ok this might actually be my favorite sound, with apologies to the ice core holes):

Headphones are recommended for all of these videos. The explanation for this distinctive pinging sound, which sounds like a Star Wars blaster, has to do with how fast different sound frequencies move through the ice, as explained in this video:

(via the kid should see this)

The Fashionable Mark Bryan

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2021

Mark Bryan, wearing a dress and heels

Mark Bryan, wearing a dress and heels

Mark Bryan, wearing a dress and heels

For the past year, robotic engineer Mark Bryan has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram by cataloguing his daily outfits that include skirts and heels. From a profile in Interview:

By all accounts, Mark Bryan is an average, run-of-the-mill guy. The 61-year-old grandfather of four has been happily married to his wife for the past 11 years. In 2010, he moved from Texas to a town near Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, where he now works in robotics engineering and coaches a local football team. He loves cycling and fast cars and beautiful women, and he tries to exercise at least twice a week. Oh, and he looks great in a pencil skirt and a pair of six-inch stilettos.

He looks fantastic. If I have legs like that when I’m 61, I might wear skirts and heels all the time too. Here’s the caption from his first Instagram post in Feb 2020:

I am just a normal happily married straight guy that loves Porsche’s, beautiful women, and likes to incorporate a skirt and heels into his daily wardrobe. Clothes and shoes should have no gender.

How Internal Combustion Engines Work

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2021

views of an internal combustion engine

Although it was first developed in the 19th century, the internal combustion engine is perhaps the defining technology of the 20th century. If you don’t quite know how they work, this fantastic interactive demonstration from Bartosz Ciechanowski is a great place to start. I lived in the country when I was a kid and helped my dad, who was a crackerjack mechanic, out in the garage a lot, so I know how engines work, but even so this is really illuminating, especially when it comes to the details. Turns out that an engine is basically just tiny cannons attached to a crank — and from thence the rapid industrialization of the world (and all the resulting benefits and challenges).

See also some of Ciechanowski’s other interactive explainers like Cameras and Lenses, Earth and Sun, and Gears.

A Blinking Map of the World’s Lighthouses

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

a small section of a world lighthouse map showing the location of lighthouses in the Mediterranean Sea

Courtesy of Geodienst, this is a map of the world’s lighthouses. Where the data is available (and you can see it’s quite sparse for some areas of the world), the map shows the location, color, range, and flashing frequency/pattern of each lighthouse. The color and flashing pattern of a lighthouse is called the characteristic. Each lighthouse has a different characteristic so that mariners can tell them apart and to indicate different water areas. (via strange maps)

Seth Rogen: Tales from the Nineties Bar Mitzvah Circuit

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

The New Yorker is running an excerpt from Seth Rogen’s new memoir, Yearbook (ebook), which will be out next week. When you’re reading this, remember to hear Rogen’s voice in your head; it makes it so much better.

The movie “Tombstone” came out in 1993, and, although it wasn’t a massive box-office or critical hit (the New York Times called it “morally ambiguous”), it made an impression on many, mostly owing to an amazing performance by Val Kilmer that was publicly praised by President Bill Clinton — which is the single most nineties sentence one could write. As 1994 rolled around, a young me was smitten with not only Kilmer’s performance as Doc Holliday but the entire Western aesthetic. The result? A fuckload of vests.

I could not own enough vests. I’d have bought more torsos just to wear them all if that were an option. A vest packed me in, gave me shape, and, most important, kind of made me feel like a cowboy who was dying of tuberculosis, which Kilmer had somehow made seem super-awesome. I also wore a pocket watch, which, in a truly impressive act of delusion, I’d convinced myself was cool.

It wasn’t.

Weekend after weekend, a slow song would come on, boys would ask girls to dance, girls would ask boys to dance, and I’d generally find myself standing off to the side, watching it all happen, spinning my pocket watch like some sort of nineteen-twenties Mafia snitch.

I’m a little older than Rogen — Tombstone hit when I was in college — and seeing the film didn’t make me want to wear vests, but that didn’t stop me and my friends from going around quoting the film at length, pretty much all of the time for months on end. One of our favorites — I can’t remember which of us originally came up with this — was reworking Doc Holliday’s line about his partner not wearing a bustle (seen at the beginning of this clip) into: “Kate, you’re not doing The Hustle. How doo doo doo doodoo doodoo doo doo…” That’s some prime middle school humor right there.

All These Balls Are the Same Color?!

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

optical illusion where several balls that appear to be the same color actually aren't

Oh dear, this illusion just totally broke my brain. No can write now. Somehow all same ball colors. What world? What earth? Why live? (Even after reading and seeing the explanation, I had to drag this into my photo editing app to verify it with my own eyes. True true. Oh, humanity.) (via @flyosity)

A Reevaluation of Jimmy Carter’s Presidency

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

A new documentary film called Carterland and Jonathan Alter’s biography His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life (ebook) are among the recent media attempting to reconsider and recontextualize the presidency of Jimmy Carter. From Megan Mayhew Bergman in The Guardian:

“Here’s what people get wrong about Carter,” Will Pattiz, one of the film’s directors tells me. “He was not in over his head or ineffective, weak or indecisive — he was a visionary leader, decades ahead of his time trying to pull the country toward renewable energy, climate solutions, social justice for women and minorities, equitable treatment for all nations of the world. He faced nearly impossible economic problems — and at the end of the day came so very close to changing the trajectory of this nation.”

Will’s brother, Jim, agrees. “A question folks should be asking themselves is: what catastrophes would have befallen this country had anyone other than Jimmy Carter been at the helm during that critical time in the late 1970s?”

I’m gonna need a three-episode series about Carter on You’re Wrong About, stat. If there’s any justice in the world (wait, don’t answer that), in 50 years’ time Ronald Reagan’s presidency will be considered the disaster that is was and Carter’s will look better in comparison.

If you’re interested in seeing Carterland, it looks as though it’s not out widely quite yet — the only place I could even find a trailer is on this Atlanta Film Festival page (click “Play Trailer” at the bottom of the page).

Michael Lewis’s New Book About the Pandemic (and Who Should Have Been in Charge)

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2021

book cover for The Premonition by Michael Lewis

When large, seemingly sudden systemic failures occur, Michael Lewis is one of those writers who’s just waiting to pounce on it and tell us all about it. So it’s not a surprise to see that his new book comes out tomorrow: The Premonition: A Pandemic Story (ebook). From a Time interview with Lewis:

The Premonition makes sense of the COVID-19 pandemic through three people, each of whom knows a great deal about how to stop it-and none of whom is ever approached by the U.S. government: A “redneck epidemiologist” named Carter Mercher who had written the closest thing the government had to a pandemic strategy; Joe DeRisi, a McArthur Fellow who once built a chip containing all the world’s viruses; and Dr. Chastity Dean, an obscure local health official in California.

And from a mainly positive review by the NY Times’ Jennifer Szalai:

True to form, Lewis makes few grand claims for what he finds, preferring instead to let the curated details speak for themselves. “I like to think that my job is mainly to find the story in the material,” he writes in the prologue. “I think this particular story is about the curious talents of a society, and how those talents are wasted if not led. It’s also about how gaps open between a society’s reputation and its performance.”

The main question running through “The Premonition” is how, when it came to the initial Covid response, a very rich country that was ranked first globally in pandemic readiness in 2019 managed to incentivize almost all the wrong things.

Of course, this is the reality that all of us have been living for the past year, so the failures of the system don’t come as much of a surprise. Still, Lewis finds ways not just to showcase the brokenness of the system writ large but to zoom in on the sand in the gears.

But Szalai also notes the drawback of most of Lewis’s books:

This method of hewing so tightly to his characters’ perspectives gives Lewis’s narrative its undeniable propulsion, but it also comes at a cost. He doesn’t supply any endnotes, or even a sense of how many people he talked to. His main characters are presented to us as they would undoubtedly like to appear: charmingly obsessive, unwaveringly principled and unfailingly right.

You can listen to a brief interview with Lewis on NPR’s Morning Edition.

An Iconic Prince Guitar Solo, Reborn

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2021

In a career filled with iconic performances, one of the standout Prince moments came at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison. On stage to play While My Guitar Gently Weeps were Harrison’s son Dhani, music legends Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood, and Prince. At about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, Prince absolutely rips the place apart with a 3-minute guitar solo for the ages. If you’ve never seen this, make sure you watch all the way to the end.

Video of the performance has been available online for years, but producer Joel Gallen recently uploaded a recut version (embedded above) that focuses more on Prince during the solo. As with all things Prince, Anil Dash shared some context for the performance, including this amazing detail about what happened to the guitar that Prince threw into the air: “long-time guitar tech Takumi Suetsugu caught the guitar & handed it to Oprah”. AS YOU DO. Dash also shared this photo by Afshin Shahidi of Prince walking, guitar in hand and seemingly unnoticed in NYC, to rehearsals for the Hall of Fame ceremony in question.

Prince walking in NYC with his guitar in hand