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Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System

As a child of the 80s, this Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System activates a very ancient and primal region of my brain. As you can see in this short video, the set includes a controller, a cartridge that you can put into the machine, and a vintage TV with a hand-crank that you can use to “play” Super Mario Bros.

Over the past 3 years, the past-year usage of LSD by Americans has increased by 56%. Scientists theorize it's because the world has gone to hell and people are looking to self-medicate.

A dozen protestors were partially blinded after the police hit them with "less lethal" munitions. The Washington Post investigated three of the incidents and found that video footage undermines the official police accounts of the shootings.

Lovely aerial photos of Vermont from Caleb Kenna.

For Rolling Stone, Jamil Smith writes about the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement and the three women who started it (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi).

Dave Eggers satirizes the sad state of Covid-19 testing in the United States. "Oh, we have plenty of tests. We just don't have appointments."

TIL that after the Civil War, thousands of defeated Confederates moved to Brazil, where slavery persisted until 1888. Confederate flags still proudly fly in Brazil, which is home to an annual Confederate Festival.

Draftsman and inventor Lewis Howard Latimer played a pivotal role in both the invention of the telephone (he did the patent drawings for Bell) and lightbulb (invented a carbon filament bulb that allowed for continuous burning bulbs).

How Bree Newsome Bass took down the Confederate flag from a SC state house flagpole in 2015. "She had never climbed anything more than a tree as a kid or a rope in gym class. So she took a few days off to learn from the Greenpeace activist."

What bird are you most like? I'm a red-tailed hawk! "You understand strategy, and sometimes work with a partner, but overall most of the time you are happy to be alone."

Some WFH content for you: The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time. (And as you might have guessed, an anagramic entry takes the number "one" spot.)

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

Famous Artworks Mask Up for Coronavirus Prevention

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

On an Instagram account called Plague History, artist Genevieve Blais has been modifying the subjects of artworks to give them face masks. You know I couldn’t resist including her rendition of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

See also Iconic Art & Design Reimagined for the Social Distancing Era, Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic, and Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask! (via moss & fog)

Baseline, a Decades-Long Film Series About Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Taking a page from The Up Series, director John Sutter is making a series of films that revisit four geographic locations every 5 years until 2050 in order to document the effects in those areas due to climate change. The name of the series is Baseline and it’s a reference to the concept of shifting baselines, which the trailer above defines as “a phenomenon of lowered expectations in which each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal”. The four areas the films will focus on are Alaska, Utah, Puerto Rico, and the Marshall Islands.

Sutter did a TEDx Talk about shifting baselines and climate change — the clip he shows right at the beginning featuring the shifting sizes of fish caught in Key West, Florida is astonishing.

He also wrote a piece about the series and the Alaskan village featured in it.

Three Climate Change Pioneers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

From BBC Ideas, the story of three people who pioneered the science of climate change — Eunice Foote, Guy Stewart Callendar, and Charles Keeling — each of whom was under-recognized for their achievements at the time.

In particular, Eunice Foote demonstrated the greenhouse effect all the way back in 1856, but her contribution was lost to time and science until very recently.

Looking back on Earth’s history, Foote explains that “an atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature … at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.” Of the gases tested, she concluded that carbonic acid trapped the most heat, having a final temperature of 125 °F. Foote was years ahead of her time. What she described and theorized was the gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere — what today we call the greenhouse effect.

(via the morning news)

Zuck the Butcher

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

In an opinion piece for the NY Times, Kara Swisher argues that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg “cannot hold on to such enormous power and avoid responsibility when things get tough”. She uses an analogy about a butcher shop to explain the problem at the heart of Facebook:

This week, I finally settled on a simpler comparison: Think about Facebook as a seller of meat products.

Most of the meat is produced by others, and some of the cuts are delicious and uncontaminated. But tainted meat — say, Trump steaks — also gets out the door in ever increasing amounts and without regulatory oversight.

The argument from the head butcher is this: People should be free to eat rotten hamburger, even if it wreaks havoc on their gastrointestinal tract, and the seller of the meat should not be the one to tell them which meat is good and which is bad (even though the butcher can tell in most cases).

Basically, the message is that you should find the truth through vomiting and — so sorry — maybe even death.

She goes on to say:

In this, Mr. Zuckerberg is serving up a rancid meal that he says he’s not comfortable cooking himself, even as his hands control every aspect of the operation.

What’s particularly interesting about this analogy (and Swisher is possibly referencing this between the lines here) is that in 2011, Zuckerberg’s “annual challenge” was only eating meat from animals that he had personally killed.

This year, my personal challenge is around being thankful for the food I have to eat. I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself.

This project later led to a meme-worthy video of him smoking meat in his backyard and Zuckerberg inviting fellow tech CEO Jack Dorsey over to feast on a goat he’d raised and killed.

Dorsey said he and Zuckerberg waited around 30 minutes for the goat to cook in the oven. Afterward, Zuckerberg believed the meal was ready and the two sat together to eat.

“We go in the dining room. He puts the goat down. It was cold,” said Dorsey in Rolling Stone. “That was memorable. I don’t know if it went back in the oven. I just ate my salad.”

Surreal. If all this were from the screenplay of a proposed The Social Network sequel, there’s no way this movie gets greenlit. (via daring fireball)

Radioactive, a Biopic of Marie Curie

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

From director Marjane Satrapi, who made the acclaimed animated film Persepolis, comes Radioactive, a film about Marie Curie, who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and the only person to ever win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific disciplines. Curie is played by Rosamund Pike and the film is based on a graphic novel of the same name by Lauren Redniss, a finalist for the National Book Award.

Radioactive debuts on Amazon Prime on July 24.

What Is Intelligence?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

How is it that I am sitting here writing this right now and you are sitting there reading this at some later point which seems like now to you? These behaviors are the result of a series of interconnected processes that have evolved over billions of years that we collective call “intelligence”.

In this video, Kurzgesagt takes a crack at explaining the simple view of intelligence as “a mechanism to solve problems” that involves several aspects: information, memory, learning, knowledge, creativity, the use of physical tools, the ability to plan for the future, and culture. As usual, their extensive list of sources provides more details and opportunities for further exploration.

Hamilton, But Sung By The Muppets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

This is a fan-made rendition of act 1 of the hit musical Hamilton sung by The Muppets.

The impressions of the Muppets aren’t bad and the “casting” is about what you’d expect:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle

I don’t know if listening to this all the way through is wise, but you should listen at least until Kermit/Hamilton makes his entrance at ~1:18. Oh, and skip ahead to 17:09 to hear The Swedish Chef do Samuel Seabury and to 19:01 to hear You’ll Be Back performed by Animal. (via open culture)

Nirvana Performing Smells Like Teen Spirit in a Music Store a Week Before Its Release

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

On September 16, 1991, about a week before the band’s breakthrough album Nevermind was released, Nirvana played a 45-minute in-store set at Beehive Records in Seattle. When I watch videos like this (here’s the Notorious BIG rapping on a street corner at 17 and a 17-year-old LL Cool J playing to a mostly empty gym1), I look at the crowd just as much or more than the performers. Do the people in that music shop audience know they’re witnessing an early performance of one of the last great consequential rock songs or do they only realize it later?

Hell, I suppose you could ask the same question of the performers: did Cobain or Biggie or LL Cool J know at the time that they were going to blow up in a matter of weeks and months? In Cobain’s case, he may have. From a biography called Heavier Than Heaven:

Two days later, Nirvana held an “in-store” at Beehive Records. DGC expected about 50 patrons, but when over 200 kids were lined up by two in the afternoon — for an event scheduled to start at seven — it began to dawn on them that perhaps the band’s popularity was greater than first thought. Kurt had decided that rather than simply sign albums and shake people’s hands — the usual business of an in-store — Nirvana would play. When he saw the line at the store that afternoon, it marked the first time he was heard to utter the words “holy shit” in response to his popularity. The band retreated to the Blue Moon Tavern and began drinking, but when they looked out the window and saw dozens of fans looking in, they felt like they were in the movie A Hard Day’s Night. When the show began, Beehive was so crowded that kids were standing on racks of albums and sawhorses had to be lined up in front of the store’s glass windows to protect them. Nirvana played a 45-minute set — performing on the store floor — until the crowd began smashing into the band like the pep rally in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Kurt was bewildered by just how big a deal it had all become. Looking into the crowd, he saw half of the Seattle music scene and dozens of his friends. It was particularly unnerving for him to see two of his ex-girlfriends — Tobi and Tracy — there, bopping away to the songs. Even these intimates were now part of an audience he felt pressure to serve. The store was selling the first copies of Nevermind the public had a chance at, and they quickly sold out. “People were ripping posters off the wall,” remembered store manager Jamie Brown, “just so they’d have a piece of paper for Kurt to autograph.” Kurt kept shaking his head in amazement.

Kurt retreated to the parking lot for a smoke and some downtime. But there, the day became even more freakish when he saw two of his old Montesano schoolmates, Scott Cokely and Rick Miller, holding copies of “Sliver.” Though Kurt signed signed hundreds of autographs that day, none made him feel more surreal than putting his signature on a single about his grandparents for two guys from the town his grandparents lived in. They talked about their mutual friends from the harbor, but the conversation made Kurt wistful — Cokely and Miller were a reminder of a past Kurt thought he had left behind. “Do you get back to the harbor much?” Cokely asked. “Not very often,” Kurt replied. Both Cokely and Miller were confused when they looked at their singles and noticed Kurt had signed them “Kurdt.”

Kurt later cited this exchange as one of the first moments he realized he was famous. Yet rather than comfort him, this realization set off something just short of a panic. Though he had always wanted to be famous — and back when he was in school in Monte, he had promised his classmates one day he would be — the actual culmination of his dreams deeply unnerved him. Krist would recall this particular show — a free show in a record store a week before the album’s official release date — as a turning point in Kurt. “Things started to happen after that,” Krist said. “We weren’t the same old band. Kurt, he just kind of withdrew. There was a lot of personal stuff that was going on. It got complicated. It was more than we bargained for.”

  1. And also Chance the Rapper and the Beastie Boys before they were famous.

How to Find Comet NEOWISE in the Night Sky This Month

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

If you live in the US and Canada, you might have the opportunity to check out Comet NEOWISE over the next few weeks with a good pair of binoculars or even with the naked eye. EarthSky has the skinny.

By mid-July (around July 12-15), the comet will also become visible at dusk (just after sunset), low in the northwest horizon, for observers in the mid- and northern U.S. How can it be visible in both dawn and dusk? The answer is that the comet is now very far to the north on the sky’s dome. For those at latitudes like those in the southern U.S. (say, around 30 degrees north latitude), the comet is very nearly but not quite circumpolar, that is, it’s nearly in the sky continually, but it isn’t quite … that’s why we at southerly latitudes will have a harder time spotting it in the evening.

Comet NEOWISE

It appears this comet is holding up better than Comet ATLAS did earlier in the year. Here’s a beautiful time lapse of NEOWISE rising over the Adriatic Sea in the early dawn:

And a time lapse of the comet from the International Space Station (it starts rising around the 3-minute mark):

The Story Behind the 1968 Olympics Protest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

You’ve probably seen the photograph: Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raising a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US nation anthem during the medals ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. But as this video explains, their protest was a part of a larger effort to use the Olympics to highlight racial inequality in American sports and society.

After watching the video, you might be interested in reading about the aftermath of the protest. Smith and Carlos were both suspended from the US team and expelled from the Games. They were both subject to abuse from the American press and received death threats. Australian Peter Norman, who had come in second and supported the protest, was ostracized in his own country. But when Norman died in 2006, both Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at this funeral.

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

This is delightful. Over the past few months of pandemic lockdown, the residents and staff of the Sydmar Lodge Care Home in Edgware, England have passed the time by recreating famous album covers.

A Moment of Reflection: On the Paradox of Individual Creative Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

After producing over 220 art history videos in 6 years, YouTube channel The Art Assignment is going to take an extended break to “reassess what educational art content should look like in 2020 and beyond”. In the video above, creator Sarah Urist Green reflects on her experience so far and what’s happening next. I’m always interested in what people have to say about their projects at inflection points like this, but I was blindsided by the almost total resonance of Green’s remarks with my own thoughts about the advantages & limitations of how I’ve chosen to work here at kottke.org. Here’s an extended quote from the transcript of the particularly resonant bit:

I don’t actually enjoy being on camera, but individual authentic voices have always been at the core of what makes YouTube great. And I’ve been glad to be able to lend my own voice in the hopes of making art and art history more accessible.

Over time I’ve learned to appreciate the specificity of my own point of view — but also its limitations. I’m a person who’s more interested in art from the 1960s than the 1560s. I have a deeper background in art from North America than South America.

Making this channel has been a hugely rewarding way to stretch beyond my formal education and natural inclinations. But any channel on YouTube, and indeed any experience, is shaped by bias and perspective — both the content itself and the way that each of us interprets and responds to it. The fact that my voice sounds grating to some and comforting to others is a reminder of that.

I’ve also learned that these biases are often reinforced by the recommendation algorithms that govern the platforms we frequent. Whether we want to or not, we citizens of the internet work in collaboration with these algorithms to curate information feeds for ourselves. And even if our feeds feel objective, they never are.

The Art Assignment isn’t, and has never been, the history of art or an introduction to the art world. It’s always been my history of art and a glimpse into my art world. I hope that’s been part of what makes it good, but it’s also part of what makes it limited, subjective, and necessarily incomplete.

The more videos we make, the more aware I am of the vast amount we haven’t covered. Trying to make content on this platform that is both educational and also clickable can be a challenging task with many pitfalls.

We’ve used what I think of as a buckshot technique — making a huge variety of kinds and formats of episodes to see what might possibly stick.

In doing so, we’ve discovered that more people click on names of art movements they’ve already heard of, artworks they’ve seen before, and already famous artists (mostly male).

More people watch when I do a hot take about those rare moments when art hits the wider news, like a Banksy stunt or a banana duct-taped to a wall.

I’ve also learned what YouTube viewers are less likely to click on, which is artists they’ve never heard of, artworks they haven’t seen before, and topics that don’t court controversy or outrage. This says something about the YouTube algorithm, but it also says something about what kinds of information we’re all drawn to online. Who wants to watch an educational video when you can watch The Try Guys eat 400 dumplings? (Seriously, I just watched it, it’s great.)

But because I know what tends to get clicked on more and watched for longer stretches, I’ve been more likely to try to serve that to you. Not all the time of course, but even when served in moderation that’s not really good for art history. It reinforces dominant narratives and offers up the same boring old menu of famous artists again and again.

However, I’ve also learned that you all are willing to dive down lesser-known and unexpected rabbit holes of research and bear with me as I simultaneously cook poorly and attempt to understand the eating and cooking lives of artists. You’ve taught me you’re willing to reconsider art and artists you didn’t think you liked, and you’ve tried approaches to art that are far outside of your comfort zones and made beautiful and vulnerable work in response. You’ve tackled really difficult questions with me and been willing to linger in grey zones and leave questions unanswered. I mean we’ve never even established a definition of art on this channel.

Because of your capacity for the abstract and lesser-known, we’ve been able to keep going all these years. And, with the incomparable backing of PBS, we’ve been able to make content not just for the most people, but for an open-minded and discerning audience like you.

I can’t adequately relate to you how unnerving it was for me to hear her say all that — change a few specific references and I very easily could have written it (but not as well). Doing kottke.org is this constant battle with myself: staying in my comfort zone vs. finding opportunities for growth, posting what I like or find interesting vs. attempting to suss out what “the reader” might want, celebrating the popular vs. highlighting the obscure, balancing the desire to define what it is I do here vs. appreciating that no one really knows (myself included), posting clickable things vs. important things I know will be unpopular, protecting myself against criticism vs. accepting it as a gift, deciding when to provoke & challenge vs. when to comfort & entertain, feeling like this is frivolous vs. knowing this site is important to me & others, being right vs. accepting I’ll make mistakes, and saying something vs. letting the content and its creators speak for themselves.

I know that all sounds super dramatic — I don’t intensely feel all of that when I’m working, but that video made me reflect on it hard. And I suspect that many people who do creative work in public struggle in similar ways. Like Green with respect to PBS, I am grateful to kottke.org’s members (“an open-minded and discerning audience” if there ever was one) for their support of my work and trust in the limited & imperfect human who does it.

ISO Isolation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao’s illustrations depicting isolation, dissociation, and loneliness have taken on an added resonance during the pandemic. In a caption for one of her illustrations, she explains where the drawings come from:

I dissociate a lot. I like to think of my brain as a series of rooms. On good days I’m up front engaging with the world, and on bad days I’m waaay in the back. I can still kind of see and hear what’s going on outside but it’s far away and I don’t feel a part of it. It’s not unpleasant but time moves weird and I feel everything and nothing. A lot of you are connecting with my work because you’re literally stuck inside and probably a little depressed too so…Welcome to my rooms! Please take your shoes off and be nice.

Prints (and more) of Chiao’s work are available. (via colossal)