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Entries for January 2020 (Archives)

 

Jim Lehrer’s Rules of Journalism

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2020

The long-time host of PBS NewsHour Jim Lehrer died this week at the age of 85. In this age of news as entertainment and opinion as news, Lehrer seems like one of the last of a breed of journalist who took seriously the integrity of informing the American public about important events. In a 1997 report by The Aspen Institute, Lehrer outlined the guidelines he adhered to in practicing journalism:

  1. Do nothing I cannot defend.*
  2. Do not distort, lie, slant, or hype.
  3. Do not falsify facts or make up quotes.
  4. Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.*
  5. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.*
  6. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and good a person as I am.*
  7. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.*
  8. Assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
  9. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story mandates otherwise.*
  10. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label them as such.*
  11. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.*
  12. Do not broadcast profanity or the end result of violence unless it is an integral and necessary part of the story and/or crucial to understanding the story.
  13. Acknowledge that objectivity may be impossible but fairness never is.
  14. Journalists who are reckless with facts and reputations should be disciplined by their employers.
  15. My viewers have a right to know what principles guide my work and the process I use in their practice.
  16. I am not in the entertainment business.*

In his 2006 Harvard commencement address, Lehrer reduced that list to an essential nine items (marked with an * above).

These are fantastic guidelines; as veteran journalist Al Thompkins said recently: “I would like to add a 10th rule: Journalists should be more like Jim Lehrer.”

Addendum: Even though this is a mere blog that has different goals and moves at a different pace than traditional journalism, I try (try!) to adhere to Lehrer’s guidelines on kottke.org as much as possible. I found out about his rules on Twitter in the form of a context-free screenshot of an equally context-free PDF. Lehrer would not approve of this sort of sourcing, so I started to track it down.

All initial attempts at doing so pointed to the truncated list (as outlined in the Harvard speech and in this 2009 episode of the NewsHour), so I wrote up a post with the nine rules and was about to publish — but something about the longer list bugged me. Why would someone add more rules and attribute them to Lehrer? It didn’t seem to make sense, so I dug a little deeper and eventually found the Aspen report in bowels of Google and rewrote the post.

In doing all this, I rediscovered one of the reasons why Lehrer’s guidelines aren’t followed by more media outlets: this shit takes time! And time is money. It would have taken me five minutes to find that context-free PDF, copy & paste the text, throw a post together, and move on to something else. But how can I do that when I don’t know for sure the list is accurate? Did he write or say those things verbatim? Or was it paraphrased or compiled from different places? Maybe the transcription is wrong. Lehrer, of all people, and this list, of all lists, deserves proper attribution. So this post actually took me 45+ minutes to research & write (not counting this addendum). And this is just one little list that in the grand and cold economic scheme of things is going to make me exactly zero more dollars than the 5-minute post would have!

Actual news outlets covering actual news have an enormous incentive to cut corners on this stuff, especially when news budgets have been getting squeezed on all sides for the better part of the last two decades. It should come as no big surprise then that the media covers elections as if they were horse races, feasts on the private lives of celebrities, and leans heavily on entertaining opinions — that all sells better than Lehrer’s guidelines do — but we should think carefully about whether we want to participate in it. In the age of social media, we are no longer mere consumers of news — everyone is a publisher and that’s a powerful thing. So perhaps Lehrer’s guidelines should apply more broadly, not only for us as individuals but also for media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that amplify and leverage our thoughts and reporting for their own ends.

Scary Sea Monster Really Just Hundreds of Tiny Fish in a Trench Coat

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2020

As a defense against predators, these juvenile striped eel catfish from Jemeluk Bay near Bali organize themselves into an ambling, pulsating sea creature that looks like something out of a Miyazaki film. The Kid Should See This:

Try rewatching the video, picking one fish and following it the entire time. Then pick another fish and watch the video again. The juvenile striped eel catfish seem to cycle through positions within the school as the entire swarm moves forward.

Like riders in a peleton, each taking their turn braving danger at the front.

See also A Talented Pufferfish Creates an Underwater “Crop Circle”.

Maps of Every Single Street in Any City

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

Andrei Kashcha’s City Roads tool will draw you a map of just the roads in any city around the world. I’m in Saigon right now, so I did that one first:

Saigon, just the streets

And this is Paris:

Paris, just the streets

I love that the whitespace reveals more of a city than just roads — you can also see rivers, parks, train lines, stadiums, and airports.

See also Ben Fry’s All Streets project and Nelson Minar’s map of all the rivers in the US.

Pandemic - How to Prevent an Outbreak

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

With the Wuhan coronavirus in the news, this is a timely release from Netflix: Pandemic is a 6-part series on the inevitable worldwide disease outbreak and what’s being done to stop it, or at least to mitigate its effects.

Parasitic Fake ATMs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

This is a few years old, but is it ever clever: some thieves in Brazil put an entire fake ATM interface (screen, card reader, keypad) over the real ATM to skim card numbers and PINs.

Krebs on Security wrote up a report on the scheme:

Interestingly, much like grammatical and spelling errors that often give away phishing emails and Web sites, the thieves who assembled the video for the screen for the fake ATM used in the April robbery appear have made a grammatical goof in spelling “país,” the Portuguese word for “country”; apparently, they left off the acute accent.

Most skimming attacks (including the two mentioned here) take place over the weekend hours. Skimmer scammers like to place their devices at a time when they know the bank will be closed for an extended period, and when foot traffic to the machine will be at its highest.

This is like when the T-1000 in Termintor 2 can impersonate any person that it touches, except with cash machines. (I would read a book entirely composed of clever thieves’ inventions and techniques. I assume this already exists?)

The Lost Central Park Neighborhood of Seneca Village

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

In the 1850s, the well-heeled residents of Manhattan were convinced the city needed a grand park like the European capitals had. And so, a park located in the middle of the city was proposed, a Central Park, if you will. The only problem? There were people living in the park’s proposed location, including Seneca village, a small, integrated, predominately black neighborhood.

It’s a story that goes back to the 1820s, when that part of New York was largely open countryside. Soon it became home to about 1,600 people. Among them was a predominantly black community that bought up affordable plots to build homes, churches and a school. It became known as Seneca Village. And when Irish and German immigrants moved in, it became a rare example at the time of an integrated neighborhood.

See also ‘The City Needed Them Out’.

The Short Student Film That Became Napoleon Dynamite

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

While in film school at BYU, Jared Hess made a short film called Peluca in just a couple of days for under $500. Two years later, Peluca and its main character (played by Jon Heder) became the basis of Napoleon Dynamite. Here’s the original short — the main character’s name is Seth instead of Napoleon but the moment he speaks his first line, you know it’s the same exact character:

See also The Case of the Napoleon Dynamite Problem. (via open culture)

A Collection of Children’s School Notebooks from Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

School notebooks

School notebooks

School notebooks

School notebooks

For the past 15 years, the folks at the Exercise Book Archive have been compiling a collection of children’s school notebooks from around the world. In the extensive digital archive, you can find writings, drawings, and aimless doodling in exercise books from as far back as 1773 from countries like the US, Ghana, Latvia, Brazil, and Finland.

The Exercise Book Archive is an ever-growing, participatory archive of old exercise books that allows everyone to discover the history, education, and daily life of children and youth of the past through this unique material. The Archive includes hundreds of exercise books from more than 30 different countries and dated from the late 1700s to the early 2000s. It is preserved and managed by the Milan-based NPO Quaderni Aperti (literally, Open Exercise Books).

If you follow them on Instagram, they are pulling some interesting pieces out of the archive. And if you happen to have any old exercise books from your youth (or your parents’ or grandparents’ youth) lying around, you can donate them to the cause.

10-Year Time Lapse of US Weather Radar

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

Sometimes I load up the US map on Weather Underground just to watch storm systems tumbling and swirling across the country, so this 2-hour time lapse of the last 10 years of US weather radar is riiiiight up my alley. You don’t have to watch the whole thing — even dipping in here and there for a couple of minutes is really gratifying. Can you get ASMR from a weather map? (thx, benjamin)

Dancing Twigs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

Dancing Twigs

Artist Chris Kenny uses bits of twig from tree branches to make these interesting found art pieces that exploit the human tendency for pareidolia, including the one above of twigs in motion. (via @nicholsonbaker8)

Hello from Asia!

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

I just wanted to let you know that I am going to be travelling for the next few weeks and the site’s regular metronomic schedule is going to get a little…weird. I am currently halfway around the world in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam1 in the US east coast’s Bizarro timezone (10am here, 10pm there). I’ll be posting while I’m here but on a local schedule, so for many of you there won’t be anything all day but you’ll have a bunch of stuff to read late at night or first thing in the morning.

While I’m here, I might write about my adventures on the site but I’m not quite sure yet — this is an experiment for me all around: solo travelling, digital nomading, working on an iPad instead of a laptop, etc. But I’ll definitely be posting photos and stories over at Instagram.

I’ll be in Saigon for about 2 weeks, followed by a few days in Singapore and about 48 hours in Doha, Qatar. If you’re a kottke.org reader and you live in any of those places, let me know and maybe we can meet up for some food, drink, or wandering around! Or if you’ve have tips for me (esp food and design/architecure stuff), drop me a line on Twitter or via email.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of the bonkers waterfall and rain forest inside the Changi airport in Singapore.

The waterfall at Singapore's Changi airport

I mean…

  1. I’m told the locals still mostly call it Saigon, so I’m going to go with that.

The Radiohead Public Library

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2020

Radiohead

Let’s be generous and say that over the years, Radiohead’s web presence has been eccentric. Disorganized and scattershot maybe. In order to remedy that, the band have launched a massive online archive of stuff called the Radiohead Public Library. Stereogum has a nice rundown, including some rare stuff the band has uploaded to streaming services to celebrate the library’s opening.

Dubbed the Radiohead Public Library, the band’s official website Radiohead.com now contains comprehensive materials organized by album, starting with the A Moon Shaped Pool era and working backward. Among the treasure in this chest: high-quality concert and TV footage, B-sides and rarities, music videos, artwork, out-of-print merchandise, and playlists the band members shared during their recording sessions.

If you click on the ID card in the site’s nav bar, you can even download and print out your very own Radiohead Public Library card. It is still Radiohead though, so the library isn’t super easy to navigate — there’s a lot of clicking random images to see what’s hiding behind them — but it’s a start!

Welfare vs Subsidies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2020

I was travelling yesterday and so missed observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the site, but I ran across this quote from him on Instagram and wanted to highlight it. It’s from a radio speech King gave called To Minister to the Valley and like many of King’s speeches and writing, it concerns economic justice & equality.

Whenever the government provides opportunities in privileges for white people and rich people they call it “subsidized” when they do it for Negro and poor people they call it “welfare.” The fact that is the everybody in this country lives on welfare. Suburbia was built with federally subsidized credit. And highways that take our white brothers out to the suburbs were built with federally subsidized money to the tune of 90 percent. Everybody is on welfare in this country. The problem is that we all to often have socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor. That’s the problem.

The quote and its sentiment reminds me of the White Affirmative Action episode (transcript) of the excellent Seeing White podcast series, in which Deena Hayes-Greene of the Racial Equity Institute asserts affirmative action in America has overwhelmingly favored and benefitted white people.

An Astronomer Explains Black Holes in 5 Levels of Increasing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2020

In this video from Wired’s 5 Levels series, NASA astronomer Varoujan Gorjian explains the concept of black holes to five different people, ranging from a five-year-old to a college student to a Caltech astrophysicist.

A research astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Grojian specializes in — and I’d just like to pause here to emphasize that this is the official title of his research group at JPL — the structure of the universe. Which means the guy not only knows about event horizons and gravitational lensing but stuff like tidal forces (what!), x-ray binaries (hey now!), and active galactic nuclei (oh my god!). Seriously, the guy’s knowledge of black holes is encyclopedic.

Gorjian lost me somewhere in the middle of his conversation with the grad student.

Dozens of Classic Interviews from The Dick Cavett Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2020

Open Culture’s Josh Jones takes us on a tour of the amazing YouTube channel for The Dick Cavett Show. The show ran from 1968 well into the 80s and Cavett was known for having on big name guests and getting them to talk about important and interesting topics, making the show a more serious older sibling to The Tonight Show. Jones says Cavett “had a way of making everyone around him comfortable enough to reveal just a little more than they might otherwise”.

The show’s YouTube channel contains dozens and dozens of interview clips, including Marlon Brando talking about rejecting his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather:

Some of the other videos feature John Lennon on why The Beatles ended, Jimi Hendrix talking about performing at Woodstock, Orson Welles recounting a dinner with Adolf Hitler, Janis Joplin’s final TV interview, Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, and David Crosby fresh off of their appearances at Woodstock, Robin Williams on depression, and Carly Simon talks about stage fright. Check out the post at Open Culture for more or cross-reference this Wikipedia list of the show’s most memorable moments with the YouTube videos.

Boda Boda Madness

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2020

Boda Boda Madness

Boda Boda Madness

Ugandan-Kenyan fashion designer Bobbin Case and Dutch artist Jan Hoek have collaborated on a project called Boda Boda Madness. Inspired by the elaborate decorations used by some boda boda (motorbike taxi) drivers in Nairobi to attract customers, Case designed costumes to go with each bike’s decorations and Hoek photographed the results. After the fact, the coordinated outfits proved good for business:

The nice thing is that because of their new outfits their income went up, so they really kept on using their costumes.

Hoek also did a project called Scooters Will Never Die, in which he worked with a group of Africa refugees in Amsterdam to customize scooters to their riders’ specifications.

Boda Boda Madness

(via colossal)

World Map Projection, But All South Americas

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2020

I bet you never noticed that South America can kind of approximate most of the world’s other continents pretty well. XKCD’s Randall Munroe did and made a bad map projection of it.

World Map Projection with all South Americas

This is only slightly worse than the Mercator projection tbh.

How to Please Elise

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2020

How to Please Elise

Christoph Niemann with a clever take on the Beethoven composition for piano, Für Elise. He’s offering it as a letterpress print — but supplies are low so order quick if you want one.

And according to Niemann, the chart has been factchecked and is accurate.

Kenobi, a Star Wars Fan Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2020

Although the announced Disney+ series about Obi-Wan Kenobi may shed some light on the matter, we don’t know too much about what “Ben Kenobi” was up to on Tatooine after the events of Revenge of the Sith, besides keeping an eye on Luke. This short film made by a group of Star Wars fans as a “love letter” to the series shows what may have happened after the Empire makes its presence known when Luke is just a young boy. (via kevin kelly)

An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Airplane Sleeping Positions

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2020

Airplane Sleeping

From The Washington Post, an illustrated encyclopedia of sleeping positions on a plane. Economy only…we don’t need to see how peacefully the lie-flat fancies in business are slumbering. Tag yourself! (I’m a Bobblehead.)

The Best Best Picture Lineups in Oscar History

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2020

Using their extensive database of member ratings, Letterboxd averaged the ratings for the Best Picture nominees for each year to determine which years ranked highest. The top five are (official Academy winners marked w/ an asterisk):

  1. 1975 (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest*, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville)
  2. 2019 (Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite)
  3. 1976 (Rocky*, All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver)
  4. 1974 (The Godfather Part II*, Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny, The Towering Inferno)
  5. 1994 (Forrest Gump*, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption)

1975 was apparently the clear winner but 2019 in the #2 spot is a very strong showing, especially considering there are the ratings of nine nominees to average instead of just five. But as this analysis shows, the Academy and Letterboxd users do not often agree on which Picture is “actually” Best:

It is often said that The Academy doesn’t always choose the nominee that *actually* deserves Best Picture. And according to the average ratings of the nominees on Letterboxd, that is true about 76% of the time!

I’d guess there’s also a recency bias at work (newer films tend to get rated higher), as well as age-related (I’d guess Letterboxd skews young-ish?) and gender-related (majority male, but probably not as much as IMDB) biases. It would be neat to see how controlling for those effects would affect the average ratings. (via @mrgan)

Winners of the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2020

Underwater Photos 2019

Underwater Photos 2019

Underwater Photography Guide has announced the winners of the 2019 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition. The top photo is by Adam Martin and the bottom one is from Petr Polách…check out the site for all the winners. (via in focus)

Goldman v Silverman

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

Filmed during Uncut Gems, Goldman v Silverman is a short film by the Safdie brothers starring Adam Sandler & Benny Safdie as dueling street performers dressed up in metallic paint. In addition to the paint, Sandler has a mask on and doesn’t really talk, so no one in Times Square realizes it’s him. (via gothamist)

Official Posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

Wow, check out the official posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

2020 Olympic Posters

2020 Olympic Posters

2020 Olympic Posters

What an amazing array of styles and disciplines — there’s manga, shodo (calligraphy), Cubism, photography, surrealism, and ukiyo-e. That stunning poster at the top is from Tomoko Konoike — fantastic. As you can see, posters from past Olympics have tended towards the literal, with more straightforward depictions of sports, the rings, stadiums, etc. Kudos to the organizers of the Tokyo Games for casting their net a little wider. Love it. (via sidebar)

Abstract Photographs of the Colorful Insides of Golf Balls

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman Golf Balls

James Friedman is primarily a documentary and street photographer, but for his Interior Design project, he went abstract and captured the insides of golf balls.

For some viewers, my photographs from this series, titled Interior Design, allude to celestial bodies and the sublime. For me, their serendipitous structural exquisiteness and their subtle and passionate arrays of colors have inspired new exploration in my photography; I am particularly delighted to see the diminutive golf balls transformed into 36” x 36” prints.

Incidentally, I do not play golf.

Here’s a 1966 British Pathé film about how golf balls are made (compare w/ a more modern process):

See also Friedman’s short account (w/ photos) about photographing Andy Warhol at a 1978 art opening. (via dense discovery)

“World Travel: An Irreverent Guide”, an Upcoming Travel Guidebook by Anthony Bourdain

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2020

World Travel Guide Bourdain

Just before be died, Anthony Bourdain began work on a travel guide with his long-time assistant and coauthor Laurie Woolever. The book was to distill the lessons learned from his life of travel as a TV personality and celebrity food enthusiast. Based on their conversations, Woolever is completing work on World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, which will be out in October.

In World Travel, a life of experience is collected into an entertaining, practical, fun and frank travel guide that gives readers an introduction to some of his favorite places-in his own words. Featuring essential advice on how to get there, what to eat, where to stay and, in some cases, what to avoid, World Travel provides essential context that will help readers further appreciate the reasons why Bourdain found a place enchanting and memorable.

Supplementing Bourdain’s words are a handful of essays by friends, colleagues, and family that tell even deeper stories about a place.

Here’s a brief taste of the kind of advice you’ll find in the book:

Skip the touristy spots, he said: “If you spend all that time waiting to get into the Eiffel Tower, you’ve completely wasted a day”; and forget the concierge: “They’re going to send you to the place with the clean bathroom. Some of the best meals I’ve had, you need a hazmat suit to go to the bathroom.”

You can preorder the book on Amazon.

Five Ways to Ditch Your Climate Stress and Be Part of the Solution

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2020

Emma Marris has a five-point plan for dealing with the psychological toll of climate change — the constant news of fire! famine! war! floods! Republicans! — and working towards solutions to our collective global problem. Step 1, she writes, is to let go of the shame:

The first step is the key to all the rest. Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. Our economic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to work in or to cities intentionally designed to favor the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives.

And yet we blame ourselves for not being green enough. As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, “The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.” It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.

Marris’ focus on systems (political, capital, etc.) mirrors that of other climate thinkers (like David Wallace-Wells) and is exactly right IMO:

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

How 1917 Was Filmed to Look Like One Long Continuous Take

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2020

1917 is the latest in a string of one-shot movies, where the action is presented in real-time and filmed to look as though it were done in one continuous take. This video takes a look at how director Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and editor Lee Smith constructed the film. In this interview, Smith & Mendes say that the film contains dozens of cuts, with shots lasting anywhere from 39 seconds to 8 & 1/2 minutes. My favorite parts of the video are when they show the camera going from hand-held to crane to truck to cover single shots at a variety of speeds and angles. It’s really impressive.

But — does the effect work to draw the audience into the action? I saw 1917 last night and was distracted at times looking for the cuts and wondering how they seamlessly transitioned from a steadicam sort of shot to a crane shot. Maybe I’d read too much about it going in and distracted myself?

This Striking Image of the Moon Is a Combination of 100,000 Photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2020

Backyard astronomer Andrew McCarthy has created some arresting images of various objects in the sky, including galaxies, planets, the Sun, and nebulas. Perhaps his favorite subject is the Moon and for one of his first images of 2020, he combined 100,000 photos to make this image of the first quarter Moon.

Andrew McCarthy Moon

Some detail:

Andrew McCarthy Moon

*low whistle* McCarthy uses some digital darkroom techniques to bump up the dynamic range, which he explained in the comments of a similar image.

The natural colors of the moon were brought out here with minor saturation adjustments, but those colors are completely real and what you could see if your eyes were more sensitive. I find the color really helps tell the story of how some of these features formed billions of years ago.

In one of his Instagram Stories, he shows how he photographs the Moon, including dealing with temperature changes over the course of the session — “when it’s cold, the telescope shrinks, and the focus changes”.

McCarthy sells digital copies of his images (as wallpaper or to print out) as well as prints. (via moss & fog)

Steven Soderbergh’s Media Diet for 2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

Every year, director Steven Soderbergh publishes a list of the movies, books, TV series, short films, and short stories he’s watched and read over the course of the year (one of the inspirations for my media diet posts). For many creators, the key to making good work is to read and watch widely with an emphasis on quality — it’s difficult make great work if your ingredients are poor — so Soderbergh’s 2019 list is a fascinating look at the director’s inputs for the next year’s creative endeavors.

Some observations:

Retitling “Little Women” So Men Will Go See It

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

The audience for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is running about 2/3 women and 1/3 men. Bruce Handy has some suggestions for a title change that would entice more men to check the movie out.

“Star Wars, Episode X: The Rise of Amy”
“Four Girls, One Teacup”
“Into the Marchverse”
“The Jo Supremacy”

I saw Little Women on New Year’s Day and loved it — one of my favorite 2019 movies for sure. It’s idiotic that Gerwig didn’t get nominated for a Best Director Oscar.

See also Kaitlyn Greenidge’s opinion piece, The Bearable Whiteness of ‘Little Women’.

The First and Last Time Mister Rogers Sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” on TV

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

Including special shows, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran for 912 episodes and at the beginning of each one, Rogers sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while putting his sweater on and changing his shoes. In the video above, you can compare his rendition of the song from the first episode (February 19, 1968) and the final episode (August 31, 2001). It would take a significant effort (and might actually be impossible because he sings the song at a different pace each time), but I’d love to see someone cut together a version of this that features all 912 openings strung together chronologically, so you can see Rogers get older as he sings (a la Noah Kalina’s Everyday).

The same YouTube channel also edited together the first and last times Rogers sang “Good Feeling”:

(via open culture)

The Arsonous Birds of Australia

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2020

Ornithologists have collected a number of eyewitness accounts from Australia of three types of birds that deliberately set fires to flush out prey from grassy areas.

Black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and brown falcons (Falco berigora) all regularly congregate near the edges of bushfires, taking advantage of an exodus of small lizards, mammals, birds and insects — but it appears that some may have learnt not only to use fire to their advantage, but also to control it.

“At or around an active fire front, birds — usually black kites, but sometimes brown falcons — will pick up a firebrand or a stick not much bigger than your finger and carry it away to an unburnt area of grass and drop it in there to start a new fire,” says Bob Gosford, an ornithologist with the Central Land Council in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, who led the documentation of witness accounts. “It’s not always successful, but sometimes it results in ignition.”

(via @christopherjobs)

McMillions, an HBO Documentary on the Massive McDonald’s Monopoly Scandal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

In July 2018, I posted about the FBI investigation into the multi-million dollar McDonald’s Monopoly fraud.

For years, Jerry Jacobson was in charge of the security of the game pieces for McDonald’s Monopoly, one of the most successful marketing promotions in the fast food giant’s history. And for almost as long, Jacobson had been passing off winning pieces to family, friends, and “a sprawling network of mobsters, psychics, strip club owners, convicts, drug traffickers”, to the tune of more than million in cash & prizes.

In early February, HBO is airing a five-part documentary series on the investigation called McMillions:

Hosting Christmas Dinner for 50 Strangers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

Inspired by his holiday solitude in a new place last year, Brad Lancaster decided to host a Vancouver Christmas dinner for people who were going to be alone that day. Word got out, donations poured in, and he ended up hosting 50 people for a baller holiday dinner.

Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

Paris Museums Images

Paris Museums Images

Paris Museums Images

Paris Museums Images

Paris Museums Images

Paris Musées, a collection of 14 museums in Paris have recently made high-res digital copies of 100,000 artworks freely available to the public on their collections website. Artists with works in the archive include Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, and thousands of others. From Hyperallergic:

Paris Musées is a public entity that oversees the 14 municipal museums of Paris, including the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais, and the Catacombs. Users can download a file that contains a high definition (300 DPI) image, a document with details about the selected work, and a guide of best practices for using and citing the sources of the image.

“Making this data available guarantees that our digital files can be freely accessed and reused by anyone or everyone, without any technical, legal or financial restraints, whether for commercial use or not,” reads a press release shared by Paris Musées.

What a treasure trove this is. I was particularly happy to see a bunch of work in here from Eugène Atget, chronicler of Parisian streets, architecture, and residents and one of my favorite photographers.

Eugene Atget

Eugene Atget

Eugene Atget

(via @john_overholt)

Photos of the Great Migration

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

Great Migration

Great Migration

Great Migration

Great Migration

Librarians at the Library of Congress have created a new guide to finding photos of the Great Migration1 contained in their extensive collection. Here’s a blog post announcing the guide.

The “Searching for Images” page of the guide suggests search strategies for finding images related to the Great Migration. For example, when searching our online catalogs, researchers will be most successful when using keyword terms and subject headings that refer to specific places, people or events. I knew that “Black Belt” was sometimes used to describe the area on Chicago’s South Side that experienced a population boom during the Great Migration. Entering the keywords “black belt chicago” in the online catalog yielded a number of images of the area from April of 1941 from the Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Collection.

I was just talking about the Great Migration with a friend last night. Neither of us had learned about it in school (not even college), even though it completely reshaped America in the 20th century. If you’re in a similar boat, I recommend starting with Isabel Wilkerson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Warmth of Other Suns. It’s impossible to understand contemporary American society without knowing the history of the Great Migration and Wilkerson’s book helped open my eyes to that. (via @john_overholt)

  1. A refresher on what the Great Migration was from the LOC guide: “During the Great Migration, from about 1915 to 1970, millions of African Americans moved from southern, primarily rural areas of the United States to urban areas to the north and west. They sought better opportunities away from racial discrimination and violence in the South.”

Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana in the 80s & 90s

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

Africa Movie Posters

Africa Movie Posters

Africa Movie Posters

In order to drum up business for local movie theaters in Africa (most notably in Ghana), theater owners would commission local artists to paint movie posters.

When Frank Armah began painting posters for Ghanaian movie theaters in the mid-1980s, he was given a clear mandate: Sell as many tickets as possible. If the movie was gory, the poster should be gorier (skulls, blood, skulls dripping blood). If it was sexy, make the poster sexier (breasts, lots of them, ideally at least watermelon-sized). And when in doubt, throw in a fish. Or don’t you remember the human-sized red fish lunging for James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me?

“The goal was to get people excited, curious, to make them want to see more,” he says. And if the movie they saw ended up surprisingly light on man-eating fish and giant breasts? So be it. “Often we hadn’t even seen the movies, so these posters were based on our imaginations,” he says. “Sometimes the poster ended up speaking louder than the movie.”

You can check out more of these amazing artworks in this Twitter thread, this BBC story, on the AIGA site, and at Poster House, which has an exhibition of these posters up through Feb 16.

Update: I removed this modern-day spoof of the Ghanaian posters from the post. The tell is the reference to this amazing GIF. (thx, erik)

Noah Takes a Photo of Himself Every Day for 20 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

On January 11, 2000, when he was 19 years old, photographer Noah Kalina took a photo of himself — and just never stopped doing that. Although he’s missed a few days here and there, he’s kept up his daily habit for 20 years. The video above shows all 20 years of his daily photos.

Six years into the project in 2006, Kalina uploaded a video of his progress to Vimeo and then YouTube and it went viral, changing the trajectory of his career and life. The project has exhibited in art galleries around the world and The Simpsons even did a parody of it.

As someone who has done one thing near-daily for 20+ years, I feel a great kinship towards this project. I’ll see you in 2040, Noah.

Update: Kalina did an interview about the project with Van Schneider:

I can basically look at any shot in this project and know exactly where I was. Certain photos provide details and I can recall who I was with or what I was up to. It’s the perfect diary for me since I’ve never really enjoyed writing.

Ian McKellan’s 1999 Lord of the Rings Blog

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2020

Gandalf Mckellan

Starting in 1999 with his casting as Gandalf and continuing through 2003, Ian McKellan wrote a blog called The Grey Book about his experiences starring in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. (His website is getting pounded right now, so check out the Internet Archive mirror if you can’t get through.)

So the journey has begun without me. On Monday 11th October, Elijah Wood et al gathered in Hobbiton — and I hear they are behaving themselves! I have been in Toronto, masquerading as Magneto, the master of magnetism, on the set of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men.” I have just sent Peter Jackson an e-mail of good luck. I don’t expect an immediate reply — directing a film is totally time-consuming.

Meanwhile, Tolkien aficionados are mailing to the “Grey Book.” From teenagers and readers old as wizards come the advice, the demands, the warnings — united by the hope that the film’s Gandalf will match their own individual interpretations of the Lord of the Rings. I take comfort from the general assurance that they approve of the casting (not just of me but of all the other actors so far announced - thrilling news that Cate Blanchett is joining us.) Yet how can I satisfy everyone’s imagined Gandalf? Simply, I can’t.

And yet I believe he did satisfy almost everyone. Maybe McKellen will even reprise his role as the wizard in the upcoming Amazon series. (via a very excited Stephen Colbert)

World Underwater

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

World Underwater

Inspired by a trip to Venice, the world’s most prominent example of what life could be like in many of our coastal cities in the years to come, Hayden Williams made a series of 3D rendered images showing what our world might look like underwater. (via the morning news)

Presidential Candidates Ranked By Popularity of First Name

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jan 10, 2020

This is a big ass field of presidential candidates, though it’s gotten smaller in recent weeks. There are plenty of polls circulating which rank the candidates via the scientific method of asking strangers who they’re supporting and then weighting those responses to create a list of candidates. The candidates are then listed in descending order by level of support.

This list below, also reasonably scientific, though far less useful, ranks the candidates in the order of popularity of their first name according to the handy dandy Popular Baby Names website helpfully maintained by the Social Security Administration. So what does this list tell us? Not much! Former MA Governor Bill Weld probably isn’t going to top any other list this election cycle, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will likely not be on the bottom anywhere else.

3. William Weld
13. Elizabeth Warren
14. Michael Bennet, Michael Bloomberg (Number 1 name from 1961-1998, so that’s a lot)
23. Joseph Biden, Joseph Walsh
27. John Delaney
43. Andrew Yang
49. Thomas Steyer
211. Peter Buttigieg
205. Amy Klobuchar
526. Donald Trump (Has really small hands)
904. Cory Booker
943. Bernard Sanders (Last ranked 2008)

Never ranked:
Tulsi Gabbard
Deval Patrick

Also notable: The name Donald is getting slowly but steadily less popular. Going from 217th most popular name in 2000, to 376th most popular name in 2010, to 526th most popular name in 2018.

(For the record, the name Aaron was ranked 60th and Jason was 100th, so eat it, nerd.)

A Map of Mormon Geological Theology

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

Boston Rare Maps recently sold a nine-foot-high cloth map from 1899 that shows a geographic interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

Mormon Map Banner

The map was an official production of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS (known since 2001 as the Community of Christ), is a reformist branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, established in 1860.

You can read more about the proposed setting of the Book of Mormon on Wikipedia and its adherents’ belief that the indigenous peoples of the Americas are descended from Israelites.

The Book of Mormon is based on the premise that two families of Israelites escaped from Israel shortly before the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and that they constructed a ship, sailed across the ocean, and arrived in the New World as founders of Native American tribes and eventually the Polynesians. Adherents believe the two founding tribes were called Nephites and Lamanites, that the Nephites were white and practiced Christianity, and that the Lamanites were rebellious and received dark skin from God as a mark to separate the two tribes. Eventually the Lamanites wiped out the Nephites around 400 AD, leaving only dark skinned Native Americans. The descent of Native Americans from Israel is a key part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s foundational beliefs.

(via @john_overholt)

Winners Take All

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2020

Winners Take All is Anand Giridharadas’ 2018 book about how “the global elite’s efforts to ‘change the world’ preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve”. For instance, Giridharadas would argue that Jeff Bezos donating a billion dollars to charter schools while Amazon pays no federal income tax is a problem.

Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? His groundbreaking investigation has already forced a great, sorely needed reckoning among the world’s wealthiest and those they hover above, and it points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world — a call to action for elites and everyday citizens alike.

The RSA made an animated video of a talk by Giridharadas that distills his central message into about five minutes — it’s a good watch/listen. The full talk is available here. (via aeon)

Woven City, Toyota’s Prototype City of the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2020

In early 2021, Toyota plans to break ground on a prototype city of the future located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Around 2000 people will populate Woven City at first, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The masterplan of the city includes the designations for street usage into three types: for faster vehicles only, for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively.

The press release and video above are the best sources of info about the city, but there’s also a website with not a lot of info and some weirdly fuzzy low-res icons that I hope are not indicative of the level of effort and polish being put into this effort. Those icons definitely didn’t go through the Toyota Production System.

Slaughterhouse-Five Graphic Novel

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jan 09, 2020

Later this year, Kurt Vonnegut’s sixth novel Slaughterhouse-Five will be reimagined as a graphic novel by writer Ryan North, artist Albert Monteys, and colorist Ricard Zaplana. Vonnegut’s descriptive stories lend themselves well to the format of graphic novels with pithy dialogue, fantastical plots, and non-linear narratives. This project is being released with the blessing of the Vonnegut family, so if it’s successful, hopefully other Vonnegut novels will be released as graphic novels as well.

slaughterhouse-five.JPG

Ryan North is the writer of How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler. Kottke readers will presumably appreciate a guide for building a recognizable society if you’re stuck in the past after a catastrophic time machine breakdown.

There hasn’t been a film made of Slaughterhouse-Five since 1972 (a film, by the way, which Vonnegut loved), but imagine what someone like Taika Waititi could do with this story.

So it goes.

Ridgeline Maps of the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

Ridgeline Map Italy

Using Andrei Kashcha’s Peak Map tool, you can create what’s called a ridgeline chart — picture the album cover for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures — of the elevation anywhere on the Earth. Try it out here. (via @eramirez)

The Full Legacy of Isaac Asimov

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Isaac Asimov’s birth, Alec Nevala-Lee writes about the sci-fi author’s dual legacies: his prodigious literary output and his decades-long practice of groping women, hundreds of them.

Isaac Asimov loved large numbers. He was born a century ago this month, and when he died, in 1992, he was both the most famous science fiction writer in the world and perhaps the most prolific author in American history. He kept close track of his publications, most of which were nonfiction, and confessed that he was generous when it came to including borderline cases, such as anthologies, in his total of nearly five hundred books: “We all want to be known for something, and I was beginning to see that there would be a good chance that if for nothing else, I would be known for the vast number of books I would publish.”

In the end, however, another number might turn out to be equally meaningful. Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace. Within the science fiction community, this is common knowledge, and whenever I bring it up in a room of older fans, the response is usually a series of nods. The number of such incidents is unknown, but it can be plausibly estimated in the hundreds, and thus may match or exceed the long list of books that Asimov wrote.

See also How Picasso Bled the Women in His Life for Art. (via @john_overholt)

Air Travel in the Age of Climate Crisis: Is It Wrong to Fly?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

Because of the climate crisis, Greta Thunberg doesn’t fly anymore. Neither does climate journalist Eric Holthaus (aside from this recent trip). The flight shame movement and personal reflection on the climate has caused others to limit their air travel.

In this video, Joss Fong and her team at Vox look at the cost of air travel to our environment, investigate electric airplanes, and consider whether it’s wrong to fly in the age of climate crisis.

Climate change implicates us all in a planet-sized injustice. If I fly, if I drive, if I heat or cool my home, if I buy stuff, if I eat stuff, all of this now has a cost that I’m not paying.

Trees in the Fog

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

Michael Schlegel

Michael Schlegel

Michael Schlegel

Michael Schlegel took these photographs of trees in the fog in the Fanal region on the Portuguese island of Madeira. I was going to describe these as “eerie” but they’re not really. More of a Entish Middle Earth bonsai vibe. I went for a hike in the fog a couple of years ago and it was remarkably peaceful, like a dream. (via moss & fog)

The 100 Best Books Written By African American Women

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

The editors of ZORA, a publication for women of color, have published a list of the 100 greatest books written by African American women: The ZORA Canon.

To our knowledge, however, no one has ever compiled a comprehensive list specifically featuring the finest literary works produced by African American women authors. We decided to undertake that effort both to honor that still underappreciated group of writers and to provide ZORA readers — you — with a handy reference guide to their work.

Here are a sampling of the books on the list — click through to peruse them all.

Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson. “The first novel written by an African American woman, Our Nig focuses on the fictional character Frado and her servant-girl life in New England during antebellum slavery.”

The Red Record by Ida B. Wells. “This tome by the groundbreaking writer, Mathis says, is ‘an exhaustively researched publication about lynchings in the U.S. after the abolition of slavery.’”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. “This groundbreaking novel by the Harlem Renaissance novelist and anthropologist focuses on the emerging autonomy and maturation of Janie Crawford as she endures multiple marriages, poverty, and various other associative trials to reach a state of clarity.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. “The first of a multivolume series, this much-loved autobiographical tale recounts Maya Angelou’s early life…”

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. “As he grows up, Milkman Dead strives to take flight as he sets out on a pilgrimage to reclaim his family history…”

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. “The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist traces the lives of three people — a sharecropper’s wife, an agricultural worker, and a doctor — who embark upon one of the greatest movements of African Americans within American history: the Great Migration.”

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. “This series of poems chronicles Woodson’s experiences in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and ’70s under Jim Crow and with the civil rights movement.”

I have read several of the more recent books on this list but not enough.

Danny MacAskill Joins the Gym

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

In a video that pokes a little bit of fun at the stationary cycling of Soulcycle and Peloton, trials rider Danny MacAskill joins the gym and practices his own unique brand of bicycle fitness. Stick around until the end to see some bloopers and some more stunts that didn’t make the cut.

Impossible Foods Announces Their New Impossible Pork Product

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

Impossible Foods is expanding from faux beef to faux pork. Impossible Pork is their newest product made entirely from plants that is engineered to look and taste as close to the real thing as possible.

From the press release:

Impossible Pork is delicious in any ground meat dish, including spring rolls, stuffed vegetables, dumplings, wontons or sausage links. Like ground meat from pigs, Impossible Pork is characterized by its mild savory flavor, adding delicate depth and umami richness without being gamey or overpowering.

Although they don’t specifically connect the dots, Impossible Pork seems to be the base for another new product of theirs: Impossible Sausage, which is debuting in breakfast sandwiches at Burger King later this month. (I mean, you can’t make sausage without pork, right?!)

In a review of Impossible Pork for The Verge, long-time vegetarian Elizabeth Lopatto says it’s mostly a success, calling it “a savory base of protein for a lot of foods that traditionally call for pork”.

The Final Chart Topper of the Decade Perfectly Summarizes the Current State of Media

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

The number one song on the UK singles chart for the last week of 2019 was Ellie Goulding’s River, despite it not being available on Spotify, Apple, Google, or anywhere but Amazon (with one important exception). How the heck did that happen? Chart Watch UK has the story.

River was simply a prominent part of just about every “Christmas songs” playlist curated by Amazon themselves, a default choice for everyone muttering “Alexa, play Christmas songs” as they basted the turkey and cursed the sprouts. People have been spoon-fed a contemporary hit single like no other before it, and the result of that has been to propel it almost by accident to the top of the charts.

This is a fitting choice for the final chart topper in the 2010s because it encapsulates a number of trends in media that have played out over the past decade. To wit:

  1. The song is a remake. Remakes and sequels dominate our viewing and listening.
  2. It is exclusive to a single platform. The entire media world seems to be headed in this direction.
  3. The platform is operated by one of the handful of tech behemoths that took control of more and more of the media landscape as the decade wore on.
  4. Amazon. Arguably the company of the decade. Led by the world’s richest man, a symbol of the decade’s growth in inequality.
  5. Ok, the song is exclusive to Amazon but is also on YouTube. YT has simply grown so popular for young people listening to music that media companies can’t ignore it, even when they’re direct Google competitors (and who isn’t these days).
  6. Voice assistant devices were instrumental in making the song popular. Since Siri was first released in 2011, voice assistants have become increasingly embedded in our homes and pockets.
  7. Amazon’s editorial team added the exclusive song to several of their Christmas playlists. Amazon has access to the song, compiles the playlists, and sells the devices to play them. This sort of BigCo “synergy” became standard operating procedure in the 2010s.
  8. There was an algorithm involved (Billboard’s). They increasingly determine what we read, watch, and listen to.
  9. And that algorithm was gamed. See also the role of Facebook’s algorithms in the 2016 US Presidential election (and many many other examples of “impartial” algos being manipulated).

It is tough to imagine a more perfect example of how media functions (or doesn’t) today. (via @tedgioia)

Colorful & Meticulous Hand-Drawn Travel Notebooks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Good God, these hand-drawn & painted notebooks by José Naranja documenting his travels are fantastic! From Colossal:

Formerly an aeronautic engineer, Naranja now archives his thoughts while visiting foreign countries by hand-crafting journals replete with items like collected stamps, an illustration of the periodic table, and a study of fountain pens. Each mixed-media page centers on a theme, such as the culture surrounding eating a bowl of ramen or the flamingos found in a zoo.

Whenever I see something like this, it makes me want to learn how to draw/paint better than my current 4th grade level.1 I spent about 45 minutes poring over his work just now. So creative & exacting…look at that handwriting! And check out the tiny box of watercolors he carries with him.

You can keep up with Naranja’s latest adventures on his blog or on Instagram. If you’d like to buy some of his art — including a bound copy of some of his notebooks — there’s a small shop. (via colossal, which is also endlessly creative & meticulous)

  1. Ok, let’s be honest: 1st grade level. Most people might find it difficult to fake kids’ drawings but not me!

Flowing Data’s Best Data Visualizations of 2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

Nathan Yau of Flowing Data picked his ten favorite data visualization projects for 2019. All the projects listed are worth a look … but maybe, just maybe, this post is really just an excuse to let my eyes feast upon Scott Reinhard’s historic topographic maps once again.

Scott Reinhard

Designer Scott Reinhard takes old geological survey maps and combines them with elevation data to produce these wonderful hybrid topographic maps. From top to bottom, here are Reinhard’s 3D versions of a 1878 USGS Yellowstone map, a 1904 USGS map of Acadia National Park, and a 1899 USGS map of the Grand Tetons.

White Space: Sketching the Military Court at Guantánamo Bay

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2020

MacNaughton Gitmo

Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton spent a week at Guantánamo Bay sketching the proceedings at the 9/11 military court for this NY Times piece. In a behind-the-scenes piece, MacNaughton describes how she made the drawings, including the creative challenge posed by the restrictions and censorship enforced by US military officials.

Of the 30-something drawings I presented, Mr. Lavender shook his head at only two. The first contained some classified items in the courtroom. That made sense. The second was a handwritten list of everything that I was not allowed to draw, which I’d made to use as a reminder while working. I wanted to keep it. He refused.

I argued that the information it contained had been disclosed elsewhere. But Mr. Lavender and his supervisor came to the conclusion that my handwritten list was indeed a drawing, technically containing things I couldn’t draw. My “No” list was a no-go.

That’s Guantánamo.

Every drawing she made needed a signed approval sticker from the court’s censor, and in this piece and on Instagram, MacNaughton didn’t photoshop the sticker out, reinforcing that the censorship is a vital part of the story she’s trying to tell. Even the paper towel she used to clean her paint brushes needed a sticker:

MacNaughton Gitmo

Stella the Talking Dog

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2020

Meet Stella and her human, speech-language pathologist Christina Hunger. Using a soundboard of buttons that say words when they’re pressed, Hunger has taught Stella how to talk. Here’s a video from several months ago in which Stella asks to go to the beach, and when rebuffed, asks to play instead:

Stella’s latest progress is documented on Instagram: learning the meaning of “later”, asking where her owners are, and asking for more water and a toy.

Visualizing How Big the Universe & Atoms Are

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2020

In this video, the visual effects artists at Corridor Crew help us visualize just how small atoms are and how large the universe is. For instance, if you imagine an atom being the size of a tennis ball, blood cells would be as large as a small town and a penny would be almost precisely the diameter of the Earth. This is like a deconstructed & remixed Powers of Ten. (via digg)

We Built This City (on HTML & Javascript)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2020

If you are looking for some distraction today (and who would blame you really), check out Victor Ribeiro’s simple little isometric city builder. You just click on a building or snippet of road in the palette and place it on the grid. It took me just a couple minutes to whip this up:

Iso City

I wish it had more green space options, some wider pedestrian paths, and maybe some bridges. But still fun! (via clive thompson)

A Machine Dreams Up New Insect Species

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2020

Using a book of insect illustrations from the 1890s, Bernat Cuni used a variety of machine learning tools to generate a bunch of realistic-looking beetles that don’t actually exist in nature.

Prints are available.

Does Errol Morris Know Who Really Killed Jimmy Hoffa?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2020

Spurred by The Irishman’s take on the matter, Errol Morris, the progenitor of our current obsession with true crime, tackles an enduring mystery: Who Really Killed Jimmy Hoffa?

There is a weird discrepancy about whether the meeting was set for 2:00 or 2:30, but the uncertainty simply contributes to the argument that something strange was going on: Hoffa’s friends and family were incredulous that he would wait any amount of time; he was known to be extremely punctual and intolerant of those who weren’t. What compelled Hoffa to continue to pace around the sweltering asphalt outside the Machus Red Fox? Was he hoping to get high-level Mafia approval of his attempts to regain control of the Teamsters?

What happens next is a matter of conjecture, of inference — a collision between unimpeachable data such as phone calls, the unreliability of witness testimony, and fish-delivery times. We do know several things for certain: there’s a real world out there, a real asphalt parking lot, a real phone booth, and a real Machus Red Fox (now called Andiamo). And Jimmy Hoffa was there, left, and never came back.

If you know Morris, you know he loves ambiguity, so there’s not a 100% ironclad answer to the question posed by the article’s title, but Morris does have a guess in the closing paragraphs.

NASA: How We’re Going (Back) to the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2020

Before the holidays, NASA announced their plan for going back to the Moon by 2024.

With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before. We will collaborate with our commercial and international partners and establish sustainable exploration by 2028. Then, we will use what we learn on and around the Moon to take the next giant leap — sending astronauts to Mars.

The plan involves many supply runs and a small space station orbiting the Moon so that things like rovers and lunar landers are in place when manned missions need to land on the Moon or even continue on to Mars. You can check out all of the details on NASA’s website.

How to Make Popcorn Using a Blow Torch & Hair Dryer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2020

I love this short little film from the creative duo of Zita Bernet & Rafael Sommerhalder entitled Popcorn.

(via mike essl)

Parasite’s Perfect Montage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2020

From Evan Puschak, this is an analysis of a tightly edited five-minute montage in the middle of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in which a family of schemers removes the last obstacle in their way of a luxurious life of service.

(This next bit is way off topic…I am not even going to try and connect it to the movie or Puschak’s thoughts on editing.) In looking for an appropriate quote from the video, I went searching in YouTube’s automatically generated transcript of the video and instead discovered whatever fancy AI program they’ve employed for transcription had some problems with the Korean language spoken in the video:

well the Kogi’s held on crew could to work a contra cut under something crazy kangaroo hot lava could carry yours a tiny car would cause a huge bang engines in his element saw cars motherfuckers Christian wear boxers and couvent a easy call it to Minaj Monica City on criminals chief juniper gun and a car don’t belong back in case come on Joey tell him to cool on the cloud Coronas our tornado man hold it up on watch from Atlanta

Also, peaches are a thing now in movies!

2020 Vision

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 01, 2020

I’m not feeling particularly introspective or retrospective or reflective about 2019 and the 2010s coming to an end, at least not publicly so. I couldn’t even get it together to do a best of my media diet for 2019.1

But I did want to note that with this post, I have now published kottke.org across four decades: the 90s, 00s, 10s, and now the 20s. What. The. F?! That realization has me a little bit shook. Am I in a groove or a rut? I find myself feeling both comfortable here and restless for something different. Can those things work together to our mutual benefit in the year to come? We shall see.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone for reading the site. I know from your email that some of you have been reading since the 90s, which floors me. Thanks also to those of you who have supported the site through the purchase of a membership — this site literally could not function without that support.

  1. Ok fine. In no order, fave movies were Roma, Booksmart, Uncut Gems. Books: Normal People, In the Garden of Beasts. TV: Fleabag, Succession, Mindhunter, Chernobyl, Leaving Neverland, American Factory. Podcasts: 13 Minutes to the Moon, 1619. But travel to Mexico City and to the US west coast overshadowed all of that, with visits to Teotihuacán and California’s redwoods forests being my peak experiences of the year (that I am comfortable sharing in a public forum).

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