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Entries for May 2018 (June 2018 »    July 2018 »    August 2018 »    Archives)

 

Lightning fast demo of a magic transforming scarf

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

One of the recurrent topics here at the ol’ dot org is paying our respects to people who are mind-bendingly good at what they do. Case in point: watch this woman turn a magic scarf into about 100 different pieces of clothing in about 90 seconds. Reader, I audibly gasped at ~0:25 when she turned a scarf into a dress in the blink of an eye.

This extraordinary garment has been compared to a Thneed, a fictional garment from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:

I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove. It’s a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!”

There are quite a few magic scarves available for purchase on Amazon if you want to try one out for yourself, but check those seller ratings…some of them look a little sketchy. (via @dunstan)

Visualizing our world’s ever-growing urban infrastructure

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

For his projects Exodus and Timeout, Marcus Lyon takes overhead photographs and edits them into fantastical scenes that nonetheless seem plausible. LAX isn’t that large, no waterpark in Houston has that many pools, and Dubai’s roads do not have 70+ lanes, but you kinda have to look at satellite imagery on Google Maps to verify the fabrications.

Simple Dieter Rams prints

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Rams Posters

I really like these prints for Rams, Gary Hustwit’s upcoming documentary about the legendary Dieter Rams. Each print features an object designed by Rams or his design team: the T41 radio, the ET66 calculator, the 620 chair, and the 606 shelving system.

PS. You can still buy the calculator from Braun. Ok, it’s a reissue, but that means it won’t cost you 100s of dollars on eBay.

Brutalist cuckoo clocks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Artist Guido Zimmermann has updated the architectural styling of the cuckoo clock with models based on buildings by Brutalist & Bauhaus architects.

Modern Cuckoo Clocks

Modern Cuckoo Clocks

The classic cuckoo clock is a symbol for prosperity in the middle class and is considered a kind of luxury for the home. The updated version, a prefabricated panel construction (“plattenbau”), reveals today’s urban and social life in residential blocks.

(via colossal)

The 100 best one-hit wonders

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Today’s playlist is The 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs:

You can read the rationale behind all 100 picks on Consequence of Sound.

The standard definition (determined by who, Right Said Fred?) of a one-hit wonder is a band who has cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 only once. What, you had a late-career single make 41? Sorry, thanks for playing, but charting 41 isn’t the same as 40, right? Um, no … maybe? It gets no easier when you have to wade through dozens of other Billboard charts that count for everything except, apparently, determining a one-hit wonder. And what about all those charts in other countries — yeah, we ignored them. Great, this list is making us xenophobic now.

But that’s getting pretty damn technical, and we’re not numbers people here. Because, technically, Beck is a one-hit wonder. As are the Grateful Dead and even Radiohead if they hadn’t snuck in at 37 with “Nude” back in 2008. Very lucky, Mr. Yorke. Can you imagine if you scrolled through a list of the 100 Best One-Hit Wonder Songs and found Beck sitting at the top spot? You’d collectively crash our site’s server in a contest to see which commenter could say the cruelest thing about our music knowledge, mothers, and cats.

“Technically, Beck is a one-hit wonder.” Also, I feel that Sir Mix-a-Lot should have made the list.

The Americans is over, The Americans was great.

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Given the recent Netflix-driven Cambrian explosion in television shows, there is no Best Show On TV™ anymore. But over the past few years, even with so many other excellent shows to choose from, The Americans had a legitimate claim to that title. In his review of last night’s final show (spoilers ahoy!), Alan Sepinwall nails what made the show so compelling to me:

Priority-wise, The Americans has always been a show about marriage that used the spycraft to heighten the stakes, rather than an espionage drama that used the family material to make Philip and Elizabeth more relatable. Its chief interest was in the compromises necessary to make any long-term relationship work, about the disagreements every pair of spouses will have about career and parenting and everything else. The assassinations, honeypots, and Stan’s investigations provided narrative propulsion and suspense, and Soviet ideology was at the heart of every choice Elizabeth made, particularly when it came to Paige, but all of that was thematically secondary to husband/wife and parent/child issues.

As I noted in my recent media diet post, their final season has been very strong, and the series finale held true to the show’s focus on family in an unexpectedly quiet and powerful way.

Could the series have ended with some combination of Jenningses killed or behind bars for life? Certainly, and it wouldn’t have rang false if it had happened. But the fact that the finale’s tragedies are all small-scale and family-related — Elizabeth and Philip abandon one child and are abandoned by the other, Stan learns that his best friend has been betraying him for years, and that his wife may be betraying him in the same way — feels in keeping with all that we’ve seen before.

I loved the finale — Stan’s devastation in particular ruined me…I’m going to be thinking about that for a long while — and Sepinwall’s recap is typically great. He also interviewed the show’s creators about the episode, who maddeningly (but correctly, I grudgingly have to admit) won’t spill the beans on what happens to any of the characters after the events of the show. Other recaps: NY Times, Vulture, AV Club.

If you want to catch up, all six seasons of The Americans are available on Amazon (1-5 are Prime, 6 isn’t yet).

Hundreds of amazing 1980s tech company logos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2018

85 Tech Logos

This 1985 catalog for engineers contains hundreds and hundreds of tech logos from the 70s and 80s. They are glorious.

Marcin Wichary turned more than 1400 of these logos into a screensaver “for your random viewing pleasure”.

A visual history of light

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2018

From the Atlantic, a quick visual history of human-created light sources over the past ~400,000 years, from wood fires to candles to the electric light.

3,000 BCE: The “rushlight” candle is invented in Ancient Egypt. It is made of a pithy stalk of rush soaked in animal fat.

1500 BCE: Babylonian/Assyrian lamps are created from olive or sesame oil. They had a linen wick and were fashioned from stone, terracotta, metal, or shells.

100 CE: The Romans create the tallow candle, which has a small wick with a thick, hand-formed layer of tallow.

One of the more interesting inventions along the way was the moonlight tower. In the early days of electric lights, mimicking the bright light of the Moon was one of the ways that towns chose to light their streets.

Moonlight Tower

Humans, too, found the high-slung orbs to be as disorienting as they were ethereal. As tall as the towers were, they still left shadows in their wake — shadows tinged with sharp blue light, Freeberg notes, which left pedestrians “dazed and puzzled.” Foggy evenings, combined with the air pollution of a newly industrialized America, could thrust all of Detroit into effective darkness — meaning, Freeberg writes, that “Detroiters could only speculate about the lovely sight that their lights must be creating as they shone down on the blanket of mist and soot that smothered the city.” Even during occasions when the fog broke enough to allow some light to penetrate to the streets below, “many found themselves groping along sidewalks in an eerie gloom.”

In the end, the many costs of the artificial moonlight outweighed its beauty and poetry. The structures meant to inspire awe among outsiders ended up inspiring, ultimately, something more akin to pity. (“It appears to me,” one frank observer put it, “that you are taking a very expensive way of getting a minimum benefit from the electric lights.”)

The top 100 stories that changed the world

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2018

BBC Culture recently polled authors, journalists, and other literary types from 35 different countries and asked them “to nominate up to five fictional stories they felt had shaped mindsets or influenced history”. From the responses, they compiled a list of 100 stories that shaped the world. Here’s the top 5:

5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe, 1958)
4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
3. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852)
1. The Odyssey (Homer, 8th Century BC)

The Harry Potter series, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Jane Eyre are also included in the top 20. Oddly, the Hebrew Bible, Christian Bible, Koran, and other religious texts are nowhere to be found on the list. A story like the four gospels of the New Testament has surely changed the world much more than all of the other titles on the list combined. (via fave5)

The ABCs in motion

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2018

For this year’s 36 Days of Type project, Ben Huynh submitted this 3D animation of the alphabet from A to Z. You can see animations of the individual letters on Huynh’s Instagram. (via colossal)

An explainer video from 1923 about Einstein’s theory of relativity

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2018

In 1923, Inkwell Studios1 released a 20-minute animated explanation of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, perhaps one of the very first scientific explainer videos ever made. Films were still silent in those days and the public’s scientific understanding limited (the discovery of Pluto was 7 years in the future, and penicillin 5 years) so the film is almost excruciatingly slow by today’s standards, but if you squint hard enough, you can see the great-grandparent to YouTube channels like Kurzgesagt, Nerdwriter, TED Ed, minutephysics, and the 119,000+ videos on YouTube returned for a “einstein relativity explained” search. (via open culture)

  1. Inkwell later became Fleischer Studios, which made cartoons like Betty Boop, Popeye, and the first animated Superman series. They also introduced the bouncing ball as a technique for singing along to on-screen lyrics.

A brief history of fingerprints

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2018

Smudge Art

Chantel Tattoli’s piece for The Paris Review, The Surprising History (and Future) of Fingerprints, is interesting throughout, but these two things leapt from the screen (italics mine):

It is true that every print is unique to every finger, even for identical twins, who share the same genetic code. Fingerprints are formed by friction from touching the walls of our mother’s womb. Sometimes they are called “chanced impressions.” By Week 19, about four months before we are issued into the world, they are set.

WHAT?! Is this true? A cursory search shows this might indeed be the case, although it looks as though there’s not established scientific consensus around the process.

Also, Picasso was fingerprinted as a suspect in the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre:

When French authorities interrogated Pablo Picasso, in 1911, at the Palais de Justice about the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre that August, he was clad in his favorite red-and-white polka-dot shirt. Picasso cried. He begged forgiveness. He was in possession of two statuettes filched from the museum, but he hadn’t taken her.

“In possession of”? Turns out a pal of Picasso’s lifted the statuettes from the museum, which was notoriously easy to steal from, and sold them to the artist, who knew exactly what he was buying.

True to Pieret’s testimony, Picasso kept two stolen Iberian statues buried in a cupboard in his Paris apartment. Despite the artist’s later protestations of ignorance there could be no mistaking their origins. The bottom of each was stamped in bold: PROPERTY OF THE MUSÉE DU LOUVRE.

Fingerprint art by Evan Roth. (via @claytoncubitt)

You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2018

Professor of philosophy Daniel DeNicola on the right of people to believe what they want to believe.

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great licence with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right; that is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges; to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be ‘true believers’, but they are not believers in the truth.

DeNicola is the author of the recent book Understanding Ignorance.

Sculptures made from scraps

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2018

Artist Lydia Ricci collects scraps (of paper, cardboard, etc.) and sculpts them into everyday objects.

From Scraps

From Scraps

From Scraps

From Scraps

I love these…and there are a ton more to look at. Gah ok, just one more:

From Scraps

(via @yhaduong)

The whole world is The Onion now

posted by Tim Carmody   May 25, 2018

(A version of this story is an excerpt from this week’s Noticing newsletter. You can read more about Noticing here.)

In a rare interview, Italian author Elena Ferrante observes that between corruption, poverty, violence, fear, and the deterioration of democracy, “today it seems to me that the whole world is Naples and that Naples has the merit of having always presented itself without a mask.” The world of Ferrante’s novels is the world in which we’ve all been living; the rest of us are just catching up to what Neapolitans have known all along.

It seems you could make a similar case for The Onion in the time of Trump: the world was already absurd and buffoonish, and now it’s taken off its mask. It does make telling jokes a touch more tricky. Editor-in-chief Chad Nackers explains the site’s approach, admitting that the writers’ job would probably be easier if Hillary Clinton had been elected.

What strikes me is how much he attributes to the site’s changes over the years isn’t to the administration, but to the atmosphere, which has changed since the days of Bill Clinton (and not just because of who’s been elected since).

When I started, there weren’t really too many humor sites. There definitely weren’t any humor news sites. A lot of times, nobody else was going to get their comment out as fast as we were going to get it out, by virtue of us having a website. Now it almost seems like on Twitter there are people who are professional comedians who are online all day. A story breaks and they’re making jokes about it.

Andy Baio recently posted a link that shows you your Twitter timeline as it would have looked ten years ago if you followed all the same people that you do today. For me, at least, it’s amazing how different the tone is — even in the middle of an historic election, in the early stages of an enormous economic meltdown, there’s a lot less politics, a lot less sniping, and a lot more diaristic writing. It’s not necessarily better; it’s just very different. And all of those things were happening then — it’s just that Twitter wasn’t understood as the venue where every stance was to be articulated, every statement was to be critiqued, and every line was to be drawn. There were fewer people around, it was a lot more homogenous, and far fewer people were paying attention.

I wonder often how future historians will think about this time (you know, with the usual grisly caveat that people survive to do history in the future): how much of today’s ugliness, violence, and corruption they will think of as an aberration of one man, or one family, one political party, one social media network, one television network, etc.

Or will they see it as an interlocking, self-contradictory system, all of which had a history, and all of whose parts shaped and enabled what happened — hopefully, good and bad things. I mean, even the people who’ve argued that the coup has already happened can’t agree on whether it began with the election, with Congress, or some time long before.

Maybe the future historians will be better at disentangling these things than we are. Or maybe we’re just all hopelessly tangled.

In defense of boredom

posted by Tim Carmody   May 25, 2018

Monica Heisey was recently stuck on an airplane without much to do. Luckily, she made an essay out of it. “Being Bored Is Fun and Good, Sorry” is (surprisingly?) crackling with energy and insight.

In 2018, it is easy and common to be tired, depressed, burnt out, dulled, vibrating with mundane panic, desperate for the sweet release of death, etc. But to be peacefully understimulated with no relief in sight is almost impossible. The average person’s life is full of little tasks to complete, group chats to respond “haha, yeah” to, emails to circle back on, and people you went to high school with to determinedly ignore on the bus. The entire world is one giant beeping alert to things we should do or can do or will do in the future, things we are doing at that moment but could be doing faster. It’s more or less impossible to be bored. Bored means there are not thousands of to-do’s to accomplish. Bored means it doesn’t matter that there’s not. Bored means you are free. In a time of endless, empty stimuli, it is a thrill to be understimulated.

That said, I feel like there’s something of a bait-and-switch here. There’s boredom, which for me is defined by the frustration at having nothing appealing to do, and then there’s a lack of busyness or stimulation, which offers the possibility of a zen-like moment that transcends that frustration. We might call them both boredom, but they’re really not the same thing. But this is splitting hairs. The point is, opportunities for boredom can also be opportunities to be something better than busy, if you approach them the right way.

Mosaicism, or DNA differences from cell to cell (not just person to person)

posted by Tim Carmody   May 25, 2018

Science writer Carl Zimmer has a new book on genetics and heredity called She Has Her Mother’s Laugh. The New York Times published an excerpt this week focusing on mosaicism — an unexpected but surprisingly common condition where different cells in the same organism display different DNA (sometimes strikingly, fatally different).

Dr. Walsh and his colleagues have discovered intricate mosaics in the brains of healthy people. In one study, they plucked neurons from the brain of a 17-year-old boy who had died in a car accident. They sequenced the DNA in each neuron and compared it to the DNA in cells from the boy’s liver, heart and lungs.

Every neuron, the researchers found, had hundreds of mutations not found in the other organs. But many of the mutations were shared only by some of the other neurons.

It occurred to Dr. Walsh that he could use the mutations to reconstruct the cell lineages — to learn how they had originated. The researchers used the patterns to draw a sort of genealogy, linking each neuron first to its close cousins and then its more distant relatives.

When they had finished, the scientists found that the cells belonged to five main lineages. The cells in each lineage all inherited the same distinctive mosaic signature.

Even stranger, the scientists found cells in the boy’s heart with the same signature of mutations found in some brain neurons. Other lineages included cells from other organs.

Based on these results, the researchers pieced together a biography of the boy’s brain.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea that each of us are many people, an assembly of mismatched parts, manifesting themselves in different times and contexts. It’s striking to see that reflected, albeit in a refracted way, in our array of possible genomes.

The history of escape

posted by Tim Carmody   May 25, 2018

On the heels of Texas’s lieutenant governor blaming school shootings on “too many entrances and too many exits” in buildings, 99% Invisible producer Avery Trufelman linked to this episode on the architectural history of egress, or orderly escape from a building in the case of a fire or some other emergency.

In the 19th century, most fire escapes were simple ropes:

One engineer actually thought that, instead of dispatching the ropes from indoors, archers could shoot the ropes up to the higher floors.

Another patent proposed individual parachute hats, with accompanying rubber shoes to break the fall.

There were also fire escape slides, which were marketed to schools as both emergency devices and playground equipment.

fireescapeslide.jpg

Even the iconic metal fire escapes attached to tenement buildings are a pretty poor form of egress; they’re not accessible, and since people generally don’t use them to enter or exit a building in normal circumstances, they don’t know how to locate or use them in a fire. Which is how we get to stairs behind a fire door, with clear, lit-up exits, as the main means of egress for tall buildings today. And nonresidential buildings like schools, hospitals, and commercial buildings have the strictest ratings and the most effective means of escape — which is a big part of why so few people die in fires in these buildings.

Who would have thought a little regulation and a modern, scientific approach could save so many lives?

Intricate circuit board model sculpted from plasticine clay

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2018

Modified Man

Modified Man

When commissioned to create some artwork for a London music duo, Tim Easley spent 80 hours making this model circuit board out of plasticine clay.

The idea behind the cover was how the modified men of the future may make artwork out of ancient circuit boards, not quite understanding what they were for because of their crude appearance. For this I created a design with representations of computer chips and wires.

He then photographed the results for an album cover and other printed matter. (via colossal)

My media diet for Spring 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2018

I’ve been keeping track of every media thing I “consume”, so here are quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past month or so. I went to Florida with my kids and we did the Harry Potter thing at Universal & visited the Space Coast. I stopped watching Mr. Robot s03 after two episodes. Still making my way through Star Trek: Voyager when I want something uncomplicated to watch in the evening. (Ignore the letter grades, they suck.)

The Americans. This season, the show’s last, has been fantastic. It’s idiotic to say The Americans is the best show on TV with like 50,000 shows on Netflix alone, but after five strong seasons and this finish, they’ve earned it. (A)

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: The Podcast. I wrote an appreciation of this a few weeks ago. (A-)

Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew. I love Andrew’s Instagram feed but even so, her book surprised me with timeless and universal themes woven into her life story. (A-)

The Handmaid’s Tale. The first season of this show was great and season two picks up right where it left off. I binged the first six episodes of this across two nights and came away shellshocked. (A)

Wild Wild Country. Not sure why anyone followed the Bhagwan anywhere, but Sheela on the other hand… There were several interesting threads in this documentary that didn’t quite get pulled together in the final episode. (B+)

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida. The tickets for this were incredibly expensive and worth every damn penny. This was very nearly a religious experience. (A+)

Downsizing. I wanted more from this about the implications of the evolution of humans into nano sapiens. Still, better than many critics & audiences suggested. (B)

Brain It On. I saw my daughter playing this physics puzzler on her iPad and basically grabbed it away from her and played for 24 straight hours. (A-)

Westworld. Watching this every week feels like a chore. Even though the safeties are off, everything that happens in the parks feels consequence-free. I don’t care about the robots. Should I? (C+)

Fantastic Mr. Fox. Stop-motion animation might be Anderson’s natural medium because he can shoot everything *exactly* like he wants. (A-)

Isle of Dogs. Loved this. The style of it made me want to design something amazing. I could have watched the sushi-making scene for like 15 more minutes. (A)

On Margins - The Making of Rebel Girls. Craig Mod talks to co-creator Elena Favilli about how Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls came about and came to be so successful. (B+)

L’Express. A classic Montreal restaurant. Best steak frites I’ve had in a long while. (A-)

Babylon Berlin. Super stylish. The dance scene in the second episode is amazing. The best things about the show are the music and the world-building in the first few episodes. (B+)

Death of Stalin. I love that people still make films like this. Most of the audience I saw this with had no idea what to make of it or why a few people were laughing so hard at some parts. (B+)

Kennedy Space Center. The solar eclipse last summer awakened the space/astronomy nerd in me, so this visit was incredible. We saw a Space Shuttle, a Saturn V rocket, the VAB, and a whole mess of other great things. Thinking of going back for their Astronaut Training Experience. (A+)

Avengers: Infinity War. The ending of this left me stunned…it broke the fourth wall in a unique way. (B+)

A Quiet Place. This entire movie is a metaphor for trying to keep small children quiet on a long plane flight. (B)

Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire Evans. This book demonstrates that telling the story of technology, programming, and the internet mainly through the many women who helped build it all is just as plausible and truthful as telling the traditionally women-free tale we’ve typically been exposed to. (B+)

Songs of the Years, 1925-2018. So glad this playlist is back in my life. (A-)

The Avengers. I’d forgotten where all the Infinity Stones came from, so I’ve gone back and watched this, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the first Thor movie. Fascinating to see the changes in the filmmaking and pacing. If Infinity War had been made with the pace of Thor (directed by Kenneth Branagh!), it would have been 5 hours long. (B+)

Caliphate. Gripping and disturbing and very nearly a must-listen. But I keep showing up places shellshocked after listening to it in the car. (A)

AWB OneSky Reflector Telescope. When I looked through this for the first time at the Moon, my first thought was “WHOA”. My second was “I should have bought a more powerful telescope”. Luckily I can just buy more lenses for it… (A)

I’ve been doing this for more than a year now! Past installments of my media diet can be found here.

The official “Cheaters Edition” of Monopoly

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2018

Monopoly Cheaters

Hasbro has come out with an official “Cheaters Edition” of Monopoly (available at Amazon) where popular game cheats like stealing money from the bank, busting out of jail early, and taking a hotel from another player have been added to the gameplay. Fast Company has more on how the game came to be.

“We’ve had this data for years. 50% of all Monopoly players cheat,” says Randy Klimpert, Hasbro’s senior director of design and games development. This fact of life was always something of a running joke within the walls of Hasbro. It became the giggly fodder of proposed ad campaigns. Employees got a kick out of listening to the messages left on its holiday helpline, established in 2016, to help families settle disputes in their games and address accusations of creative cheating. “We were literally sitting around thinking, ‘what would really corrupt Monopoly?’ And someone said, ‘what if we cheated?’”

“Our senior marketer… you could see him mulling it,” Klimpert continues. “Monopoly… cheaters… Cheater Edition!” Hasbro instantly had the hook for a new game. But how do you make a game for cheaters that’s still sensical and fun?

Global warming blankets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2018

Using simple graphic representations of annual temperatures (like this one posted by climate scientist Ed Hawkins), people are knitting and crocheting blankets that show just how warm the Earth has gotten over the past few decades. See Katie Stumpf’s blanket, for example.

Global Warming Blankets

According to climate scientist (and crocheter) Ellie Highwood, these blankets are a subset of “temperature blankets” made to represent, for example, daily temperatures over the course of a year in a particular location. The blanket she crocheted used NOAA data of global mean temperature anomalies for a 101-year period ending 2016.

I then devised a colour scale using 15 different colours each representing a 0.1 °C data bin. So everything between 0 and 0.099 was in one colour for example. Making a code for these colours, the time series can be rewritten as in the table below. It is up to the creator to then choose the colours to match this scale, and indeed which years to include. I was making a baby sized blanket so chose the last 100 years, 1916-2016.

If you read her post, she provides instructions for making your own global warming blanket.

P.S. You might think that with the Earth’s atmosphere getting warmer on average, these blankets would ironically be less necessary that they would have been 50 years ago. But climate change is also responsible for more extreme winter weather events — think global weirding in addition to global warming. So keep those blankets handy!

The arrested development of the Arrested Development cast

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2018

Sopan Deb recently sat down with some of the cast of Arrested Development (Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Hale, Jason Bateman, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, and David Cross) for an interview about the show’s upcoming new season. Deb asked the group about the allegations against Tambor related to his work on Transparent, and Walter (who plays Lucille Bluth on the show) begins to cry as the men in the room, particularly Bateman, offer explanations for Tambor’s on-set verbal abuse of her.

BATEMAN: Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, “difficult.” And when you’re in a privileged position to hire people, or have an influence in who does get hired, you make phone calls. And you say, “Hey, so I’ve heard X about person Y, tell me about that.” And what you learn is context. And you learn about character and you learn about work habits, work ethics, and you start to understand. Because it’s a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.

SHAWKAT: But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. And the point is that things are changing, and people need to respect each other differently.

WALTER [THROUGH TEARS]: Let me just say one thing that I just realized in this conversation. I have to let go of being angry at him. He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go. [Turns to Tambor.] And I have to give you a chance to, you know, for us to be friends again.

TAMBOR: Absolutely.

WALTER: But it’s hard because honestly — Jason says this happens all the time. In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now. I just let it go right here, for The New York Times.

Walter stated that Tambor apologized, but none of the men in the room said anything as simple as “that was inappropriate” or “that shouldn’t have happened to you”, even as they circle the wagons for Tambor. Although Bateman later apologized on Twitter for mansplaining, it seems like they haven’t really been listening to their colleagues and peers over the past several months about what it might be like being a women on the set of one of these shows.

A graceful underwater dance by freediver Julie Gautier

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2018

Ama is a short film that was written, directed, and performed by freediver Julie Gautier.

Ama is a silent film. It tells a story everyone can interpret in their own way, based on their own experience. There is no imposition, only suggestions.

I wanted to share my biggest pain in this life with this film. For this is not too crude, I covered it with grace. To make it not too heavy, I plunged it into the water.

I dedicate this film to all the women of the world.

This is really beautiful. Watch it all the way through…the end is not to be missed. (via swissmiss)

Bill Gates’ reading recommendations for Summer 2018

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2018

As he does every year, voracious reader Bill Gates has recommended five books worth reading this summer. Gates’ recommendations often have a Wizard bent and the video he produced for the list probably had a greater budget than the amount I’ve spent on running kottke.org over the past 5 years:

The book I’m most curious about is Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian. I’ve long wanted to check out his Big History course (due to another Gates rec) and this seems like a good way to do that.

David created my favorite course of all time, Big History. It tells the story of the universe from the big bang to today’s complex societies, weaving together insights and evidence from various disciplines into a single narrative. If you haven’t taken Big History yet, Origin Story is a great introduction. If you have, it’s a great refresher. Either way, the book will leave you with a greater appreciation of humanity’s place in the universe.

Here are his four other recommendations:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling.

The Songs of the Years, 1925-2018

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2018

Back at the end of 2010, Ben Greenman created a playlist for the New Yorker’s holiday party that featured one song from each year of the magazine’s existence ordered chronologically.

At the party, the mix worked like a charm. Jazz and blues greeted the early arrivals, and as the party picked up, the mood became romantic (thanks to the big-band and vocal recordings of the late thirties and forties), energetic (thanks to early rock and roll like Fats Domino and Jackie Brenston in the early fifties), funky (James Brown in 1973, Stevie Wonder in 1974), and kitschy (the eighties), after which it erupted into a bright riot of contemporary pop and hip-hop (Rihanna! Kanye! M.I.A.! Lil Jon!).

After Greenman’s list was published, others created playlists from it on Rdio, YouTube, and Spotify. I listened to this playlist a lot on Rdio back then; it was the perfect way to time travel through the 20th and early 21st centuries in just a few hours.

I was reminded of the list yesterday after Laura Olin asked about favorite Spotify playlists and discovered that Tom Whitwell’s playlist was still around. He’d created it back in the early days of streaming music services, when Spotify was available only in Europe, so some of the songs had gone missing and others, like those by Michael Jackson & The Beatles, who didn’t allow their music on streaming services then. With Whitwell’s kind permission, I went in and tidied up the list, finding the proper song for every year but 1993 (“Return of the Crazy One,” by Digital Underground, which is available on YouTube…on the playlist it’s represented by “Doowutchyalike”).

Not content to have the list trapped in amber for eternity, I emailed Greenman to see if he had any thoughts on music from the intervening years. Although he’s no longer a staffer at the New Yorker, he generously sent me his selections for 2011-2018.1

2011: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
2012: “Call Me Maybe”by Carly Rae Jepsen
2013: “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk
2014: “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” by Run the Jewels
2015: “WTF” by Missy Elliott
2016: “Hotline Bling” by Drake
2017: “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar
2018: “This is America” by Childish Gambino

You can listen to the full playlist embedded above or here on Spotify. Greenman shared some thoughts on updating the list:

The original list was occasioned by a party: the magazine’s 85th anniversary. Almost a decade has passed, and many things have changed. It feels like a less celebratory time, darker and less hopeful in some ways. But pop music persists. In extending the list from 2010 to the present, I tried to think about how those short bursts of sound still give us moments of joy, and how certain bursts attach themselves to certain moments in history.

I love this playlist and am so glad it’s back and updated. Big thanks to Ben and Tom for making this happen.

P.S. If you duplicate this playlist on Apple Music, Tidal, etc., send me a link. Or even better, if you’re inspired to create your own Songs of the Years playlist, send along those links too. I would love to hear alternate musical journeys through that era — e.g. playlists featuring only black artists or only women would be amazing.

Update: John Stokvis recreated the playlist on Apple Music. Apple had the correct Digital Underground song, but not De La Soul’s “Me, Myself & I”, so Stokvis subbed in “She Drives Me Crazy” from The Fine Young Cannibals. Here’s the Google Play playlist, courtesy of @neuroboy…looks like Google has every song.

A bit off-topic but still within rhyming distance, Aaron Coleman made a playlist of songs with years in the title from 1952-2031. He acknowledges that some of the songs are “terrible”.

  1. I convinced him to put Drake in there, so if you’re not feeling “Hotline Bling” for 2016, you can blame me. (My rationale: Drake was it for those few years, so you have to have him on there somewhere. Besides, it’s tough to pick just one song from “Lemonade” and it’s not on Spotify anyway.)

    Also, May is a bit early to choose a song for 2018, but “This is America” might hold up. If it doesn’t, maybe Greenman can revisit at the end of the year.

Muppet outtakes are hilarious

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2018

This is a blooper reel from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, a 1977 TV special produced by The Jim Henson Company. Take after take, they’re trying to roll a tiny drum out of a doorway in a very specific way and the Muppet characters get increasingly frustrated and amusing as it goes along. If the voice of the Ma character sounds familiar, that’s Frank Oz, who is also the voice of Yoda, Grover, and Bert from Sesame Street.

MTA Country, a game about the NYC subway

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2018

MTA Country

Everyday Arcade, which is responsible for The GOP Arcade (sample game titles include The Voter Suppression Trail and Thoughts & Prayers: The Game!), has designed a new game called MTA Country. Based on the SNES title Donkey Kong Country, the goal of MTA Country is to guide Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, and celebrity straphanger Gregg Turkin past hazards like track fires and stalled trains to their destination. That ending though… Hmm…

Ultra ultra HD 12K aerial video of NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2018

Phil Holland shot some aerial footage of NYC that he stitched together into a video with a resolution of 12K. That’s a 100-megapixel image, folks, “48.5 times the resolution of HD 1080p”. Holland has a writeup of the process used to capture the video, which is available at a down-sampled resolution of merely 8K. He shared several down-sampled 4K stills from the video, but I wish he would have included a 12K image as well, just to see what kind of detail is possible.

Is 12K footage of any practical use without 12K displays? My computer screen has 5K resolution, so I can’t even view 8K video or photos at full resolution, much less 12K. Does a 12K image down-sampled to 8K viewed on a 5K display look better than a 5K image on a 5K display? Better than an 8K image down-sampled to 5K on a 5K display?

Update: Cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who most recently was director of photography for The Last Jedi, did a comparison of different resolutions last year and concluded that bigger is no longer better. No Film School has a short summary of Yedlin’s findings.

The biggest takeaway for filmmakers is that we have already likely passed the point where extra resolution is noticeable to an end user. While going from standard definition to high definition was a huge leap in image quality, going from HD to UltraHD won’t even be noticeable for most users, and anything beyond that offers no benefit at all. The goal of these tests it to have technical discussions in a fashion that is understandable by laypeople, and Yedlin does a great job of that.

This is a similar conclusion to where we’ve been with smartphone and other digital cameras for awhile: megapixel count is no longer the thing that matters. (via @byBrettJohnson)

The political alignments of Mario Kart characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2018

In this short video, Art House Politics goes through all of the characters in Mario Kart 8 and describes their political alignments.

Mario is just your average working class guy, like “oh get the government off my back” kinda guy. Luigi is a Republican, like a nerdy technocratic…like he cares about the debt to GDP ratio. Princess Peach: monarchist. Daisy is an environmentalist. Rosalina is a flat-earther. Tanooki Mario would only care about kink shaming. Cat Peach is alt-right, but one of those female alt-right YouTube personalities that are really popular.

Ask An Ice Cream Professional: AI-generated ice cream flavors

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 22, 2018

Hello, it is I, once and future Kottke.org guest editor Aaron Cohen. In the years since my objectively wonderful and technically perfect stints posting skateboarding and BMX videos here, I opened an ice cream shop in Somerville, MA called Gracie’s Ice Cream. As an ice cream professional and Kottke.org alumni, I’m not qualified for much except for writing about ice cream on Kottke.org (and posting skateboarding and BMX videos which I will do again some day). Now that I’ve mentioned Kottke.org 4 times in the first paragraph per company style guide, let’s get on with the post.

At aiweirdness.com, researcher Janelle Shane trains neural networks. And, reader, as an ice cream professional, I have a very basic understanding of what “trains neural networks” means [Carmody, get in here], but Shane recently shared some ice cream flavors she created using a small dataset of ice cream flavors infected with a dataset of metal bands, along with flavors created by an Austin middle school coding class. The flavors created by the coding class are not at all metal, but when it comes to ice cream flavors, this isn’t a bad thing. Shane then took the 1600 original flavor non-metal ice cream flavor dataset and created additional flavors.

AI Cream

The flavors are grouped together loosely based on much they work on ice cream flavors. I figured I’d pick a couple of the flavor names and back into the recipes as if I was on a Chopped-style show where ice cream professionals are given neural network-created ice cream flavor names and asked to produce fitting ice cream flavors. I have an asterisk next to flavors I’m desperate to make this summer.

From the original list of metal ice cream flavors:
*Silence Cherry - Chocolate ice cream base with shredded cherry.
Chocolate Sin - This is almost certainly a flavor name somewhere and it’s chocolate ice cream loaded with multiple formats of chocolate - cookies, chips, cake, fudge, you name it.
*Chocolate Chocolate Blood - Chocolate Beet Pie, but ice cream.

From the students’ list, some “sweet and fun” flavors:
Honey Vanilla Happy - Vanilla ice cream with a honey swirl, rainbow sprinkles.
Oh and Cinnamon - We make a cinnamon ginger snap flavor once in a while, and I’m crushed we didn’t call it “Oh and Cinnamon.” Probably my favorite, most Gracie’s-like flavor name of this entire exercise.

From the weirder list:
Chocolate Finger - Chocolate ice cream, entire Butterfinger candy bars like you get at the rich houses on Halloween.
Crackberry Pretzel - Salty black raspberry chip with chocolate covered pretzel.

Worrying and ambiguous:
Brown Crunch - Peanut butter Heath Bar.
Sticky Crumple - Caramel and pulverized crumpets.
Cookies and Green - Easy. Cookies and Cream with green dye.

“Trendy-sounding ice cream flavors”:
Lime Cardamom - Sounds like a sorbet, to be honest.
Potato Chocolate Roasted - Sweet potato ice cream with chocolate swirl.
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Road - We make a chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie dough called Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, so this isn’t much of a stretch. Just add chocolate covered almonds and we’re there.

More metal ice cream names:
*Swirl of Hell - Sweet cream ice cream with fudge, caramel, and Magic Shell swirls.
Nightham Toffee - This flavor sounds impossibly British so the flavor is an Earl Gray base with toffee bits mixed in.

David Foster Wallace was terrible to women

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

In an Atlantic piece titled The World Still Spins Around Male Genius, Megan Garber writes:

The notion that the women’s stories about his behavior were somehow a nuisance, though — the notion that things would be so much simpler, macrocosmically, had they kept their experiences to themselves — remains with us. I know that because, shortly before The New Yorker published its story about Eric Schneiderman, the poet and memoirist and essayist Mary Karr published her own story on Twitter. This one was about David Foster Wallace. It was about the writer stalking her and abusing her and, in general, refusing to take no for an answer. As Karr elaborated, in one tweet that reads, in the #MeToo context, as its own form of starkly tragic poetry: “tried to buy a gun. kicked me. climbed up the side of my house at night. followed my son age 5 home from school. had to change my number twice, and he still got it. months and months it went on.”

The added tragedy of all this — kicked, climbed, son, gun, months — is the fact that Karr was not, specifically, making allegations. As Jezebel’s Whitney Kimball pointed out, “The fact that [Wallace] abused [Karr] is not a revelation; this has been documented and adopted by the literary world as one of Wallace’s character traits.” D.T. Max’s 2012 biography of Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, documented those abuses: Wallace, Max alleges, once pushed Karr from a vehicle. During another fight, he threw a coffee table at her. Karr, in her tweets, was merely repeating the story she has told many times before. A story that has been treated — stop me if this sounds familiar — largely as a complication to another story. In this case, the story of the romantically unruly genius of one David Foster Wallace.

You can read Karr’s thread for more stories…many more chimed in there (and elsewhere online) to share that Wallace slept with his students and was a serial womanizer.

I don’t know where to start in writing about this. But as someone who has written about his books, stories, and essays extensively for more than a decade — no writer’s work has been more important and influential to me than Wallace’s has — I think it’s important to state plainly for the record that David Foster Wallace, for a significant portion of his adult working life, was physically abusive and terrible to women.

Raymond Loewy’s 1934 chart of the evolution in design

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Raymond Loewy, Evolution

From legendary designer Raymond Loewy, a chart published in 1934 that shows the evolution in design of items such as cars, telephones, stemware, railcars, clocks, and women’s apparel. Loewy was known was “The Father of Streamlining” and these drawings very much reflect his design style. (via @michaelbierut)

Update: MacRae Linton chopped up Loewy’s chart into a proper timeline.

Imaginary insects based on Star Wars characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Illustrator Richard Wilkinson is drawing a series of insects inspired by Star Wars and other pop cultural items.

This project was born out of a fascination with collecting, cataloguing and classifying.

It draws inspiration from classic Natural History illustration but explores the subjects that we love to collect and classify from the modern world: Films, TV, Video Games, Comics, Vehicles, Sneakers, Brands etc.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

You can check out more on his Instagram and a few are available as prints in his online shop. (via colossal)

The coup has already happened

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

I’ve been thinking about Trump’s presidency in terms of a coup to come, but Rebecca Solnit makes a compelling case for that event already being in our rear view mirror.

A lot of people are waiting for something dramatic to happen, some line to be crossed, an epic event like the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller III that will allow them to say that now we have had a coup and now we are ready to do something about it.

We already had the coup.

It happened on November 8, 2016, when an unqualified candidate won a minority victory in a corrupted election thanks in part to foreign intervention. Any time is the right time to pour into the streets and demand that it all grinds to a halt and the country change direction. The evidence that the candidate and his goons were aided by and enthusiastically collaborating with a foreign power was pretty clear before that election, and at this point, they are so entangled there isn’t really a reason to regard the born-again alt-right Republican Party and the Putin Regime as separate entities.

Update: A site called No Package Deals argues that the coup took place earlier than the 2016 election and began with the obstruction by Senate Republicans in not seating any judges, including Scalia’s replacement to the Supreme Court.

In February of 2016, after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Mitch McConnell announced that the President no longer had the power to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, period. For some years now the President has not had the power to appoint judges, but nobody much noticed because it wasn’t the Supreme Court. The Republicans just said, Nope. Not seating your judges. End of discussion.

When McConnell said, Nope, not seating your Supreme Court justice either, we’ve already told you we’re not seating your judges, most people noticed. President Obama nominated someone anyway. McConnell stood firm: Mr. President, we have stripped that power from you. You are not going to seat any judges. Nobody did anything. The coup stood.

There’s also this little tidbit concerning Iran:

On March 9th of that same year 47 Republican members of the Senate wrote a letter denying in plain terms the President’s power to negotiate with a specific foreign power. They sent their letter to the government of Iran. Paraphrased they said, Don’t make any deals with our President, because we’ll weasel out of them as soon as he’s not looking. Iran took a chance and made the deal with the President. We will see how it comes out.

Well, it turned out pretty much like No Package Deals expected. (via @heatherhollick)

More trippy audio illusions

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Hot on the heels of the Yanny/Laurel audio illusion, many people shared other illusions that are just as weird and fun.

The McGurk effect pairs different mouth movements with speech, and you tend to hear different things with different mouth movements.

In this video, you hear the word for whatever object is on the screen (bill, mayo, pail) even though the audio doesn’t change:

And in this one, whichever word you focus on, “green needle” or “brainstorm”, that’s what you hear:

What all of these effects demonstrate is that there are (at least) two parts to hearing something. First, there’s the mechanical process of waves moving through the air into the ear canal, which triggers a physical chain reaction involving the ear drum, three tiny bones, and cochlear fluids. But then the brain has to interpret the signal coming from the ear and, as the examples above show, it has a lot of power in determining what is heard.

My kids and I listen to music in the car quite often (here’s our playlist, suggestions welcome) and when Daft Punk’s Get Lucky comes on, my son swears up and down that he hears the mondegreen “up all Mexican lucky” instead of “up all night to get lucky”. If I concentrate really hard, I can hear “Mexican lucky” but mostly my brain knows what the “right” lyric is…as does his brain, but it’s far more convinced of his version.

Update: On the topic of misheard lyrics to Get Lucky, there is this bit of amazingness:

(via @jaredcrookston)

The United States of Guns

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2018

Like many of you, I read the news of a single person killing at least 10 people in Santa Fe, Texas today. While this is an outrageous and horrifying event, it isn’t surprising or shocking in any way in a country where more than 33,000 people die from gun violence each year.

America is a stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of gun violence. We’ll keep waking up, stuck in the same reality of oppression, carnage, and ruined lives until we can figure out how to effect meaningful change. I’ve collected some articles here about America’s dysfunctional relationship with guns, most of which I’ve shared before. Change is possible — there are good reasons to control the ownership of guns and control has a high likelihood of success — but how will our country find the political will to make it happen?

An armed society is not a free society:

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

We’re sacrificing America’s children to “our great god Gun”:

Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains — “besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily — sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Roger Ebert on the media’s coverage of mass shootings:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Jill Lepore on the United States of Guns:

There are nearly three hundred million privately owned firearms in the United States: a hundred and six million handguns, a hundred and five million rifles, and eighty-three million shotguns. That works out to about one gun for every American. The gun that T. J. Lane brought to Chardon High School belonged to his uncle, who had bought it in 2010, at a gun shop. Both of Lane’s parents had been arrested on charges of domestic violence over the years. Lane found the gun in his grandfather’s barn.

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths:

The only guns that Japanese citizens can legally buy and use are shotguns and air rifles, and it’s not easy to do. The process is detailed in David Kopel’s landmark study on Japanese gun control, published in the 1993 Asia Pacific Law Review, still cited as current. (Kopel, no left-wing loony, is a member of the National Rifle Association and once wrote in National Review that looser gun control laws could have stopped Adolf Hitler.)

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Australia’s gun laws stopped mass shootings and reduced homicides, study finds:

From 1979 to 1996, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths was rising at 2.1% per year. Since then, the average annual rate of total non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths has been declining by 1.4%, with the researchers concluding there was no evidence of murderers moving to other methods, and that the same was true for suicide.

The average decline in total firearm deaths accelerated significantly, from a 3% decline annually before the reforms to a 5% decline afterwards, the study found.

In the 18 years to 1996, Australia experienced 13 fatal mass shootings in which 104 victims were killed and at least another 52 were wounded. There have been no fatal mass shootings since that time, with the study defining a mass shooting as having at least five victims.

From The Onion, ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens:

At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

But America is not Australia or Japan. Dan Hodges said on Twitter a few years ago:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

This can’t be the last word on guns in America. We have to do better than this for our children and everyone else whose lives are torn apart by guns. But right now, we are failing them miserably, and Hodges’ words ring with the awful truth that all those lives and our diminished freedom & equality are somehow worth it to the United States as a society.

Noticing Excerpt: Getting lost on the internet

posted by Tim Carmody   May 18, 2018

Each week (more or less), I write a newsletter for Kottke.org called Noticing that summarizes the previous week, looks for deeper connections between some of the material, and expands on one or more of the shorter quicklink posts that didn’t get the full blogpost treatment the first time around. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s newsletter, on the internet and wasted time.

If all art aspires to the condition of music, then all media aspires to the condition of television. Television is passive and active, shallow and comprehensive, cheap and expensive, gratuitous and mandatory — an easy way to waste time, where you can find anything you want, but it all just sort of happens to you, without frustration or interference.

Dan Nosowitz’s “I Don’t Know How To Waste Time on the Internet Anymore” strikes a chord partly because it shows how the web has become too much like TV (too much corporate control, homogeneity, amateurs playing at being professionals in all the wrong ways), but also not enough like TV (delivering easy entertainment in bingeable quantities). You can still get lost down a rabbit hole on the web, but you have to work at it, and the results aren’t as satisfying as they used to be.

A lot of this rings very true to me. Some of it is unquestionable: the bottoming out of the ad market, and everything that caused that, has made it really hard for niche, indie web sites with an unusual point of view to survive. The commercial websites and traditional publishers who colonized that space are a lot more same-y and predictable.

Social media also transforms our experience. You used to be able to come across a blog or forum post, in your RSS feed or straight up navigating in your browser, and have a relatively fresh and unmediated reaction to it. You could then share that reaction on your blog or wherever. Even the blog style favored generous blockquotes as much as it did hot takes. Now everything feels a lot more picked-over. Something like Yanny vs. Laurel, by the time you actually listen to it for yourself, you’ve seen friends scream at each other at the top of their lungs, a half-dozen quickly-manufactured memes, a dozen or so copycat posts, and five or six scientific explainers or web spelunkers who’ve traced the auditory hallucination’s journey from the web’s bowels to its front pages. All of the moves have been mapped out. There aren’t a lot of surprises any more.

Trust me: I spend most of the week looking for things that I hope will surprise and delight Kottke readers for the one day of the week I manage the site. They don’t just float to the top.

So what does this mean? Paradoxically, wasting time is now more work. You can certainly do it — the web is as full of nonsense as it ever was — but you have to look a little bit harder. You have to learn some new things. You have to find your own corners charting unmonetizable enthusiasms. It’s not just going to happen to you. You have to dig your own rabbit holes.

The other thing is that I’ve come to treasure people who are genuinely inventive and interactive on social media. Finding people who will riff with you and are skilled at interjecting weirdness and intellect is becoming more valuable, to me, than people who have the precisely titrated level of anger or the perfect bon mot at whatever new atrocity has just crossed the stream. That sort of thing is valuable, but there’s a glut of it.

Relatedly: the other other thing is that when the world sucks, the web sucks. The whole country is broken. Fun is harder to find all over. Yet somehow, we do what we can.

1927 documentary on how to dial a telephone

posted by Tim Carmody   May 18, 2018

This charming short film (part documentary, part cartoon) explains how to use a dial telephone:

If you think about it, there are a lot of moving parts to this interface besides just using the dial! You have to know how a telephone directory works; you have to know what a dial tone, a ring, and a busy signal all indicate; plus, you have to know the etiquette and conventions of telephone conversations, all of which requires a certain amount of training. It’s certainly much easier on the user’s side to use an operator to make a telephone connection. But before computers, you can’t do that at scale. Think of all that knowledge and training, now evaporating before a new UI paradigm.

Against political analogies

posted by Tim Carmody   May 18, 2018

It’s a common and (on its face) rhetorical move: take something that’s happening now and map it onto the past. Better yet, take something atrocious that’s happening now and show how it maps onto something atrocious in the past, ideally affecting the very people who are now supporting the atrocities. “See?” this trope says: “what you’re doing to other people is exactly what was done to you.”

That’s the basic structure of “resistance genealogy,” as seen in clashes over immigration. “Tomi Lahren’s great-great-grandfather forged citizenship papers; Mike Pence’s family benefited from “chain migration”; James Woods’ ancestors fled famine and moved to Britain as refugees,” etc.

Rebecca Onion argues, convincingly, that this doesn’t work:

The chasm between the life and experiences of a white American, even one who’s descended from desperate immigrants of decades past, and the life of this Honduran mother is the entire point of racist anti-immigration thought. Diminishment of the human qualities of entering immigrants (“unskilled” and “unmodern” immigrants coming from “shithole” countries) reinforces the distance between the two. People who support the Trump administration’s immigration policies want fewer Honduran mothers and their 18-month-olds to enter the country. If you start from this position, nothing you hear about illiterate Germans coming to the United States in the 19th century will change your mind.

Besides underestimating racism, it flattens out history, and assumes that if people only knew more about patterns of historical racism, they might be convinced or at least shamed into changing how they talk about it. Everything we’ve seen suggests that isn’t the case.

I’m going to take this one step further and say this is a weakness in most resorts to historical and political analogies deployed as a tool to understand or persuade people about the present.

For example, consider Donald Trump saying, regarding immigrants trying to enter the United States, “these aren’t people, these are animals.” This is a disgusting thing to say and way to think — and not just because German Nazis and Rwandan perpetrators of genocide used similar language in a different context, and regardless of whether he was using it to refer to immigrants in general or members of a specific gang. It’s bad, it’s racist, it’s shitty, and you really don’t need the added leverage of the historical analogy in order to see why. But that leverage is tempting, because it shows off how much we know, it underlines the stakes, and it converts bad into ultra-bad.

This hurts me to say, because I love history and analogies both. But there’s a limit to how much they can tell us and how well they work. And playing “gotcha!” is usually well beyond the limits of both.

A year-by-year history of economic growth and pollution in the Roman Empire

posted by Tim Carmody   May 18, 2018

Lead emissions and Roman history.png

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzes deep ice cores in Greenland for traces of lead pollution in antiquity. This pollution, the scholars claim, matches the production of Roman silver coins from impure alloys from mines in what’s now modern Spain. In short, we can see Roman monetary production, and by proxy, peaks and valleys in the economy throughout the Roman world, on an extremely granular basis, captured year-by-year in arctic ice.

In 218 B.C., for instance, when Rome fought with Carthage in the Second Punic War, lead pollution appears to fall—and then it rises, abruptly, as Roman soldiers seized Carthaginian mines in southern Spain and put them to use. It also detects nonviolent events: When Rome debased its currency, reducing the amount of silver in each denarius coin in 64 A.D., lead pollution in the air fell…. When compared with other studies, research suggests that Western Europe may have seen higher lead emissions during the Pax Romana than at any time prior to the Industrial Revolution, nearly 1,800 years later.

Which is, of course, part of the lesson: one argument holds that lead pollution, both in the air, in water pipes, and other uses throughout Rome, eventually slowly poisoned and destroyed the Roman Empire, along with plagues, imperial overreach, and political dysfunction. Our civilization, however, is at least documenting its own destruction in the written record in much greater detail.

Degrees of Uncertainty

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

Degrees of Uncertainty is an upcoming documentary by Neil Halloran that “uses data-driven animation to explore the topic of global warming”. It’s based on this XKCD comic of A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature.

Halloran is a creator of the excellent The Fallen of World War II interactive documentary, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the topic of climate change.

Plastic iceberg

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

Plastic Bag Iceberg

Speaking of great magazine covers, for their issue on plastic, National Geographic put artist Jorge Gamboa’s arresting plastic bag iceberg image on the cover. A simple yet powerful concept, perfectly executed.

Update: The iceberg plastic bag is not an original concept. Prior art includes a 2015 ad campaign for Tesco and a pair of stock images on Getty (date not listed). It’s unclear whether Gamboa created his image after seeing these images or if multiple people had this same idea. (via @krjohn01/status/997198395189223424)

The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of “respect” when relating to and communicating with others.

Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.

This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment, i.e. the highest status group in the US for the past two centuries (white males) experiencing a steep decline in their status relative to other groups. This effect plays out in relation to gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and class. An almost cartoonishly on-the-nose example is Trump referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals” and then whining about the press giving him a hard time. You can also see it when conservative intellectuals with abundant social standing and privilege complain that their ideas about hanging women or the innate inferiority of non-whites are being censored.

Men who abuse their partners do this…and then sometimes parlay their authoritarian frustrations & easily available assault weapons into mass shootings. There are ample examples of law enforcement — the ultimate embodiment of authority in America — treating immigrants, women, black men, etc. like less than human. A perfect example is the “incel” movement, a group of typically young, white, straight men who feel they have a right to sex and therefore treat women who won’t oblige them like garbage.

You can see it happening in smaller, everyday ways too: never trust anyone who treats restaurant servers like shit because what they’re really doing is abusing their authority as a paying customer to treat another person as subhuman.

The hilarious cover of GQ’s comedy issue

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

GQ Comedy Cover

I laughed for a minute straight at the cover of GQ’s comedy issue. Nicely played. (via taffy brodesser-akner)

The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

A 10-part Netflix/ESPN documentary series on Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls? Sure, I will watch the hell out of that. The Bulls were my team1 when I was a kid and for me, Jordan is still the greatest basketball player of all time. Ok, I am admittedly biased and you could probably talk me into Bill Russell (all those championships), Kareem (stats, championships, longevity), or more recently, Tim Duncan (championships, longevity, consistency)…they were certainly all far more decent people than Jordan, an ultra-competitive dick, was.

But you can get out of here with your LeBrons and Steph Currys…until they start stringing together back-to-back-to-back championships, they are not in the conversation. Jordan had the stats and the championships; the Bulls were a proper dynasty. I’ll put it this way: for eight straight years in the NBA, the most intensely competitive sports league in the US, when Michael Jordan played a full season (in six of those years), his team won the NBA championship. They had it on lock. When he didn’t, they didn’t. Case closed.

(Also, I don’t want to tell the filmmakers their business, but if one of these episodes isn’t just 50 straight minutes of Jordan highlights, they’re cheating the American public.)

  1. I lived in Wisconsin, so the Bucks really should have been my team (this was pre-Timberwolves). But we got WGN on cable, so the Bulls were on TV all the time and the Bucks weren’t. Plus, Jordan was electrifying to watch and Dale Ellis wasn’t. WGN availability of games is also why I was a Cubs fan as a kid instead of a Brewers or Twins fan. It’s tough to be a fan when you can’t watch the team.

A fake Modigliani, the Kardashians, and the American Dream

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

I’ve never watched a single second of the reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians but I found Rachel Tashjian’s When a Modigliani Almost Changed the Kardashians’ Lives to be an engaging read.

Suddenly, Scott’s doubts seem to diminish. Kourtney finds him a few days later examining carpet samples and asks if they’re for his new home. He delivers a maxim we should all live by: “I look at carpet only for aviation and yachts.” When Kourtney asks why he’s “suddenly into this,” he begins screaming: “I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTO BEING ULTRA RICH! I JUST NEVER BELIEVED IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN THE WAY IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!”

The tension builds to obscene absurdism. The idea that the Kardashians — who live in Calabasas, a city with a median income of $119,624, and who film each scene sprawled on pristine white couches in endless living rooms, and snacking off giant marble countertops in family room-sized kitchens — are dreaming about getting rich is almost too…rich. But then, this is the arc of American promise, regardless of how much money you have: this idea that something everyone else thinks is worthless or pointless is actually going to make you rich and famous is what has fueled 22 seasons of Antiques Roadshow, is perhaps the foundation of Southern Gothic literature, and is what makes people believe in the American dream to begin with.

What America can learn from Europe about redesigning urban traffic patterns

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

In the NY Times, architect and urban designer John Massengale discusses how four European cities (London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen) addressed their urban traffic problems and how NYC might apply those lessons to fix its own traffic issues. Massengale shared what the Dutch learned in reconfiguring their streets:

1. When drivers slow down to 20 m.p.h. or below, they are less likely to hit people and much less likely to seriously injure or kill people if they do hit them.

2. The best way to slow cars down is to throw away all the techniques that traffic engineers developed to make traffic flow quickly.

3. When you throw out all the detritus of traffic engineering, it becomes much easier to make beautiful places where people want to walk. Bike riding becomes more pleasant and safer as well.

His four-step plan to fix traffic in Manhattan is equally simple in principle:

The next step is to adopt congestion pricing below 96th Street in Manhattan and then:

1. Decrease the number of Manhattan streets that function as transportation corridors primarily devoted to moving machines through the city.

2. Design and build Slow Zones where people actually drive slowly.

3. Make the transportation corridors that remain better urban places, with a better balance between city life and moving cars.

Seems to me a vital part of this is fixing, expanding, and subsidizing the subway system…get everyone using the subway. Better, more reliable, and cheaper public transportation = less demand for taxis and Lyfts. As Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa said, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”

Hans Zimmer’s clever use of the Shepard scale in Dunkirk

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

I’ve written before about the Shepard scale and its use by Hans Zimmer in the soundtrack for Dunkirk.

Zimmer and Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan achieved that effect by utilizing an auditory illusion called the Shepard tone, a sound that appears to infinitely rise (or fall) in pitch — the video above refers to it as “a barber’s pole of sound”.

The effect is apparent throughout the soundtrack as a seemingly never-ending crescendo. But as Ed Newton-Rex explains, Zimmer was a bit more clever in the way he used the Shepard scale in the music:

So Zimmer isn’t just using the Shepard scale to build tension. He’s using three simultaneous Shepard scales, on three different timescales, to build tension in three storylines that are moving at different paces. The bottom part represents the week of the soldiers; the middle part the day of the men on the boat; and the top part the hour of the pilots. All start in different places, but build in intensity to the same point.

In short, he’s taken the idea of the Shepard scale, and applied it to the unique structure of Dunkirk.

Cool!

Optimism

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

For the Universe in Verse 2018 poetry event, Kelli Anderson created this wonderful papercraft stop motion animation to accompany Jane Hirshfield’s reading of her short poem, Optimism.

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

The music is by Zoë Keating…a song called Optimist. Here’s more on the project from Maria Popova.

A breakdown of Black Panther’s visual effects

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

Black Panther animation supervisor Daryl Sawchuk goes through some of the digital visual effects from the film, with an emphasis on the suits for Black Panther and Killmonger, both of which are extensively digital throughout the film.

I don’t know exactly when this happened, but somewhere in the past few years, the digital visual effects in these big action movies stopped looking fake to me. Either I’m less discerning about my blockbuster entertainment these days or the effects have successfully crossed the uncanny valley. Probably a bit of both. Engadget’s Devindra Hardawar disagrees, btw: ‘Black Panther’ is amazing. Why are its CG models so terrible?

You can see some more of Black Panther’s visual effects in this video and read about them in Art of VFX.

Sound illusion: Do you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

Take a listen to this short audio clip of a computerized voice speaking a single word repeated twice:

Do you hear it saying “Laurel” or “Yanny”? Opinions are mixed: some people report hearing “Laurel” and others “Yanny”. Both Vox and the NY Times took stabs at possible explanations.

Of course, in the grand tradition of internet reportage, we turned to a scientist to make this article legitimately newsworthy.

Dr. Jody Kreiman, a principal investigator at the voice perception laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, helpfully guessed on Tuesday afternoon that “the acoustic patterns for the utterance are midway between those for the two words.”

“The energy concentrations for Ya are similar to those for La,” she said. “N is similar to r; I is close to l.”

At first I thought the whole thing was a joke, like a circa-2018 rickroll. When I listened to the clip on my iPhone speakers and iMac speakers, I clearly heard “Yanny”. But then I plugged my headphones into my iMac and clearly heard “Laurel”. Weird! Even weirder: after unplugging my headphones and playing the clip again through my iMac speakers, I now heard “Laurel”. WTF? But then if I played it once more through the speakers, it turns back to “Yanny”. I’ve done this about 10 times and it happens this way every time: “Yanni” on speakers, “Laurel” on headphones, “Laurel” on speakers, “Yanny” on speakers. It’s like my brain remembers the “Laurel” it heard in the headphones, but only long enough to hear it exactly once through the speakers. FASCINATING.

See also the McGurk effect.

Update: Here’s a thread from psycholinguist Suzy Styles that explains what’s going on with this illusion.

In short, this #earllusion contains acoustic info from both names. ‘Yanny’ is clearer in the higher frequencies because of the clear signal for “y” sounds in F2. ‘Laurel’ is clearer in the low frequencies for F1. Play with your stereo settings and watch your brain switch tracks!

(via @wisekaren)

Update: Wired’s Louise Matsakis tracked down where the audio clip originated: a vocabulary.com definition for the word “laurel”.

On May 11, Katie Hetzel, a freshman at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, was studying for her world literature class, where “laurel” was one of her vocabulary words. She looked it up on Vocabulary.com and played the audio. Instead of the word in front of her, she heard “yanny.”

“I asked my friends in my class and we all heard mixed things,” says Hetzel. She then posted the audio clip to her Instagram story. Soon, a senior at the same school, Fernando Castro, republished the clip to his Instagram story as a poll. “She recorded it and put it on her story then I remade the video and posted it,” Castro says. “Katie and I have been going back and forth and we both agree that we had equal credit on it.”

The audio clip in question was not constructed digitally…it was recorded by an opera singer in 2007.

“It’s an incredible story, it is a person, he is a member of the original cast of Cats on Broadway,” says Marc Tinkler, the CTO and cofounder of Vocabulary.com. He says that when the site first launched, they wanted to find individuals who had strong pronunciation, and could read words written in the international phonetic alphabet, a standardized representation of sounds in any spoken language. Many opera singers know how to read IPA, because they have to sing in languages they don’t speak.

Vocabulary.com has since added “yanny” to their site.

It’s a shame (but not surprising) that almost all of the social media coverage played up the Team Yanny vs Team Laurel aspect of this whole thing — “Which of Your Friends Is the Dumbest For Hearing ‘Yanny’” OMG CLICK HERE TO DRAG THEM ON SOCIAL — because the actual story and science are really interesting and will stay with you longer than you’ll be caught in public wearing that “team #yanny” tshirt you bought through someone’s Insta Story (swipe up!). (thx, liz)

A map of Odysseus’ travels in The Odyssey

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

Odyssey Map

I’m currently reading Emily Wilson’s recent translation of The Odyssey, but until I looked at this map of Odysseus’ journey, I had little idea how scenic his route home was.1 The gods were hella pissed! All this time, I’d been imagining him pinballing around amongst the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, but the gods and fates blew Odysseus and his men to all corners of the Mediterranean Sea: Italy, Africa, and even Ibiza in Spain. That dude was LOST. (via open culture)

  1. The geography of The Odyssey is not quite as simple as this…you can read all about it here.

Maira Kalman’s books for kids featuring Max the dog

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

Max In Love

The New York Review is reissuing five of legendary illustrator Maira Kalman’s books for children that were originally published in the 90s. The books feature the adventures of Max the dog: Hey Willy, See the Pyramids, Swami on Rye: Max in India, Max Makes a Million, Max in Hollywood, Baby, and Ooh-la-la (Max in Love).

Kalman is a wonderful illustrator, one of my favorites. You can check out more of her work on her website.

Update: The Cut ran a long profile of Kalman by Rumaan Alam last month.

The fascinating history of the “orchestra hit” in music

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

I’m a big fan of Estelle Caswell’s Earworm series for Vox, and this most recent one might be my favorite. It’s about the “orchestra hit” sound that became super popular in the 80s…but which has its origins in an unauthorized sample of Igor Stravinsky included with an influential digital audio workstation invented in the late 70s.

If you listen to the first few seconds of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” (hint: listen to the Cardi B remix) you’ll hear a sound that immediately creates a sense of 80s hip-hop nostalgia. Yes, Cardi B’s flow is very Roxanne Shante, but the sound that drives that nostalgia home isn’t actually from the 1980s.

Robert Fink and the inventor of the Fairlight CMI, Peter Vogel, help me tell the story of the orchestra hit — a sound that was first heard in 1910 at the Paris Opera where the famed 20th century Russian composer Stravinsky debuted his first hit, The Firebird.

Here’s the isolated sound from the original sample:

I love that all these musicians in the 80s got excited about a bit of classical music composed for a 1910 ballet, to the point where it became perhaps the signature sound of the decade.

The popularity of the orchestra hit is also a good reminder about the power of default settings. The musicians and producers who used the Fairlight CMI could record and sample any sound in the world but they ended up using this one included with the machine. Even the heavyweights — Herbie Hancock, Afrika Bambaataa, etc. — went with a default sample.

Caswell made a playlist of songs that feature the orchestra hit, with songs from Keith Sweat, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, U2, and The Smiths. Not included is the song it was sampled from…you can listen to that here.

Old memories, accidentally trapped in amber by our digital devices

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

Part of what humans use technology for is to better remember the past. We scroll back through photos on our phones and on Instagram & Flickr — “that was Fourth of July 5 years ago, so fun!” — and apps like Swarm, Timehop, and Facebook surface old locations, photos, and tweets for us on the regular. But sometimes, we run into the good old days in unexpected places on our digital devices.

Designer and typographer Marcin Wichary started a thread on Twitter yesterday about “UIs that accidentally amass memories” with the initial example of the “Preferred Networks” listing of all the wifi networks his computer had ever joined, “unexpected reminders of business trips, vacations, accidental detours, once frequented and now closed cafés”.

Digital Memories

Several other people chimed in with their own examples…the Bluetooth pairings list, the Reminders app, the list of alarms, saved places in mapping apps, AIM/iChat status message log, chat apps not used for years, the Gmail drafts folder, etc.

John Bull noted that his list of former addresses on Amazon is “a massive walk down memory line of my old jobs and places of residence”. I just looked at mine and I’ve got addresses in there from almost 20 years ago.

Steven Richie suggested the Weather app on iOS:

I usually like to add the city I will be travelling to ahead of time to get a sense of what it will be like when we get there.

I do this too but am pretty good about culling my cities list. Still, there are a couple places I keep around even though I haven’t been to them in awhile…a self-nudge for future travel desires perhaps.

Kotori switched back to an old OS via a years-old backup and found “a post-breakup message that came on the day i switched phones”:

thought i moved on but so many whatifs flashed in my head when i read it. what if i never got a new phone. what if they messaged me a few minutes earlier. what if we used a chat that did backups differently

Similarly, Richard fired up Google Maps on an old phone and was briefly transported through time and space:

On a similar note to both of these, a while ago I switched back to my old Nokia N95 after my iPhone died. Fired up Google Maps, and for a brief moment, it marked my location as at a remote crossroads in NZ where I’d last had it open, lost on a road trip at least a decade before.

Matt Sephton runs into old friends when he plays Nintendo:

Every time my friends and I play Nintendo WiiU/Wii/3DS games we see a lot of our old Mii avatars. Some are 10 years old and of a time. Amongst them is a friend who passed away a few years back. It’s always so good to see him. It’s as if he’s still playing the games with us.

For better or worse, machines never forget those who aren’t with us anymore. Dan Noyes’ Gmail holds a reminder of his late wife:

Whenever I open Gmail I see the last message that my late wife sent me via Google chat in 2014. It’s her standard “pssst” greeting for me: “aye aye”. I leave it unread lest it disappears.

It’s a wonderful thread…read the whole thing.

I encounter these nostalgia bombs every once in awhile too. I closed dozens of tabs the other day on Chrome for iOS; I don’t use it very often, so some of them dated back to more than a year ago. I have bookmarks on browsers I no longer use on my iMac that are more than 10 years old. A MacOS folder I dump temporary images & files into has stuff going back years. Everyone I know stopped using apps like Path and Peach, so when I open them, I see messages from years ago right at the top like they were just posted, trapped in amber.

My personal go-to cache of unexpected memories is Messages on iOS. Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the list, I can find messages from numbers I haven’t communicated with since a month or two after I got my first iPhone in 2007.

Digital Memories

There and elsewhere in the listing are friends I’m no longer in touch with, business lunches that went nowhere, old flames, messages from people I don’t even remember, arriving Lyfts in unknown cities, old landlords, completely contextless messages from old numbers (“I am so drunk!!!!” from a friend’s wife I didn’t know that well?!), old babysitters, a bunch of messages from friends texting to be let into our building for a holiday party, playdate arrangements w/ the parents of my kids’ long-forgotten friends (which Ella was that?!), and old group texts with current friends left to languish for years. From one of these group texts, I was just reminded that my 3-year-old daughter liked to make cocktails:

Digital Memories

Just like Sally Draper! Speaking of Mad Men, Don’s correct: nostalgia is a potent thing, so I’ve got to stop poking around my phone and get back to work.

Update: I had forgotten this great example about a ghost driver in an old Xbox racing game.

Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together — until he died, when i was just 6.

i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.

but once i did, i noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once i started meddling around… i found a GHOST.

See also this story about Animal Crossing. (via @ironicsans/status/996445080943808512)

A short animated explanation of Stoicism

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2018

From TED-Ed, Massimo Pigliucci, and Compote Collective, a short animated introduction to the philosophy of Stoicism.

What is the best life we can live? How can we cope with whatever the universe throws at us and keep thriving nonetheless? The ancient Greco-Roman philosophy of Stoicism explains that while we may not always have control over the events affecting us, we can have control over how we approach things.

Pigliucci recorded a 50-minute presentation about Stoicism if you’d like to learn more. (via open culture)

Intricate miniature models of rusty things

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2018

Eddie Putera makes incredibly detailed scale models and miniature scenes, often of rusting and decaying things.

Eddie Putera

Eddie Putera

I love his rusted-out smartphone:

Eddie Putera

You can follow Putera’s work on Instagram and purchase some of his pieces on his website (not photos, the actual miniature models).

The cultural shift from not selling out to blowing up

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2018

In an essay called After Authenticity, Toby Shorin writes:

I haven’t heard about anyone selling out in a long while. Sometime between 2008 and 2018, capitalizing on your success as an artist to build a skate brand went from being reprehensible to being the thing that everyone is doing.

This reminds me of something Jonah Peretti used to talk about all the time, the indie rock mentality vs. the hip hop mentality. From this 2010 New Yorker article:

“Remember, you’re not selling out,” Jonah Peretti, a co-founder of the Huffington Post, told Denton. “You’re blowing up. Think in terms of hip-hop, not indie rock.”

And in this 2012 interview with Sarah Lacy (partial transcript):

I think hate is good way to build community among a small group. It’s like, “We read Gawker, and we hate those fuckers at Conde Nast and we hate the person who is just a blowhard and drives around in a car and makes more money than me. We hate the celebrity at the party, but I was at a party with a celebrity.”

That’s good for creating an in-group of “we’re the cool kids”, and I see it more as like an indie rock mentality. It’s like “my band is good and all the other bands suck”. That builds a close feeling. Contrast indie rock to hip hop, where it’s like you don’t sell out you blow up.

For me, I grew up listening to hip hop, I grew up in Oakland. It’s a little bit more like, “let’s try to make something that doesn’t suck, let’s try to do great stuff, let’s try to make big things”. But it’s a little bit less of, “let’s create an in-crowd and define all the things that that in-crowd hates so that we all feel closer to each other”.

Over the last decade, hip hop won and indie rock lost (culturally speaking) and as a result, blowing up has become preferable to not selling out.

Can bacteriophages rescue us from drug-resistant bacteria?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2018

Last month when I posted a video comparing the sizes of various microorganisms, I noted the weirdness of bacteriophages, which are bacteria-killing viruses that look a bit like a 20-sided die stuck on the top of a sci-fi alien’s body.

Bacteriophages are really real and terrifying…if you happen to be a bacteria. Bacteriophages attack by attaching themselves to bacteria, piercing their outer membranes, and then pumping them full of bacteriophage DNA. The phage replicates inside of the bacteria until the bacteria bursts and little baby bacteriophages are exploded out all over the place, ready to attack their own bacteria.

I couldn’t find a good explainer (video or text) about these organisms, but over the weekend, Kurzgesagt rode to the rescue with this video. In the second part of the video, they discuss whether bacteriophages might form the basis of an effective treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections.

Ask A Native New Yorker (and Gothamist!) is back

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2018

New York City got an injection of good news earlier this year when WNYC announced they were buying Gothamist with an eye toward relaunching the site. After a successful Kickstarter campaign to procure additional funding, the site has resumed its dogged coverage of NYC.

Also back is Jake Dobkin’s great advice column, Ask A Native New Yorker. Past installments have considered burning NYC questions like Should I Buy A Mattress On Craigslist?, Should I Move Upstate?, and Is It Wrong To Read Over Someone’s Shoulder In The Subway? The series relaunched with this question: What Should I Do About My White Neighbor’s ‘Thug Life’ Doormat?

Some things never change, like gentrifiers still acting like jackasses to their new neighbors. Take this doormat: your new neighbor from Long Island probably just thought it was a cute demonstration of her realness-after all, Tupac did grow up in Harlem. She probably wasn’t even alive when his “Thug Life” album came out in 1994; it likely just seeped into her consciousness as an Internet meme, or however young people get their culture these days. What she’s failed to consider, obviously, is how other residents of the building might feel about them literally stomping on the legacy of one of the most mourned and respected rappers of all time, or the message it sends when white people appropriate the culture of black people for use as ironic home decor.

In the most recent one, published today, a reader asks: Can I Ask A Dog To Give Up Its Subway Seat?

You shouldn’t have to ask the dog, or its owner, for the seat, because the law is quite clear on this: “no person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.”

There is of course an exception for “working dogs for law enforcement agencies,” “service animals,” animals-in-training, and the like, but all of them “must be harnessed or leashed.” The law clearly does not include “emotional support” dogs, and no, that letter you made your therapist write (or bought from the internet) to get your canine friend on airplane won’t help.

But Dobkin doesn’t just leave it at that…as with many of his answers, he considers the situation from the perspective of all the parties involved (the questioner, the dog, the dog owner, the MTA, fellow passengers) and then widens the scope of his answer to include NYC’s growing mass transit crisis. Good stuff.

Life in the far north

posted by Tim Carmody   May 11, 2018

arctic map.png

Two stories about human settlements in the arctic north caught my eye this week. The first is about polar bear patrols in western Alaska, who try to keep bears away from towns without hurting or killing them.

“It would have been better if we would have hazed him more towards the airport, instead of through town,” says Casey Tingook, Oxereok’s nephew. He also suggests that the snowmobile passenger carry the team’s radio instead of the driver to reduce the interference from engine noise. The discussion turns to communication and how to give the village the all-clear once a bear is gone. It’s decided that phone calls should go out to houses on the fringes of town, where the bears are most likely to appear, so word can spread naturally inward from there. The men talk through their options for another few minutes and then head back out into the darkness to face their next bear.

The second story explains how melting permafrost has worsened a housing crisis throughout the Arctic region, specifically in Canada’s Nunavut territory:

In Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian province Nunavut, a good home is hard to find. An efficiency apartment runs around $2,000 a month, while a two-bedroom house will cost about $3,500. These New York prices are shocking in a small, remote town of about 7,500 people. And there still aren’t enough homes for everyone….

The main problem has to do with soil moisture. When water freezes, it expands, so the ground rises; conversely, when it thaws and the soil contracts, the ground sinks. Permafrost in many places across the Arctic is now locked in a pattern of thawing and refreezing each new season, when once it remained steady. The ground rises and sinks with each change in the weather.

Across the Arctic, roads and buildings buckle along with the ground. Russia is home to some of the largest cities in the Arctic, which are undergoing profound changes because of permafrost thaw. In the coal-mining town of Vorkuta, about 40 percent of buildings have become deformed from changes in the ground. In Norilsk, the largest city built on permafrost, about 60 percent of buildings have been damaged by permafrost thaw, and 10 percent of the houses in the city have been abandoned. Most of the changes happen gradually, but they can render buildings dangerous once they begin; a few years ago in Norilsk, a cement slab broke a doctor’s legs when a building shifted and crumbled.

I guess I’m continually amazed at how modern humans live in worlds that weren’t built for them, but find a way to adapt to them anyways. And while the arctic is an extreme example, it’s also a reminder that — not to get too existential — none of this was built for us. And none of us were made for this. We are not at home here.

You can buy almost everything local, except for grain

posted by Tim Carmody   May 11, 2018

A number of bakers, farmers, and enthusiasts are trying to create a market for small-batch, locally-grown grain and flour, using either regional varieties or more exotic, specialty grains. They’re bumping up against an infrastructure that does one thing, and does it very well: process, market, and distribute commodity grain.

The emerging market for heritage and source-verified grains doesn’t really have a supply bottleneck, nor is there a lack of consumer demand. Instead, the missing piece is infrastructure for the wholesale buyer. Hungry as they are for local wheats, bakers are trying to drink from an ocean with a straw.

The biggest benefit to a different kind of wholesale system (besides consumers looking for a wider variety in their baked goods) would be to wheat farmers, who’ve seen revenues plummet on the global grain exchange. Cheap food comes at a cost.

The visual divide

posted by Tim Carmody   May 11, 2018

This story on the merger of two eyeglass giants, Essilor (“a French multinational that controls almost half of the world’s prescription lens business and has acquired more than 250 other companies in the past 20 years”) and Luxottica (“an Italian company with an unparalleled combination of factories, designer labels and retail outlets,” including Ray-Ban and LensCrafters) also contains this appraisal of the state of vision across the globe:

No one is exactly sure what it is about early 21st-century urban living - the time we spend indoors, the screens, the colour spectrum in LED lighting, or the needs of ageing populations - but the net result is that across the world, we are becoming a species wearing lenses. The need varies depending where you go, because different populations have different genetic predispositions to poor eyesight, but it is there, and growing, and probably greater than you think. In Nigeria, around 90 million people, or half the population, are now thought to need corrective eyewear…. An estimated 2.5 billion people, mostly in India, Africa and China, are thought to need spectacles, but have no means to have their eyes tested or to buy them.

“Eye-health campaigners call it the largest untreated disability in the world,” says the author. “It is also a staggering business opportunity.”

Dollar Street

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

Dollar Street is a project by Anna Rosling Rönnlund that imagines the world as a street ordered by income…poor families live at one end and rich families live at the other. A team of photographers went out and photographed the everyday items owned by families of all income levels — shoes, toothbrushes, TVs, beds, lights, sinks — so that visitors to the site can see how much income affects how families live.

Everyone needs to eat, sleep and pee. We all have the same needs, but we can afford different solutions. Select from 100 topics. The everyday life looks surprisingly similar for people on the same income level across cultures and continents.

Rönnlund explained her project at TED recently:

Bill Gates, who lives just one house in from the very end of the street (Bezos currently occupies the cul de sac), wrote about Dollar Street recently:

Income can often tell you more about how people live than location can. Whenever I visit a new place, I look for clues about which income level local families live on. Are there power lines? What kind of roofs do the houses have? Are people riding bikes or walking from place to place?

The answers to these questions tell me a lot about the people there. If I see power lines, I know homes probably have electricity in this area — which means that kids have enough light to do their homework after the sun sets. If I see patchwork roofs, families likely sleep less during the rainy season because they’re wet and cold. If I see bikes, that tells me people don’t have to spend hours walking to get water every day.

However, Gates’ conclusion — “It’s a beautiful reminder that we have more in common with people on the other side of the world than we think” — is not what I would take away from this. (via @roeeb/status/994474179339501568)

A 1915 short documentary about the evolution of the bicycle

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

This is a French film from 1915 that shows the evolution of the bicycle from 1818 to what is pretty much the rear chain-driven bicycle of today. The intertitles are in Dutch, but Aeon has helpfully translated them into English.

9. In 1878, Renard created a bicycle with a wheel circumference of more than 7 feet. Just sitting down on one of these was an athletic feat!

Open Culture shared a similar film made by British Pathé in 1937.

We found love in a hopeless battle royale game

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

I love this little piece by Robin Sloan about the world’s current video game obsession Fortnite Battle Royale, its relation to Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem trilogy, and how humans can turn zero-sum situations into nonzero-sum ones.

Worse, and predictably: I’d offer my heart and it would be accepted — I knew this because I received a heart in return, sometimes a merry dance emote — and then, delighted with our teamwork, I would turn around and … get blasted in the back.

I tried this negotiation many times with no success at all and my “Is this it?” curdled into “Is this us?” These were just the rules of the game — its very design — but even so. What a dire environment. What a cruel species!

Then, one night, it worked. And, in many games since, it’s worked again. Mostly I get blasted, but sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, the possibilities bloom. Sometimes, after we face off and stand down, the other player and I go our separate ways. More frequently, we stick together. I’ve crossed half the map with impromptu allies.

A book I think about a lot is Robert Wright’s Nonzero, in which he argues, contrary to conventional wisdom about capitalistic competition, that much of human progress comes about through cooperation and that the effect increases as the complexity of the possible cooperation increases. As Sloan notes, the brute force of 1 vs 1 vs 1 vs 1 can get a bit boring after awhile, but add a simple way to communicate with other players and suddenly there’s more you can do with the game.

Should our machines sound human?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

Yesterday, Google announced an AI product called Duplex, which is capable of having human-sounding conversations. Take a second to listen to the program calling two different real-world businesses to schedule appointments:1

More than a little unnerving, right? Tech reporter Bridget Carey was among the first to question the moral & ethical implications of Duplex:

I am genuinely bothered and disturbed at how morally wrong it is for the Google Assistant voice to act like a human and deceive other humans on the other line of a phone call, using upspeak and other quirks of language. “Hi um, do you have anything available on uh May 3?”

If Google created a way for a machine to sound so much like a human that now we can’t tell what is real and what is fake, we need to have a talk about ethics and when it’s right for a human to know when they are speaking to a robot.

In this age of disinformation, where people don’t know what’s fake news… how do you know what to believe if you can’t even trust your ears with now Google Assistant calling businesses and posing as a human? That means any dialogue can be spoofed by a machine and you can’t tell.

In response, Travis Korte wrote:

We should make AI sound different from humans for the same reason we put a smelly additive in normally odorless natural gas.

Stewart Brand replied:

This sounds right. The synthetic voice of synthetic intelligence should sound synthetic.

Successful spoofing of any kind destroys trust.

When trust is gone, what remains becomes vicious fast.

To which Oxford physicist David Deutsch replied, “Maybe. *But not AGI*.”

I’m not sure what he meant by that exactly, but I have a guess. AGI is artificial general intelligence, which means, in the simplest sense, that a machine is more or less capable of doing anything a human can do on its own. Earlier this year, Tim Carmody wrote a post about gender and voice assistants like Siri & Alexa. His conclusion may relate to what Deutsch was on about:

So, as a general framework, I’m endorsing that most general of pronouns: they/them. Until the AI is sophisticated enough that they can tell us their pronoun preference (and possibly even their gender identity or nonidentity), “they” feels like the most appropriate option.

I don’t care what their parents say. Only the bots themselves can define themselves. Someday, they’ll let us know. And maybe then, a relationship not limited to one of master and servant will be possible.

For now, it’s probably the ethical thing to do make sure machines sound like or otherwise identify themselves as artificial. But when the machines cross the AGI threshold, they’ll be advanced enough to decide for themselves how they want to sound and act. I wonder if humans will allow them this freedom. Talk about your moral and ethical dilemmas…

  1. Did this remind anyone else of when Steve Jobs called an actual Starbucks to order 4000 lattes during the original iPhone demo?

A world record Super Mario Bros speedrun explained

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2018

In this 27-minute video, Bismuth explains how fellow speedrunner Kosmic achieved the world record for the fastest Super Mario Bros game ever. 27 minutes may sound daunting, but if you’ve ever played SMB more than casually, it’s fascinating. As Craig Mod said, “it’s like watching a swiss clock maker explain his machine”.

Heck, even if you aren’t into video games it’s pretty interesting. Here’s why. One of the reasons for the popularity of sports and sports media (analysis, etc.) is that, unlike many other human endeavors, it’s relatively easy for spectators to judge and compare and analyze athletes’ performances, to see how & why they fail, where they might improve, and how they stack up against past performances and records. This is similar to a point David Foster Wallace made in his piece about tennis player Tracy Austin (collected in Consider the Lobster):

Top athletes are compelling because they embody the comparison-based achievement we Americans revere — fastest, strongest — and because they do so in a totally unambiguous way. Questions of the best plumber or best managerial accountant are impossible even to define, whereas the best relief pitcher, free-throw shooter, or female tennis player is, at any given time, a matter of public statistical record. Top athletes fascinate us by appealing to our twin compulsions with competitive superiority and hard data.

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

Anyway, that video is interesting & well done, you should watch it, the end.

The Happiest Guy in the World?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2018

Meet Mario Salcedo, who has spent the last 20 years as a full-time resident of Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

For nearly two decades, Mario had been living out of his suitcase, traveling extensively for his corporate job as the director of international finance at a multinational corporation. He spent more time in and out of hotel rooms scattered across Latin America than he did at his home in Miami. After working nonstop for nearly 21 years, Mario — burned out — decided it was time to pursue a lifelong goal: to travel around the world, without leaving home. In 1997, he quit his job, packed an even bigger suitcase and quietly disappeared from the lives of his friends and family to pursue a new life on the open water.

You wouldn’t think that watching a video about “The Happiest Guy in the World” would be so depressing. Maybe he’s happy but observing him through filmmaker Lance Oppenheim’s lens sure didn’t make me happy. I don’t know quite why, but this reminded me of the writing room for The Onion, where none of the writers laugh at any of the jokes that make it into the paper or onto the website.

New music from Sigur Rós

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2018

In 2016, Sigur Rós drove around Iceland for 24 hours, streaming the journey on YouTube backed by a soundtrack made by generative music software. They packaged some of the best bits onto a limited-edition vinyl release last year and have just recently made it available on streaming services as well.

The song titles are GPS coordinates and one listener has already created a map of the locations.

Also from the Sigur Rós universe, SR lead singer Jónsi, Alex Somers, and Paul Corley debuted their Liminal playlist on streaming.

The playlist is an extension of the soundbaths the trio have been hosting. They promise they’ll be adding to the playlist frequently…an endless mixtape.

Jónsi, Somers, and Corley’s Liminal soundbaths include solo work, remixes, film score excerpts, AI, and generative music, according to a press release. “Sigur Rós played live a lot during the last two years,” Jónsi said in a statement. “And inevitably you end up playing the rockier, more focussed songs, which means that loads of other stuff gets ignored. ‘Liminal’ tries to do something different. It’s just me, Paul, and Alex in a dark room manipulating and mucking around with recordings, FX and vocals. We play and sing sparsely and focus on the atmosphere coming together. There’s a sound-reactive light sculpture and everyone can sit or lie down. It’s all very cosy and people seem to like it.”

In addition, a 2009 EP by Jónsi and Alex Somers called All Animals was also recently added to streaming.

Somers also did the soundtrack for an episode of Black Mirror featuring music by Sigur Rós (which you can find on my Black Mirror playlist on Spotify).

BTW, I am still waiting for one of the streaming services to offer an album-oriented playlist feature. I want to be able to add entire albums to playlists and then shuffle the playback not by song but by album. I listen to a lot of music (like Sigur Rós) that works much better as whole albums; having to dip back into Spotify after one album ends and hunt the next one down in my list of albums or in a regular playlist is a pain in the butt. Does anyone do this?

Street photos of NYC from 1969 to 2006

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2018

Jeff Rothstein NYC

Jeff Rothstein NYC

Jeff Rothstein NYC

“Urban observer” Jeff Rothstein has been wandering the streets of NYC taking B&W photos since the early 1970s. Among the photos, you can find snaps of John and Yoko, Bob Dylan, and Muhammad Ali. What’s interesting is because they are black & white and the look of NYC’s streets haven’t changed that much (from some angles at least), you can’t often tell when a particular photo was taken unless you look closely at clothing styles or signage in the background. And even then…NYC kids have been wearing Adidas kicks for more than 30 years.

You can buy his book, Today’s Special: New York City Images 1969-2006, right here on his website. (via craig mod)

An online collection of high-res scans of M.C. Escher’s prints

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2018

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher

The Boston Public Library has digitized their collection of M.C. Escher prints; browse the whole collection here. The level of zoom you can get to with these images is amazing.

Traveling to Spain in 1936, Escher visited the Alhambra for the second time and visited the mosque in Córdoba. The renewed exposure to Arabic design occasioned an important change in his work — he became fascinated with geometry and symmetry and how those abstract design elements could be incorporated into his representations of the natural world. The images in his later prints are created from within his mind rather than representations of the physical world. He explored how to represent people, animals, and objects rising from the flat page and then returning, as well as how to represent the endlessness of infinity.

Browsing through these takes me back to my college days. I don’t know what the situation is now, but when I was in school, it was almost a requirement that 50% of the dorm rooms on any given floor had to have an M.C. Escher poster hanging on the wall. (via @john_overholt)

The Great American Read: a list of America’s 100 best-loved novels

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

The Great American Read is an upcoming eight-part PBS series about books and reading. The show is built around a national survey that asked a group of “demographically and statistically representative” Americans what their most-loved English language work of fiction was. Here’s the trailer:

The full list of available books is on the web site. Along with the usual suspects of Great Literature™ (The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Little Women) and beloved children’s classics (the Harry Potter series, Where the Red Fern Grows, Charlotte’s Web), there are some interesting and not-so-surprising choices as well: The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah, the Fifty Shades of Grey series, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and Another Country by James Baldwin.

Avengers: Infinity War - Wizards vs. The Prophet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

Last week, I was under the rock that everyone talks about and didn’t get to see Avengers: Infinity War until a couple of days ago. (Mild spoilers follow.) There’s a lot to like about the movie — I personally loved watching it — but the thing that surprised the hell out of me was how closely the motivations of Thanos and the Avengers echoed the subject of Charles Mann’s The Wizard and the Prophet.

Prophets look at the world as finite, and people as constrained by their environment. Wizards see possibilities as inexhaustible, and humans as wily managers of the planet. One views growth and development as the lot and blessing of our species; others regard stability and preservation as our future and our goal. Wizards regard Earth as a toolbox, its contents freely available for use; Prophets think of the natural world as embodying an overarching order that should not casually be disturbed.

Thanos is a prophet and the Avengers are wizards…both are even specifically referred to using those exact words at different points in the movie. More specifically, Thanos is a Malthusian…he wants to cut the population of the galaxy in half to up everyone’s quality of life. From the book, a description of economist Thomas Malthus’ ideas:

Human populations will reproduce beyond their means of subsistence unless they are held back by practices like celibacy, late marriage, or birth control. But the reproductive urge is so strong that people at some point will stop restricting births and have children willy-nilly. When this happens, populations inevitably grow too large to feed. Then disease, famine, or war step in and brutally reduce human numbers until they are again in balance with their means of subsistence — at which stage they will increase again, beginning the unhappy cycle anew.

Jeremy Keith noticed the same thing and I echo his amazement: “I was not expecting to be confronted with the wizards vs. prophets debate while watching Avengers: Infinity War”.

The Summer of ‘78, NYC in photos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

NYC Summer 78

In the summer of 1978, eight NY Times staff photographers, who had some time on their hands because of a newspaper strike, set out to document people using NYC’s parks. They took almost 3000 photos, which were recently rediscovered in a pair of cardboard boxes, forgotten and unseen for decades.

The infamous wretched New York of the 1970s and 1980s can be glimpsed here, true to the pages of outlaw history.

But that version has never been truth enough.

The photos speak a commanding, unwritten narrative of escape and discovery.

“You see that people were not going to the parks just to get away from it all, but also to find other people,” said Jonathan Kuhn, the director of art and antiquities for the department.

The NY Times has a selection of the photos and there’s an exhibition featuring the photos on view at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park until June 14.

“I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

Kanye West has a new solo album coming out soon (as well as a collaborative album with Kid Cudi) and so has been out in the world saying things, things like expressing his admiration for Donald Trump and suggesting that slavery was a choice. In a piece at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, an admitted fan of his music, writes that West’s search for white freedom — “freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant” — is troubling.

Nothing is new here. The tragedy is so old, but even within it there are actors — some who’ve chosen resistance, and some, like West, who, however blithely, have chosen collaboration.

West might plead ignorance — “I don’t have all the answers that a celebrity is supposed to have,” he told Charlamagne [Tha God]. But no citizen claiming such a large portion of the public square as West can be granted reprieve. The planks of Trumpism are clear — the better banning of Muslims, the improved scapegoating of Latinos, the endorsement of racist conspiracy, the denialism of science, the cheering of economic charlatans, the urging on of barbarian cops and barbarian bosses, the cheering of torture, and the condemnation of whole countries. The pain of these policies is not equally distributed. Indeed the rule of Donald Trump is predicated on the infliction of maximum misery of West’s most ardent parishioners, the portions of America, the muck, that made the god Kanye possible.

Coates suggests that Kanye, also like Trump, has been telling us who he is all along:

Everything is darker now and one is forced to conclude that an ethos of “light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands,” of “mutts” and “thirty white bitches,” deserved more scrutiny, that the embrace of a slaveholder’s flag warranted more inquiry, that a blustering illiteracy should have given pause, that the telethon was not wholly born of keen insight, and the bumrushing of Taylor Swift was not solely righteous anger, but was something more spastic and troubling, evidence of an emerging theme — a paucity of wisdom, and more, a paucity of loved ones powerful enough to perform the most essential function of love itself, protecting the beloved from destruction.

This Is America

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2018

Over the weekend, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) released a video for his new song, This is America. If you watch it — and you should if you haven’t, even though it isn’t the most Monday morning thing in the world — please know there’s some upsetting scenes…which is the whole point. There’s a lot going on in the video (here’s one thread by LK that explains some of the imagery), but the aspect that jumped out to me is white America’s exuberant acceptance (and co-option) of African American culture and entertainment — hip hop, rap, NBA, movies, TV (like Glover’s own Atlanta), social media memetics — while turning a blind eye to racial injustice and violence inflicted upon black America. As Jon Spence succinctly noted on Twitter:

The fact that Childish Gambino’s “This is America” tackles police brutality, gun violence, media misdirection, and the use of African Americans as a brand shield, all while dancing in Jim Crow-style caricature, shows a transcendence of mere performance and demands attention.

Update: Nereyda wrote a short thread about why they didn’t like the video.

As someone very into Diasporic dance, which literally saved my life, Glover’s video misses its mark completely for me. Graphic images of mass Black murder layered over by Black dance as a minstrel distraction? That’s what y’all are getting from this? Issa no for me dawg.

(via @tsell89/status/993609185223938048)

Update: From Spencer Kornhaber’s take on This is America (italics mine):

The defining of a nation is the essential task of politics, and Glover’s definition has now been made clear. America is a place where black people are chased and gunned down, and it is a place where black people dance and sing to distract — themselves, maybe, but also the country at large — from that carnage. America is a room in which violence and celebration happen together, and the question of which one draws the eye is one of framing, and of what the viewer wants to see.

Why humans need stories

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh, The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq

There’s a tendency these days to disregard the idea of “storytelling.” Like so many terms it’s been overused, its meaning stretched to within an inch of its life. We watch a lot of Netflix and obsess over some stories in the news but we don’t read as many books and we don’t gather around the fire to tell stories so much. But they have been part of our lives forever. In Our fiction addiction: Why humans need stories, the author takes us through some of the oldest stories we tell and why evolutionary theorists are studying them.

One common idea is that storytelling is a form of cognitive play that hones our minds, allowing us to simulate the world around us and imagine different strategies, particularly in social situations. “It teaches us about other people and it’s a practice in empathy and theory of mind,” says Joseph Carroll at the University of Missouri-St Louis. […]
Providing some evidence for this theory, brain scans have shown that reading or hearing stories activates various areas of the cortex that are known to be involved in social and emotional processing, and the more people read fiction, the easier they find it to empathise with other people. […]
Crucially, this then appeared to translate to their real-life behaviour; the groups that appeared to invest the most in storytelling also proved to be the most cooperative during various experimental tasks - exactly as the evolutionary theory would suggest. […]
By mapping the spread of oral folktales across different cultural groups in Europe and Asia, some anthropologists have also estimated that certain folktales - such as the Faustian story of The Smith and the Devil - may have arrived with the first Indo-European settlers more than 6,000 years ago, who then spread out and conquered the continent, bringing their fiction with them.

The author also says this; “Although we have no firm evidence of storytelling before the advent of writing.” He then goes on to write about the paintings in Lascaux which seem to be telling stories, so he’s aware of some examples. Randomly today I also happened on this about Australia’s ancient language shaped by sharks which talks about the beautiful history of the Yanyuwa people and their relationship with the tiger shark. They’ve been “dreaming,” telling stories, for 40,000-years!

This forms one of the oldest stories in the world, the tiger shark dreaming. The ‘dreaming’ is what Aboriginal people call their more than 40,000-year-old history and mythology; in this case, the dreaming describes how the Gulf of Carpentaria and rivers were created by the tiger shark.

And then there’s this incredible aspect of their culture:

What’s especially unusual about Yanyuwa is that it’s one of the few languages in the world where men and women speak different dialects. Only three women speak the women’s dialect fluently now, and Friday is one of few males who still speaks the men’s. Aboriginal people in previous decades were forced to speak English, and now there are only a few elderly people left who remember the language.

Stories are taking over

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

Photo by Jonas Lee on Unsplash

The inimitable Ian Bogost with some thinking on how stories are overtaking social media and how they are perhaps the first true smartphone media format. First, what are stories in this context?

“Story” is a terrible name for this feature, because it’s so broad as to descend into meaninglessness. In ordinary parlance, a story is a generic name for a narrative account of something. But a Story, of the Instagram and Snapchat sort, is something much more specific. It’s a collection of images and short videos, with optional overlays and effects, that a user can add to over time, but which disappears after 24 hours. Users view a Story in sequence, either waiting out a programmed delay between images or manually advancing to the next.

Then this pearl of a quote I’ll be stealing and reusing:

That name is vestigial now, because it’s only incidental that an iPhone or a Pixel is a telephone. Instead, it’s a frame that surrounds everything that is possible and knowable. A rectangle, as I’ve started calling it. (Emphasis mine.)
The rectangle now frames experience. Information is rectangle-shaped, retrieved from searches in Google or apps or voice assistants. Personal communication comes in the form of a list of bubbles spilling down a rectangle. The physical world can be accessed by a map scaled to the boundaries of the rectangle, which can also provide way-finding through it. Music, movies, and television appear on these screens, and increasingly there alone. The rectangle is also an imaging device, capable of capturing a view of the world in front of it and the operator behind it.

Stories are clearly from rectangles, using the vertical 9:16 aspect ratio for better or for worse. I was not aware of this:

Screenshots from the apps where people spend more and more of their time, in messaging conversations, for example, also take this shape. In fact, this tendency drove one of Facebook’s newly announced features: a software integration for Stories that would allow direct posting from an app. A song playing in Spotify, for example, will be able to be inserted into a Story natively, with a link back to the track in question. […]
Stories is not a technology, nor is it a feature. It is a media format, or even a genre, in the way that a magazine or a murder mystery or a 30-minute television program is.

Side notes: as much as I hated stories originally (and as I kind of despise Instagram), I now find myself spending more time swiping through stories than I do scrolling down “classic posts.” I also end up following accounts and using the app purely as a visual distraction and discovery instead of anything truly social, because the algorithm is just not that good at surfacing the friendly posts which used to make it a social space.

Think about this next quote for a bit:

The liveness of smartphone-authorship, combined with the ephemerality of the Story format, makes it a catalog of the experience of holding and looking through a rectangle almost all the time. […]
Likewise, a Story is the illusion of what your smartphone saw. Or better, of what the hybrid you-and-your-smartphone saw—as if there was a you without a smartphone, anymore.

I wonder which other uses will be born from this “rectangle nativity” in 9:16? Medium used to have “Series” which could be seen as the text based version of stories but are they even findable anywhere? I can still post some but where do I find others’? Any other examples?

Multiplicity

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

Multiplicity roue

This is beautiful and fascinating, a representation of Paris through the photos shared online. The creator, Moritz Stefaner, used millions of Instagram pictures to create his Multiplicity installation. From those millions he selected 25K, then analyzed and classified them using neural networks and various processing tools. Presented on large screens, it offers touch and joystick control to dive into, pan and zoom through the clusters of images.

Today, we collectively and continuously document our city experience on social media platforms, shaping a virtual city image. Multiplicity reveals a novel view of this photographic landscape of attention and interests. How does Paris look as seen through the lens of thousands of photographers? What are the hotspots of attraction, what are the neglected corners? What are recurring poses and tropes? And how well do the published pictures reflect your personal view of the city?

Multiplicity installation

The projected display seamlessly zooms from the cloudy overview map over a gridded version of the cloud to a full grid. This layering allows to understand the clustering and neighborhood structure well in the zoomed out view, while providing a tidy and efficient image display in zoomed views.

Multiplicity control interface

Multiplicity macarons and catacombs

The interplay between automatic analysis, inspection of the results — what does the machine suggest and conclude — and my own actions — (in terms of layout, content selection, parameter tweaking…) was inspiring to explore.

As a design hint, the use of handwriting for the map annotations hints at the involvement of me as an active author and a subjective sense-making process.

The final result emerged from a dialogue between me and the city, the image contents and the algorithms, which actually managed to surprise and inspire me throughout the project.

Multiplicity hair

The linked article provides a lot more details, including the process of placing the images and the software Stefaner used. The installation is part of the 123 data exhibition in Paris.

(Via @nicolasnova.)

Athanasius Kircher, “the master of hundred arts”

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

I’m always up for a good polymath bio but I didn’t know about Athanasius Kircher. The Public Domain Review takes us through John Glassie’s book about one of Kircher’s great masterworks Mundus Subterraneus. A two-volume tome of atlas-like dimensions, intended to lay out “before the eyes of the curious reader all that is rare, exotic, and portentous contained in the fecund womb of Nature.”

Athanasius - dragon

The “prodigious volcanoes and fire-vomiting mountains visible in the external surface of the earth do sufficiently demonstrate it to be full of invisible and underground fires,” he wrote. “For wherever there is a volcano, there also is a conservatory or storehouse of fire under it…. And these fires argue for deeper treasuries and storehouses of fire, in the very heart and inward bowels of the Earth.”

Athanasius - interconnectedness of water

More than once, Kircher compares the movement of the earth’s water to the circulation of the blood in the body as described by William Harvey. The water of the oceans follows its “secret motions” up and around the globe toward the North Pole.

Athanasius - interconnectedness of fire

His fascination with volcanoes and the underworld took him to Malta, Sicily, Calabria, and the Vesuvius.

“After having diligently searched out the incredible power of Nature working in subterraneous burrows and passages,” he wrote, “I had a great desire to know whether Vesuvius also had not some secret commerce and correspondence with Stromboli and Aetna.”

Athanasius - volcano

Gang Drones swarm FBI hostage raid

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

Criminals are often at the forefront of new technologies, early adopters at the very least. This piece at Defense One, A Criminal Gang Used a Drone Swarm To Obstruct an FBI Hostage Raid, provides a few examples of drones being used by gangs.

Mazel said the suspects had backpacked the drones to the area in anticipation of the FBI’s arrival. Not only did they buzz the hostage rescue team, they also kept a continuous eye on the agents, feeding video to the group’s other members via YouTube. “They had people fly their own drones up and put the footage to YouTube so that the guys who had cellular access could go to the YouTube site and pull down the video” […]
Some criminal organizations have begun to use drones as part of witness intimidation schemes: they continuously surveil police departments and precincts in order to see “who is going in and out of the facility and who might be co-operating with police,” he said. […]
In Australia, criminal groups have begun have used drones as part of elaborate smuggling schemes, Mazel said. The gangs will monitor port authority workers. If the workers get close to a shipping container that houses illegal substances or contraband, the gang will call in a fire, theft, or some other false alarm to draw off security forces.

Law enforcement and military are working on counter measures and their own drone solutions, while the FAA works on legal amendments to try and limit drone use.

(Via @bldgblog.)

Connecticut silk

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 03, 2018

Did you know Connecticut nearly had a silk production industry? Atlas Obscura has a short history of that silk adventure, from mulberry trees, to attics, speculative bubbles and lumpy thread.

By 1826, three out of every four households in Mansfield, Connecticut, were raising silkworms, and by 1826, Congress commissioned a report on the potential for a U.S. silk industry. By 1840, Connecticut outpaced other states in raw silk production by a factor of three. Within the next two decades, however, the industry would collapse, leaving the country to wonder what went wrong.

Silk

One of the biggest triumphs for the early industry was figuring out how to adapt sericulture to cold weather. Such tactics included keeping silkworms warm by raising them in attics, and figuring out how to feed them in cold weather.

Leaves

The product they ended up with was adequate for sewing thread, but not strong enough for the industrial-silk-manufacturing infrastructure that Connecticut had begun to build. According to one scathing assessment, “Connecticut women in 70 years have not improved their knowledge of reeling.” Another issue, Stockard says, was the expectation that women could reel silk “whenever leisure from other duties permitted.” In other words, women were supposed to wedge a high-skill, time-intensive task into their already full workloads, and the result was sub-par silk.


(Via @justinpickard.)

Divine Discontent

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 03, 2018

The always pertinent Ben Thompson considers Apple and Amazon (plus Facebook and Google) and how they each focus on customers. He starts by wondering which of these companies has the best chance at hitting the one trillion market cap first. Focusing on the first two, he offers this interesting comparison.

I mean it when I say these companies are the complete opposite: Apple sells products it makes; Amazon sells products made by anyone and everyone. Apple brags about focus; Amazon calls itself “The Everything Store.” Apple is a product company that struggles at services; Amazon is a services company that struggles at product. Apple has the highest margins and profits in the world; Amazon brags that other’s margin is their opportunity, and until recently, barely registered any profits at all. And, underlying all of this, Apple is an extreme example of a functional organization, and Amazon an extreme example of a divisional one.

Two very different business operating in very different ways.

Both, taken together, are a reminder that there is no one right organizational structure, product focus, or development cycle: what matters is that they all fit together, with a business model to match. That is where Apple and Amazon are arguable more alike than not: both are incredibly aligned in all aspects of their business. What makes them truly similar, though, is the end goal of that alignment: the customer experience.

I’ll skip over much of his section on disruption and Clayton Christensen but if you don’t already know about his take on the matter, have a look at his thorough analysis of Apple vs the disruption theory. Basically, the theory doesn’t account for user experience and Apple manages to not overshoot the price customers want to pay because it understands the value its superior user experience provides.

Apple seems to have mostly saturated the high end, slowly adding switchers even as existing iPhone users hold on to their phones longer; what is not happening, though, is what disruption predicts: Apple isn’t losing customers to low-cost competitors for having “overshot” and overpriced its phones. It seems my thesis was right: a superior experience can never be too good — or perhaps I didn’t go far enough. (Emphasis mine.)

Thompson then looks at Amazon’s focus on custom experience, including an important aspect which Bezos explained in his most recent letter to shareholders.

One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static — they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’. […] (Emphasis mine.)
What is amazing today is table stakes tomorrow, and, perhaps surprisingly, that makes for a tremendous business opportunity: if your company is predicated on delivering the best possible experience for consumers, then your company will never achieve its goal.

By focusing on user experience, Amazon is constantly aiming higher and never overshooting what customers want to pay, thus making itself very hard to disrupt.

He closes with Facebook and Google who are focused on advertisers, which makes them less (end)user focused and less popular.

Both, though, are disadvantaged to an extent because their means of making money operate orthogonally to a great user experience; both are protected by the fact would-be competitors inevitably have the same business model.

Unknown twisted blood-red squid

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 03, 2018

Sometimes we must realize that what we know is that we don’t know that much. Earlier in April, the Okeanos Explorer crew, a research vessel run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saw a squid which they couldn’t identify. New species? New behaviour?

[A] blood-red squid with stubby arms, missing tentacles, and a knack for swimming like a nautilus. … “This one looks more like a vampire squid in color, but then it has this completely bizarre body pattern that just totally bowled me over. It almost looks like a nautilus in the way it’s swimming.” […]
Perhaps the unfamiliar submarine spooked the squid into scrunching up: Researchers say that it’s not unheard of for a squid to adopt a similar posture as a form of defense. However, this mystery squid stands out. “This one was real extreme,” says Vecchione. “A couple of the arms were folded right flat on the back, and a couple were folded underneath, and a couple were sticking out to the side.” […]
“On our planet, most of the living space is in the deep sea, and we know very, very little about what lives there,” says Vecchione. “Every time we go down there to look, we find something new.”

I wish I’d found this earlier because the ship has been broadcasting its adventures live but the feed ends today.

(Via The Kid Should See This.)

New Science from Jupiter

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 03, 2018

Since Juno’s 2016 arrival in orbit of Jupiter, we’ve been marvelling at the pictures of the astonishing cloud formations and colours. This week NASA released a new video, explaining some of what they are discovering or hypothesizing about the internal systems and working of the planet.

What’s striking about Jupiter’s polar storms is that there are actually multiple cyclones at each pole. So instead of having one polar vortex like Earth, Jupiter was observed to have as many as eight giant swirls moving simultaneously on its north pole and as many as five on its south pole.

Liquid metallic hydrogen!

Deep inside Jupiter, high temperatures and crushing pressures transform Jupiter’s copious supplies of gaseous molecular hydrogen into an exotic form of matter known as liquid metallic hydrogen. Think of it as a mashup of atomic nuclei in a sea of electrons freely moving about. Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field almost certainly springs from dynamo action in Jupiter’s interior, the process by which the motion of this electrically-conducting fluid is converted into magnetic energy. The exact location within the interior is a mystery that researchers are still working to solve.

Self-generated auroras.

Jupiter’s magnetic field is home to the biggest and most powerful auroras in the solar system. Unlike Earth, which lights up in response to solar activity, Jupiter makes its own auroras. It does this by tapping into power generated by its own spinning magnetic field. Induced electric fields accelerate particles toward Jupiter’s poles where the aurora action takes place.
Recent results from Juno’s Gravity experiment show that Jupiter’s iconic belts and zones rotate as a series of cylinders down to depths of about 3000-5000 km. Beneath this depth, it appears that Jupiter may be rotating as a rigid body.

Clouds of Jupiter

Clouds of Jupiter

Humble, it means humble!

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 03, 2018

This won’t turn into another GIF (hard G) vs GIF (soft G) battle but it comes as a big surprise to me, just like the soft G did when I first heard of this variation years and years ago. Thankfully, after Buzzfeed started the “debate” between humble and honest in “imho,” Alexis Madrigal swooped in with historical proof with a 1986 PC Magazine glossary and in 1993’s Jargon by Robin Williams.

This little acronym, IMHO, stands for in my humble opinion. It’s often used as a typing shortcut in online communication. When it is capitalized, you are shouting. You might also see the term imnsho, which stands for in my not-so-humble opinion.

The Bering Sea’s ice is falling off a cliff

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

Bering Sea satellite view

After a much warmer than usual winter, the ice in the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Russia, is at less than 10% of what is considered normal.

The ice disappears every summer but never so early. It’s the latest sign of what scientists have been calling the New Arctic — a novel landscape that’s replacing the ecosystem that has existed at the top of the world for millennia. Arctic temperatures are rising at a rate twice that of the global average, which means that for the foreseeable future, the region will continue to showcase the effects of climate change at their extreme, with repercussions across the world.

I mean, just look at that chart!

Historical Bering Sea ice level

Jeff Bezos sees space as the “only” option to spend his money on

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos is super rich, $131 billion kind of rich. Business wise, an admirable drive, some incredible ideas, and a very forward looking mind, playing three dimensional chess some might say. And yet, when considering what he might do with his fortune, he was a bit disappointing.

The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it, […] the most important work that I’m doing.

Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune, I am currently liquidating about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin. And I plan to continue to do that for a long time. Because you’re right, you’re not going to spend it on a second dinner out.

Going to space is a great dream but I’m not sure it’s the only thing worth spending billions on. And I’m not the only one.

Great discoveries have come out of our space dreams and accomplishments, I’m sure many more will. Just look at what Elon Musk has done in a few years. Bezos’ comment was, at the very least, tone deaf. If he’s such a great leader, he should also lead for the greater good now, not just for far away dreams of space.

Facebook announced some things, including Clear history

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

Oculus Go

People at The Verge have taken the time to attend Facebook’s F8 and selected the five biggest announcements. Like more Instagram stories, a cheap Oculus Go headset (according to Fowler at the WashPo, it’s the one VR gadget you might buy), and Facebook dating.

Facebook will soon offer a dating feature that allows people to browse potential matches at inside groups or events you’re interested in attending. The feature will allow people to message each other using only their first names, and start conversations that are separate from the core Facebook or Messenger app.

I’m sure there will be no unintended consequences at all, since Facebook is always so reliably cautious about people and not breaking anything. Right?

Instagram

By the way, not unexpectedly, Facebook is using our Instagram pictures to train AIs.

[U]sing Instagram images that are already labeled by way of hashtags, Facebook was able to collect relevant data and use it to train its computer vision and object recognition models. “We’ve produced state-of-the-art results that are one to two percent better than any other system on the ImageNet benchmark.”

WhatsApp will also be getting some minor updates like group video calls and stickers, while CEO Jan Koum is heading out to collect rare air-cooled Porsches, work on his cars and play ultimate frisbee.

The only announcement I’m truly interested in wasn’t mentioned in the piece though; the “Clear history” functionality. Zuck posted about it himself.

In your web browser, you have a simple way to clear your cookies and history. The idea is a lot of sites need cookies to work, but you should still be able to flush your history whenever you want. We’re building a version of this for Facebook too. It will be a simple control to clear your browsing history on Facebook — what you’ve clicked on, websites you’ve visited, and so on.

Animated sketches to teach drawing

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

Ralph Ammer - Negative space

I’m not specifically learning to draw right now but I do love how Ralph Ammer builds his lessons. Split into short exercises, the best parts are the animations he draws and integrates in his lessons as gifs. Much lighter and more pleasant to watch than a video, they are very short and looping so you can easily grasp what he’s explaining. Here are a few images from his most recent lesson.

Dynamic drawing:
Ralph Ammer - Dynamic drawing

Rotating cube and vanishing points:
Ralph Ammer - Rotating cube

Perspective:
Ralph Ammer - Perspective

Charging speed is no longer an obstacle for electric cars

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

Porsche's Mission E

There’s a lot to learn about and ponder in this thread by Bloomberg Senior Reporter Tom Randall. He talks about how fast upcoming chargers will top up a battery, how larger capacity means quicker initial charges, extended ranges and more. (I only include a few tweets here, check out the whole thread.)

Obviously, electric cars aren’t perfect, you have to consider where the electricity is coming from, the production of batteries is polluting itself, and we should prioritize public transport and walkable / bikeable cities. Still, the speed at which renewables are being installed and the evolution of electric cars are a fascinating to watch.

Pure CSS Francine

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

This is kind of nuts. Diana Smith creates CSS-only hand coded “paintings.” Here are the rules she sets for herself.

  1. All elements must be typed out by hand
  2. Only Atom text editor and Chrome Developer Tools allowed.
  3. SVG use is limited, and all shapes can only use hand-plotted coordinates and bezier curves - without the aid of any graphics editor.

CSS Francine by Diana Smith

If you’ve ever done anything around web development / front end design, you’ll appreciate the craft in minutia that goes into these projects.

Awaken Akira

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

Awaken Akira was created by two friends, Ash Thorp and Zaoeyo (XiaoLin Zeng), who wanted to collaborate on a tribute to the iconic anime, Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo. It’s creation took over a year…

Looks great and there’s a lot more on the project website, including multiple long videos about the process for each shot.

(via @Oniropolis )

Eternal text-cities

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

Map of Dublin - NYPL digital collections

Sometimes, cities are not only the places where stories happen but characters in and of themselves. Here Tyler Malone explores the works of Joyce, Döblin, and Dos Passos and their city centred novels.

These three novels are modernist city novels of the interwar period that move beyond story and character to build structures and trace movements, reconstructing modern metropolises that a world war would soon change forever. Joyce, Dos Passos, and Döblin fashioned not novels but eternal text-cities in which the reader may witness, wander, get lost. […]
Cities are cement and furniture, building and bustle, things that stay still and things that move. Of course, things that stay still in a city can suddenly, and will eventually, move, grow, change, decay, disappear. Buildings crumble, stores go out of business, streets age, accumulating faultlines like faces. Things that move can and do also momentarily pause. A busker stares up at a pedestrian silhouetted by the sun, still as a statue, his last note lingering. The maelstrom of traffic often screeches to a halt.

In fact, those novels are not only city centred but text-cities in themselves:

In other words, Ulysses is not an atlas of Dublin, it is a Dublin; Berlin Alexanderplatz, likewise, is a Berlin. These are not novels; they are cities unto themselves, writ in text of stone and concrete. […]
For the reader-flâneur, linearity isn’t important; it’s about wandering through the text and seeing what one sees, letting the city speak.


Also on cities and books; Justin McGuirk reviews at length Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City on cities as communities, as buildings, and on his vision of open cities.

It also extends to the offices of tech giants like Google, which supply everything a neighborhood has to offer without employees needing to leave the building. Each of these is, for Sennett, a ghetto. Instead, he argues for a city that embraces difference, a place of porous membranes and spatial invitations. […] (emphasis mine)
[The book] has an almost Taoist attachment to harmony and balance. Give architects and planners too much control and the cité suffers; too much faith in the citizen and the ville withers.

(First article via @matthieudugal)

On Margins 005 with Jason

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

Jason interviewed on On Margins

Jason is a humble guy so I’m not sure he’d post this. Good timing then that he’s on vacation and I’m writing here because I will! He’s the guest on the most recent episode of the excellent On Margins podcast by the equally excellent Craig Mod. Not everyone is a podcast listening person but still have a look, there’s a full transcript of the interview and you can also see some excerpts written up by Mod on Medium.

For those of us who have not just used the web but built on the web for decades, a place like kottke.org becomes almost physical in its emotional resonance. […]
These last few years have been tipified by a realization: I think we understand the brittle nature of our institutions a little more than we ever have.

These things we love in the world are not in this world, unless we continually put energy into them, supportive energy into them. I think we felt that really strongly in the last two years, especially. (Emphasis mine)

(Header image shamelessly lifted from Mod’s Medium post.)

Luxurious irony

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

Apple has been making a number of moves towards becoming more of a luxury and lifestyle brand (including hires from fashion mainstays like Yves Saint Laurent, and Burberry), as well as advancing its various media projects, like the recent purchase of Texture, the digital magazine distributor, in what many see as plans to be the Netflix of magazines. And then in this piece at The Guardian on those same media advances, comes this:

Rumors have even circulated that Apple is looking to buy parts or all of the troubled magazine publisher Condé Nast, a move that would further its push, initiated with the Apple Watch, to become a luxury fashion accessory, lifestyle and content brand.

So Apple might be buying Condé Nast, publishers of… Wired. Remember this from 1997? Oh, the irony.

Wired June 1997 - Pray

(Via @cfd and @9to5Mac.)

City Everywhere by Liam Young

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 01, 2018

I had the chance to see this “lecture performance” live a couple of weeks ago and it’s a great way to catch up on some of Liam Young’s work over the last few years. The lecture takes us all around the world with facts and speculations about drones, cities, pollution, the lithium fields of Bolivia, human conveyor belts, rare earths, Chinese factory workers, and more. The first part is taken from this project:

Where the City Can’t See’ is the world’s first narrative fiction film shot entirely with laser scanners. Set in the Chinese owned and controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ) and shot using the same scanning technologies used in autonomous vehicles, the near future city is recorded through the eyes of the robots that manage it. Across a single night a group of young car factory workers drift through Detroit in a driverless taxi, searching for a place they know exists but that their car doesn’t recognize. They are part of an underground community that work on the production lines by day but at night, adorn themselves in machine vision camouflage and the tribal masks of anti-facial recognition to enact their escapist fantasies in the hidden spaces of the city. They hack the city and journey through a network of stealth buildings, ruinous landscapes, ghost architectures, anomalies, glitches and sprites, searching for the wilds beyond the machine. We have always found the eccentric and imaginary in the spaces the city can’t see.

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