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Green Screen Tattoos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

In order to create the illusion of motion, tattoo artists are creating tattoos with large green areas to use them as green screens for custom motion graphics. Watch the first five seconds of this video and you’ll get the gist:

(via @tedgioia)

A 210,000 year-old fossil from a cave in southern Greece has recently been identified as Homo sapiens, the earliest known modern human remains in Europe

The genetic sequence of an HIV virus sampled in 1966 adds to the evidence that the virus first jumped from primates to humans in the early 1900s

For Sibling Battles, Be a Sportscaster, Not a Referee. "Narrate what's happening. Repeat back what your kids say to you. Try to be neutral." I'm totally trying this...in my best Phil Hartman play-by-play voice.

CBS has uploaded 4 hours of its coverage (with anchor Walter Cronkite) of Apollo 11's launch to YouTube. I wonder if they'll do the same w/ the Moon landing & walk?

Why wasn't the bicycle invented sooner? "Advances in materials and manufacturing were probably necessary for a commercially successful bicycle."

Pulitzer-winner Colson Whitehead is out with a new novel this week, The Nickel Boys, "the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida".

Season 2 of Mindhunter starts on Netflix August 16th

Fighting climate change may be cheaper and more beneficial than we think. “What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

When you fly, do you prefer takeoffs or landings? (I’d choose takeoffs, but I remember many more landings.)

A Phish skeptic goes to a Phish concert. "If the singing amounts to a violation, the jam's sin is arguably worse: it's just really boring, and it's really boring for a really long time."

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A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

Watch, listen, and learn as pianist and composer Nahre Sol plays what you might think of as a very simple song, Happy Birthday, in 16 increasing levels of complexity. She starts out using a single finger and ends by playing an original composition that seemingly requires 12 or 13 fingers to play. This gave me, a musical dunce, a tiny glimpse into what a composer does.

Sol has a popular YouTube channel where she posts videos of her musical explorations, including Improvising in the Style of Different Classical Composers and The Blues, As Digested by a Classical Musician. (via open culture)

Rating vs Ranking and the Forced Scarcity of American Excellence

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

In an expanded version of his NY Times’ piece Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?, Alfie Kohn asks Can Everyone Be Excellent? In the piece, he criticizes our educational system’s practice of ranking students against each other instead of evaluating whether or not they’ve meaningfully improved or successfully learned anything.

But our little thought experiment uncovers a truth that extends well beyond what has been done to our schools in the name of “raising the bar” (a phrase, incidentally, that seems to have originated in the world of show horses). We have been taught to respond with suspicion whenever all members of a defined group are successful. That’s true even when we have no reason to believe that corners have been cut, or that the bar was suspiciously low. In America excellence is treated as an inherently scarce commodity.

Thus, rather than cheering when many people manage to do something well, we’re likely to dismiss that result as meaningless and maybe even mutter darkly about “falling standards” or “being content with mediocrity.” Success seems to matter only if it is attained by a few, and one way to ensure that outcome is to evaluate people (or schools, or companies, or countries) relative to each other. That way, even if everyone has done quite well, or improved over time, half will always fall below the median — and look like failures.

Kohn also touches on the competition inherent in our schools and youth sports:

Reframing excellence in competitive terms can’t be defended on the grounds that setting people against one another leads to improvement in their performance. Indeed, a surprisingly consistent body of social science evidence shows that competition tends to hold us back from doing our best - particularly in comparison with cooperation, in which people work with, not against, each other. Rather, excellence has been defined — for ideological reasons — as something that can’t be reached by everyone.

For the past year or so, my kids and I have been playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle. It’s a cooperative game where the players build up individual decks of cards to collectively defeat increasingly difficult villains. I was a bit skeptical of it at first — it seemed a little tedious — but all of us grew to love the collaborative aspect of it. Instead of each of us competing to figure out the best tactics to defeat one another, we’ve had to work together on the best strategies, with long discussions in particularly tough circumstances yielding some of the best lessons. We learned that sometimes the best play for the individual is not the best play for the team. We celebrated our successes and licked our wounds together. As a result, I feel like we all know the game inside and out, better than if we’d been playing a competitive game.

19th Century Chart of Cities’ Distances from Washington DC

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

DC distances

As you should know by now, I am a sucker for 19th century infographics. This “compendious chart” from the Library of Congress shows the distances and compass directions of about 1300 cities from the central point of Washington DC. You can zoom in on the chart to check out the detail:

DC distances

The map doesn’t say what the colors signify — there’s also a black & white version — but it was created in 1827 so perhaps they denote the three parts of the country at the time: yellow is the North, pink is the South, and green is the West.

25 Essential Artworks of the Past 50 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

The NY Times convened a group of curators and artists to decide on a list of the 25 artworks made since 1970 “that define the contemporary age”. At various times, the panelists objected to the futility of such an exercise, but eventually ended up with a list that’s highly subjective, grossly incomplete, and full of great work.

Essential Artworks

Essential Artworks

Essential Artworks

Nan Goldin, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Kara Walker all made the list. Jeff Koons is listed, somewhat reluctantly both by the panel and himself: “The artist did not grant permission for the named work to be published.”

Perhaps just as interesting as the artworks is the panelists’ discussion, a mini-tour of recent art history. Artist Martha Rosler said of Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”:

“A Subtlety” made lots of people furious because it was about the history of labor and sugar in a place that was already about to be gentrified. It was this gigantic, mammy-like, sphinxlike, female object, and then it had all these little melting children. “A Subtlety” is part of a very longstanding tradition that began in the Arab world that had to do with creating objects out of clay but also out of sugar. So it’s the impacted value of extractive mining, but it’s also the impacted value of the labor of slaves. And it’s also on the site where wage slavery had occurred — sugar work was the worst. The Domino Sugar factory was once owned by the Havemeyers, and Henry Havemeyer was one of the main donors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The sugar king was the art king. So it had all of these things — and then there’s the idea of all these people taking selfies in front of it. It was extremely brilliant without having to say a thing.

(via @sippey)

Character Routing Maps of Famous Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Illustrator Andrew DeGraff makes what he calls Cinemaps, maps of movies and their plots in the style of the dotted-line wanderings of The Family Circus comic strip or Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. He’s done maps for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Princess Bride.

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

My favorite DeGraff drawing is probably Back to the Future, with Hill Valley represented twice on the same page: 1955 in pink underneath 1985 in blue.

Cinemaps

DeGraff collected these maps (and several more) into a book called Cinemaps. (via fairly interesting)

The Highest Resolution MRI Scan of a Human Brain

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Brain High Res MRI

A team of researchers at the Laboratory for NeuroImaging of Coma and Consciousness have done an ultra-high resolution MRI scan of a human brain. The scan took 100 hours to complete and can distinguish objects as small as 0.1 millimeters across.

“We haven’t seen an entire brain like this,” says electrical engineer Priti Balchandani of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who was not involved in the study. “It’s definitely unprecedented.”

The scan shows brain structures such as the amygdala in vivid detail, a picture that might lead to a deeper understanding of how subtle changes in anatomy could relate to disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

This video above shows the scanned slices of the entire brain from side to side.

You can view/download the entire dataset of images here.

The Shining Starring Jim Carrey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Taking advantage of inexpensive and easy-to-use software, deepfake artist Ctrl Shift Face has replaced Jack Nicholson’s face with Jim Carrey’s face in several scenes from The Shining. If you pay close attention it looks a little off — it’s not as good as the Bill Hader / Arnold Schwarzenegger one — but if you were unaware of Nicholson or The Shining going in, you probably wouldn’t notice.

These Shining videos are clever and fun and we’ve talked a little bit about how deepfakes might affect our society, but this Hannah Arendt quote from a 1974 interview is likely relevant:

If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

This is the incredible and interesting and dangerous thing about the combination of our current technology, the internet, and mass media: “a lying government” is no longer necessary — we’re doing it to ourselves and anyone with sufficient motivation will be able to take advantage of people without the capacity to think and judge.

Want to Buy a Bob Ross Painting? You Can’t. (And Here’s Why.)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

During the course of his television career, Bob Ross painted more than 1000 paintings. But you never see them for sale. You can buy Bob Ross paint sets and even a waffle maker that makes waffles that look like Bob Ross — “Pour in the batter, lower the lid, and before you know it, there’s Bob Ross ready for butter and syrup.” — but good luck buying one of his actual paintings. In this charming little video from the NY Times, we learn where all of Bob Ross’s paintings are, meet the paintings’ custodians, and discover why the art isn’t for sale.

In 1994, the talk show host Phil Donahue asked Mr. Ross to “say out loud your work will never hang in a museum.”

“Well, maybe it will,” Mr. Ross replied. “But probably not the Smithsonian.”

Some of Ross’s paintings can be viewed at The Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Every episode of The Joy of Painting can be viewed on YouTube or sometimes streaming on Twitch. I watched on Twitch for a couple minutes just now and was tickled to catch him saying one of his signature phrases: “happy little trees”.

Reading Krazy Kat in the Public Domain

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

1922-11-26-krazy-kat.jpg

Krazy Kat is a legendary comic strip by cartoonist George Herriman. It was published from 1913 to 1944. This means that some of the earliest strips are now in the public domain; all you need is to find a decent quality image.

Enter Joel Franusic, a Krazy Kat enthusiast who wrote up some code to scan newspaper archives, confirm that the images were indeed Krazy Kat comics, and download and present the images he found. Here’s Joel:

After becoming a little obsessed with Krazy Kat, I was very disappointed to see many of the books I wanted were incredibly expensive. For example “Krazy & Ignatz: The Complete Sunday Strips 1916-1924” was selling on Amazon for nearly $600 and “Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924: At Last My Drim Of Love Has Come True” was selling for nearly $90.

At some point, I realized that the copyright for many of the comics that I was looking for has expired and that these public domain comics were likely available in online newspaper archives.

So, driven a desire to obtain the “unobtainable” and mostly by curiosity to see if it was possible, I set out to see if I could find public domain Krazy Kat Sunday comics in online newspaper archives.

As you can see in the “Comics” section of this site, it is possible to find Krazy Kat comics in online newspaper archives and I’ve made all of the comics I could find viewable on this web page.

The most striking thing about these comics is their size: full and half pages of broadsheets. The second most striking thing, for this fan, at least, is the clear influence on Calvin and Hobbes, in style, pacing, and overall feel. It’s not the user-friendliest way to dive into a back catalog of comics, but it is a remarkable and remarkably fun project.

Only One of the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team Is a Mom. That’s Not An Accident.

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Jessica McDonald.jpg

It’s pretty well-known now that the US Women’s National Team for soccer is wildly underpaid, particularly relative to their male counterparts. But those low salaries also effect who gets to play on the team and how they live their lives. In the middle of an interview with Into the Gloss, Jessica McDonald explains how she makes it work.

I’m the only mom on the national team [USWNT]. And then amongst the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL], there are seven of us. It’s so hard, oh my God. The best way I can describe it is that it takes a lot of mental toughness. Of my career in the NWSL, I’ve only played one season where I wasn’t a mom. Trying to figure out a routine is probably the hardest thing, and because I got traded a lot, I had to find new babysitters and child care all the time. Child care in particular was very difficult, because it’s expensive and we don’t get paid much. If I put [my son] in a daycare, that’s my entire paycheck, you know?

It’s not as if this is a problem unique to championship-winning athletes, but come on. You’d like to think, in a semi-just world, the best of the best could afford day care.

Deflating the Black Director Boom of the 1990s

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Dickerson.jpg

In the early 1990s, there was a mini-boom of films made by black filmmakers. Spike Lee and John Singleton led the way, but there was also Ernest Dickerson (who’d been Lee’s director of photography), Julie Dash, Matty Rich, Darnell Martin, and more. The New York Times talked to a good-sized group of these directors about their careers, and how each of them, separately, found themselves in “director jail,” unable to get new projects or find new collaborators. It’s a pretty riveting conversation.

Dickerson is a favorite of mine — in addition to directing Juice and working as DP during Lee’s great period, from She’s Got To Have It to Malcolm X, he’s done terrific work for television. Here’s his story:

I made a movie called “Bulletproof,” with Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler. Working on that film was the only time I ever got mad enough to punch a hole in the editing room wall. It was supposed to be a raunchy, R-rated comedy slanted more for an adult audience. But I could see we had trouble when they were giving out tickets to 15- to 16-year-old kids at the first preview. Afterward, I had to really sanitize the relationships. It meant savaging the movie.

It still opened at No. 1, but I got the worst reviews of my career. I was criticized for not having everything I was told to take out. I had several projects lined up — I had been developing “Blade,” with Wesley Snipes. The whole idea of where “Blade” went was mine. But the producers looked to “Bulletproof” and thought I had completely lost my street cred. After that, nobody would touch me. I think I’m still in jail, in a way, because I’m doing television. [Dickerson — like many of his peers, including Martin and Dash — has found work on the small screen, with credits on “The Wire” and “The Walking Dead.”] I consider myself a filmmaker who’s working in television.

A common thread through all of the stories is articulated by Ted Witcher:

White people get more bites of the apple. That’s just true. You can fail three, four times and still have a career. But if you’re black, you really can only fail once.

Favorite NYC Spots Lovingly Illustrated

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2019

Downtown Collective

Downtown Collective

The Downtown Collective is a project by illustrator Kelli Ercolano in which she is drawing & painting all of the NYC cafes, restaurants, and bars she’s fallen in love with. You can check out more of her work and process on Instagram.

The Possible Link Between Seasonal Allergies and Anxiety & Depression

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Olga Khazan on The Reason Anxious People Often Have Allergies:

“There is good circumstantial evidence that’s growing that a number of mental illnesses are associated with immune dysfunction,” says Sandro Galea, a physician and epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health.

If the link is in fact real, allergies could be causing anxiety and other mood disorders in a few different ways. For one, it’s stressful to be sick, and people with allergies frequently feel like they have a bad cold. The experience of straining to breathe, or of coughing and wheezing, could simply make people feel anxious.

Then there are biological explanations. Allergies trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can interfere with a feel-good brain chemical called serotonin. It’s not clear how the cortisol does this, Nanda says; it might inhibit the production of serotonin or make it fail to bind with its receptors properly. But when something goes wrong with serotonin, the theory goes, depression or anxiety might set in.

Huh. I definitely suffer from seasonal allergies (they have thankfully slacked off for the summer) and have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid (though I’ve never been clinically diagnosed). I’ll be following this research with interest.