Entries for August 2008 (Archives)

James Powderly’s story of his Beijing detention

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

James Powderly, New Yorker and founder of the Graffiti Research Lab, was one of several Americans detained in China earlier this month for attempting to display protest messages related to Tibet during the Olympics. After 6 days in custody, he was released and sent back to the US. He’s given a few interviews about his experience, all really interesting. From The Brooklyn Paper:

After more than a day of continuous questioning, cops drove the artists and activists - who assumed they were headed to the airport for deportation- to a Beijing jail, where they were stripped, photographed, screened, separated from each other, and placed in cells with other prisoners. Powderly joined 11 other prisoners in a cell with only eight beds, no potable water, and bright lights that illuminated the tiny room 24-hours a day to keep the detainees from sleeping.

And from Gothamist:

Would you say the interrogations were torture? Well, I think probably, a lot of people might disagree, even some of my other detainees might feel like what they received wasn’t torture. And relative to what someone might receive on a daily basis at a place like Gitmo it certainly is not particularly harsh. It’s kind of like being a little bit pregnant, we were a little bit tortured. We were strapped into chairs in uncomfortable positions, we were put into cages with blood on the floor and told we would never live, we were sleep deprived the entire time. There was an interrogation every night and they kept us up all day. They never turned the lights off in the cells. We were fed food that was inedible, we were not given potable water. Any time you threaten and take the numbers of family members and take down home addresses, there’s an element of mental torture there. There’s physical torture in the form of us having to sit in uncomfortable positions all day long and spending the night strapped to a metal chair inside of a cage. We all have cuts and bruises from that, and some of my peers were beaten up a little bit.

There’s also a brief video interview and an article at artnet.

Powderly also stated that before he left, $2000 was extracted from his bank account by the Chinese as a fee for his plane ticket to the US. I know James a bit from Eyebeam, and for whatever stupid reason, when I first read about his detention, it never occurred to me that the detained Americans would be interrogated…I thought the Chinese would just hold them until the Olympics were over and send them home. To be interrogated to the point of mistreatment…well, glad you’re home, James.

MSNBC’s hurricane tracker

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

Here’s MSNBC’s nifty new hurricane tracker tracking Gustav bearing down on Louisiana like a shotgun full of wind and rain. Built by Stamen. (via jimray)


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

I dusted off my Vimeo account to post a test video in HD from the Kodak Zi6, the pocket-sized HD video camera (now shipping from Kodak).

Looking west down 42nd Street. Taken with the pocket-sized Kodak Zi-6 from Park Avenue, the part that’s elevated and goes around Grand Central. Music by Philip Glass from Koyaanisqatsi. It’s amazing how good Glass’ music is that some schlub can take a video of a busy Manhattan street using a pocket-sized camera and it comes out feeling like it’s a clip from the film. Leitmotif, anyone?

Came out looking pretty good. The major issue I have so far with the Zi6 is the lack of image stabilization…it’s pretty jittery, even with a steady hand. But it was $180 and it fits in my pocket so I can’t complain too much.

Cliche busting: worth its weight in gold?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

The monetary density of things…or what substances are worth their weight in gold, including $50 bills, LSD, and antimatter.

People have been saying that the new industrial grade swimsuits like the LZR Racer are worth their weight in gold. As you can see, this is clearly inaccurate. But such a suit is worth its weight in marijuana or industrial diamonds.

Using a FAQ at NASA, I calculated that a pound of aerogel is worth about $23,000…more if the aerogel has a particularly low density. One other note: printer ink is more than 50% more expensive by weight than silver is. (via mr)

From Google Earth to a gold medal

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

Kristin Armstrong, the Olympic gold medalist in the women’s individual time trial in road cycling, took a GPS unit along with her when she previewed the road course in Beijing in December 2007. When she got home to Idaho, she d/led the data, put it into Google Earth, and found a similar local loop on which to train.

This capability along with having the elevation profile proved invaluable in my preparation for my Gold Medal race.

(via matt’s a.whole)

Kubrick porn knockoffs

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

Panopticist has a quick round-up (with clips) of a few adult movies inspired by the films of Stanley Kubrick.

There have been several other porn films inspired by Kubrick’s oeuvre, including Spermacus, 2002: A Sex Odyssey, Thighs Wide Shut, and A Clockwork Orgy.


Adaptive Path’s advocacy program

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

I mentioned Adaptive Path’s employee advocacy system in my post the other day about alternative middle management strategies. Peter Merholz has written a little more about it on the AP blog today.

Computer paint gun draws Mona Lisa

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

In order to explain serial computation vs. parallel computation, the Mythbusters guys pit two paintball guns against each other in a art contest…one shoots one ball at a time and the other very much doesn’t. (thx, steve)

Taking all the fun out of the playground

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

Children’s playground equipment has gotten safer but less fun.

When litigation piled up in the early 1980s, the industry responded by raising insurance premiums and adhering closely to safety standards set up by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Unsurprisingly, few creative ideas made it through these standards, lest any innovations be dangerous and result in more injury. God forbid a child jam his finger or scrape her knee.

But what the new, safe equipment is missing, of course, is the stuff that, according to Moore, makes play fun and crucial to early-childhood development: variety, complexity, challenge, risk, flexibility, and adaptability.

One of the most difficult aspects of Ollie’s newfound mobility is balancing his need to explore freely and his safety.

Watch politicians age

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 29, 2008

Video compilations of several months of photos of John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Completely mesmerizing, especially the Bush one. See also: Noah Kalina Everyday and Paris Hilton doesn’t change facial expressions on YTMND.

Saul Bass on film titles

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

Thirty-five minute video in which Saul Bass talks about some of the iconic movie title sequences he created in his career. (via smashing telly)

Mad Men’s Arial gaffe

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

Mad Men gets a C- for using Arial in the closing credits instead of original-and-still-champion Helvetica. Time for Sterling to have a chat with the art department.


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

This is my favorite scene from Koyaanisqatsi.

Unaware at first of the camera, she sees it. Then smiles almost imperceptibly and turns away. Then self-consciously looks everywhere but at the camera. And finally, a last contemptous peek at the camera.

Update: Sorry, the video is not available outside of the US.

North Korean anti-US posters

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

A collection of North Korean anti-US propaganda posters.

Though the dog barks, the procession moves on!

(via fp passport)

How to be a good intern

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

How to be a good intern. This list works equally well for advice on how to be a good employee, manager, or CEO. “There are no stupid questions” is good advice no matter what. (via swissmiss)

Marc Jacobs profile

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

Nice profile of fashion designer Marc Jacobs, creative head of Louis Vuitton, in the New Yorker this week. Jacobs used to be a chunky unfashionable pasty-white kind of guy but has recently started dressing the part and now looks like he could model for one of LV’s magazine ads.

Jacobs walked outside to the back garden, to take in the evening amid the boxwood. “I like the fact that people are sort of commenting on my appearance,” he said. “I work on these things! So to have them recognized, even if sometimes I don’t like the way they’re recognized, I like that they are, and I feel good that I can admit that, instead of being ashamed.” He paused. “I’m going to get a ‘shameless’ tattoo next,” he said, the Eiffel Tower sparkling behind him in the night sky. “That’s what I think everyone should aspire to in life: being shameless.”

Love is a ballfield

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

A poem in which each instance of the word “love” is replaced by “Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk”.

“And know you not,” says Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame Catcher Carlton Fisk, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”

(via hodgman)

Movie-going rules

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 28, 2008

I triple endorse every single one of these 17 simple rules for going to the cinema with me.

9. You will not involuntarily exclaim any of the following, or any derivatives of the following, ten minutes before and ten minutes after the end of the screening: “Oh SHIT! OUCH!”, “Woah!”, “Oooooooh!”, “PAIN CITY!”, “Holy [anything]!”. Such exclamations are not involuntary. If you are a Tourette’s sufferer, you will provide a confirmatory note from a registered and reputable practitioner of medicine before purchasing your tickets, whereupon you will be politely refused entry.

My insistence on the strict adherence to rule #1 is why I often find myself at the movies alone (sobbing quietly, friendless).


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

Unobtainium is any very rare, expensive, or impossible material needed to suit a particular application.

Engineers have long (since at least the 1950s) used the term unobtainium when referring to unusual or costly materials, or when theoretically considering a material perfect for their needs in all respects save that it doesn’t exist. By the 1990s, the term was widely used, including formal engineering papers. (As an example, Towards unobtainium [new composite materials for space applications], by Misra and Mohan describes how the ideal material (unobtainium) would weigh almost nothing, but be very stiff and dimensionally stable over large temperature ranges.)

(via migurski)

Best TV commercials by movie directors

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

Ten cool TV commercials done by movie directors. Ridley Scott’s 1984 Apple ad makes the list along with spots by Messrs. Jonze and (Wes) Anderson. BTW, Jonze’s Ikea commercial is superior to his Gap ad. (via self-employedsandwich)

LED football game for the iPhone

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

[To be read in a hyperventilating voice.] They’re making a version of electronic handheld football for the iPhone. [Ok, now do the busy fingers gesture and hop from foot to foot.] BB Gadgets has the scant details. Next week! [Make “squee” noise.]

$100 rebate on the Kindle

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

If you can stomach having another credit card, Amazon is offering a $100 rebate on the Kindle if you apply for an Amazon Visa Card (no annual fee). That lowers the price to $259. Please read the restrictions and the fine print.

Not so middle management

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

Joel Spolsky, popular tech writer and founder of Fog Creek Software, has an article in the September 2008 issue of Inc. called How Hard Could It Be: How I Learned to Love Middle Managers. In it, Spolsky details how he came to the idea of building a small company where middle management was unnecessary. He took particular inspiration from an article he read about a GE plant.

It was about a General Electric plant in Durham, North Carolina, that made jet engines, and it offered a portrait of the perfect work environment: a factory that had more than 170 employees but just one boss. All the engine technicians reported directly to the plant manager, who did not have the time or the inclination to micromanage. There was no time clock, and people set their own schedules. Pay was egalitarian (there were only three pay grades), and workers who assembled the engines could switch tasks each day so their jobs were not monotonous. The result? In terms of quality, the plant was nearly perfect. Three-quarters of the engines it produced were flawless, and the remaining 25 percent typically had only a slight cosmetic defect.

The no-management rule worked at Fog Creek for a time but as the employee count crept up, cracks appeared in the system. Employees became disgrunted, in part because of a perceived lack of availability of the only two members of management, the CEO (Spolsky) and the president. To fix the problem, Fog Creek established a small layer of middle management.

First, we eliminated the need to get both me and Michael in the room. You have a question? I’m the CEO. Talk to me. If I want to consult with Michael, that’s my problem, not yours. Second, we appointed leaders for two of the programming teams — in effect, creating that layer of hierarchy that I had tried to avoid.

And frankly, people here seem to be happier with a little bit of middle management. Not middle management that’s going to overrule the decisions they make on their own. Not symbolic middle management that only makes people feel important. But middle management that creates useful channels of communication. If my job is getting obstacles out of the way so my employees can get their work done, these managers exist so that, when an employee has a local problem, there’s someone there, in the office next door, whom they can talk to.

Given his inital progressive approach to building a company, I’m surprised that Spolsky didn’t try something a bit different. For instance, Adaptive Path is structured using an advocate system. AP co-founder Peter Merholz explained the system to me via email.

It’s a way of avoiding typical management structures, where you have people reporting up a hierarchy. Our current structure has two levels… Executive management, and everyone else. That “everyone else” doesn’t report to the executive management. Instead, the report to one another through the advocate system. Each employee has an advocate. An advocate is like a manager, except they don’t tell you what to do. They are there to help you achieve what you want, professionally. Employees choose their own advocates. They simply ask someone if they would be their advocate.

Merholz allows that what the advocacy system doesn’t help with is communication across the organization — the very problem that was plaguing Fog Creek — and would likely work best alongside a light layer of middle management. But with the right guidelines and some slight changes, I believe it could work well in a company of 20-30 employees.

The Grey Dog’s Coffee restaurants — there are two locations in Manhattan — use a slightly different system of rotating management. Co-owner David Ethan explains.

From a historic perspective, I like to think that it’s one of the few truly bohemian places left in New York City, just based on the way we run it, like a commune. The management system here is that everybody manages. In order to work here you have two tries to show you can manage the place and if you can’t, you’re fired. Everybody manages about one shift a week and everybody’s equal. People work hard for each other. I don’t want to let you down because tomorrow it will be me. And I think they enjoy the responsibility of running a New York City restaurant. They get to pick the music, set the vibe, the lighting, everything. And they’re all pretty laid back, so it’s got a bohemian nature.

Running a restaurant each day and operating a software development company are quite different (for one thing, having a new boss every week wouldn’t work at a company like Fog Creek), but rotating managers on a project-by-project basis might work well. (BTW, I think Adaptive Path at one point rotated the presidency of the company through each of the founders in one-year chunks.)

Pentagram’s organizational structure provides a third possible way of avoiding a traditional system of middle management…although probably less germane to the Fog Creek situation than the previous two examples. The company is composed of several loosely connected teams that operate more or less autonomously while sharing some necessary services. Pentagram partner Paula Scher explained the system in her book, Make It Bigger.

As a design firm Pentagram’s structure is unique; it is essentially a group of small businesses linked together financially through necessary services and through mutual interests. Each partner maintains a design team, usually consisting of a senior designer, a couple of junior designers, and a project coordinator. The partners share accounting services, secretarial and reception services, and maintain a shared archive. Pentagram partners are responsible for attracting and developing their own business, but they pool their billings, draw the same salary, and share profit in the form of an annual bonus. It’s a cooperative…

She goes on to add:

Pentagram’s unique structure enabled me to operate as if I were a principal at a powerful corporate design firm while maintaining the individuality of a small practitioner.

Working small with the resources of a bigger firm, that’s the common thread here. I imagine there are many more similar approaches but these are a few I’ve run across in the past couple of years.

100 things author dies

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

The author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die is dead at the age of 47. I hope he made it through them all.

Update: I missed this bit of the article:

Freeman’s relatives said he visited about half the places on his list before he died

Likely better than most but still sad.

How to boil an egg

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

French cookery scientist Hervé This says that the 10-minute boiled egg is the wrong way to go about cooking your eggs. Temperature and not time is the governing factor to gloriously boiled eggs.

Recall that when an egg cooks, its proteins first unwind and then link to form a rigidifying mesh. But not all its proteins solidify at the same temperature. Ovotransferrin, the first of the egg-white proteins to uncoil, begins to set at around 61 degrees Celsius, or 142°F. Ovalbumin, the most abundant egg-white protein, coagulates at 184°F. Yolk proteins generally fall in between, with most starting to solidify when they approach 158°F. Thus, cooking an egg at 158°F or so should achieve both a firmed-up yolk and still-tender whites, since at that low temperature only some of the egg-white proteins will have coagulated.

“Cooking eggs is really a question of temperature, not time,” says This. To make the point, he switches on a small oven, sets the thermostat at 65°C, or 149°F, takes four eggs straight from the box, and unceremoniously places them inside. “I use an oven in the lab; it’s easier. But if the oven in your kitchen is not accurate, cook eggs in plenty of water, using a good thermometer.” About an hour later — timing isn’t critical, and the eggs can stay in the oven for hours or even overnight — he retrieves the first egg and carefully shells it. “The 65-degree egg!” he announces. The egg is unlike any I’ve eaten. The white is as delicately set and smooth as custard, and the yolk is still orange and soft.

(via biancolo)


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

Interesting interview about “noticing” and how good designers, writers, etc. are adept at “super-noticing”.

People carrying people

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 27, 2008

Print magazine has collected a number of images from movie posters, book covers, etc. that feature a person carrying another person.

Today, variations on this idea have begun to appear. It is very common to see the “hero” (male) in the arms of another “hero,” “beauty” in the arms of another “beauty,” and ultimately, a male being carried by a female who is no longer depicted as defenseless and childlike but strong. In a sense, it’s a return to the theme’s origin: The Madonna holding and protecting her child.

List of problems solved by MacGyver

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

More from the bounty of Wikipedia: a list of all of the problems solved by MacGyver.

MacGyver creates a bomb to open a door using a gelatin cold capsule containing sodium metal, which he then places in a glass container filled with water. When the gelatin dissolves in the water, the sodium reacts violently with the water and causes an explosion which blows a hole in the wall. (“MythBusters” questioned the size of the explosion but verified that pure sodium does cause an exothermic reaction when mixed with water, just not enough to destroy a concrete wall.) The amount of sodium required to destroy a concrete wall would greatly exceed the size of a cold pill.

Despite the length of the page, the text warns that “this list is not yet comprehensive”. (via gongblog)

Hipster anatomical drawings

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

Anatomical drawings that are part medical and part American Apparel advertisement. (via clusterflock)

Veronica Guerin

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

Digital Journalist photo blog

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

The Digital Journalist has launched a photo blog modeled after The Big Picture. Well done. I’ve followed this site on and off for years but always found it too difficult to navigate through to find the photography, which is shot by top-notch photojournalists and is amazing. Nice to see the photography put front and center. Case in point: this wonderful selection of sports photos by Walter Iooss Jr., punctuated by stories of the athletes he was photographing (Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, etc.). Here’s Iooss’ account of photographing Jordan at the 1988 dunk contest:

The problem with shooting the NBA slam-dunk contest was that you never knew how the players were going to dunk, especially Jordan. In 1997 [sic, it was actually 1987] he had twirled and dunked with his back to me. But by this time I knew him a little better. As he sat in the stands three hours before the contest, I said, “Michael, can you tell me which way you’re going to go, so I can move and get your face in the picture?” He looked at me as if I were crazy but then said, “Sure. Before I go out to dunk I’ll put my index finger on my knee and point which way I’m going.” I said, “You’re going to remember that?” And he said, “Sure.” So later, when they announced his name, I looked over to him on the bench and there was his finger pointing left. I got up and moved to the right side of the basket so I could see his face. He went left every time he dunked. On his last two dunks he ran the length of the court, took off from the foul line and slammed the ball through. On the next-to-last one he landed in my lap. On the last one I set up in the same spot. He looked at me as if to say, “Go left a little, give me some room this time.” And that was it, the picture was made: 1000th of a second frozen in time.

BTW, I’ve heard that The Big Picture has spawned a number of copycats around the web, including this one from the WSJ.

Generative book covers

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

A British company called Faber & Faber is doing print on demand books with a wrinkle: each book has its own distinct cover that’s generated at print time.

Generating the borders was just one, if major, task of the final solution, though. The custom software written in Processing, straight Java and PHP works as an internal webservice at Faber which receives new batch orders and then generates complete, print ready PDF files with all copy, branding, spine, ISBN, barcode and optional high-res JPG preview using the book details supplied. Generating a single cover only takes about 1 second, but due to its iterative and semi-random nature can sometime require hundreds of attempts until a “valid” design is created which is judged to be “on brand” by software itself.

What a day it will be when software can determine whether all of us are “on brand” or not. (thx, david)

Infoviz slideshow

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

Slate has a nice short history of information visualizations, including work from Josh On, Jonathan Harris, and Martin Wattenberg. Many many more examples can be found on kottke.org’s infoviz page.

Hands on a Hard Body on This American Life

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

I linked to Hands on a Hard Body yesterday. If you need a little extra prodding to watch it, check out the first segment of this old episode of This American Life.

We hear a long interview with Benny Perkins, who won the truck one year and was back the year they made their film to try to win again. He says a contest like this is not easy money. You slowly go crazy from sleep deprivation.

How to draw

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

How to draw anything in one step: Draw a dog covering the thing you can’t draw. The examples are hilarious. (via waxy)

Statistics in a Nutshell book

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

New book from O’Reilly: Statistics in a Nutshell.

Need to learn statistics as part of your job, or want some help passing a statistics course? Statistics in a Nutshell is a clear and concise introduction and reference that’s perfect for anyone with no previous background in the subject. This book gives you a solid understanding of statistics without being too simple, yet without the numbing complexity of most college texts.

MP3 of The Wire discussion

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2008

An mp3 of the entirety of last month’s discussion of The Wire presented by the Museum of the Moving Picture is online. Participants included David Simon, Richard Price, Wendell Pierce (The Bunk), and Clark Johnson.

Fake following

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

This is a little bit genius. One of the new features of FriendFeed (a Twitter-like thingie) is “fake following”. That means you can friend someone but you don’t see their updates. That way, it appears that you’re paying attention to them when you’re really not. Just like everyone does all the time in real life to maintain their sanity. Rex calls it “most important feature in the history of social networks” and I’m inclined to agree. It’s one of the few new social features I’ve seen that makes being online buddies with someone manageable and doesn’t just make being social a game or competition.

Update: Merlin Mann’s proposal for a pause button is a more flexible way to accomplish the above (and more).

Any application that lets you “friend,” “follow,” or otherwise observe another user should include a prominent (and silent) “PAUSE” button. I think users of apps like Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Delicious, and, yes, FriendFeed, would benefit from an easy and undramatic way to take a little break from a “friend” — without inducing the grand mal meltdown that “unfriending” causes the web’s more delicately-composed publishers.

News readers too, please.

Update: See also the concept of artificial attention.

Fantastic Contraption, addictive Flash game

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Warning, addictive Flash game: Fantastic Contraption. You build a little machine to push, pull, drag, or fling a special wheel into the goal. The best part is that when you complete a level, you can see how other players completed it (and how unimaginative you are). Really, really fascinating. For a level requiring some stair climbing, one fellow built a Theo Jansen-like beast that walked right up those stairs. For another level, another person built a catapult. (via buzzfeed)

Ice cream, igneous rock

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Ice cream is an igneous rock made up of ice, air, and sugar.

Much like igneous rocks, the same liquid mix can turn out very differently depending on what happens while it is freezing. The goal of most ice cream and sorbet is to have a smooth and creamy texture, which would be ruined by the presence of large ice crystals. To achieve this, you want to cool your ice cream so quickly that the crystals don’t have time to grow, and keep the mixture stirred up while it freezes. There’s a lot of energy involved in the transition from liquid to solid water, and a home ice cream maker can’t do the heat transfer quickly enough to keep the ice crystals small, so you have to sit there and turn the crank until your arm is sore while the mixture slowly freezes (or invest in a fancier machine that will do the stirring for you).

See also what happens when ice cream sits for too long in the freezer and the book, The Science of Ice Cream.

Arty bathroom tiles

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Christoph Niemann has used some unusual image sources to tile his bathrooms. For the shower, an appropriation of Warhol’s Brillo box. For the kids bathroom, a NYC subway map.

Daytum, your daily data

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Daytum is a site for keeping track of your life, a “home for collecting and communicating your daily data”. For a glimpse of how Daytum might work, check out Daytum founder Nicholas Felton’s personal annual reports. Somewhat related: Trixie Tracker, the online baby tracking software. The first person I remember tracking their data in this way online was Erik Benson on his Morale-O-Meter.

Update: And Moodstats from K10K…I forgot about (the dearly departed) Moodstats! (thx, nick)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the movie

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

They’re making an animated movie of my favorite book from childhood, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

“It’s actually only loosely — very, very loosely — based on the book,” Faris explained. “But it’s about a small town that rains food, basically. So hamburgers come down, and ice cream, and [the residents] have to figure out a way [stop it]. Eventually, it gets more and more dangerous, and they have to figure out a way to stop the satellite machine that’s raining food.”

It stars Andy Samberg and Anna Faris. I’m prepared to be *very* disappointed. (thx, kimberly)

Best photos of the Beijing Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Three galleries of the best photos taken at the Olympics. Part 2 and part 3. NSFW.

Update: Caveat to the links above: all the photos above are lifted from elsewhere. You may prefer the collection at Big Picture instead. I’ve got mixed feelings about sites that take photos from other sites without proper attribution. On one hand, the photographers are not getting their due credit and payment for those photos but on the other, the act of collecting and curating adds something new to the work and results in something worthwhile. I wish there were a way for sites to make groups of photos like these without the hefty licensing expenses…the photographers get more of their photos out there and we get all sorts of neat views through the lenses of the photographers and talented curators. (thx, josh)

Movies families, painted

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Paintings of notable movie families, including the Clark W. Griswolds and the Jack Torrences from The Shining.

Hands on a Hard Body

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 25, 2008

Hands on a Hard Body is available on Google Video in its entirety. From Wikipedia:

Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary is a 1997 film documenting an endurance competition that took place in Longview, Texas. The yearly competition pits twenty-four contestants against each other to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time. Whoever endures the longest without leaning on the truck or squatting wins the truck. Five minute breaks are issued every hour and fifteen minute breaks every six hours.

I *love* this movie. (via waxy)

Update: Whoa! The contest on which this film is based was cancelled after a 2005 competitor shot himself shortly after he left the contest.

Vega had been a contestant in the internationally popular Hands on a Hardbody contest at Patterson Nissan in Longview when he killed himself Thursday morning after leaving the contest at the beginning of its third day. The 24-year-old East Texan walked away around 6 a.m., when he politely excused himself just before a scheduled 15-minute break for competitors, a witness said.

A lawsuit filed by Vega’s widow alleging that the dealership was “negligent in organizing and conducting the contest” was just recently settled. (thx, justin)

Radio program on The Ring Cycle

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

Speaking of leitmotifs, it’s a primary topic of conversation in this wonderful WNYC radio program about Richard Wagner’s quartet of operas, The Ring Cycle.

It might seem hyperbole to claim, as many Wagnerites do, that The Ring Cycle is “The Greatest Work of Art Ever.” But the grandeur and power of this monumental work have permeated our culture from Star Wars to Bugs Bunny to J.R.R. Tolkien.

And Led Zeppelin! The program is hosted by Radio Lab’s Jad Abumrad. (thx, billy & laura)

New Yorker cartoon idea

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

My Olympics-themed New Yorker cartoon idea: Two men walk down the hallway of an office. One of the men, just laid off, carries a box with his things in it and says to the other man, “Don’t worry, I’ll work my way back through the repechage.”

How to get a free haircut

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

How to get a free haircut on the street in San Francisco. Like crowdsourced media, it sort of works but is probably better done by people who know what they’re doing.

The Seed Salon

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

The Seed Salon features videos and text transcripts of conversations with scientists and other persons of scientific interest. Includes the likes of Paola Antonelli, Noam Chomsky, Errol Morris, and Lisa Randall.

Word of the day: leitmotif

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

I’ve seen this word in two separate articles today: leitmotif.

A leitmotif is a recurring musical theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. The word has also been used by extension to mean any sort of recurring theme, whether in music, literature, or the life of a fictional character or a real person.


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

I always forget about the awesome DFL blog until right before the Olympics are over. The site keeps track of all the last place finishers during the Games. Here’s the site’s tagline:

Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they’re there, and you’re not.

China is leading with 8 last place finishes. (via matt’s a.whole)

Blu-ray sale, 50% off

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

Amazon is having a Blu-ray sale…selected Blu-ray movies are 50% off. Titles include Mad Men season 1, No Country for Old Men, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Reservoir Dogs, and Gangs of New York.

Water Cube panorama

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 22, 2008

Awesome panorama of the Water Cube in Beijing from the top of the 10 meter platform. Looks way higher than on TV.

Neal Stephenson’s Anathem

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

Neal Stephenson’s new book, Anathem, sounds pretty interesting. From Steven Levy’s otherwise unsatisfying profile of Stephenson in the new Wired:

Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced “arb”), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment — sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or “auts,” who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals. Freed from the pressures of pedestrian life, the avaunt view time differently. Their society — the “mathic” world — is clustered in walled-off areas known as concents built around giant clocks designed to last for centuries. The avaunt are separated into four groups, distinguished by the amount of time they are isolated from the outside world and each other. Unarians stay inside the wall for a year. Decenarians can venture outside only once a decade. Centenarians are locked in for a hundred years, and Millennarians — long-lifespanners who are endowed with Yoda-esque wisdom — emerge only in years ending in triple zeros.

Shades of Wall-E and Idiocracy. Another tidbit from the article: Stephenson works part-time for Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures building inventions.

Juergen Teller, photographer, isn’t sexy

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

I found this New York magazine profile of fashion photographer Juergen Teller pretty fascinating. For one thing, none of Teller’s photos are retouched.

But perhaps most rare for fashion photography, Teller’s pictures are absolutely never retouched. “I’m interested in the person I photograph,” he says. “The world is so beautiful as it is, there’s so much going on which is sort of interesting. It’s just so crazy, so why do I have to put some retouching on it? It’s just pointless to me.”

And then there’s this anecdote. After a bad encounter with a subject who didn’t like how old she looked in Teller’s photographs, he went to see his friend Charlotte Rampling.

Despondent, Teller called his friend Rampling, who offered to cook him dinner. They talked about how it feels to be photographed, and how it feels to age. “I just thought, Fuck this, I’m going to photograph myself,” he says. And then there the two of them were, in the Louis XV suite of the Hotel de Crillon, with Teller way too fat to fit into any of the Marc Jacobs samples save one terribly shiny pair of silver shorts.

“I thought, Fuck,” Teller says, “I don’t even fucking fit into these clothes. I’m really fucking stuck now.”

So he pulled on the shorts in the bathroom. “I came out and I had my socks on and I had these shorts on and no top, and I just said, ‘Ta-da!’ And she said, ‘Oh my God. What are we going to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. But really, honestly’-and I could hardly bring it out of my mouth-I said, ‘I just want to kiss you and fondle your breasts.’ And she didn’t say a word. She just leaned back in her armchair and went into her handbag and got a cigarillo out and lit it and the air was thick and I was mortified. And then she sort of dragged on her cigarette and said, ‘Okay. Let’s start. I’ll tell you when to stop.’”

Here are some of the images that resulted from that shoot (NSFW).

No mo’ soil, mo’ problems

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

We’re running out of dirt. So says geologist David R. Montgomery in Charles Mann’s article about the perils affecting the world’s soil, including soil compaction in industrialized nations, drought in Africa, and erosion in China.1 Not that progress isn’t being made. Some of the farm land in Burkina Faso has been recovered by local farming techniques.

He assembled the farmers in his area, and by 1981 they were experimenting together with techniques to restore the soil, some of them traditions that Ouédraogo had heard about in school. One of them was cordons pierreux: long lines of stones, each perhaps the size of a big fist. Snagged by the cordon, rains washing over crusty Sahelian soil pause long enough to percolate. Suspended silt falls to the bottom, along with seeds that sprout in this slightly richer environment. The line of stones becomes a line of plants that slows the water further. More seeds sprout at the upstream edge. Grasses are replaced by shrubs and trees, which enrich the soil with falling leaves. In a few years a simple line of rocks can restore an entire field.

For a time Ouédraogo worked with a farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo. Innovative and independent-minded, he wanted to stay on his farm with his three wives and 31 children. “From my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather, we were always here,” he says. Sawadogo, too, laid cordons pierreux across his fields. But during the dry season he also hacked thousands of foot-deep holes in his fields-za”i, as they are called, a technique he had heard about from his parents. Sawadogo salted each pit with manure, which attracted termites. The termites digested the organic matter, making its nutrients more readily available to plants. Equally important, the insects dug channels in the soil. When the rains came, water trickled through the termite holes into the ground. In each hole Sawadogo planted trees. “Without trees, no soil,” he says. The trees thrived in the looser, wetter soil in each zai. Stone by stone, hole by hole, Sawadogo turned 50 acres of wasteland into the biggest private forest for hundreds of miles.

Sawadogo’s method turned out to be a little too successful. Burkina’s government allows cities to annex nearby land and Sawadogo’s forest was recently snatched up by a nearby town. Don’t forget to check out the accompanying photos…this is National Geographic after all.

[1] Mann is the author of 1491, one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past few years.

Turning the date

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

With a Russian athlete leading the javelin competition, Czech thrower Barbora Spotakova stepped up for her final throw and thought about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia forty years ago that day. After her victory, she described her goal with that throw in a wonderful turn of phrase:

I was wondering if I could turn the date.

I don’t know if that’s a translation or what, but non-native speakers of English often express ideas more beautifully than native speakers do (Nabokov for example).

Somewhat related…how perfect is the name of the US women’s soccer team goalkeeper: Hope Solo.

Update: I need a do-over on this one. First of all, Nabokov is a native English speaker; in fact, he could read and write English before he could Russian. Second, the NY Times modified the quote in that article! When I read it, the selection above was a direct quote attributed to Spotakova. Now the passage reads:

“Aug. 21 is a very special day for the Czech Republic — it’s the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion in 1968,” she said afterward. “I of course had a Russian competitor against me. She was winning with such a long throw,” she added, and said she wondered if she’d be able to turn the date to her advantage.

That’s much less poetic…I wonder if there was a translation misunderstanding or something. (thx, dan & nivan)

Atlas of bank robberies

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

Someone make this map, please:

It occurred to me that you could make a map — a whole book of maps — detailing all possible routes of bank robbery within the underground foundations of a city. What basements to tunnel through, what walls can be hammered down: you make a labyrinth of well-placed incisions and the city is yours. Perforated from below by robbers, it rips to pieces. The city is a maze of unrealized break-ins.

Disassembled household appliances

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

Photos of disassembled household appliances.

this was my senior thesis project at the hartford art school this past year…i took apart used cooking/cleaning appliances, and arranged their interior parts very systematically on a white sheet of bristol board. my intention was to explore the hidden “brains” of these appliances; allowing us to view these everyday objects from a new perspective.

Photographer Miroslav Tichy

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

This is Miroslav Tichy, a Czech photographer:

Miroslav Tichy

This is one of Tichy’s homemade cameras, fashioned from cardboard tubing, string, and thread spools:

Miroslav Tichy

Here’s a photo taken with one of his homemade cameras:

Miroslav Tichy

Of the apparent quality of his photography Tichy says:

Photography is painting with light! The blurs, the spots, those are errors! But the errors are part of it, they give it poetry and turn it into painting. And for that you need as bad a camera as possible! If you want to be famous, you have to do whatever you’re doing worse than anyone else in the whole world.

Awesome. (via this is that)

DIY perfume

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 21, 2008

In remembrance of her grandmother, Chicagoan Jessica Dunne created her own perfume called Ellie.

She sought out Michel Roudnitska, a perfumer who lives in France, to be her collaborator. Her family in her hometown of Villanova, Pa., served as her focus group. A friend volunteered to tie by hand the grosgrain ribbon bow that decorates each package. Then Ms. Dunne cold-called Claudia Lucas, the perfume buyer at Henri Bendel in Manhattan, and asked whether she could send a sample of the perfume.

More information about Ellie, as well as a more contemporary scent called Ellie Nuit, is available on Dunne’s site.

Handling adversity

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

The pithy Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

(via avenues)


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Chimping is the practice of checking your just-taken photos on your DSLR’s LCD screen. (via textism)

Great Olympic moments on YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

One of the best ways to watch the Olympics is to chase down all the references made by NBC’s commentators on YouTube and watch them in addition to (or instead of) the regular telecast. Here are some of the ones I’ve found.

From the 1976 Olympics, the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics history by Nadia Comaneci on the uneven parallel bars. This more impressive routine also earned a 10, as did this balance beam routine.

Olga Korbut’s uneven parallel bars routine from the 1972 Olympics (above). Love that dismount! The skills done on the bars today are so much more athletic but Korbut’s routine was a magical flowing performance. At the rate the women today are going, the uneven parallel bars will soon be replaced by the high bar used in the men’s competitions…they barely use the bottom bar anymore.

My recollection of the men’s 4x100m relay at the 1984 Olympics involves the US team trailing after three legs when Carl Lewis (still my favorite Olympian) seizes the baton from Calvin Smith and thunders down the last 100 meters, singlehandedly winning the race and smashing the world record. The reality was somewhat different. The American team was way ahead when Lewis got the baton but it still is amazing to watch him pull away from the rest of the field like that. Bolt-like, innit?

A similar pulling away occurred in 1996 by Michael Johnson in the 200 meters. No one even came close to threatening his world record for 12 years until the emergence of Usain Bolt.

In 1988, Greg Louganis hit his head on the board on his third-to-last dive in the preliminaries of the men’s springboard. He returned to qualify for the next round and eventually won the gold medal in the event.

Bob Beamon smashed the world record in the long jump by almost two feet at the 1968 Olympics. His record stood for almost 23 years until Mike Powell broke it in 1991.

Also at the ‘68 Games, Dick Fosbury unveiled his unique high jumping technique, the Fosbury Flop, which became the preferred technique in this event. For comparison, here are a couple of videos showing the other techniques that were in use at the time.

Jesse Owens’ 100 meter win at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

After his hamstring popped in the semifinals of the 400 meters at the 1992 Olympics, Derek Redmond, aided by his father, finished the race to roars from the crowd. Just thinking about this makes me cry.

Speaking of tear-inducing performances, Kerri Strug hobbled up to the vault runway on a bum ankle and hit a 9.712 on her final vault in the team competition at the 1996 Games, landing more or less perfectly on one foot, clinching a victory for the US team. Or so the story goes. As with all mythology, the truth is present but not entirely adhered to. As it turned out, the US team had enough of a lead on the Russian team that Strug’s last vault was unnecessary. But it hardly dimishes the moment for Strug. At the time, she thought she had to do the vault for the medal and she went out there and stuck it.

And finally, Svetlana Khorkina on the uneven parallel bars at the 1996 Games. For reasons I don’t fully understand, Khorkina is probably my favorite female Olympian ever.

Update: From the 1964 Games, here’s a video of Billy Mills coming from behind in the 10,000 meters. I have no idea how he sprints that fast after running more than six miles. (thx, nivan)

You vs. Usain Bolt

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Race Usain Bolt in this button mashing Flash game. I was a fair Track & Fielder back in the day so I beat Bolt on my first attempt. [Insert elaborate archery pose emoticon here.] (thx, scott)

Fake restaurant wins wine award

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Beware gatekeepers on autopilot. As part of the research process for an academic paper on wine awards, Robin Goldstein submitted an application for Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence using a fake restaurant and a subpar wine list.

I named the restaurant “Osteria L’Intrepido” (a play on the name of a restaurant guide series that I founded, Fearless Critic). I submitted the fee ($250), a cover letter, a copy of the restaurant’s menu (a fun amalgamation of somewhat bumbling nouvelle-Italian recipes), and a wine list. Osteria L’Intrepido won the Award of Excellence, as published in print in the August 2008 issue of Wine Spectator.

Most of the wines on the “reserve” list had previously been panned in the magazine. Ouch. (via eater)

Update: Wine Spectator’s executive editor has responded to what he calls an “elaborate hoax” on the magazine’s message board. The response is somewhat defensive, defiantly unapologetic, and, in the end, a pretty effective defense of the magazine’s position. In particular, they did take steps to verify the restaurant’s existence, including several phone calls to the provided phone number, reading (fictitious) online reviews, and visiting the restaurant’s web site. (via diner’s journal)

Ebert thinks 3-D sucks

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Roger Ebert is not a fan of 3-D movies.

Ask yourself this question: Have you ever watched a 2-D movie and wished it were in 3-D? Remember that boulder rolling behind Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” Better in 3-D? No, it would have been worse. Would have been a tragedy. The 3-D process is like a zombie, a vampire, or a 17-year cicada: seemingly dead, but crawling out alive after a lapse of years. We need a wooden stake.

What makes for a good blog?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Merlin Mann lists some attributes of good blogs.

Good blogs try. I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.

Like Merlin, I’m discovering fewer and fewer good blogs these days. Part of it is that blogging as I would define it is passe. These days people are writing for online magazines like Gawker or Tumblring or Twittering or Facebooking or doing a million other things on the web. But people are also listening to a bunch of bad advice — CALL NOW TO FIND OUT HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH BLOGS AND WE’LL THROW IN THIS JUICER ABSOLUTELY FREE — instead of Merlin’s level-headedness.

Drunken Mario Kart

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 20, 2008

Is Mario Kart any easier while drunk? Actually yes, although they only went to .08 BAC…I’d like to see the results at .20.

Vincent Laforet’s Olympic photos

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

Photographer Vincent Laforet, formerly of the NY Times, is in Beijing making photos of the Olympics. Here’s a look at some of the stuff he’s been shooting and the process behind getting those wonderful overhead shots of his.

Getting a photograph of Phelps from above is priceless — so it’s all worth the hassle. Here he is winning gold in the 200 meter individual medley. This was shot with a 400mm 2.8 handheld—oh yeah, hand holding a 12 pound lens ain’t easy. Luckily it was strapped to me — and I to the catwalk with oodles of safety cables. We weren’t allowed to being extra CF Cards or even a paper start list, which is pretty extreme if you ask me. We were patted down before we went up by the photo escorts, and we all tried to get things in — even our credentials were left behind. While extreme, I agree with one of the photo escorts who said that if even one sheet of paper floated harmlessly down from the catwalk. it would be game over for everyone — no more catwalk access.

You can keep up with Laforet’s Olympic output at his blog. (thx, stacy)

The weight loss game

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

Clive Thompson on Weight Watchers as an RPG (role playing game).

As with an RPG, you roll a virtual character, manage your inventory and resources, and try to achieve a goal. Weight Watchers’ points function precisely like hit points; each bite of food does damage until you’ve used up your daily amount, so you sleep and start all over again. Play well and you level up — by losing weight! And the more you play it, the more you discover interesting combinations of the rules that aren’t apparent at first. Hey, if I eat a fruit-granola breakfast and an egg-and-romaine lunch, I’ll have enough points to survive a greasy hamburger dinner for a treat!

iPhone SSH clients

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

There are four SSH clients for the iPhone; here’s a review comparing them all. (via waxy)

How to solve crossword puzzles

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

NY Times resident crossword puzzle master Will Shortz on how to solve the NY Times crossword puzzle.

Mental flexibility is a great asset in solving crosswords. Let your mind wander. The clue “Present time” might suggest nowadays, but in a different sense it might lead to the answer yuletide. Similarly, “Life sentences” could be obit, “Inside shot” is x-ray and my all-time favorite clue, “It turns into a different story” (15 letters), results in the phrase SPIRAL STAIRCASE.

The most famous trips in history

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

Good Magazine has a nice little map feature on some of the world’s greatest journeys, including Magellan’s circumnavigation, the old Silk Road, and Around the World in 80 Days. (via justin blanton)

Unusual medical conditions

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

Ten people who have unusual medical conditions, including the woman who can’t stop orgasming, the woman who is allergic to cell phones and microwaves, and the boy who can’t sleep.

Fake Louis Vuitton products

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

A collection of photos of custom and counterfeit Louis Vuitton products. Big omission: David LaChapelle’s photo of an LV’d Lil’ Kim. (via quips)

The pretty colors of salt evaporation ponds

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

COLOURlovers draws out some color palettes from salt evaporation ponds from around the world. If you’ve ever flown into San Francisco, you may have seen the salt ponds at the south end of the bay.

Library of Dust

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

BLDGBLOG tells us about Library of Dust, a book of photographs of an Oregon state psychiatric institution.

Esteemed photographer David Maisel has created a somber and beautiful series of images depicting canisters containing the cremated remains of the unclaimed dead from an Oregon psychiatric hospital. Dating back as far as the nineteenth century these canisters have undergone chemical reactions causing extravagant blooms of brilliant white green and blue corrosion revealing unexpected beauty in the most unlikely of places. This stately volume is both a quietly astonishing body of fine art from a preeminent contemporary photographer and an exceptionally poignant monument to the unknown deceased.

The middle management Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 19, 2008

John Kenney goes for the gold in bi-monthly-status-meeting commenting. Even as a young student, Kenney seemed tailor made for this event. As his teacher recalls:

In twenty-five years of teaching, I’d never seen a student with less energy, interest, or charisma. It was almost like he was catatonic. But then, when called upon in class, he was able, at an early age, to take a fresh, cogent thought that a classmate had made moments before and restate it as if it were his own. I knew then that he had the raw skills to become a truly great middle-management-meeting Olympian.

Slo-mo skate video

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

Gorgeous slow-mo HD skateboarding video. You can really see the crazy things that the boards do in the air. (via justin blanton)

Muxtape and the RIAA

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

Muxtape finally runs afoul of the RIAA.

Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.

Update: On their blog, Muxtape emphasizes that the outage is temporary:

No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned.

Michael Johnson’s 19.32

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

A look at just how crazy Michael Johnson’s 200m world record is.

Eyeballing the chart would suggest that the cutting edge of human achievement in the 200m is anything sub-19.7. A 19.59 at Beijing would be phenomenal. Then you scroll down — way down — and you hit Johnson’s 19.32.

Johnson has stated that he’s fully prepared for Usain Bolt to break his record.

Vintage business signs

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

This is a fantastic set of photos of old business signs, many of them neon. As Ben says, “is it possible to favorite every photo in a set at once?”

Video game faces

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

If you can brave the Flashcrapular flippa-dee-do-da interface, Evan Baden’s Illuminati photos are worth a look. They depict people’s faces bathed in the light of their computer screens, iPods, and video games. See also Phillip Toledano’s Video Gamers series. Toledano is also behind the fantastic Days with My Father. (via conscientious)

Update: Also see also Dennis Chamberlin’s Screen Culture photos. (thx, blaine)

Our daily bread

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

Every now and then, you may find yourself wondering: how many atoms of Jesus do you eat everyday?

In the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the eucharist actually becomes the blood and body of Jesus Christ. […] Transubstantiation means that eventually the earth’s entire biomass will be made out of Jesus.

Eventually = 4.91 billion years.

National Geographic map of the day

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

National Geographic has a nifty map of the day feature.

Browse through history using our daily maps of historical news events and milestones. Navigate the map using our zoom tool.

(via khoi)

Bottle Rocket, The Criterion Collection

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson’s first film, is getting the Criterion treatment in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. Lovely cover. (via goldenfiddle)

Faster-than-light communication

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

In a Swiss experiment, two entangled photons 18 km away from each other were able to communicate with each other almost instantaneously.

On the basis of their measurements, the team concluded that if the photons had communicated, they must have done so at least 100,000 times faster than the speed of light — something nearly all physicists thought would be impossible. In other words, these photons cannot know about each other through any sort of normal exchange of information.

Update: Hrm, the link above scampered behind Nature’s paywall. Here’s a post on the Scientific American blog instead.


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 18, 2008

You can read scans of all sorts of magazines for free at Mygazines. The scans are uploaded by other users of the site. Magazine publishers are understandably upset. I liked this bit from the press release announcing the site:

The mygazines concept is simple, essentially it allows its members to share magazines in the same manner a doctors’ office, law firm, libraries, and hair salons would with their clients every day.

(via waxy)

My yearbook photos

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 17, 2008

If I travelled through time for the purpose of attending high school, here’s what my yearbook photos would look like:


Make your own at Yearbook Yourself. The 1988 photo approximates what I looked like in high school. (via merlin)

Phelps-Cavic photo finish

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 16, 2008

Underwater photos from the finish in the men’s 100-meter butterfly finals, both just before Phelps and Cavic touched the wall and just after. It’s amazing how far Phelps was behind before his half-stroke.

Cavic seems like an interesting guy and is handling the close loss well. He wrote an entry on his blog entitled “Success!!!”

On winning a SILVER medal: I am completely happy, and still in complete disbelief that I was able to achieve this feat! I’m not joking… It’s a tough loss, but I’m on cloud nine. I congratulated Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. I’m just glad the race was fun to watch for everyone. It was a pleasure for me, really.

Cavic came to Beijing with the goal of winning the bronze in this event; he called his silver “the greatest moment of my life”. I also liked this account of his pre-race routine:

Hall said he could tell before the race that Cavic was in the right frame of mind to challenge Phelps, when he adopted the same prerace routine as Phelps by putting one foot on the starting block and turning to face in his rival’s direction.

“Most guys are trembling when they have to step up to Michael Phelps,” Hall said. “But he did not fear him, and it showed.”

Cavic said he was not “staring him down” before the race.

“Both of us had metallic goggles, so I couldn’t see his eyes, and he couldn’t see mine,” Cavic said. “Maybe he was able to see the reflection of himself, and he was like, Hey, I look pretty good. I saw myself in his reflection and was like, I’m keeping this under control.”

Update: Here’s a look at how the Omega timing system used in the Water Cube works. The timing system is more accurate than the pool architecture:

OMEGA touch pads and starting blocks are part of an integrated timing system capable of recording times to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. However, because it is not possible to build swimming pools in which each lane is guaranteed to be precisely the same length, Olympic and World Records are still recorded to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

(thx, david)

Update: Sports Illustrated has a frame-by-frame look at the Phelps/Cavic finish. For the conspiracy theorists out there, I believe the fifth frame tells the tale pretty well.

Olympic national anthems

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 16, 2008

The NY Times collects the national anthems of all the countries that have won gold medals in the Olympics so far.

Movies on Hulu

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 15, 2008

Some movies Rex didn’t realize you could watch in their entirety (for free and in 480p) on Hulu: Metropolitan, The Fifth Element, 28 Days Later, Requiem for a Dream, Lost in Translation, Koyaanisqatsi, and Eternal Sunshine.

Me either! Also available are Raising Arizona, Lost Highway, Hoop Dreams, Sideways, Master and Commander, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, and Groundhog Day.

Michael Phelps’ iPod

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 15, 2008

Before each race during the Olympics, Michael Phelps is seen sporting those ubiquitous white iPod earbuds. But what’s he listening to? A lot of rap and hip hop.

Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman shop for CDs and DVDs

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 15, 2008

A YouTube video of Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman shopping at Borders for CDs and DVDs. It’s as painful as it sounds. (via fimoculous)

McDonald’s medals

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 15, 2008

Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald’s for 30 days, gained 25 pounds, and had health problems. US swimmer Ryan Lochte has eaten McDonald’s for “almost every meal” since he arrived in Beijing and has won four Olympic medals. His fellow swimmer Michael Phelps doesn’t eat so healthy either. In a sport where you can win or lose by tenths or hundredths of seconds, I wonder what impact a proper diet would have on their times. (And to not eat any Chinese food — one of the world’s great cuisines — while in Beijing? A travesty.)

Update: The Guardian’s Jon Henley tries Michael Phelps’ diet for a day. Unsuccessfully, I don’t need to add. (thx, laura)

Update: Fear of illness may also have something to do with Lochte’s standing reservation at McDonald’s.

Buzzfeed contributions and Fire Eagle

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 13, 2008

Buzzfeed unveiled a little something new this week: contributions. The site has always had a feedback mechanism where people could suggest links to add to trends, but now anyone can sign up for an account and contribute links, text, videos, and images to Buzzfeed posts. The vast majority of comments on blogs are text-only but Buzzfeed makes it easy to post video, link, and images responses as well. Call it the Tumblrization of blog comments. Innovation in blog comments has been hard to come by for the past few years…this is a nice step. (Disclosure: I’m an advisor to Buzzfeed.)

Fire Eagle, Yahoo’s personal location service, has been in beta for awhile but is now live for anyone to use. The service allows you to update your location through the site, your phone, or through 3rd party apps and services. You can broadcast that location to your friends or keep it to yourself for use with other Fire Eagle-enabled apps (e.g. show me coffee shops near where I am right now). Think of the site as an online wallet where you keep your location for use all around the web. The .net TLD is a nice touch, emphasizing the hub-like character of the site/service.

[And why paste these two sites together? Ze Frank. He’s been helping Buzzfeed with their contributions launch and Fire Eagle took its name from Frank’s The Show (Fire Eagle Danger Day).]

Light week

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 10, 2008

Posting will be a bit light this week. I’m on vacation and the internet where we’re staying is a bit flakier than anticipated. So I’ll see everyone next week.

Bernie Mac, RIP

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 09, 2008

Bernie Mac, RIP.


Why are MLB bats breaking?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 08, 2008

Popular Woodworking magazine weighs in: why are major league bats breaking at an increasing rate?

So is the broken bat mystery merely a question of maple vs. ash? As a woodworker, I doubt it. I will concede that the safety question is best answered with the choice of ash over maple because I’d bet the ash will be far less likely to break in two and send a hurtling projectile. More likely, ash will just crack or splinter.

(thx, brent)

Update: Cal Ripken and Harold Reynolds agree with the woodworkers: bats break because they’re lighter with thinner handles. (thx, gerard)

Olympic medals by population

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 08, 2008

In terms of population, the Bahamas won more medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics than any other country, by more than double. For a country of ~21 million, the super-fit Australians make a good showing on the list.

Update: And here’s a listing of medals rated by wealth. (thx, noah)

Top ten psychology videos

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 08, 2008

The top ten psychology videos includes footage of the Stanford Prison Experiment and Jill Boyte Taylor’s TED talk about having a stroke. Surely this 45-min video about The Milgram Experiment should have been on the list.

What will the LHC find?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 08, 2008

A list of possible discoveries by the Large Hadron Collider and the probability of each discovery being made within the next five years.

The Higgs Boson: 95%. The Higgs is the only particle in the Standard Model of Particle Physics which hasn’t yet been detected, so it’s certainly a prime target for the LHC (if the Tevatron doesn’t sneak in and find it first). And it’s a boson, which improves CERN’s chances. There is almost a guarantee that the Higgs exists, or at least some sort of Higgs-like particle that plays that role; there is an electroweak symmetry, and it is broken by something, and that something should be associated with particle-like excitations. But there’s not really a guarantee that the LHC will find it. It should find it, at least in the simplest models; but the simplest models aren’t always right. If the LHC doesn’t find the Higgs in five years, it will place very strong constraints on model building, but I doubt that it will be too hard to come up with models that are still consistent.

The list also functions as a nice overview of what’s happening at the edges of our physics understanding. (via 3qd)


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 08, 2008

‘Llectuals is like Gossip Girls or 90210, except it’s on PBS and for English majors. Girls Gone Wilde! (thx, matt)

Olympics TV schedule calendar (in GCal)

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

NBC has an extensive calendar of events on their fancy Olympics web site but it doesn’t look like they have the option of simply subscribing to a TV schedule calendar in iCal or on Google Calendar. I found a Google Calendar of the Olympic TV listings that looks to be accurate. I couldn’t find an iCal calendar; the closest I got was this schedule of competition calendar, which looks like it may or may not jibe with the broadcast schedule here in the US (many of the main sports will be broadcast on a tape delay). Has anyone found a Olympic TV sched iCal calendar?

The Parallel Universe Film Guide

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

The Parallel Universe Film Guide catalogues hundreds of movies that never were but may exist in another quantum reality. Titles include Help! Our Camera Has Palsy, Adorable Italian Stereotypes Al Dente, and Who’s Tired of Philosophical Hit Men? Not Me! (via vsl)

Singular capitalization

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

Why is the word “I” capitalized?

Electric Company typography

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

The typography of The Electric Company.

English quiz

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

How many of the 100 most common English words can you name in 5 minutes? Surely you can do better than my pathetic 42/100.

Free topographical maps

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

Kevin Kelly tells us how to print out free topographical maps for hiking, camping, etc.

No image in toast for atheist

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 07, 2008

Atheist finds image of nothing in his toast. Quick, put the toast on eBay!

The $1000 iPhone app

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

Yesterday developer Armin Heinrich posted an iPhone app to the App Store called I Am Rich. The program displays a red gem, has no function but to display your wealth to others through ownership, and costs $1000. It has since been removed from the App Store, although no one knows whether Apple or Heinrich pulled it.

I Am Rich isn’t the most clever piece of art, but it’s not bad either. For some, the iPhone is already an obvious display of wealth and I Am Rich is commenting on that. Plus, buying more than you need as an indication of wealth is practically an American core value for a growing segment of the population. Is paying $5000 for a wristwatch or $50,000 for a car when much cheaper alternatives exist really all that different than paying $1000 for an iPhone app?

When news of the app got out onto the web, the outcry came swiftly. VentureBeat implored Apple to pull it from the App Store, as did several other humorless blogs. Blog commenters were even more harsh in their assessments. What I can’t understand is: why should Apple pull I Am Rich from the App Store? They have to approve each app but presumably that’s to guard against apps which crash iPhones, misrepresent their function, go against Apple’s terms of service, or introduce malicious code to the iPhone.

Excluding I Am Rich would be excluding for taste…because some feel that it costs too much for what it does. (And this isn’t the only example. There have been many cries of too many poor quality (but otherwise functional) apps in the store and that Apple should address the problem.) App Store shoppers should get to make the choice of whether or not to buy an iPhone app, not Apple, particularly since the App Store is the only way to legitimately purchase consumer iPhone apps. Imagine if Apple chose which music they stocked in the iTunes store based on the company’s taste. No Kanye because Jay-Z is better. No Dylan because it’s too whiney. Of course they don’t do that; they stock a crapload of different music and let the buyer decide. We should deride Apple for that type of behavior, not cheer them on.

Rich people rooftops NYC

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

A photo series of some elaborate roof decks and gardens in NYC. (thx, rob)

Ampersand blog

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

A weblog about ampersands, “often the most attractive punctuation mark of them all”. (via le gruber)

How Starbucks is trying to get its groove back

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

Fourteen ways in which Starbucks has tried to revitalize its brand.

8. Ditch the underperformers: In July, Starbucks announced its closure of 600 stores. Check this map for a closure near you, or peep the full list. It’s also dropping 61 of its 84 stores in Australia, and eliminating 1,000 support jobs (not including all layoffs due to stores closures).

Yards or walkability, take your pick

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

Do you want a big yard in a walkable community? Can’t happen.

But you can’t have it! Or, more specifically, if everyone has a big yard the community ceases to be especially walkable. That isn’t to say that you can’t have developments with yards relatively near to retail, so that there is stuff within walking distance. You can still have corner shops or similar, but having sufficient residential density to support significant neighborhood-serving retail isn’t really compatible with everyone has a big yard. Keep your yard! Just understand the tradeoff.

(via marginal revolution)

Emirates’ Airbus A380

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

Photos and video of an in-flight tour of an Emirates Airbus A380, a passenger jet that can be configured to carry more than 850 passengers at a time. This particular plane had room for 399 economy, 76 business class, and 14 first class passengers (ensconced in suites, not just seats). There was a bar, showers for first class passengers, video cameras on the tail, nose, and underside of the plane that you can watch during the flight, and a relatively soundproof cabin (even during takeoff). (via capn design)

The demographic inversion of the American city

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

The New Republic on the demographic inversion of the American city.

In the past three decades, Chicago has undergone changes that are routinely described as gentrification, but are in fact more complicated and more profound than the process that term suggests. A better description would be “demographic inversion.” Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city — Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center — some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white — are those who can afford to do so.

Update: The WSJ wrote about this issue a couple of weeks ago.

The girl in the window

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

This story about a “most outrageous case of neglect” was extremely difficult to read at times, but it’s an amazing tale.

“It’s mind-boggling that in the 21st century we can still have a child who’s just left in a room like a gerbil,” said Tracy Sheehan, Danielle’s guardian in the legal system and now a circuit court judge. “No food. No one talking to her or reading her a story. She can’t even use her hands. How could this child be so invisible?”

There’s a collection of video and audio that accompanies the story as well. (via waxy)

Old Masters and Young Geniuses

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

This short NY Times profile of economist David Galenson reminded me that I never shared Old Masters and Young Geniuses with you. The book was recommended to me by Malcolm Gladwell — which means that many of you can now form your opinion of it without even reading it — through a talk that he gave a couple of years ago. Gladwell also wrote an article for the New Yorker about Galenson’s work but it was rejected:

When Mr. Gladwell submitted an article about Mr. Galenson’s ideas to The New Yorker, he suffered his first rejection from the magazine. “You buy this Galenson stuff?” Mr. Gladwell recalled his editor saying to him. “What are you, crazy?”

But never mind all that, Old Masters and Young Geniuses is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the past few years. I haven’t studied enough art history to know if Galenson’s thesis is correct, but the book presents an interesting framework for thinking about innovation and how to best harness your own creativity.

The main idea is this. Instead of people being super creative when they’re young and getting less so with age (i.e. the conventional wisdom), Galenson says that artists fall into two general categories:

1) The conceptual innovators who peak creatively early in life. They have firm ideas about what they want to accomplish and then do so, with certainty. Pablo Picasso is the archetype here; others include T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Orson Wells. Picasso said, “I don’t seek, I find.”

2) The experimental innovators who peak later in life. They create through the painstaking process of doing, making incremental improvements to their art until they’re capable of real masterpiece. Cezanne is Galenson’s main example of an experimental innovator; others include Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Twain, and Jackson Pollock. Cezanne remarked, “I seek in painting.”

Galenson demonstrates these differences through analysis of how often artists’ works are reproduced in textbooks, auction prices, and museum shows. The pattern is clear, although the method is less than precise in some cases and Galenson has since backed off his thesis somewhat. But the compelling part of the book is what the artists themselves say about how they work. The text is littered with quotes from painters, poets, writers, sculptors, and movie directors about how they perceived their own work and the work of their peers and predecessors. Their thoughts provide ways for contemporary creators to think about how their creativity manifests itself.

The transcript of Gladwell’s talk is a good introduction to there ideas. Galenson’s next book, And Now for Something Completely Different, appears to be available online in its entirety in a preliminary form. Much more information is available on his web site.

Stupid ideas captured

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 06, 2008

Maggie collects the top ten stupidest ideas depicted on Flickr. These are pretty amazing.

The Genius of Charles Darwin

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

The Genius of Charles Darwin is a three-part series about Darwin presented by his rottweiler, Richard Dawkins. A short video taste of the show is here and the entire first part is on Google Video. (via smashing telly)

Average athlete vs Olympic athlete

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

Two average Joes compete in five Olympic events to see how they stack up against the top Olympic competitors.

Dennis Crowley and myself spent all day doing 5 different Olympic Events: 100m freestyle, 100m dash, 110m hurdles, long jump and the rings (in gymnastics) and compared ourselves to Olympic athletes.

Olympic athletes make it look easy and these two make it look difficult. I particularly enjoyed Crowley’s 100-meter swim/walk. Related: can you go from normal guy to Olympian with a few years of hard training? (via clusterflock)

Update: ESPN followed Kathryn Bertine — “an average person with an athletic background” — on her two-year quest to become an Olympic athlete. (thx gerard)

Update: The Mechanical Olympics project is leveraging the Amazon Mechanical Turk workforce to make videos of ordinary people competing in all the Olympic events. Here’s an example video. (thx, michael)

Gdansk UFO

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

Video of a UFO flying over Gdansk, Poland. I’m probably not spoiling anything by telling you that the saucer is actually an art project by Peter Coffin with an SMS-controlled light show. (via greg)

Americans eating more food

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

‘Mericans today are eating 1.8 pounds more food per week than in 1970, including an extra 1/2 pound of fat. Check out the chart for more info on how we’ve changed our diet. (thx, meg)

How Buildings Learn TV series

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

In 1997, the BBC aired a three-hour documentary based on Stewart Brand’s book, How Buildings Learn. Brand has posted the whole program on YouTube in six 30-minute parts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.

If you’re hesitant about whether to watch the series or not, check out this two-minute appetizer of perhaps the meatiest tidbit in the book: the oak beam replacement plan for the dining hall of New College, Oxford.

(via smashing telly)

Update: An old version of the New College web site says that the oaks were not planted specifically for the replacement of the ceiling beams even though they were used for that purpose. (thx, emily, david, and phil)

Update: Google Video is no more, so I updated the video links to YouTube. (via @atduskgreg)

Penthouse corrections

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

Corrections to last month’s letters to Penthouse Forum.

In the letter “And Wifey Makes Three,” the letter writer stated: “My wife was eager to engage in a threesome with me and our incredibly hot 19-year-old babysitter.” The sentence should read: “My wife was disgusted, repulsed, and, in every imaginable way, opposed to the thought of engaging in a threesome with me and our incredibly hot 19-year-old babysitter.”

NSFW if your default browser font is large enough to be read from several feet away.


posted by Jason Kottke Aug 05, 2008

Flat-earthers are people who believe, here in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat. (Believers in a round earth are called globularists.)

Disc Earth

And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world? Mr McIntyre laughs. “This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions,” he says. “A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason — the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth.”

If, like me, you have questions about how the Earth could possibly be flat, some of them are answered in the Flat Earth FAQ.

Q: “What about the stars, sun and moon and other planets? Are they flat too? What are they made of?”

A: The sun and moon, each 32 miles in diameter, circle Earth at a height of 3000 miles at its equator, located midway between the North Pole and the ice wall. Each functions similar to a “spotlight,” with the sun radiating “hot light,” the moon “cold light.” As they are spotlights, they only give light out over a certain are which explains why some parts of the Earth are dark when others are light. Their apparent rising and setting are caused by optical illusions. In the “accelerating upwards” model, the stars, sun and moon are also accelerating upwards. The stars are about as far as San Francisco is from Boston. (3100 miles)

BTW, the “ice wall” is what separates the edge of the earth’s disc with outer space or whatever ether or monsters are beyond the earth. We know the wall as Antarctica. I call shenanigans on all this…it’s gotta be a hoax. Nobody’s this ignorant, right? Please?

Twinkle fun

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

I don’t know what the best part of Twinkle is: being up at 8am on Saturday & Sunday mornings and reading messages from drunken Manhattanites heading home for the evening at 5am or watching guys attempting to flirt with ladies in their area via 140 character messages. Very entertaining.

BTW, Twinkle is a Twitter app that lets your= read what’s being Twittered near you (more or less).

Charlie Parker gunslinger

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Nice blog with a really long name: If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. Posts belong to a number of ongoing series…check out Annals of Crime, The Cool Hall of Fame, and When Legends Gather, Great Madmen of the 20th Century, and Before and After for a nice taste of what the blog’s about.

221B Baker Street

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Overhead view of 221B Baker St, the fictional abode of Sherlock Holmes. An annotated version is available. The address didn’t exist when Doyle wrote the Holmes stories but after the extension of Baker St, a building close to where that address would be started to get a lot of mail addressed to Holmes.

Almost immediately, the building society started receiving correspondence to Sherlock Holmes from all over the world, in such volumes that it appointed a permanent “secretary to Sherlock Holmes” to deal with it. A bronze plaque on the front of Abbey House carries a picture of Holmes and Conan Doyle’s narrative detailing Holmes and Watson moving in at 221B.

no caps for vanity fair

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Influenced by Modern design trends in Europe, Vanity Fair in 1929 got rid of all capital letters in their headlines. A few months later, the capital letters were reinstated and the design change was accompanied by a letter from the editor called “A Note on Typography”, reprinted in full on Design Observer.

The eye and the mind can adapt themselves to new forms with surprising ease. An innovation stands out at first like a sore thumb but before it has passed its infancy it has become invisible to the conscious eye. The unconscious eye, however, is another matter. It is vaguely dulled by the stale and hackneyed, it is antagonized by the tasteless and inept, and it is completely stopped by the involved and illegible. The unconscious eye is a remorseless critic of all art forms, it awards the final fame and final oblivion.

Old airline menus

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

A large collection of old airline menus. The collection is poorly organized but worth poking through (check out Air France and Pan Am). Tracked this down after reading this short piece in the Times about a private menu collection, complete with a tiny image of some menus that’s barely worth the effort of clicking the link.

Good Brendan Fraser movies?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Recent critical clinkers The Mummy: The Third Mummy Movie and The Journey to the Middle of 3-D Mediocrity caused me to wonder: has Brendan Fraser ever appeared in a good movie? A trip to IMDB refreshed my memory — soiled by several Pauly Shore vehicles — that Fraser appeared in Crash, Gods and Monsters, and Dead Poets Society School Ties, and a couple of other movies that didn’t suck.

The Chameleon, Frederic Bourdin

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Frédéric Bourdin is a Frenchman in his early thirties who has spent much of his life impersonating kidnapped or runaway teens.

At police headquarters, he admitted that he was Frédéric Bourdin, and that in the past decade and a half he had invented scores of identities, in more than fifteen countries and five languages. His aliases included Benjamin Kent, Jimmy Morins, Alex Dole, Sladjan Raskovic, Arnaud Orions, Giovanni Petrullo, and Michelangelo Martini. News reports claimed that he had even impersonated a tiger tamer and a priest, but, in truth, he had nearly always played a similar character: an abused or abandoned child. He was unusually adept at transforming his appearance-his facial hair, his weight, his walk, his mannerisms. “I can become whatever I want,” he liked to say. In 2004, when he pretended to be a fourteen-year-old French boy in the town of Grenoble, a doctor who examined him at the request of authorities concluded that he was, indeed, a teen-ager. A police captain in Pau noted, “When he talked in Spanish, he became a Spaniard. When he talked in English, he was an Englishman.” Chadourne said of him, “Of course, he lied, but what an actor!”

That’s an interesting story by itself but just the tip of the iceberg. At some point, Bourdin’s story gets intertwined with that of Nicholas Barclay, a teen who went missing in Texas in 1994. After that, the story proceeds like the craziest episode of Law and Order you’ve ever seen.

Update: This looks to be Bourdin’s YouTube account where he’s posted several videos of himself speaking into the camera. Check out his Michael Jackson moves about 2:25 into this video. (thx, hurty)

A year of… books

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

A collection of books, compiled by Rex, by people who spent a year doing something and then wrote a book about it. Topics include competitive eating, not shopping, and reading the OED.

What Would Don Draper Do?

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 04, 2008

Answers to frequently asked questions and questions that need not be asked: What Would Don Draper Do? (via fimoculous)

Update: What Would Joan Holloway Do? Never mind that, where are the pinup posters?

In case you missed it

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

As more and more people here in the US untether from their desks and computers to take advantage of the fleeting days of summer, I thought this slower time might be a good opportunity to highlight some recent kottke.org entries that you (and I) have found most interesting over the past weeks. Even if you’ve seen them before, go on, take another helping.

The most beautiful suicide shows an oddly peaceful photo taken of Evelyn McHale just after she jumped to her death from the Empire State Building. This photo inspired me to buy the issue of Life magazine it was taken from…I found it on eBay for $10. The rest of the issue is nearly as fascinating as the photo.

Single serving sites, a round-up of the single page web site trend. E.g. Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle and Is Lost a Repeat?

Speaking of, find out what happens when Obama wins. Like “…your jeans will always fit perfectly.”

Survival tips for the Middle Ages. Could you survive if instantly transported back to Europe in 1000 A.D.?

A collection of some early movie reviews from the 1890s.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a book published more than 500 years ago that looks far more contemporary.

An uncanny Lego version of Stephen Hawking, a likeness that fits the voice.

Nuke the fridge is the new jump the shark. See also the NY Times a few weeks later.

If you don’t like something online, just don’t look at it. Web celebs, trolls, trashy blogs, and Web 2.0 blowhards run on attention and if they’re denied that, they’ll go away.

TBS is experimenting with small on-screen advertisements that pause the show you’re watching for a few seconds to tell you about an upcoming show. It’s even more annoying than it sounds.

Large Hadron Collider photos

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

I’ve been waiting patiently for this one. Big Picture has 27 photos of the Large Hadron Collider and they’re stunning. The scale of this thing, it’s overwhelming.

Faces of Evil, Hans Weishaupl

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

For his Faces of Evil project, Hans Weishäupl made composite photographs of the world’s worst dictators by photographing hundreds of people in each dictator’s country and stitching them together. The results are a bit disturbing, particularly when viewing very large, clear, vibrant color photos of long-dead monsters like Stalin or Hitler. (via conscientious)

Hoop Dreams online for free

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

The entirety of Hoop Dreams, which appeared at the top of the best documentaries list I posted yesterday, is available on Hulu to watch for free. Watch for Gates getting his pocket picked. (thx, skeets & david)

Algorithmic architecture

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

Here’s a video detailing the algorithmic architectural technique used to design a hotel in New Zealand. The program spits out ~18,000 possible solutions, of which one is chosen. The video notes that the final solution is implausible but that improvement could be made by using the best solutions to generate better offspring. (via smashing telly)

Either that or PR

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

World’s worst person decides on a career in marketing.

“I think it’s the career path that will best utilize my networking skills and my ability to think outside the box,” said Deenan, whose smug, gloating tone and shit-eating smile just make you want to punch his goddamn teeth in. “So I’m definitely thinking marketing. Either that, or PR.”

The secret curse of expert archers

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

Elite archers are sometimes afflicted with something called target panic.

Target panic, as the condition is known, causes crack shots to suddenly lose control of their bows and their composure. Mysteriously, sufferers start releasing the bow the instant they see the target, sabotaging any chance of a gold-medal shot. Others freeze up and cannot release at all. Target panic is akin to the yips in baseball and golf, when accomplished athletes can no longer make a simple throw to first base or stroke an easy putt.

Some researchers have asserted that there are two types of yips, neurological (when groups of neurons become worn from overuse) and psychological.

Book ads, 1962-1973

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

A collection of old book ads from the NY Times.

We’re going to begin this project with a look at the country’s golden age of book advertisements, which ran from roughly 1962-73. Why those dates? The books - and the ads for them - were terrific: fresh, pushy, serious and wry, often all at the same time. There was a new sense of electricity in the culture and in the book world.

The authors featured include Alice Walker, Cormac McCarthy, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Susan Sontag.

Martians have water

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

Water on Mars: confirmed.

Laboratory tests aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander’s robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.

The lander itself added, on Twitter, “FTW!”

2008 movie box office chart

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 01, 2008

Neat infographic of the 2008 US movie box office. It’s more or less the same as this epic chart from the NY Times earlier in the year.

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