Entries for July 2008 (Archives)

RBI Baseball and Tecmo Super Bowl active players

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

For the past few years, Mark Bottrell has been tracking how many players who have appeared in RBI Baseball (from 1988) and Tecmo Super Bowl (from 1991) are still active in MLB and the NFL. Sad news this year…only one player is still active.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

The New Yorker pulled one over on me. The recent Summer Fiction Issue contained a piece (not online) by novelist Haruki Murakami which I skimmed right over, thinking it was a piece of short fiction. Turns out it’s an excerpt from Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a book detailing how he became a novelist and an avid runner.

In other words, you can’t please everybody.

Even when I ran the club, I understood this. A lot of the customers came to the club. If one of out ten enjoyed the place and decided to come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten people didn’t like the club. Realizing this lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to do that, I had to make my philosophy absolutely clear, and patiently maintain that philosophy no matter what. This is what I learned from running a business.

After “A Wild Sheep Chase,” I continued to write with the same attitude that I’d developed as a business owner. And with each work my readership — the one-in-ten repeaters — increased.

In addition to writing his dozen novels, Murakami has also run 26 marathons. The Economist calls the book both puzzling and intriguing and stops just short of recommending it, while the A.V. Club really liked it. The Observer has another excerpt from the book about the author’s ultramarathon attempt.

Top 25 documentaries

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

In October 2007, the International Documentary Association made a list of the 25 best documentaries.

1. Hoop Dreams (1994), Steve James
2. The Thin Blue Line (1988), Errol Morris
3. Bowling for Columbine (2002), Michael Moore
4. Spellbound (2002), Jeffrey Blitz
5. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976), Barbara Kopple
6. An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Davis Guggenheim
7. Crumb (1994), Terry Zwigoff
8. Gimme Shelter (1970), Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
9. The Fog of War (2003), Errol Morris
10. Roger & Me (1989), Michael Moore
11. Super Size Me (2004), Morgan Spurlock
12. Don’t Look Back (1967) D.A. Pennebaker
13. Salesman (1968), Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
14. Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982), Godfrey Reggio
15. Sherman’s March (1986), Ross McElwee
16. Grey Gardens (1976), Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
17. Capturing the Friedmans (2003), Andrew Jarecki
18. Born into Brothels, (2004), Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
19. Titicut Follies (1967), Frederick Wiseman
20. Buena Vista Social Club (1999), Wim Wenders
21. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), Michael Moore
22. Winged Migration (2002), Jacques Perrin
23. Grizzly Man (2005), Werner Herzog
24. Night and Fog (1955), Alain Resnais
25. Woodstock (1970), Michael Wadleigh

Black is back (to the end of the line)

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

James Danziger notes that the issue of Vogue Italia following the acclaimed issue featuring only black models has zero black models in it.

How absolutely great, but now the August issue is out — themed around a faux funeral photo tribute to Yves Saint Laurent — and there’s apparently not one black model to be found. This is especially ironic given the fact that Yves Saint Laurent was one of the first major designers to regularly feature black models in his runway shows. You would have thought they could have found room to at least fit Naomi Campbell in somewhere. Wouldn’t she look chic in widow’s weeds? This kind of tokenism ultimately seems a step backwards to me.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

From an article on a new book written by a woman whose ex-boyfriend has been stalking her for more than a decade, a curious phrase: micro-tampering.

No matter how many times Ms. Brennan changed the locks, she writes, her apartment was entered and subtly rearranged. “I find a bar of soap from the second-floor bathroom on the third-floor kitchen counter,” she writes. “A teaspoon from a kitchen drawer lies on the middle of my bed.”

Update: See also: gaslighting. (thx, alex)

Hidden van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

X-ray analysis has revealed a van Gogh painting underneath another van Gogh painting. (via clusterflock)

Quiet Paris

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

If Paris is getting quiet again, it must be the end of July, a nice set of photos from Rion Nakaya.

Phone numbers on letterhead

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

A Bell Telephone pamphlet on how to show telephone numbers on letterhead from the early 1960s. More info at Oddmart. (via quips)

Letter from a librarian

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2008

A thoughtful letter from a librarian to a woman who wanted a book depicting gay marriage removed from the children’s section of the library.

I fully appreciate that you, and some of your friends, strongly disagree with its viewpoint. But if the library is doing its job, there are lots of books in our collection that people won’t agree with; there are certainly many that I object to. Library collections don’t imply endorsement; they imply access to the many different ideas of our culture, which is precisely our purpose in public life.

Odd name changes

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

Law professor Eugene Volokh rounds up some cases where courts ruled on unusual name changes (like Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii).

Misteri N***er, second “i” silent. No, said the California Court of Appeal in 1992, because it constitutes “fighting words”: “[I]f a man asks appellant his name and he answers ‘Mister N***er,’ the man might think appellant was calling him ‘Mister N***er.’ Moreover, third persons, including children hearing the epithet, may be embarrassed, shocked or offended by simply hearing the word.

Ah, the old “them’s fightin’ words” argument.

Bowser’s Minions

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

The minions of Bowser get together for a little chat about their frustrations.

The Mario jumps over me every time. I don’t know why Bowser put this goddamn chain on my body.

Masturbation songs

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

The top nine songs about masturbation. Includes the obvious I Touch Myself by The Divinyls and some less-obvious songs. (via buzzfeed)

Five ways to trigger a natural disaster

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

Human activities can trigger natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding.

“Dams are the most dangerous man-made structure likely to cause quake,” says David Booth of the British Geological Survey. By artificially holding a large volume of water in one place, dams increase pressure on fractures beneath the surface of the earth. What’s more, water has a lubricating effect, making it easier for the fractures — or faults — to slip.

Your content DJ for the day

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

Tyler Cowen on why blogs should cover some topics randomly.

But with Google and Wikipedia you must choose the topic. A good blog writer can randomize the topic for you, much like a good DJ controls the sequence of the music. Sometimes you might trust us more than you trust other aggregators, but we can’t count on that and arguably the other aggregators improve at a rate faster than we do.

The economics posts on Marginal Revolution are often less interesting to me than the supposedly off-topic posts.

The Judica-Cordiglia brothers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

In the late 1950s and 1960s, two brothers from Turin claim to have intercepted dozens of transmissions of secret Soviet space launches, including those of cosmonauts who perished in space before Yuri Gagarin officially became the first man in space.

There are those who believe that somewhere in the vast blackness of space, about nine billion miles from the Sun, the first human is about to cross the boundary of our Solar System into interstellar space. His body, perfectly preserved, is frozen at -270 degrees C (-454 °F); his tiny capsule has been silently sailing away from the Earth at 18,000 mph (29,000km/h) for the last 45 years. He is the original lost cosmonaut, whose rocket went up and, instead of coming back down, just kept on going.

You can hear a couple of their recordings here. Naturally, there is quite a bit of skepticism about the brothers’ exploits.

A Wire event tonight in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

This is late notice and who knows if there are even tickets left, but David Simon and several cast members of The Wire (Carver, Daniels, Gus, Lester, and the Bunk) will be discussing the show in NYC tonight in a Museum of the Moving Image program.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

Exformation is “explicitly discarded information”.

Effective communication depends on a shared body of knowledge between the persons communicating. In using words, sounds and gestures the speaker has deliberately thrown away a huge body of information, though it remains implied. This shared context is called exformation. Exformation is everything we do not actually say but have in our heads when, or before, we say anything at all — whereas information is the measurable, demonstrable utterance we actually come out with.

In my opinion, the more exformation you generate, the better your writing, design, art, photography, or blogging will be. (thx, ze)


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

Variety’s slanguage

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 30, 2008

“Words” used in this article about the season premiere of Mad Men:


Here’s a list of the other “words” used by Variety in their “articles”.

Trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

The first trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been released, featuring a wee Voldemort. Movie is out in November.

Stuck in the middle, politically

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

A very interesting graph of the estimated ideological positions of US voters, senators, and representatives shows that members of Congress are much more liberal and conservative than are US voters, who fall somewhere in the middle. (via 3qd)

Save lots with truly generic pills

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

Matt Thompson has some advice for you: stop buying cheap-ish pseudo-generic drugs from Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and Duane Reade and start buying really cheap true generics.

As you might know, Benadryl (available at Walgreens.com for $5.29 for a box of 24 capsules) and Wal-dryl ($3.99 / 24 capsules) are otherwise known as “25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI.” Compare [with the true generic available at Amazon]. Yes, that is 400 tablets containing 25 mg. of diphenhydramine HCI, for about $10 when you factor in shipping.

Heed his words. Here’s 300 tablets of generic Claritin for $11.00, 100 tablets of generic Zyrtec for $6.99, 240 tablets of generic Zantac, 1000 capsules of generic Benadryl for $20.34, 1000 tablets of generic Advil for $11.70, and 1000 caplets of generic Tylenol for $13.91.

Update: It’s been brought to my attention that the Kirkland brand is Costco’s store brand so any Kirkland products sold on Amazon are being resold by people buying them from Costco. (thx, ivan)

Last place in the Tour de France

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

The last man to finish the Tour de France gets the unofficial title of winner of the Lanterne Rouge. Finishing last is not as easy as you might suppose.

The designation falls somewhere between insult and accolade. Mr. Vansevenant, who after Stage 18 sits in 150th place, some 3 hours and 45 minutes behind Mr. Sastre, is indeed the worst-placed rider in the Tour de France. But, in turn, he has outlasted those who abandoned the Tour through illness, injury or simple exhaustion; those who were eliminated for failing to finish within each day’s time limit and are forced to withdraw; and those who were banned or withdrew for doping-related causes. From year to year, about 20% of the riders drop out. In other words, you can’t simply coast to last place; you have to work for it.

Wim Vansevenant did hang on to become the first three-time winner of the Lanterne Rouge.

Raw materials for 3-D modelers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

A collection of the often banal and artless images used in the development and testing of 3-D modeling technologies and digital imaging.

While the “end user” rarely sees any of these images or objects, a handful of them (Lena, the mandrill, the Utah Teapot, the Stanford Bunny and the Cornell Box) are well known to the point of being iconic within the digital imaging research community. They have even become the subjects of inside jokes between programmers and animators: 3D models of the Utah Teapot are hidden in Pixar’s Toy Story, a screensaver that comes as part of Microsoft Windows, and the Simpsons episode where Homer stumbles into a computer-generated “Third Dimension”.

NASA established fifty years ago

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

After the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in late 1957 awoke the US to the possibility of a developing outer space “gap” with the Russkies, President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law on July 29, 1958, thereby creating NASA. Only 11 years later, NASA landed men on the moon. Happy birthday, NASA.

Bystander culture

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

Merlin Mann:

Some days, the web feels like 5 people trying to make something; 5k people turning it into a list; and 500MM people saying, “FAIL.”

The first plane crash

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

The first death of an airplane passenger occurred nearly 100 years ago.

It was Sept. 17, 1908. Orville Wright was showing off a new “aeroplane” at Fort Myer, Va., for about 2,000 people, including Army brass. He took up a 26-year-old lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps, Thomas E. Selfridge, “an aeroplanist himself,” according to the report in this newspaper. Contemporary accounts vary, but the pair apparently made three and a half successful circuits at an altitude of about 75 feet, before a propeller split and hit other parts of the plane, causing it to crash. Orville was badly hurt.

First Plane Crash

From the NY Times account of the crash on Sept 18, 1908:

The aeroplane has made three complete circuits of the big parade ground and was dashing around a curve at the far end of the field on the final lap of its fourth when the propellor blade broke. It snapped short off close to the shaft and was hurled sixty feet away.

The aeroplane seemed to tip sharply for a fraction of a second, then it started up for about ten feet; this was followed by a short, sharp dive and a crash in the field. Instantly the dust rose in a yellow, choking cloud that spread a dull pall over the great white man-made bird that had dashed to its death.

Follow the bouncing compression artifacts

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 29, 2008

I am powerless against YouTube videos with names like Federer Madness. The video’s so crappy that I can’t even see the ball most of the time and yet I cannot stop watching. From there, it’s federer legendary 10 top shots, Rafael Nadal neat ball trick, and Michael Chang’s underhand serve at the 1989 French Open. Send help and Gatorade!

Presto, short film before Wall-E

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

HD version of Presto, the short film shown before Pixar’s Wall-E. The shorts shown before Pixar films seemingly have something to do with the next film in the company’s pipeline. Boundin’ preceded Cars (both were set in the desert Southwest), One Man Band came out before Ratatouille (the former set in Italy, the later in France, but with similar “set” design), and Lifted preceded Wall-E (both featured outer space and spaceships), but I can’t figure out what Presto has to do with Up (the teaser’s no help).

Objectified, a film about industrial design

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

Objectified is an upcoming film about industrial design by Gary Hustwit, director of Helvetica.

Objectified is a documentary about industrial design; it’s about the manufactured objects we surround ourselves with, and the people who make them. On an average day, each of us uses hundreds of objects. (Don’t believe it? Start counting: alarm clock, light switch, faucet, shampoo bottle, toothbrush, razor…) Who makes all these things, and why do they look and feel the way they do? All of these objects are “designed,” but how can good design make them, and our lives, better?

The film is due out in early 2009. (via design observer)

Model T hacking

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

Many early 20th century hackers found the Ford Model T a perfect platform on which to build all manner of different mobile machines.

Among the 800 vintage automobiles brought by collectors were ones that had been converted to snowmobiles, racing coups and tow trucks. That was only a glimmer of the many innovative changes made by Model T owners, for uses Henry Ford never had in mind. They transformed the cars into tractors, pickup trucks, paddy wagons, mobile lumber mills and power plants for milling grain. An itinerant preacher converted his into a four-wheeled chapel.

Check out the slideshow for several examples, including the goat sidecar.

Diorama construction photos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

The Natural History Museum in NYC has put a collection of historical photos online, including some fantastic images of the construction of some of their famous displays and dioramas. Pruned pulled out a few of the best for a recent post.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the AMNH posed its T. rex bones in an upright position, propped on its tail. Skeletons were broken, some bent and others removed altogether so that it looked like the “marauding predator” people thought they were. And also so that it didn’t look too diminutive in the large exhibition hall. Natural history as a function of architecture: it had to reach high up to the ceiling, fill up all that space, loom large over the crowds.

Old expensive pants

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

A pair of Levi’s from the 1890s are up on eBay.

This old pair of LEVI’S were found in a mine in the Rand Mining District, on the Mojave Desert,. California. They are covered in candlewax from the candle’s the miner was using to light the tunnel he was working in. They were found with and old paper bag with the name of a mercantile store which operated between 1895 and 1898 in the town or Randsburg. Their was also a gunny sack with the initials A.P.K. and Randsburg marked on it. A.P.K. is through to be Adam P. Kuffel who was a partner in the mercantile store.

These pants have the cloth label vice the leather label. The label (pictured) indicates that they are size W34 x L33, They are copper riveted with the rivets marked L.S. & Co. S.F. They are buckle back (pictured) with suspender buttons. Buttons are silver in color and are all marked LEVI STRAUSS & CO. S.F.CAL. Tthe pants were made with just one back pocket on the right hand side.

With 2 days to go, the current high bid stands at $7300. (via reference library)

Update: Another seller is contemplating listing another old pair of pants.

The jeans were uncovered in an old miners cabin here in montana and have been dated between 1890 and 1901 by the rivets on the jeans. There was gold in the watch pocket of the blue jeans and has been saved in a vial, do you think we should include it in the auction? there is also the miners diaries and a couple of shaker boxes too.

Not too much, not too little

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

Four-star chef Eric Ripert checked out the burgers at McDonald’s and Burger King to use as a pattern for a burger at his new D.C. restaurant. Part of what he learned is proportion is everything.

Just looking at the basic burgers at each of these chains — particularly the Big Mac — showed me a couple of very key things: First of all, the burgers are a perfect size. You can grab them in both hands, and they’re never too tall or too wide to hold on to. And the toppings are the perfect size, too — all to scale, including the thickness of the tomatoes, the amount of lettuce, etc. In terms of the actual flavors, they taste okay, but you can count on them to be consistent; you always know what you’re going to get.

Ripert’s findings dovetail quite nicely with my theory of sandwichcraft.

NY Times = a more upscale Vogue

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

Paul Krugman on the how the NY Times makes its money.

The New York Times is known for its hard news coverage, but he observes that from a business perspective it’s primarily a fashion and food publication that runs a small political news operation on the side. One issue of T Magazine, he says, pays for an entire NYT European bureau.

Football, A-11 offense

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

At Piedmont High School in California, two coaches have devised an offense in which all 11 men are responsible for carrying the ball down the field Plays start with two quarterbacks and go from there.

Yes, per the rules of the game, only five players are eligible to catch a pass during a particular play and seven players have to set up on the line of scrimmage. But in the minds of Bryan and Humphries, you can develop an infinite number of plays with an infinite number of formations.

Talk about confusing a defense.

“It presents a different set of challenges for defenses because they have to account for which guys go out or might go out,” Bryan said. “Those guys who are ineligible to go down the field and catch a pass, they can take a reverse pitch or a negative screen or a hitch behind the line of scrimmage.

This 4-minute video provides a good look at how the offense functions and there’s lots more at a11offense.com. (via clusterflock)

Yummy farmland

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2008

A fractal canyon devours farmland in New Mexico.

Art to last 10,000 years

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

In order to create art for the 10,000-year Clock chamber, Edward Burtynsky has been investigating how to make photographic prints that last a long time.

Burtynsky went on a quest for a technical solution. He thought that automobile paint, which holds up to harsh sunlight, might work if it could be run through an inkjet printer, but that didn’t work out. Then he came across a process first discovered in 1855, called “carbon transfer print.” It uses magenta, cyan, and yellow inks made of ground stone-the magenta stone can only be found in one mine in Germany-and the black ink is carbon.

On the stage Burtynsky showed a large carbon transfer print of one of his ultra-high resolution photographs. The color and detail were perfect. Accelerated studies show that the print could hang in someone’s living room for 500 years and show no loss of quality. Kept in the Clock’s mountain in archival conditions it would remain unchanged for 10,000 years.

Estonian meat commercial

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

Commercial from Soviet-era Estonia that makes eating meat seem so glamorous. (via smashing telly)

The balcony is closed

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

Nice remembrance from Roger Ebert on the end of the long-running At the Movies show.

One thing we never did, apart from an occasional special show, was depart from the format: Two critics debating the week’s new movies. No “advance looks” at trailers for movies we hadn’t even seen. No celebrity interviews. No red carpet sound bites. Just two guys talking about the movies. At one point, our show and two clones were on the air simultaneously. Then we were left alone again: The only show on TV that would actually tell you if we thought a movie was bad.

How does insight work?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

Jonah Lerher, author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, has a piece in the New Yorker this week (not online1) about how the process of insight works in the brain. The main takeaway is that insight comes easiest when our brains are relaxed and not focused on too much detail so that it is able to look for more general associations between seemingly disparate ideas.

Kounios tells a story about an expert Zen meditator who took part in one of the C.R.A. insight experiments. At first, the meditator couldn’t solve any of the insight problems. “This Zen guy went through thirty or so of the verbal puzzles and just drew a blank,” Kounios said. “He was used to being very focussed, but you can’t solve these problems if you’re too focussed.” Then, just as he was about to give up, he started solving one puzzle after another, until, by the end of the experiment, he was getting them all right. It was an unprecedented streak. “Normally, people don’t get better as the task goes along,” Kounios said. “If anything, they get a little bored.” Kounios believes that the dramatic improvement of the Zen meditator came from his paradoxical ability to focus on not being focussed, so that he could pay attention to those remote associations in the right hemisphere. “He had the cognitive control to let go,” Kounios said. “He became an insight machine.”

[1] There’s a samizdat PDF of the article here.

Modern libraries

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

List of the 25 most modern libraries in the world. (thx, mark)

Rave for Apple’s keyboard

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post about the remarkable new Apple keyboard. It took me a day to get used to it, but now I love it. Typing on it is effortless, silent, and fast…I had no idea a change in keyboard could result in such a perceptible speed increase. Tim Bray calls the keyboard “great”:

The current line-up of Apple keyboards isn’t good, it is (the sizing flaw aside) great. The feel is both sensitive and rock-solid and I think I’m typing faster than any time in the last twenty years or so.

Rafe likes it too and Robert bought extras in case Apple discontinues them.

Kodak Zi6 pocket video camera

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

Lots of people love the Flip video camera for its smallness and ease-of-use but Kodak looks like they may one-up the Flip with the Zi6. The real attraction of the slightly more expensive Zi6 is that it shoots in 16x9 HD at 720p. The Kodak site says the camera is due out in August but the pre-order page at Amazon says October 1. Retail price is $180. We never pulled the trigger on the Flip so getting this to record video of Ollie is a no-brainer. (via df)

Stop sign design

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

What would happen if there were no stop signs and a large corporation attempted to design one?

“We’re targeting women, but we’re also targeting men, secondarily.”

Bratty brides

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

Gay marriage should be allowed and encouraged in the US but denied to brides who want their bridesmaids to get Botox or boob jobs before walking down the aisle with them.

Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead. Not for nothing are some maids known as slaves of honor, but this kind of cajoling is a recent development on the wedding front.

Another woman requested professional spray tans for all her bridesmaids…two declined and were removed from the wedding party. Ugh, what horrible self-centered people.

Legal pot in California

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2008

In California, it’s pretty much legal now to buy, sell, grow, and smoke pot, provided you’ve got the proper documentation from a doctor, which is pretty easy to get. This article from the New Yorker details the industry that’s sprung up around this legalization, filled with people who, you get the feeling, really like smoking pot for recreational and not medical reasons.

The counties of California were allowed to amend the state guidelines, and the result was a patchwork of rules and regulations. Upstate in Humboldt County, the heartland of high-grade marijuana farming in California, the district attorney, Paul Gallegos, decided that a resident could grow up to ninety-nine plants at a time, in a space of a hundred square feet or less, on behalf of a qualified patient. The limited legal protections afforded to pot growers and dispensary owners have turned marijuana cultivation and distribution in California into a classic “gray area” business, like gambling or strip clubs, which are tolerated or not, to varying degrees, depending on where you live and on how aggressive your local sheriff is feeling that afternoon. This summer, Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, plans to release a more consistent set of regulations on medical marijuana, but it is not clear that California’s judges will uphold his effort. In May, the state Court of Appeal, in Los Angeles, ruled that Senate Bill 420’s cap on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess was unconstitutional, because voters had not approved the limits.

Senate Bill 420! The LAPD and DEA have taken the stance that federal law takes precedence over state law and are routinely busting people for growing, selling, and possession. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future here.

Population powers of ten

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

Population densities in the United States vary over nine orders of magnitude.

In case you’re wondering, the most densely populated block group is one in New York County, New York — 3,240 people in 0.0097 square miles, for about 330,000 per square mile. The least dense is in the North Slope Borough of Alaska — 3 people in 3,246 square miles, or one per 1,082 square miles. The Manhattan block group I mention here is 360 million times more dense than the Alaska one; population densities vary over a huge range.

That’s approximately the same range from the height of an iPod to the diameter of the Earth. (via fakeisthenewreal)

We don’t need no water

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

Firefighters Turned Away From Exclusive Nightclub Blaze.

“There was no way I could let them in dressed like that,” said bouncer Ken Hess, who asked emergency personnel to step aside while he allowed a group of good-looking, scantily clad women directly into the blaze.

Paris in decline

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

Is Paris stagnant?

“Paris, and France, are definitely having an identity crisis,” says Christophe Boicos, a gallery owner and art professor for several American universities. “They have been living off their 19th- and 20th-century heritage for a long time. At the opening of the 21st century, they need to redefine themselves.”

Artists looking for the buzz go to London or Berlin, or further afield to New York, rather than Paris, says German art historian Wilfried Rogasch. “Paris is in stagnation. Talented people from around the world go to Paris. But they don’t go there for stimulation, they go to see Paris.”

I’ve said this before, but Paris — the central part of it anyway — seems like a giant museum. We’ve thought of living there for a year or two but after a recent one-day trip there, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. (via vqr)

Interview with Hilla Becher

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

A year after her husband died, photographer Hilla Becher was interviewed by a German magazine about her work and her husband.

SZ: Why was your husband not interested in such photos?
HB: He rejected them because he was not interested in taking them. Actually, he was never interested in photography.

SZ: That is an unusual statement about a man who spent his whole life on it.
HB: Originally, Bernd did sketches. In the beginning, he sketched industrial landscapes. But he never managed to finish his work, because he was so precise. Often the object was demolished right in front of his eyes, back then heavy industry in the Siegerland was being abandoned for good. The demolishing, the decay happened faster than he could sketch it.

SZ: So then he took photos?
HB: Right. He borrowed a 35mm camera and took photos, to use them for his sketches. That’s how it started, photography as the means to an end.

The Bechers worked tirelessly to photograph all kinds of industrial machinery.

Nathan Myhrvold in the north

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

Nathan Myhrvold, billionaire polymath, recently wrote a series of three posts for the Freakonomics blog about his trips to Iceland and Greenland.

I’d like to say that global warming was evident during my visit, but that is not really the case. Indeed, [my guide] Salik tells me that he and most Greenlanders are pretty skeptical about it. The local fishing industry used to be based on arctic prawns, but the sea temperature has changed just enough that the prawns are much further north, so now they fish for cod.

But, as Salik points out, this cycle has happened several times in living memory. The same with the glaciers: yes they are retreating, but at least in his area, they have yet to reach the limits that the locals remember them. Objective measurements do show that climate change is happening. Nevertheless I was amused that the locals don’t seem to think it is such a big deal.

The photos are worth a look by themselves.

Ghost towns

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

Photos and descriptions of some of the world’s neatest ghost towns. I’ve seen many of these elsewhere but hadn’t heard of this village in France before.

The small village of Oradour-sur-Glane, France, is the setting of unspeakable horror. During World War II, 642 residents were massacred by German soldiers as punishment for the French Resistance. The Germans had initially intended to target nearby Oradour-sur-Vayres and mistakenly invaded Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10th 1944. According to a survivor’s account, the men were herded into barns where they were shot in the legs so they would die more slowly. The women and children, who had been held in a church, all perished when their attempt to escape was met by machine-gun fire. The village was razed by the Germans afterward. Its ruins still stand today as a memorial to the dead and a reminder of the events that took place.

Around the world with Dorothy Gambrell

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

I mentioned passenger travel on cargo ships the other day. Dorothy Gambrell and her companion went on an around-the-world trip a couple of years ago, traveling mostly by boat and train. To get from North America to Asia, they booked passage on a cargo ship leaving from Oakland and bound for Taiwan. You can read about their adventures online…start here and use the “next entries” link at the bottom of the page to keep reading.

They warned us. They warned us about the food. The freighter agency literature mentions several times that the food may not be what Americans are accustomed to — for example, it says, “there may not be dessert.” The first morning’s breakfast is called “Hunter’s Toast,” which turns out to be toast smothered in something like liverwurst and topped by a fried egg. Breakfast is usually one part egg, one part meat, and one part toast except when it is sausage and a puddle of tomato sauce. Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8:00am, which means arrive at 7:30 and leave at eight. One pot of coffee and one pot of hot water sit on the table next to the basket of tea bags and peanut gallery of condiments.

What a great adventure wonderfully told. (thx, matt)

Contents shifting

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2008

I’m moving some things around on the backend of the site so those of you reading kottke.org in RSS may have noticed some duplicate items. Sorry about that…it’s a one time occurance and was mostly unavoidable.

The Wieners Circle

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

Here’s a clip from the This American Life TV show about a hot dog joint in Chicago called The Wieners Circle. On weekend nights after the bars close, the staff and drunken patrons yell verbal abuse at one another like prison inmates or Jerry Springer’s guests.

This, this free-for-all has doubled their business, Larry and Barry figure. They end up seeing a side of people that, honestly, changes how you feel about everybody. You really wish you never saw it.

There are several other Wieners Circle videos on YouTube, including one where a customer orders a chocolate shake, throws down $40, and one of the workers begins to take her shirt off. (via delicious ghost)

Popular boat names

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

According to a boat name database, here are the top 15 boat names:

Free Spirit
Banana Wind
Mental Floss

Roma people

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

The internet is an excellent machine for revealing ignorance. Until a few hours ago, I didn’t know that the Romani people (also commonly referred to as Gypsies) are a distinct ethnic group that originated in India about a millennia ago. I had always assumed that being a Gypsy was more of a religious or cultural thing.

Grading on a curve

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

The second in an unplanned series of posts about the pitfalls of an elite education: John Summers on teaching the banal and privileged at Harvard.

In the first meeting of my first seminar of my first year, Kushner’s son Jared entered my classroom and promptly took the seat across from mine, sharing the room, so to speak. I was drawing an annual salary of $15,500 (£7,700) and borrowing the remainder for survival in Cambridge, in order that he might be given the best possible education. Jared later purchased The New York Observer for $10 million, part of which he made buying and selling real estate while also attending my seminar. As publisher, one of his first moves was to reduce pay for the Observer’s stable of book reviewers. I had been writing reviews for the Observer in an effort to pay my debts.

From earlier in the week: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education. Also relevant here is the growing discussion of gigantic college endowments and how best to use them.

Too Weird for The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

Too Weird for The Wire, a story of a number of Baltimore drug dealers and their unusual “flesh-and-blood” defense in federal court. It’s a tactic used by white supremacists and other US isolationists groups in tax evasion cases and the like.

“I am not a defendant,” Mitchell declared. “I do not have attorneys.” The court “lacks territorial jurisdiction over me,” he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. “I object,” Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris’s lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

David Simon, I believe you’ve got enough here for a sixth season of The Wire. Hop to.

Green for its own sake

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

Constructing new LEED-certified green buildings is all well and good, but if they’re further from your workers’ homes and you have to tear down perfectly good old buildings to do so, the hoped-for energy savings are wasted.

Embodied energy. Another term unlovely to the ear, it’s one with which preservationists need to get comfortable. In two words, it neatly encapsulates a persuasive rationale for sustaining old buildings rather than building from scratch. When people talk about energy use and buildings, they invariably mean operating energy: how much energy a building — whether new or old — will use from today forward for heating, cooling, and illumination. Starting at this point of analysis — the present — new will often trump old. But the analysis takes into account neither the energy that’s already bound up in preexisting buildings nor the energy used to construct a new green building instead of reusing an old one. “Old buildings are a fossil fuel repository,” as Jackson put it, “places where we’ve saved energy.”

If embodied energy is taken into consideration, a new building that’s replaced an older building will take up to 65 years to start saving energy…and those buildings aren’t really designed to last that long.

Physical theories as women

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

If physical theories were women.

Quantum mechanics is the girl you meet at the poetry reading. Everyone thinks she’s really interesting and people you don’t know are obsessed about her. You go out. It turns out that she’s pretty complicated and has some issues. Later, after you’ve broken up, you wonder if her aura of mystery is actually just confusion.

Would like to see the list for men as well. (via snarkmarket)

News by geography

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

A map of the world as reported by the New York Times. Countries are color coded by the amount of times they are mentioned in the Times, per capita. Greenland, Iraq, New Zealand, Iceland, and Panama are disproportionally represented.

Labs At Night

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 23, 2008

Seed Magazine has posted Noah Kalina’s photos of science labs at night. The Salk Institute is represented of course.

Font conference

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

Fonts personified at a font conference.

Pencil, telephone, hourglass, diamonds, candle, candle, flag. Mouse, scissors, ball, mailbox, mailbox, mailbox!

That’s Wingdings talking.

Five dollars

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

A collection of photos of things from around the world that cost $5.

To explore the relative value of five dollars we are collecting examples from around the world by asking people to submit photos of objects or services that cost the equivalent of $5.

(via clusterflock)

Jumping trap-jaw ants

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

Trap-jaw ants use their powerful jaws to propel themselves several inches into the air. The jumping is used both as an attack and to flee from predators.

It’s no wonder, then, that O. bauri ants can launch themselves into the air with a mere snap of their jaws, achieving heights up to 8.3 centimeters and horizontal distances up to 39.6 centimeters. That roughly translates, for a 5-foot-6-inch tall human, into a height of 44 feet and a horizontal distance of 132 feet, an aerial trajectory likely to be the envy of circus acrobats and Olympic athletes.

Here’s a video of the jumping action. (via cyn-c)

Inappropriate movie soundtracks

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

YouTubers are adding innappropriate new soundtracks to movie scenes, thereby ruining them. I stumbled across the Richie suicide scene from The Royal Tenenbaums set to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird (instead of Needle in the Hay) and then found a bunch more:

Terminator 2
The Matrix ruined
Star Wars, under pressure
This Monsters Inc. one is actually fantastic.
Starship Troopers
A Clockwork Orange
Reservoir Dogs

Several of these originated on Something Awful.

Baby’s First Internet

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

Illustrator Kean Soo and writer Kevin Fanning created a book about the internet for babies: Baby’s First Internet.

Do not stop to think or edit:
You must be the first who said it.

You heard a brand-new band? What luck!
You’ll be the first to say they suck.

I’d read it to Ollie but do 1-year-olds understand cautionary tales?

E-ink magazine cover

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

The September 2008 issue of Esquire magazine will feature an e-ink cover.

“This is really the 1.0 version,” said Kevin O’Malley, Esquire’s publisher. “Imagine when the consumer walks by a newsstand and sees that it is alive.”

I am not looking forward to a living newsstand…imagine Times Square writ small. The cover will come with a small battery that will power the display for only 90 days.

Hobble skirt

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

The history of the hobble skirt.

The term ‘hobble skirt’ came into popular use in the early 1910s, when a European fashion trend started by French designer Paul Poiret introduced long skirts that were narrow at the hem, thus ‘hobbling’ the wearer. Some attribute one of Poiret’s inspiration to Mrs. Hart Berg, the first American woman to join the Wright Brothers in air. To keep her skirts from flying out of control while airborne, she tied a rope around them below the knees (Katherine Wright, sister of the flight innovators the Wright brothers, also did the same shortly afterwards).

For a short while, the tighter the skirt, the more fashionable it was. This also brought about accessories such as the hobble garter (you can see one in tbe PBS series The Manor House) designed to limit the wearer’s stride so that she would not cause the skirt to rip. This trend died shortly afterwards due to the impracticality of such a garment, particularly with the introduction of cars (the skirts making getting in and out of one a bit of an adventure).

Bill Cunningham casually mentioned the hobble skirt in a recent On the Street feature about pencil skirts.

Wind turbines

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

The PopTech blog rounds up some interesting wind turbine designs. I’m particularly intrigued by the placement of turbines on or near highways. One of the knocks against wind farms is that they disrupt the natural landscape…placing wind turbines along highways would somewhat alleviate that problem. Oobject houses a collection of beautiful wind turbines.

How to travel by cargo ship

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

Booking passage on a cargo ship is an easy and unusual way to travel.

Most of the major global shipping lines CMA-CGM, Canada Maritime, and Bank Line offer paying passengers to hop on one of their lines. As a paying passenger you are accommodated in guest cabins and have access to most areas of the ship.

Captains and crew spend a lot of time on the water, and they are usually happy to have a fresh face walking around their workplace, meaning that they may even invite you to eat with them, give you tours of the ship and maybe even have you over for an Officer’s happy hour.

You’d think it would be cheap but tickets can run you more than airfare…$80-140 per day, meals & lodging included.

Mike Tyson’s mansion

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 22, 2008

Photos of Mike Tyson’s abandoned mansion. What an odd house. Half of it is bathrooms & an indoor pool and looks like it was designed by Homer Simpson.

Hay hotels

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

See if this makes any sense out of context: hay hotels in the Lederhosen belt.

The hay is from the second harvest rather than the first — it’s softer — and it gets changed once or twice a year. Meanwhile there’s strictly no smoking and there isn’t a hospital corner in sight: making the bed means fluffing up the hay with a pitchfork.

Read on if you’re still confused.

Pogo stick history

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

The pogo stick in named after a Burmese farm girl?

As legend has it, an American traveler named George Hansburg was making his way through Burma when he made the acquaintance of a poor farmer. The farmer’s daughter was named Pogo, and Pogo — devout little girl that she was — wanted to go to temple every day to pray, but couldn’t because she had no shoes to wear for the long walk through the mud and rocks. So the poor farmer built a jumping stick for her, and Pogo’s daily temple bounce-trips through the mud and over the rocks ensued. When the impressed traveler returned home, he made a jumping stick of his own, attaching a spring to the wooden stick contraption that the farmer had introduced him to.

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, nutshelled: you have no idea how most of the rest of the world works.

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely-indeed increasingly-homogeneous. Visit any elite campus in our great nation and you can thrill to the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it.

(via lone gunman)

Lego Stephen Hawking

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

Lego Stephen Hawking

More at Brickshelf (link no longer works).

Green driveway

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

Lovely visual essay of how a residential driveway became a nice green area, even after the city objected.

Delia Derbyshire’s electronica

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

Working in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire recorded the Doctor Who theme song in 1963 but also came up with a piece of electronica in the late 60s that sounds like it was recorded in the mid-90s.

Ms Derbyshire was well-known for favouring the use of a green metal lampshade as a musical instrument and said she took some of her inspiration from the sound of air raid sirens, which she heard growing up in Coventry in the Second World War.

(via overstated)

Update: Derbyshire arranged and recorded the Doctor Who theme song but didn’t write it. Ron Grainer did. (thx, kevin & pete)

Twitter suckage

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

Twitter is broken for me so I’m going to be using this text file until it starts working again. If any friends want their updates included in my text file, please send me an email.

Update: The Jason’s Update Page social internet web site now has an API. Full documentation here.

Baarle-Hertog, Belgium

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

Most of the town of Baarle-Hertog is in Belgium but some spots are in the Netherlands, sprinkled into the Belgian majority like chocolate chips, not divided neatly by a line.

The border is so complicated that there are some houses that are divided between the two countries. There was a time when according to Dutch laws restaurants had to close earlier. For some restaurants on the border it meant that the clients simply had to change their tables to the Belgian side.

Baby Name Trends

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2008

For millennia, Martin Wattenberg’s Name Voyager has been the gold standard in cool baby name web doohickeys. No longer…NameTrends gives it a serious run for its money. Lots of slicing and dicing of data going on there. Plus, popularity sparklines.

David Carr, The Night of the Gun

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

NY Times columnist David Carr has written a book about his days as a junkie who cleaned himself up only when twin daughters came into his life. The Times has a lengthy excerpt; it’s possibly the best thing I’ve read all week.

If I said I was a fat thug who beat up women and sold bad coke, would you like my story? What if instead I wrote that I was a recovered addict who obtained sole custody of my twin girls, got us off welfare and raised them by myself, even though I had a little touch of cancer? Now we’re talking. Both are equally true, but as a member of a self-interpreting species, one that fights to keep disharmony at a remove, I’m inclined to mention my tenderhearted attentions as a single parent before I get around to the fact that I hit their mother when we were together. We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process.

Carr’s book is not the conventional memoir. Instead of relying on his spotty memory from his time as a junkie, he went out and interviewed his family, friends, enemies, and others who knew him at the time to get a more complete picture.

A former colleague interviewed Carr two years ago in Rake Magazine. (via vsl)

A.G. Low Construction logo

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

The logo for A.G. Low Construction is the best one I’ve seen in awhile.

A.G. Low Logo

Nice work by design student Rebecca Low, who I’m assuming is related to the A.G. Low in question. (via monoscope)

Passive-aggressive appetizers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

A list of fourteen passive-aggressive appetizers for your next dinner party.

Another one for the vegetarians. If they think they like tofu, wait until they sample your delicious mock tofu — all you need is chicken fat, puréed pork loin, and five cups of piping-hot tallow. Cheryl will never know the difference.

(via snarkmarket)

Ketchup potato chips

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

I dunno, ketchup-flavored potato chips?

Smarts on the gridiron

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

Ben Fry analyzes the data from an intelligence test administered to all incoming NFL players and displays the results by position. Offensive players do better than defensive players on the test, although running backs score the lowest (wide receivers and cornerbacks also don’t do well). As Michael Lewis suggested in The Blind Side, offensive tackles are the smartest players on the field, followed by the centers and then the quarterbacks.

Malcolm Gladwell talked about the Wonderlic test at the New Yorker Conference and judged it a poor indicator of future performance.

Old iPhone price check on eBay

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

Before the iPhone 3G came out last month, I wrote about how valuable the old iPhone still was.

A quick search reveals that used & unlocked 8Gb iPhones are going for ~$400 and 16Gb for upwards of $500, with never-opened phones going for even more.

I just checked eBay again and those prices are down only slightly. Never-opened unlocked iPhones are still fetching $400-500 and somewhat less for previously used phones. If you’ve purchased an iPhone 3G in the past few days, you still have an excellent shot at getting most of your money back from your first phone (provided you can get it unlocked, which isn’t difficult).

I also checked the prices for unlocked iPhone 3Gs…prices are upwards of $1400 for the 16GB model. The unlocked claim is somewhat dubious. AFAIK, there hasn’t been a crack released yet although it’s been reported that the 3Gs are being sold unlocked in Italy and Hong Kong.

Update: The 3G has been cracked.

Book publishing tips

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

After publishing his first book, Mark Hurst offers some tips for would-be authors, painting a not-so-rosy picture of the publishing industry in the process.

You may see now the author’s dilemma. Publishers and bookstores are in it for the money. But you, the author, can’t be in it for the money - it doesn’t pay enough. You should write a book because you believe in it. And that’s the trouble: what you love isn’t necessarily what publishers believe will sell. If you can find a topic that you love and that will sell in the market, well then, go forth and type. You’re one of the lucky ones.

Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are in trouble?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are might be in trouble. It was originally due out in October, got pushed back to fall 2009, and has now been taken off of the Warner Bros. release schedule. But not all is lost…here’s what Warner had to say about it:

We’ve given him more money and, even more importantly, more time for him to work on the film,” Horn said. “We’d like to find a common ground that represents Spike’s vision but still offers a film that really delivers for a broad-based audience. We obviously still have a challenge on our hands. But I wouldn’t call it a problem, simply a challenge. No one wants to turn this into a bland, sanitized studio movie. This is a very special piece of material and we’re just trying to get it right.

Philosophical zombie

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

A philosophical zombie is “a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, sentience, or sapience”. Is this what White Zombie was on about in More Human Than Human? (via me, apparently)

Portraits of librarians

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2008

From what I can gather from these portraits, librarians are white, bearded if male, and have glasses.

Hold-On iPhone app

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

The world’s most funnest iPhone game productivity app is Hold-On. To play, hold the button on the screen as long as you can. (via andre)

Seinfeld fictional films

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

A list of the fictional films referred to in Seinfeld. (thx, nicholas)

The Beatles pretty much invented the CAT scan

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

The money brought in due to Beatlemania funded the research that led to the CAT scanning machine. (via gawker lite)

The no-food restaurant

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

Caroline Kininmonth runs a restaurant in Australia that doesn’t serve food. The place is BYOF and donations are accepted in a box next to the front door. (thx, john)

Unsolved problems

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

Another Wikipedia gem: a list of unsolved problems from a number of different fields, including linguistics, physics, and computer science. (via lone gunman)

Distressing kit

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

Make new stuff look old with the Making Memories Distressing Kit.

Designed to use on everything from paper to embellishments this distressing kit is the first and only of its kind. Kit includes: sanding block with three grits steel wool-2 pads emery board-3 boards each with different grit stipple brush foam brushes 1 and 2 wide chalk-3 colors ink sponges-3 colors exclusive edge scraper bone folder aging dye-2 single use pouches paint comb pounce wheel chalk brushes-3 sandpaper-3 sheets (1 each of fine medium and coarse grit). It’s compact portable and stocked to the hilt with all the tools you’ll need to sand scrape stipple and sponge your way to shabby chicness.

Jessica Helfand has some thoughts on making the new look old.

Obama lapel pins

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

Steven Heller asked a bunch of designers and illustrators to re-imagine the lapel pin for Barack Obama.

Since Mr. Obama promotes himself as the candidate of change, maybe he should start wearing a different kind of lapel pin that signals his patriotism as well as other values he wants to communicate.

One fellow suggests ripping his lapels off and thereby skirting the whole pin issue. (via design observer)

Terminator Salvation trailer

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2008

They’re making a fourth Terminator movie with Christian Bale? Although I didn’t actually mind the third one so bring it on, I guess. (via goldenfiddle)

Update: McG is directing? I take it back…put it back in the can. Also, Joseph, isn’t it time to stop using that name?

BBC - Ouch! - Features - What’s your Sign Name?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

Since repeatedly spelling out proper names in sign language is time consuming, signers give people “sign names” that are faster to do.

When a sign name is given to you, it’s special. A bit like losing your deaf virginity. It’s thought up after an intense period of observation, when people have worked out firstly whether they like you enough to give you one (a sign name, that is), and they’ve taken all your habits and mannerisms into account to find a name that best sums you up.

(via lone gunman)

All hail the unlimited MetroCard

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

The NYC subway system’s unlimited-ride MetroCard turned ten years old this month.

“I think it’s absolutely changed travel habits in the New York region, and it’s been a boon for the economy as well,” said Andrew Albert, who represents transit riders on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Where once you might have used it more sparingly because you had a finite number of trips, you’re more likely to take a trip during your lunch break, go shopping perhaps or go to dinner somewhere,” he said.

On average, unlimited-ride MetroCard users take 56 trips per month (~$1.45 per trip), although some take many more or less. (via buzzfeed)

Update: Mike Frumin notes that the Times excluded from their graph an important piece of information: the break-even point of the 30-day MetroCard. I used to get a monthly card but now pay by the ride because I don’t take the subway everyday anymore and would therefore find myself in Frumin’s “losing $$$$$” zone.

@#$%&?! = grawlix

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

That string of typographic symbols that substitute for swearing in cartoons? It’s called a grawlix.

The term is grawlix, and it looks to have been coined by Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker around 1964. Though it’s yet to gain admission to the Oxford English Dictionary, OED Editor-at-Large Jesse Sheidlower describes it as “undeniably useful, certainly a word, and one that I’d love to see used more.”

Well, @#$%&?!, that’s cool.

The most beautiful suicide

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

On May 1, 1947, Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Photographer Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale a few minutes after her death.

Evelyn Mchale by Robert Wiles

The photo ran a couple of weeks later in Life magazine accompanied by the following caption:

On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. ‘He is much better off without me … I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody,’ … Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale’s death Wiles got this picture of death’s violence and its composure.

From McHale’s NY Times obituary, Empire State Ends Life of Girl, 20:

At 10:40 A. M., Patrolman John Morrissey of Traffic C, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a swirling white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the Empire State. A moment later he heard a crash that sounded like an explosion. He saw a crowd converge in Thirty-third Street.

Two hundred feet west of Fifth Avenue, Miss McHale’s body landed atop the car. The impact stove in the metal roof and shattered the car’s windows. The driver was in a near-by drug store, thereby escaping death or serious injury.

On the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray of the West Thirtieth Street station, found Miss McHale’s gray cloth coat, her pocketbook with several dollars and the note, and a make-up kit filled with family pictures.

The serenity of McHale’s body amidst the crumpled wreckage it caused is astounding. Years later, Andy Warhol appropriated Wiles’ photography for a print called Suicide (Fallen Body), but I can’t find a copy of it anywhere online. Anyone?

Update: A not-so-great representation of Warhol’s version of this photograph is available at Google Books. (thx, ruben)

Update: Here’s a better photo of Warhol’s print. (thx, lots of people)

Update: Here’s the page as it appeared in Life Magazine.

Update: Codex 99 did some research on McHale and her activities on the day she died.

Amtrak across America

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

A cross-country Amtrak travelogue. The trip is not without its charms but overall sounds like torture.

A raspy-voiced woman in her 40s, one of the engineers, calls down from the cab and invites a few of us to come take a look. Without hesitation we clamber up. She tells us that they’re off duty, as her partner, a mustachioed, red-faced man with faded tattoos, nods. When engineers hit their driving quota, apparently, they’re done. It’s an unbendable rule. “They knew, though,” the woman says, speaking of Amtrak. “They should have had someone here.” So this could’ve been prevented? “Oh yeah,” the man says, “but leave it to them and they’ll fuck it up.” And so we wait, in the middle of nowhere, for new engineers. After a couple of hours a truck pulls up with the new drivers.

Save images from the web on the iPhone

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

iPhone 2.0 tip. If you tap-then-hold an image in Safari, an option pops up for you to save the image. Nice way to get new wallpaper or photos for your contacts.

Foodie vs. machine

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

New York Times food critic Frank Bruni tries out the Urbanspoon restaurant-seeking application on the iPhone (shake the phone to find restaurant options near you) and ends up writing a pretty convincing argument for individual expertise over collective wisdom.

I locked in a price of two dollar signs and shook again. Up came the Morgan Dining Room, and off went an alarm in my head. Isn’t the Morgan Dining Room a lunch place that’s closed most nights? I called to make sure, and, sure enough, got a recording.

Urbanspoon is more of a beginning than an end, unable to factor in, for example, whether the restaurant it’s recommending books up a month in advance (Babbo, for example) or often has long waits (Momofuku Ssam Bar). That’s a troublesome shortcoming in New York, where competition for seats in the most popular places is fierce.

Graffiti for butterflies

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

Butterfly graffiti directs migrating monarchs to urban food sources.

Monarchs regularly pass through wide swathes of human settlement as they migrate each year from wintering sites in Mexico to summering grounds in the United States and Canada. GFB is the equivalent of a fast-food sign on a highway, advertising rest stops (waystations) to monarchs traveling through the area.

Charles Atlas exercise regimen

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 16, 2008

Eschewing all those newfangled diet and fitness trends, Todd Levin tries out Charles Atlas’ Dynamic-Tension fitness course, which Atlas began marketing in 1922.

One thing I definitely hadn’t counted on was Lesson 2: Nutrition. Here, Atlas outlines his mandatory dietary and lifestyle restrictions — no caffeine; no refined sugar; no bleached flour; no white rice; no fatty meats; no pickles, mustards, vinegar or other acidic spices; no soft drinks, coffee or tea; no staying up past midnight, ever. Reading that chapter was like having Charles Atlas ask me to list all my favorite things in the world, then grab the list from my hands, crumple it up and toss it — and some sand — in my face. (Atlas does make one notable exception for candy: “If you must eat candy at times, be sure it is of the very highest quality.” Sounds like someone can’t live without his truffles.)

Neither did Levin exercise in the nude as Atlas advised.

Gallons per mile

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

Replacing a car that gets horrible gas mileage with one that gets good gas mileage is preferable to replacing a car that gets good gas mileage with one that gets excellent gas mileage. To that end, kottke.org contributor Cliff Kuang says to the car companies: forget about 100-mpg cars and focus on small, achievable increases in MPG ratings.

My concern is a rhetorical one: What happens when advancements in cars are eternally linked — through marketing and special prizes — with big innovations, rather than tangible results right now? Fuel efficiency gets its urgency sapped: Someone’s working on it, with results TBD. Wait and see.

Writing with style

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut shares his tips on how to write with style.

5. Sound like yourself. The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

(via chris glass)

Periodic table of videos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

The Periodic Table of Videos is a collection of videos about all the elements. All your favorites are there…Neon, Rubidium, Lead, Plutonium.

Stock photography futurism

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

The sales of stock photographs can tell you a surprising amount about what’s going on in the world but they can’t predict the future.

“We had a bad day when Dolly was cloned,” says Denise Waggoner, vice president of creative research at Getty. “We hadn’t been studying biotechnology, and suddenly everyone wanted a shot of 25 sheep on a seamless white background. So now we try to keep our toes dipped in the water in lots of different fields, so we can be ready.”

iPhone line-cutter

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

Lance Arthur deals with an iPhone line-cutter.

“Are you standing in line?”


“Were you standing in line behind me outside for three and a half hours.”

“Yeah, I was.” Grin.

He stares at me. I instantly hate him. A lot. I hate everything about his self-congratulatory smart-assed grin and his cheating little heart and his idea of how life should work for him, where he can outsmart us all and get what he wants and get away with it. “No, you weren’t.”

Fairness matters, even when you’ve got something to lose.

Just Don’t Look

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

In a special Halloween episode of The Simpsons that aired in October 1995, a freak lightning storm brings all of Springfield’s giant advertising statues to life. The advertising monsters begin to destroy the town when Lisa, an advertising executive, and Paul Anka come up with a jingle urging everyone to stop paying attention to the monsters. Here’s the chorus:

Just don’t look. Just don’t look.
Just don’t look. Just don’t look.
Just don’t look. Just don’t look.

The townspeople comply and with no one paying attention, the advertising monsters collapse and die, saving the town.

The “just don’t look” strategy works for more than advertising…it’s effective in any situation where someone or something runs on attention. On the web attention comes in the form of links and pageviews so “just don’t look” translates roughly into “just don’t link or read”. If you don’t like who’s on the cover of Wired, just don’t look. If no one talks about her, she’ll go away. Think media gossip sites are ruining the web? Don’t read them. Leggy blonde conservative got your knickers in a knot? Just don’t look. Commenters ruining the internet? Moderate your comments or close them up. If some Web 2.0 blowhard says something stupid, just don’t look. Hate blonde socialites? Just. Don’t. Look.

Extensive Olympic stats

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

The folks behind the excellent Baseball Reference have launched a statistics site for the Olympics. Every athlete that’s ever competed in the Games has his/her own page. Announcement here.

Steven Spielberg’s Amblin’

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

Amblin’, Steven Spielberg’s first film shot on 35mm, is available on YouTube (~25 min long). Binary Bonsai has more on the first real movie that Spielberg directed (which the director now dislikes).

Spielberg’s first outing is all about humanity, love, feelings, innocence and all the other softness for which he has since become almost infamous. Whatever tech-lust Spielberg might have, goes on behind the lens, not in front of it. And despite moving on to do some pretty tech-heavy films (Jurassic Park for instance), he almost always keeps the human side of things front and center.

Rules to live by (or not)

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 15, 2008

A comparison of the rules for living of writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Republican political operative Roger Stone.

Taleb: “6. Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.”

Stone: “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”

I Was A Mad Man

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

On the heels of Michael Bierut’s rave for Mad Men comes William Drenttel’s admission: I Was A Mad Man.

Then the CEO [of Krystal Restaurants] turns to me, ignoring everyone else, and asks me to take out my wallet. He asks me how much money I have. I count about $150, and tell him so. He smiles, looks me squarely in the eye, and asks: “Would you spend your last $150 on this shit?”

The rest of the story involves me telling him to take out his own wallet and me swearing I’d spend not only my money but all of his. And we did. We spent all of Krystal’s money, millions of dollars. We made second-rate advertising, and they had second-rate stores with really second-rate hamburgers. We deserved each other.

The limits of young love

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

You’ve likely seen the wedding photo of the wounded Iraq War soldier and the woman who stuck by him through his recovery. After being married for just over a year, the couple is now divorced.

“Nothing was ever really wrong. It just wasn’t right. Going into the marriage? I’d never been married before. I think we were okay. The wedding - it was so planned. There was this thing… ” He breaks off and gets up to retrieve the framed certificate. It’s from the state of Illinois declaring his wedding a state holiday. “To call something like that off…” He sits back down.

Mencap font

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

Fontsmith designed the Mencap typeface to be highly readable and legible for those with learning disabilities. See also the Clearview typeface used on the new highway signs in the US. (via ministry of type)

There is no them

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

Advice from Patton Oswalt’s commencement speech given at the high school he graduated from.

Reputation, Posterity and Cool are traps. They’ll drain the life from your life. Reputation, Posterity and Cool = Fear.


There Is No Them.

Amen, brother. Although, think about all of the great art we’d be missing out on if 18-year-olds actually took that advice.

Barnaby Furnas, Antietam

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

I love this painting by Barnaby Furnas but I doubt Meg would let me hang it anywhere in the house. Perhaps if we had a dungeon.

Barbaby Furnas, Antietam

Furnas has done several paintings in this style, including one I saw at the Whitney in aught-four.

Famous physicists on money

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

Physicists of the 20th Century on Banknotes (5 MB PDF), including Marie & Pierre Curie on a short-lived 500 franc note, Niels Bohr on a Danish 500 kroner note, and Nikola Tesla on several notes from Yugoslavia and Serbia. The author of the article is Steve Feller, physics professor at Coe College and my college advisor. Feller has a keen interest in numismatics and recently published a book about the money used in WWII camps.

Radiohead and Google, together at last

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

Radiohead + Google + data visualization + lasers = I am contractually obligated to post this. Google has the backstory and some code for Radiohead’s new music video, which was “filmed” using lasers instead of cameras. (via jimray)

Hey jealousy

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

In an attempt to make Billy Bob Thornton jealous, artist Jillian McDonald pasted herself into movie scenes kissing several well-known actors, including Thornton’s former wife, Angelina Jolie.

Harley-Davidson Museum

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

The new Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee looks pretty nice.

The museum sits on a twenty-acre reclaimed industrial site directly across the Menomonee River from downtown Milwaukee and has been conceived as an urban factory ready-made for spontaneous motorcycle rallies. The three-building campus includes space for permanent and temporary exhibitions, the company’s archives, a restaurant and cafe, and a retail shop, as well as a generous amount of event and waterfront recreational space. The museum’s indoor and outdoor components were inspired by the spirit of Harley rallies in towns like Sturgis and Laconia, where thousands of riders congregate every year.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2008

Mamihlapinatapai, a most succinct word.

It describes a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start. This could perhaps be translated more succinctly as “eye-contact implying ‘after you…’”. A more literal approximation is “ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other”.

Heartbreaking. I wish we had an English word for that feeling. (via cyn-c)

Trek cosplay

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

Photos of Star Trek fans (and other sci-fi enthusiasts) dressed up as their favorite characters in their otherwise non-Trek homes.

Abstract satellite photos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

An amazing collection of abstract satellite photos, demonstrating the “impressionist, cubist and pointillist” side of the earth’s landscape.

The images you see below were taken at the turn of the Millennium, when NASA’s scientists had a brilliant idea: to scan through 400,000 images taken by the Landsat 7 satellite and display only the most the most beautiful. A handful of the best were painstakingly chosen and then displayed at the Library of Congress in 2000.

You must see these. Bonus: all the images are available in wallpaper size for your computer desktop.

Dennis Darzacq’s falling photos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

You’ve likely seen Dennis Darzacq’s photos of people who look like they’re falling and about to hit the ground at a high velocity. Lens Culture has a video that shows how Darzacq makes those photos; he plays a clever mind trick on viewers that makes jumping look like falling.

Everything had been prepared in advance. Everything was ready. The models launched themselves into space. There is nothing false in these scenes. These moments really occurred. There is no fiction, no retouching or special effects. Photographed in the courtyards of buildings or in streets in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, in Nanterre and in Biarritz, these young people were just being themselves, simply performing jumps in a modern urban setting. And the photographer shot the images, intervening only to give a few guidelines as to their movements. However, at the moment of the leap, chance and gravity also intervened.

Nick Veasey, x-ray photographer

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in on Nick Veasey’s work. Veasey takes x-ray photos of all sorts of items, from feathers to pens to underwear to people to entire buses. Well worth poking around.

Unnecessary censorship videos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

Will videos that bleep out ordinary words to make them seem profane always be funny? I hope so. Jimmy Kimmel’s Unnecessary Censorship was the first one that I saw…here are some others I’ve run across recently: Sesame Street’s The Count sings about how he loves to BLEEP, Barney the dinosaur talks dirty, Spongebob BLEEPing Squarepants, censored cartoons, more censored cartoons, and Cookie Monster BLEEPs the BLEEP.

Update: This commercial for Knorr is pretty good as well. (thx, oscar)

Steve Jobs: one more thing

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

A list of all the times that Steve Jobs has said, “just one more thing” at keynotes and product launches…aka this is the stuff that Apple thought would do well. Among the hits: original iMac, OS X, the iPod, and the iPhone. Only one real miss: the G4 Cube.

Also: did Jobs take that phrase from Columbo?

Update: The video version of “one more thing”. (thx, eric)

Playboy interviews Ayn Rand

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

A 1964 interview of Ayn Rand from Playboy magazine.

Galt’s statement is a dramatized summation of the Objectivist ethics. Any system of ethics is based on and derived, implicitly or explicitly, from a metaphysics. The ethic derived from the metaphysical base of Objectivism holds that, since reason is man’s basic tool of survival, rationality is his highest virtue. To use his mind, to perceive reality and to act accordingly, is man’s moral imperative. The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics is: man’s life — man’s survival qua man — or that which the nature of a rational being requires for his proper survival. The Objectivist ethics, in essence, hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself. It is this last that Galt’s statement summarizes.

Rand is nothing if not decisive and consistent in her answers…except where she contradicts herself. (Aside: I would love to read a blog written by Fake Ayn Rand where she reviews current movies. Someone start that up, please.)

Where ideas come from

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

Videos of David Lynch and folk rocker Donovan talking about the creative process. I tuned in for Lynch but I found Donovan’s thoughts more interesting. The videos are part of a larger Ideas issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Subway boys

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2008

An illustrated tale of two young boys (ages 3 and 7) who love to ride the subway.

A chaperone on one of Arthur’s school trips told me something he overheard when all the kids were neatly lined up in rows of two. The girl holding Arthur’s hand asked him, “Have you heard of Peter Pan?” “No,” he replied, “have you heard of Metro North?”

Broadway Boulevard

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

Wow, NYC is converting two lanes of traffic on Broadway from 34th St. to 42nd St. into a park, pedestrian walkway, and bike lane.

She said the city was spending $700,000 to create the string of blocklong plazas from 42nd to 35th Streets. That includes painting the bike lane green, buying the chairs, tables, benches, umbrellas and planters and applying a coat of small-grained gravel mixed with epoxy onto the pedestrian areas, which will set them off from both the street and the bicycle path.

Looks like Bloomberg is going ahead with his battle against Manhattan car traffic without Albany’s help. I can think of several more areas that could benefit from a full or partial closure…Bleecker St would make a great pedestrian mall, as would any number of streets in Chinatown. So would St. Mark’s in the East Village. And while we’re at it, close all the streets in Central Park to cars (except the transverses).


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

Flickr video of the camera operator getting struck by lightning.

From what i understand, it went through my left hand holding the camera, crossed my back and exited out of my right hand holding onto the metal railing. No entry or exit wounds, just a really good zap!

Wow! (via waxy)

Wal-Mart growth map

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

Watch the growth of Wal-Mart across the country as time passes. It’s like a viral infection…you know, in a good way! (via migurski)

Page layout video

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

Time lapse video of a designer laying out an article for a magazine. I could watch stuff like this all day. It’s also the type of video I wish were on Vimeo…sometimes YouTube is like watching a UHF station from 200 miles away with the rabbit ears positioned just so. (via quips)

Color photos of occupied Paris

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

André Zucca’s color photographs of Paris during the German occupation of WWII have provoked controversy because Zucca worked for a German propaganda magazine. But Richard Brody argues that Zucca’s photographs are true to the Paris of the time and don’t just show the “cheerful ease” of the city’s residents.

Certainly, Zucca couldn’t get the whole story: he photographed Jews wearing the star but couldn’t show the roundups or the deportation to Auschwitz; he could show German soldiers but couldn’t show the arrest, torture, and execution of resisters. He couldn’t, but nobody could; the problem wasn’t that he worked for a propaganda rag: photographers who actively worked for the Resistance couldn’t do it either. But what he did do was to capture the paradoxes of the Occupation, where horror and pleasure coexisted in shockingly close proximity, where the active resistance to Nazi occupation was in fact far less prevalent than the feigned daily oblivion of those who kept their heads down and tried to cope.

More of Zucca’s photos are here.

Waiter Rant book

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

A book by the proprietor of the Waiter Rant blog is finally due out at the end of July.

According to The Waiter, eighty percent of customers are nice people just looking for something to eat. The remaining twenty percent, however, are socially maladjusted psychopaths. Waiter Rant offers the server’s unique point of view, replete with tales of customer stupidity, arrogant misbehavior, and unseen bits of human grace transpiring in the most unlikely places. Through outrageous stories, The Waiter reveals the secrets to getting good service, proper tipping etiquette, and how to keep him from spitting in your food. The Waiter also shares his ongoing struggle, at age thirty-eight, to figure out if he can finally leave the first job at which he’s truly thrived.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

Snack food sexual innuendo

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

A photo gallery of snack foods that sound a bit naughty. Salted Nut Roll, Dutch Crunch, Double Creme Betweens, etc. (via buzzfeed)

Cool iPhone apps

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

So, what are the cool must-have iPhone Apps? The iTunes Store lists the most popular ones but that’s often not a good indicator. Obvious choices thus far: Twitterific (read and post to Twitter), Remote (control iTunes or Apple TV with your iPhone), and AppEngines’ individual ebooks (like Pride and Prejudice). Let me know what your favorites are in the comments and I’ll compile a list. Bonus points if you actually explain what the app does and why it’s worth the effort.

iPhone 2.0 update now available

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

MacRumors has the scoop.

Once again, digging through Apple’s XML files has revealed the url to the iPhone 2.0 Firmware that is presently available on Apple’s servers.

Here’s the direct download link. Be sure to read all the disclaimers at MacRumors…this is not an official Apple release and should be treated with caution. (Basically, don’t try this at home, kids.) And once again, here’s the link to the App Store so that you can install all the shiny new iPhone apps.

Bill Simmons atones for tennis gaffe

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

In his latest podcast, Bill Simmons apologizes (sort of) for his stupid article on why tennis is sucky and boring, calling it “maybe the dumbest column I’ve ever written”. But then he goes on to say that what Wimbledon needs is a retractable roof on Centre Court and lights so that matches can proceed without fear of rain or night. Both of which are totally happening next year, unbeknowst to Simmons.

If you’re a sports columnist, it helps if you’re, you know, interested in sports. Many columnists are only interested in the big three sports — football, basketball, baseball — and treat other sports with a not-so-veiled disinterest or even distain. Competition, both against others and with the self, is at the base of all sports and if, as a so-called “sports fan”, you can’t find something of that to love about tennis or badminton or NASCAR, maybe you need to look elsewhere for work. Simmons needs to bring himself up to speed on tennis; he’s missed a lot.

And if you’re writing about a sport you don’t know much about and argue that it needs to be changed in such a way that makes it more exciting for the short attention span generation, you should also be prepared to advocate for the 35-game NBA season, the 60-game MLB season, moving the pitcher’s mound back to 65 feet, eliminating charging in the NBA, and 11-on-10 in NFL games.

iPhone Apps Store open

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

iTunes 7.7 became available last night and with it, the capability to buy applications to put on your iPhone. Well, you can’t actually put them on your phone yet, but you can buy/download them. Here’s a link to all iPhone Apps and here’s a link to just the free ones. I can’t seem to get the link for the main store’s page, but the easiest way to get there is to click on “Applications” in your iTunes Library and click “Get More Applications”.

The new iPhone software will likely be out later today so that you can actually install and use these apps.

Update: Here’s the link for the iPhone Apps Store. (thx, carl)

kottke.org on Twitter

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

If you’d like to follow kottke.org on Twitter, you may do so here. Tweets will consist of a post title and the permalink URL, updated every time I publish a new post (more or less). Thanks to arc90 for their PHP Twitter API library. Note: this is a separate Twitter account from my personal one. Never will kottke.org updates be pushed automatically to my personal Twitter account. I am not a dick, I would never do that to you.

Restaurant family meals

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2008

A reporter checks out the family meals — the quick meal eaten by the staff of a restaurant before the dinner service starts — at various NYC restaurants.

At considerably more lofty establishments, though, formal family meals take place shortly before lunch or dinner service, giving staff members time to both relax and rev up before their long and arduous shifts. It’s a simple concept, and as I discovered while hopping from one acclaimed New York restaurant to the next, if you’re lucky to work somewhere that serves caramelized, blanched, or poached vegetables, rather than “bloomin’ ” ones, you’re in for a real treat.

I was wondering the other day what the family meal is like at a place like Alinea, where the kitchen doesn’t have a lot of traditional cooking implements. Does everyone just get a spoonful of powdered pork chops and 15 minutes at the pea soup IV drip station at some point during the evening? (via eater)

Update: Family meal at Alinea sounds downright normal:

Family meal was green salad with vinaigrette; baked potatoes with sour cream, chives, bacon, and a bacon and eggs mayo; blanched broccoli; carrot cake with cream cheese frosting; and a huge tub of iced coffee. I also brought a box of assorted Chinese pastry snacks from Richwell Market in Chinatown - including pastry-wrapped thousand-year-old egg.

(thx, kathryn)

Clever New York magazine cover

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

I love this clever New York magazine cover design from 1969…a photo of a too tall mayoral candidate is cropped just below the chin.

Swimming holes

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

An extensive of list of swimming holes to be found in the US. (via reference library)

Old NYC newsstands

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

For the past two years, photographer Rachel Barrett has been documenting NYC’s vanishing newsstands as the city replaces them in favor of more modern kiosks. Here’s a slideshow.

Until recently, newsstand operators owned their stands and paid the city $1,000 for two-year licenses. In 2003, the city enacted Local Law 64, which required owners to give up their stands but allowed them to operate city-owned structures at no cost. In 2006, the city signed a contract with the Spanish conglomerate Cemusa to build 3,300 bus shelters, 300 newsstands and 20 public toilets.

More photos are available on Barrett’s web site. One of these new stand just went up by my office and has all the personality of a block of concrete. The new stands are also super tall so that the cashier towers over the customer, creating a weird impersonal dynamic and, for those of below average height, a need to stretch to hand your money over.

Kids make for unhappy parents?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

Some recent studies are showing that having children do not make parents happier and that childless adults may be more satisfied with their lives.

Simon points out what any parent knows very well: Children, especially young children, can create lots of work and stress. “There are very many positive things that come out of having kids, but it’s a mixed bag,” she says. “They are demanding. They are a responsibility, and it’s a responsibility that doesn’t end.”

Very true. But as Jonah Lerher points out, what is true on a day-to-day basis may not the same over the long haul.

Changing a diaper isn’t enjoyable, and teenagers can be such a pain in the ass, but having kids can also be a profound source of meaning for people. (I like the amateur marathoner metaphor: survey a marathoner in the midst of the race and they’ll complain about their legs and that rash and how the race seems like it’s taking forever. But when the running is over they are always incredibly proud of their accomplishment. Having kids, then, is like a marathon that lasts 18 years.)

My take is that the kids aren’t the problem; it’s all the other stuff. You just aren’t able to do all the stuff you used to enjoy doing before you had kids and if you think you can, of course you’re going to be unhappy when it doesn’t work out that way. You need to be prepared and make a conscious choice: “I’m choosing to enrich my life with a child *but* as a tradeoff, I won’t be able to live the way I was before.” Even worse, many don’t have a choice. When both parents need to work to make ends meet and there’s no extended family to pick up the slack, throwing a child in the mix can add stress into a situation where time and money are already scarce. As noted at the end of the NPR story, the US doesn’t value family as much as it could.

But Simon says that the importance of studies of parental depression lies in their providing a groundwork for fighting it. “People ought to understand where this unhappiness comes from,” she says. “I would say it’s not from their kids per se, I would say that it comes from the social conditions in which contemporary parents parent.” Parents, says Simon, are far too often left on their own and have very few support systems. “We don’t have family friendly policies,” she says. “We don’t allow people, I believe, as a society to reap the full joys of parenthood.”

Typographers’ handwriting

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

A comparison of typographers’ fonts with their handwriting…among them Erik Spiekermann, Mark Simonson, and Marian Bantjes. (via le waxy)

Own goal to win game?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

In what was probably the weirdest soccer match finish ever, Barbados tied their match against Grenada with an own goal to send the match into overtime where they won by the 2 goals needed to qualify for the finals in the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup.

Needing to beat Grenada by two clear goals to qualify for the finals in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados had established a 2-0 lead midway through the second half and were seemingly well in control of the game. However, an own goal by a Bajan defender made the score 2-1 and brought a new ruling into play, which led to farce. Under the new rule, devised by the competition committee to ensure a result, a match decided by sudden death in extra time was deemed to be the equivalent of a 2-0 victory. With three minutes remaining, the score still 2-1 and Grenada about to qualify for the finals, Barbados realised that their only chance lay in taking the match to sudden death. They stopped attacking their opponents’ goal and turned on their own. In the 87th minute, two Barbadian defenders, Sealy and Stoute, exchanged passes before Sealy hammered the ball past his own goalkeeper for the equaliser.

The Grenada players, momentarily stunned by the goal, realised too late what was happening and immediately started to attack their own goal as well to stop sudden death. Sealy, though, had anticipated the response and stood beside the Grenada goalkeeper as the Bajans defended their opponents’ goal. Grenada were unable to score at either end, the match ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and, after four minutes of extra time, Thorne scored the winner for Barbados amid scenes of celebration and laughter in the National Stadium in Bridgetown.

Here’s a video with highlights of the end of the game. (via gulfstream)

Dr. Strangelove

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

POW camp economics

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

How a rough system of barter developed into a more complex system of trade in WWII POW camps. This is fascinating stuff.

We reached a transit camp in Italy about a fortnight after capture and received 1/4 of a Red Cross food parcel each a week later. At once exchanges, already established, multiplied in volume. Starting with simple direct barter, such as a non-smoker giving a smoker friend his cigarette issue in exchange for a chocolate ration, more complex exchanges soon became an accepted custom. Stories circulated of a padre who started off round the camp with a tin of cheese and five cigarettes and returned to his bed with a complete parcel in addition to his original cheese and cigarettes; the market was not yet perfect. Within a week or two, as the volume of trade grew, rough scales of exchange values came into existence. Sikhs, who had at first exchanged tinned beef for practically any other foodstuff, began to insist on jam and margarine. It was realized that a tin of jam was worth 1/2 lb. of margarine plus something else; that a cigarette issue was worth several chocolates issues, and a tin of diced carrots was worth practically nothing.

The cigarette soon became the coin of the realm and at camps with stable populations, there were shops operated by the senior British officer with cigarettes as the currency people used to buy and sell goods to/from the store.

One trader in food and cigarettes, operating in a period of dearth, enjoyed a high reputation. His capital, carefully saved, was originally about 50 cigarettes, with which he bought rations on issue days and held them until the price rose just before the next issue. He also picked up a little by arbitrage; several times a day he visited every Exchange or Mart notice board and took advantage of every discrepancy between prices of goods offered and wanted. His knowledge of prices, markets and names of those who had received cigarette parcels was phenomenal. By these means he kept himself smoking steadily - his profits - while his capital remained intact.

The article also discusses deflation, the shifting availability of currency, credit, price movements, futures markets, paper currency, and price fixing. (via migurski)

Dustin Humphrey photography

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 09, 2008

Dustin Humphrey’s surfing/underwater photography is difficult to explain. Pro surfers + underwater naked steampunk maybe? NSFW. (via avenues)

Two quick site admin notes

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

1. I recently upgraded the software that powers this site to the most recent version of MT 4. I’ll miss my pimped out copy of MT 3.2 but I’m excited to play with some new-to-me MT 4 features. Between this and my new keyboard, I feel like I just started a new job. Huge 72 pt. THANKS to Six Apart ServicesApperceptive and especially kottke.org patron saint David Jacobs for the excellent support. (Oh, and the iMT plugin for quick iPhone access to MT? Awesome.)

2. Pagination! The front page is now just over a third shorter than it was mere minutes ago. You can continue reading previous entries by pointing your browsing mechanism to page 2 and page 3. That’s one feature down, about 2000 more to go.

Recent classic book covers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Entertainment Weekly recently compiled a list of well-designed book covers from the past 25 years. Not fantastic but a solid list worth browsing.

High Fidelity

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Serious Sans

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Serious Sans is a more professional take on Microsoft’s much-maligned Comic Sans typeface. The typeface is a project by four students at the Royal College of Art in London. From The Moment blog:

Struggling to understand what could possibly be good about Comic Sans, Valerio — together with partners Hugo Timm, Filip Tydén and Erwan Lhussier — found that the doggedly goofy font’s irregular forms made it one of the easiest typefaces for dyslexics to read. The designers also liked how it undermined the authority — and changed the meaning — of texts set in it.

Moving art

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Video of a kinetic sculpture from the BMW museum in Munich. It starts doing cool stuff about 45 seconds into the video. (via cyn-c)

England on maps

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

How big is England? Mapmakers can’t seem to agree.

So for the last two years I’ve been taking pictures of Britain on world maps. Not accurate maps, but drawings or illustrations of maps. The differences are amazing. You might assume that all maps were accurate, or at least accurate-ish. But no, designers play fast and loose with the truth making the host country bigger, more important or more central. Look at Britain in these photos. Look at the size of it compared to Europe. It’s the same, but different.

I love the averaged England near the bottom of the post. (via migurski)

Zadie Smith’s writing advice

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Writing advice from Zadie Smith: write it then put it in a drawer.

When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year of more is ideal — but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat backstage with a line of novelists at some festival, all of us with red pens in hand, frantically editing our published novels into fit form so that we might go on stage and read from them. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all of the pieces of dead wood, stupidity, vanity, and tedium are distressingly obvious to you.

Top notch advice. I’m currently working on a (mostly visual) redesign for kottke.org. I pretty much finished the Photoshop part of it two months ago and haven’t looked at it since, hoping that the distance will give me some much needed perspective on whether the new design is any good or not. I’ve used this technique on the past couple of designs as well…if you have the luxury of the extra time, I’d highly recommend it.

Martin Creed’s Tate runner

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Martin Creed’s Work No. 850 features a runner sprinting through an empty gallery at the Tate Britain every 30 seconds. (via buzzfeed)


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Oobject is on a roll lately. In particular, check out the railroad snowplows, worst General Lee, medical manikins, pocket sundials, and food rations.

Inbox victory

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 08, 2008

Inbox Victory: take a photo of yourself and your mail program when you get your inbox down to zero items.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Thumber is a OS X app that screencaps one-second intervals of movies and stitches the results together into one big image. Inspired by one of my favorite art projects, Cinema Redux by Brendan Dawes.

The death of gallium

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Humans are consuming natural resources so quickly that we’re running out of elements.

The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc. Even copper is an endangered item, since worldwide demand for it is likely to exceed available supplies by the end of the present century.

Many of the elements listed above are used in the construction of computer equipment and flat-panel TVs.

An Informal Catalogue of Slit-Scan Video Artworks and Research - Flong

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Attention time merge media fans: do not miss Golan Levin’s extensive collection of slit scan video projects as well as Eddie Elliott’s related list. (via migurski)

Michael Bierut on Mad Men

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

An appreciation of Mad Men by designer Michael Bierut.

Jesus God in heaven! Not until I know I’m not wasting my time! From the minute Don launched his this-meeting-is-over bluff, I was on the edge of my seat, and my lovely wife Dorothy will tell you that I literally clapped my hands at that line. For me, this sequence is as close to pornography as I ever get to see on basic cable.

Alright, uncle, I give, I give. I will try and find some time in my schedule to watch this show.

Rising oil price consequences

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

A list of fifty things being blamed on rising oil prices. Among them: pizza deliviery prices, weakened demand for wine, “gas rage”, and more foot patrol for police officers.

Water in Mercury’s atmosphere

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Scientists were recently “astonished” to find water in Mercury’s atmosphere. Plus, the particles in the atmosphere were blasted off the surface by the solar wind so the atmospheric water could indicate that it can be found on the surface as well. First Mars and now this. Has The Onion done a “Scientists find evidence of water on Earth” story yet?

Weekend sports wrap

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

1. The Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon was epic. I was tense for the entire duration of the final three sets, which lasted about 2.5 to 3 hours. After years of sportswriters declaring that Roger Federer is the best player of all time, we might be faced with the possibility that he’s not even the best player of his generation. Two data points: 1) Nadal has shown that he can win on any surface, including Federer’s specialty, and 2) Nadal’s head-to-head record against Federer is 10-5 (although many of those wins came on clay). The match also clearly reveals the idiocy of this lame Bill Simmons article about how tennis needs to change.

2. Joey Chestnut successfully defended his title this weekend at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, eating 59 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. He needed a 5-dog overtime to hold off long-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, who has lost to Chestnut the last two years. Chestnut weighs 230 pounds while Kobayashi is only 160 pounds.

3. The US Olympic swimming trials are over and Michael Phelps qualified in 5 individual events and will likely participate in three relays as well, giving him a chance to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals won in a single Olympics. Overshadowing Phelps’ achievements was “41-year-old mom” (that’s how they kept describing her on TV) Dara Torres, who qualified in both the 100-meter freestyle and the 50-meter freestyle.

Update: Ok, Nadal can’t consistently win on hardcourt. But he’s 22…give him time. (thx, everyone)

Pitcher Tim Lincecum

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Tim Lincecum is a 5’ 10” 172-pound Major League pitcher with a 98-mph fastball. Such velocity out of such a small frame is attributed to his unique (but mechanically sound) pitching technique.

One key to Lincecum’s delivery is to keep his left side, especially his left shoulder, aimed toward his target for as long as possible. “Don’t open up too soon because then you lose leverage,” Tim says. “If you twist a rubber band against itself, the recoil is bigger. The more torque I can come up with, the better.”

Where Lincecum truly separates himself from most pitchers is the length of his stride. It is ridiculously long as it relates to his height. And just as his left foot, the landing foot, appears to be nearing the ground at the end of his stride, he lifts it as if stepping over a banana peel — extending his stride even more. The normal stride length for a pitcher is 77% to 87% of his height. Lincecum’s stride is 129%, or roughly 7 1/2 feet.

As a casual fan, it’s difficult to see what’s so different and violent about Lincecum’s pitching technique.

Real-life Family Guy

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Video of actors doing the voices for The Family Guy. High levels of dissonance may occur while watching Mike Henry doing the Cleveland voice at the end.

The depressed rich

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

This article about rich therapy patients was more interesting than I thought it would be. Here’s one doctor describing the patients he sees:

It used to be that my patients were the children of the rich: inheritors, people who suffered from the neglect of jet-setting parents or from the fear that no matter what they did, they would never measure up to their father’s accomplishments,” he recalled. “Now I see so many young people — people in their 30s and 40s — who’ve made the money themselves.

Facebook still closed

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2008

Some Facebook employee wrote a rebuttal on Facebook to Facebook is the new AOL:

my former PayPal colleague Yishan Wong, now an ass-kicking, name-taking engineer at Facebook, lays the “Walled Garden” rebuttal smackdown on Kottke, Arrington, et al. you go, Yishan… you just go.

And then. Oh, the irony:

Doh! guess Yishan’s post is only visible to his facebook friends… okay, so maybe semi-permeable garden, perhaps.

Mmmm, invisible smackdown.

Bunk and McNulty go skiing

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 03, 2008

We interrupt this vacation for an important message: there’s a new episode of The Wire where Bunk and McNulty go skiing. Here’s a screenshot.

An entire year

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 03, 2008

Ollie is one year old today! Happy birthday, little guy! Or not so little guy anymore. The time, it flies.

In celebration, I’m taking the day off from posting here. I’ll see you after the long Will Smith holiday weekend.

Tyson Homosexual

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

You’ve likely seen this by now but I’ve got to link it up anyway because whenever I think about it, it makes me LOLL (laugh out loud, literally). The American Family Association automatically replaces words like “gay” with “homosexual” in the AP stories they display on their news site. When an American sprinter named Tyson Gay is in the news, the practice leads to hilarity.

Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials
Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

And on it goes…”On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heats…”, “Homosexual runs wind-aided 9.68 seconds to make Olympics…”, “Close call: Homosexual barely averts major flop in 100…” Fox News has applied the same technique to stories about suicide bombers…they changed all instances of that term to “homicide bombers”.

Wall-E animation techniques

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

An article from Animation World Magazine about the animation techniques used in Wall-E.

Life is nothing but imperfection and the computer likes perfection, so we spent probably 90% of our time putting in all of the imperfections, whether it’s in the design of something or just the unconscious stuff. How the camera lens works in [a real] housing is never perfect, and we tried to put those imperfections [into the virtual camera] so that everything looks like you’re in familiar [live-action] territory.

Photos fool face scanners

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Japanese face-scanning vending machines designed to distribute cigarettes only to those of legal age can be fooled by holding a photo of an of-age person in front of the scanner.

World’s first album cover

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

The world’s first album cover was designed by Alex Steinweiss for Columbia Records in 1938. Before that, records were sold in generic sleeves. (via quipsologies)

Penguin’s Great Ideas

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Flickr set of the cover designs for the 3rd installment of Penguin’s Great Ideas series of books. As We Made This rightly notes, the cover for The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is the gem of the collection.

Christopher Hitchens waterboarded

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Christopher Hitchens writes about getting waterboarded for the July issue of Vanity Fair.

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning-or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered.

As you can see in the video, Hitchens maybe lasted 15 seconds or so.

Dark Knight poster

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Nicely designed poster for The Dark Knight.


posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Wall-E was wonderful…best new film I’ve seen in a long time. With it, Andrew Stanton joins Brad Bird in Pixar’s top tier of directors, with the much-heralded John Lasseter in third place. But I can see where Tyler Cowen was coming from when he stated in his short review that the film was “not recommended for children” and that “some bold genius at Pixar will be fired”. Wall-E was funny, charming, and endearing but also subversive, disturbing, and dystopian. That combination that usually doesn’t play well at the box office but some of my favorite films ride that fine line between comedy and disconcerting drama.

Some other thoughts and observations:

Sunspots in Grand Central

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Observe sunspots by going to Grand Central Terminal?

The southern wall of the Grand Concourse, facing 42nd Street, has semicircular grills high up, with small curlicued spaces like those in a leafy tree. Many of those spaces act like the aperture of a pinhole camera, reflecting an image of the sun that, when it reaches the floor, will be 8 to 12 inches wide. The smaller grill spaces will produce dimmer but sharper solar images on your paper.

(via 92y blog)

William Lamson videos

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 02, 2008

Video art by William Lamson. The banana firecracker, the balloon duel, and the balloon box pop are my favorites.

Liquid Time Series

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Camille Utterback’s Liquid Time Series project modifies the playback of a video according to a person’s motion in front of the screen. The closer a person is to the screen, the faster the video plays in that area. Kinda hard to explain…just check out the video. See also yesterday’s time slicing Processing video.

SOS is 100 years old

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

The SOS signal celebrates 100 years of official use today.

It took the tragedy of the Titanic to reveal just how vital a universal system was. After the collision in April 1912, the ship’s radio operators sent out both the old CQD and the new SOS signals, but some ships in the area ignored both, thinking that they were having a party. They soon learnt otherwise, as international headlines told how Jack Phillips, the Titanic’s first radio operator, and 1,500 others had been lost along with the “unsinkable” ship. The new SOS distress signal was rarely ignored after that.

Guglielmo Marconi gave testimony to the panel investigating the loss of the Titanic about the emergency signals.

Mr. Marconi explained the distress signals in use in vessels equipped with wireless telegraphy. “C.Q.” meant “All stations” and “C.Q.D.” was the distress signal. According to the regulations that signal must not be used except by order of the captain of the ship, or other vessels transmitting the signal. Since 1908 the distress signal had been “S.O.S.” This and the “C.Q.D.” were simply three letters, but they could be interpreted as meaning “Come quickly, danger,” and “Save Our Souls”.

Here’s a simulation of the message that the Titanic sent out that night.

Internet’s impact on media

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

The internet and other technologies have had differing impacts on the music and publishing businesses.

One of my friends proposed a theory I find compelling: Our cultural consumption exists on a spectrum from “individual” to “collective”. Technology has shifted the balance for both books and music. Digital distrbitution and the iPod have made music consumption much more individualistic, while the internet and global branding have made book consumption increasingly collective.

(via short schrift)

$50 airline

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Almost everything on David Owen’s airline costs $50.

Laughing out loud at anything in any movie, whether it is playing on the cabin system or on your own DVD player, is fifty dollars per incident. Asking me to turn off my reading light so that you can see the screen better: also fifty dollars.

If you and your spouse are dressed almost identically, or if you are carrying your passport in a thing around your neck, or if you are wearing any form of footwear or pants that you clearly purchased specifically to wear on airplanes, or if you make it obvious (by repeatedly turning around and talking to passengers in seats not adjacent to yours) that you are travelling with a group, the charge is fifty dollars.

How to write screenplays

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Advice on writing screenplays.

I think people see inspiration as the ignition that starts the process. In fact, real moments of inspiration often come at the last minute, when you’ve sweated and fretted your way through a couple of drafts. Suddenly, you start to see fresh connections, new ways of doing things. That’s when you feel like you’re flying. The real pleasure of any script is the detail. And a lot gets lost in the process. Put it back in at the last minute.

So many problems

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Classic article from The Onion: Somebody Should Do Something About All the Problems.

I hear jabber-jabbering about the discovery of new subatomic particles. What good is a quark to me? Three and a half minutes it takes to cook a bag of microwave popcorn.

Three and a half minutes! Someone is spending a billion dollars a minute to send radio messages into space, and I have to choke down a bag of Pop-Secret kernels that are only half buttered, some not even popped to full puff. God, I pray for a future when the inventor is the friend of mankind.

DNA fingerprinting — that’s what they’re doing now. And still strawberries at Bergmann’s are $2.99 a quart. It’s ludicrous. It’s as if we live in the Dark Ages.

Proper backyard BBQ

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Foodie Jason Perlow takes the plunge and gets himself a proper barbeque rig, a Brinkmann box smoker for only $70 at Home Depot. The results look impressive, especially for $70.

Barbara Probst

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

The Morning News has an interview with photographer Barbara Probst. I’ve seen her work at the MoMA but this one is new to me and a definite favorite.

Carbon dioxide lifespan

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 01, 2008

Freeman Dyson on the average lifespan of a carbon dioxide molecule in Earth’s atmosphere.

Roughly, the total atmospheric carbon is eight hundred gigatons and photosynthesis absorbs seventy gigatons of carbon per year, giving a lifetime of about twelve years. This is the average time that a carbon dioxide molecule spends in the atmosphere before it is absorbed by a land plant. I used this lifetime to estimate how long it would take for a major change in the land vegetation to produce a major change in the atmosphere. This calculation completely ignores the ocean. In reality the flow of carbon dioxide into the ocean is about twice as large as the flow into land vegetation. So the lifetime of a carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere is really only about five years.

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