Entries for May 2008 (June 2008 »    July 2008 »    August 2008 »    Archives)


Immediate sexual gratification

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

Lots of people bemoan the sexism of bikini drenched beer ads and overtly sexual marketing. Turns out, the marketers might just be rationally exploiting a fact of the male brain:

A recent study shows that men who watched sexy videos or handled lingerie sought immediate gratification—even when they were making decisions about money, soda, and candy.

Authors Bram Van den Bergh, Siegfried DeWitte, and Luk Warlop (KULeuven, Belgium) found that the desire for immediate rewards increased in men who touched bras, looked at pictures of beautiful women, or watched video clips of young women in bikinis running through a park.

"It seems that sexual appetite causes a greater urgency to consume anything rewarding," the authors suggest. Thus, the activation of sexual desire appears to spill over into other brain systems involved in reward-seeking behaviors, even the cognitive desire for money.

Reading minds

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

From The Guardian:

Scientists have developed a method for reading a person's mind using brain scans.

Once it has been trained on an individual subject's thoughts, the computer model can analyse new brain scan images and work out which noun a person is thinking about - even with words that the model has never encountered before.

The model is based on the way nouns are associated in the brain with verbs such as see, hear, listen and taste.

New sports invention

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

Clive Thompson wonders: Why don't people invent new sports? He does find the inventor of a fun-sounding game called whiffle hurling:

Whiffle Hurling was invented in July 2005 by a Tom Russotti, an MFA grad student at Rutgers University — and the sole practitioner of what he calls "aesthletics." So far, only 10 games of Whiffle Hurling have ever been played. I can personally attest that it's insanely fun and offers up a genuinely new blend of activity: The crazy intensity of Irish hurling mixed with the low-stress, low-injury appeal of Whiffle ball. It manages to be simultaneously casual and intense, which is perfect for nerds like me.

Greatest manhunt of WWII

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

A Slate slideshow about "the greatest manhunt of WWII":

In his new book, Now the Hell Will Start, Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of an epic World War II manhunt: the quest to find Herman Perry, a black soldier who shot and killed a white commanding officer, then disappeared into the jungles of Burma, where he joined a tribe of headhunters and eluded capture for months.

Dean Kamen's robot arm

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

The latest project from Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and this slightly terrifying wheelchair.

postcard America

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

Photos of that postcard America, which even though it's vanishing, probably none of us have known.

Anish Kapoor reviewed

posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

The insanely gimlet-eyed Roberta Smith reviews Anish Kapoor's newest shows, one in Boston, one in New York. If you're not familiar with Kapoor but have been to Millennium Park in Chicago, he's the one that did the reflective bean.


posted by Cliff Kuang May 30, 2008

Konstfack is a great design school in Sweden, turning out that slightly chilly, vaguely swiss, simple design that US designers envy. Here, they get a nice, simple, mesmerizing spot. (via Coudal)

Ira Glass, storytelling

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

A good, concise pep talk from Ira Glass, about sticking with your creative endeavors. He's talking specifically about story telling, but it really goes for anything you want to pursue seriously. Except math. If you're still not good at math at 28, just give up already. (via mot cot)

Modular greenhouse

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

A collapsible, modular greenhouse, which Design Boom says is "especially suitable for small spaces like cityhouses, balconies, roof terraces or town gardens." What they forgot to mention was that it's especially suitable for growing weed in small spaces.

Related: A few weeks ago, the unfailingly brilliant Michael Pollan wrote an interesting article about the ethics of small, eco-conscious decisions, like growing your own food. If you live in a city and don't have a communal garden, maybe that greenhouse is the answer (after you've harvested your weed).

Ideas blog

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

A fun premise: A blog dedicated to pipe-dream ideas, broadcast for anyone to pursue. (Though I'm not sure how gratifying it would be to pursue someone else's pipe dream? What does that make you?) A representative example:

Was at a reading in an art gallery last night and while checking out their lighting set-up I had an idea for a way to do an art show. Hang the work like normal, but, instead of the normal lighting, the gallery should be as near to total dark as possible. When visitors arrive to view the work, they are given miner's helmets with forehead flashlights on them. I can picture the beams moving about the gallery, the pieces with more than one viewer lighting up with more light, the show's overall visibility shifting and changing with the way the viewer's line of sight changes.

The Believer used to have a similar sort of column, with submissions from various literary types. Not sure if they still do, but it was fun when I last saw it.

(via Swiss Miss)

Hot sea slug action

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

You busy Friday night? Wanna maybe go out, get a drink, maybe chat about hot sea slug action? Sounds fun, if you're in LA. (thx, Eric)

Roma gypsies

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

Some portraits of gypsies/Roma in Lithuania.

Related: A book review in the New Yorker, from a while ago, about a book penned by a woman who lived with Roma for a time. The bare threads of Roma society are disturbing:

Evidently it's a miserable life, for the shiftless, jobless, largely illiterate men, and twice as bad for the homebound women, generally married in their teens to other teens, who will bully, betray, tyrannize, and most likely beat them. As for their children, they stay up so late watching television and hanging out on the street that they are usually too sleepy to go to school; Gypsies must be the only significant ethnic group in France that actively discourages literacy and encourages truancy. Compared with them, the embattled immigrants from the Muslim world are models of aspiration to bourgeois order and enlightenment. One of Eberstadt's more hallucinante chapters describes a conference on education held at College Jean Moulin, a junior high school for preponderantly Gypsy students. "The occasion is pretty merry," she writes. "People who work with Gypsies tend to laugh a lot. It's a laughter of hysterical exasperation, because if you didn't laugh, you'd hang yourself or quit." The school's principal, a "barrel-chested, crewcutted Catalan" named Paul Landric, is quoted:

"If an Arab kid cuts school, he stays in the street so his parents don't find out. If a Gypsy plays hookey, it's in order to stay home. Here, it's the parents who are the disruptive influence, mothers who want to coddle their sons, fathers who don't want their daughters to be seen hanging with boys at school. The girl is a commodity, and they don't want her to lose her market value."

Her value, as a virgin, is ascertained not by the young groom on the wedding night but, according to archaic folk custom, by the probing finger of a tribal crone: Eberstadt's partially renegade Gypsy friend Linda explains, "For Gypsies, it's a nasty old woman who is paid to penetrate the girl, like a gynecologist but with dirty hands, in front of all the husband's family. It's terrifying, it's inhuman." Landric sums up: "People talk about preserving Gypsy culture. But what am I as an educator supposed to do when the comportment of my students is frankly pathological?"

Buy the book here.

The original Indiana Jones

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

An interesting story on the "original Indiana Jones":

Like Jones, Rahn was an archaeologist, like him he fell foul of the Nazis and like him he was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail - the cup reputedly used to catch Christ's blood when he was crucified. But whereas Jones rode the Grail-train to box-office glory, Rahn's obsession ended up costing him his life.

However, Rahn is such a strange figure, and his story so bizarre, that simply seeing him as the unlikely progenitor of Indiana Jones is to do him a disservice. Here was a man who entered into a terrible Faustian pact: he was given every resource imaginable to realise his dream. There was just one catch: in return, he had to find something that - if it ever existed - had not been seen for almost 2,000 years.

Mech dog vs. dog

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

I always try to stay away from linking to Boing Boing, because they're so huge you've probably already seen whatever it is. But check out this video of dogs reacting to a mechanical toy dog. It's amazing: Dogs experience the uncanny valley too! The dog might be utterly toy-like to us, but you can tell from the dog's expression that it's startled and confused by the likeness—maybe even horrified. I wonder if apes also experience the uncanny valley with something like this. To all you primatologists: Please try this. I bet Wowee would sponsor it. Give me a heads up (cliffkuang @ gmail.com) and I'll write a piece about it.

Update: Hilarious clip from the most amazing show on TV, 30 Rock, explaining the Uncanny Valley. (thx, Michael)) "Salieri?" "No thank you. I already ate."

Illusion of the year

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

The neat-o Illusion of the Year Contest has wrapped. "Ghostly Gaze" and "Rolling Eyes" are pretty kewl.

Bike GPS

posted by Cliff Kuang May 29, 2008

A GPS unit for bikes. Although its still kind of nasty looking for my silvery beauty.

Displacements by Michael Naimark

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Displacements is an installation by Michael Naimark. First, he placed a camera in the center of a room on a turntable and recorded scene in the round. Then he spray painted the room white. Then he put a projector where the camera was, to project the previous colorful scene.

Tesla coils

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Anybody out there see The Prestige? Here's a real lab where scientists can fool with electrical currents of two million volts. The "impulse generator" is beautiful.

Related: Some crazy tesla coils.

Beef jerky recommendation

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

It's not just because I grew up eating this stuff: If you like beef jerky, you owe it to yourself to buy the classic peppered jerky, from the venerable New Braunfels Smokehouse. It's the ideal mix: Peppery, not sweet at all, with the savoriness of real beef, not a beef-like product. And it requires refrigerating, because it hasn't been preserved into leathery proteins.

Big pinata

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Finally, a big ass pinata. (via Swiss Miss)

Grass-roots historical research

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Via 3QD, an interesting essay on crowd-sourcing in historical research. It seems not to have yielded a signature finding—in the way that much of political reporting has—but the possibilities are pretty interesting:

Online gathering spots like these represent a potentially radical change to historical research, a craft that has changed little for decades, if not centuries. By aggregating the grass-roots knowledge and recollections of hundreds, even thousands of people, "crowdsourcing," as it's increasingly called, may transform a discipline that has long been defined and limited by the labors of a single historian toiling in the dusty archives.

Some venerable research institutions are already starting to harness the power of crowds in an organized way. The Library of Congress recently launched a project on the photo-sharing site Flickr that invites visitors to identify and analyze photographs in its collection, while the National Archives, working in partnership with a for-profit company, is inviting people to do the same to online versions of its documents. And a growing number of projects are taking the logical next step, creating "raw archives" of photographs and documents for momentous events: Sept. 11, for example, or Hurricane Katrina.

Miracle fruit makes everything sweet

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

I don't know which is more interesting: The prospect of "flavor tripping parties," or this berry, which after consumption makes everything sweet:

Nearby, Yuka Yoneda tilted her head back as her boyfriend, Albert Yuen, drizzled Tabasco sauce onto her tongue. She swallowed and considered the flavor: "Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!"

They were among 40 or so people who were tasting under the influence of a small red berry called miracle fruit at a rooftop party in Long Island City, Queens, last Friday night. The berry rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy.

The host was Franz Aliquo, 32, a lawyer who styles himself Supreme Commander (Supreme for short) when he's presiding over what he calls "flavor tripping parties." Mr. Aliquo greeted new arrivals and took their $15 entrance fees. In return, he handed each one a single berry from his jacket pocket.

You can buy them here.

Update: The Times actually seems to have been a year late to the game. Check out this story in the WSJ.

Moscow stray dogs

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Zoologists are studying stray dogs in Moscow, and the ways they've adapted to city life:

Back in the lean Soviet era, restaurants and the now-ubiquitous fast-food kiosks were scarce, so dogs were less likely to beg and more likely to forage through garbage, the zoologists say. Foraging dogs prospered best in the vast industrial zones of Moscow, where they lived a semiferal existence. Because they mainly relied on people to throw out food, and less on handouts, they kept their distance from humans.

Now, old factories are being transformed into shopping centers and apartment blocks, so strays have become more avid and skillful beggars. They have developed innovative strategies, zoologists say, such as a come-from-behind ambush technique: A big dog pads up silently behind a man eating on the street and barks. The startled man drops his food. The dog eats it.

Key is the ability to determine which humans are most likely to be startled enough to drop their food. Strays have become master psychologists, says Andrei Poyarkov, 54, the dean of Moscow's stray-dog researchers. "The dogs know Muscovites better than Muscovites know the dogs."

Sonic camera

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

A homemade "sonic camera." Hopefully some clever designer will seize on this—it seems promising, given the dual textures of sound and moving visuals. (via Everyone Forever)

Horror frog

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

More throwback movie references: Remember how Riggs in Lethal Weapon is always throwing his shoulder out to get out of a jam? He's got nothing on the "horror frog":

"Amphibian horror" isn't a movie genre, but on this evidence perhaps it should be. Harvard biologists have described a bizarre, hairy frog with cat-like extendable claws.

Trichobatrachus robustus actively breaks its own bones to produce claws that puncture their way out of the frog's toe pads, probably when it is threatened.


posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Do you remember the plot of of the Sean Connery/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie Entrapment? Where the last heist was predicated on using a computer glitch to extract tiny amounts of money from thousands of bank accounts? Some guy pulled something similar, and he's been indicted:

A California man has been indicted for an inventive scheme that allegedly siphoned $50,000 from online brokerage houses E-trade and Schwab.com in six months — a few pennies at a time.

Michael Largent, of Plumas Lake, California, allegedly exploited a loophole in a common procedure both companies follow when a customer links his brokerage account to a bank account for the first time. To verify that the account number and routing information is correct, the brokerages automatically send small "micro-deposits" of between two cents to one dollar to the account, and ask the customer to verify that they've received it.

Update: The older precedent was, of course, the "salami technique" used in the stridently awful Superman 3. (thx, Bart!)

Star Trek sex puns

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

It's strange going back on things you loved as a kid, finding out how cheesy they were. Here, a collection of (unintended?) sex puns on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Related: Sam Anderson's very funny piece from a while back on bountiful homo-eroticism in He-Man.

Kindle price drop

posted by Cliff Kuang May 28, 2008

Amazon has been coy about Kindle sales, even though the buzz has been excellent. Now, the price has dropped $40, to $360. That can't be a good sign, especially since, as Jason noted, the Kindle just recently came back into stock on Amazon.

Remembering Sydney Pollack

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Jeffrey Goldberg, crackerjack political reporter and would-be screen-writer, has the most vivid and concise account of Sydney Pollack I've read. Goldberg arrives with a screenplay to review with Pollack, and gets savaged:

The script at that point was 132 pages long, and, weirdly, there was something wrong on every page. We emerged from the conference room five hours later, completely wrung out. For a while inside, we had fought back:

Sydney: "Fellas, I just don't get this. How could she be flirting with a guy you told us three pages ago was dead?"

Me: "Well you see, Sydney, he wasn't really actually dead, the death was just a metaphor—"

Sydney: "Yeah, okay, now on page four..."

After a while, we stopped fighting, because he exhausted us—the Sydney Pollack you see on screen (Ross has an excellent, and illustrative, clip) was the Sydney Pollack we saw in his office. And also because he was right.

It wasn't all misery, of course. He was a wonderful storyteller, and also a world-class obsessive. He took a fifteen-minute break to explain how he packs for overseas trips. I started writing down the monologue, it was so captivating: "You see, fellas, what I do is I check the weather averages for each place I'm heading, and that way I can know exactly what sock I'm going to need for each destination, so I don't pack any more socks than necessary, just the socks of appropriate weight for the prevailing weather conditions..." And so on. The business with the socks struck me as unnecessary, by the way, because he flew his own plane and could bring three suitcases of socks, but never mind...

Things happen in Hollywood and Sydney didn't get the chance to make our movie. Rich and I are cautiously pessimistic about its chances. We hope, of course, that it gets made. If it does, and if it's any good, it will be because Sydney Pollack laid his hands on it.

Biggest Drawing in the World

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

The Biggest Drawing in the World, a self portrait of the creator, was made by sending a suitcase with a GPS tracker around to various sites, using DHL. (via Core 77)

: Lots of people are calling BS on this one, including Atanas, who insists the sailing routes are bogus, and others, claiming the GPS won't transmit through the case. Fooled by a viral for DHL? Even so, not a bad one, as viral videos go.

Update 2: Yup, it's BS. What I find disappointing about this is that it could easily have been real—sure, the lines might not have been as precise or expressive, but he could have done it. I'll bet DHL offers to foot the bill. But come to think of it, I don't know how I feel about all that carbon for one project like this.

Twisted: A Balloonamentary

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

An interesting-sounding documentary, on a row between two schools of balloon twisters. (Some examples of the craft.) From the NYT:

"Twisted: A Balloonamentary" examines the world of professional balloon twisters, who make everything from life-size racing cars to their own wedding dresses. It also exposes the rift—who knew?—between the "gospel twisters," who use their craft as a way to teach Bible lessons, and the "adult" twisters, who use balloons for more prurient entertainment.

"I refused to see the movie" when it first played, said Ralph Dewey, a prominent gospel twister from Deer Park, Tex. "There's just too much unclean stuff in there." He and several other like-minded twisters boycotted a screening of "Twisted" at a balloon convention in Texas last year.

The scenes that might make Mr. Dewey squirm take place at a gay men's party in Las Vegas, where balloons are fashioned into parts of the male anatomy that are most logically suited for this purpose.

According to the twisters themselves, the two factions have long co-existed, however uncomfortably, at conventions and other gatherings, but the film is bringing simmering resentments to the surface.

Audio Cubes

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Via Make, a video of Audio Cubes in action. It joins the Tenori-On and the Monome, all of them part of a new wave of interesting music interfaces. As a side-note, check out Golan Levin's spectacular Scrapple.

Religious evolution

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Continuing on the theme of a self-sustaining belief system, a computer scientist is studying the uptake of religious belief, in an evolutionary computer model. From the New Scientist:

God may work in mysterious ways, but a simple computer program may explain how religion evolved.

By distilling religious belief into a genetic predisposition to pass along unverifiable information, the program predicts that religion will flourish. However, religion only takes hold if non-believers help believers out, perhaps because they are impressed by their devotion.

"If a person is willing to sacrifice for an abstract god then people feel like they are willing to sacrifice for the community," says James Dow, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, US, who wrote the program, called Evogod.

Update: Pohl and Rob righted me on that one. There's no typo, I don't think.

Satanism and Libertarianism

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Hold on, don't worry. I'm not about to write about how you should eat your children. And I'm not going to advocate either Satanism or Libertarianism. I don't subscribe to either.

But like a lot of people, the Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey caught my imagination in the 1980s, for morbid, adolescent reasons. Yet when I finally got a copy and cracked it, I was always surprised at how mainstream its precepts were. That's probably unavoidable, since you can't really found a self-sustaining creed on psychopathic principles. Who would want to join up, if there were simply the promise of being betrayed and injured? Recently, I got interested in the Satanic Bible again, because of this profile of Gaahl, a prominent Satanist in Norway, and the singer in a notorious black metal band. And what's striking is that its philosophy, more than anything else, resembles libertarianism with some magic thrown in. It's less Jeffrey Dahmer, and more Ayn Rand. To wit, from the excellent Wikipedia entry:

LaVey makes it very clear that although Satanism is an uncompromisingly selfish religion, he defines selfishness according to what an individual truly wants. Therefore, if a person should honestly care for another person and wishes to express love, then he should do so wholeheartedly; a truly selfish person can acknowledge that if a person is loved by him, then they are important by virtue of his love. This can be compared favorably to the arguments of ethical egoism—that what sometimes benefits others can be beneficial to oneself, but that one must always have one's own interests first in mind. LaVey never suggests that love is not a natural emotion in man, and on the contrary suggests that loving select individuals is very natural, but he does claim that to love all people is not only a philosophical mistake but is in fact impossible and even damaging to the ability to truly love those few individuals who deserve it.

LaVey explains that hatred is likewise a natural emotion in man and therefore not to be shunned. He makes clear that hatred should be directed at those who deserve it by virtue of their actions to offend the individual, and like love, it is senseless to universally apply hatred to all mankind. He muses that while Satanism strongly advocates both individual love and hate, because white-light religion has such a strong aversion to acknowledging hate as a natural feeling in man that to merely mention that Satanism permits individuals to hate their enemies, Satanism is automatically portrayed as a hateful religion, a claim he maintains is false and ignorant of the true ethics of Satanism.

Young and broke in NYC

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Ah, to be young and broke in New York. Some astounding stories of discipline and ingenuity about what it takes to make ends meet in the city. What's striking is that some of these people are literally starving and probably malnourished. And yet they still come to the city.

Drinking and eating carry their own complications. Especially if you are, say, Noah Driscoll, a 25-year-old project manager for a Chelsea marketing company whose salary is comparable to what a rookie teacher might make.

"For a little while I only ate grapefruits for my lunch," said Mr. Driscoll, who pays $400 a month on his college loans, "because they have a lot of nutrients and they got me through the day."

Mr. Driscoll has since started packing two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for lunch. Dinner might be two baked potatoes. On a recent Monday, it was franks and beans. On a good night, he might spend up to $6.

"To live like a human being on the salary that I make is very difficult in this city," he said. "You've got to forget about brands, you've got to forget about, you know, what your mom made you growing up, and take what's out there."

Alison Elizabeth Taylor

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

An excellent article and slide show about Alison Elizabeth Taylor, an artist who uses marquetry, the craft technique of covering objects in fanciful wood veneers, which hit its high point in the Renaissance-era. Taylor works on flat surfaces, "painting" scenes of hipsters and lovelies in a desert landscape that recalls Sergio Leone. Her show is up now through June 21 at James Cohan Gallery, in Chelsea.

Update: The Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio that Taylor mentions as her inspiration is one of my favorite things in New York. -jkottke

Sea slugs

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Stunning, even glamorous, sea slugs.

Traded for ten bats

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Life's tough in the Minor league. Just ask the guy that got traded for 10 bats.

Cliff Kuang, signing on

posted by Cliff Kuang May 27, 2008

Well hello there. As Jason mentioned before, I'll be house sitting here for the coming week, feeding the beast that is Kottke.org. Don't worry. My idea isn't to change things up. I'll just be sticking to the web curation formula, with some occasional sallies into greater depth. So thanks to Jason for inviting me on, and thanks for reading.

Cell phone in the microwave

posted by Cliff Kuang May 26, 2008

A cellphone in the microwave, unexpectedly amazing. And probably toxic enough to sterilize a stallion. (via Dark Roasted Blend)

UPDATE: It's a fake, obviously. Should have watched with the audio on. (thx, Mike)

Your guest editor for the week, Cliff Kuang

posted by Jason Kottke May 26, 2008

I'm off on holiday this week and I've invited Cliff Kuang to help keep that kottke.org groove going in my absence. Cliff is a journalist and has written/edited for I.D., The Economist, Wired, Print, Monocle, and GOOD on culture, design, and technology. When he's not writing for money, he blogs for fun and wonderment at Delicious Ghost (may be NSFW). Welcome, Cliff!

Shopsin's cookbook

posted by Jason Kottke May 24, 2008

Kenny Shopsin, the proprietor of NYC institution Shopsin's, is coming out with a cookbook. Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin is out in September.

Pajamas as outerwear

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

Photos of pajamas as outerwear in Shanghai.

The prevalence of pyjamas, Guariglia explained to me, was due to both the extreme summer heat and the lack of plumbing. Most Shanghaians share outdoor communal toilets and thus the boundaries of what was considered one's home have expanded past people's houses to the public bathrooms. Once that relaxation of the dress code became acceptable (starting around the 1980s) the perimeter for p.j.-wear just kept expanding until many people were wearing them day in day out.

Rave Kindle review

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

Rave review of the Kindle by Justin Blanton, who is a gadget freak of the first order.

I love the Kindle, and totally see myself using and enjoying it (and its progeny) for many years to come. I'm reading more because of it, and seriously doubt I'll ever read a paper book again.

It still looks like the Pontiac Aztek of e-readers but it solves one of the things I dislike about reading in bed:

One of the nicest things about the Kindle, and something that is inherent in such a device, is that, unlike a regular book, its orientation and weight aren't constantly shifting. With a paper book, you are made to move [it] around as you shift from the left to the right page, flip pages, etc. With the Kindle however, all of that shifting disappears and you can hold your chosen position indefinitely.

Such a "feature" generally allows you to expend less energy when reading. For example, I like reading in bed while lying on my side. With a paper book you have to constantly hold the book to keep it open and to move it slightly depending on whether you're reading the right or left page; with the Kindle, you can just let it rest on the bed and then tap the next-page button as needed. I realize that this may sound like a trivial thing to devote a paragraph to, but it really is amazing how such a device can change the way you read, or make the way you're used to reading that much better.

As Justin notes, Kindles are back in stock at Amazon.

Mmm, wiener water soup

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

If you need proof that Cooks.com lets anyone submit recipes:

Wiener water soup

1 pkg. wieners
3 c. water

Combine wieners and water in a two quart saucepan. Bring to a boil until wieners are cooked. Throw the wieners in the garbage. Serve soup. Serves 3.

The NYC hot dog vendors should think about branching out into soup. (via serious eats)

Kenneth Noid

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

In commercials for Domino's Pizza, the chain's employees wage a never ending battle against the Noid, a gremlin who delays deliveries and carries a gun that can turn a pizza ice cold. Many viewers are amused by the Noid, Domino's says, but one of them took the advertising campaign personally. Last week Kenneth Noid, 22, walked into a Domino's Pizza shop in Chamblee, Ga., with a .357 Magnum revolver and took two employees hostage. When police arrived, he demanded $100,000 in cash, a getaway car and a copy of The Widow's Son, a 1985 novel about secret societies in an 18th century Parisian prison.

All Noid got was the pizza he ordered. After a five-hour siege, the two employees slipped away and Noid gave himself up. According to police, Noid has "psychological problems" and believes that he has an "ongoing dispute with Tom Monaghan," the head of the Detroit-based Domino's chain.

Time Magazine, you're making that shit up. (via lonelysandwich)

Basic kitchen elements

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

Kitchen chemist Herve This' 10 basic elements of kitchen knowledge.

Jet lag will kill you

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

From an article on jet lag, the story of Sarah Krasnoff's fatal jet setting:

One day in 1971, a woman called Sarah Krasnoff made off with her 14-year-old grandson, who was caught up in an unseemly custody dispute, and took him into the sky. In a plane, she knew, they were subject to no laws, and if they never stopped moving, the law could never catch up with them. They flew from New York to Amsterdam. When they arrived, they turned around and flew from Amsterdam to New York. Then they flew from New York to Amsterdam again, and from Amsterdam to New York, again and again and again, month after month.

They took about 160 flights in all, one after the other, according to the stage piece "Jet Lag." They saw 22 movies an average of seven times each. They ate lunch again and again and turned their watches six hours forward, then six hours back. The whole fugitive enterprise ended when Krasnoff, 74, finally collapsed and died, the victim, doctors could only suppose, of terminal jet lag.

(via things magazine)


posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

At the very moment that humans discovered the scale of the universe and found that their most unconstrained fancies were in fact dwarfed by the true dimensions of even the Milky Way Galaxy, they took steps that ensured that their descendants would be unable to see the stars at all. For a million years humans had grown up with a personal daily knowledge of the vault of heaven. In the last few thousand years they began building and emigrating to the cities. In the last few decades, a major fraction of the human population had abandoned a rustic way of life. As technology developed and the cities were polluted, the nights became starless. New generations grew to maturity wholly ignorant of the sky that had transfixed their ancestors and had stimulated the modern age of science and technology. Without even noticing, just as astronomy entered a golden age most people cut themselves off from the sky, a cosmic isolationism that only ended with the dawn of space exploration.

That's Carl Sagan in Contact from 1985. The effects of light pollution were documented in the New Yorker last August.

Print your own Monopoly money

posted by Jason Kottke May 23, 2008

Unlike the US government, Hasbro lets you print out your own Monopoly money. There are PDFs for 1,5,10,20,50,100, and 500 dollar bills.

Emily Gould on oversharing

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

I was told that everyone in the NYC online media scene needs to read this NY Times Magazine cover story by and about former Gawker editor Emily Gould and her oversharing problems. I was less than halfway through when I realized I'm not part of that scene, if I ever was. So, the outsider's perspective: Gould's story is a familiar one, well-written, and rings with truth in places with regard to microcelebrity and the difficulty of learning how much to share online.

Best pitch ever

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

Video of the best baseball pitch ever. (via hello typepad)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

Lucas finally does away with all those pesky human actors in an animated sequel to Episode II that no one was clamoring for. But I had to look at the trailer.

Photos of TV

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

Mike Sacks takes funny photos of his TV viewing. (via buzzfeed)

Smoking at Cannes

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

Taking in the scene at Cannes:

Defying France's strict new antismoking laws, Sean Penn, right, president of the jury at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, lighted a cigarette at a news conference yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported. After a couple of puffs in defiance of rules that banned smoking in enclosed spaces since January, he put the cigarette aside and returned to answering reporters' questions. But a jury member, the Iranian writer and director Marjane Satrapi, prompting laughter, then asked if anyone minded if she smoked "for medical reasons." She lighted a cigarette; Mr. Penn and the French actress Jeanne Balibar joined her.

TimesMachine launches

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

After a stutter step back in late February, NY Times releases their slick archive browser, TimesMachine. Here's the announcement from the team that put it together.

TimesMachine is a collection of full-page image scans of the newspaper from 1851-1922 (i.e., the public domain archives). Organized chronologically and navigated by a simple calendar interface, TimesMachine provides a unique way to traverse the historical archives of The New York Times. Topics ranging from the Civil War to the sinking of the Titanic to the first cross-country auto race to women's fashions in the 20s are just a few electronic flips away. And of course, there's the advertisements.

Unfortunately, full access to the archives through TimesMachine is only available to subscribers. (via fimoculous)

The Wire, season five, DVD

posted by Jason Kottke May 22, 2008

Season five of The Wire on DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is August 12, 2008. (thx, marshall)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2008

If you need a reminder of Harrison Ford?s ability to play Indiana Jones after nearly 20 years on the shelf, it comes in the movie?s opening scene. Indy is roughly extracted from a car and tumbles to the ground. We see him stumble towards his trademark hat with that walk, a graceful stuttering step, wary of booby traps even on solid ground. Even though the camera shows us only his boots, it?s unmistakably Indiana Jones.

That walk is also a signal that Lucas and Spielberg didn?t screw this whole thing up?aside from the goofy film title (although having seen the movie, anything else would have ruined the surprise). They didn?t take the bait offered by Casino Royale or The Bourne Ultimatum and attempt to shoehorn Dr. Jones into a frenetic, circa-2008 thrill-ride. Oh, there were thrills alright and plenty of swashes were buckled, but this was an action/adventure movie straight out of the 80s. Safe territory for Lucas and Spielberg perhaps, but for someone who believes that the best 80s action adventure movies have something to teach contemporary filmmakers (#1 of a long list: Don?t make the special effects the star), the film was a thoroughly enjoyable territory in which to spend an evening. (thx to nextnewnetworks for the ticket hookup)

Alice, Pogo

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

The music video for my song 'Alice', an electronic piece of which 90% is composed using sounds recorded from the Disney film 'Alice In Wonderland'.

Said video. Said song download. (thx, sam)

Hancock, second trailer

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

The second trailer for Hancock, the Will-Smith-as-apathetic-superhero movie due out this summer, is up on Apple Trailers. I believe this is the same one I linked to on YouTube a month ago, but watch it again anyway. I am hoping against hope that this one isn't going to be as stupid as I think and instead will be as awesome as I hope.

Zappos' hiring practice

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

From this quick overview of why internet shoe retailer Zappos is such a great company, this clever hiring practice:

When Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company's strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period. After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it's time for what Zappos calls "The Offer." The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

That's pretty fucking brilliant. It applies a direct incentive of cold hard cash against what the company wants: employees dedicated not primarily to their paycheck but to the company/customers.

Wedding then earthquake

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

Absolutely incredible photos of a wedding and then an earthquake.

Can you imagine what it was like to have been photographing a wedding in Sichuan, China when 7.9 earthquake hit and shakes for three minutes? From what I understand, there were thirty-three missing guests in this church.

Scrubbing the grain from HD movies

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

Possible collateral damage from the ascendence of HD and Blu-ray: people want their movies to look nice and clean and sharp and without film grain, even if the feel of a movie calls for it.

Unfortunately, what seems to happening right now is that the studio marketing folks are conducting focus groups with new Blu-ray consumers, who are saying they want perfect pictures every time. As a result, a few of the Hollywood studios are currently A) using excessive Digital Noise Reduction to completely scrub film grain from their Blu-ray releases, or B) not releasing as many older catalog titles as they might otherwise for fear that people will complain about grain. Some studios are even going so far as to scrub the grain out of NEW releases that have been shot on film. Case in point: New Line's Pan's Labyrinth Blu-ray Disc. When I saw this film in the theaters, it was dark and gritty. The grain was a deliberate stylistic choice — part of the artistic character of the film. New Line's Blu-ray, on the other hand, is sparkly and glossy — almost entirely grain-free. So much fine detail has been removed that the faces of characters actually look waxy. Everyone looks like a plastic doll.

(via house next door)

The opposite of standing

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

I took a quick Twitter poll this morning: What's the opposite of standing: sitting or lying down? The results: lying down wins but sitting is a close second. My favorite answer, which several people gave, is doing a headstand (or hanging upside down).

Now, what about this: What's the opposite of sitting: lying down or standing?

Goodbye, Florent

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

A really nice remembrance of Florent, a beloved meatpacking district restaurant set to close its doors next month, by the people who knew the restaurant best.

The first time I went to Florent I had been out very late at night with some friends and we were looking for somewhere to go for breakfast at about, you know, 3:30 or 4 o'clock in the morning. We went down there and it was very dark and we came onto Gansevoort Street and the restaurant was lit up and it looked - it looked almost like a mirage. It felt magical.

The article is not just a history of Florent but also of a Manhattan and New York City that is all but gone. Says Calvin Klein:

It was alive with real downtown character types who dressed every which way: from straight, creative types of all ages, young and old, to transvestites, to probably local prostitutes. It was downtown. It was real downtown. That's when they were cutting meat all night long. And that was during the Studio 54 days. We were young and we were having a lot of fun and we were out all night. And we'd end up in the meatpacking district, at the clubs. You went to Florent after the clubs.

Chalkboard laptop

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

Russell Davies covered the front of his laptop with blackboard paint; it now doubles as a quick jotpad for to-do lists, etc. Great idea, but I'd always forget to haul the chalk around.

Update: On the other hand, I could be a techno-utopian idiot! (May I still argue for the idea's conceptual goodness?)

Elusive movie objects

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

Sixteen elusive movie object of desire, including White Castle burgers in Harold & Kumar, the Ark of the Convenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the One Ring from the LOTR trilogy.

Chefs at the New Yorker Conference

posted by Jason Kottke May 21, 2008

One of the most enjoyable sessions at the New Yorker Conference was the chefs roundtable.

Bill Buford talks with the chefs David Chang, Daniel Humm, and Marc Taxiera about their influences and the future of the culinary world.

Buford talks too much and the chefs too little but he manages some good questions and fun is had.

Through the legs

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

Print Magazine has an awesome roundup of book covers, advertisements, movies posters, etc. using the "cutoff-torso-spread-leg framing device", what Steven Heller calls "the most frequently copied trope ever used".

Like the Rolling Stones

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

Fantastic collection of photos by James Mollison of music fans who tend to dress like their idols. A book featuring the photos is due out in October.

Over a three-year period, James Mollison attended pop concerts across Europe and the United States with a mobile photography studio, inviting fans of each music star or band to pose for a portrait on their way into the concert. The result is The Disciples, an original and highly entertaining series of fifty-seven panoramic images, each featuring eight to ten music fans mimicking the manners and dress of their particular heroes. Featuring fans of Dolly Parton, Iggy Pop, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg, and Motorhead, among many others, The Disciples is a surprising, sharp, and hilarious take on popular culture.

(via waxy)

Nikola Tamindzic

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

The NY Times' City Room blog has a short profile of photographer Nikola Tamindzic.

He uses long exposures, then shakes the camera while the shutter is still open, causing colors to blur and lights to streak. "I'm not recording what is really happening, but it's something like what the brain is seeing late at night, especially if maybe you're drunk or very excited," he said. "I like that hour between 3 and 4 in the morning when desperation sets in, when you see all the anticipation of going out starting to fade. The masks drop and everybody realizes the night is not going to be everything they were hoping for."

You may have seen Tamindzic's photos on Gawker or on his own site, Home of the Vain. Here's the photo with Huffington, Murdoch, et al. An archive of his photography is available at Ambrel.

That's what she said jokes from The Office

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

A compilation of "that's what she said" jokes from The Office. I'm retroactively embarrassed for my non-ironic use of this phrase the other day. Sorry, friends. (via fimoculous)

The wonderous legs of Oscar Pistorius

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

Over at Stingy Kids, Adriana has a thoughtful and link-filled post about South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius is a double-amputee who runs on carbon fiber blades in place of his lower legs; here's a video of him running in a 400m race. Last week, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Pistorius can compete for a spot in the Beijing Olympics against "able-bodied" athletes, which overturned a previous ruling that he could not compete because his blades give him a mechanical advantage.

What's clear is that the seemingly politically correct replacement of "disabled" with "differently abled" is not only warranted but perhaps doesn't go far enough. How about "super abled" or "superbly abled"? Lengthen or add a bit more spring to those blades and Pistorius may win every race handily and take first in the high jump to boot.

Pistorius is not the first athlete with super abilities. Steroids and HGH are outlawed in most sports because it's felt they give too much advantage. Baseball pitchers routinely opt for something called Tommy John surgery, many athletes get laser eye surgery to improve their vision, and many more potential augmentation schemes are right around the corner. And lest you think this is just about sports, maybe the guy in the next cubicle over is regularly taking Provigil to improve his memory, concentration, and his chances at that promotion you wanted.

Under Pressure by Thomas Keller

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

Another new book out in the fall is Thomas Keller's Under Pressure, the chef's long-awaited cookbook on sous vide cooking.

In "Under Pressure", Thomas Keller shows us how sous vide, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking at low heat, achieves results that other cooking methods simply cannot — in flavor and precision. For example, steak that is a perfect medium rare from top to bottom; and meltingly tender yet medium rare short ribs that haven't lost their flavor to the sauce. Fish, which has a small window of doneness, is easier to finesse, and salmon develops a voluptuous texture when cooked at a low temperature. Fruit and vegetables benefit too, retaining their bright colors while achieving remarkable textures. There is wonderment in cooking sous vide — in the ease and precision (salmon cooked at 123 degrees versus 120 degrees!) and the capacity to cook a piece of meat (or glaze carrots, or poach lobster) uniformly.

Under Pressure is out October 1, 2008 and plays Bowie when you open the cover. Keller and Michael Ruhlman have also begun work on a book that "will focus on family-style cooking, in the style of Ad Hoc, and great food to cook at home".

Like a pirate

posted by Jason Kottke May 20, 2008

Here's a fun optical/muscular illusion to try out:

This morning I went into the darkest room in our house (the kids' bathroom), closed the door, and turned off the lights for 5 minutes. There was enough light coming in through the crack in the door that after a minute or two I could begin to make out shapes in the room: A towel rack, the shower curtain. My eyes had adapted to the dark condition. Then I closed my right eye and covered it with my hand. I turned the lights back on, for a minute, until my left eye had adapted to the light. Then I turned the lights off.

I could still see the towel rack and shower curtain with my right eye, which remained adapted to darkness. But my left eye could see nothing. In fact, my left eye felt as if it was closed. I made every effort to open the eye, but it seemed that some unstoppable force was keeping it closed. The only way to make my eye feel as if it was open was to cover it with my hand. I still couldn't see anything with the eye, but at least I could convince myself it was open.


posted by Jason Kottke May 19, 2008

No posting today...I was out sick most of the day. I hope tomorrow is slightly better but who knows.

David Lynch eating panties

posted by Jason Kottke May 19, 2008

Video of David Lynch putting a fan's panties in his mouth. Not much to add.

New book by Gladwell: Outliers

posted by Jason Kottke May 19, 2008

The Amazon page for Malcolm Gladwell's new book is up. From here, we learn that the full title is "Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don't" and what the cover looks like. Here's the description:

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of "outliers" — the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

And an excerpt from the Little, Brown catalog:

Outliers is a book about success. It starts with a very simple question: what is the difference between those who do something special with their lives and everyone else? In Outliers, we're going to visit a genius who lives on a horse farm in Northern Missouri. We're going to examine the bizarre histories of professional hockey and soccer players, and look into the peculiar childhood of Bill Gates, and spend time in a Chinese rice paddy, and investigate the world's greatest law firm, and wonder about what distinguishes pilots who crash planes from those who don't. And in examining the lives of the remarkable among us — the brilliant, the exceptional and the unusual — I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.

This doesn't sound exactly what I had heard his new book was going to be.

A few days ago, New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell noted that he's almost finished with his third book. I've learned that the subject of this book is the future of the workplace with subtopics of education and genius.

I guess if you flip those around, that describes Outliers marginally well. According to Amazon, the book is due on November 18, 2008. (thx, kyösti)

Free Red Hook Ikea taxi

posted by Jason Kottke May 18, 2008

When the new Ikea is finished, it'll be easier than ever to get to Red Hook from Manhattan. The Serious Eats crew noticed that the free ferry deposits interested eaters about four blocks from the renowned Red Hook soccer taco vendors.

US gas price map

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

I wish this map of current US gas prices factored out the taxes included in the pump price. It seems like what the map mostly shows is the differences in taxes between states (PDF map) and not, for instance, how the distance from shipping ports or local demand affects prices. (via what i learned today)

Fractal furniture

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

Fractal furniture!

Fractal Miyakawa

One could imagine a Powers of Ten video with drawer pulling instead of zooming.

Nine things I learned this week, 04

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

[Part four of a recurring series...part one, part two, part three.]

According to the Indian National Crime Bureau, there were 6,787 dowry deaths in India in 2005. A dowry death occurs when a woman is killed or commits suicide due to coercion by her husband or her husband's family in order to secure a larger dowry. [Indian National Crime Bureau]

As of August 2005, the poverty rate in Mississippi was 21.1%, the highest in the nation. The state also ranks first in senior poverty and second in child poverty. Despite being surrounded by states with relatively low poverty rates, Washington DC ranks first in child poverty and is second in overall and senior poverty. [USCCB]

According to the Zoological Society of London, between a quarter and a third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970. [BBC]

Buddhist teachers Michael Roach and Christie McNally haven't been more than 15 feet from each other in the ten years since they took an oath to that effect. They also read the same books at the same time. [NY Times]

There are more Chinese restaurants in the US than McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy's restaurants combined. [YouTube]

NYC's alternate-side parking rules will be suspended in Park Slope for a few months so that workers can replace parking signs. Residents are overjoyed because they don't have to move their cars every few days. [NY Times]

There are at least 3 escalators in Wyoming. [Metafilter]

Velcro is 50 years old. (At least the trademark is.) [mental_floss]

The Golden Gate Bridge is younger than John McCain. [Things Younger Than John McCain]

Highway tear-downs

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

Oklahoma City is repairing the state's busiest highway by tearing it down and building a park in its stead.

In Oklahoma City, the interstate will be moved five blocks from downtown to an old railroad line. The new 10-lane highway, expected to carry 120,000 vehicles daily, will be placed in a trench so deep that city streets can run atop it, as if the highway weren't there. The old highway will be converted into a tree-lined boulevard city officials hope will become Oklahoma City's marquee street.

Several other cities have done (or are planning to do) similar highway tear downs.

"Highways don't belong in cities. Period," says John Norquist, who was mayor of Milwaukee when it closed a highway. "Europe didn't do it. America did. And our cities have paid the price."

No mention of Boston's Big Dig, perhaps the most high-profile example of this trend.

Wii Balance Board reviews

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

The Wii Balance Board, the new exercise peripheral for the Nintendo Wii, was reviewed favorably by a number of people for the New York Times. A fitness professional at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers gave it pretty high marks:

"Actually I think it's pretty good," she said. "You can definitely get a workout. When I started doing it, I realized all the activities were pretty much on point. There were some things I didn't like, like the alignment in a couple of places. But over all, I thought they did a good job and this will be a good tool for people who can't make it to the gym."

The Wii Balance Board will be released in the US and Canada early next week.

Update: Joel Johnson has a nice round-up of exercise-themed video game accessories, from the unreleased Atari Puffer to the Wii Fit.

R Kelly jury foolishness

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

A list of ways to get yourself excused from the jury pool in the R. Kelly child pornography case.

I (heart) R. Kelly. Nothing gets prospective jurors booted faster than telling the prosecution they are a fan of Kelly's. Just ask the woman who called him a "musical genius." When prodded to say something negative about Kelly, the best she could come up with was: "He and [rapper] Jay-Z don't get along?" Prosecutors bounced her soon after.

Another potential juror was excused for suggesting that Kelly "led the Taliban in attacking us on 9-11".

Washing the Space Needle

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

A collection of photos of a cleaning crew washing Seattle's Space Needle with high pressure washers (scroll down a bit).

Even though the sprayers use half the flow of a garden hose, the water shoots out at 3,000 pounds per square inch — more than enough power to send the guy behind the hose flying. "One thing we say is, it doesn't necessarily have to be fun to be fun. There are definitely times when I'm spinning in free space and I'm like, holy cow this is terrifying and I can't believe this is my job," said Matt Henry, rope technician.

The company doing the work, Karcher GmbH & Co., has done similar high-profile jobs around the world, all at no cost...their web site says that these projects are good publicity for their cleaning products. Here's a sampling of some other projects they've done, including the Statue of Liberty and Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. (via girlhacker)

Pioneer anomaly update

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

Here's an update on the effort to solve the Pioneer anomaly, the unexplained deviation in motion of deep space probes from what Newton and Einstein's theories predict.

As it sped through space, a specialist in radio-wave physics named John Anderson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory noticed an odd thing. The spacecraft was drifting off course. The discrepancy was less than a few hundred-millionths of an inch per second for every second of spaceflight, accumulating year after year across billions of miles. Then Pioneer 11, an identical probe escaping the solar system in the opposite direction, also started to veer off course at the same rate.

Ordinarily, such small deviations might be overlooked, but not by Dr. Anderson. He monitored the trajectories six years before calling attention to the matter. "I'm a little like an accountant," Dr. Anderson said. "We have Newton's theory and Einstein's theory, and when you apply them to something like this — and it doesn't add up — it bothers me."

The researchers, using data recovered from recently discovered Pioneer records and funded by sources outside of NASA, have figured out part of the problem but the rest remains a mystery.

Suck Cola!

posted by Jason Kottke May 16, 2008

Greg Allen still has his bottle of Suck Cola from when the now-defunct web site Suck was handing them out at a trade show in 1996. He's building a registry of Suck Cola bottles...if you've got one, send in the details.

After your Cola information is reviewed and validated, you will be issued a Suck Cola Registry Number. I have designated my bottle SC0005, having reserved the first four Registry Numbers, SC0001-SC0004, for Suck.com co-founders Joey Anuff and Carl Steadman.

Suck the web site has now been dead for as long as it was active, but the Cola lives on.

John Gall, book designer

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

Video of designer John Gall, who shares his five rules for book cover design.

The other great source of inspiration is the deadline.

Changing portion sizes

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

A look at how portion sizes have changed in the US over the years.

We don't have to eat those extra 360 calories in the tub of popcorn, but that's easier said than (not) done. Studies indicate that when given food in larger containers, people will consume more. In a 1996 Cornell University study, people in a movie theater ate from either medium (120g) or large (240g) buckets of popcorn, then divided into two groups based on whether they liked the taste of the popcorn. The results: people with the large size ate more than those with the medium size, regardless of how participants rated the taste of the popcorn.

Fight Club

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2008

This one?s not holding up as well as one would think. The first time I saw it, in the theater in 1999, my reaction was ?eh?. The second time, on DVD a few years ago, I thought it was great. Now I?m back closer to ?eh? again.

Brijit shuttered

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

Brijit closed up shop today.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we've run out of money, and can no longer afford to pursue our vision of adapting great long-form content for a short-form world, at least not as a stand-alone company. As recently as yesterday morning, we thought we had the funding in place to continue our work together. But as it turns out, we don't.

Like Cameron, I found the site useful and am sad to see it go.

The Brannock Foot-Measuring Device

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

Michael Bierut celebrates the elegantly simple design of the Brannock Foot-Measuring Device.

Charles F. Brannock only invented one thing in his life, and this was it. The son of a Syracuse, New York, shoe magnate, Brannock became interested in improving the primitive wooden measuring sticks that he saw around his father's store. He patented his first prototype in 1926, based on models he had made from Erector Set parts. As the Park-Brannock Shoe Store became legendary for fitting feet with absolute accuracy, the demand for the device grew, and in 1927 Brannock opened a factory to mass produce it. The Brannock Device Co., Inc., is still in business today. Refreshingly, it still only makes this one thing. They have sold over a million, a remarkable number when one considers that each of them lasts up to 15 years, when the numbers wear off.

Bierut also notes that Tibor Kalman was a big fan of the Brannock Device, once saying:

It showed incredible ingenuity and no one has ever been able to beat it. I doubt if anyone ever will, even if we ever get to the stars, or find out everything there is to find out about black holes.

The humble shoe horn is another well designed shoe-related device that may never be bettered.

Dangerous gangs

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

A short list of the world's most dangerous gangs.

Secondhand clothes in Haiti

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

An interview with the makers of a film about secondhand clothing in Haiti.

Shell says Haitians sometimes dress better than Americans because they are used to tailoring their secondhand clothes to fit. While the pepe market makes it difficult for Haitian tailors to sell their own designs or traditional fashions; the cheap cost means, as one woman in the documentary explains, they can "adopt the look that is on television without much effort."

Most of the clothes come from the United States.

Update: Secondhand clothing imports to Zambia killed the clothing industry there:

Mark O'Donnell, spokesperson for Zambian Manufacturers, explains that in 1991, when the country's markets were opened to free trade, container load after container load of used clothing began to arrive in Zambia, undercutting the cost of the domestic manufacturers and putting them out of business. The skills, the infrastructure and the capital of an entire industry are now virtually extinct, with not a single clothing manufacturer left in the country today.

(thx, tj)

New York paradox

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

Joan Acocella on the paradox of New Yorkers' seeming rudeness and helpfulness in public spaces.

[New Yorkers] make less separation between private and public life. That is, they act on the street as they do in private. In the United States today, public behavior is ruled by a kind of compulsory cheer that people probably picked up from television and advertising and that coats their transactions in a smooth, shiny glaze, making them seem empty-headed. New Yorkers have not yet gotten the knack of this. That may be because so many of them grew up outside the United States, and also because they live so much of their lives in public, eating their lunches in parks, riding to work in subways. It's hard to keep up the smiley face for that many hours a day.

And here's how New Yorkers deal with celebrities:

Another curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities. When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney — this happened to me — you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes. The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else.

Stem cell coat killed

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

A tiny coat built out of living mouse stem cells that was a part of the Design and the Elastic Mind show at MoMA was killed because it was growing too fast.

Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, had to kill the coat. "It was growing too much," she said in an interview from a conference in Belgrade. The cells were multiplying so fast that the incubator was beginning to clog. Also, a sleeve was falling off. So after checking with the coat's creators, a group known as SymbioticA, at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, she had the nutrients to the cells stopped.

Outside the album cover

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

The b3ta folk explore what happens just outside the border of some well-known album covers. The Simon and Garfunkel and Pink Floyd/Kool-Aid ones are pretty good.

Recreating kids drawings

posted by Jason Kottke May 15, 2008

Yeondoo Jung does real-life recreations of children's drawings. (via quips)

Chicago overturns foie gras ban

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

The Chicago City Council overturned the city's embarrassing ban on foie gras. The vote was 37-6.

It's a fish!

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

I just recently picked up on the visual pun on the cover of Cal Henderson's Building Scalable Web Sites.

Har har

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

A list of infrequent HTTP/1.1 status codes.

HTTP 220 (The Clooney): Same as 200 with a little something in there for your trouble.

(thx, djacobs)

Tips for NYC visitors

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

A list of unconventional but useful tips for visitors to NYC.

Do a bunch of local New York things: Hang out in Central Park, Explore Brooklyn, wear black, enjoy the free WiFi in Bryant Park (use the bathroom there — nice). Attend a lecture at the 92nd ST Y, go to Chinatown in Queens. Buy junk at a street fair, and eat street meat (don't ask). Have a cigar at the Grand Havana Room (members only). Catch an author speak at a Barnes & Noble (use the bathroom while you are there).

Eventually I hope to write up my How To Be A Pedestrian In NYC guide, a companion to my rules for the NYC subway, only a bit more helpful and less ranty.

25-year-old computer bug fixed

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

A developer just fixed a bug in the BSD flavor of Unix that had gone undiscovered for 25 years. I guess it finally accrued enough eyeballs to make it shallow.

HD retouching

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

Related to yesterday's post about photo retouching is this article about how challenging high definition is to makeup artists and actors alike (via house next door) .

John Toll is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer who has had limited exposure to HD photography, but who understands the impact of it on the business. "Film tends to be more kind," he said. "Now with HD, they're doing things like more filtration, or softening of the light, or degrading the image so it's not so highly defined. It's sort of what they used to do in movie star close-ups, an over-diffused style to try to make them look glamorous. Now they do it so you don't see every pore in a close-up on skin."

Also related, James Danziger weighs in on the Dove/Dangin/Leibovitz controversy the latter of whom is represented by Danziger's gallery.

Any photograph used in a magazine, a billboard, an album cover, whatever — can only be presumed to be a photo-based illustration. The issue, which Dove's well-intentioned campaign addressed, is the effect these illustrations have on the psyche, self-esteem, and well-being of women (in particular) not to mention the unrealistic view men might have of women. It brings to mind the shock the eminent Victorian art critic John Ruskin experienced upon discovering his wife's pubic hair, after which he was unable to consummate the marriage. Divorce followed shortly.

Bluegrass Vader

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

Bluegrass Vader. I was just about to click away when, bam, instant laughter.

Mobile phone companies are evil, irritating, and stupid defacto monopolies

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

[I'm sure this is nothing new and has been amply documented elsewhere but I'm in rant mode, not research mode, so here we go.] We're going to London soon so my wife calls up AT&T to make sure our iPhones will work in the UK. We already knew all about the ridiculous prices they charge for international data roaming (viewing a 3-minute video on YouTube would cost about $40!), so turning that feature off for the duration is not going to be a problem. After unlocking the phones for international access, the woman informed Meg of two other tidbits of mobile phone company idiocy:

1. If my iPhone is on in the UK and the phone rings but I don't answer, the call goes to voicemail. As it should. But somehow, I get charged for that call at $1.29/minute *and* perhaps an additional call from my phone to the US, also billed at $1.29/minute. Individual voicemails are limited to 2 minutes, but if I get 10 2-minute voicemails over the course of a couple days, I'm charged $25 for not answering my phone. And then I have to listen to all the voicemails...that's another $25. Insane and inane.

2. But it gets even more unbelievable! Then the woman tells Meg that when the iPhone is hooked up to a computer via USB, you shouldn't download the photos from the phone to the computer because you'll incur international data roaming charges and further that the only way to deal with this is to wait to sync your photos when you get back to the US. W! T! F! How is that even possible? This sounds like complete bullshit to me. The iPhone somehow calls AT&T to ask permission to d/l photos? Verifies the EXIF data? Informs the US government what you've been taking pictures of...some kind of distributed self-surveillance system? Is this really the case or was this woman just really confused about what she was reading off of her script?

Day of no news

posted by Jason Kottke May 14, 2008

Video: The Day There Was No News. This is what CNN should do instead of filling the 24 hours of the day with recycled hysteria.

US presidential candidate logos

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

A list of all the US presidential election logos from 1960-2008. That's a whole lot of red and blue. I particularly liked 1988's Dick "Chrysler" Gephardt and Paul Simon's Top Gun homage. (via quips)

iPhone celebs

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

From Coolspotters, a new site that tracks celebrity use of brands and fashion, here's a list of celebs that use an iPhone, including Heidi Klum, Karl Rove, Paris Hilton, and, er, Steve Jobs. (via mike davidson)

Bonnie Richardson

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

Bonnie Richardson, a junior from Rochelle High School in Texas, was the only woman from her school to qualify for the Texas 1A state track meet and ended up winning the team title for Rochelle...all by herself.

Richardson's title march began with field events on Friday when she won the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches), placed second in the long jump (18-7) and was third in the discus (121-0). On Saturday, she won the 200 meters in 25.03 seconds and nearly pulled off a huge upset in the 100 before finishing second (12.19) to defending champion Kendra Coleman of Santa Anna. Richardson, a junior, earned a total of 42 team points to edge team runner-up Chilton (36).

Cue Bjork's Army of Me. (via clusterflock)

Update: Richardson did it again, for the second year in a row. (via clusterflock)

Update: Sarah Stoakes of North Tama, Iowa also singlehandedly won the state championship for her team. (via @markwatts)

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

Ok, we've done books so let's move on to movies. From the book by Steven Jay Schneider comes a list of 1001 movies you must see before you die. Since it's less time consuming to watch movies rather than read books, I did a lot better on this list...I've seen 214/1001 movies on the list. My favorites are marked with an asterisk.

Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror(1922)
The General (1927)
King Kong (1933)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Pinocchio (1940)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
The Seven Samurai (1954)
Touch of Evil (1958)
The 400 Blows (1959)
North by Northwest (1959)
La Jetee (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
Lolita (1962)
Goldfinger (1964)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)*
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
The Sound of Music (1965)
Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
The Graduate (1967)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)*
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Dirty Harry (1971)
Deliverance (1972)
The Godfather (1972)*
The Sting (1973)
American Graffiti (1973)
The Conversation (1974)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Chinatown (1974)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
The Godfather Part II (1974)*
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
All the President's Men (1976)
Rocky (1976)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Network (1976)*
Star Wars (1977)*
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Annie Hall (1977)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Grease (1978)
Alien (1979)
Life of Brian (1979)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Jerk (1979)
The Muppet Movie (1979)
The Shining (1980)*
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)*
Airplane! (1980)
Raging Bull (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)*
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1981)
E.T.: The Extra-Terestrial (1982)
Blade Runner (1982)
Tootsie (1982)
Gandhi (1982)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Scarface (1983)
Amadeus (1984)
The Terminator (1984)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Ghostbusters (1984)
The Killing Fields (1984)
The Natural (1984)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Back to the Future (1985)
Brazil (1985)
Stand By Me (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Aliens (1986)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
A Room with a View (1986)
Platoon (1986)
Top Gun (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Withnail and I (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Untouchables (1987)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Akira (1988)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
The Naked Gun (1988)
Big (1988)
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
Die Hard (1988)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Rain Man (1988)
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Batman (1989)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Roger & Me (1989)
Glory (1989)
Say Anything (1989)
Goodfellas (1990)
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Pretty Woman (1990)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Total Recall (1990)
Boyz 'n the Hood (1991)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)*
JFK (1991)
Slacker (1991)
The Player (1992)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)*
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Crying Game (1992)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Philadelphia (1993)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Schindler's List (1993)
The Piano (1993)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Clerks (1994)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
The Lion King (1994)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Pulp Fiction (1994)*
Muriel's Wedding (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)*
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Casino (1995)
Babe (1995)
Toy Story (1995)
Braveheart (1995)
Clueless (1995)
Heat (1995)
Seven (1995)*
Smoke (1995)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Fargo (1996)
Independence Day (1996)
The English Patient (1996)
Shine (1996)
Trainspotting (1996)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Princess Mononoke (1997)*
The Butcher Boy (1997)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Boogie Nights (1997)*
Titanic (1997)*
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Buffalo 66 (1998)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Run Lola Run (1998)
Rushmore (1998)*
Pi (1998)
Happiness (1998)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Magnolia (1999)*
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Three Kings (1999)
Fight Club (1999)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
American Beauty (1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Matrix (1999)*
Gladiator (2000)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Amores Perros (2000)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Traffic (2000)
Memento (2000)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Amelie (2001)
Spirited Away (2001)
No Man's Land (2001)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)*
The Pianist (2002)
Lost in Translation (2003)
Oldboy (2003)
Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)*
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Sideways (2004)
Caché (2005)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Constant Gardener (2005)

If you'd like to post your movie list, I used this list along with a list of additions and subtractions.

Update: The very latest edition of the book adds and subtracts some more movies to/from the list; here are the added movies that I've seen:

Crash (2004)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Prestige (2006)
United 93 (2006)
Children of Men (2006)
El Laberinto del Fauno (2006)
The Queen (2006)
Apocalypto (2006)
The Departed (2006)
Volver (2006)

And deleted from the list:

Monsoon Wedding (2001)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Caché (2005)

It's interesting to watch the churn on a list like this. With the newest movies, they're making guesses as to how they'll age and in many cases, the guesses aren't that good. Also, removing Caché for Apocalypto? No fucking way. (thx, jack)

Packing light

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

Doug Dyment reveals his secrets to packing light for trips.

Dyment has two big tricks for packing a bag correctly: Don't let any space go unused, and wrap your clothes in bundles.

"If you're packing a pair of running shoes, say, don't forget there's a lot of space inside those shoes that you can use to pack stuff," he says.

When it comes to clothing, Dyment says travelers who fold items individually, put them in a stack and force them in the suitcase are making a huge mistake.

More info here, including a diagram of how to bundle wrap your clothes to save space.

Lost in a taxi

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

A short list of items lost in taxi cabs and how they were returned.

Thierry Belisha and Haimy Mann, jewelers from Montreal, left a suitcase full of diamonds and other gems in the back of a cab they took to La Guardia Airport after a show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Mr. Belisha, an Orthodox Jew, called several rabbi friends in Israel and asked them to pray for him, prayers that were answered when Hossam Abdalla, a Muslim cabdriver, found Mr. Belisha's business card in the trunk and returned the suitcase (with all the gems).

The list is a sidebar to the story about a cabbie's return of a $4 million Stradivarius to its owner and subsequent concert performed in the Newark airport taxi holding area, a delightful piece of reporting.

But despite the setting — or maybe because of it — Mr. Quint's audience seemed particularly moved by his gesture. "I like that he came here," Ebenezer Sarpeh, 46, said, in the accent of his native Ghana. "And, yeah, the music, I like it." It was Mr. Sarpeh who burst into spontaneous applause on several occasions and started yelling "magic fingers" during one particularly deft moment. Later, he took a turn in front of the stage and his fellow cabdrivers laughed and cheered while he shimmied and moonwalked, the Newark Taxi Cab Association's answer to Justin Timberlake.

The state of type

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

A bunch of examples of contemporary typography...lots of ideas to riff off here.

Now cars, then cars

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

Now-and-then photos of people who drive the same cars for long periods of time.

Approaching the uncanny valley from the other direction

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

Fashion photo retouching (i.e. high-brow Photoshopping) gets the New Yorker treatment with this story on retoucher Pascal Dangin, one of the best in the business.

In the March issue of Vogue Dangin tweaked a hundred and forty-four images: a hundred and seven advertisements (Estée Lauder, Gucci, Dior, etc.), thirty-six fashion pictures, and the cover, featuring Drew Barrymore. To keep track of his clients, he assigns three-letter rubrics, like airport codes. Click on the current-jobs menu on his computer: AFR (Air France), AMX (American Express), BAL (Balenciaga), DSN (Disney), LUV (Louis Vuitton), TFY (Tiffany & Co.), VIC (Victoria's Secret).

The article touches too briefly on the tension between reality and what ends up in the magazines and advertisements. As Errol Morris points out on his photography blog, it is often difficult to find truth in even the most vérité of photographs. Even so, the truth seems to be completely absent from Madonna's recent photo spread in Vanity Fair that was retouched by Dangin, especially this one in which a 50-year-old Madonna looks like a recent college graduate who's never lifted a weight in her life.

The uncanny valley comes into play here, which we usually think of in terms of robots, cartoon characters, and other pseudo anthropomorphic characters attempting and failing to look sufficiently human and therefore appearing creepy and scary. With an increasing amount of photo retouching, postproduction in film, plastic surgery, and increasingly effective makeup & skin care products, we're being bombarded with a growing amount of imagery featuring people who don't appear naturally human. People who appear often in media (film & tv stars, models, cable news anchors & reporters, miscellaneous celebrities, etc.) are creeping down into the uncanny valley to meet up with characters from The Polar Express. I don't know about you but a middle-aged Madonna made to look 24 gives me the heebie-jeebies. Perhaps the familar uncanny valley graph needs revision:

New Uncanny Valley

HBO on iTunes

posted by Jason Kottke May 13, 2008

As rumored yesterday, the iTunes Store has added some HBO shows to their lineup. The initial offerings are the first seasons of The Wire, Flight of the Conchords, Rome, and Deadwood, as well as seasons 1 and 6 of the Sopranos and all of Sex in the City. Prices are between $2-3 per episode. (thx, dhrumil)

100 essential jazz albums

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

David Remnick lists the top 100 essential jazz albums. Caveat:

I thought it might be useful to compile a list of a hundred essential jazz albums, more as a guide for the uninitiated than as a source of quarrelling for the collector.

The list is a companion piece to Remnick's article on jazz DJ Phil Schapp.

1001 Books That You Must Read Before You Die

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

A list of 1001 (fiction) Books That You Must Read Before You Die, from a book of the same name. I read too much nonfiction to be well-read fiction-wise, but I have read these thirty from the list:

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace*
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami*
Contact, Carl Sagan*
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov*
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell*
Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton
Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien*
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen*
Candide, Voltaire
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

Some of my very favorites are on there.

Update: Following Marco's lead, I've marked some favorites with an asterisk. Under duress, I'd admit to the following as my top three favorite fiction books, in order: Infinite Jest, 1984, and Lolita.

Well-designed tables of contents

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

A slideshow featuring well-designed tables of contents. There's an associated Flickr group if you fancy sharing your own. (via designnotes)

How to find images on the internet

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

How to find images on the internet, an extensive list of links and resources.


posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

FontStruct is an awesomely simple online font creation tool. Just draw on a grid with simple Photoshop-like tools, save, and download a TrueType version of the fonts you've just created. If this had been around when I made Silkscreen, it would have taken so much less time.

Brand Tags

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

Brand Tags asks people what they think of in association with particular brands and then the results are displayed as tag clouds. For instance, Playboy, Nike, Apple, and MTV. See also Celeb Tags.

Ideas in the air

posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

In last week's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell talked about inventions, scientific discovery, and how it's possible to "manufacture" ideas.

In 1999, when Nathan Myhrvold left Microsoft and struck out on his own, he set himself an unusual goal. He wanted to see whether the kind of insight that leads to invention could be engineered. He formed a company called Intellectual Ventures. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He hired the smartest people he knew. It was not a venture-capital firm. Venture capitalists fund insights — that is, they let the magical process that generates new ideas take its course, and then they jump in. Myhrvold wanted to make insights — to come up with ideas, patent them, and then license them to interested companies.

Myhrvold believes that scientific discovery is largely "in the air" and inevitable, not the product of individual genius. Given the thesis of the piece, as Kevin Kelly notes, it's odd that Gladwell tells the story of this new idea as not one that was "in the air" but as stories like these are traditionally told, through the insight of one man, Nathan Myhrvold.


posted by Jason Kottke May 12, 2008

The Sartorialist on headbands:

Headbands...what a tough accessory. When they are right, they are really right and when they are wrong you're Loverboy.

How to survive a nuclear blast

posted by Jason Kottke May 10, 2008

Advice for 1985: how to survive a nuclear blast. (via delicious ghost)

When Obama wins genesis

posted by Jason Kottke May 10, 2008

How this whole When Obama wins thing got started: some Adaptive Path folk musing about state name changes if Obama won:

Dan was twittering something about Alabama, but wrote "Alambama". He joked that when Barack Obama wins the election, certain states will probably be renamed - Alobama, Califobama, Nevama, Massabama, New Yobama. Of course, I thought that was hilarious and started thinking about other things that would change once Obama wins. So, a few of us started twittering silly little things, thinking of it as an inside joke.

Overnight, a few people caught on giving it a life of its own.

And if you're so inclined, you could Digg When Obama wins and help melt my web server.

Update: It's on Reddit as well.

Sad Kermit

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

A sad Kermit the Frog sings Elliot Smith's Needle in the Hay (complete with The Royal Tenenbaums parody), NIN's Hurt, and Radiohead's Creep (in which Kermit says "fucking"). (via buzzfeed)

Volcano lightning

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Truly awesome photos of the plume from Chile's recently reactivated Chaitén volcano merging with a lightning-infested thunderstorm.

Harper's mashups

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Jezebel's 2008 Harper's/Harper's Bazaar mashup, I'd like you to meet Andrew Hearst's 2005 Harper's/US Weekly mashup.

The truth about Russia

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Chip Kidd's copy of the New York Times reveals the truth behind Russia's new President: Trickery. (via book design review)

Eight things I learned this week, 03

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

[Part three of a recurring series...part one, part two.]

Starting in June 2009, the US government will require a passport or "similar federally approved document" for entering the US by land. Both US and Canadian citizens living near the borders are unhappy. [Salon]

Fifty percent of the Australia's houses sit less than 8 miles from a beach. Eighty percent of Australians live within 80 miles of the sea. [Architectural Record]

The capacity of Niagara Falls is controlled artificially; the flow is doubled during normal tourist visiting hours. [Newsweek]

As a reward for returning the Stradivarius left in the backseat of Mohamed Khalil's taxi, violinist Philippe Quint gave the cabbie a reward of $100, a private 30-minute performance in the taxi waiting area at Newark, and tickets for him and his family to Quint's next performance at Carnegie Hall. Khalil also received a medal from the city of Newark. The Stradivarius is valued at $4 million. [BBC]

Toilet bowls are cleaner than the average computer keyboard. Studies differ on how much cleaner...1/5? 1/67? 1/400? [Gelf Magazine]

When actively used, women's ballet shoes can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 days. [Arizona Daily Star]

For $6,000, you can buy a Worldchanging Carbon Clean Slate gift for your graduating high schooler, which will offset all the climate emissions that your kid has accumulated from birth. For $25,000, you can offset their entire life. [Worldchanging]

By 2015, Moscow will have the 10 tallest office buildings in Europe. The rent for Moscow office space is currently higher than in midtown Manhattan. [Newsweek]

And finally, a holdover from the last week (which itself was a holdover from the week before). Bob Herbert got his "a third of all American high school students drop out" stat from a report prepared by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. As I erroneously surmised last week, the ~10% rate from here is not an annual dropout rate. I don't know how you get from 10% of 16-24 year-olds not having a high school diploma in 2005 to 1/3 of all students dropping out of high school. Final update.

Oldest lightbulb

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

A lightbulb in a firehouse in California has been burning more or less continuously since 1901. You can check on the light's status on its WWW home page. (thx, john)

When Obama wins microsite

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Last night, folks on Twitter began to contemplate what will happen if Barack Obama wins the nomination. The meme seems to have begun with Andrew Crow's vision for the future:

When Obama wins... unicorns will crap ice cream and pastries.

I collected a bunch of the best ones and made a page that cycles through them: When Obama wins.

Odd platypus DNA

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Do we really need science to tell us that the DNA of an egg-laying, no nippled, duck-billed mammal is unusual?

Warm tits

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

Just in time for my newly formed headlines tag: Great tits cope well with warming. (thx, ryan & alex)

Processing in JavaScript

posted by Jason Kottke May 09, 2008

This is pretty incredible...John Resig has ported the Processing visualization language to JavaScript. Wow. (via waxy)

New Yorker on Twitter

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

The stodgy old New Yorker has a Twitter account and its friends are NPR, Harper's, Gothamist, Huffington Post, the NY Times, and the WSJ, among others. Magazines should have friends, no? (Sniff, the WSJ has no friends.)

NYer Conference, other day one notables

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

British architect David Adjaye observed that not only are public buildings built for "the public" but they also create "the public" by establishing a space for it to exist. I guess by the same token, buildings built for private citizens also create private citizens...hence, eventually, gated communities and the like.

Adjaye also described his native Africa as layered combination of its different eras: colonialism + nation building + European + Islam + urban/capitalist.

The chefs panel, with Bill Buford interviewing Daniel Humm, Marc Taxiera, and David Chang, was the most entertaining of the day. Right at the end, David Chang told a short anecdote about a customer who complained to him about the amount of fat in the Momofuku pork bun...pork as in pork belly and pork belly as in mostly fat. Chang told him that's the way it came and that he wasn't getting a replacement. Shrugging, he told the audience he had a different idea about hospitality than most restaurateurs..."the customer is not always right".

Michael Novogratz, the 317th richest American, explained the current financial crisis. Goes something like this. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of China and India for both trade and labor laid the groundwork for globalization. Lots and lots of cheap labor available made for cheap goods and low inflation. Between early 2003 and late 2007, globalization kicked into high gear and people thought, this is it, this is the end of inflation forever. But the workers in Eastern Europe, India, and China gradually became consumers. They bought TVs and cars and better food and whaddya know, inflation is back. The bubble burst.

Amy Smith challenges her students to try living on $2 a day for a week...that includes food, transportation, and entertainment. This video of a talk that Smith did at TED in 2006 covers much of what she talked about today at the New Yorker Conference. The NY Times covered her clever inventions back in 2003.

Eric Haseltine

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

Haseltine came from an unusual place to the NSA: Walt Disney Imagineering. Between his overuse of the phrases "bad guys" and "war on terror", there were a couple of interesting moments.

In Haseltine's estimation, something called Intellipedia is the biggest advance in the intelligence community since 9/11. Intellipedia is basically an internal Wikipedia for people who work for one of the 16 US intelligence agencies. Its goal is to break down some of the barriers between these agencies in terms of information sharing and colloboration.

Right at the end of the session, interviewer Jane Mayer asked Haseltine if perhaps the Bush administration is overreacting to terrorism...if the mindset that danger lurks everywhere is appropriate and realistic. He replied that since he got involved in the intelligence community, he doesn't sleep well at night. "I know too much."

Whatever Gavin Newsom is selling, I'll take ten

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

I'll admit I don't watch politicians speak that often, particularly in public. So maybe I'm being a little naive here, but San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is nothing short of a magician up on the stage. He talked for 20 straight minutes (his would-be interviewer could only get in 2-3 questions during that time and Newsom pretty much ignored them and talked about whatever he pleased) and it felt both like 5 minutes and exhausting at the same time. By the time he'd finished what I would term a sermon, I wanted to sign up for whatever he was selling at a price no lower than my heart and soul. I haven't non-sexually crushed this hard on a speaker since Robert Wright.

Ok, two particularly interesting things that broke my gaze long enough for me to scribble them down in my notebook.

1. Newsom talked about building filling stations for electric cars that relied on exchanging batteries instead of plugging in and waiting for your car to charge. You don't need to own your particular battery.

2. In SF, he's hoping to exchange the payroll tax for a carbon tax. In his words, tax a bad thing (carbon use) instead of taxing a good thing (jobs). That way, the incentives are in the right place...people aren't penalized for working but are penalized for using excessive amounts of carbon.

Update: Oh, don't get me wrong, I have no idea if Newsom was telling the truth or what...it's just that it all sounded so good coming out of his mouth. Even when it sounded like bullshit I wanted to believe him. I felt so dirty and manipulated afterwards, but still wanted to believe. Like I said, love...what's truth got to do with it?

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

The purpose of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008:

To prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment.

It passed the Senate earlier this year is expected to be signed into law by the President soon. No Gattaca! (via nyer conference)

Gladwell on the mismatch problem

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

Picking a subject from his upcoming book, Malcolm Gladwell talked about the difficulty in hiring people in the increasingly complex thought-based contemporary workplace. Specifically that we're using a collection of antiquated tools to evaluate potential employees, creating what he calls "mismatch problems" in the workplace, when the critera for evaluating job candidates is out of step with the demands of the job.

To illustrate his point, Gladwell talked about sports combines, events that professional sports leagues hold for scouts to evaluate potential draftees based on a battery of physical, psychological, and intelligence tests. What he found, a result that echoes what Michael Lewis talks about in Moneyball, is that sports combines are a poor way to determine how well an athlete will eventually perform as a member of their eventual team. One striking example he gave is the intelligence test they give to NFL quarterbacks. Two of the test's all-time worst performers were Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw, Hall of Famers both.

A more material example is teachers. Gladwell says that while we evaluate teachers on the basis of high standardized test scores and whether they have degrees and credentialed training, that makes little difference in how well people actually teach.

New Yorker Conference

posted by Jason Kottke May 08, 2008

I'll be at the New Yorker conference today and some attempt to provide an alive weblogging of the goings-on will be made. On the slate are kottke.org tagholders David Remnick, Rebecca Mead, David Chang, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Surowiecki.

Butterfield wins best beard contest

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Stewart Butterfield wins Silicon Valley best beard contest. Sloooow news day at Fortune...did the bosses tell 'em to Valleywag it up a little? (Or should I say, Valleywag it down?)

Non-player declares for NBA draft

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Despite having no basketball playing ability or experience, college junior Zach Feinstein has declared himself for the 2008 NBA Draft. You can find him listed on the NBA's official early entry list under "unknown individuals". (thx, jared)

Advice for billionaires

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

W magazine has some advice for billionaires on Getting Things Done.

Delegate. Name any task — somewhere, a billionaire is outsourcing it. One well-known mogul favors shabby chic cashmere sweaters but doesn't have the patience to let them get slightly worn at the elbows, so he employs a man to wear them around for him first.

I can't tell if this list is a joke or not...

Lipstick as economic indicator

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Lipstick as economic indicator.

Ms. Stein's rationale for buying lipstick echoes a theory once proposed by Leonard Lauder, the chairman of Estee Lauder Companies. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 deflated the economy, Mr. Lauder noticed that his company was selling more lipstick than usual. He hypothesized that lipstick purchases are a way to gauge the economy. When it's shaky, he said, sales increase as women boost their mood with inexpensive lipstick purchases instead of $500 slingbacks.

More economic indicators: sushi, Big Macs, steakhouses, Starbucks coffee, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and Jay-Z.

Grand Theft Auto, circa 1985

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Commercial for the little-known version of Grand Theft Auto for the circa-1985 NES. The Tanooki Suit is the best part. (via house next door)

Drawing all of NYC

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Artist Jason Polan (he of the The Every Piece Of Art in The Museum Of Modern Art Book) is on a mission to draw every single person in New York City. If you'd like to be drawn, drop him a line on where you'll be, and he'll show up and sketch you.

Abstract Powerpoint slides

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

A toolkit of abstract slides that you can use for your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation. Be cause "PEOPLE cannot COPE without some kind of visual STIMULATION". (via bbj)

Language bias of babies

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

One of the interesting findings of Elizabeth Spelke's Harvard baby brain research lab is that while babies prefer looking at pictures of people of their own race over other races, they are much more biased about language.

'They like toys more that are associated with someone who has spoken their language. They prefer to eat foods offered to them by a native speaker compared to a speaker of a foreign language. And older children say that they want to be friends with someone who speaks in their native accent.' Accents and vernacular, far more than race, seem to influence the people we like. 'Children would rather be friends with someone who is from a different race and speaks with a native accent versus somebody who is their own race but speaks with a foreign accent.'

Love = Love, Kent Rogowski

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

Opening tonight at Jen Bekman: Love = Love by Kent Rogowski. Rogowski takes pieces from different puzzles and assembles them into new images.

Email me

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

If you Google "email me", kottke.org is the first result. This may explain all the spam I've been getting. (via two separate most-likely-drunken emails last night)

Honor system bakery

posted by Jason Kottke May 07, 2008

City Café Bakery in Kitchener, Ontario doesn't have a cash register. Instead, they let their customers add up their own bill and put the money into a an old bus fare box. Here's how it works:

"I liked the idea of simplifying things and ... the honour system made a whole lot of sense," Bergen says. "What irritated me about going into Tim Hortons, for example, was waiting in line for something as simple as getting a donut and a coffee. So the thought was, someone can pour his own coffee, grab his own bagel, cut it himself, throw the money in, and walk out. We don't touch 60 per cent of the transaction."

"Everything is rounded off to the nearest quarter with taxes included where applicable," he says. "So every desert is $1.50 (tarts, brownies, and date squares), every pizza lunch is $5, every beverage is $1.25, every loaf of bread is $2.75 (Italian sourdough, multi-grain, and raisin bread on weekends), croissants are $1 each, and bagels are three for $2 (plain, sesame, and multi-grain)."

The bakery conducts audits every six months and Bergen says only once did things come up short.

"Our theory is that two per cent of our sales are being ripped off. 'Ripped off' in the sense that there are people who forget to pay or they make a mistake in paying, and then there are people who deliberately don't pay. And every so often we have to kick somebody out that we know hasn't been paying," he says. "But at the same time we figure we're being overpaid by three per cent. Some people come in and want a $2.75 loaf of bread, but they see we're busy so they throw $3 in and walk out. Or, although we discourage tips, some people still give them to us. But because the staff is paid well (the average wage is $15.50 an hour), the tips go into the general pot."

See also: What The Bagel Man Saw and Business lessons from the coffee and doughnut guy. (via bb)

Politics and truth

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

P.J O'Rourke:

Politics won't allow for the truth.

(via mr)

Commercial parodies

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

A list of the 50 greatest commercial parodies of all time, with video evidence.

Bill Henson's opera photos

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

Bill Henson's photos of people at the opera, including a short interview with the photographer.

What I was interested in terms of Paris Opera series was that whole strange business of finding oneself with a whole lot of other people gathered in a darkened space, such as the opera, awaiting some special event. There is something quite magical about it. I've always found that people sitting in the dark just waiting for something is the most haunting sort of experience. It seemed to me it was a common experience, a universal thing that everyone feels, really, at some point or another.

More of Henson's opera photos here. (via conscientious)

High Line construction progress

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

Curbed has some photos of the construction progress on the High Line. Compare and contrast with some photos I took in early 2004.


posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

Over at H&FJ, the H talks about the &.

As both its function and form suggest, the ampersand is a written contraction of "et," the Latin word for "and." Its shape has evolved continuously since its introduction, and while some ampersands are still manifestly e-t ligatures, others merely hint at this origin, sometimes in very oblique ways.

He goes on to describe several ampersands they've designed for their typefaces. When designing the ampersand for Silkscreen, I came up with a solution that many continue to dislike:

Silkscreen Ampersand

If you're logged in to Flickr, you can see it action at a more appropriate size in the "prints & more" label above a photo. The symbol is basically a capital E with a vertical line through the middle...an e-t ligature that's really more of an overstrike. I fashioned it after the way I hand-write my ampersand, which I got from my dad's handwriting1. I don't know where he got it from; it's not a common way to represent that symbol, although I did find a few instances in the list of fonts installed on my computer.

I didn't think about this way at the time, but the odd ampersand is one of the few distinguishing features of Silkscreen. There's only so many ways you can draw letterforms in a 5x5 pixel space so a lot of the bitmap fonts like Silkscreen end up looking very similar. The ampersand gives it a bit of needed individuality. (The 4 is the other oddish character...it's open at the top instead of diagonally closed.)

[1] Now that I think about it, I borrowed several aspects from my dad's handwriting. I write my 7s with a bar (to distinguish them from 1s), my 8s as two separate circles rather than a figure-eight stroke, and my 4s with the open top. Oh, and a messy signature.

Larry Gagosian profile

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

Longish but interesting profile of Larry Gagosian, the world's foremost art dealer.

Gagosian attracts artists and collectors alike because he understands the intense coupling between art and money. In 2004 the top price for a painting by Takashi Murakami at auction was $624,000. Since then, Gagosian has sold Murakamis to Cohen and others, and in November one was auctioned for $2.4m. He has repeated that trick time after time. Not long after joining his stable in 2003, the painter John Currin made his auction record of $847,500; his highest price before joining Gagosian was a little over half that. Recently Adam Sender, the head of the hedge fund Exis Capital Management, reportedly sold a Currin painting through Gagosian for $1.4m. Before Glenn Brown began showing with Gagosian, in 2004, his top price at auction was $46,000; in June 2007, a painting of his made $969,000. In May, when Anselm Reyle was still represented by Gavin Brown, his work was fetching at most around $200,000 at auction. In October, after he had joined Gagosian's stable, a work of his made nearly four times that amount

Swing jumps

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

Photos of people jumping out of swings. (via clusterflock)

Alpine camping gear

posted by Jason Kottke May 06, 2008

BLDGBLOG on the architecture of alpine camping gear.

Viewed architecturally, these examples of high-tech camping gear — capable of housing small groups of people on the vertical sides of cliffs, as if bolted into the sky — begin to look like something dreamed up by Archigram: nomadic, modular, and easy to assemble even in wildly non-urban circumstances. This is tactical gear for the spatial expansion of private leisure.

Don't miss the gorgeous accompanying graphic.

Yahoo stock plunges?

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

The big tech/business news of the day is Yahoo's stock "plunge" following the withdrawl of Microsoft's takeover offer. I'm sure plunge headlines sell newspapers and all, but the more long-term story is more interesting.

On Jan 31, the day before Microsoft offered $31/share for Yahoo, YHOO was at $19.18/share (market cap: $26.4 billion) and MSFT was at $32.60/share (market cap: $303.6 billion). At the close of trading today, YHOO closed at $24.37/share (market cap: $33.5 billion) and MSFT was at $29.08/share (market cap: $270.8 billion). In other words, the Microsoft offer increased the value of Yahoo! Inc. by more than $7 billion and decreased the value of Microsoft Corporation by almost $33 billion. In still other words, in attempting to take Yahoo by force, they let an amount equal to Yahoo slip through their fingers. Why isn't anyone writing about Yahoo's amazing stock gains and Microsoft's plunge?

Parallels on iPhone follies

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

An Australian news channel used my fake Parallels-on-an-iPhone graphic on a recent newscast. Hee. (thx, amos)

In the moment or photos forever

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen occasionally asks his readers to suggest topics for him to write about. Stump the polymath, as it were. I posted a suggestion that I'd been wondering about recently:

Is taking a photo or video of an event for later viewing worth it, even if it means more or less missing the event in realtime? What's better, a lifetime of mediated viewing of my son's first steps or a one-time in-person viewing?

and he answered it today:

If you take photos you will remember the event more vividly, if only because you have to stop and notice it. The fact that your memories will in part be "false" or constructed is besides the point; they'll probably be false anyway. In other words, there's no such thing as the "one-time in-person viewing," it is all mediated viewing, one way or the other. Daniel Gilbert's book on memory is the key source here.

I take a lot less photos than I used to — even though cameras are easier to use and carry around than ever — and prefer to experience the moment rather than fiddle with the camera. But that seems to swim against tide these days...camera irises seemingly outnumber real ones at photo-worthy events and places.

Hypocritical bicyclists

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

Tim at Short Schrift, propelled into ranting by an article in the NY Times about NYC's bike lanes, opines on grandstanding, law-breaking, holier-than-thou, hypocritical bicyclists.

Bicyclists drive me nuts. In Philadelphia, as in cities across this great country, bicyclists routinely flout the law, riding on the sidewalk when it's convenient and holding up traffic in the street whenever possible. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a bicyclist at a stop sign or even a red light, or wait behind a car that is correctly stopped at such an intersection. Instead, the man or woman on the bicycle will weave between parked, stopped, and moving cars to gain a fractional advantage. Yet if an automobile so much as grazes a bicycle lane, all hell breaks loose.

Little Mena

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

I think I have a crush on 16-year-old Mena Trott.

Le long Deck

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

The Deck is a smallish ad network that handles the advertising for kottke.org, which consists of an unobtrusive high-quality advertisement in the sidebar of each page of the site. The Deck recently moved to a spiffy new domain and is no longer so smallish; the network now includes 29 sites.

Some recent additions to The Deck include Ze Frank, Chip Kidd's Good Is Dead, FFFFOUND!, Dean Allen's recently resurrected Textism, Clusterflock, and Aviary.

If you'd like to advertise on kottke.org and 28 other great sites, head on over to The Deck site...we'd love to have you.


posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

Olinda is a social radio prototype comissioned by the BBC and built by Schulze & Webb.

Olinda is a prototype digital radio that has your social network built in, showing you the stations your friends are listening to. It's customisable with modular hardware, and aims to provoke discussion on the future and design of radios for the home.

Rave reviews for Perfumes: The guide

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

This is the second rave review I've read of Perfumes: The Guide.

Now there's a book called Perfumes: The Guide, by the husband and wife team of Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, which is not just enlightening, but beautifully written, brilliant, often very funny, and occasionally profound. In fact, it's as vivid as any criticism I've come across in the last few years, and what's more a revelation: part history, part swoon, part plaint. All of the other reading I was supposed to do was put aside while I went through it, and it took me some time to finish, in part because I was savoring it and in part because I kept stopping to copy out passages to e-mail off to friends. In the library of books both useful and delightful, it deserves a place on the shelves somewhere between Pauline Kael's 5001 Nights at the Movies and Brillat-Savarin's incomparable Physiology of Taste.

The first review was this New Yorker article:

The joy of Turin and Sanchez's book, however, is their ability to write about smell in a way that manages to combine the science of the subject with the vocabulary of scent in witty, vivid descriptions of what these smells are like. Their work is, quite simply, ravishingly entertaining, and it passes the high test that their praise is even more compelling than their criticism.

Perfume is one of those things that I don't particularly like in real life but that I really enjoy reading about.

Cultural attache

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

Movie producer Brian Grazer recently interviewed candidates for a new cultural attaché, someone who would be responsible for Grazer's ongoing cultural education, keeping him abreast of current goings-on in the news, science, music, etc.

"They have to be really resourceful," Grazer said. "I like to meet people in dangerous organizations, and my cultural attaché finds out who that person is — who runs the Yakuza, or the Masons, or MI5."

I am nowhere near that resourceful, but I have often thought of parleying my blogging experience into providing a similar service for individuals, doing what I do on kottke.org but on an individual basis, tailored to the needs of a specific person, or probably more usefully, a specific company. (via zach)

Mukesh Ambani's expensive house

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

Mukesh Ambani, the fifth richest man in the world, is building the most expensive single family residence ever, a $2 billion — yes, BILLION — 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai.

Atop six stories of parking lots, Antilla's living quarters begin at a lobby with nine elevators, as well as several storage rooms and lounges. Down dual stairways with silver-covered railings is a large ballroom with 80% of its ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers. It features a retractable showcase for pieces of art, a mount of LCD monitors and embedded speakers, as well as stages for entertainment. The hall opens to an indoor/outdoor bar, green rooms, powder rooms and allows access to a nearby "entourage room" for security guards and assistants to relax.

Photos here. In fairness, the place sounds like a combination corporate HQ with an incorporated family living space, but still. Not noted in the article is the expensive laboratory-grade scanning electron microscope that Ambani uses to locate his teensy penis, for which the 27-story house is compensation.

Grant Achatz in the New Yorker

posted by Jason Kottke May 05, 2008

The New Yorker profiles chef Grant Achatz this week. The piece focuses on his restaurant, Alinea, and the battle with tongue cancer that threatened his life, and worse to Achatz, his career and passion. The loss of his sense of taste had a bright side:

Because his ability to taste has come back over time, Achatz feels that he is understanding the sense in a new way — the way you would if you could see only in black-and-white and, one by one, colors were restored to you. He says, "When I first tasted a vanilla milkshake" — after the end of his treatment — "it tasted very sweet to me, because there's no salt, no acid. It just tasted sweet. Now, introduce bitter, so now I'm understanding the relationship between sweet and bitter — how they work together and how they balance. And now, as salt comes back, I understand the relationship among the three components."

In the Diner's Journal, Pete Wells contrasts Achatz with another chef that the New Yorker recently profiled, Momofuku's David Chang.

In March, The New Yorker published a profile of a chef who was about to open a restaurant. The chef complained about his health, worried about the future and cursed as if he had slammed his thumb in a car door.

On Monday, the magazine will publish a profile of another chef. Last year a doctor told this chef that he had advanced oral cancer and that unless he had his tongue cut out, he would be dead within a few months. According to The New Yorker, the chef reacted as if he'd just been handed a particularly challenging logic problem.

The point of the contrast is not to marginalize Chang's problems or his reaction to them but to demonstrate what a different approach Achatz takes to kitchen work than the typical (stereotypical?) Anthony Bourdainity of the restaurant kitchen.

The NYer article includes an online companion, a slideshow of photos of the latest menu items at Alinea and chef Achatz, looking very Seth Bullock.

Turtle on wheels

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

After Jim Lee's turtle was hurt in an auto accident, she never regained the use of her hind legs. Instead of letting her die, Lee affixed hind wheels to her shell to help her get around. That's right, a turtle with wheels:

After some weeks Little Bit seemed to have made a full recovery except for the use of her hind legs. So some wheels seemed to be the way to go. Some lightweight model airplane wheels on a wire frame did the trick. The removable wheels were secured by a velcro strip epoxied to her plastron. The velcro strips on the carapace were removed after four months. She was eating, drinking, and exploring all the rooms of my house. Eventually she was able to move around outside as well.

Movie director cameos

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

A collection of videos showing directors in cameos.

Many directors at some point in their careers have stepped out from behind the camera to act. This is typically in a smaller, cameo role, and often with varying degrees of success: sometimes they're completely natural and sometimes they bring the film to a screeching halt. And sometimes you'd never even know they were there.

How to take better photos

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

A list of 21 ways to shoot better photographs. I can hear my photographer friends snickering about the cliches on the list, but if you don't know much about photography but are interested in learning, you could do worse than to explore some of these techniques.

Brad Bird business advice

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

Lessons from Pixar's Brad Bird on fostering innovation in the workplace.

In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie's budget — but never shows up in a budget — is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.

What's under your kilt?

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

A list of responses to "The Question" asked of all kilt-wearing gentlement: What's under your kilt?

Eight things I learned this week, 02

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

[Part two of a recurring series...part one is here.]

Barack Obama is poised to run the first privately financed general-election presidential campaign since the mid 1970s. One reason for the move away from public funds is that Obama could raise more many than would be available to him through the public financing program. [WSJ]

According to author Clay Shirky and IBM researcher Martin Wattenberg, Wikipedia represents about 100 million hours of human thought. Compare that to 200 billion hours of television watched in the US every year. [Clay Shirky]

Over the last six decades, the real incomes of middle-class families grew twice as fast under Democratic presidents as they did under Republican presidents. The real incomes of working-poor families grew six times as fast under Democratic presidents. [NY Times]

OPEC members will take in nearly $1 trillion in income because of record crude oil prices. [Reuters @ National Post]

A Berkeley study indicates that children who attend daycare or playgroups cut their risk of the most common type of childhood leukemia by about 30%. [BBC]

The starting price for a 1000-year-old olive tree is around €18,000. The trees are popular as landscpae art for wealthy homeowners, golf courses, and resorts. [WSJ]

SUV sales are down and with them, their prices. The rising cost of gas is to blame. Many dealers won't even accept SUVs as trade-ins. [AP]

Brazilian chica nailed seven. [My inbox, unsolicited bulk email from "Johnna Laird"]

And finally, a bit of housekeeping from last week's post. Several people wrote in to say that Bob Herbert's statement that "roughly a third of all American high school students drop out" was entirely out of line with the actual statistics. I'm no statistician, but if you take 2005's ~10% annual dropout rate and apply it to an incoming 9th grade class for 4 years, you end up with about 66% of the students reaching graduation...or "roughly a third" dropping out. Not sure that's where the number came from, but it's a possibility.

Newspaper blackout poems

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

Austin Kleon makes Newspaper Blackout Poems by blacking out all but a few choice words of newspaper articles.

A Woman's bust is the host of Romance, so Don't deplore my fondness for It

Alexey Titarenko

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

Wonderful timelapse photos by Alexey Titarenko of "shadow" people in St. Petersburg just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This one is stunning. (via heading east)

Single wealthy male seeking...

posted by Jason Kottke May 02, 2008

Craigslist posting by Rich Bigdollars (not his real last name) looking for a lady to spend some time with.

I am so rich. Goodness, gracious. My, my, my. I am so, very, very wealthy. How many dollars do I have? That's a question only my team of ten fat accountants can answer, because they have golden calculators which I bought for them with my money. And what is on those golden calculators? Numbers. And those numbers equal the dollars in my bank accounts, which are huge.


posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Small world! I tweeted/Twittered/twat? a message earlier this evening that said I was in Binghamton, NY and within the hour, several people told me I should have a spiedie.

Spiedie consists of cubes of chicken and pork, but it may also be made from lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer (sometimes for as long as two weeks under a controlled environment) in a special spiedie marinade, then grilled carefully on spits over a charcoal pit. The freshly prepared cubes are served on soft Italian bread or a submarine roll, wood skewer and all, then drizzled with fresh marinade. The roll is used as an oven glove to grip the meat while the skewer is removed. Spiedie meat cubes can also be eaten straight off the wooden skewer or can be served in salads, stir fries, and a number of other dishes. The marinade recipe varies, usually involving olive oil, vinegar, and a variety of Italian spices and fresh mint.

I wish I'd have known about this before dinner! (thx, twitter followers)

Long drives on Google Maps

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Alan Taylor has collected the longest drives that Google Maps will give driving directions for.

It turns out there are multiple "longest drives", because the Google Maps World is partitioned (many countries don't support driving directions), and sometimes ferries are included, and sometimes they are not.

The longest he's found so far is from the Aleutian Islands to the tip of Newfoundland, a distance of over 7,200 miles. You can drag the path around to make it a lot longer (more than 11,000 miles) but that's cheating.

How to synchronize five metronomes

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

How to synchronize 5 metronomes. If you only watch one metronome video in your life, make it this one.

Director compilations

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

YouTube user barringer82 has posted several mini-compilations of films of different eras and directors. For instance: the 1980s, Wes Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Lynch, the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino, and the 1970s.


posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

The Velocouture group on Flickr collects photographs of bicycle fashion fashion, on a bicycle. The best ones are of people who try to coordinate their outfits with their bikes. This gal is particularly fashionable. See also this NY Times slideshow.

Disney is back

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Some say the Disney magic is back. Hit TV shows (Hannah Montana), increased revenue from movies (Enchanted), and the acquisition of Pixar are all contributing factors, but new CEO Bob Iger is getting the most credit.

Mr Iger's management style is said by many to have unlocked Disney's creativity. "There was already creativity inside Disney, but Bob removed the barriers to it," says Peter Chernin, chief operating officer of News Corporation, a rival media group. "Michael Eisner was all about his own creativity," says Stanley Gold, a former Disney board director who led a campaign to oust Mr Eisner in 2004, referring to the way in which the former boss meddled in the detail of Disney's parks and movies. In contrast, he says, "Bob pushes creative decisions to the people below him."

Said it before and I'll say it again: hire good creative people, let them do their thing, and ye shall reap the benefits. And Christ, no wonder Disney was sucking so bad:

Before Mr Iger took over, Disney had a factory-like process for animation in which a business-development team came up with ideas and allocated directors to them.

Bob Dylan radio show

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Wait, wait, wait. Bob Dylan has a radio show? Yes, he does...on XM. From the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, a list of the topics, movies, recipes, music, etc. that Dylan discusses on the show.

Let me give you my recipe for a rum and Coca-Cola. Take a tall glass, put some ice in it, two fingers of Bombay rum, and a bottle of Coca-Cola. Shake it up well and go drink it in the sunshine!

In the magazine, an illustration tells the tale with a clever wink to a Dylan poster by Milton Glaser.

Bobs Dylan

Glaser on the left, yo. (via hysterical paroxysm)

Sara Tucholsky home run

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

When Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit her first career home run in one of the last games of the softball season, something odd happened. She missed the bag at first and when she doubled back to touch it, her knee gave out. Her teammates were unable to help her around the bases so it looked like her only career home run would turn into a single. Then a member of the other team, a senior with knee problems of her own, said:

Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?

Update: Here's an overwrought, overproduced video of the home run and its aftermath. (thx, tim)

Francis Bacon documentary

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Great 60-minute documentary on English painter Francis Bacon in six parts: one, two, three, four, five, six. The production is inventive and I've never seen someone answer so many seemingly penetrating questions so quickly and fluidly, save for the one he has to read off of a card produced from his pocket. (thx, dean)

Update: The program is available in one part here. (thx, marissa)

Matthew Dent

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

Interview with Matthew Dent, the chap who designed the fantastic new UK coinage.

There were plenty of technical issues I had to come to terms with in conjunction with the distribution of metal across the coin and the high-speed striking process. At one point I considered suggesting that half the 20 pence's border — where it met the shield — be removed. It would have still been a rounded heptagon, only its border wouldn't completely surround the coin. There were potential issues with this; I learnt that the distribution of metal wouldn't be balanced, thereby possibly affecting the striking of the coins and the acceptance of them by cash machines. Oh well... this competition was a learning curve. And as someone who was unfamiliar with the technical aspects of coin manufacture - you have to ask don't you?

(via quipsologies)

All sorts of subway photos

posted by Jason Kottke May 01, 2008

James Danziger presents a short history of subway photos, starting with photos of sleeping Japanese salarymen on trains and then moving to Walker Evans, Bruce Davidson, etc. Some of my favorite subway photos are from the Moscow subway...Stalin look-a-likes, huge guitars, and many sleeping people.

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