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Entries for May 2019 (Archives)

 

Concept Drawings from Studio Ghibli Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2019

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Concept Art Studio Ghibli

Tales From Weirdland has a collection of posts that feature concept drawings from several Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Castle in the Sky. I poked around a little and found artwork & concept drawings from Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises, and Porco Rosso. Hand dawn and it all just pops off the screen. Wonderful.

Looks like a lot of this is available in book form as well: The Art of Spirited Away, The Art of Princess Mononoke, The Art of Howl’s Moving Castle, etc.

McHive, the World’s Smallest McDonald’s (for Bees)

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2019

McHive

A few McDonald’s restaurants in Sweden started putting beehives on their rooftops to help save dwindling bee populations and it turned into a national sustainability effort.

More franchisees around the country are joining the cause and have also started replacing the grass around their restaurants with flowers and plants that are important for the wellbeing of wild bees.

To promote the idea, McDonald’s constructed what might be their smallest restaurant, actually a fully functioning beehive just for the bees:

Totes adorbzzzz.

What’s It Like Living with Perfect Pitch and Synesthesia?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

LJ Rich has synesthesia and perfect pitch and wrote about what that feels like for her personally.

Now, I’d like you to imagine you’re chatting with your conversation partner. But instead of speaking and hearing the words alone, each syllable they utter has a note, sometimes more than one. They speak in tunes and I can sing back their melody. Once I know them a little bit, I can play along to their words as they speak them, accompanying them on the piano as if they’re singing an operatic recitative. They drop a glass on the floor, it plays a particular melody as it hits the tiles. I’ll play that melody back — on a piano, on anything. I can accompany that melody with harmony, chords — or perhaps compose a variation on that melody - develop it into a stupendous symphony filled with strings, or play it back in the style of Chopin, Debussy or Bob Marley. That car horn beeps an F major chord, this kettle’s in A flat, some bedside lights get thrown out because they are out of tune with other appliances. I can play along to every song on the radio whether or not I’ve heard it before, the chord progressions as open to me as if I had the sheet music in front of me. I can play other songs with the same chords and fit them with the song being played. Those bath taps squeak in E, this person sneezes in E flat. That printer’s in D mostly. The microwave is in the same key as the washing machine.

I have a friend with perfect pitch and one of the first times we hung out together, the horn on a tugboat sounded and she said, “C sharp”. I looked puzzled so she explained, and then I peppered her with questions about all the other sounds around us. It was like watching a superhero do their thing.

But with great power sometimes comes great irritation. From a NY Times article about Rich:

LJ said she had been a “weird prodigy kid.” For her, perfect pitch had been a nightmare. The whole world seemed out of tune. But then teachers introduced her to Indian ragas, Gamelan music and compositions with quarter tones, unfamiliar modes and atonal structures. As her musical horizons expanded, her anxiety dissipated. (She remains exceedingly sensitive to pitch, though. Her refrigerator, for example, hums in A flat. Working from home, I hear my fridge running 12 hours a day. Blindfolded, I’m not sure I could pick the thing out of a lineup of three other refrigerators.)

WebGL Fluid Dynamics Simulator

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

Pavel Dobryakov has built a nifty little fluid dynamics simulator in WebGl that runs in any modern browser, including on mobile devices. You can drag around on the screen with your mouse or finger and produce colorful swirling patterns like these:

WebGL fluid simulator

iOS and Android apps are also available. (via @EdwardDixon3)

TV & Movie Spy Scene Breakdowns from the Former CIA Chief of Disguise

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

For Wired’s series Technique Critique, former CIA Chief of Disguise Jonna Mendez looks at several TV shows and movies to rate how good their spy scenes are.

Mendez gives high marks to characters from Alias and The Americans for effective use of disguises and low marks to The Bourne Identity and Homeland. In relation to Philip’s disguises on The Americans, she discusses the concept of the little gray man, the CIA’s goal for its agents to look like harmless middle-aged men, something she also mentioned in this Washington Post piece:

Rhys makes the case, however, for disappearing under nothing more than a knit cap and a pair of glasses, a scruffy mustache and a messy wig. He becomes the consummate little gray man, invisible, the one nobody can remember was even on the elevator.

Mendez also talks about the three cover identities that CIA agents were not allowed to use: clergy, media figures, and Peace Corps volunteer. She previously did this video with Wired about how the CIA used disguises.

Branded Junkyard Creations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

Artist and former advertising art director Alvaro Naddeo does these wonderful paintings of old iconic junk from our branded past repurposed into absurdist structures and vehicles, like Junkyard Wars through the lens of Warhol. It’s tough to explain, so just feast thine eyes on a couple of examples:

Alvaro Naddeo

Alvaro Naddeo

Alvaro Naddeo

Alvaro Naddeo

Ok, that was more than a couple. But there are so many more on his website and Instagram (including work-in-progress stuff)…check them out!

Naddeo recently shared his process for making these paintings with Colossal:

Naddeo tells Colossal that he starts with a loose sketch by hand. He then uses 3D software to help define a plausible shape for his imagined constructions, and creates a reference composition in Photoshop. After years of practice, Naddeo shares that he is able to recreate the texture, color, and shadows of various building materials like brick and concrete from memory. He uses reference photos to help flesh out small detail items, which are similarly rendered in watercolor.

A prime example of Robin Sloan’s concept of the flip-flop.

Introducing the Playdate Gaming System

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

Playdate

Playdate is a new handheld gaming system from Panic, the makers of FTP software. Hold on, what?! From the press release:

Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.

The crank made me laugh out loud — in delight, mind you. Who puts a hand-crank on the side of a handheld video game console?! A very playful Nintendo-esque touch, designed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. There’s more info, including photos of their first prototype, in this Twitter thread.

The old school tech blogging community1 is fired up about this thing in a way I’ve not seen for years. John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball:

The idea of a new upstart, a company the size of Panic — with only software experience at that — jumping into the hardware game with a brand new platform harkens back to the ’80s and ’90s. But even back then, a company like, say, General Magic or Palm, was VC-backed and aspired to be a titan. To be the next Atari or Commodore or Apple.

In today’s world all the new computing devices and platforms come from huge companies. Apple of course. All the well-known Android handset makers building off an OS provided by Google. Sony. Nintendo.

Panic is almost cheating in a way because they’re tiny. The Playdate platform isn’t competing with the state of the art. It’s not a retro platform, per se, but while it has an obviously nostalgic charm it is competing only on its own terms. Its only goal is to be fun.

And from Anil Dash, Putting the Soul in Console:

I’d been given a hint a while ago that something like this was coming, but the final execution is even more delightful than I’d imagined it might be. (That crank!) More importantly, it’s captured the imagination of so many, and seems like the kind of thing that could inspire a new generation of creative people to think, “Hey, maybe good tech is something we can make ourselves.” I’ve seen it happen on Glitch, and now I see it happening around Playdate after just a few hours.

That idea, that maybe things like our gaming devices or the websites we visit should be created by people we know and like, instead of giant faceless companies, seems more essential than ever. We would never settle for replacing all of our made-with-love, locally-grown, mom’s recipe home cooking with factory-farmed fast food, even if sometimes convenience demands we consume the latter. And we shouldn’t compromise any less on making sure that some of the time we spend playing games with each other, and delighting in the promise of technology, comes from people who’ve been diligently working for years to make well-sourced, organically grown, made-with-love technology.

Playdate starts shipping in early 2020. Supplies are probably going to be limited, so if you’re interested in getting one, you should hop on their mailing list.

  1. I.e. the folks who write about technology (software, gadgets) because they love it, not the folks who write about technology (IPOs, funding rounds) because it makes them money and gives them power.

We Will Add Your Biological and Technological Distinctiveness to Our Own

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

Design firm Pentagram has brought in a new partner to their New York office, information designer Giorgia Lupi, who joins heavy hitters like Michael Bierut, Paula Scher, and Eddie Opera. I remain fascinated with how Pentagram operates:

Established in 1972, the firm has a collectivist attitude and adheres to a longstanding constitution, which exists in its original form with only small modifications. It spreads profits and decision-making power equally among its self-governed partners — all designers — irrespective of seniority or how much business they brought in during a given year. There’s no CEO. The partners do collaborate with one another, often across disciplines, but essentially operate their own studios, though the local offices meet on a weekly basis and the entire group convenes twice a year. These all-partner meetings, chaired by one of the partners on a rotating basis, are about sharing work with the group and discussing business dynamics, Pentagram’s publishing program, its website, and trends in the industry.

The process for bringing in a new partner can take years from start to finish and requires the unanimous consent of the rest of the partners:

“One vote against and it’s over, truly,” says Miller. “We’ve seen it happen.”

I’ve often thought about if a collective structure could work for independent content sites. I wouldn’t want to sell kottke.org to anyone, but the idea of sharing resources and infrastructure with a couple dozen similar sites is appealing. You could collect the sites into a membership bundle; hire dedicated staff for customer support, ad sales, & devops; do cross-promotion, syndicate the content via a meta-site, and generally help small indie sites punch above their weight. This is what The Deck could have evolved into, I suppose. Aw well.

Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

This wonderful site presents animations of 507 mechanical movements first published in a book by Henry T. Brown in 1868, the full title of which is:

Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: Embracing All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing, Presses, Horology, and Miscellaneous Machinery; and Including Many Movements Never Before Published and Several of Which Have Only Recently Come Into Use

The site is a work-in-progress…not all of the movements have been animated yet. This short video shows movement #123:

You can buy a paperback version of the original book or browse/download the entire thing at the Internet Archive.

See also this great explanation of differential gears and especially Ralph Steiner’s 1930 short film Mechanical Principles, in which we see many of the mechanisms from Brown’s book actually working:

Warning: if you start Steiner’s film, you’ll probably end up watching the whole thing…it’s mesmerizing, particularly when the gears come in around ~2:30.

The Bit Player

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

The Bit Player is a documentary film about Claude Shannon, the underrated “Father of Information Theory”, whose work, more than anyone else’s, laid the foundation for the information age in which we find ourselves currently immersed.

In a blockbuster paper in 1948, Claude Shannon introduced the notion of a “bit” and laid the foundation for the information age. His ideas ripple through nearly every aspect of modern life, influencing such diverse fields as communication, computing, cryptography, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, cosmology, linguistics, and genetics.

The film is directed by Mark Levinson, a former particle physicist, who also directed the excellent Particle Fever (about the search for the Higgs boson). The Bit Player premieres later this month at the World Science Festival in NYC and presumably will be out in theaters sometime after that.

The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

I am here for any metaphor linking the internet and Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem trilogy. Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler writes that netizens are retreating from the public square of the internet, resulting in many private & isolated worlds that don’t communicate with each other, a la the dark forest condition in Liu’s books.

Dark forests like newsletters and podcasts are growing areas of activity. As are other dark forests, like Slack channels, private Instagrams, invite-only message boards, text groups, Snapchat, WeChat, and on and on. This is where Facebook is pivoting with Groups (and trying to redefine what the word “privacy” means in the process).

These are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments. The cultures of those spaces have more in common with the physical world than the internet.

Philip Glass on Soul Train

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

It turns out that the fourth track off of Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi matches up pretty well to the dancers in this clip from Soul Train.

I don’t know whether to like this or hate it. Actually, I think I love it. See also Soul Train dancers backed by Daft Punk. (via @tedgioia)

Explore Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus Online

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2019

Codex Atlanticus

Codex Atlanticus

Codex Atlanticus

An 1119-page collection of papers known as the Codex Atlanticus has been completely digitized and put online to explore. The codex showcases Leonardo’s impressive range of interests and abilities, from flying machines to anatomy to weaponry to astronomy to engineering.

Several more of Leonardo’s notebooks have been put online as well…I’ve listed all of them in this post about the Codex Forster. (via open culture)

The World Building Bureaucracy of Sequels

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2019

An intriguing insight from Khoi Vinh in his short review of the third John Wick movie:

This is what usually happens: a film creates a compelling fantasy world and fans clamor for more. So sequels build that world out, they show more of its mechanics, its people, its history. But “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum” demonstrates one little acknowledged principle of escalated world building: the inevitable outcome is bureaucracy.

[…]

Things that were at first only suggested become explicit, mysteries are explained, and idiosyncrasies metastasize into red tape. Suddenly filmmakers find themselves in a position where building the world becomes its own motivation.

See also Why the Writing in Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Feels Off. (via @capndesign)

The Solitary Garden

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2019

In 1960, David Latimer put some compost, water, and plant seeds into a large glass jar and sealed it up. And it’s been growing like that ever since, save for when Latimer opened the bottle to water it in 1972.

Bottle Plants

It’s easy to take nature and evolution for granted but think about how marvelous this is. Over billions of years, an ecosystem evolved on Earth that can sustain itself basically forever using light from the Sun.

The plant creates energy from the sunlight via photosynthesis, using up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the bottle. When parts of the plant die, bacteria in the soil use the oxygen to break down these dead parts, releasing carbon dioxide and completing the circle. The water cycle is similarly self-refueling: whatever water the plant takes in through its roots ultimately transpires out of its leaves, condenses on the inside of the bottle, and drips back into the soil.

The Trailer for the Downton Abbey Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2019

The Downton Abbey movie is nearly upon us (it’s out in Sept) and the first full-length trailer is here. The action picks up a couple of years after the TV show ended and concerns the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the estate. I’ve embedded the UK trailer above — it’s better than the American trailer even though it gives away a bit more of the plot. Plus, in the UK version you get to see the deployment of Carson in the Battle of the Head Butlers. Carson’s glance of disdained indifference toward the royal butler might be the most spine-tingling battle moment since Aragon uttered “for Frodo” and charged headlong into the hordes of Mordor.

Update: Some real talk from Robert Bennett about the escapist fantasy of Downton Abbey:

really the point of the entire show was to let middle american viewers dabble in the lavish lives and costumes of the edwardian .001% without feeling bad about what made that lifestyle possible

anything that threatened that “safari in the aristocracy” aspect — be it the realism of class warfare, or the actual, historical evolutions of the era that would have upended everything that happened — was quickly neutered and turned into quaint fluff.

Still excited for the movie though. Butler Battle 2019!!

Classic Airline Logos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Airline Logos

Reagan Ray has collected a bunch of classic logos from American airlines, from the big ones (Delta, United) to small regional airlines (Pennsylvania Central, Cardiff and Peacock) to those no longer with us (Pan Am, TWA, Northwest). I sent him the logo for my dad’s old airline, Blue Line Air Express…I hope it makes it in!

See also Reagan’s collections of record label logos, 80s action figure logos, American car logos, VHS distributor logos, and railway logos. Careful, you might spend all day on these… (via @mrgan)

Update: Ray was kind enough to add Blue Line into the mix! Thank you!

Extreme Babysitting from Danny MacAskill

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Remember trials rider Danny MacAskill, who I’ve been covering on kottke.org for over ten years somehow?! In his newest video, he turns babysitting a friend’s young daughter into a death-defying cycling adventure…an oddly tender death-defying cycling adventure somehow.

Stay tuned after the main action for a short making-of feature (no children were harmed, etc. etc.) in which we see Daisy riding a bike of her own!

A Crumbling Abe Lincoln

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Lincoln Sand

Liberty Crumbling is sand sculptor Damon Langlois’ version of the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, which won first prize at 2019 Texas SandFest. (via colossal)

My Dad, the Facebook Addict

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Meet Vincent LeVine. He’s the subject of “My Dad, the Facebook Addict”, a short documentary by his son Dylan. He started off using Facebook normally, keeping up with the news and chatting with friends, but evolved into a fierce meme warrior stocked with a “nuclear arsenal” of memes at the ready to destroy anyone who wants to come at him.

I can have a meme war with anybody and destroy them. And I’ve done it! People actually bail at the end and go, “Who is this guy? He’s got like every meme ever produced on the internet! He can knock us out with his memes!” And I do, I have tons of memes, I just keep memeing them to death until they just surrender because they just can’t do it anymore. They don’t have the memes that I have.

Vincent is very entertaining and it was difficult to not just quote all of his lines in the video. You can check out his Facebook account for yourself or watch his technique for hygienically blowing out birthday cake candles.

Hollywood Dream Machines: an Exhibition of Vehicles from Sci-Fi Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2019

Hollywood Dream Machines

Hollywood Dream Machines

Hollywood Dream Machines

Hollywood Dream Machines

An exhibition called Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy just opened at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. It features more than 50 vehicles from sci-fi and fantasy films like Blade Runner, Iron Man, Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Panther, Minority Report, Star Wars, Speed Racer, Back to the Future, and Tron: Legacy. The exhibition runs through March 2020.

A New Old Vermeer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2019

The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden is restoring a painting by Johannes Vermeer after it was “conclusively determined” that part of it was painted over after Vermeer died.

For more than 250 years now, the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer featuring a profile depiction of a girl intently reading a letter in front of a light-coloured empty wall has held a firm place among the masterpieces in the Dresden Gemäldegalerie. This picture, which dates to around 1657/59, is regarded as one of the earliest interior paintings by Vermeer with a solitary figure. Previous x-ray examinations indicated that a picture of a naked Cupid in the painting had been overpainted. Today, new laboratory tests have conclusively determined that the overpainting was not by Vermeer’s hand. On this basis, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister decided in the course of the current restoration of the work to remove the overpaint.

The restoration of Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is not totally complete, here’s what it looks like now:

Vermeer Cupid

And what it looked like before the restoration started:

Vermeer Cupid

The partially restored painting will be on display at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden until June 16, after which they will take another year to complete the painstaking restoration.

Folding a Piece of Paper More than Seven Times

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2019

If you could somehow fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, the paper would be as thick as the observable universe.

Such is the power (*cough*) of exponential growth, but of course you’d never get anywhere close to that many folds. The theoretical limit for folding paper was long thought to be seven or eight folds. You can see why watching this hydraulic press attempt the 7th fold…the paper basically turns to dust.

But in 2002, high school student Britney Gallivan proved that you could fold a piece of paper 12 times. Here’s Gallivan explaining the math involved and where the limits come in when folding:

(thx, porter)

Why Do Birds Fly in a V-Formation?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

Many species of migratory birds, like the Canada goose in North America, fly in a v-formation. Scientists have long suspected that there was some energy-saving advantage to flying in formation and a 2014 study provides evidence to that effect.

By comparing the birds’ flight data to computer simulations, Portugal found that the ibises are apparently drafting — catching an uprush of air from the wingtip of the bird ahead. “Furthermore, when they’re in that position, they time wing beats perfectly,” he says. “So they don’t just sit there passively hoping to get some of the good air from the bird in front.”

They actually flap along the perfect sweet spot. Portugal thinks there’s a very good reason why the ibises do this. Previous studies have shown that flying is hard work.

“When we get exercising, our heart rate gets up to around 180 beats per minute on a good day,” Portugal says. “When birds are flying, it goes up to 400 beats per minute.”

You can read the paper published by the researchers in Nature. (via the kid should see this)

An Inverted World Map

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

Inverted World Map

Inverted World Map

Frans Blok has created an incredibly detailed inverse map of the world, where all the current landmasses have been turned into water and oceans, lakes, and rivers converted into land.

Not only the coast lines are reversed in this world. Also, the relief is consistently the opposite of reality. So the deepest parts of the oceans are in the Tibetan and Himalayan troughs in the southern part of the Asian Ocean. And the highest peaks, around eleven kilometer, are found in the Mariana Mountains in the west of the continent Pacifica.

Prints of Blok’s map are available here.

See also Vladislav Gerasimov’s inverted world map.

Inverted World Map

Freezing Executive Salaries to Pay Entry-Level Workers a Better Wage

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

John Driscoll is the CEO of a healthcare company called CareCentrix. In an opinion piece in The Guardian, he wrote about the success of a plan his company implemented where they froze the salaries of the top 20 executives and gave significant raises to entry-level workers, from the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr to $15/hr. Driscoll explains why the company decided to do this:

Assuming nothing went wrong, and assuming that our employees were living with another wage earner or working another part-time job, $7.25 hourly wage might be sufficient.

The reality is that for many of us, things do go wrong, and I had emails from my new teammates to prove it.

One was from a customer service representative — a young mother with a family, who had lost her apartment in a fire and did not have enough money for diapers. Another email soon followed — this employee had missed a few bills and was living out of her car with her child.

This drove me crazy: how did we get to the point where one of our employees had to apologetically ask for financial support so she and her family could put a roof over their heads?

While some of our elected officials congratulated us for creating jobs, I felt that we were failing some of our employees, and the communities we were based in. The more our executive team parsed through the requests for assistance, the more we all became uncomfortable with the mismatch between what we asked of our employees and what we provided to them in turn.

And the real kick in the groin about the plan? It wasn’t even that tough to implement!

I challenged the chief financial officer to see how deeply we would have to freeze wages in order to reach our goal of a base rate of $15 per hour.

The answer was that we did not have to go very deep. Over the last few decades executive salaries have skyrocketed. That translates into accelerated wage growth in the highest tiers of executives throughout American business, and it affects every company.

What that meant for our company was that if we just froze the wages of our most senior team — less than 20 executives - we could radically increase the wages and improve the lives of nearly 500 of our teammates.

The conversation with our executives was straightforward. We were in the midst of a turnaround. We were demanding much from every corner of the company. Small financial sacrifices from those at the top could be life changing for those at the bottom of our wage scale. We needed to do it to build a real sense of Team CareCentrix. They agreed.

And it worked really well. Duh. It drives me bananas that more companies don’t see the benefit of doing this versus implementing compensation policies that serve only to line the pockets of the people in char— oh waaaaait, it actually makes perfect sense why this is happening. The shareholders of these companies should start calling bullshit on that sort of behavior with more regularity though.

See also the founder of Richer Sounds retiring and transferring 60% of his company to its employees, with workers also receiving £1,000 for every year they’ve worked for the company.

MIT Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 Seconds

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

A robot built by a pair of engineering students at MIT can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 seconds (which happens to be 19 minutes and 59.22 seconds shorter than my fastest time):

0.38 seconds is over in an almost literal flash, so the video helpfully shows this feat at 0.25x speed and 0.03x speed. I bet when they were testing this, they witness some spectacular cube explosions. (via @tedgioia)

Nichelle Nichols’ 1977 NASA Recruitment Film for Space Shuttle Astronauts

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

In this NASA promotional film from 1977, Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols takes a tour of the Johnson Space Center with Apollo 12 astronaut Al Bean and urges viewers, especially women and people of color, to sign up to be astronauts on NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

As one of the first black women to play a lead role on television, Nichols was a role model for women and people of color, particularly those interested in science, space, and engineering. When she was she thinking of quitting Star Trek, Nichols met Martin Luther King Jr. at a NAACP fundraiser and he talked her into staying on the show. She recalled King telling her:

Do you not understand what God has given you? … You have the first important non-traditional role, non-stereotypical role. … You cannot abdicate your position. You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.

So when NASA came calling, Nichols used her position well:

She relayed her response to NASA with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I am going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don’t choose one… everybody in the newspapers across the country will know about it.”

Nichols credited Star Trek with the success of her recruiting efforts. “Suddenly the people who were responding were the bigger Trekkers you ever saw. They truly believed what I said… it was a very successful endeavor. It changed the face of the astronaut corp forever.”

Among the recruits drawn to NASA by Nichols’ efforts were Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Ronald McNair & Judith Resnick, who both died in the Challenger accident, Guion Bluford, the first African-American in space, and Mae Jemison, who was the first black woman in space. The diversity of the latest batch of NASA astronauts-in-training is a testament to Nichols’ and NASA’s joint efforts as well. (via open culture)

The Motorbikes of Taiwan

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

From Hiroshi Kondo, a mesmerizing short film called Multiverse of the motorbike-jammed streets of Taiwan. Right around the 50 second mark, Kondo starts to use a clever time lapse technique to highlight individuality within the bustling mass of traffic. It’s a really cool effect and reminded me of this clip art animation by Oliver Laric. (via colossal)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s Refugee Population

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

24-year-old NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, but as a child in Greece, he lived the life of a stateless undocumented immigrant.

Until recently, even the children of African immigrants who were born here found it difficult to secure legal residency, let alone citizenship. Their stateless status denied them national health care, Civil Service jobs and access to sports leagues. Antetokounmpo only gained Greek citizenship six years ago — just as he was about to go to New York for the N.B.A. draft.

“He was given Greek citizenship in order to prevent him from traveling to New York as a Nigerian,” said Nikos Odubitan, the founder of Generation 2.0, an advocacy group that helps second-generation immigrants gain legal status in Greece.

Danny Chau went to Milwaukee to speak with refugees from places like Syria and Myanmar about their lives, their struggles, and their awareness of Antetokounmpo’s story: Giannis Through the Eyes of Milwaukee Refugees.

Kasim serves as a medical interpreter at Aurora Health Care, Wisconsin’s largest home care organization. I walk past the Aurora pharmacy several times during my stay; above one of the entrance gates hand a vinyl FEAR THE DEER banner. I ask Kasim about the Bucks, about what he knows of the professional sports franchise that has brought new life to much of the city this season. For refugees like Kasim, they may as well be from another planet.

“I heard of this, but again, because of the situations, we are a bit away from the sports,” Kasim says. “We don’t have any chance. But now, I come here, I’m working at the community center, at the same time fulfilling other responsibilities, so time is pretty busy. So I don’t get the time to self-care.” Kasim, often solemn and deliberate in his speech, couldn’t help but let out a smile, having essentially wrapped the term “self-care” in sonic air quotes.

I tell him about Giannis.

He lives here in Milwaukee?

About how he’s one of the best basketball players in the world.

He’s from here or he came here with his parents?

About how, as a child, he, too, had no official claim to the home he had always known. About how he would peddle sunglasses, DVDs, and whatever else he could to make 200 or 300 euros a month for his family. And how his status as an undocumented person meant knowing that at any moment, police could ask his parents for their documentation, and that they could be sent back to Nigeria in an instant.

(via @sampotts)

What Illegal Abortion Was Like in the 1960s

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

Diane Munday, an 86-year-old women’s rights activist, recalls what illegal abortion had been like in the UK in the 1960s.

“Women would drink bleach to try to induce miscarriage. They would have very hot baths, or move heavy furniture, or try to do it themselves with a needle or a crochet hook,” says Munday.

As a result, an underground network of backstreet abortionists ran quietly across the country. Some of them, says Munday, became involved by force. It was not unknown for women who had carried out abortions for their close friends and family to be blackmailed by desperate pregnant women who threatened to report them to the police if they didn’t help them, too. Like women who had abortions, those who carried out the procedure illegally could be sent to prison.

“These people were unskilled. Some might have had a bit of nursing experience or had worked in a hospital, or carried out procedures for a friend or daughter,” says Munday.

Munday became active in the campaign to legalize abortion in the UK after she had one herself following giving birth to three children in less than four years.

See also Harrowing Illegal Abortion Stories from Before Roe v. Wade.

Trailer for Season 5 of Black Mirror

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

Black Mirror is back for a fifth season on Netflix starting June 5. The season will consist only of three episodes and will star, among others, Miley Cyrus, Topher Grace, Andrew Scott, and Anthony Mackie. Here’s the trailer:

I have to admit that I haven’t watched all of season 4 yet…or Bandersnatch. Living in an episode of Black Mirror isn’t exactly conducive to wanting to watch Black Mirror.

One-Word Book Titles

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

Merriam-Webster asked 11 authors how they came up with their single-word book titles. Here’s A.S. Byatt talking about Possession:

The book began with a word — the title — Possession. Earlier novels have begun with characters, or themes, but Possession began when I was watching the great Canadian Coleridge scholar, Kathleen Coburn, working in the British Museum and thought — “she cannot have had a thought that was not his thought for the last 30 or 40 years.” And then I thought — “and what I know about him is mediated through her - she edited all his notebooks, checked the sources of the quotations, etc.”

And then I thought, “I could write a novel called Possession about the relationship between a dead poet and a living scholar.” And the word possession would have all sorts of senses — daemonism, ownership, obsession……

And Jeffrey Eugenides on Middlesex:

A good title tells you what the book’s about. It reminds you, when you lose heart, why you started writing it in the first place. I saw an interview with Francis Ford Coppola once where he said that he likes to boil down his films into one word. For The Godfather, the word was “succession.” Whenever Coppola decided something, even a small thing like a costume detail, he reminded himself of his theme in order to make everything cohere, from the storyline right down to the gangsters’ hats.

With two of my novels, The Virgin Suicides and The Marriage Plot, I knew the titles before I even started writing. I wasn’t so lucky with Middlesex. For years I had a terrible working title for that book, so bad I won’t even mention it here.

(via @john_overholt)

Meet Aerospace Engineer Judith Love Cohen

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

Judith Love Cohen was, at various times in her fascinating life, an engineer who worked on the Pioneer, Apollo, and Hubble missions, an author & publisher of books about women in STEM and environmentalism in the 90s, a ballet dancer with the New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, an advocate for better treatment of women in the workplace, and actor Jack Black’s mother. From an obituary written by her son Neil Siegel after her death in 2016:

My mother usually considered her work on the Apollo program to be the highlight of her career. When disaster struck the Apollo 13 mission, it was the Abort-Guidance System that brought the astronauts home safely. Judy was there when the Apollo 13 astronauts paid a “thank you” [visit] to the TRW facility in Redondo Beach.

She finished her engineering career running the systems engineering for the science ground facility of the Hubble Space Telescope.

During her engineering career, she was a vigorous and tireless advocate of better treatment for women in the workplace. Many things that today we consider routine — the posting of job openings inside of a company so that anyone could apply, formal job descriptions for every position, and so forth - were her creations. She had a profound impact on equality in the workforce.

Here’s Cohen pictured with an early Pioneer spacecraft in 1959:

June Love Cohen

Frustrated with the lack of female role models for girls interested in science, math, and technology, she retired from engineering to write and publish a series of books. From a 1999 LA Times profile:

The 11-book series features female professionals such as a paleontologist, Egyptologist and marine biologist. Cohen’s first book in 1991, “You Can Be a Woman Engineer,” traces her arc from a girl who had never heard of female engineers to a woman who led a team of engineers on the design for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

“You only think about things when you see people doing it. Most girls know now they can be lawyers” from TV shows like “Ally McBeal” and female lawyers in the news, Cohen said. “They know that they can work in an emergency room — they’ve seen ‘ER.’ But I don’t recall that anyone has seen scientists on a large scale, except for a few paleontologists in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, physicist Barbara Wilson, 50, said she never knew of any female scientists while growing up in the Midwest. At age 10, she started reading science fiction books for inspiration, but none of them featured women. In school, counselors dismissed the idea of her becoming a scientist, saying she should consider jobs that “women are more likely to be good at.” Books like Cohen’s would have provided the validation she sought, said Wilson, JPL’s chief technologist.

“It was really difficult psychologically and emotionally to be better than all the boys in math and science,” she said. “[The books] really would have helped encourage my feeling good about myself, that this was the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t see role models. I didn’t get encouragement other than at home.”

It’s difficult to imagine a better role model than Cohen…she obviously loved engineering and her work. When her son Jack Black was born, she barely hit the pause button:

Her fourth child, Jack, was born a few years later. She actually went to her office on the day that Jack was born. When it was time to go to the hospital, she took with her a computer printout of the problem she was working on. Later that day, she called her boss and told him that she had solved the problem. And… oh, yes, the baby was born, too.

If anyone from the NY Times is reading, I think Cohen would make a good subject for the Overlooked series. (via history cool kids)

Bill Nye to Climate Change Naysayers: “Grow the Fuck Up”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the Green New Deal and carbon pricing. Oliver invited beloved children’s science educator Bill Nye to help him explain a few things and Nye delivered a short but passionate speech about what’s at stake in the political battle over climate change:

I’ve got an experiment for you. Safety glasses on. By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is: the planet’s on fucking fire!

There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free you idiots! Grow the fuck up, you’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now and this is an actual crisis, got it? Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.

The entire segment is worth watching (particularly if you haven’t been keeping up on what the Green New Deal actually is) but Nye’s closing remarks are at ~18:30 for the impatient.

The Persistent Myth of the Empty American Frontier

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

The author and popular historian David McCullough has a new book out called The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West. I don’t really know where to start with that title (heroic? ideal?) but in her Slate review, Rebecca Onion says that McCullough’s brand of Manifest Destiny-laden American history furthers “the lie that the ‘frontier’ was an empty Eden waiting for American expansion”.

This poem embodies another “pioneer attitude” — the idea that the land was prehistoric, suspended in stasis, before the arrival of white people, and needed to be properly brought into production by the kind of work only “stalwart” settlers could do. This idea, repeated over centuries, aided Manifest Destiny, even as Native settlements like the Miami town of Kekionga boasted cornfields, gardens, and cattle herds. McCullough is approvingly repeating one of the founding myths that justified stealing land from Native tribes — and it doesn’t seem like he even knows it.

Harvard historian Joyce Chaplin agrees in a NY Times book review:

And whatever praise Manasseh Cutler and his supporters might deserve, their designated Eden had an original sin: dispossession of the region’s native inhabitants — paradise lost, indeed. McCullough plays down the violence that displaced the Indians, including the actual Ohio people. He adopts settlers’ prejudiced language about “savages” and “wilderness,” words that denied Indians’ humanity and active use of their land. He also states that the Ohio Territory was “unsettled.” No, it had people in it, as he slightly admits in a paragraph on how the Indians “considered” the land to be theirs. That paragraph begins, however, with a description of the Northwest Territory as “teeming with wolves, bears, wild boars, panthers, rattlesnakes and the even more deadly copperheads,” as if the native people were comparably wild and venomous, to be hunted down, beaten back, exterminated.

Sweet Little Rain, a Coffee Drink Built for Instagram

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

Sweet Little Rain

This drink from Chinese coffee chain Mellower Coffee is called Sweet Little Rain. A puff of cotton candy is suspended over a steaming cup of Americano. The heat from the coffee melts the cotton candy, which drips into the cup and sweetens the coffee. It is both a little bit of genius and unabashedly constructed for creating the perfect Instagram moment.

Crafting Eight Large Rafters for a Church Spire Using Medieval Tools & Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

In the spire of a Swedish church built around the end of the 12th century, eight large rafters (that are in spectacularly good shape considering they’re 800 years old) appear to be fashioned from the same tree using a technique that had not been documented before. So, using only medieval woodworking tools and techniques, a team set out to prove that those rafters could have been made in that way.

The woodworkers’ search for a proper tree to use (starting at ~2:55) brings to mind the recent kerfuffle over the replacement beams for the Notre Dame.

Finding a suitable tree for this experiment is not necessarily easy. Where do you find a tall, straight, even pine tree with no branches for at least 13 meters off the ground?

They eventually found a 195-year-old tree with 11 meters of no branches.

The pace of this video is so leisurely that it feels almost meditative at times, watching this massive log slowly yield to the woodworkers’ effort and ingenuity. Recommended if you’re feeling stressed about the pace of the world.

See also How Tree Trunks Are Cut to Produce Lumber with Different Shapes, Grains, and Uses and Watch As a Master Woodworker Turns a Giant Log into an Elegant Dugout Canoe. (via bb)

On the Safety of Vaccines and the Low Risk of Side Effects

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

The development of vaccines against infectious diseases is among the greatest of human accomplishments and has saved ten of millions of people from dying. And yet some are still hung up on their side effects (and also the widely disproved and debunked fraudulent claim that vaccines cause autism). In this video, Kurzgesagt looks at how vaccines work and compares the impact of their side effects (minuscule) to the potential effect of the diseases they protect against (children dying).

The extensive list of sources they used for the video can be found here.

The title of this video is “The Side Effects of Vaccines - How High is the Risk?”, which seems like it’s maximized for clicks and to spread amongst anti-vaxxers on social media. I wish it had a more accurate title — something like “The Absurdly Low Risk of Vaccine Side Effects” or maybe “Vaccines. And Now My Kids Don’t Die.” — but perhaps positioning it this way is a good strategy to get folks who may not be quite so radicalized to watch it.

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

This past weekend I was in Boston for some cultcha and went to The Museum of Fine Arts. Among several paintings, pastels, and drawings of dancers by Edgar Degas, a bronze casting of his sculpture La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans caught my eye:

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans by Edgar Degas

This is Degas’s largest surviving sculpture and the only one he titled and exhibited. The original wax version, a portrait of a young Belgian dancer named Marie van Goethem, was shown at the 1881 Impressionist exhibition in Paris. The wax was tinted to resemble flesh, she wore a wig of real hair, and was dressed in pink slippers and bodice in addition to a skirt and ribbon similar to those on this cast. The excessive naturalism of the work offended many viewers, but the critic J.K. Huysmans called it “the only really modern attempt that I know in sculpture.”

I’ve seen many representations of ballet dancers in Degas’ work over the years, but this time around was different because I had read Julia Wolkoff’s The Sordid Truth behind Degas’s Ballet Dancers last year.

The formerly upright ballet had taken on the role of unseemly cabaret; in Paris, its success was almost entirely predicated on lecherous social contracts. Sex work was a part of a ballerina’s reality, and the city’s grand opera house, the Palais Garnier, was designed with this in mind. A luxuriously appointed room located behind the stage, called the foyer de la danse, was a place where the dancers would warm up before performances. But it also served as a kind of men’s club, where abonnés — wealthy male subscribers to the opera — could conduct business, socialize, and proposition the ballerinas.

Young members-in-training of the ballet companies were called “petits rats” in reference to their often impoverished backgrounds. As Wolkoff observes of the subject of the sculpture:

Marie van Goethem was the “petit rat” who posed for the sculpture, and she likely engaged in the sexually predatory economy of the ballet world to survive. Van Goethem disappeared from the public eye shortly after the sculpture was completed; after being late to a rehearsal, the Paris Opera Ballet dismissed her. The teenager probably returned home to follow in the footsteps of her mother — a laundress and likely prostitute — and older sister, who was also a sex worker.

Here’s a Degas painting of an on-stage practice from the collection at the Met:

Degas Dance Painting

What might look at first glance like a depiction of the beauty of dance takes on a more sinister nature when you notice the men on the right side of the painting, perhaps a pair of wealthy subscribers getting a special preview of that night’s ballet and their choice of ballerinas. You might never look at another of Degas’ ballet paintings the same way again.

Running From COPS

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

Running From COPS is a new podcast that examines the cultural influence of the long-running TV show COPS. Vox did a short video on the main themes of the show:

From a Fast Company article about the podcast and its creator, Dan Taberski:

The problem is that Cops is more reality show than documentary, and Taberski, a veteran reality show producer, knows there’s a huge disparity between reality show “reality” and documentary reality. In the course of their investigation, the Running from Cops team discovered that the police had final cut approval for the series. “When you start to look at the contractual relationship between producers and police-and we got our hands on a few of those contracts between Cops and the police departments — I think people will be really surprised how much the police are controlling their own message on the show,” Taberski says. Watching the show in that light, he adds, “It just shows how dicey it is to be using reality-show storytelling techniques for something so real and important as policing, and how your biases can creep in even unintentionally.”

Taberski and the producers also found that while prostitution, drugs, and violence make up 58% of crime depicted on Cops, according to the FBI, those three categories only account for barely 17% of crime IRL.

The first four episodes are available now on your favorite podcasting platform. I binged them over the past week and they’re worth a listen.

Cooking As A Service

posted by Tim Carmody   May 10, 2019

Alex Danco looks at some short-term and long-term trends and concludes that we may be on our way to a future where most of our cooking is outsourced to other parties.

As Cooking As A Service expanded from [less than] 10% to 25-30+% of our eating, we grew to consume and expect a far greater selection and variety of food compared to when we did all our cooking ourselves. Our consumption choices around what food we eat gradually pivoted from “What am I able to cook for myself” to “Is this exactly what I want to eat, yes or no?” Once you transition into “is this exactly what I want, yes or no” territory, it’s very hard to go back; it becomes a part of the standard of living that we expect….

From a couple of anecdotal conversations I’ve had with restaurant managers about this, it seems like once you open yourselves up as a restaurant that can be found on the delivery apps, a huge percentage of your kitchen volume switches over to fulfilling those orders, and your front-of-house costs get hung out to dry as increasingly unnecessary. Flexible, modular kitchens that are available for rent for any chef who wants to cook in it, and that have easy access to delivery cars and which pay for no front-of-house extras seem pretty obviously like the next iteration of back-end Cooking as a Service, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them pop up everywhere soon enough. If they can collectively bring down the cost of outsourced cooking another 20-30%, I think the economics start looking pretty compelling for outsourced cooking (including delivery) to effectively pay for itself out of the savings incurred by paying for ingredients and cooking equipment in bulk. At that point, kitchens start to truly become optional.

What I think is compelling about this argument (and it’s worth reading in full) is that it isn’t driven by a single mover: e.g., delivery apps, or supermarket prepared foods, or fast food, etc. It’s a whole suite of cultural transformations that are changing all at once, but all moving more or less in the same direction, towards less cooking being done in the home.

Rob Walker’s Exercises for Noticing New Things

posted by Tim Carmody   May 10, 2019

Rob Walker’s new book The Art of Noticing is out now. The book is structured as a series of 131 exercises, and in an interview conducted by the book’s publisher, Walker explains a few of them.

KPG: If you were going to a new city or destination, which exercises would you recommend trying as a way to better explore a new place?

RW: One would be Get There The Hard way. At least once during your trip, go to some destination without taking directions from your phone. Plan out a route in advance—you can consult a paper map if you want, or written directions, just don’t rely on your phone—and if you get confused, ask someone for help. Be engaged with the space you’re in and the people you’re around, find your way, and be open to discovery as you go.

The other is Eat Somewhere Dubious. Have one meal at a restaurant that you didn’t find on Yelp or through any sort of recommendation and that doesn’t even look trendy or hip. First you’ll have fun keeping an eye out for it: “Is THAT our dubious restaurant?” Second, even if you have a mediocre meal, you’ll have an unpredictable experience! And this, by the way, is how the best food writers make discoveries and find the places that later get hot on Yelp. So maybe you’ll get lucky.

KPG: How can parents help their children be better observers? Which exercises would you recommend they do with their kids? (Any of these particularly great for long road trips or plane rides?)

RW: The one-object scavenger hunt is an easy one: let’s look for security cameras, or let’s look for flowers. Or maybe you let her or him pick what you’ll look for together. A friend of mine does a version of this while walking his son to school, and it’s “who can spot something gross?” Whatever it is you choose, you can both participate, and it gets kids involved in the world.

But something else I’d say here is that kids are often already quite good at converting everything to a game, and at seeing the world with fresh eyes—I mean, they have fresh eyes. There’s a specific exercise in the book to try to see the world as a child would, so if you actually have a child handy, maybe just try to tune into what they’re tuned into, and why, and what they make of it. Encourage their noticing by participating in it with them.

The question I would ask Walker is this: what are the limitations of structuring your book as a series of discrete exercises, rather than some other way?

The trouble I see is all in converting a book about noticing new things into making a book where noticing new things can be made useful. So everything is structured as an exercise for students, or as a way for folks in the business world to hone their “competitive edge.” It’s a byproduct of creating a buying audience for the book more than creating the serendipity of noticing as such. So there’s a lot here that appeals to me, but a lot that equally turns me off.

The Emotional Charge of What We Throw Away

posted by Tim Carmody   May 10, 2019

tea-set-1393416_960_720.jpg

Adam Minter has a new book, Secondhand, about the global trade in secondhand and discarded goods. In an interview, he notes that “consumers actually care more about how their stuff is discarded, than how it is manufactured”:

I didn’t really appreciate that emotional landscape until I started spending time with people and companies in the US who help senior citizens “downsize” their property before a move to smaller quarters, typically a senior living facility. And what I saw during downsizing cleanouts is a lot of resistance to discarding by the very people who paid (handsomely, in most cases) to have someone come and help them discard. Before the owners would let go, they needed reassurance that the stuff will be valued and reused in ways that conform to their values…

The process is made even more difficult by changing tastes. The fine china and antiques appreciated by Americans born in the middle of the twentieth century aren’t in much demand from the younger generations. “People just don’t want it. But seniors want people to want it,” she says. “‘Oh, my kids will take it.’ No, they won’t.”

In the course of sorting someone’s stuff, her best tactic is to persuade the clients that stuff won’t be wasted. “Men won’t get rid of tools. Women, Tupperware. So we tell them the Tupperware can be recycled. The tools can be used by someone else.”

As Minter writes, “people in consumption-based societies assemble their identities via stuff, and become very emotional when those identities — and that stuff — is discarded in ways that don’t match their values.” (In Asia, end-of-life discards tend not to be donated, but sold, which makes for cleaner transactions all around.)

Identical Twins Who Look Nothing Alike

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2019

Adam and Neil Pearson are identical twins who have neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that affected the two of them quite differently.

“I was always aware that I had the same condition as him, but also fully aware that he had the facial disfigurement and I didn’t,” Neil says in the film. Adam suffers from benign tumors that began forming on his face when the Pearsons were boys. They grew progressively worse over time. In school, he endured much bullying-“one of the worst things a human can do to another human,” as he describes it in the film. As an adult, Adam explains that he can never go anywhere without being gaped at. Neil, meanwhile, appears physically unscathed but experiences neurological problems that severely impair his memory.

(via @luvmyptcruiser)

A Database of Measured Stuff

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

Dimensions.Guide is a database containing dozens of dimensioned drawings of objects ranging from Ikea furniture to pandas to wheelchairs to Tyrion Lannister.

Dimensions Guide

Dimensions Guide

Dimensions Guide

The sleeping positions might be my favorite ones. The illustrations are available in a variety of formats for download.

The Lifespans of Ancient Civilizations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

As part of an examination of the potential collapse of our own civilization, Luke Kemp produced this graphic that shows the lifespans of ancient civilizations.

Civilization Timelines

The average lifespan of those surveyed was 336 years, but some of the longest-lived civilizations were the Vedics, Olmecs, Kushites, and the Aksumites…they each lasted about 1000 years or more. You can check here for the complete list.

See also Collapse by Jared Diamond and Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs.

The Martian Base in the Gobi Desert

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

Mars Base Gobi

A Chinese company called C-Space has built a simulation of a Mars base in the Gobi desert. Currently used for educational purposes, the company plans to open “Mars Base 1” up for tourism to give visitors a glimpse of what living on Mars would be like.

The facility’s unveiling comes as China is making progress in its efforts to catch up to the United States and become a space power, with ambitions of sending humans to the moon someday.

The white-coloured base has a silver dome and nine modules, including living quarters, a control room, a greenhouse and an airlock.

Alan Taylor featured some photos of Mars Base 1 recently.

Mars Base Gobi

Mars Base Gobi

It’s all a little surreal, even before you get to the 2001 monolith:

Mars Base Gobi

The Design Manual of the 1972 Munich Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

For the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, a team led by Otl Aicher designed the iconic identity for the event. The guidelines for the visual design were laid out in a manual produced in 1969, which contained the design systems governing how everything from signage and merchandise to tickets and even landscaping were to be produced.

Olympics 1972 Design

Now, a lovingly produced reprint of that manual is available for purchase on Kickstarter.

The visual modules — the typeface, the colors, the grid systems and the application methods — were the basis of all printed matter, merchandising products, signage, wayfinding systems, urban planning and landscaping.

“The freedom of play” was about ensuring “maximum variation” via “strict discipline and adherence to rules”, explained Otl Aicher in 1975.

(via steven heller)

The DIY Astronaut

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

Ever since he was a kid, Cameron Smith has wanted to go into space. This desire persisted into adulthood, and the Portland State archaeology professor has spent the past several years constructing a series of homemade pressurized spacesuits to achieve that dream. In this video, Smith talks about his quest and we witness his preparations for testing a spacesuit he built for under $1000 by taking it up in a balloon to a height of 63,000 feet.

You can read more about Smith and his project in the Journal of Critical Space Studies.

Smith’s journey to the upper atmosphere calls to mind the devil-may-care mindset typical of the early days of space exploration, when air force pilots on both sides of the Iron Curtain risked their neck to advance human spaceflight and secure military advantage in orbit. These pilots were the first humans to test experimental new pressure suits that were meant to sustain life in the upper atmosphere and beyond, and there was little assurance that they would ever return from these crucial tests alive.

And yes, you can totally buy old Russian and Soviet spacesuits on eBay.

“I, Pastafari”, a Documentary Film About the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

In 2005, Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education about their decision to allow teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classrooms. In it, he introduced the world to the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster quickly became an internet meme and, shortly thereafter, an actual religion. *nudge nudge wink wink*

Touched Noodly Appendage

I, Pastafari is a feature-length documentary about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its adherents, the Pastafarians.

I, Pastafari is a story about a few brave Pastafarians, evangelizing the message of the FSM, while fighting against intolerant skeptics, for the freedom to access religious privileges in law granted to other “real” religions. In a time of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, fake news, and alternative facts, the Pastafarians may be the savior the world has been waiting for. R’Amen.

I have a bad feeling that what started out as a satirical criticism of religion will be an actual religion in the future whose adherents won’t see the irony in or damage done by that shift. That’ll be fun.

An Animated Version of The Giving Tree Narrated by Shel Silverstein

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

From 1973, this is an animated short film version of the classic children’s book The Giving Tree, narrated by author Shel Silverstein. As Wikipedia notes, there are conflicting ideas about the book’s meaning:

This book has been described as “one of the most divisive books in children’s literature”; the controversy stems from whether the relationship between the main characters (a boy and the titular tree) should be interpreted as positive (i.e., the tree gives the boy selfless love) or negative (i.e., the boy and the tree have an abusive relationship).

Silverstein’s narration does little to resolve the complexity of the story, although as someone who has never read The Giving Tree1, I was left feeling not so great about the relationship depicted in the story. (via open culture)

  1. I know! Silverstein was not part of my childhood — perhaps his stuff was too weird for my parents? — so I’ve only gotten to know his work through Where the Sidewalk Ends, which I’ve read to my kids.

Barack Obama’s Spring 2019 Book Recommendations

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

Moment Of Lift

In a recent Facebook post, President Obama 1 shared a few books that he’s been reading recently. At the tippy top is Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.

When you lift up women, you lift up everybody — families, communities, entire countries. That’s not just the right approach; it’s backed up by research and countless real-world examples. In her book, Melinda tells the stories of the inspiring people she’s met through her work all over the world, digs into the data, and powerfully illustrates issues that need our attention — from child marriage to gender inequity in the workplace. I’ve called Melinda an impatient optimist and that’s what she delivers here — the urgency to tackle these problems and the unwavering belief that solving them is indeed possible.

From a short excerpt of the book:

In my travels, I’ve learned about hundreds of millions of women who want to decide for themselves whether and when to have children, but they can’t. They have no access to contraceptives. And there are many other rights and privileges that women and girls are denied: The right to decide whether and when and whom to marry. The right to go to school. Earn an income. Work outside the home. Walk outside the home. Spend their own money. Shape their budget. Start a business. Get a loan. Own property. Divorce a husband. See a doctor. Run for office. Ride a bike. Drive a car. Go to college. Study computers. Find investors. All these rights are denied to women in some parts of the world. Sometimes these rights are denied under law, but even when they’re allowed by law, they’re still often denied by cultural bias against women.

Two of the top ten solutions on Paul Hawken’s list for slowing the effects of climate change are “educating girls” and “family planning”, which taken together would have a greater impact on reversing climate change than any other thing on the list.

Obama also recommends Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a book I’ve been curious about ever since it was published. Friends have recommended it and the cover always catches my eye in the bookstore even though I’m never specifically looking for it. I don’t even know why I’ve been resisting it…just ordered it!

  1. President Obama. That two-word phrase still fills me with so many conflicting emotions that I can’t even process it. I imagine it’s the same way for a lot of other people (on both sides of the political spectrum).

Micromobility Will Transform Cities

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

In the latest issue of Why is this interesting?, Noah Brier writes about the potential of dockless electric scooters and e-bikes (italics mine).

Micromobility, a term coined by Apple analyst and electric transportation enthusiast Horace Dediu, is in the midst of transforming cities. What started with docked bike share, has now moved to dockless electric scooters and e-bikes. And while much of the talk is about how they’re crowding sidewalks or being vandalized, the reality is that they have the ability to fundamentally reshape the geography of cities. When a 25 minute walk or a ten minute Uber ride (with waiting) turns into a 97 cent e-bike ride, the meaning of proximity starts to transform.

When you look at the average distance of trips across different modes of transport it’s clear where the gap is: trips that are long enough to be an annoying walk and short enough to feel like a waste of a car ride. That distance is doable with a regular bike, but if there’s a hill you may be huffing and sweating by the end. The e-bike takes all that away, giving you just enough power to make an otherwise intimidating climb into, at worst, a few aggressive pedals.

Having used dockless e-bikes and scooters over the past few months in various cities, I wholeheartedly agree with Brier here. (And not forgetting that regular old bicycles will also be an integral part of the future of transportation in cities.) This transformation is one that Dean Kamen trumpeted when introducing the Segway in 2001 — the Segway will “sweep over the world and change lives, cities, and ways of thinking” — but the Segway was too early & expensive and now e-scooters and e-bikes are actually set to deliver on that promise.1 The challenge is a political one: how can cities make sure their inhabitants have cheap and easy access to various modes of transportation without sacrificing public safety or having these massive companies like Lyft and Uber come in and gut existing transportation options by selling their services at a VC-funded loss for years?

  1. The Segway was the Apple Newton to the e-scooter’s iPhone…too soon and clunky and expensive for what it did.

The Ecological Footprint of Fish

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2019

Ecological Fish Footprint

Artist duo Chow and Lin have produced a visual representation of the amount of small fish it takes to produce large farm-raised fish in China. The three big fish in the middle of the graphic eat all of the other fish surrounding them before they’re harvested.

We examined the impact of farm fishing through the large yellow croaker (大黄鱼) which is China’s most popular fish.

Working with scientists, fish experts and local government officials, we traversed 4 towns in Fujian China to build a tessellated mosaic of fish portraits to see how much wild small fish is needed to sustain fish farming.

The answer is 7.15kg, 39 species, more than 4000 wild small fish to raise a single kilogram of large yellow croaker.

Painting Infinity

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2019

In 1965, French-born Polish painter Roman Opalka began work on his series of paintings OPALKA 1965/1 - ∞. Starting in the top-left corner of a canvas, he painted the number “1”, then “2”, then “3”, and so on, continuing until the canvas was full of consecutive whole numbers. At the top of the next canvas, he picked up where he’d left off, and then just kept going from canvas to canvas. By 1970, Opalka abandoned working on anything else and devoted himself solely to filling canvases with numbers.

Roman Opalka

Roman Opalka

From Hyperallergic:

He pursued this culmination on a daily basis, eight hours a day, until the process of painting led him to “white/white” — that is, white numbers on a canvas with a background painted white, the same as the numbers. After three years (1968, possibly 1969), Opalka began to add 1% white pigment to the black background. Gradually, over time, as more paintings were painted, the black surface would become gray. As he continued to count and to paint five, six, and seven digit numbers, he discreetly added 1% white to each canvas, thus making the surfaces appear increasingly lighter. In the late 1970s he declared that the background of his canvases would eventually appear white, the same white used to paint the numerals that would finally dissolve into the surface, embody the surface. Ultimately, there would be no distinction between the white numerals and the white surface; they would culminate as a form of blankness, possibly transcendent, as the numerals grew invisible within the prospect of infinity, the Samadhi or highest level of meditation.

According to Opalka’s website, the last number he painted was 5607249, in white paint, invisible on a white canvas. (via moss & fog)

The Beautiful Emergent Architecture of Crystals

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2019

Arctic is a new video from the Beauty of Science crew (previously featured here) that reveals the beauty of crystal formation.

There’s a kinship between how crystals form and how towns & cities develop (as in these generated medieval town maps or Manhattan below 14th Street) or how flowing water interacts with earth:

Crystals Cities

Crystals Rivers

Crystal, towns, and rivers all act according to similar principles governing the formation of things from points and edges. What a world. (via colossal)

The Limitations of Language Apps

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2019

For the NY Times, Eric Ravenscraft writes about the limitations of language apps like Duolingo in teaching you how to speak a foreign language.

After I accumulated a Duolingo streak in excess of 500 days — a feat that, thanks to the app’s notoriously insistent reminders, has now come to define my self-worth — I found myself in a better place to judge just how much an app alone can really teach you. The short answer is that you can definitely learn some things from an app, but if you want to become fluent in a language — or even conversational — they won’t be enough.

The CEFR is a standard for describing how proficient people are at language, with levels progression from Basic (A1 & A2) to Independent (B1 & B2) to Proficient (C1 & C2).

Level B1 starts to introduce more complex ideas like explaining their opinions, dreams, and ambitions, or handling complex tasks while traveling. Level B2 expects speakers to be able to speak with native speakers of a language without straining, and have complex technical discussions related to their field of expertise. These two levels make up the Independent stage.

Apps have trouble getting people past the B1 stage. Reading this I thought, aha, this is an opportunity for the internet to connect native speakers from around the world with language learners. I got all excited thinking about how to build something to facilitate this when I remembered that, duh, the internet is mature enough that someone has already built this. Tandem is one such service; they’ve got an app that allows students to video chat their way to fluency with native speaking tutors. Other sites that help connect you with native speakers are Verbling and Italki, and HelloTalk.

Has anyone tried a service like this? Is video conversation a worthy substitute for in-person conversational language learning?

Talking Chewbacca: “Where the Hell Have You Been?”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

This is neat: Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca speaking English to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in a scene from Empire Strikes Back:

Mayhew’s dialogue provided context for Ford to play off of. Chewbacca’s more familiar voice was dubbed over the on-set dialogue in post production — listen to Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt describe how he created Chewie’s voice in this video at ~26:18. Mayhew passed away last week at the age of 74.

See also David Prowse’s on-set dialogue as Darth Vader, or as the other cast members called him, Darth Farmer (at 6:05 in the video). (via laughing squid)

Here Grows New York City, a Time Lapse of NYC’s Street Grid from 1609 to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

Using geological surveys, geo-referenced road network data, and historic maps drawn the from the collections of the Library of Congress and New York Public Library, Miles Zhang made this time lapse video of the development of the street grid of NYC from 1609 (when Henry Hudson first explored the area for the Dutch) to the present day.

The resulting short film presents a series of “cartographic snapshots” of the built-up area at intervals of every 20-30 years in the city’s history. This process highlights the organic spurts of growth and movement that typify New York’s and most cities’ development through time. The result is an abstract representation of urbanism.

Zhang has written up his research methodology for the video as well as some observations and analysis of the data.

For almost the first half of Manhattan’s history, walking was the primary means of transport. This preference was manifested in the shorter distances between residential, industrial, shipping, and commercial areas — and more frequently their overlap. With street systems, the reliance on the foot is manifested in narrower streets widths not designed to accommodate greater width from carriages, trolleys, and later cars. In fact, the average width of secondary arterial streets increased from 30 feet for streets opened between 1624-1664, to 45 feet for streets opened 1664-1811, and then a uniform width of 60 feet for any cross street opened after 1811. Later widenings increased many of these smaller and pre-1811 streets to width between 100 and 130 feet. In other words, moving from the older networks in the south to newer networks in the north, the width of streets and size of blocks generally increases. These new widths might be influenced by growing population size from only 25,000 in the 1770s, to 64,000 by 1811, and 247,000 by 1834, thereby requiring wider streets for expanding population and higher buildings.

These gradual changes in planning reflected increasing reliance on carriages and horse-drawn trolleys instead of walking. Each mode of transport required a different minimum street width and was associated with different speeds.

(via @john_overholt)

The Medieval Town Generator

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

Medieval Town Generator

Oh my, this medieval town generator tool is super fun to play around with. By adjusting parameters like size, color palette, building styles, and which features to include (rivers, coastline, temples), you can make a random ichnographic map of a medieval town or city.

Toy Town is a related tool by the same person that allows you to move through a 3D visualization of a medieval town, a la Minecraft. (Unfortunately, you can’t generate a map in the 2D tool and then fly through it in the 3D tool.)

Medieval Town Generator

See also Auto-Generated Maps of Fantasy Worlds. (thx, ann)

Update: See also the Fantasy Map Generator. (via @mattg)

Meeting Gorbachev

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

Werner Herzog’s latest film is called Meeting Gorbachev, in which he sits down with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for a series of interviews about his life, political career, and his role in ending the Cold War. From a review in the NY Times:

The two men appear to like each other immensely — in narration, Herzog calls Gorbachev “one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century” — but Gorbachev can be a cool customer. He sometimes seems guarded in his assessment of what he might have done differently. He says he believes the Soviet Union should have given its republics more rights instead of dissolving entirely. As for Boris Yeltsin, who became the first president of a post-Soviet Russia, he says, “I should have sent him off somewhere.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists interviewed Herzog about the film.1

It’s not easy to speak of what I tried to accomplish. I think as a natural concomitant you get the feeling that there should be better times between the West and Russia. The demonization of Russia is a great mistake of the Western media and Western politics, and we should try and seek a climate that was created by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the most improbable characters you could ever put together in one room.

Meeting Gorbachev is out in US theaters now, but just barely. Probably best to catch this streaming in a month or two.

  1. I love the in situ audio clips in this piece. I’ve only seen this technique used a few times…more sites should do this.

Pulling Birds From the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

For his photo series The Pillar (which is also a book), Stephen Gill set up a camera next to a post near his home in Sweden and set the shutter to fire when a motion sensor was triggered. “I decided to try to pull the birds from the sky,” he said.

Stephen Gill Pillar

Stephen Gill Pillar

A selection of Gill’s photographs were published by the New Yorker, accompanied by a wonderful short essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

A pillar knocked into the ground next to a stream in a flat, open landscape, trees and houses visible in the distance, beneath a vast sky. That is the backdrop to all the photographs in Stephen Gill’s book “The Pillar.” We see the same landscape in spring and summer, in autumn and winter, we see it in sunshine and rain, in snow and wind. Yet there is not the slightest bit of monotony about these pictures, for in almost every one there is a bird, and each of these birds opens up a unique moment in time. We see something that has never happened before and will never happen again. The first time I looked at the photographs, I was shaken. I’d never seen birds in this way before, as if on their own terms, as independent creatures with independent lives.

The Beginning of Recorded Sound

posted by Tim Carmody   May 03, 2019

early sound.png

Centuries of Sound is a podcast that creates mixtapes by year. So far, that’s pretty standard. The main difference is that CoS’s mixtapes begin in 1853.

That’s as early as we’ve been able to recover recorded audio, mostly from technology that did not work particularly well at the time. The technology of the 1850s recorded sound, but couldn’t reliably reproduce it.

The real start date for us is nearly a quarter of a century [before Thomas Edison], in the studio of French printer and bookseller Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville. The year was 1853 or 1854, and he was working on engravings for a physiology textbook, in particular a diagram of the internal workings of the human ear. What if, he thought, we could photograph sounds in the way we do images? (photography was a quarter-century old at this point) He began to sketch a device, a way of mimicking the inner workings of the human ear in order to make lines on a piece of paper.

I cover a plate of glass with an exceedingly thin stratum of lampblack. Above I fix an acoustic trumpet with a membrane the diameter of a five franc coin at its small end—the physiological tympanum (eardrum). At its center I affix a stylus—a boar’s bristle a centimeter or more in length, fine but suitably rigid. I carefully adjust the trumpet so the stylus barely grazes the lampblack. Then, as the glass plate slides horizontally in a well formed groove at a speed of one meter per second, one speaks in the vicinity of the trumpet’s opening, causing the membranes to vibrate and the stylus to trace figures.

Firstsounds.org did the most work in deciphering these early paper recordings, and that story is well told by the radio show Studio 360.

It even has a perfect name, what these people do: archeophony.

Here, then, is Centuries of Sound’s mix of all the recorded audio up to 1860 that they’ve been able to recreate from those early, not-at-the-time-reproducible pre-Edison audio signal recordings.

I wish I had known about this when I was still writing my dissertation (which was, in part, on paper and multimedia in the 1900s). It would have made many things much easier.

How Amazon Created Prime

posted by Tim Carmody   May 03, 2019

I recently had to put my Amazon newsletter, The Amazon Chronicles, on a two-month hiatus because I’m going to have surgery to replace my shoulder. So what should happen the day after I make my announcement? One of the very best Amazon reporters, Recode’s Jason Del Rey, comes out with an oral history of Amazon Prime, the membership program that covers free fast shipping, digital media, and more — and arguably, the innovation that pushed Amazon past eBay and Walmart to become the retailer of first resort.

Charlie Ward (former Amazon principal engineer; current Amazon VP, technology)

I’m a one-click addict. I hate having to go through the order pipeline and choose everything again and again and again. And … I couldn’t use one click with Super Saver Free Shipping.

I kind of have a perfectionist type of mentality. Things kind of irritate me and get more and more irritating over time and it was just really confirmed to me that I couldn’t make it better. So I threw out this problem to the group: “Wouldn’t it be great if customers just gave us a chunk of change at the beginning of the year and we calculated zero for their shipping charges the rest of that year?”

And we kind of had a small pause, a moment where we all looked at it as like, “Is Charlie crazy?”

See also this digital media pullquote which Peter Kafka pointed out on Twitter.

Bill Carr (former Amazon VP of digital music and video)

Netflix had a budget which — and you’re going to laugh when I tell you the scary number — was $35 million dollars a year on video content. These were fixed costs. This meant they’d go and buy the rights to movies and TV shows from the studios for $35 million a year and it didn’t matter whether they had one viewer or 100 million viewers, that’s what they’re going to pay. Well, that’s not the business Amazon was in.

We were giving much more than $35 million a year to the motion-picture studios at the time. But it was a daunting thing to commit to it on a fixed-fee basis with no knowledge of how we’re going to actually get any subscribers. In the 2008, ‘09, ‘10 era, that was a scary amount of money.

And I remember then Jeff finally goes, “I’ve got an idea.” And in typical Jeff fashion he picked something that was not on the list at all and he said, “Let’s make it part of Amazon Prime.” And we looked at him like there are arms and legs growing out of his head. Like, “What are you talking about? Amazon Prime? That’s the free shipping program.”

And the principle that Jeff realized was that we need to do actually exactly what Netflix did when they first launched their digital service. Everyone scoffed at that, too. Like, “you’re offering digital plus DVDs and you’re not charging more?”

Netflix was able to get away with the fact that the content was not great at the beginning because it was free. It was like, “Oh, by the way, here you go, here’s some movies along with it.” And we were going to take a page out of their book.

I remember Jeff used those exact words — It’s an, “Oh, by the way.” “Yeah, Prime is $79 a year. Oh, by the way, there’s free movies and TV shows with it.” And how much could consumers complain about the quality of movies and TV shows if it’s free?

When Lost Recordings Get Found

posted by Tim Carmody   May 03, 2019

Iggy and the Stooges.jpg

Strictly speaking, there are plenty of live recordings of Iggy Pop playing with The Stooges. They’re just all bootlegs. And mostly, not very good ones.

Most vintage Stooges concert recordings sound too awful to interest more than hardcore fans, because incredible performances are sunk in a swamp of low fidelity. Adding insult to injury, all the horrible bootleg covers with cheap fonts make the band look like camp horror rock better at chest cutting than songwriting, which undermines the band’s legacy as visionary rock ‘n’ rollers who set trends for decades. As one fan’s friend put it while listening to a bootleg: “[W]hy does everything you have by Iggy Pop sound like it was recorded up someone’s ass?”

For Longreads (and it is a long read), Aaron Gilbreath writes about a lost live Iggy and the Stooges album that was contracted to be recorded in 1973. However, the label decided never to release the album — and may have never recorded the concert at all.

Gilbreath’s essay turns into a kind of meditation on lost albums: recordings hidden in the archives, that sometimes are rediscovered, and sometimes are never found.

A live 1957 recording of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk sat in the Library of Congress’s archives unnoticed for 48 years, before the library’s Magnetic Recording Laboratory supervisor Larry Appelbaum found it. For 60 years , Verve stored a live recording of Ella Fitzgerald performing at Zardi’s Jazzland in Hollywood, before releasing it in 2017 just after what would have been her 100th birthday. In 2017, a DJ and music historian named Amir Abdullah helped unearth a pristine radio broadcast of Charles Mingus playing a Detroit gallery in 1973. Reels containing previously unknown early live recordings of jazz guitar giant Wes Montgomery sat for decades in peoples’ houses, falling apart.

The demo cassettes for Jimi Hendrix’s Black Gold Suite album project, thought lost for decades, or possibly stolen, were simply sitting in drummer Mitch Mitchell’s house, sealed with Jimi’s headband.

I have less hope for this lost Stooges album, though. Too many people who were in a position to know suggest that it just never happened. Oh well. At least we’ve got bootlegs that were shoved up someone’s ass.

Diego Maradona

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2019

Asif Kapadia, the director of Senna and Amy, has directed a documentary film about footballer Diego Maradona, one of the best to ever lace up the cleats.

Having never won a major tournament, ailing football giant SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved. Their fanatical support was unequalled in both passion and size. None was more feared. But how they ached for success…

On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. The world’s most celebrated football genius and the most dysfunctional city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams.

But there was a price… Diego could do as he pleased whilst performing miracles on the pitch, but when the magic faded he became almost a prisoner of the city.

The film will debut at Cannes and HBO just bought the TV and streaming rights. Senna is one of my all-time favorite documentaries, so I’m excited for this one.

Tactical Driving Looks Fun (But Don’t Try This at Home)

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

Wyatt Knox is a former rally car driver and driving instructor at Team O’Neil Rally School and in this video, he shows us some of the tactical driving techniques that would be in the repetoire of law enforcement or special operations personnel, including running cars off the road, backing up at high speed, and doing a j-turn. (What’s a j-turn? It’s that cool thing they do in the movies where a car in reverse does a 180 and continues driving forwards in the same direction. It was a signature move of Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files.)

All that driving looked fun and this rally school happens to be only 80 miles away from where I live, so I went to their site to look at some classes. Their rally and drift schools are $1400/day (which seems totally fair because it includes car rental, tires, safety equipment, and insurance) but sadly that is not in my price range.

Norway’s Proposed New Passports Are Beautiful

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

Back in 2014, a design studio called Neue won a national competition to redesign the Norwegian passport. What they came up with is bold and beautiful.

Norway New Passport

Norwegian landscapes fill the visa pages:

Norway New Passport

And if you shine a UV light on them, you can see the aurora borealis:

Norway New Passport

The landscapes surrounding us give a sense of belonging and pride, and fill a symbolic function for the entire nation. Images of scenery and landscape can easily become cliches, but by being widely accepted and deeply rooted in Norwegian culture, they are also very easy to identify with. In addition, to Norwegians, nature is more than beautiful scenery. It supplies us with rich fisheries, clean hydroelectric power, and various other industries.

I don’t think this new design has launched though…beyond a flurry of press about the competition back in 2014, I couldn’t find any evidence of the new design in the wild. (via dense discovery)

17-year-old Chance the Rapper Performing at a Public Library

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

One of the places where Chance the Rapper got his start was at YOUmedia, a youth center at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. In this video, a 17-year-old Chance performs “Nostalgia”, a song that later appeared on his first mixtape. In this 2013 interview, Chance explained how performances like that helped him as an artist:

Another big launch pad for me was YOUmedia. YOUmedia is a sick ass spot. It’s downtown [Chicago] and it’s a youth center, but it’s a part of Harold Washington Library. The entire first floor, if you go to Harold Washington Library, there’s a sick-ass fucking student center, but it’s city funded. The majority of the dope, young artists that are in Chicago came out of that bitch. I came out of there, Vic Mensa, Nico from Kids These Days. So a lot of different people came out of there. You can learn music theory there, they have production software classes, you can take engineering classes, DJ classes.

“The big thing was the open mic. They used to have this open mic there every Wednesday that we would all go to, and it was from 5 to 7 every Wednesday. It would literally be 200 people in there and it was me performing. This was last year, when I was making #10Day. 200 people would come out to see us perform, 200 kids. The list would be super-fucking full, 30 kids trying to perform different poetry pieces, people coming up there footworking and breakdancing, doing standup, singing and rapping, just doing crazy shit.

“It was a really ill thing because it was smack in the center of downtown, so anybody from any school could come there because every train comes to the loop [downtown]. I met damn near all the producers on #10Day through this library. It was the spot. I’m too old now. I don’t go there anymore, but I used to literally go there until after I turned 18, for a minute.”

See also The Notorious B.I.G. freestyling on a corner in Bed-Stuy at 17, 17-year-old LL Cool J playing a Maine gymnasium, and the Beastie Boys rapping “Cookie Puss” in 1983 (when Ad-Rock was only 17).

Eight Ways to Teach Climate Change in School

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

According to a poll conducted by NPR/Ipsos, over 80% of American parents want climate change to be taught in our schools, but only 42% of the teachers polled say that they teach it in their classrooms.

If they don’t hear about it at home, will kids learn about climate change in school? To answer this question, NPR/Ipsos also completed a nationally representative survey of around 500 teachers. These educators were even more likely than the general public to believe in climate change and to support teaching climate change.

In fact, 86% of teachers believe climate change should be taught in schools. In theory.

But in practice, it’s more complicated. More than half — 55% — of teachers we surveyed said they do not cover climate change in their own classrooms or even talk to their students about it.

The most common reason given? Nearly two-thirds (65%) said it’s outside their subject area.

NPR education correspondent Anya Kamenetz shared 8 Ways To Teach Climate Change In Almost Any Classroom, regardless of what subject you teach.

5. Assign a research project, multimedia presentation or speech.

Gay Collins teaches public speaking at Waterford High School in Waterford, Conn. She is interested in “civil discourse” as a tool for problem-solving, so she encourages her students “to shape their speeches around critical topics, like the use of plastics, minimalism, and other environmental issues.

I am, however, still hung up on the 12% of teachers polled who said that the world’s climate is not changing.

Climate Poll Teachers

Shuudan Koudou Is the Japanese Art of Synchronized Precision Walking

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

For more than 50 years, students at the Nippon Sport Science University in Japan have practiced shuudan koudou, which translates as “collective action”. You can see them in action in these pair of videos:

If you want the really good stuff, skip to ~1:35 in the first video to watch two columns of quick-walking students march backwards through each other. Whoa.

David Attenborough on How to Save Our Planet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

In this short video essay, David Attenborough succinctly describes the main problem of the anthropocene (that modern humans are not living sustainably as they once could as hunter gatherers), explains the effect we’ve had on the planet, and then suggests how we can fix things (italics mine):

The plan for our planet is remarkably simple. Reduce our impact by making sure that everything we do, we can do forever.

Sustainability is such a buzzword these days that I have long since stopped thinking about what it actually means; Attenborough nails it with “making sure that everything we do, we can do forever”. The Earth seems infinite in scope but not with 7, 8, or 9 billion humans hungry for food, thirsty for water, and lusty for status & entertainment.

The simple plan Attenborough describes has four parts:

1. Phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewables.
2. Upgrading to efficient food production and reducing our consumption of meat.
3. Proper worldwide ocean management.
4. Rewilding the world.

As he allows, it’s a bit more complicated than that — check out Paul Hawken’s list for a more detailed list of things we can do to fight climate change.

Grace Hopper Explains a Nanosecond

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

In this short clip from 1983, legendary computer scientist Grace Hopper uses a short length of wire to explain what a nanosecond is.

Now what I wanted when I asked for a nanosecond was: I wanted a piece of wire which would represent the maximum

distance that electricity could travel in a billionth of a second. Now of course it wouldn’t really be through wire — it’d be out in space, the velocity of light. So if we start with a velocity of light and use your friendly computer, you’ll discover that a nanosecond is 11.8 inches long, the maximum limiting distance that electricity can travel in a billionth of a second.

You can watch the entirety of a similar lecture Hopper gave at MIT in 1985, in which she “practically invents computer science at the chalkboard”. (via tmn)

Headshots

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

Kaija Straumanis took a series of portraits of herself being hit in the face with all sorts of different objects, from a dodgeball to a book to an old boot.

Kaija Straumanis

(via moss & fog)

Fighting Climate Change with CO2-Eating “Ideal Plants”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Dr. Joanne Chory is working on a project to create plants capable of storing more carbon for a longer period of time than normal plants in order to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Suberin — also known as cork — is a naturally occurring carbon-rich substance found in plant roots. It absorbs carbon yet resists decomposition (which releases carbon back into the atmosphere), enriches soil and helps plants resist stress.

By understanding and improving just a few genetic pathways in plants, Salk’s plant biologists believe they can help plants grow bigger, more robust root systems that absorb larger amounts of carbon, burying it in the ground in the form of suberin.

The Salk team will use cutting-edge genetic and genomic techniques to develop these Salk Ideal Plants.

Salk Ideal Plants

According to this piece in the Guardian on the project, one of the techniques they’re using is CRISPR, basically a genetic copy/paste system. Once the team demonstrates they can grow these larger root systems in model plants, they’ll genetically transfer that capability to the world’s largest food crops like rice, wheat, and corn.

As a bonus, the team believes that Ideal Plants will have other positive effects:

In addition to mitigating climate change, the enhanced root systems will help protect plants from stresses caused by climate changes and the additional carbon in the soil will make the soil richer, promoting better crop yields and more food for a growing global population.

This project is firmly on the wizard end of the wizards vs prophets spectrum.

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