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Entries for July 2019 (August 2019 »    Archives)

 

Soli touchless interactions are coming to Pixel 4

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Soli radar visualisation

You may remember a few years ago when a video about Google’s Project Soli made the rounds, it promised very fine touchless gesture control with a custom chip using radar technology. Here’s the demo from back then.

Well years later, Google will finally be releasing it to the general public, including the Federal Communications Commission approved chip and a few basic gestures.

As the article at WIRED mentions, this is more important than one phone, it could be a first step in something new, like when the iPhone brought precise, quality touchscreens to a consumer device.

Google’s gesture technology is merely a glimpse of a touchless future. Just like the iPhone taught millions of people to interact with their world by tapping and swiping, the Pixel may train us on a new kind of interaction, changing how we expect to interact with all of our devices going forward.

Ursula K. Le Guin documentary on PBS

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

If you’re in the US, most PBS stations will be showing the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin on August 2nd, so that’s your Friday night sorted.

Features interviews with the author, her family and friends, and the generation of sci-fi and fantasy writers she influenced, like Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Chabon, as well as gorgeous animations illustrating her work as she reads.

One comment I noted when she passed in 2018:

One of the many, many things Le Guin gave us was a subtle one: that the “science” in science fiction could also be the social sciences, and that, indeed, without it, no science fiction could be entirely complete.
Catherynne Valente on Twitter

And this great thread by Jeet Heer, including:

Le Guin was part of a great shift in science fiction, often called New Wave, which had many dimensions (literary, countercultural, feminist) but was also a move from xenophobia to xenophilia.

I loved this from her Rant About “Technology” which, sadly, seems to have gone offline when that site was redesigned.

Technology is the active human interface with the material world.

… But the word is consistently misused to mean only the enormously complex and specialised technologies of the past few decades, supported by massive exploitation both of natural and human resources.

And of course this great acceptance speech when she received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

(Via Eliot Peper / Neil Gaiman.)

What do you care about?

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Somewhat as a continuation to the previous post on journalism, which included a call to “look at people and how they use the technology, not just the tech itself.” I’d like to draw your attention to this post by Doug Belshaw which can be summarized as saying that the solution to the problem we have with FOMO, notifications, and busyness might simply be to think of the human (you) first. To be purposeful in your choices, to determine what you need, to focus on how best to answer those choices and needs.

Know who you are, what you care about, and the difference you’re trying to make in the world.

You should read the whole thing, but I’m including it here in part for this great list Belshaw extracted from a Kathy Sierra post from bak in “2006, in the mists of internet time,” The myth of keeping up.

A call for more research and questioning by journalists

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Jeff Jarvis with some good comments (based primarily on a paper by Axel Bruns) arguing that the media in general needs to start with deeper questions, more research, referencing actual research, and demonstrable facts instead of presumptions. Excellent ideas.

He begins with this quote from the Bruns paper:

[T]hat echo chambers and filter bubbles principally constitute an unfounded moral panic that presents a convenient technological scapegoat (search and social platforms and their affordances and algorithms) for a much more critical problem: growing social and political polarisation. But this is a problem that has fundamentally social and societal causes, and therefore cannot be solved by technological means alone. [Emphasis mine.]

Agreed. Jarvis via Bruns then argues that these metaphors are too loosely defined, leaving room for broad usage, unclear meaning, resulting in moral panic more than actual research and fact based analysis.

He follows up with a number of articles and further research from the paper, backing up his point. Then numerous examples of media using the filter bubble shortcut. I encourage you to click through to the article and dive a bit deeper.

But that leads to another journalistic weakness in reporting academic studies: stories that takes the latest word as the last word.

Absolutely. And pretty much everyone does that at some point so it’s a good reminder to us all to consider new research and explanations of the day within broader historical context and preexisting knowledge.

The whole article (and the research paper, although I myself haven’t gotten to that yet) is worth a read, the main point of Jarvis is a good one; more questions, more research, deeper thinking. Looking at people and how they use the technology, not just the tech itself.

I do have to caveat this though by mentioning the Jarvis dismisses Shoshana Zuboff’s work on Surveillance Capitalism by portraying it as “an extreme name for advertising cookies and the use of the word devalues the seriousness of actual surveillance by governments.” One could debate whether Zuboff should have used another word, separating the practice from that of governments, but by saying “advertising cookies” Jarvis makes one of those surface remarks he raves against in his piece, somewhat discrediting it.

Sato San, duct tape typographer

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 31, 2019

Tokyo subway's humble duct-tape typographer

Lovely story of a Tokyo security guard who’s enhancing his guidance work through constructions sites with some fantastic custom made signage. He crafts those crisp and distinctive signs with… duct tape and a knife! Having no formal training in graphic design, he managed to create a style so noticeable and appreciated that it is now “highly regarded by designers and curators” and is even known as “Shuetsu Sans.”

The man in question, Shuetsu Sato, also published an instructional book and has fans on Instagram, spotting and sharing his work!

Tokyo subway's humble duct-tape typographer

From Reality TV to YouTube and back again

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 30, 2019

The transformation of (a lot of) the internet into simply a larger, more diversified series of tv channels continues apace. Sharing here for the last quote below, which seems like an important insight and transformation.

In 2019, authenticity has been replaced with pageantry, and relationships with viewers have been manipulated into making the audience care about something produced blatantly to turn a profit.

As the YouTube community faces a reality where “mainstream networks are starting to dominate the platform and eclipse independent creators,” they try to join those networks or endeavour to create their own TV-show-like productions.

YouTube’s community borrowed from reality TV’s most innovative narrative tool — confessionals — to create what the entire world now understands as modern vlogging. It worked extremely well. But as the vlogging format went out of style, creators are now looking for new and creative ways to remain relevant and catch people’s attention. For creators like Paul and Mongeau, that’s meant a return to the trappings of reality TV. (Emphasis mine.)

Ghosts on her shelves

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 30, 2019

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

It’s always interesting to see how people feel about books. Some don’t read them, some always have one in hand, even walking. Some read everything, some pile the unreads endlessly. Some read them with purpose, to learn something, get better at some tasks; others to escape, dream, discover some new imaginary universe. Karen Olsson at the Literary Hub wonders why she doesn’t read all her books, and, contrary to her husband who diligently reads anything written by a friend or given to him, she has multiple unread books. They remind her of past interests, past lives, future intents, projects, they whisper to her.

I keep this book around even though I don’t wish to make anything of it in a literal sense—I don’t want to write fiction or nonfiction or a nutty screenplay about a mesoamerican document, but I wish for it to somehow whisper in my ear while I write something not at all about the map, for its enigmatic presence to leave some ineffable trace.

I love this idea of books as biographies, including alternative ones.

I’ve become conscious of the alternative biography my books represent, a history of stray intentions, youthful aspirations, old interests that have run their course but not quite expired, since there’s always that chance I might decide to learn at last about portrait miniatures, or neuroscience, or the Battle of the Alamo.

In some cases, there’s even some kind of fear of the real thing not matching up to the mystery.

Perhaps in some cases it has actually meant more to me to possess a book than to read it, because as long as its contents remain unknown to me, it retains its mystery. The unread book is a provocation, a promise of something that might dissipate if I slogged my way through the text.

Walking, the easy superpower

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 30, 2019

Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash

One of the very few productivity tips I trust 100% (ok, probably the only one) is the recommendation for getting up and walking around. It’s been proven time and time again by various authors and creatives of all types, as well as by science through research after research. Walking is good for the body, changes the mode our brain is in, and helps get our thinking going.

This piece at the Guardian covers some of those ideas and research behind Shane O’Mara’s new book on the topic, In Praise of Walking.

He favours what he calls a “motor-centric” view of the brain - that it evolved to support movement and, therefore, if we stop moving about, it won’t work as well.

Needless to say, that’s not what many of us do for most of our days. It seems this sitting around and non-movement might even affect our personality.

A 2018 study tracked participants’ activity levels and personality traits over 20 years, and found that those who moved the least showed malign personality changes, scoring lower in the positive traits: openness, extraversion and agreeableness.

I’ll note here that a lot of what O’Mara cites has to do with “movement” which he equates with walking. Granted, it’s probably one of the easiest ways to move, but one assumes that any kind of movement (swimming, yoga, etc.) also fits a lot of the research he bases his comments on even though his preference is clearly for walking.

According to him, it looks like walking might even be good against one of the great problems of our time, stress and anxiety, while at the same time fostering some of the skills we need in many fields of work; learning constantly, memory, and an ability to think on our feet (pun intended) and come up with solutions.

“It turns out that the brain systems that support learning, memory and cognition are the same ones that are very badly affected by stress and depression,” he says. “And by a quirk of evolution, these brain systems also support functions such as cognitive mapping,” by which he means our internal GPS system.

You might even see walking as a kind of superpower, because “when we get up and walk, our senses are sharpened.”

As I mentioned earlier, different kinds of exercice and movement could do the job. O’Mara, correctly, raves about walking in part because it’s accessible, easily woven into every day life, and doesn’t require much preparation, if any. His recommendation is pretty simple:

To get the maximum health benefits, he recommends that “speed should be consistently high over a reasonable distance - say consistently over 5km/h, sustained for at least 30 minutes, at least four or five times a week.”

The piece finishes with some words on creativity and multiple examples of authors praising walking, I’ll close with this one:

Only thoughts reached by walking have value.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Rare encounter with a piglet squid

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 30, 2019

This one is a super short article about a deep sea encounter between the Nautilus research vessel and a rare piglet squid. Beautiful little one with its tentacles pointing up like a bad hair day. It “is able to regulate buoyancy with an ammonia-filled internal chamber,” which is kind of fascinating.

This tree stump is kept alive by its neighbours

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 30, 2019

Kauri trees, image by the Kauri museum

It’s sometimes easy to think that we know how most things work, especially those that surround us and we take for granted. Truth is, our knowledge is still advancing and constantly updating. There is so much we don’t know, including our own bodies and even trees. This story by Ed Yong looks at how a tree stump (no leaves, no stems, no greenery) is still alive in New Zealand, accessing water from its neighbours trough a connected root system.

Leuzinger and Bader eventually showed that the stump is connected to one or more of the kauri trees around it, probably via its roots. They are hydraulically coupled: The water flowing through the full-size trees also drives water through the stump, keeping it alive. It will never green again, never make cones or seeds or pollen, never unfall, never reclaim its towering verticality. But at least for now, it’s not going to die, either.

The stump that didn't die

Botanists don’t know yet how the stump is doing this, why its neighbours are sharing. Maybe they can’t identify freeloaders? Maybe they can’t break the connection? Perhaps the stump extends the root system for all of them and proves beneficial?

How the stump keeps water flowing is still a mystery. “The vessels in a tree aren’t built for this,” Leuzinger says. “They’re one-directional. Water goes from the roots to the crown. But if you’re a living stump, you have to reorganize your pathways so water can enter and leave again. This is completely unknown.”

Another botanist, Annie Desrochers, thinks this is pretty common in various forest, if misunderstood.

“That means trees can share water, nutrients, and diseases,” she says. If there’s a drought or insect epidemic, connected trees are more likely to survive, because resources can flow from unaffected individuals to beleaguered ones.

One more indication that we need to look at forests as super organisms, as a wood wide web.

(Header image by the Kauri Museum.)

Serendipity v algorithmy

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

I’ve always liked the concept of serendipity, even more since being involved in the early days of coworking, where we used the term “accelerated serendipity” quite a bit. The idea that, through the creation of a welcoming space and a diversified and thriving community, you could accelerate (or concentrate) “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

So it’s probably a mix of Baader-Meinhof effect and well, serendipity, that these two articles grabbed my attention. In The Serendipity Engine, Gianfranco Chicco explains that he quit his job and will use the time to purposefully built up serendipity, seek fields he knows little about, learn new things, read an eclectic mix of books, be open to meeting strangers, visit new cities, etc. “Slowing down and renewing the commitment to a series of personal rituals.”

The Serendipity Engine works just like an internal combustion engine and, like with a high performance muscle car, you need to feed it with the right kind of propellant. In this analogy, the fuel is made of different activities, skills, and conversations. In my case I select them so that they are deliberately out of or tangential to my current professional domain. The engine also requires maintenance and fine tuning via iterations and changes to the activities or skills I become involved with.

He also connects his engine vision with Steven B. Johnson’s use of the concept of the adjacent possible, describing how different elements and ideas can be combined in various ways to create new elements and ideas.

The Serendipity Engine operates in a similar way, adding new stimulus into my life allow new and unexpected things to emerge.

Dan Cohen on the other hand, realized that he’s missing serendipity in the redesign of The New York Times app. Between the algorithmic “For you” tab and the pseudo old-school but very siloed “Sections,” he feels that he can’t bump into something new, he’s either presented with typecasted suggestions or enclosed in sections that don’t flow together, drawing you in from one to the next, like actual old-school paper newspapers did. For the sake of engagement, the NYT forfeits serendipity.

The engagement of For You—which joins the countless For Yous that now dominate our online media landscape—is the enemy of serendipity, which is the chance encounter that leads to a longer, richer interaction with a topic or idea. […]

Engagement isn’t a form of serendipity through algorithmically personalized feeds; it’s the repeated satisfaction of Present You with your myopically current loves and interests, at the expense of Future You, who will want new curiosities, hobbies, and experiences.

In a related idea, Kyle Chayka mourns some cancelled Netflix shows which were never presented to him because viewers are only shown a supposedly algorithmic homepage on Netflix (and elsewhere). In reality, that selection is corrupted by the business incentives of the company, pushing some shows to us, independent of our interests.

Sometimes there’s an algorithmic mismatch: your recommendations don’t line up with your actual desires or they match them too late for you to participate in the Cultural Moment. It induces a dysphoria or a feeling of misunderstanding—you don’t see yourself in the mirror that Netflix shows you.

One way to interpret all of this is that, even though we are supposed to be well served by algorithms, we end up not only missing some randomness, but we even have to actively seek it, busting our bubbles and building our own versions of Chicco’s engine. Or, as Chayka says below—and likely one of the reasons you are reading this blog:

Often we have to turn to other sources to get a good enough guide, however. Journalists, critics, and human curators are still good at telling us what we like, and have less incentive to follow the finances of the company delivering the content to us.


Found in the engine article; did you know that the word serendipity comes from the the Persian story of The Three Princes of Serendip? And that Serendip is one of the old names of Sri Lanka?

Mateusz Urbanowicz’s Tokyo storefronts

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

Gorgeous work by a Polish illustrator working in Japan. Originally found him through this page about his Tokyo storefronts book, which features a number of super detailed watercolor illustrations. You can see even more on the series page and the Tokyo by night ones are also worth a long look. He also links to this very detailed review of the storefronts book, with a page by page description (sounds boring but the work is so beautiful, it goes by fast).

Urbanowicz also has a Youtube channel with lots of making-of videos, including a series about the book above.

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

(Via Darran Anderson)

Fortnite World Cup

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

Fortnite World Cup 2019

Incredibly (I guess), I’ve never played Fortnite. I have however been paying some attention to the game / platform, but it still surprised me to see that the prizes totaled an impressive $30 million! Held over three days this past weekend, the competition was hosted at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the US Open of tennis, which is certainly an interesting image for the debate around the use of “sport” in “e-sports.” It was also more than a tournament.

But the World Cup was also home to a miniature Fortnite amusement park, a Marshmello concert, a tease of the game’s upcoming10th season, and multiple moments that blurred the line between the game and the real world. It was a chance for Epic to show off just how big Fortnite really is.

Fortnite World Cup 2019

Player-fans, many of whom were attending as families, could meet mascots, speak with stars of the game, or visit and play multiple attractions. It was pretty much a small scale theme park, and of course there was lots and lots of buying of branded products.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the World Cup was how it blurred the line between the real world and the digital universe Epic has created. Not only did locations and characters from the game make their way IRL, but so did the Battle Pass. Just like in the game, fans were encouraged to complete multiple tasks each day (in this case, that meant visiting attractions) in order to earn rewards including a physical V-Bucks coin.

More than 40 million people played in the 10 weeks of qualifiers, the oldest player in the final lineup was 24 (!!), and the winning duo won a $3 million grand prize. I feel old.

Perhaps more my beat than actually playing the game, have a look at this fascinating dive into the world of Fortnite, which debunks four hypes about the game, then considers Epic’s (makers of the game) situation and prospectives. The article then really gets interesting when the author starts looking at the use of the game as a public square, the time spent there, and how it could be / is used as a platform. Ball also writes about the founder, Tim Sweeney, and what he is planning for the cloud, a marketplace, and his long time obsession with the “Metaverse.” Imagine something like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and a platform vision which might face off with Zuckerberg’s similar(ish) ideas for Oculus.

Verticality, media, and China

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

Chinese vertical dramas

This is the collision of two interesting “topic fields” I like to pay attention to. China in general, especially how media, social media, and commerce differ from the western models. And how the verticality of smartphones (and apps) is affecting media at large.

First, in this piece on The Next web about Chinese vertical dramas, we get a quick dive into the growing number of series built for the format. Aside from the visual shape, they are usually short episodes, fast-paced with many punchlines, and are exploring the possibilities of top to bottom transitions. You can find quite a few links and screenshot examples in the article.

Last time I guest edited here, I posted about an Ian Bogost piece on how Stories are overtaking social media, which focused in part on the vertical rectangle.


That name is vestigial now, because it’s only incidental that an iPhone or a Pixel is a telephone. Instead, it’s a frame that surrounds everything that is possible and knowable. A rectangle, as I’ve started calling it.


Back to China, this fascinating piece by Connie Chan at Andreessen Horowitz looks at the varied business models local internet companies are using, contrasting that to the mostly “one trick pony” approach of American counterparts. Chan focuses on books, podcasts, videos, and music, and although the examples are varied, they can be boiled down to a couple of main ideas; gamification of every possible aspect of the app and experience, and up-selling to VIP memberships and all kinds of merchandise.

Bullet comments at Logic mag

Finally on the always excellent Logic mag, Christina Xu with a look at bullet comments culture in China, “an invasive species from Japan,” which layers comments over video, each attached to a specific moment. Originally popularized on the Bilibili platform, they are now present in a number of other places and media.


They represent the essence of Chinese internet culture: fast-paced and impish, playfully collaborative, thick with rapidly evolving inside jokes and memes. They are a social feature beloved by a generation known for being antisocial. And most importantly, they allow for a type of spontaneous, cumulative, and public conversation between strangers that is increasingly rare on the Chinese internet.


The Best Supermarket Beer

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 26, 2019

This is a fun one; over at The Takeout, they did a fantasy draft where each of the writers picked his/her favorite supermarket beer (i.e., a beer widely available at a supermarket or convenience store).

Number one overall is a favorite beer of mine: Negra Modelo.

Supermarket Beer.png

The back and forth here is nice:

John Carruthers: Good. I’ve had #1 since two seconds after you sent this topic to me.

The very first pick, and my face of the franchise, is Negra Modelo.

Kate Bernot: That would have been in my top 3. Damn.

JC: I’m not real hot on regular Modelo, but man if the dark version isn’t almost perfect 7-Eleven beer

It’s light enough to be refreshing, but has a little more character than a lot of macro beers to keep you interested

It’s a sort of Vienna Lager, owing to the German brewing influence on Mexico’s beer culture

KB: Also a great food beer.

JC: It’s great with the free chips and salsa at a sit-down Mexican or Tex-Mex place

Honestly my idea of “I just want to sit down and order a beer and have it get here fast” perfection

Bonus: the folks at The Takeout interviewed some of their favorite brewers to find out what THEY liked to get when they’re feeling cheap and breezy. Their answers might surprise you!

The Builder’s Remorse

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 26, 2019

It’s nothing new for people who built tools to later have remorse when seeing those tools abused. Sometimes that remorse is world-historical, like with many of the scientists whose work led to the atom bomb. Sometimes, it’s something less than that, like the guy who built the retweet button for Twitter.

In the retweet button’s case, this guy is named Chris Wetherell. He’s also responsible for leading the team that built Google Reader. This is usually posed as an irony: the guy who built a thing that’s now loathed and everywhere (the retweet) also built the thing that’s beloved after its death. But to me, it’s not so ironic.

See, what Wetherell did in both cases was less invent something from whole cloth than adapt a user behavior (manual retweets and RSS readers) into part of a corporate product. In both case, the corporate versions of each were so successful that they crowded out the original forms of user behavior. The retweet got lucrative but ugly, the RSS reader enabled all new kinds of connections, but grew costly. The retweet lived and Reader died, but the underlying pattern was the same; once it was handed over to the corporation, everyone lost control.

And I think you can argue that there’s a parallel here too with the atom bomb folks. Few of them were upset that the structure of the universe works the way their theories predicted. What terrified them was putting the tremendous power inherent in the structure of the universe at the behest of the state.

This is the builder’s remorse. Not that you invented a thing, not that the consequences were unforeseen. It’s that you gave the thing to a power structure where things were overwhelmingly likely to end in ruin. You gave the power to people who don’t care about what you claim to care about. And that problem, because of the nature and structure of money and power, is extremely hard to avoid.

Chuck Klosterman On How He Chooses Books To Read

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 26, 2019

I superficially resemble Chuck Klosterman — we’re redheaded dudes with glasses and beards — but wouldn’t call myself a fan. I’ve enjoyed his writing from time to time as it’s popped up from here to there, but I’ve never read any of his books, nor am I particularly pressed to. It’s okay. He’s doing fine.

What I am struck by in this interview is the criteria Klosterman poses for liking writers and choosing their books. There’s two parts to it. Here it goes.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

This is an odd answer, but when I think about writers I “admire,” it has almost nothing to do with their books. It has more to do with how they manage their life. Writing seems to attract a lot of psychologically unhinged people, so I’m always impressed with authors who are able to view their career accurately, who are able to reconcile the inherent dissonance between commercial and critical success, and who seem to enjoy the process of writing without cannibalizing every other aspect of their existence in order to get it done. Jonathan Lethem seems like this kind of guy. George Saunders. Maria Semple. It’s possible, of course, that these writers aren’t the way they appear on the surface, and maybe if I knew them intimately I’d conclude they were all crazy. But then again, not seeming like a self-absorbed sociopath is 75 percent of the way to actually being a normal person.

Whose opinion on books do you most trust?

Part-time bookstore employees and research librarians. They have no agenda and plenty of free time. The research librarians are especially good, because they don’t even care if their suggestions make them seem cool.

1) What’s weird is we spent the better part of the twentieth century enshrining genius sociopaths at the top of the author pile. Some of this was necessary pushback against 19th century criticism that tended to be overly moralizing, equating the goodness of an author with the naively perceived goodness of their personal lives. But I wonder now whether we’re swinging back to that, by way of politics an everything else. Good writers should first and foremost be good people. Or at least, in Klosterman’s formulation, reasonably normal people.

2) This might be the most interesting piece of it for me. Librarians and bookstore employees. It makes a good deal of sense; they are the people who are closest to the books. But it also makes me wonder: whose opinion do you trust most when it comes to books? Friends? Critics? Publishers? Academics? Who’s got your number?

“I Am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I Am a Woman, and I Am Fast.”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2019

Caster Semenya

For Out magazine, Michelle Garcia profiles track star Caster Semenya.

Immediately after that mind-blowing 800-meter final at the 2009 World Championships, some of Semenya’s fellow competitors went for the jugular. Italy’s Elisa Cusma Piccione (sixth place) insisted she was a man. Russia’s Mariya Savinova (fifth place) urged journalists to “just look at her.” Other athletes whispered, stared, and laughed at her. Then came the IAAF.

Initially, the questions about her drastic improvement were linked to suspicions of doping. When those tests came back negative, she was subjected to rounds of gender testing, reportedly involving analysis by an endocrinologist, a psychologist, a gender expert, an internist; most humiliating was a gynecological exam that included photographing her genitals while her feet were in stirrups. Eventually she was cleared to compete on the international circuit again but not before she missed nearly a year of competition during the IAAF’s deliberation over her test results.

The dirty secret here is that gender testing is common for women athletes — and yes, only women athletes.

I get why this is happening to Semenya — sexism, racism, bureaucracy — but it’s just so fucking ridiculous. Fundamentally, elite athletes are physically and mentally gifted outliers. Like, that’s the definition. They are amazing & marvelous freaks of nature. Their minds and muscles and chemicals and limbs are just hooked up differently from the rest of us. But you didn’t see Michael Phelps being sanctioned for his long arms, Usain Bolt for his height, Bjørn Dæhlie for his VO2 Max, or any number of championship male athletes for their abundant natural testosterone. Semenya is essentially being banned for being better than everyone else…as if that isn’t the goal of athletics.

See also Ariel Levy’s 2009 New Yorker profile of Semenya.

Photos from Opening Day at Disneyland in 1955

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

Alan Taylor of In Focus has curated a selection of photos taken during the first few days after Disneyland was opened to the public in July 1955.

Disneyland 1955

Disneyland 1955

Disneyland 1955

Whaaaat the hell is up with Mickey and Minnie’s faces in that last photo? Maybe that’s what the kids in the top photo are running away from in terror?

A Fresh Guide To Florence With Fab 5 Freddy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

Music pioneer Fab 5 Freddy is most well-known for hosting the seminal Yo! MTV Raps, but his earliest public attention came because of his art.

In the late 1970s, Freddy became a member of the Brooklyn-based graffiti group the Fabulous 5, known for painting the entire side of New York City Subway cars. Along with other Fabulous 5 member Lee Quiñones, under his direction they began to shift from street graffiti to transition into the art world and in 1979 they both exhibited in a prestigious gallery in Rome Italy, Galleria LaMedusa. In 1980, he painted a subway train with cartoon style depictions of giant Campbell’s Soup cans, after Andy Warhol.

Freddy is back on the art scene as the host of a BBC2 documentary, A Fresh Guide To Florence With Fab 5 Freddy.

Hip hop pioneer Fred Brathwaite — aka Fab 5 Freddy — goes on a quest to uncover the hidden black figures of Italian Renaissance art. “Not only were Renaissance artists making art that defined high aesthetic ideals, but they were also groundbreaking in showing an ethnically diverse, racially mixed Italy in the 15th and 16th century. You just have to look at the art.”

Pairing a hip hop legend with Renaissance art might seem like a bit of a stretch, but NYC in the 70s and 80s was a place that a curious kid could get into all sorts of things: hip hop, graffiti, and Caravaggio.

“When I was a kid,” he says, “I would cut school to travel around Manhattan museums.” The Metropolitan was his favourite because of its lax entry policy. “I would show up and toss a nickel in the admissions box then spend a day in fantasy land, going from English armour to Renaissance paintings, pop art to expressionism.”

It was an unusual interest, not one he could share with “the kids on the corner from the hood”. But it sparked his own artistic career as a subway graffiti artist and led to a lasting bond with Basquiat, who he met as a teenager. “He would spend a lot of his childhood at the Brooklyn Museum just as I did at the Met,” he says. “Finally, there was someone I could talk to about Caravaggio and Rothko. We were both so impressed with the radical nature of modernist manifestos like futurism. They gave us — two young, black kids — the capacity to articulate what we wanted to say.”

There doesn’t seem to be a trailer or any clips available online and I don’t know if this will be released in the US at all, but I would love to see this show up on Netflix or Amazon at some point.

See also Susan Orlean’s 1991 profile of Fab 5 Freddy for the New Yorker.

The Story Format Leaps from Instagram to Big Media

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

I know this probably isn’t brand new, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a few articles published by big media companies that are influenced by the design of Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Just to be clear, these aren’t published on Instagram (that’s been going on for years); they are published on media sites but are designed to look and work like Instagram Stories. The first one I noticed was this NY Times piece on Guantanamo Bay.

Media Stories

You can see the Instagram-style progress meter at the top. And then there’s Curbed’s The Ultimate Guide to Googie, where the progress meter is indicated more playfully by the little car at the bottom (it even switches directions based on whether you’re paging forward or back through the story). Curbed EIC Kelsey Keith says it was built using “Vox Media’s new custom storytelling kit tool”.

Media Stories

The third piece I can’t find again — I think it was a WSJ or Washington post article — but it too was influenced by the Stories format.

It’s a good move for these companies. Snap & Instagram have worked hard to pioneer and promote this format, it’s perfectly designed for mobile, and people (especially younger folks) know how to use it. Nominally, these articles are just slideshows, a format that online media companies have been using forever. But I’d argue there are some important differentiators that point to the clear influence of Instagram and to this being a newish trend:

1. The presentation is edge to edge with full-frame photos and auto-playing videos.

2. There’s no “chrome” as there would be around a slideshow and minimal indication of controls.

3. They read best on mobile devices in portrait mode.

4. The display of progress meters.

5. Navigation by swiping or tapping on the far left or right sides of the screen, especially on mobile.

Have you seen any other examples of media companies borrowing the Stories design from Instagram?

Update: Various media outlets are using Google’s AMP Stories to make these. You can see examples on CNN, the Atlantic, and Wired.

Media Stories

This is likely what my mystery third story was built with. (via @adamvanlente)

Archaeology of the 99%

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2019

Archaeologists are increasingly looking past the splashy artifacts of ancient elites to seek & find the dwellings and possessions of commoners. For Knowable Magazine (good title), Bob Holmes talked to retired archaeologist Jeremy Sabloff about the Archaeology of the 99%.

Archaeology frequently focused on big buildings and objects owned by elites because they were easier to find and more durable & abundant (elites had money to spend on nice things). But it was also a question of where the funding came from:

Before World War II, archaeological research was funded mostly by museums or wealthy individuals or foundations. They wanted spectacular finds — temples and palaces, not the remains of perishable structures of everyday life. They wanted royal burials, such as King Tut’s tomb, the royal treasures of Ur, great sculpture, murals, beautiful pottery, jade, what have you. They were looking for materials that they could bring back and display in museums.

Then a shift happened:

The makeup of the field changed significantly after World War II, and its practitioners became much more middle class. One reason is there were a lot more jobs available, particularly at state universities. And you started to be able to get grants for fieldwork that wasn’t based on looking for objects or spectacular finds.

And new technology has helped as well:

The richer picture we’re getting of the 100 percent is aided by tools that archaeologists 50 years ago just didn’t have available. In terms of settlement-pattern mapping, one of the huge technical breakthroughs in recent years is remote sensing, particularly LIDAR, where low-flying aircraft or drones send down laser beams and you can see the ground without the trees. You can see stone courses. You can see the remains of houses, causeways, roads, defensive fortifications. That’s going to make the mapping of sites much simpler, particularly in difficult situations like tropical rainforest or a heavily wooded area. We’re able to cover much bigger areas with much greater detail and accuracy than ever before.

I am reading Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome right now and in the first chapter she touches on what we know about ordinary Romans:

The reasons why we can tell this story in such detail are very simple: the Romans themselves wrote a great deal about it, and a lot of what they wrote has survived. Modern historians often lament how little we can know about some aspects of the ancient world. ‘Just think of what we don’t know about the lives of the poor,’ they complain, ‘or of the perspectives of women.’ This is as anachronistic as it is deceptive. The writers of Roman literature were almost exclusively male; or, at least, very few works by women have come down to us (the autobiography of the emperor Nero’s mother, Agrippina, must count as one of the saddest losses of classical literature). These men were also almost exclusively well off, even though some Roman poets did like to pretend, as poets still occasionally do, that they were starving in garrets. The complaints, however, miss a far more important point.

The single most extraordinary fact about the Roman world is that so much of what the Romans wrote has survived, over two millennia. We have their poetry, letters, essays, speeches and histories, to which I have already referred, but also novels, geographies, satires and reams and reams of technical writing on everything from water engineering to medicine and disease. The survival is largely due to the diligence of medieval monks who transcribed by hand, again and again, what they believed were the most important, or useful, works of classical literature, with a significant but often forgotten contribution from medieval Islamic scholars who translated into Arabic some of the philosophy and scientific material. And thanks to archaeologists who have excavated papyri from the sands and the rubbish dumps of Egypt, wooden writing tablets from Roman military bases in the north of England and eloquent tombstones from all over the empire, we have glimpses of the life and letters of some rather more ordinary inhabitants of the Roman world. We have notes sent home, shopping lists, account books and last messages inscribed on graves. Even if this is a small proportion of what once existed, we have access to more Roman literature — and more Roman writing in general — than any one person could now thoroughly master in the course of a lifetime.

Climate Change Is a Humanitarian Crisis

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2019

From The New Humanitarian, a mid-year update on 10 humanitarian trends and crises to watch in 2019 (here’s their initial post). The #1 item on the list, deservedly so, is climate displacement:

Vulnerable communities around the world have long known what the aid sector is just beginning to articulate: climate change is a humanitarian issue, and its fingerprints are all over today’s emergencies.

Climate shocks and disasters continued to fuel displacement around the globe through the first half of the year, from tropical cyclones to slow-burning droughts. Pacific Island nations were on high alert early in the year as storm after storm swept through the region in quick succession. Conflict is as dangerous as ever in Afghanistan, yet the number of people displaced by drought and floods in recent months is on par with the numbers fleeing war. Drought has left 45 million in need in eastern, southern, and the Horn of Africa. This, along with conflict, has spurred new displacement in countries like Somalia, where at least 49,000 people have fled their homes so far this year, according to UNHCR. The UN’s refugee agency warns of “growing climate-related displacement” - a sign of the continuing shift in the aid sector as humanitarian-focused agencies increasingly underline the links between climate change and crises.

Our rapidly changing climate has either caused or exacerbated several of the other crises on the list — Syria, Ethiopia, infectious diseases, the global refugee population. This isn’t stuff that’s going to happen…it is happening, it has happened. And it’s going to get worse. (via tmn)

101 Things Changing How We Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2019

From the BBC, a list of the 101 people, ideas, and things changing how we work today. I pulled out a few of things I thought were interesting.

5G — So the whole 5G thing seems like a marketing gimmick to me, but I used its inclusion on this list to finally read about why anyone should care. From this PC Magazine article:

5G brings three new aspects to the table: greater speed (to move more data), lower latency (to be more responsive), and the ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices).

Ok, I get it now. Sounds good.

Adaptability quotient (AQ) — One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my adult life is that people have all sorts of different abilities that contribute to how “smart” they are, and most of those things have little to do with how well they did in school or what their IQ is.

The good news is that scientists agree AQ is not fixed — it can be developed. Theory U by Otto Scharmer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests three elements can help provide a framework: keeping an open mind, so you see the world with fresh eyes and remain open to possibilities; keeping an open heart, so you can try to see any situation through another person’s eyes; and keeping an open will, letting go of identity and ego to sit with the discomfort of the unknown.

The ‘FIRE’ (financial independence, retire early) movement — You obviously need a certain type of job (and likely a privileged background to obtain that job) to do this. And perhaps no children. Oh and maybe a social safety net…one significant medical issue and you can kiss your savings goodbye.

The ‘FIRE’ (financial independence, retire early) movement sees its adherents live as cheaply as possible in their 20s and 30s, squirreling enough money away to retire by middle age. These extreme savers are working longer hours to save up overtime payments while also spending less leisure time out of home to avoid costly activities.

Ghost work — Tech companies employ millions of people who are often underpaid & mistreated to do menial work.

Workers crowdsourced over the internet are paid below minimum wage to label data to train algorithms. Contractors at risk of immediate termination screen our social media feeds to keep them free of violence, hate speech and sexual exploitation. But a technology industry keen to portray itself as based on technical wizardry rather than human labour has kept its crucial contributions hidden, aided by automated workflows that treat humans as just another step in a computational pipeline.

Reverse mentoring — Mentors can and should be found anywhere, up and down the chain of wisdom and experience.

Mentoring used to mean older colleagues guiding younger workers up the career ladder. But the earliest adopters of new technologies are often young people, and so big names like Microsoft, Roche and Atkins have embraced reverse mentoring; harnessing young people to close knowledge gaps within organisations. Other benefits include promoting inclusion, increasing discussion across peer groups, and empowering future leaders.

Office farming — I am in favor of more plants in offices and more urban farms. Buildings in major cities should all have rooftop gardens.

With advances in hydroponics — growing plants in something other than soil — New York firm Kono Designs created an urban farm inside a nine-story office building in Tokyo that harvests over 280 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Tomato vines are suspended above conference tables, lemon and passionfruit trees are used as partitions for meeting spaces, salad leaves are grown inside seminar rooms and bean sprouts are grown under benches. With support from agricultural specialists, the employees assist in its daily upkeep that contribute to the preparation of ingredients served at its on-site cafeterias.

One 8-Second Sample Yields 800 Radically Different Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2019

Last year, music software company Ableton gave music producers a challenge: take an 8-second sample of audio and make a track out of it in just 12 hours. They received almost 800 submissions, which you can listen to here. At the company’s conference, three producers working under the same conditions debuted their tracks onstage and talked about their creative process; here’s a highlight reel:

Included in a blog post about the challenge are several playlists that show the common approaches to sampling, including the use of acoustic instruments, using the sample as texture, and of course using the sample as percussion.

While listening back to this huge volume of material we noticed something interesting; above and beyond each track’s individual sound and overall character, we were able to make out a few trends and tendencies in the ways that people were working with the source material. And so we’ve assembled a few playlists with prime examples of some of the main approaches we were hearing.

You can watch the entire panel here. And if you’d like to try your hand at making your own, the sample can be found here. (via digg)

The 100 Best Movies of the 2010s

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2019

Indiewire is early out of the gate with their list of the 100 best movies of the decade, betting that anything coming out in the next 5 months will not be worthy of inclusion. There are a few eyebrow raisers on there — 75. A Star Is Born? 26. Magic Mike XXL?? 5. Inside Llewyn Davis??? 2. Under the Skin?????!!? (reader, I didn’t like it) — but mostly this list is a goldmine for good movies I haven’t seen. Here are some that I have seen and enjoyed seeing on the list:

92. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
78. Inside Out
72. The Handmaiden
63. Inception
60. Black Panther
37. Roma
32. The Grand Budapest Hotel
23. O.J.: Made in America
13. The Tree of Life
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
7. Carol

I love that Fury Road made its way into the top 10…it might be my favorite film of the past decade.

Update: Also from Indiewire, the 25 Best Movie Scenes of the Decade.

Oh, and I thought of some films that definitely should be on that list but weren’t: Arrival, Dunkirk, Selma, Upstream Color, Senna. And I will continue to stubbornly go to bat for Cloud Atlas.

Trailer for Harriet, the Harriet Tubman Biopic

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

Harriet is a biopic about freedom fighter Harriet Tubman coming out in November. Tubman is played by Cynthia Erivo, who looked super familiar but I couldn’t place her…turns out I’d seen her in Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. Erivo is joined by fellow castmembers Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, and Clarke Peters.

Lovely Panoramic Paintings of US National Parks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

Berann Maps

Berann Maps

Heinrich C. Berann’s panoramic paintings of US National Parks aren’t just art and aren’t just maps but sit somewhere delightfully in the middle. The US National Park Park Service recently released ultra high-res scans of Berann’s parks panoramas for free download. You can read about the paintings at National Geographic.

Part of the appeal of Berann’s depictions of the national parks is that they look fairly realistic while at the same time greatly enhancing the landscapes in a number of ways. The end result is similar to what you might see from the window of a plane, and yet better than any possible real-world view, Patterson says.

Berann made sure all the important features of each park were visible in the scene. Sometimes this required some creative distortion. On the Yosemite National Park panorama below, for instance, Yosemite Valley is widened to allow all the rock formations, waterfalls, and man-made structures to be clearly seen. All of the valley’s iconic natural features are exaggerated, with Half Dome and El Capitan much taller than in real life, and the waterfalls significantly longer.

The NPS has many other high-resolution maps available for download here. Another good resource for downloadable maps is National Park Maps.

(As an aside, I got this link from Open Culture, who said they found it via Boing Boing. I clicked through to Boing Boing to see that they’d discovered the link from, uh, kottke.org? Perhaps from this link last year?)

Sony’s Proto-Walkman that Went to the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

50 years ago, the Sony TC-50 cassette player and recorder accompanied the Apollo 11 crew to the Moon and back. (Here’s what they listened to.) Ten years later, the company came out with the Walkman, the first portable cassette player that struck a chord with consumers. In this video, Mat of Techmoan shows us the TC-50 and shows how similar it is to the later Walkman. I found this video via Daring Fireball, where John Gruber remarked on the iterative nature of design: “You get to a breakthrough like the original iPhone one step at a time.”

Cars! What’s the Matter with Cars Today?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

I read four things recently that are all related in some way to our cities and how we get around in them.

1. Was the Automotive Era a Terrible Mistake? by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker. The subtitle is “For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.”

For years, I counted this inability to drive as one of many personal failures. More recently, I’ve wondered whether I performed an accidental kindness for the world. I am one of those Darth Vader pedestrians who loudly tailgate couples moving slowly up the sidewalk, and I’m sure that I would be a twit behind the wheel. Perhaps I was protected from a bad move by my own incompetence-one of those mercies which the universe often bestows on the young (who rarely appreciate the gift). In America today, there are more cars than drivers. Yet our investment in these vehicles has yielded dubious returns. Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years. The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war.

Every technology has costs, but lately we’ve had reason to question even cars’ putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?

2. This comment from the NY Times’ list of The Summer’s Hottest Takes on the amount of public space (and funds) that’s given to cars in our cities.

City street parking should be considered public space. The current setup is ridiculous: In front of millions of New Yorkers’ apartments, for one example, there are 9-by-18-foot plots of space, available to anyone in the city… if they have a car and want to leave it there. Less than half of the city’s residents own cars, and far fewer can lay claim to any kind of outdoor space. So from Fort Worth to Philadelphia, why not let people use these patches of cement for something they can actually enjoy? Let people set up a table with some food, a little grill, a folding table to sit at and enjoy the sun, and each other. Make space next to the sidewalk. Hatch 10,000 tiny little public spaces in cities that are starved for some life.

3. Why Am I Scared to Ride a Bike?, a comic by Vreni at The Nib.

Bike Safety

4. I Don’t Use Uber. Neither Should You. by Paris Marx, who says that “the tradeoffs are far too high for a little more convenience”.

A study of seven major U.S. metro areas from UC Davis showed that 91 percent of ride-hailing users didn’t make any changes to their car ownership status, and those that did made up for the reduced miles driven by taking more ride-hail trips. The researchers also found that 49 to 61 percent of all ride-hailing trips wouldn’t have been taken or would have used transit, cycling, or walking had ride-hailing not been an option. Another study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council put that number at 59 percent in Boston.

Those are key figures because they show that Uber, Lyft, and their competitors not only add car trips in urban centers, they also make existing trips less efficient by shifting them from transit or cycling into a car. This process makes traffic congestion worse because it places more vehicles on the road.

See also this recent post, America’s Cars Are Heavily Subsidized, Dangerous, and Mandatory.

What It Feels Like to Die from Heat Stroke

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

From Outside magazine, an article on what your body goes through and what it feels like to die from heat stroke. A perhaps unnecessary note: this gets intense and a little graphic.

There are two kinds of heatstroke: classic and exertional. Classic heatstroke hits the very young, the elderly, the overweight, and people suffering from chronic conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol and certain medications (diuretics, tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, and some cold and allergy remedies) can increase susceptibility as well. Classic heatstroke can strike in the quiet of upper-floor apartments with no air-conditioning.

Exertional heatstroke, on the other hand, pounces on the young and fit. Exercise drastically accelerates temperature rise. Marathon runners, cyclists, and other athletes sometimes push into what used to be known as the fever of exercise and is now called exercise-induced hyperthermia, where internal temperatures typically hit 100 to 104 degrees. Usually, there’s no lasting damage. But as body temperature climbs higher, the physiological response becomes more dramatic and the complications more profound. The higher temperature can ultimately trigger a cascading disaster of events as the metabolism, like a runaway nuclear reactor, races so fast and so hot that the body can’t cool itself down. A person careens toward organ failure, brain damage, and death.

It’s a sequel of sorts to this piece about what it feels like to freeze to death, which I vividly remember reading many years ago.

At 85 degrees, those freezing to death, in a strange, anguished paroxysm, often rip off their clothes. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical undressing, is common enough that urban hypothermia victims are sometimes initially diagnosed as victims of sexual assault. Though researchers are uncertain of the cause, the most logical explanation is that shortly before loss of consciousness, the constricted blood vessels near the body’s surface suddenly dilate and produce a sensation of extreme heat against the skin.

Abstract Aerial Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

The Andrews brothers travel the world taking overhead drone photos that they offer as prints on their site Abstract Aerial Art. I was especially struck by this photo of a container ship, whose shadow doubles as a graph of how tall each row’s containers are.

Abstract Aerial Art

Here are a couple of other favorites:

Abstract Aerial Art

Abstract Aerial Art

You can catch more of their work on Instagram. (via colossal)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

Well, this trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is our first look at Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers and, hmm. I dunno. Hanks looks a little stiff to me, unnatural, but maybe no one could actually play such a beloved childhood figure in a convincing way. I was so young when I watched his show every day for years on end that Mr. Rogers’ movements and mannerisms were imprinted on my super-plastic preschool brain, never to be forgotten. Mr. Rogers tossed his shoe between his hands a little bit differently every day, but he never tossed it like Hanks does in that trailer.

But who am I kidding, I will still see this movie. It’s based on Can You Say…Hero?, a piece that Tom Junod wrote about Rogers for Esquire magazine.

Mister Rogers weighed 143 pounds because he has weighed 143 pounds as long as he has been Mister Rogers, because once upon a time, around thirty-one years ago, Mister Rogers stepped on a scale, and the scale told him that Mister Rogers weighs 143 pounds. No, not that he weighed 143 pounds, but that he weighs 143 pounds…. And so, every day, Mister Rogers refuses to do anything that would make his weight change-he neither drinks, nor smokes, nor eats flesh of any kind, nor goes to bed late at night, nor sleeps late in the morning, nor even watches television-and every morning, when he swims, he steps on a scale in his bathing suit and his bathing cap and his goggles, and the scale tells him that he weighs 143 pounds. This has happened so many times that Mister Rogers has come to see that number as a gift, as a destiny fulfilled, because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three. ‘I love you.’ Isn’t that wonderful?”

If you’ve never read it, you should…it’s a lovely piece of writing about a wonderful human. I reread it every year or so, just to fill up my cup.

What Neil Armstrong Saw from His Window As He Landed on the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

I was away this weekend at a family function and mostly without internet access, so I didn’t get to watch the coverage of the Moon landing for the first time in more than a decade. I also didn’t get to share a bunch of links I had up in browser tabs and now I think everyone is (justifiably) tired of all the Apollo 11 hoopla, myself included. But I hope you’ll indulge me in just one more and then I’ll (maybe! hopefully!) shut up about it for another year.

It’s tough to narrow it down, but the most dramatic & harrowing part of the whole mission is when Neil Armstrong notices that the landing site the LM (call sign “Eagle”) is heading towards is no good — it’s too rocky and full of craters — so he guides the spacecraft over that area to a better landing spot. He does this despite never having flown the LM that way in training, with program alarms going off, with Mission Control not knowing what he’s doing (he doesn’t have time to tell them), and with very low fuel. Eagle had an estimated 15-20 seconds of fuel left when they touched down and the guy doing the fuel callouts at Mission Control was basically just estimating the remaining fuel in his head based on how much flying he thinks the LM had done…and again, the LM had never been flown like that before and Mission Control didn’t know what Armstrong was up to! (The 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast does an excellent job explaining this bit of the mission, episode 9 in particular.)

Throughout this sequence, there was a camera pointed out Buzz Aldrin’s window — you can see that video here — but that was a slightly different view from Armstrong’s. We’ve never seen what Armstrong saw to cause him to seek out a new landing site. Now, a team at NASA has simulated the view out of his window using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera:

The LROC team reconstructed the last three minutes of the landing trajectory (latitude, longitude, orientation, velocity, altitude) using landmark navigation and altitude call outs from the voice recording. From this trajectory information, and high resolution LROC NAC images and topography, we simulated what Armstrong saw in those final minutes as he guided the LM down to the surface of the Moon. As the video begins, Armstrong could see the aim point was on the rocky northeastern flank of West crater (190 meters diameter), causing him to take manual control and fly horizontally, searching for a safe landing spot. At the time, only Armstrong saw the hazard; he was too busy flying the LM to discuss the situation with mission control.

This reconstructed view was actually pretty close to the camera’s view out of Aldrin’s window:

See also a photograph of the Apollo 11 landing site taken by the LRO camera from a height of 15 miles.

The Spine-Tingling Trailer for Star Trek: Picard

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2019

Here I was, flying along fat, dumb, and happy (like my dad used to say), not really wanting or needing any more The Next Generation-era Star Trek or Jean-Luc Picard in my life and now this. How could I have been so mindless? This trailer got me so fired up for Star Trek: Picard — the Borg! Data in a drawer! a potty-mouthed Seven of Nine! — that I am practically levitating. Nostalgia is death — inject it directly into my veins.

Live TV Coverage of the Apollo 11 Landing and Moon Walk

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2019

Apollo 11 TV Coverage

You’ve heard by now that it’s the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon. On July 20, 1969, 50 years ago today, Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon and went for a little walk. For the 11th year in a row, you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk on a small B&W television, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser today, July 20th, and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT):

4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts
4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon

4:20:15 pm - 10:51:26 pm: Break in coverage

10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts
10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon
11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew
12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21)

Set an alarm on your phone or calendar!

This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done online…here’s what I wrote when I launched the project in 2009:

If you’ve never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I’ve watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I’m struck by two things: 1) how it’s almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth.

I wrote a bit last year about what to watch for during the landing sequence.

Two other things. You can also experience the landing and Moon walk live at Apollo 11 in Real Time. And it looks like CBS News is doing a livestream of Cronkite’s coverage of the landing on YouTube starting at 3:30pm. Nice to see them catching up! :)

Highlights from In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

You may know of Erik Larson from his excellent book on the 1893 World’s Fair, The Devil in the White City. Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin was published in 2011 and tells the story of William Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany, roughly from the time of his appointment in 1933 to the events of the Night of the Long Knives, the July 1934 purge that consolidated Adolf Hitler’s power.

Reading it, I couldn’t help but notice several parallels between what was happening in 1933 & 1934 as Hitler worked to establish an authoritarian government in Germany and some of the actions of our current government and its President here in the US. If you think that sort of statement is hyperbolic, I urge you to read on and remember that there was a time when Nazi Germany and its rulers seemed to its citizenry and to the world to be, sure, a little extreme in their methods, fiery in their rhetoric, and engaged in some small actions against certain groups of people, but ultimately harmless…until they weren’t and then it was too late to do anything.

Here’s everything I highlighted on my Kindle presented with some light commentary…much of it speaks for itself and the parallels are obvious. I apologize (slightly) for the length, but this book provided a very interesting look at the Nazi regime before they became the world’s canonical example of evil.

Page 19 (The practiced good cop/bad cop of the tyrant.):

And Hitler himself had begun to seem like a more temperate actor than might have been predicted given the violence that had swept Germany earlier in the year. On May 10, 1933, the Nazi Party burned unwelcome books — Einstein, Freud, the brothers Mann, and many others — in great pyres throughout Germany, but seven days later Hitler declared himself committed to peace and went so far as to pledge complete disarmament if other countries followed suit. The world swooned with relief.

Page 28 (There is much in the book about anti-Semitic attitudes in the US in the 1930s and the indifference to what was happening to the Jews in Germany.):

But Roosevelt understood that the political costs of any public condemnation of Nazi persecution or any obvious effort to ease the entry of Jews into America were likely to be immense, because American political discourse had framed the Jewish problem as an immigration problem. Germany’s persecution of Jews raised the specter of a vast influx of Jewish refugees at a time when America was reeling from the Depression. The isolationists added another dimension to the debate by insisting, as did Hitler’s government, that Nazi oppression of Germany’s Jews was a domestic German affair and thus none of America’s business.

Page 29 (After reading the book, I couldn’t help but think that if Japan had not bombed Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the US might not have entered the war against Germany and may have gone down an isolationist path that led towards fascism.):

Indeed, anti-immigration sentiment in America would remain strong into 1938, when a Fortune poll reported that some two-thirds of those surveyed favored keeping refugees out of the country.

Page 38:

When the conversation turned to Germany’s persecution of Jews, Colonel House urged Dodd to do all he could “to ameliorate Jewish sufferings” but added a caveat: “the Jews should not be allowed to dominate economic or intellectual life in Berlin as they have done for a long time. “In this, Colonel House expressed a sentiment pervasive in America, that Germany’s Jews were at least partly responsible for their own troubles.

Page 40 (This is in reference to Dodd’s daughter Martha, who was 24 when he was named ambassador and accompanied him to Berlin.):

She knew little of international politics and by her own admission did not appreciate the gravity of what was occurring in Germany. She saw Hitler as “a clown who looked like Charlie Chaplin.” Like many others in America at this time and elsewhere in the world, she could not imagine him lasting very long or being taken seriously.

Page 41:

In this she reflected the attitude of a surprising proportion of other Americans, as captured in the 1930s by practitioners of the then-emerging art of public-opinion polling. One poll found that 41 percent of those contacted believed Jews had “too much power in the United States”; another found that one-fifth wanted to “drive Jews out of the United States.” (A poll taken decades in the future, in 2009, would find that the total of Americans who believed Jews had too much power had shrunk to 13 percent.)

Page 54 (The “if it’s not happening to me, it must not be happening” response to injustice.):

When Martha left her hotel she witnessed no violence, saw no one cowering in fear, felt no oppression. The city was a delight.

Page 56 (Read more about Coordination):

Beneath the surface, however, Germany had undergone a rapid and sweeping revolution that reached deep into the fabric of daily life. It had occurred quietly and largely out of easy view. At its core was a government campaign called Gleichschaltung — meaning “Coordination” — to bring citizens, government ministries, universities, and cultural and social institutions in line with National Socialist beliefs and attitudes.

Page 56 (This paragraph, and the one that follows below, about “self-coordination” was one of the most chilling I read…I had to put the book down for a bit after this.):

“Coordination” occurred with astonishing speed, even in sectors of life not directly targeted by specific laws, as Germans willingly placed themselves under the sway of Nazi rule, a phenomenon that became known as Selbstgleichschaltung, or “self-coordination.” Change came to Germany so quickly and across such a wide front that German citizens who left the country for business or travel returned to find everything around them altered, as if they were characters in a horror movie who come back to find that people who once were their friends, clients, patients, and customers have become different in ways hard to discern.

Page 57:

The Gestapo’s reputation for omniscience and malevolence arose from a confluence of two phenomena: first, a political climate in which merely criticizing the government could get one arrested, and second, the existence of a populace eager not just to step in line and become coordinated but also to use Nazi sensitivities to satisfy individual needs and salve jealousies. One study of Nazi records found that of a sample of 213 denunciations, 37 percent arose not from heartfelt political belief but from private conflicts, with the trigger often breathtakingly trivial. In October 1933, for example, the clerk at a grocery store turned in a cranky customer who had stubbornly insisted on receiving three pfennigs in change. The clerk accused her of failure to pay taxes. Germans denounced one another with such gusto that senior Nazi officials urged the populace to be more discriminating as to what circumstances might justify a report to the police. Hitler himself acknowledged, in a remark to his minister of justice, “we are living at present in a sea of denunciations and human meanness.”

Page 58:

“Hardly anyone thought that the threats against the Jews were meant seriously,” wrote Carl Zuckmayer, a Jewish writer. “Even many Jews considered the savage anti-Semitic rantings of the Nazis merely a propaganda device, a line the Nazis would drop as soon as they won governmental power and were entrusted with public responsibilities.” Although a song popular among Storm Troopers bore the title “When Jewish Blood Spurts from My Knife,” by the time of the Dodds’ arrival violence against Jews had begun to wane. Incidents were sporadic, isolated. “It was easy to be reassured,” wrote historian John Dippel in a study of why many Jews decided to stay in Germany. “On the surface, much of daily life remained as it had been before Hitler came to power. Nazi attacks on the Jews were like summer thunderstorms that came and went quickly, leaving an eerie calm.”

Page 66 (LOL, a “moderate nationalist regime”):

Neurath saw himself as a sobering force in the government and believed he could help control Hitler and his party. As one peer put it, “He was trying to train the Nazis and turn them into really serviceable partners in a moderate nationalist regime.”

Page 68:

It was a problem Messersmith had noticed time and again. Those who lived in Germany and who paid attention understood that something fundamental had changed and that a darkness had settled over the landscape. Visitors failed to see it.

Page 81:

Dodd reinterated his commitment to objectivity and understanding in an August 12 letter to Roosevelt, in which he wrote that while he did not approve of Germany’s treatment of Jews or Hitler’s drive to restore the country’s military power, “fundamentally, I believe a people has a right to govern itself and that other peoples must exercise patience even when cruelties and injustices are done. Give men a chance to try their schemes.”

Page 84 (Yeah, where did all those nice houses come from?):

The Dodds found many properties to choose from, though at first they failed to ask themselves why so many grand old mansions were available for lease so fully and luxuriously furnished, with ornate tables and chairs, gleaming pianos, and rare vases, maps, and books still in place.

Page 85 (Dodd’s Jewish landlord, who lived in the attic, rented his house to Dodd at a significant discount to gain protection from state persecution of Jews.):

Panofsky was sufficiently wealthy that he did not need the income from the lease, but he had seen enough since Hitler’s appointment as chancellor to know that no Jew, no matter how prominent, was safe from Nazi persecution. He offered 27a to the new ambassador with the express intention of gaining for himself and his mother an enhanced level of physical protection, calculating that surely even the Storm Troopers would not risk the international outcry likely to arise from an attack on the house shared by the American ambassador.

Page 94 (Nazi forces would often beat people who failed to “Heil Hitler!”, even non-Germans. This order did not stop the beatings.):

The next day, Saturday, August 19, a senior government official notified Vice Consul Raymond Geist that an order had been issued to the SA and SS stating that foreigners were not expected to give or return the Hitler salute.

Page 97:

She too had been shaken by the episode, but she did not let it tarnish her overall view of the country and the revival of spirit caused by the Nazi revolution. “I tried in a self-conscious way to justify the action of the Nazis, to insist that we should not condemn without knowing the whole story.”

Page 105:

Messersmith met with Dodd and asked whether the time had come for the State Department to issue a definitive warning against travel in Germany. Such a warning, both men knew, would have a devastating effect on Nazi prestige. Dodd favored restraint. From the perspective of his role as ambassador, he found these attacks more nuisance than dire emergency and in fact tried whenever possible to limit press attention.

Page 108:

Göring too seemed a relatively benign character, at least as compared with Hitler. Sigrid Schultz found him the most tolerable of the senior Nazis because at least “you felt you could be in the same room with the man,” whereas Hitler, she said, “kind of turned my stomach.” One of the American embassy’s officers, John C. White, said years later, “I was always rather favorably impressed by Göring. … If any Nazi was likeable, I suppose he came nearest to it.”

Page 115:

Martha’s love life took a dark turn when she was introduced to Rudolf Diels, the young chief of the Gestapo. He moved with ease and confidence, yet unlike Putzi Hanfstaengl, who invaded a room, he entered unobtrusively, seeping in like a malevolent fog.

Page 117:

Yet under Diels the Gestapo played a complex role. In the weeks following Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, Diels’s Gestapo acted as a curb against a wave of violence by the SA, during which Storm Troopers dragged thousands of victims to their makeshift prisons. Diels led raids to close them and found prisoners in appalling conditions, beaten and garishly bruised, limbs broken, near starvation, “like a mass of inanimate clay,” he wrote, “absurd puppets with lifeless eyes, burning with fever, their bodies sagging.”

Page 118:

During a gathering of foreign correspondents at Putzi Hanfstaengl’s home, Diels told the reporters, “The value of the SA and the SS, seen from my viewpoint of inspector-general responsible for the suppression of subversive tendencies and activities, lies in the fact that they spread terror. That is a wholesome thing.”

Page 130 (“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou):

Dodd said, “You cannot expect world opinion of your conduct to moderate so long as eminent leaders like Hitler and Goebbels announce from platforms, as in Nuremberg, that all Jews must be wiped off the earth.”

Page 134 (“A kind of daily suspense” is definitely a tool in the political toolbox today. The news media practices this as well.):

Klemperer detected a certain “hysteria of language” in the new flood of decrees, alarms, and intimidation — “This perpetual threatening with the death penalty!” — and in strange, inexplicable episodes of paranoid excess, like the recent nationwide search. In all this Klemperer saw a deliberate effort to generate a kind of daily suspense, “copied from American cinema and thrillers,” that helped keep people in line. He also gauged it to be a manifestation of insecurity among those in power.

Page 135:

Persecution of Jews continued in ever more subtle and wide-ranging form as the process of Gleichschaltung advanced. In September the government established the Reich Chamber of Culture, under the control of Goebbels, to bring musicians, actors, painters, writers, reporters, and filmmakers into ideological and, especially, racial alignment. In early October the government enacted the Editorial Law, which banned Jews from employment by newspapers and publishers and was to take effect on January 1, 1934. No realm was too petty: The Ministry of Posts ruled that henceforth when trying to spell a word over the telephone a caller could no longer say “D as in David,” because “David” was a Jewish name. The caller had to use “Dora.” “Samuel” became “Siegfried.” And so forth.

Page 136 (George Messersmith was the head of the US Consulate in Germany from 1930 to 1934 and was one of the few people at the time who properly diagnosed the Nazi threat. In a 1933 letter to the US State Department, he called Hitler and his cronies “psychopathic cases” that would “ordinarily be receiving treatment somewhere”.):

Messersmith proposed that one solution might be “forcible intervention from the outside.” But he warned that such an action would have to come soon. “If there were intervention by other powers now, probably about half of the population would still look upon it as deliverance,” he wrote. “If it is delayed too long, such intervention might meet a practically united Germany.” One fact was certain, Messersmith believed: Germany now posed a real and grave threat to the world. He called it “the sore spot which may disturb our peace for years to come.”

Page 148 (On a speech Dodd gave in Berlin in October 1933 in front of an audience that included Joseph Goebbels.):

He gave the talk the innocuous title “Economic Nationalism.” By citing the rise and fall of Caesar and episodes from French, English, and U.S. history, Dodd sought to warn of the dangers “of arbitrary and minority” government without ever actually mentioning contemporary Germany. It was not the kind of thing a traditional diplomat might have undertaken, but Dodd saw it as simply fulfilling Roosevelt’s original mandate.

Page 149 (The reaction to Dodd’s speech):

“When the thing was over about every German present showed and expressed a kind of approval which revealed the thought: ‘You have said what all of us have been denied the right to say.’” An official of the Deutsche Bank called to express his own agreement. He told Dodd, “Silent, but anxious Germany, above all the business and University Germany, is entirely with you and most thankful that you are here and can say what we can not say.”

Page 154 (Hanfstaengl, a confidant of Hitler, tried to set up Hitler with Martha Dodd as a moderating influence.):

Putzi Hanfstaengl knew of Martha’s various romantic relationships, but by the fall of 1933 he had begun to imagine for her a new partner. Having come to feel that Hitler would be a much more reasonable leader if only he fell in love, Hanfstaengl appointed himself matchmaker.

Page 154 (Shocker that Hitler was controlling and abusive when it came to women.):

Hitler liked women, but more as stage decoration than as sources of intimacy and love. There had been talk of numerous liaisons, typically with women much younger than he — in one case a sixteen-year-old named Maria Reiter. One woman, Eva Braun, was twenty-three years his junior and had been an intermittent companion since 1929. So far, however, Hitler’s only all-consuming affair had been with his young niece, Geli Raubal. She was found shot to death in Hitler’s apartment, his revolver nearby. The most likely explanation was suicide, her means of escaping Hitler’s jealous and oppressive affection — his “clammy possessiveness, “as historian Ian Kershaw put it.

Page 157 (The banality of evil…):

Apart from his mustache and his eyes, the features of his face were indistinct and unimpressive, as if begun in clay but never fired. Recalling his first impression of Hitler, Hanfstaengl wrote, “Hitler looked like a suburban hairdresser on his day off.”

Page 159 (On Dodd’s meeting with Hitler):

Though the session had been difficult and strange, Dodd nonetheless left the chancellery feeling convinced that Hitler was sincere about wanting peace.

Page 159:

“We must keep in mind, I believe, that when Hitler says anything he for the moment convinces himself that it is true. He is basically sincere; but he is at the same time a fanatic.”

Page 161 (Martha Dodd met Hitler once briefly):

At this vantage, she wrote, the mustache “didn’t seem as ridiculous as it appeared in pictures — in fact, I scarcely noticed it.” What she did notice were his eyes. She had heard elsewhere that there was something piercing and intense about his gaze, and now, immediately, she understood. “Hitler’s eyes,” she wrote, “were startling and unforgettable — they seemed pale blue in color, were intense, unwavering, hypnotic.”

Page 165 (I didn’t highlight this, but at several points in the book, officials from the US and other countries acknowledged that they also had a “Jewish problem”, i.e. the Jews had too much power, money, and influence.):

Dodd believed that one artifact of past excess — “another curious hangover,” he told Phillips — was that his embassy had too many personnel, in particular, too many who were Jewish. “We have six or eight members of the ‘chosen race’ here who serve in most useful but conspicuous positions,” he wrote. Several were his best workers, he acknowledged, but he feared that their presence on his staff impaired the embassy’s relationship with Hitler’s government and thus impeded the day-to-day operation of the embassy.

Page 186 (Again with the belief that you can control an irrational & psychopathic nationalist.):

Papen was a protege of President Hindenburg, who affectionately called him Franzchen, or Little Franz. With Hindenburg in his camp, Papen and fellow intriguers had imagined they could control Hitler. “I have Hindenburg’s confidence,” Papen once crowed. “Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeak.” It was possibly the greatest miscalculation of the twentieth century. As historian John Wheeler-Bennett put it, “Not until they had riveted the fetters upon their own wrists did they realize who indeed was captive and who captor.”

Page 189 (Relevant to this are Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on lies. See also Donald Trump’s “fanciful thinking” about 9/11 and his continuing condemnation of the Central Park Five.):

An odd kind of fanciful thinking seemed to have bedazzled Germany, to the highest levels of government. Earlier in the year, for example, Göring had claimed with utter sobriety that three hundred German Americans had been murdered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia at the start of the past world war.

Page 213 (Subtle oppression is still oppression and sets the stage for the later acceptance of overt & violent oppression.):

But Schweitzer understood this was in large part an illusion. Overt violence against Jews did appear to have receded, but a more subtle oppression had settled in its place. “What our friend had failed to see from outward appearances is the tragedy that is befalling daily the job holders who are gradually losing their positions,” Schweitzer wrote. He gave the example of Berlin’s department stores, typically owned and staffed by Jews. “While on the one hand one can observe a Jewish department store crowded as usual with non-Jews and Jews alike, one can observe in the very next department store the total absence of a single Jewish employee.”

Page 223 (Even rumors are enough to change behavior when dealing with an authoritarian regime.):

A common story had begun to circulate: One man telephones another and in the course of their conversation happens to ask, “How is Uncle Adolf?” Soon afterward the secret police appear at his door and insist that he prove that he really does have an Uncle Adolf and that the question was not in fact a coded reference to Hitler. Germans grew reluctant to stay in communal ski lodges, fearing they might talk in their sleep. They postponed surgeries because of the lip-loosening effects of anesthetic.

Page 225:

You lingered at street corners a beat or two longer to see if the faces you saw at the last corner had now turned up at this one. In the most casual of circumstances you spoke carefully and paid attention to those around you in a way you never had before. Berliners came to practice what became known as “the German glance” — der deutsche Blick — a quick look in all directions when encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street.

Page 226:

An American professor who was a friend of the Dodds, Peter Olden, wrote to Dodd on January 30, 1934, to tell him he had received a message from his brother-in-law in Germany in which the man described a code he planned to use in all further correspondence. The word “rain,” in any context, would mean he had been placed in a concentration camp. The word “snow” would mean he was being tortured. “It seems absolutely unbelievable,” Olden told Dodd. “If you think that this is really something in the nature of a bad joke, I wonder if you could mention so in a letter to me.”

Page 229 (Hitler had been saying this shit since the 1920s and no one took him seriously.):

First Hitler spoke of broader matters. Germany, he declared, needed more room in which to expand, “more living space for our surplus population. “And Germany, he said, must be ready to take it. “The Western powers will never yield this vital space to us, “Hitler said.”That is why a series of decisive blows may become necessary - first in the West, and then in the East.”

Page 241 (A reminder that the US was also treating millions of people as second-class citizens at this time.):

After studying the resolution, Judge Moore concluded that it could only put Roosevelt “in an embarrassing position.” Moore explained: “If he declined to comply with the request, he would be subjected to considerable criticism. On the other hand, if he complied with it he would not only incur the resentment of the German Government, but might be involved in a very acrimonious discussion with that Government which conceivably might, for example, ask him to explain why the negroes of this country do not fully enjoy the right of suffrage; why the lynching of negroes in Senator Tydings’ State and other States is not prevented or severely punished; and how the anti-Semitic feeling in the United States, which unfortunately seems to be growing, is not checked.”

Page 265:

He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small bag of candy fruit drops. Lutschbonbons. Bella had loved them as a child.” Have one,” Hanfstaengl said. “They are made especially for the Führer.” She chose one. Just before she popped it into her mouth she saw that it was embossed with a swastika. Even fruit drops had been “coordinated.”

Page 270 (Wow, “inner emigration”.):

In the months following Hitler’s ascension to chancellor, the German writers who were not outright Nazis had quickly divided into two camps — those who believed it was immoral to remain in Germany and those who felt the best strategy was to stay put, recede as much as possible from the world, and wait for the collapse of the Hitler regime. The latter approach became known as “inner emigration,” and was the path Fallada had chosen.

Page 273:

Even so, Fallada made more and more concessions, eventually allowing Goebbels to script the ending of his next novel, Iron Gustav, which depicted the hardships of life during the past world war. Fallada saw this as a prudent concession. “I do not like grand gestures,” he wrote; “being slaughtered before the tyrant’s throne, senselessly, to the benefit of no one and to the detriment of my children, that is not my way.” He recognized, however, that his various capitulations took a toll on his writing. He wrote to his mother that he was not satisfied with his work. “I cannot act as I want to — if I want to stay alive. And so a fool gives less than he has.” Other writers, in exile, watched with disdain as Fallada and his fellow inner emigrants surrendered to government tastes and demands. Thomas Mann, who lived abroad throughout the Hitler years, later wrote their epitaph: “It may be superstitious belief, but in my eyes, any books which could be printed at all in Germany between 1933 and 1945 are worse than worthless and not objects one wishes to touch. A stench of blood and shame attaches to them. They should all be pulped.”

Page 279 (Nazi leaders had already begun using their power to amass opulent wealth.):

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Göring said, “in a few minutes you will witness a unique display of nature at work.” He gestured toward an iron cage. “In this cage is a powerful male bison, an animal almost unheard of on the Continent. … He will meet here, before your very eyes, the female of his species. Please be quiet and don’t be afraid.” Göring’s keepers opened the cage. “Ivan the Terrible,” Göring commanded, “I order you to leave the cage.” The bull did not move. Göring repeated his command. Once again the bull ignored him. The keepers now attempted to prod Ivan into action. The photographers readied themselves for the lustful charge certain to ensue. Britain’s Ambassador Phipps wrote in his diary that the bull emerged from the cage “with the utmost reluctance, and, after eyeing the cows somewhat sadly, tried to return to it.” Phipps also described the affair in a later memorandum to London that became famous within the British foreign office as “the bison dispatch.”

Page 282:

The next day Phipps wrote about Göring’s open house in his diary. “The whole proceedings were so strange as at times to convey a feeling of unreality,” he wrote, but the episode had provided him a valuable if unsettling insight into the nature of Nazi rule. “The chief impression was that of the most pathetic naivete of General Göring, who showed us his toys like a big, fat, spoilt child: his primeval woods, his bison and birds, his shooting-box and lake and bathing beach, his blond ‘private secretary,’ his wife’s mausoleum and swans and sarsen stones. … And then I remembered there were other toys, less innocent though winged, and these might some day be launched on their murderous mission in the same childlike spirit and with the same childlike glee.”

Page 306 (during the aforementioned Night of the Long Knives purge):

In Munich, Hitler read through a list of the prisoners and marked an “X” next to six names. He ordered all six shot immediately. An SS squad did so, telling the men just before firing, “You have been condemned to death by the Führer! Heil Hitler.” The ever-obliging Rudolf Hess offered to shoot Röhm himself, but Hitler did not yet order his death. For the moment, even he found the idea of killing a longtime friend to be abhorrent.

Page 321 (in the aftermath of the purge):

As the weekend progressed, the Dodds learned that a new phrase was making the rounds in Berlin, to be deployed upon encountering a friend or acquaintance on the street, ideally with a sardonic lift of one eyebrow: “Lebst du noch?” Which meant, “Are you still among the living?”

Page 328:

Throughout that first year in Germany, Dodd had been struck again and again by the strange indifference to atrocity that had settled over the nation, the willingness of the populace and of the moderate elements in the government to accept each new oppressive decree, each new act of violence, without protest. It was as if he had entered the dark forest of a fairy tale where all the rules of right and wrong were upended.

Page 333:

Hitler’s purge would become known as “The Night of the Long Knives” and in time would be considered one of the most important episodes in his ascent, the first act in the great tragedy of appeasement. Initially, however, its significance was lost. No government recalled its ambassador or filed a protest; the populace did not rise in revulsion.

Page 334 (Hitler cracked down on the Storm Troopers because their leadership was against him, but their doing of bad deeds were soon replaced by the SS.):

The controlled press, not surprisingly, praised Hitler for his decisive behavior, and among the public his popularity soared. So weary had Germans become of the Storm Troopers’ intrusions in their lives that the purge seemed like a godsend. An intelligence report from the exiled Social Democrats found that many Germans were “extolling Hitler for his ruthless determination” and that many in the working class “have also become enslaved to the uncritical deification of Hitler.”

Page 336 (on the good treatment of horses in Germany):

“At a time when hundreds of men have been put to death without trial or any sort of evidence of guilt, and when the population literally trembles with fear, animals have rights guaranteed them which men and women cannot think of expecting.”

Page 340 (Dodd eventually came to see the danger of Nazi Germany):

He became one of the few voices in U.S. government to warn of the true ambitions of Hitler and the dangers of America’s isolationist stance. He told Secretary Hull in a letter dated August 30, 1934, “With Germany united as it has never before been, there is feverish arming and drilling of 1,500,000 men, all of whom are taught every day to believe that continental Europe must be subordinated to them.” He added, “I think we must abandon our so-called isolation.” He wrote to the army chief of staff, Douglas MacArthur, “In my judgment, the German authorities are preparing for a great continental struggle. There is ample evidence. It is only a question of time.”

Page 351:

Dodd’s sorrow and loneliness took a toll on his already fragile health, but still he pressed on and gave lectures around the country, in Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, and Ohio, always reprising the same themes — that Hitler and Nazism posed a great risk to the world, that a European war was inevitable, and that once war began the United States would find it impossible to remain aloof. One lecture drew an audience of seven thousand people. In a June 10, 1938, speech in Boston, at the Harvard Club — that den of privilege — Dodd talked of Hitler’s hatred of Jews and warned that his true intent was “to kill them all.”

Dodd died in February 1940. He lived long enough to witness the start of Hitler’s war on Europe but not long enough to see America’s isolationist come to an end or Hitler’s attempt to kill all the Jews.

Winners of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

Audubon 2019 01

Audubon 2019 02

Audubon 2019 03

The National Audubon Society has announced the winners of the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards competition. Photo credits from top to bottom: Kathrin Swoboda, Kevin Ebi, Shari McCollough. Here’s Swoboda describing how she got her amazing shot of a red-winged blackbird blowing smoke rings:

I visit this park near my home to photograph blackbirds on cold mornings, often aiming to capture the “smoke rings” that form from their breath as they sing out. On this occasion, I arrived early on a frigid day and heard the cry of the blackbirds all around the boardwalk. This particular bird was very vociferous, singing long and hard. I looked to set it against the dark background of the forest, shooting to the east as the sun rose over the trees, backlighting the vapor.

Ebi shared some of his other photos of the eagle stealing a rabbit from a fox in this blog post.

You can see the Audubon’s longlist of 100 images here. Birds are awesome! (via in focus)

Neil and Buzz Barely Got Out of the Infield

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

Apollo 11 Baseball

With the 50th anniversary of the first crewed landing on the Moon fast approaching, I thought I’d share one of my favorite views of the Moon walk, a map of where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, superimposed over a baseball field (bigger). The Lunar Module is parked on the pitcher’s mound and you can see where the two astronauts walked, set up cameras, collected samples, and did experiments.

This map easily illustrates something you don’t get from watching video of the Moon walk: just how close the astronauts stayed to the LM and how small an area they covered during their 2 and 1/2 hours on the surface. The crew had spent 75+ hours flying 234,000 miles to the Moon and when they finally got out onto the surface, they barely left the infield! On his longest walk, Armstrong ventured into center field about 200 feet from the mound, not even far enough to reach the warning track in most major league parks. In fact, the length of Armstrong’s walk fell far short of the 363-foot length of the Saturn V rocket that carried him to the Moon and all of their activity could fit neatly into a soccer pitch (bigger):

Apollo 11 Soccer

Astronauts on subsequent missions ventured much further. The Apollo 12 crew ventured 600 feet from the LM on their second walk of the mission. The Apollo 14 crew walked almost a mile. After the Lunar Rover entered the mix, excursions up to 7 miles during EVAs that lasted for more than 7 hours at a time became common.

Disco’s Revenge: the Birth of House Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

In this episode of Earworm, Estelle Caswell and the gang explore the elements of a classic house track — the disco diva samples, the sounds of the Roland TR-909 drum machine, and pianos — and delve into the origins of house.

House has become one of the most popular forms of electronic music since its inception in the late 80’s. It began in Chicago, when local DJ’s and music producers experimented with remixing disco vocals over hard hitting drum machines. They would soon play a huge role in popularizing the sound and distinguishing house music as a global music genre.

The bit near the end about the influence on Chicago house music by Italian disco records was super interesting.

Video of the Complete Descent of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

The Apollo Flight Journal has put together a 20-minute video of the full descent and landing of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module containing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

The video combines data from the onboard computer for altitude and pitch angle, 16mm film that was shot throughout the descent at 6 frames per second. The audio recording is from two sources. The air/ground transmissions are on the left stereo channel and the mission control flight director loop is on the right channel. Subtitles are included to aid comprehension.

Reminder that you can follow along in sync with the entire Apollo 11 mission right up until their splashdown. I am also doing my presentation of Walter Cronkite’s CBS news coverage of the landing and the Moon walk again this year, starting at 4:10pm EDT on Saturday, July 20. Here’s the post I wrote about it last year for more details. (thx, david)

How Alfonso CuarĂ³n Uses Long Takes in His Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2019

Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has become the modern director most associated with the long take. In this video, The Royal Ocean Film Society takes a look at the long shots in his films, from Great Expectations to Gravity to Roma and considers how his approach evolves over time and what separates them from the use of long takes as “an obnoxious mainstream gimmick”.

All of the sequences discussed in the video are available to watch in full length here.

(I looked up Cuarón’s filmography and noticed he’s only directed 5 films in the past 20 years and only 8 total. I would have guessed more.)

Simulating Natural Selection

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2019

The YouTube channel Primer is running a series on evolution and how it works. Topics include mutations, selfish genes, and altruism in natural selection. The most popular video of the series is this one on the simulation of natural selection:

In it, you can see how different environments cause groups to tend towards certain traits (size, speed, sensing ability) based on food availability, with random mutation and reproduction in the mix as well. Seeing the populations’ traits change in realtime as the generations pass is a powerful way to make sense of a complex concept.

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2019

From the Book of Judith comes the tale of Judith beheading Holofernes.

In the story, Judith, a beautiful widow, is able to enter the tent of Holofernes because of his desire for her. Holofernes was an Assyrian general who was about to destroy Judith’s home, the city of Bethulia. Overcome with drink, he passes out and is decapitated by Judith; his head is taken away in a basket.

The story has been a rich vein for artists to explore throughout the centuries. Michelangelo worked it into the Sistine chapel, Botticelli & Rubens painted it, and Italian painter Caravaggio’s rendition is probably the most well-known:

Caravaggio Judith

In Lyta Gold and Brianna Rennix’s entertaining ranking of 10 paintings of Judith beheading Holofernes, they put the Caravaggio at #2, with the top slot going to a painter who worked a generation later, Artemisia Gentileschi:

Gentileschi Judith

As it was from a young age in her father’s studio, her mastery is readily apparent but some context is helpful to appreciate the painting more fully. Throughout her career, Gentileschi featured women, often from mythology or the Bible, as primary subjects with real agency in her paintings. But the story of Judith and Holofernes likely appealed to her for another reason as well. When she was 17 or 18, Gentileschi was raped by her painting instructor, Agostino Tassi. He was convicted at trial, with Gentileschi having to testify in detail about the assault and submitting to torture to ensure she was telling the truth:

During the trial, she was subjected to sibille, a process in which ropes were tied to her fingers and tightened progressively. The practice was meant to divine whether or not she was telling the truth. After seven months in court, the judged finally ruled in Gentileschi’s favor. Tassi was sentenced to five years in prison, but never actually served time.

There appears to be some scholarly disagreement about this, but many believe that Judith Slaying Holofernes, first painted around the time of the trial, was a self portrait, with Gentileschi painting herself as Judith and Tassi as Holofernes. More recently, some critics & historians have tried to draw emphasis away from her assault in the interpretation of this and other paintings, focusing on her growing proficiency and not her victimhood. Whatever her intent at the time, the painting stands as a powerful statement and the young artist was able to continue painting, eventually becoming one of the most famous and sought-after artists in Europe.

By the time Gentileschi made Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, she’d received perhaps the greatest honor bestowed upon the era’s painters: induction into the Accademia del Disegno. She was the first woman to receive the distinction and, according to the 2007 catalogue for the exhibition “Italian Women Artists: From Renaissance to Baroque,” it changed the course of her life.

With this badge of honor, Gentileschi could buy paints and supplies without a man’s permission, travel by herself, and even sign contracts. In other words, through painting, she had gained freedom. Gentileschi would go on to separate from her husband and live and work independently, primarily in Naples and London, for the rest of her life. All the while, she supported her two daughters, who also went on to become painters.

After her death, Gentileschi’s influence waned and her contributions were nearly forgotten. It was only in the 20th century that her work started to be recognized again. If you’d like to see Judith Slaying Holofernes in person, there are two copies of the painting. The earlier one, painted around the time of the trial, is housed at the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples:

Gentileschi Judith

A copy painted a decade later (the one shown above, with Judith in yellow) is on display at the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence.

Relax to the Sounds of Tibetan Singing Bowl Music

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 17, 2019

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you’re in need of some relaxing sounds, a meditative moment, or a chill work soundtrack, I recommend this 71-minute video of Tibetan singing bowl music.

See also Hours and Hours of Relaxing & Meditative Videos.

Green Screen Tattoos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

In order to create the illusion of motion, tattoo artists are creating tattoos with large green areas to use them as green screens for custom motion graphics. Watch the first five seconds of this video and you’ll get the gist:

(via @tedgioia)

A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

Watch, listen, and learn as pianist and composer Nahre Sol plays what you might think of as a very simple song, Happy Birthday, in 16 increasing levels of complexity. She starts out using a single finger and ends by playing an original composition that seemingly requires 12 or 13 fingers to play. This gave me, a musical dunce, a tiny glimpse into what a composer does.

Sol has a popular YouTube channel where she posts videos of her musical explorations, including Improvising in the Style of Different Classical Composers and The Blues, As Digested by a Classical Musician. (via open culture)

Rating vs Ranking and the Forced Scarcity of American Excellence

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

In an expanded version of his NY Times’ piece Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?, Alfie Kohn asks Can Everyone Be Excellent? In the piece, he criticizes our educational system’s practice of ranking students against each other instead of evaluating whether or not they’ve meaningfully improved or successfully learned anything.

But our little thought experiment uncovers a truth that extends well beyond what has been done to our schools in the name of “raising the bar” (a phrase, incidentally, that seems to have originated in the world of show horses). We have been taught to respond with suspicion whenever all members of a defined group are successful. That’s true even when we have no reason to believe that corners have been cut, or that the bar was suspiciously low. In America excellence is treated as an inherently scarce commodity.

Thus, rather than cheering when many people manage to do something well, we’re likely to dismiss that result as meaningless and maybe even mutter darkly about “falling standards” or “being content with mediocrity.” Success seems to matter only if it is attained by a few, and one way to ensure that outcome is to evaluate people (or schools, or companies, or countries) relative to each other. That way, even if everyone has done quite well, or improved over time, half will always fall below the median — and look like failures.

Kohn also touches on the competition inherent in our schools and youth sports:

Reframing excellence in competitive terms can’t be defended on the grounds that setting people against one another leads to improvement in their performance. Indeed, a surprisingly consistent body of social science evidence shows that competition tends to hold us back from doing our best - particularly in comparison with cooperation, in which people work with, not against, each other. Rather, excellence has been defined — for ideological reasons — as something that can’t be reached by everyone.

For the past year or so, my kids and I have been playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle. It’s a cooperative game where the players build up individual decks of cards to collectively defeat increasingly difficult villains. I was a bit skeptical of it at first — it seemed a little tedious — but all of us grew to love the collaborative aspect of it. Instead of each of us competing to figure out the best tactics to defeat one another, we’ve had to work together on the best strategies, with long discussions in particularly tough circumstances yielding some of the best lessons. We learned that sometimes the best play for the individual is not the best play for the team. We celebrated our successes and licked our wounds together. As a result, I feel like we all know the game inside and out, better than if we’d been playing a competitive game.

19th Century Chart of Cities’ Distances from Washington DC

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

DC distances

As you should know by now, I am a sucker for 19th century infographics. This “compendious chart” from the Library of Congress shows the distances and compass directions of about 1300 cities from the central point of Washington DC. You can zoom in on the chart to check out the detail:

DC distances

The map doesn’t say what the colors signify — there’s also a black & white version — but it was created in 1827 so perhaps they denote the three parts of the country at the time: yellow is the North, pink is the South, and green is the West.

25 Essential Artworks of the Past 50 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2019

The NY Times convened a group of curators and artists to decide on a list of the 25 artworks made since 1970 “that define the contemporary age”. At various times, the panelists objected to the futility of such an exercise, but eventually ended up with a list that’s highly subjective, grossly incomplete, and full of great work.

Essential Artworks

Essential Artworks

Essential Artworks

Nan Goldin, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Kara Walker all made the list. Jeff Koons is listed, somewhat reluctantly both by the panel and himself: “The artist did not grant permission for the named work to be published.”

Perhaps just as interesting as the artworks is the panelists’ discussion, a mini-tour of recent art history. Artist Martha Rosler said of Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”:

“A Subtlety” made lots of people furious because it was about the history of labor and sugar in a place that was already about to be gentrified. It was this gigantic, mammy-like, sphinxlike, female object, and then it had all these little melting children. “A Subtlety” is part of a very longstanding tradition that began in the Arab world that had to do with creating objects out of clay but also out of sugar. So it’s the impacted value of extractive mining, but it’s also the impacted value of the labor of slaves. And it’s also on the site where wage slavery had occurred — sugar work was the worst. The Domino Sugar factory was once owned by the Havemeyers, and Henry Havemeyer was one of the main donors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The sugar king was the art king. So it had all of these things — and then there’s the idea of all these people taking selfies in front of it. It was extremely brilliant without having to say a thing.

(via @sippey)

Character Routing Maps of Famous Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Illustrator Andrew DeGraff makes what he calls Cinemaps, maps of movies and their plots in the style of the dotted-line wanderings of The Family Circus comic strip or Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. He’s done maps for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Princess Bride.

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

My favorite DeGraff drawing is probably Back to the Future, with Hill Valley represented twice on the same page: 1955 in pink underneath 1985 in blue.

Cinemaps

DeGraff collected these maps (and several more) into a book called Cinemaps. (via fairly interesting)

The Highest Resolution MRI Scan of a Human Brain

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Brain High Res MRI

A team of researchers at the Laboratory for NeuroImaging of Coma and Consciousness have done an ultra-high resolution MRI scan of a human brain. The scan took 100 hours to complete and can distinguish objects as small as 0.1 millimeters across.

“We haven’t seen an entire brain like this,” says electrical engineer Priti Balchandani of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who was not involved in the study. “It’s definitely unprecedented.”

The scan shows brain structures such as the amygdala in vivid detail, a picture that might lead to a deeper understanding of how subtle changes in anatomy could relate to disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

This video above shows the scanned slices of the entire brain from side to side.

You can view/download the entire dataset of images here.

The Shining Starring Jim Carrey

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Taking advantage of inexpensive and easy-to-use software, deepfake artist Ctrl Shift Face has replaced Jack Nicholson’s face with Jim Carrey’s face in several scenes from The Shining. If you pay close attention it looks a little off — it’s not as good as the Bill Hader / Arnold Schwarzenegger one — but if you were unaware of Nicholson or The Shining going in, you probably wouldn’t notice.

These Shining videos are clever and fun and we’ve talked a little bit about how deepfakes might affect our society, but this Hannah Arendt quote from a 1974 interview is likely relevant:

If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

This is the incredible and interesting and dangerous thing about the combination of our current technology, the internet, and mass media: “a lying government” is no longer necessary — we’re doing it to ourselves and anyone with sufficient motivation will be able to take advantage of people without the capacity to think and judge.

Want to Buy a Bob Ross Painting? You Can’t. (And Here’s Why.)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

During the course of his television career, Bob Ross painted more than 1000 paintings. But you never see them for sale. You can buy Bob Ross paint sets and even a waffle maker that makes waffles that look like Bob Ross — “Pour in the batter, lower the lid, and before you know it, there’s Bob Ross ready for butter and syrup.” — but good luck buying one of his actual paintings. In this charming little video from the NY Times, we learn where all of Bob Ross’s paintings are, meet the paintings’ custodians, and discover why the art isn’t for sale.

In 1994, the talk show host Phil Donahue asked Mr. Ross to “say out loud your work will never hang in a museum.”

“Well, maybe it will,” Mr. Ross replied. “But probably not the Smithsonian.”

Some of Ross’s paintings can be viewed at The Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Every episode of The Joy of Painting can be viewed on YouTube or sometimes streaming on Twitch. I watched on Twitch for a couple minutes just now and was tickled to catch him saying one of his signature phrases: “happy little trees”.

Reading Krazy Kat in the Public Domain

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

1922-11-26-krazy-kat.jpg

Krazy Kat is a legendary comic strip by cartoonist George Herriman. It was published from 1913 to 1944. This means that some of the earliest strips are now in the public domain; all you need is to find a decent quality image.

Enter Joel Franusic, a Krazy Kat enthusiast who wrote up some code to scan newspaper archives, confirm that the images were indeed Krazy Kat comics, and download and present the images he found. Here’s Joel:

After becoming a little obsessed with Krazy Kat, I was very disappointed to see many of the books I wanted were incredibly expensive. For example “Krazy & Ignatz: The Complete Sunday Strips 1916-1924” was selling on Amazon for nearly $600 and “Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924: At Last My Drim Of Love Has Come True” was selling for nearly $90.

At some point, I realized that the copyright for many of the comics that I was looking for has expired and that these public domain comics were likely available in online newspaper archives.

So, driven a desire to obtain the “unobtainable” and mostly by curiosity to see if it was possible, I set out to see if I could find public domain Krazy Kat Sunday comics in online newspaper archives.

As you can see in the “Comics” section of this site, it is possible to find Krazy Kat comics in online newspaper archives and I’ve made all of the comics I could find viewable on this web page.

The most striking thing about these comics is their size: full and half pages of broadsheets. The second most striking thing, for this fan, at least, is the clear influence on Calvin and Hobbes, in style, pacing, and overall feel. It’s not the user-friendliest way to dive into a back catalog of comics, but it is a remarkable and remarkably fun project.

Only One of the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team Is a Mom. That’s Not An Accident.

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Jessica McDonald.jpg

It’s pretty well-known now that the US Women’s National Team for soccer is wildly underpaid, particularly relative to their male counterparts. But those low salaries also effect who gets to play on the team and how they live their lives. In the middle of an interview with Into the Gloss, Jessica McDonald explains how she makes it work.

I’m the only mom on the national team [USWNT]. And then amongst the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL], there are seven of us. It’s so hard, oh my God. The best way I can describe it is that it takes a lot of mental toughness. Of my career in the NWSL, I’ve only played one season where I wasn’t a mom. Trying to figure out a routine is probably the hardest thing, and because I got traded a lot, I had to find new babysitters and child care all the time. Child care in particular was very difficult, because it’s expensive and we don’t get paid much. If I put [my son] in a daycare, that’s my entire paycheck, you know?

It’s not as if this is a problem unique to championship-winning athletes, but come on. You’d like to think, in a semi-just world, the best of the best could afford day care.

Deflating the Black Director Boom of the 1990s

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 12, 2019

Dickerson.jpg

In the early 1990s, there was a mini-boom of films made by black filmmakers. Spike Lee and John Singleton led the way, but there was also Ernest Dickerson (who’d been Lee’s director of photography), Julie Dash, Matty Rich, Darnell Martin, and more. The New York Times talked to a good-sized group of these directors about their careers, and how each of them, separately, found themselves in “director jail,” unable to get new projects or find new collaborators. It’s a pretty riveting conversation.

Dickerson is a favorite of mine — in addition to directing Juice and working as DP during Lee’s great period, from She’s Got To Have It to Malcolm X, he’s done terrific work for television. Here’s his story:

I made a movie called “Bulletproof,” with Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler. Working on that film was the only time I ever got mad enough to punch a hole in the editing room wall. It was supposed to be a raunchy, R-rated comedy slanted more for an adult audience. But I could see we had trouble when they were giving out tickets to 15- to 16-year-old kids at the first preview. Afterward, I had to really sanitize the relationships. It meant savaging the movie.

It still opened at No. 1, but I got the worst reviews of my career. I was criticized for not having everything I was told to take out. I had several projects lined up — I had been developing “Blade,” with Wesley Snipes. The whole idea of where “Blade” went was mine. But the producers looked to “Bulletproof” and thought I had completely lost my street cred. After that, nobody would touch me. I think I’m still in jail, in a way, because I’m doing television. [Dickerson — like many of his peers, including Martin and Dash — has found work on the small screen, with credits on “The Wire” and “The Walking Dead.”] I consider myself a filmmaker who’s working in television.

A common thread through all of the stories is articulated by Ted Witcher:

White people get more bites of the apple. That’s just true. You can fail three, four times and still have a career. But if you’re black, you really can only fail once.

Favorite NYC Spots Lovingly Illustrated

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2019

Downtown Collective

Downtown Collective

The Downtown Collective is a project by illustrator Kelli Ercolano in which she is drawing & painting all of the NYC cafes, restaurants, and bars she’s fallen in love with. You can check out more of her work and process on Instagram.

The Possible Link Between Seasonal Allergies and Anxiety & Depression

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Olga Khazan on The Reason Anxious People Often Have Allergies:

“There is good circumstantial evidence that’s growing that a number of mental illnesses are associated with immune dysfunction,” says Sandro Galea, a physician and epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health.

If the link is in fact real, allergies could be causing anxiety and other mood disorders in a few different ways. For one, it’s stressful to be sick, and people with allergies frequently feel like they have a bad cold. The experience of straining to breathe, or of coughing and wheezing, could simply make people feel anxious.

Then there are biological explanations. Allergies trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can interfere with a feel-good brain chemical called serotonin. It’s not clear how the cortisol does this, Nanda says; it might inhibit the production of serotonin or make it fail to bind with its receptors properly. But when something goes wrong with serotonin, the theory goes, depression or anxiety might set in.

Huh. I definitely suffer from seasonal allergies (they have thankfully slacked off for the summer) and have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid (though I’ve never been clinically diagnosed). I’ll be following this research with interest.

A Small, Simple Hive Designed for Urban Beekeeping

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

B-box is a beehive designed for use in close proximity to humans, like near your house or in an urban environment. It does this by separating the honey part of the hive from the area where the bees live and limiting their access to the hive through an entrance more than seven feet above the ground. Check out this video for details:

The makers of the B-box are seeking funding for the project on Indiegogo. Very tempting! (via colossal)

Posters of STEM Role Models

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Stem Heroes

Stem Heroes

The folks behind the Nevertheless podcast commissioned a set of seven posters of STEM role models, people who have made significant contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The posters are free to download and print out in eight different languages (including English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese).

Climate Stripes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Using temperature data from around the world, climate scientist Ed Hawkins has built a tool for viewing the “climate stripes” for almost any location, a data visualization that represents the change in temperature over time over the past 100+ years. For most locations, the graphs shift from blues to oranges & reds as the climate warms, neatly illustrated by the global graph:

Climate Stripes

Here’s Vermont (where I live) and Arizona:

Climate Stripes

Climate Stripes

You can see there’s more variation on the regional level than globally. Check out the graph for Mississippi:

Climate Stripes

The warming patterns for particular regions are not going to be uniform…some places are actually forecast to get cooler and wetter rather than hotter and dryer. You can create and download your own climate stripes here…perhaps you can use it to make a global warming blanket. (via riondotnu)

The Atlas of Moons

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Atlas Of Moons

From National Geographic comes The Atlas of Moons, an interactive reference to all of the major moons in our solar system, from the Earth’s own moon to the Galilean moons of Jupiter to Charon, which forms a binary system with Pluto.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t fully aware that some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s major moons orbited their planets so quickly — Europa takes 3.6 days to complete an orbit, Io once every 1.8 days, and Mimas speeds around Saturn every 22.6 hours.

The Most Influential Black Americans in History

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2019

Influential Black Americans

The Undefeated has complied a list of some of the most influential black Americans — 44 African Americans Who Shook Up the World.

This is a list of The Undefeated 44, a collection of dreamers and doers, noisy geniuses and quiet innovators, record-breakers and symbols of pride and aspiration.

A dashing lawyer who redefined fearlessness and broke Jim Crow’s back. The most gravity-defying, emulated athlete the world has ever produced. A brilliant folklorist of fierce independence who was a proudly “outrageous woman.”

This is not a list of The Greatest African-Americans of All Time or The Most Influential Blacks in History. Or even The Dopest Brothers and Sisters Who Matter Most This Week. It is a list — fervently debated among our staff, chiseled and refined — of 44 blacks who shook up the world or at least their corner of it. We recognize that this is not a complete list of jaw-dropping black achievers; we know that such a list would never run out of names. Why limit ours to 44? It’s an homage to the first African-American president, whose own stunning accomplishment was something our mothers and grandfathers and great-grandmothers never thought they’d see in their lifetimes.

The list includes many household names like Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, and Jean-Michel Basquiat but also some lesser-celebrated people like Dr. Charles Drew:

After becoming the first African-American to get his doctorate from Columbia University in 1940, Drew was the world’s leading authority on blood transfusions and storage, just as the United States and Great Britain were becoming deeply involved in World War II. His research established protocols on how blood should be collected and refrigerated, how donors should be recruited and screened, and training methods for people who would collect and test blood.

As medical director of the American Red Cross National Blood Donor Service, Drew led the collection of tens of thousands of pints of blood for U.S. troops. Some historians say his work might have saved the world from Nazism, since battlefield blood storage and transfusions didn’t exist before he was asked to manage two of the largest blood banks during the war.

And Madam C.J. Walker:

As she traveled throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Central America, teaching her Walker System and training sales agents, she shared her personal story: her birth on the same plantation where her parents had been enslaved, her struggles as a young widow, her desperate poverty. If she could transform herself, so could they. In place of washtubs and cotton fields, Walker offered them beauty culture, education, financial freedom and confidence. “You have made it possible for a colored woman to make more money in a day selling your products than she could in a week working in white folks’ kitchens,” one agent wrote to her.

The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2019

Great Wave

Great Wave

Great Wave

One of the world’s great art masterpieces is Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print Kanagawa oki nami ura, popularly known as The Great Wave. Thousands of prints were made and some of the surviving copies made their way into museums & private collections. I’ve selected three of the highest resolution prints available for free download (from top to bottom):

Metropolitan Museum of Art (10 megapixels)
Library of Congress (51 megapixels)
Rijksmuseum (22 megapixels)

You can find many other versions using the Ukiyo-e Search site.

Douglas McCarthy recently wrote about The Great Wave and the various ways that museums choose to offer digital copies on their websites.

If we consider the customer journey of acquiring a digital image of ‘The Great Wave’ from our fourteen museums, a definite trend emerges — the more open the policy of a museum is, the easier it is to obtain its pictures.

Like the other open access institutions in our sample group, The Art Institute of Chicago’s collections website makes the process incredibly simple: clicking once on the download icon triggers the download of a high-resolution image.

In contrast, undertaking the same process on the British Museum’s website entails mandatory user registration and the submission of personal data.

(via @john_overholt)

Update: A few years ago, woodblock printmaker David Bull documented the process of making prints of The Great Wave in this great series of videos. Part of his process included a fascinating investigation of previous prints and trying to determine which of the many prints might be printed by the original printer. He shares bits and pieces of that investigation in the first three videos and also the eighth & tenth videos, in which he zeroes in on two candidates for original prints (the one at the Met shown above and the British Museum print) and concludes, controversially I would think, that one (and possibly both) of these prints was made as a knock-off, a forgery. After watching Bull’s explanation, it’s not at all difficult to think that perhaps very few prints made from the original blocks by the original printer exist today. (via @gregalor)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Conversation with Greta Thunberg

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2019

Aoc Thunberg

Late last month, US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and climate activist Greta Thunberg had a lengthy conversation over video chat about leadership, climate change, politics, and activism.

GT: Many people, especially in the US, see countries like Sweden or Norway or Finland as role models — we have such a clean energy sector, and so on. That may be true, but we are not role models. Sweden is one of the top 10 countries in the world when it comes to the highest ecological footprints, according to the WWF — if you count the consumer index, then we are among the worst per capita.

In Sweden, the most common argument that we shouldn’t act is that we are such a small country with only 10 million inhabitants — we should focus more on helping other countries. That is so incredibly frustrating, because why should we argue about who or what needs to change first? Why not take the leading role?

AOC: We hear the same exact argument here. And this is the United States of America! People say, “Well, we should wait for China to do something.” There’s this political culture of people trying to say America First — that the US is the best nation in the world, yet at the same time they’re saying, “Well, China’s not doing it, why should we?”

And I think it’s the same argument: are we going to choose to lead, or are we going to sit on our hands? It seems as if they take pride in leading on fracking, on being the number one in oil, in consumption, in single-use plastics. But they don’t seem to want to take pride in leading on the environment and leading for our children.

Early on in the conversation, they touched on something that’s always bothered me in news stories about or criticism of Thunberg: her age.

AOC: One of the things I’m interested in hearing from you is that often people say, “Don’t politicise young people.” It’s almost a taboo. That to have someone as young as you coming out in favour of political positions is manipulative or wrong. I find it very condescending, as though, especially in this day and age with the access to information we have, you can’t form your own opinions and advocate for yourself. I’m interested in how you approach that — if anyone brings that up with you?

GT: That happens all the time. That’s basically all I hear. The most common criticism I get is that I’m being manipulated and you shouldn’t use children in political ways, because that is abuse, and I can’t think for myself and so on. And I think that is so annoying! I’m also allowed to have a say — why shouldn’t I be able to form my own opinion and try to change people’s minds?

But I’m sure you hear that a lot, too; that you’re too young and too inexperienced. When I see all the hate you receive for that, I honestly can’t believe how you manage to stay so strong.

In disciplines as varied as academics, athletics, chess, and art, the achievements of young people are celebrated, but Thunberg expresses her ideas and opinions about how to address climate change and starts a massive movement of young people around the globe and suddenly 16 is too young to participate in our culture and political process? Bullshit.

Photo Requests from Solitary Confinement

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2019

Photo Requests from Solitary is a project that takes photo requests from prisoners being held in solitary confinement and invites volunteer photographers to make the images for them. For prisoners being tortured with long-term solitary stays, photos can be a lifeline to the outside world.

They spend at least 22 hours a day in a cell that measures on average of 6 x 9 feet, either in supermax prisons or in segregation units in other prisons and jails. Meals usually come through slots in the solid steel doors of their cells, as do any communications with prison staff. Exercise is usually alone, in a cage or concrete pen, for no more than one hour a day. People in solitary may be denied contact visits, telephone calls, television, reading materials, and art supplies.

The goal of PFRS is to fulfill each request to exact specifications for the person who requested it, with images that — through some combination of form, content, composition, design, and/or sheer commitment — are compelling enough that someone would want to return to them for repeated viewing. (People in solitary are sharply limited in the numbers of photographs they can have, so every image is important.)

An inmate named Sergio requested:

I would like a picture of the Mexican flag at sunrise, at the Zocalo, in the capitol of Mexico City; while the sun is rising and it hits the Mexican flag un-furled, with the Zocalo in the foreground.

And photographer Nica Ross delivered this image:

Solitary Photos

Another inmate, Dan requested:

I would like a photograph of a female in black leather pants with the same material stitches but a different color like hot pink all which that can define her figures with a setting of orange and blue in the sky posted up next to a benz (powder blue) in a park black female with hazel eyes.

A photographer named Jason Altaan submitted this:

Solitary Photos

David requested:

My photo request is simple, yet, very poignant for me. I’d very much appreciate any photos of fallen autumn leaves. I have no particular preference of area or location; just any scene focusing on the beauty of autumn leaves, (which, as you know, we do not have access to in the concrete box that is deemed as “yard” here.)

Several photographers responded, including Gerard Gaskin:

Solitary Photos

If you look at the site, there are currently many more unfilled requests than requests with submissions. Current requests include “first lady Michelle Obama planting vegetables in the White House garden”, “police being arrested by regular citizens”, “sunrise over the Sahara”, “beautiful women laughing and playing volley ball on the beach in ‘free Raul’ t-shirts”, and “wise old man with an angry expression”. Submitting a photo is easy…you can upload right from the website.

Doreen St. Félix wrote more about the project for the New Yorker.

The Korean Invention of the Printing Press, Almost 200 Years Before Gutenberg

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

Jikji

M. Sophia Newman writing for Literary Hub: So, Gutenberg Didn’t Actually Invent the Printing Press.

It is important to recognize what this means. The innovation that Johannes Gutenberg is said to have created was small metal pieces with raised backwards letters, arranged in a frame, coated with ink, and pressed to a piece of paper, which allowed books to be printed more quickly. But Choe Yun-ui did that — and he did it 150 years before Gutenberg was even born.

This piece is also a good reminder that the spread of technology (and culture) depends on more than just how useful it is.

However, Korea’s printed books did not spread at a rapid pace, as Gutenberg’s books would 200 years later. Notably, Korea was under invasion, which hampered their ability to disseminate their innovation. In addition, Korean writing, then based closely on Chinese, used a large number of different characters, which made creating the metal pieces and assembling them into pages a slow process. Most importantly, Goryeo rulers intended most of its printing projects for the use of the nobility alone.

The image at the top of the post is of Jikji, the oldest existing book printed with movable metal type, made in 1377.

Christopher Walken Can Dance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

This is an older clip so maybe you’ve seen it before, but if you need something a little bit fun & joyful today, you can’t do much better than this video of Christopher Walken dancing in dozens of his movies, edited together to C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat”.

Walken is, of course, a wonderful dancer…a throwback to the “Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, dance on air” era of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. See also Walken dancing in Spike Jonze’s video for Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice.

The Simpsons Intro Reimagined as a Russian Art Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

The Simpsons has never exactly portrayed its characters in a flattering light, but this version of the show’s title sequence reimagined as a Russian art film by Lenivko Kvadratjić is downright depressing. (via bb)

The Forgotten Women Pioneers of Rock & Roll

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

Women in Rock & Roll’s First Wave is a project by Leah Branstetter that uncovers and highlights the women who pioneered rock & roll in the 50s.

For sixty years, conventional wisdom has told us that women generally did not perform rock and roll during the 1950s.

In every decade, you can find someone commenting on the absence of women on the charts during rock and roll’s heyday. Others note that women during that era were typically not so inclined to a wild, raucous style.

The reality is, however, that hundreds — or maybe thousands — of women and girls performed and recorded rock and roll in its early years.

And many more participated in other ways: writing songs, owning or working for record labels, working as session or touring musicians, designing stage wear, dancing, or managing talent — to give just a few examples.

Meet, for instance, Laura Lee Perkins.

Perkins cut several sides there, where she was backed by the same band that accompanied Ricky Nelson (she was thrilled that she also got to meet Nelson). The label did some publicity for her — though they appeared to have listed her under several different stage names — and apparently tried to bill her as the “female Jerry Lee Lewis” because of her skill at the piano. Perkins returned to Cleveland, where she had difficulty promoting her recordings. She recalls that being single and working as a waitress, she couldn’t muster the payola required to break through in some markets. She would play record hops where she would lip sync to her Imperial sides. Some of the other acts at the hops she played included Connie Francis, the Everly Brothers, and Fabian.

And Ruth Brown:

Ruth Brown

Brown’s success for Atlantic was such that the label has famously been called “the House that Ruth Built.” She would eventually cut more than one hundred sides for the label. Initially, Brown recorded mainly ballads and jazz standards. Her first #1 R&B hit, “Teardrops from My Eyes,” marked a firm turn in her style toward the “hot” rhythmic style for which she became famous. Hits including “5-10-15 Hours” (1952) and “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” (1953) are arguably among the first of the rock and roll era. Her first major crossover success came with “Lucky Lips” (1957), which made it to the Billboard Top 100 list. She recalls in her autobiography that the success of that song plus her involvement with rock and roll “supershows” such as Alan Freed’s was that “I sang ‘Lucky Lips’ seven times in one day. And nothing else! It was a fiasco, a rock ‘n’ roll circus, but it was a huge business.”

And absolutely do not miss this Spotify playlist compiled by Branstetter: Women in Rock & Roll’s First Wave Sampler.

America’s Cars Are Heavily Subsidized, Dangerous, and Mandatory

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2019

This is a fascinating & provocative article from law professor Gregory Shill: Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It. The first line of the piece sets the stage: “In a country where the laws compel the use of cars, Americans are condemned to lose friends and relatives to traffic violence.”

Let’s begin at the state and local level. A key player in the story of automobile supremacy is single-family-only zoning, a shadow segregation regime that is now justifiably on the defensive for outlawing duplexes and apartments in huge swaths of the country. Through these and other land-use restrictions-laws that separate residential and commercial areas or require needlessly large yards-zoning rules scatter Americans across distances and highway-like roads that are impractical or dangerous to traverse on foot. The resulting densities are also too low to sustain high-frequency public transit.

Further entrenching automobile supremacy are laws that require landowners who build housing and office space to build housing for cars as well. In large part because of parking quotas, parking lots now cover more than a third of the land area of some U.S. cities; Houston is estimated to have 30 parking spaces for every resident. As UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup has written, this mismatch flows from legal mandates rather than market demand. Every employee who brings a car to the office essentially doubles the amount of space he takes up at work, and in urban areas his employer may be required by law to build him a $50,000 garage parking space.

Cars and car ownership are massively subsidized on a state, local, and federal level and our laws and regulations have built a nation where cars are mandatory and “driving is the price of first-class citizenship”.

Why are we taxing bus riders to pay rich people to buy McMansions and luxury electric SUVs?

And this speed limit thing is just eye-poppingly fucked up:

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that speed is a top risk factor in motor vehicle crashes. Yet the most prominent way of setting and adjusting speed limits, known as the operating speed method, actually incentivizes faster driving. It calls for setting speed limits that 85 percent of drivers will obey. This method makes little provision for whether there’s a park or senior center on a street, or for people walking or biking.

As a matter of law, the operating speed method is exceptional. It enables those who violate the law-speeding motorists-to rewrite it: speed limits ratchet higher until no more than 15 percent of motorists violate them. The perverse incentives are obvious. Imagine a rule saying that, once 15 percent of Americans acquired an illegal type of machine gun, that weapon would automatically become legal.

Ok, this is one of those articles where I want to excerpt every paragraph…just go read the whole thing. (via @olgakhazan)

Update: Eric Jaffe shared some interesting bits from Shill’s recent paper, Should Law Subsidize Driving?, in a Twitter thread.

Until the 1910s, “street parking was broadly outlawed: if you owned a car in a city, you were responsible for storing it, just as you would be any other piece of movable property.”

“Tax subsidies for commuting prioritize driving. Those who walk, bike, or carpool to work, and in some cases those who take transit, pay other people to drive to work.”

Never realized (or forgot) that CAFE fuel economy rules — generally a good thing — have a loophole that “light trucks” don’t need to be as fuel efficient as cars. “Light trucks” have come to mean SUVs, which means SUVs are easier to produce. No coincidence that the share of “light trucks” has soared from 20% in 1976 to 69% of market today. The upshot, of course, is that SUVs are much worse for pedestrian safety: you’re 3.4x more likely to be killed if hit by an SUV vs. a car.

“Sir Duke” Deconstructed: Stevie Wonder’s Ode to Jazz

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

In the latest episode of Earworm, Estelle Caswell and Jacob Collier break down Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke, in which he pays tribute to the jazz artists that inspired him, both in lyric and in the arrangement of the music. As someone who isn’t musical but has experience programming, writing, designing, and doing science, it’s fun to see a similar borrow/remix/homage process at work on a virtuoso level.

The Strangest Person in the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

I bet this resonates with more than a few of you.

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.

This quotation is often attributed to Frida Kahlo, but Quote Investigator tracked it back to a woman named Rebecca Katherine Martin.

Is Your Phone’s Electromagnetic Pollution Making You Ill?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

According this video by Kurzgesagt (and their extensive list of sources), the answer to that question for now is: no, our electronic devices are not causing long- or short-term health problems in the brains or bodies of people who use them.

Electrosmog is one of those things that is a bit vague and hard to grasp. When personal health is involved, feelings clash extra hard with scientific facts and there is a lot of misinformation and exaggeration out there. On the other hand, some people are really worried and distressed by the electricity that surrounds them. And just to wave this off is not kind or helpful.

While there is still a lot of researching being done on the dangers of constant weak electromagnetic radiation, it is important to stress that so far, we have no reason to believe that our devices harm us. Other than… well… spending too much time with them.

10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2019

Japanese public broadcaster NHK has produced a four-part documentary on legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki called 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki. The behind-the-scenes film follows Miyazaki as he made his last two films for Studio Ghibli, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. Here’s the synopsis of the first episode:

An exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the genius of Japan’s foremost living film director, Hayao Miyazaki — creator of some of the world’s most iconic and enduring anime feature films. Miyazaki allowed a single documentary filmmaker to shadow him at work, as he dreamed up characters and plot lines for what would become his 2008 blockbuster, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.” Miyazaki explores the limits of his physical ability and imagination to conjure up memorable protagonists.

The whole show is available to watch online at NHK with English subtitles and narration.

See also Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki. (thx, yuko)

The Art and Science of Tripping Up the Stairs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 03, 2019

This is a short video of a set of subway stairs in Brooklyn where one of the steps is juuuust a bit taller than the rest, which makes most people trip on it.

We don’t often think about it but even the least graceful humans move in a finely calibrated way. When we’re climbing stairs, our feet don’t clear the treads by much, so that even the tiniest deviation in the height of a step can spell trouble.

I’d love to see a study of how quickly our bodies learn how high the steps are in a new flight of stairs. Like, maybe we clear the first couple of steps by an inch or two but then we’re locked in and subsequent clearances are much smaller.

Is there a word for the way people tend to speed up after they trip climbing stairs? The stumble hustle? It’s such a small & endearing little thing that most people do.

My least favorite flight of stairs in the entire NYC subway system are, I believe, at the SW corner of 14th St and 6th Ave in Manhattan. Each of the steps is a different height, making for a tricky ascent and a downright dangerous descent. I keep thinking they’re gonna get fixed, but I used them on my last visit to the city in June. At this point, they’re like an old friend who’s kind of a jerk but you’ve known him so long that whaddya gonna do? (via @fishtopher)

Update: On Twitter, André Filipe Barro shared the Brazilian phrase for speeding up after tripping up the stairs: “went on a chicken chase”. Excellent!

The Forgotten Power of Government

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 03, 2019

David Remnick recently interviewed Robert Caro and if you’ve read Caro’s book, Working, or the New Yorker article based on the book, there’s not much new here, but this exchange at the end is worth highlighting:

Remnick: We are living in a political moment, and when you watch the current President it seems that one of the saving graces is that, for all his erratic thinking, insulting thinking, his insults directed at minority groups — and, well, practically everyone — that he’s not that good at the exercise of power. He won the election, but if he had Johnsonian capacities in terms of the exercise of power, we might be even in deeper trouble than we already are.

Caro: Well, I think that that’s correct. And I think, [what] you say about Johnson, what does it mean to [be like] Johnson? You say, well, he wins election over Barry Goldwater, in 1964, by this tremendous majority. So the next morning he’s on the phone — or the morning after, he’s still hoarse the day of the election — calling the House Majority Leader and saying, “You know, the only thing that can hold this up here is the Rules Committee. Now is the moment to change the Rules Committee. Here’s how to do it.” And in the next couple of months he passes Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, the voting-rights bill… I’m forgetting the rest of it. The most amazing — he could seize a moment because of this political genius that he has, and change, really, the face of America. It’s hard to remember a day when there wasn’t Medicare or Medicaid.

Remnick: You write in “Working” that there is evil and injustice that can be caused by political power. But there’s also great good that can come out of it. It seems to me sometimes that people have forgotten this, you write. Why have we forgotten it?

Caro: You ask very good questions. I think we’ve forgotten it because we’ve had too many Presidents who don’t use political power — you say, what are things that change people’s lives? In the last century, Social Security, Medicare-like, right now I’m working on a section that, you could say, if I wanted to call it this, is what it was like to be old and sick in America before Medicare. And as I’m doing this I’m thinking, People aren’t even going to be able to imagine this. What was it like to be old in America before Social Security? People can’t imagine it. The power of government to do good for people is immense. And I think we have forgotten that power.

Hoi Toider, an American Dialect that Doesn’t Sound American

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2019

Hoi Toider is a dialect spoken by long-time residents of Ocracoke, North Carolina. It sometimes sounds more Australian, Scottish, or like Elizabethan English than American English.

When older Ocracoke natives, or O’cockers as they call themselves, speak, the ‘I’ sound is an ‘oi’, so they say ‘hoi’ instead of ‘high’. That’s where the Hoi Toider name comes from: it’s based on how the O’cockers say ‘high tide’.

Then there are the phrases and vocabulary, many of which are also kept over from the original settlers. For example, when you’re on Ocracoke, someone might ‘mommuck a buck before going up the beach’, which means ‘to tease a friend before going off the island’.

“We have a lot of words that have been morphed to make our own,” said Amy Howard, another of William Howard’s descendants, who runs the Village Craftsmen, a local arts and crafts store. “[Hoi Toider] is a combination from a whole blend of cultures. A lot of the early settlers were well travelled, so they ran into lots of different types of people. For example, the word ‘pizer’ we use comes from the Italian word ‘piazza’, which means porch. So if you’re going to be sitting on your pizer, you’re sitting on your porch.”

You can hear some folks speaking Hoi Toider is these videos:

How to Watch the South American Solar Eclipse

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2019

Today, July 2, 2019, just after 4:30pm ET, a total solar eclipse will be visible in parts of Chile and Argentina. Because most of you, I am guessing, are not currently in those parts of Chile and Argentina, the best way to watch the eclipse is through any number of live streams, three of which I’m embedding here:

I was lucky enough to see the eclipse in 2017 and it was a life-altering experience, so I’ll be tearing myself away from the USA vs England match for a few minutes at least.

Building Belonging at Summer Camp

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2019

Ollie Running

My kids are lucky enough to be at sleep-away summer camp this year. It’s their fourth year, and I was a little skeptical about this at first. Sleep-away camps weren’t really a thing in Wisconsin when I was a kid and schlepping out to the East Coast was not going to happen, financially speaking. But their mom went to camp and it had a big impact on her life and the kids wanted to go, so I went along.

I’m really glad I did. I miss them while they’re gone, but they have such an amazing time there, away from their parents, figuring out what kind of humans they are going to be. The staff at Ollie’s camp (an all-boys camp for grades 3-8 — Minna goes to an affiliated camp for girls) sent the parents a letter about some of the principles they use in supporting their campers by building “a feeling of profound belonging”. They are super thoughtful in their approach and none of it is mere lip-service. I thought a few of their principles were worth sharing with you. From a section that starts “We shape our program and culture to build belonging by…”:

…embodying our belief that there are many ways to be a man. We give boys a diverse array of role models — men and women in whom campers can see aspects of the selves they seek to develop. When the people around us model the same humility, humor, talent, and compassion that we seek to develop in ourselves, they help us to recognize the sturdy roots of those same virtues within us. In such moments, we know that we are in a place where we belong.

…focusing on what is personal, real, and lasting. Too often children learn to gauge belonging through external signals: the music they listen to, the brands they wear, the devices they own. The result can be toxic, especially for boys, who learn to measure themselves against dangerously narrow standards of masculinity. By embracing simplicity — in the uniforms we wear, the music we make, the technology we leave at home — we foster deeper connections with each other and even with ourselves.

…emphasizing honesty as the most direct path towards a life of substance and meaning. Ultimately, belonging is not an external validation, but an authentic way of being. Honesty — and its companion, vulnerability — are signs of strength and signals of openness. Honesty elevates relationships beyond the superficial, and invites us towards friendships in which we have the courage to be imperfect and the compassion to accept ourselves anyway. At camp, as in life, there is no more powerful belonging than to each other.

I don’t mind telling you that I teared up reading through these. That there are many ways to be a man, that masculinity can be toxic, that vulnerability is strength…hearing these ideas more often would have benefited an adolescent Jason, a shy and sometimes bullied small-town kid who didn’t feel like he belonged, truly belonged, anywhere until he went off to college and discovered that the world was full of weirdos just like, and also very unlike, himself. I still feel that little kid’s pain, and it makes me very happy that my kids are lucky enough to spend significant time in a place where those ideas take center stage.

Excerpts above are from Building Belonging from the staff at Camp Lanakila.

The Otherworldly Sounds of a Giant Gong

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2019

Listen in as “Gong Master Sven” plays a gong that’s 7 feet across. (No seriously, listen…it’s wild. Headphones recommended.)

Ok, show of hands. How many of you of thought it was going to sound like that? I had no idea! He barely hits it! The whole thing sounded like a horror movie soundtrack or slowed-down pop songs. Here’s another demonstration, with some slightly harder hits:

The Memphis Gong Chamber looks like an amazing place. Watching this on YouTube, we’re missing out on a lot of the low-end sounds:

And if you were actually standing here like I am, you can feel all your internal organs being massaged by the vibrations from this. It’s really quite the experience.

This guy drags some objects over a large gong and it sounds like whale song:

Ok well, there’s a new item for the bucket list. (via @tedgioia)

Three Feet of Hail Buries Guadalajara, Mexico

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

The high temperature on Saturday in Guadalajara, Mexico was 86 °F. On Sunday morning, up to three feet of hail fell on the city and it looked like this:

Hail Mexico

Enrique Alfaro, the governor of Jalisco, wrote on Twitter that he had never seen anything like it.

“I witnessed scenes that I had never seen before: hail more than a meter high,” he tweeted, “and then we ask ourselves if climate change exists.”

Weather is not climate, but our warmer atmosphere is going to make extreme weather events like this more likely and frequent. As the Times says with characteristic understatement:

Experts say it is not unusual to have a hailstorm at this time of year in western Mexico, but the amount of hail was extreme.

How The Shawshank Redemption Humanized Prisoners

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

The Shawshank Redemption came out in 1994. Although crime rates had already started falling across the country, the media (with shows like COPS) and government (Joe Biden & Bill Clinton’s push for a crime bill now considered disastrous) were still pursuing and glorifying a punitive criminal justice system. But as this excellent video by Pop Culture Detective explains, Shawshank offered 90s audiences a different view of prison and the criminal justice system.

On a narrative level The Shawshank Redemption is a movie about the power of hope in the face of extraordinary hardship. But underpinning Andy Dufresne’s story we also find a blistering critique of the prison system and criminal justice policy in the United States.

In the film, the audience gets to see the system as harsh & corrupt and the prisoners as, well, people — human beings worthy of rehabilitation. In the 25 years since Shawshank debuted (and bombed) at the box office, public opinion in America has shifted away from the punitive view of the 90s to the more humanistic perspective embodied by the film.

See also Running from COPS, Sexual Assault of Men Played for Laughs, and Ava DuVernay’s 13th. (via waxy)

Urbano Monte’s Massive Map of the Earth (1587)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

Monte Planisphere

In 1587, Urbano Monte made the largest known early map of Earth. The map consists of 60 panels that were meant to be assembled into a planisphere (a circular map that rotates about a central axis) measuring 10 feet across. The David Rumsey Map Center recently acquired a manuscript of Monte’s map and digitally assembled all 60 pieces into the full map (inlined above but click through to zoom/pan).

Of great interest is the attempt Monte makes to make his map not just a geographical tool but to show climate, customs, length of day, distances within regions — in other words, to create a universal scientific planisphere. In his dedication on tavola XL he specifies how to arrange the sheets of the mappamondo and makes it explicit that the whole map was to be stuck on a wooden panel 5 and a half brachia square (3.25m) so that it could be revolved around a central pivot or pin through the north pole.

The individual map panels looked like this:

Monte Planisphere

Of course, once the image is digital you can map it into all sorts of different projections like Mercator or Ortelius oval projection.

Monte Planisphere

Jeremy Ashkenas even created a rotatable & zoomable globe of Monte’s map that is incredibly fun to play with.

Monte Planisphere

The Rock Skipping Robot

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

Mark Rober built a rock skipping robot and by adjusting a bunch of different parameters, he figured out the best way to skip rocks. And no, I completely did not get out a notepad and start jotting down notes while watching this video and there’s no way I’m heading out to one of my favorite rock skipping places tomorrow morning to try out some new techniques. Nope. Not gonna happen. (thx, tom)

An Interview with a Contemporary Russian Spy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2019

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Deniss Metsavas served for many years with the Estonian Defense Forces and was, at the same time, a Russian spy. In this video for The Atlantic, Metsavas describes how he was recruited by Russian intelligence using kompromat (compromising material).

For years, Metsavas navigated his disparate allegiances. He got married and started a family. But as he grew in prominence in the Estonian Defense Forces, his Russian handlers began to demand highly classified information on Estonia’s involvement with the United States and NATO, specifically with regard to weapons. Metsavas tried to extricate himself, only to find that his handlers would stop at nothing to obtain the intel-including ensnaring a family member in the increasingly dangerous situation.

Watching the video and reading the accompanying article, you get the sense that maybe the Cold War never ended…

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