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Entries for April 2020 (May 2020 »    Archives)

 

Wile E. Coyote Files a Product Liability Lawsuit Against Acme Company

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Coyote V Acme

In a classic New Yorker article from 1990, Ian Frazier writes about an imagined lawsuit filed by Wile E. Coyote against the Acme Company in which he “seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering” due to the company’s defective products.

Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket Sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and, sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote’s forelimbs to a length of fifty feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote’s body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poorly designed steering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or nonexistent braking system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled brought it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa.

See also the rules followed by animator Chuck Jones and his team while making the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons.

The Official Recipe for Ikea Meatballs

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Ikea Meatballs Recipe

On Twitter the other day, Ikea UK shared the official recipe for their iconic meatballs and cream sauce,— in the form of Ikea instructions naturally. As a midwesterner of partial Swedish heritage, this sort of thing is right up my alley.

It’s kind of amazing that society has collectively decided to give up all its secrets and control in the face of the pandemic — museums putting their collections online, filmmakers streaming their movies for free, people indiscriminately sending each other nudes, bands putting live performances on YouTube for free, and now this Ikea meatballs thing. The world has turned upside down. (via why is this interesting?)

Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

With art museums closed and people quarantined at home, some folks have taken to recreating famous artworks using stuff laying around the house. Some of the best recreations are from the Covid Classic Instagram account.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine is pretty good too.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Museums like Rijksmuseum and the Getty have also been getting into the act, challenging people to send in their creations.

Covid Art Recreations

Audio Deepfakes Result in Some Pretty Convincing Mashup Performances

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Have you ever wanted to hear Jay Z rap the “To Be, Or Not To Be” soliloquy from Hamlet? You are in luck:

What about Bob Dylan singing Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”? Here you go:

Bill Clinton reciting “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot? Yep:

And I know you’re always wanted to hear six US Presidents rap NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police”. Voila:

This version with the backing track is even better. These audio deepfakes were created using AI:

The voices in this video were entirely computer-generated using a text-to-speech model trained on the speech patterns of Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.

The program listens to a bunch of speech spoken by someone and then, in theory, you can provide any text you want and the virtual Obama or Jay Z can speak it. Some of these are more convincing than others — with a bit of manual tinkering, I bet you could clean these up enough to make them convincing.

Two of the videos featuring Jay Z’s synthesized voice were forced offline by a copyright claim from his record company but were reinstated. As Andy Baio notes, these deepfakes are legally interesting:

With these takedowns, Roc Nation is making two claims:

1. These videos are an infringing use of Jay-Z’s copyright.
2. The videos “unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice.”

But are either of these true? With a technology this new, we’re in untested legal waters.

The Vocal Synthesis audio clips were created by training a model with a large corpus of audio samples and text transcriptions. In this case, he fed Jay-Z songs and lyrics into Tacotron 2, a neural network architecture developed by Google.

It seems reasonable to assume that a model and audio generated from copyrighted audio recordings would be considered derivative works.

But is it copyright infringement? Like virtually everything in the world of copyright, it depends-on how it was used, and for what purpose.

Celebrity impressions by people are allowed, why not ones by machines? It’ll be interesting to see where this goes as the tech gets better.

Colorful New Geological Map of the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Moon Geological Map

Moon Geological Map

In collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the USGS has released the first complete geological map of the Moon’s surface.

This new work represents a seamless, globally consistent, 1:5,000,000-scale geologic map derived from the six digitally renovated geologic maps (see Source Online Linkage below). The goal of this project was to create a digital resource for science research and analysis, future geologic mapping efforts, be it local-, regional-, or global-scale products, and as a resource for the educators and the public interested in lunar geology.

Strange Maps has more information on how the map came to be and what it shows.

The map was created by the U.S. Geological Service’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. In collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, it combined six ‘regional’ maps of the Moon made during the Apollo era (1961-1975) with input from more recent unmanned lunar missions.

This included data on the polar regions from NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) and close-ups of the equatorial zone from the Japanese Space Agency’s recent SELENE mission.

The two images above show the entire map and a detailed view of a single area (which includes the landing sites of 3 Apollo missions) while the video shows a rotating globe version of the map.

Hubble Telescope Watches the Rare Disintegration of a Comet

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

Last month, I told you about Comet ATLAS, which at that time looked capable of putting on a real show in the night sky.

Except, since its discovery, the comet has been brightening at an almost unprecedented speed. As of March 17, ATLAS was already magnitude +8.5, over 600 times brighter than forecast. As a result, great expectations are buzzing for this icy lump of cosmic detritus, with hopes it could become a stupendously bright object by the end of May.

It turns out the increase in brightness was fleeting — and possibly due to the comet breaking apart. In the past week, the Hubble Space Telescope has gotten two good looks at the disintegrating comet, identifying that the main mass has broken into about 30 fragments.

Comet Atlas Hubble

Comet Atlas Hubble

“This is really exciting — both because such events are super cool to watch and because they do not happen very often. Most comets that fragment are too dim to see. Events at such scale only happen once or twice a decade,” said the leader of a second Hubble observing team, Quanzhi Ye, of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The results are evidence that comet fragmentation is actually fairly common, say researchers. It might even be the dominant mechanism by which the solid, icy nuclei of comets die. Because this happens quickly and unpredictably, astronomers remain largely uncertain about the cause of fragmentation. Hubble’s crisp images may yield new clues to the breakup. Hubble distinguishes pieces as small as the size of a house. Before the breakup, the entire nucleus may have been no more than the length of two football fields.

Music That’s Perfect for Working

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

I like to listen to music while I work, but it can’t have any vocals or I get too distracted when I’m writing or reading. So I end up listening to a lot of electronic, classical, and soundtracks. During the pandemic, I’ve been sharing my daily work soundtrack in this Twitter thread with selections like the Amelie soundtrack, Burial, Tycho, Nine Inch Nails, and Philip Glass. I’m no musical expert or connoisseur, but I know what I like and what works to keep me focused.

Over the past few months, I’ve been getting a lot of good music recommendations from the Flow State newsletter, so I was happy to write a guest issue for them today recommending music from Ben Prunty.

Today we’re listening to Ben Prunty, a composer of video game soundtracks. His first release was the chiptune soundtrack for the critically acclaimed FTL: Faster Than Light, a video game released in 2012. The music is chill and retro, the perfect backdrop for gameplay that’s more about careful planning and execution than fast-twitch reflexes. Inspired by fans who listened to the FTL soundtrack while working or studying, Prunty released Color Sky a couple of years later, describing the album as an “epic journey across your own subconscious.”

You can find the links for the albums I mentioned if you click through and so many more recommendations in their back issues.

Update: Damien Joyce reminded me that I asked for recommendations for “head-down coding/designing/writing concentration music” on Twitter a few years ago and received a bunch of great responses. Joyce compiled many of the responses into a 15-hour playlist on Spotify.

The Changing Profile of Covid-19’s Presenting Symptoms

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

As Ed Yong notes in his helpful overview of the pandemic, this is such a huge and quickly moving event that it’s difficult to know what’s happening. Lately, I’ve been seeking information on Covid-19 presenting symptoms after seeing a bunch of anecdotal data from various sources.

In the early days of the epidemic (January, February, and into March), people were told by the CDC and other public health officials to watch out for three specific symptoms: fever, a dry cough, and shortness of breath. In many areas, testing was restricted to people who exhibited only those symptoms. Slowly, as more data is gathered, the profile of the presenting symptoms has started to shift. From a New York magazine piece by David Wallace-Wells on Monday:

While the CDC does list fever as the top symptom of COVID-19, so confidently that for weeks patients were turned away from testing sites if they didn’t have an elevated temperature, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, as many as 70 percent of patients sick enough to be admitted to New York State’s largest hospital system did not have a fever.

Over the past few months, Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been compiling and revising, in real time, treatment guidelines for COVID-19 which have become a trusted clearinghouse of best-practices information for doctors throughout the country. According to those guidelines, as few as 44 percent of coronavirus patients presented with a fever (though, in their meta-analysis, the uncertainty is quite high, with a range of 44 to 94 percent). Cough is more common, according to Brigham and Women’s, with between 68 percent and 83 percent of patients presenting with some cough — though that means as many as three in ten sick enough to be hospitalized won’t be coughing. As for shortness of breath, the Brigham and Women’s estimate runs as low as 11 percent. The high end is only 40 percent, which would still mean that more patients hospitalized for COVID-19 do not have shortness of breath than do. At the low end of that range, shortness of breath would be roughly as common among COVID-19 patients as confusion (9 percent), headache (8 to 14 percent), and nausea and diarrhea (3 to 17 percent).

Recently, as noted by the Washington Post, the CDC has changed their list of Covid-19 symptoms to watch out for. They now list two main symptoms (cough & shortness of breath) and several additional symptoms (fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell). They also note that “this list is not all inclusive”. Compare that with their list from mid-February.

In addition, there’s evidence that children might have different symptoms (including stomach issues or diarrhea), doctors are reporting seeing “COVID toes” on some patients, and you might want to look at earlier data from these three studies about symptoms observed in Wuhan and greater China.

The reason I’m interested in this shift in presenting symptoms is that on the last day or two of my trip to Asia, I got sick — and I’m been wondering if it was Covid-19.

Here’s the timeline: starting on Jan 21, I was in Saigon, Vietnam for two weeks, then in Singapore for 4 days, and then Doha, Qatar for 48 hours. The day I landed in Doha, Feb 9, I started to feel a little off, and definitely felt sick the next day. I had a sore throat, headache, and congestion (stuffy nose) for the first few days. There was also some fatigue/tiredness but I was jetlagged too so… All the symptoms were mild and it felt like a normal cold to me. Here’s how I wrote about it in my travelogue:

I got sick on the last day of the trip, which turned into a full-blown cold when I got home. I dutifully wore my mask on the plane and in telling friends & family about how I was feeling, I felt obliged to text “***NOT*** coronavirus, completely different symptoms!!”

I flew back to the US on Feb 11 (I wore a mask the entire time in the Doha airport, on the plane, and even in the Boston airport, which no one else was doing). I lost my sense of taste and smell for about 2 days, which was a little unnerving but has happened to me with past colds. At no point did I have even the tiniest bit of fever or shortness of breath. The illness did drag on though — I felt run-down for a few weeks and a very slight cough that developed about a week and a half after I got sick lingered for weeks.

According to guidance from the WHO, CDC, and public health officials at the time, none of my initial symptoms were a match for Covid-19. I thought about getting a test or going to the doctor, but in the US in mid-February, and especially in Vermont, there were no tests available for someone with a mild cold and no fever. But looking at the CDC’s current list of symptoms — which include headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell — and considering that I’d been in Vietnam and Singapore when cases were reported in both places, it seems plausible to me that my illness could have been a mild case of Covid-19. Hopefully it wasn’t, but I’ll be getting an antibody test once they are (hopefully) more widely available, even though the results won’t be super reliable.

The British Museum Puts 1.9 Million Images Online for Public Use

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

As part of a website refresh, The British Museum has made over 1.9 million photos of its collections freely available to the public. Visitors to their online collections website can download images, and share & adapt them for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. Museum director Hartwig Fischer said of the refresh:

The British Museum Collection Online makes millions of objects accessible to the citizens of the world, wherever they might be. Whether you are a student, an artist, a scholar or are a lover of history and culture, this is an unparalleled resource to explore the richness, diversity and complexity of human history contained in the British Museum’s collection. It is also a platform where we can share the latest knowledge and research. We are delighted to be able to unveil this major revamp early, and hope that these important objects can provide inspiration, reflection or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time.

Pictured above from the collection are the Townley discobolus, a drawing by Raphael, a Greek amphora, the Sloane astrolabe, and a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. And pictured below are a print by George Cruikshank, a portrait of William Shakespeare, marble metope from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, and Albrecht Dürer’s print of a rhinoceros.

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

However useful the new online collection is, it must be noted that the ownership of several of the items in the British Museum’s collection — including the Parthenon Marbles & Rosetta Stone — is disputed.

For more large collections of images for public use, see also Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use, Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million High-Res Images Into the Public Domain, A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago Has Put 50,000 High-Res Images from Their Collection Online, and Met Puts Huge Digital Image Trove Online. (via ianvisits)

Social Distancing As Demonstrated in Wes Anderson Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

Characters in Wes Anderson’s films are often misfits, outcasts, or are estranged from one another for various reasons. That apartness is often depicted cinematically using physical distance between individuals onscreen, with the aesthetic side effect of using all of that gorgeous 1.85:1 or even 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Luis Azevedo made a short supercut of moments in Anderson’s movies where the characters are practicing good social distancing techniques.

Jason Polan Postage Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

The artist Jason Polan passed away in January from colon cancer. A group of his friends are trying to memorialize Polan and his art with a commemorative postage stamp from the USPS. Kelli Anderson created mockups for the stamps.

Jason Polan Stamps

Jason Polan Stamps

Polan loved mail and the USPS. A few years ago at his own expense, he took out a small ad in the New Yorker for the post office:

Jason Polan USPS Ad

FWIW, here’s how the USPS’s stamp selection process works.

The “Mile an Hour” Marathon

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

Over the course of 24 hours, Beau Miles ran around his mile-long block once every hour (plus a few more at the beginning) to complete a marathon in a day. But he also did a bunch of other stuff along the way: cooked dinner, made a table, fixed things, picked up trash, played Scrabble, got a bit of sleep, and made the short film above.

A different kind of marathon; running one lap an hour, for 24hrs, around my perfectly mile long block. The rest of the time I do as much as possible; making things, odd jobs, fixing stuff. It’s about running, doing, and thinking.

Watch a Monarch Butterfly Swarm (Filmed by a Drone Disguised as a Hummingbird)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

For an upcoming episode of a show called Spy in the Wild, PBS’s Nature used a tiny drone disguised as a hummingbird to capture footage of a swarm of half a billion monarch butterflies as they overwinter in Mexico. The butterflies pay the hummingbird robot little mind:

Hummingbird Drone

The monarch butterfly is under increasing pressure due to habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change, driving down their population.

The current state of the smaller western population of monarchs that overwinter in California is more dire than their eastern counterparts. The western population crashed by 99% in the latest count, reaching a historic low of fewer than 30,000 butterflies for the second year in a row, down from 1.2 million two decades ago.

Both butterfly populations are below the threshold at which government scientists predict the migrations could collapse. Federal scientists estimate there is nearly a 60% chance the monarch’s spectacular, multigenerational migration in the eastern half of the country could completely collapse within the next 20 years.

(via @MachinePix)

Homemade Maps of People’s Limited Surroundings During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Covid Maps

Covid Maps

CityLab asked its readers to “draw maps of their worlds in the time of coronavirus”. They drew floor plans, neighborhood walking diagrams, and more abstract representations of their surroundings.

You charted how your homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries have transformed under social distancing and stay-at-home orders around the planet, from daily work routines and the routes of your “sanity walks,” to the people you miss and the places you fled.

While most used markers, pens, and computer-based drawing tools to sketch maps by hand, some used watercolors, clay, and photography. Some were humorous, others heart-wrenching - between them all, a full spectrum of quarantine-era emotion emerged.

(via @ctsinclair)

“Glowing” Dolphins Swimming in Bioluminescent Waters

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Well, this is just beautiful. Photographer Patrick Coyne was lucky enough to capture some dolphins swimming through bioluminescent algae off the coast of Newport Beach, CA. When this kind of algae is disturbed, it emits a bluish light, which causes the dolphins to glow as they move through the water. He wrote about the experience — “one of the most magical nights of my life” — on Instagram:

Conditions have to be absolutely perfect for the bioluminescence to show up and to have an animal swim through it so we can film it. On top of all that just trying to nail the focus at such a wide aperture with something moving in the water was a nightmare. We were out for a few hours and on our final stretch back we finally had 2 Dolphins pop up to start the incredible glowing show. A few minutes later and we were greeted by a few more which was insane. I’m honestly still processing this all…

Coyne also captured some glowing waves crashing on the beach. More dolphins swimming in bioluminescent waters here. Incredible. (via bb)

Chris Ware’s NYC Still Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Chris Ware's Still Life of NYC

For the cover of this week’s New Yorker, Chris Ware drew several vignettes of NYC arranged in his trademark grid as a companion to this incredible piece about a single day of the Covid-19 crisis in the city. About the cover, Ware wrote:

Teeming with unpredictable people and unimaginable places and unforeseeable moments, life there is measured not in hours but in densely packed minutes that can fill up a day with a year’s worth of life. Lately, however, closed up in our homes against a worldwide terror, time everywhere has seemed to slur, to become almost Groundhog Day-ish, forced into a sort of present-perfect tense — or, as my fellow New Yorker contributor Masha Gessen more precisely put it, ‘loopy, dotted, and sometimes perpendicular to itself.’ But disaster can also have a recalibrating quality. It reminds us that the real things of life (breakfast, grass, spouse) can, in normal times, become clotted over by anxieties and nonsense. We’re at low tide, but, as my wife, a biology teacher, said to me this morning, “For a while, we get to just step back and look.” And really, when you do, it is pretty marvellous.

A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Van Gogh Self Portrait

One of my favorite museums I’ve visited in the past few years is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh’s art career lasted for only 10 years, and the museum provides a fascinating account (through his work, letters, and other material) of how a talented but unremarkable painter made the conceptual breakthrough for which he is now known the world over.

The museum is closed due to the pandemic, but anyone with an internet connection can experience the collection at home thanks to the museum’s dedication to accessibility. This 15-minute tour of the museum filmed in 4K resolution should get you started — here are the first two parts:

The museum has also digitized and put online hundreds of the artist’s paintings, sketches, and letters. The high resolution scans allow you to see details that you probably couldn’t in person. This is a close-up view of the 1887 self-portrait pictured above:

Van Gogh Self Hat Detail

It’s mind-blowing to see all of those brushstrokes in such detail.

The museum’s website offers a number of other ways to engage with van Gogh’s art, including coloring activities and lessons for children. And for those who exhaust the museum’s offerings, try browsing van Gogh’s works at Google Arts & Culture, MoMA, the Met, and the Rijksmuseum. (via open culture)

A Microscopic Chemical Reaction Goes Supernova

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2020

This short film by Roman Hill shows a chemical reaction at microscopically close range, all filmed in a single shot over an area of a third of an inch square. The result looks like a tour of a vast colorful cosmos, a reminder of how similar the different scales of our universe can appear sometimes. (thx, cs)

Top 15 Countries By Military Spending (1914-2018)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2020

Using data from the Correlates of War Project and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, this bar chart race shows the annual military spending of the world’s top spending countries from the start of WWI in 1914 to 2018. See also military spending info from Our World in Data.

A Doctor Calls Patients to Tell Them Their Covid-19 Tests Were Positive

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2020

In early March, Dr. Caroline Schulman was responsible for calling patients at her hospital to tell them they had tested positive for Covid-19. She shared some of her experiences in a piece for Stat.

Erik lives with his entire family in a one-room rental house with eight other occupants. He didn’t understand the precautions for preventing the spread of Covid-19 and had regularly been socializing in the apartment. He kept asking how to file for unemployment and how to isolate the household when the house itself could barely hold those living in it.

Jeff lives alone. He has a chronic blood condition and is struggling to get by. A few hours before we talked, he had resumed his job as a ride share driver because he needed to make ends meet.

Angela is 40 years old and has one of the preexisting conditions that put people at high risk for serious complications of Covid-19. When we spoke, she told me that she was feeling better, but that her home life was difficult. Her children had returned home after Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a stay-at-home order for the District of Columbia. She asked her kids to take precautions, but they continued to leave the house often. One son brought home his girlfriend, who had a cough, and displaced Angela from her room. She was unable to make an appointment with her primary doctor and couldn’t afford her medical supplies because of insurance issues. When I spoke with her, she sounded well and had no classic symptoms, but something didn’t sound right. I arranged a televisit that afternoon to have her evaluated more closely. By the time she got the call two hours later, she was so short of breath she could barely speak. When an ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital, her oxygen levels were dangerously low.

Reading through these stories, I just kept thinking about the measures that are going to be necessary if we’re going to safely restart public life in America — hygiene, mask wearing, some social distancing, and eventually a vaccine — and how our collective safety is going to depend on individuals doing the right thing. And most people will. But it’s clear that, especially without coherent national leadership & economic support, some people will be unable to take the necessary precautions for economic reasons and others won’t because they don’t understand why these measures are necessary, don’t trust science, or a dozen other reasons.

Build Your Own Magically Floating Lego Tensegrity Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

Ok, take a look at this short video of a Lego structure. Whaaaaat kind of sorcery is this?!

The top part of the structure appears to be floating, held aloft by plastic chains seemingly incapable of supporting the load. This is an example of a tensegrity sculpture, in which tension (and not compression) is used to carry weight.

If you want to build your own, the instructions and parts list are available and you can watch this tutorial as well:

(via colossal)

Blade Runner - The Lost Cut

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

Of the various cuts of Blade Runner done over the years, Blade Runner - The Lost Cut is perhaps the oddest. Billed by creator Leon Chase as “a radical re-envisioning of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic”, this cut boldly includes footage from other films like The French Connection, Star Wars, The Jerk, and The Blues Brothers. A few of the films whose footage was used, including the Coen brothers’ Fargo, were released well after Blade Runner came out.

Daring! But does this cut go too far? Or not too far enough?

A Relaxing Walk Through the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

It’s unfortunate that places like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden need to be closed during this stressful time, because the cherry blossoms are in bloom right now and what a balm that would be to so many souls. Luckily, cinematographer Nic Petry was granted access to the garden a couple of weeks ago to capture a relaxing and meditative walk through the Japanese Garden.

The historic garden is one of the oldest extant Japanese gardens in the United States, and its collection of cherry cultivars was in lovely bloom during filming. Petry, a specialist in moving camera techniques, conceived the piece as a way to recreate the meditative experience of walking through the garden on a glorious, early spring day.

(via laura olin)

Update: See also Gothamist’s photos and drone video of the cherry blossoms this year.

Update: Now that more cherry trees are in blossom at the garden, they have uploaded a video of a walk through the esplanade.

No Man Is an Island

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

From director Robert Bingaman, a video interpretation of a timely passage from John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which was written by Donne in 1623 while recovering from a serious illness. The passage is from Meditation XVII and is paired in the video with images of businesses and public places emptied out by the pandemic.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

A Social Distance

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

Using crowd-sourced clips sent in from all over the world, filmmakers Ivan Cash and Jacob Jonas made a poignant short film called A Social Distance about how things are going as people shelter in place at home.

In the self-submitted videos, people dance, play music, take us on a tour of their refrigerator, and introduce us to their pets. Edited together, these intimate moments create a synchronicity of humanity — a feeling of togetherness that’s difficult to conjure when you’re sequestered at home.

The score for the film is by Steve Hackman, who I previously featured for his mashups of pop & classical music:

Hackman, the film’s composer, wrote sheet music that he distributed to musicians across the world. When he received their recordings, Hackman combined the performances to create an original score.

See also Living Through Coronavirus Around the World. (via colossal)

The Earth Day 2020 Awards, Presented by Ze Frank

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

In partnership with PBS Nature, Ze Frank (narrating as the Earth) presents The Earth Day 2020 Awards to a deserving group of fascinating animals, including the decorator crab (Best Dressed) and the salmon (Best Travel Story). I am upset on behalf of the planet’s plants though. WHERE ARE THE PLANTS ZE? Did a dandelion bully you as a kid or something?

See also The Atlantic’s photo essay on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Selling the Imperfection of Handmade Art Paper

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

This short film profiles a small company in Somerset, England called Two Rivers Paper. Using water power, the company makes paper by hand for artists and designers, and they have a healthy appreciation for the unpredictability of their product.

Anything that’s made by a craftsman is imperfect. So, a hand-forged nail will be imperfect — every one will be slightly different. Handmade paper — every sheet is slightly different. So if you want perfection, if you want uniformity, then it has to be done by a machine. I often tell people that we sell imperfection, that’s what we do.

Two Rivers Paper operates one of the few remaining hand-mills in Europe.

The mill is over 400 years old and still retains much of the ancient wooden milling machinery. It’s been restored over the last 15 years to a working water-powered traditional paper mill, using a 100 year old metal wheel from Wales and an 1841 Hollander Rag-Breaker.

The wheel itself is a 10ft overshot wheel weighing two and a half tons and standing eleven foot high. In combination with the rag breaker, Two Rivers will be the only place in the UK where water power is used to make paper from old rags. Showing a continuing commitment to manufacturing using environmentally appropriate methods, a full array of solar panels were fitted to the mill roof in 2011. Electrical heating is used to gently dry our paper in the mill loft.

This short video segment from the BBC provides a closer look at how their paper is made. You can get yourself some Two Rivers paper from their online shop.

See also 700-Year-Old French Mill Still Cranking Out Handmade Paper and this short film on how marbled paper is made.

Ella Fitzgerald Masterfully Butchers “Mack the Knife”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

If you listen to more than 20 seconds of any song by Ella Fitzgerald, you can instinctively tell how amazing a singer she was. But taking a closer look reveals just how special. In this episode of NPR’s Jazz Night in America, they took a look at Fitzgerald’s 1960 performance of Mack the Knife (where she forgot half the words and improvised the rest) and her talent for referencing other songs while improvising, creating live “mix tapes” of popular songs using just her voice.

By 1960, Fitzgerald had become a global sensation. That February she gave an unforgettable performance in West Berlin for an audience of thousands. On the set list was “Mack The Knife,” a huge hit first made popular by Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong. Fitzgerald sang the song flawlessly until about halfway through, when she forgot the lyrics. But she didn’t stumble — instead, she playfully freestyled her way to the end with nonsense syllables and improvised words — the singular jazz style called scatting. This unforgettable and Grammy Award-winning performance demonstrated her masterful grace under pressure.

You can listen to her Grammy-winning version of Mack the Knife on Spotify:

I love how confidently she sings “Oh, what’s the next chorus…” — Fitzgerald belts it out like those are the right lyrics. Her self-assurance sells it. (via the kid should see this)

Human After All

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

Human After All

Human After All

I am not quite sure what to say about Human After All, a collaboration between photographer Jan Kriwol and digital artist Markos Kay, other than it seems like a metaphor for something these days. (via colossal)

Where’s Waldo? in the Social Distancing Age

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

Where's Waldo Pandemic

Finding Waldo is a lot easier when no one can go outside. On his Instagram, art director Pedro Mezzini reimagined Where’s Waldo for the age of social distancing. He’s even wearing a mask! See also Clay Bennett’s version.

A Virtual Performance by the Chicago Sinfonietta Orchestra

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

Forced to cancel performances due to the pandemic, the members of Chicago Sinfonietta (“North America’s most diverse orchestra”) gathered together via video for a lively virtual performance of Leroy Anderson’s Plink, Plank, Plunk!, which is played primarily by plucking string instruments. Tag yourself…are you bored triangle lady or clarinet banana?

Children’s Story Time with Michelle Obama and PBS Kids

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

For the next several Mondays, Michelle Obama will read a favorite children’s book in partnership with PBS Kids. The first reading (of The Gruffalo) is already in the can and archived on YouTube:

(via barry)

How We Reopen the Country: A Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2020

Working under the direction of The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, a bipartisan group of experts in public health, economics, technology, and ethics have produced a plan for a phased reopening of public life in the United States through testing, tracing, and supported isolation. The video above summarizes the plan and here’s the full plan in the form of a 56-page PDF.

“Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience: Massive Scale Testing, Tracing, and Supported Isolation (TTSI) as the Path to Pandemic Resilience for a Free Society,” lays out how a massive scale-up of testing, paired with contact tracing and supported isolation, can rebuild trust in our personal safety and re-mobilize the U.S. economy.

Among the report’s top recommendations is the need to deliver at least 5 million tests per day by early June to help ensure a safe social opening. This number will need to increase to 20 million tests per day by mid-summer to fully re-mobilize the economy.

Pandemic Resilience

From the paper, here’s a quick overview:

What we need to do is much bigger than most people realize. We need to massively scale-up testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine-together with providing the resources to make these possible for all individuals.

Broad and rapid access to testing is vital for disease monitoring, rapid public health response, and disease control.

We need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. This number will need to increase over time (ideally by late July) to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health. In that considerably less likely eventuality, we will need to scale-up testing much further. By the time we know if we need to do that, we should be in a better position to know how to do it. In any situation, achieving these numbers depends on testing innovation.

Between now and August, we should phase in economic mobilization in sync with growth in our capacity to provide sustainable testing programs for mobilized sectors of the workforce.

The great value of this approach is that it will prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down. It allows us to steadily reopen the parts of the economy that have been shut down, protect our frontline workers, and contain the virus to levels where it can be effectively managed and treated until we can find a vaccine.

We can have bottom-up innovation and participation and top-down direction and protection at the same time; that is what our federal system is designed for.

This policy roadmap lays out how massive testing plus contact tracing plus social isolation with strong social supports, or TTSI, can rebuild trust in our personal safety and the safety of those we love. This will in turn support a renewal of mobility and mobilization of the economy. This paper is designed to educate the American public about what is emerging as a consensus national strategy.

The plan seems consistent with what economist Paul Romer has been saying — Without More Tests, America Can’t Reopen (And to make matters worse, we’re testing the wrong people) — and with the approach Hong Kong has been taking — Test and trace: lessons from Hong Kong on avoiding a coronavirus lockdown. See also the 4 plans to end social distancing, explained.

Unfortunately for this plan and for all of us, I have a feeling that the first true step in any rational plan to reopen the United States without unnecessary death and/or massive economic disruption that lasts for years is the removal of Donald Trump from office (and possibly also the end of the Republican-controlled Senate). Barring that, the ineffectual circus continues. (via @riondotnu)

South African Safaris Broadcast Live Online Twice a Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2020

A group in South Africa called WildEarth is broadcasting live safaris on YouTube twice a day, once at sunrise and again at sunset. The safaris take place in Greater Kruger National Park, run for about three hours each, and are archived online. Here’s a sunrise safari from last week:

Here’s their daily schedule:

The Sunrise Safari starts at 06:00 local time, which means start times of 00:00 PM ET, 21:00 PM PT, 04:00 in the UK [GMT], 05:00 in Central Europe, and 15:00 Sydney time.

The Sunset Safari starts at 15:30 CAT local time, 09:30 AM ET, 06:30 AM PT, 14:30 in the UK [BST], 15:30 in Central Europe, and 00:30 Sydney time.

Check out the safari archive for past shows and this playlist for some of the highlights. (thx, philip)

The Rolling Stones Perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” While Sheltering at Home

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2020

As part of the One World: Together at Home fundraiser organized by the WHO, Global Citizen, and Lady Gaga that raised $127.9 million for Covid-19 relief efforts, the members of the Rolling Stones, each in their own home, got together via video to perform You Can’t Always Get What You Want. It’s a lovely messy & spare performance and the choice of song is timely — plenty of people around the world are definitely not getting what they want right now, but hopefully we will eventually end up getting what we need.

The Emerging Science of What SARS-CoV-2 Does to the Human Body

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2020

Thousands of scientific research papers on Covid-19 and SARS-CoV-2 are being published each week and with them comes a clearer picture of the virus and the disease it causes. There’s still a lot we don’t know, but this piece from Science magazine is the best synthesis of the emerging science that I have read. It details a virus that “acts like no microbe humanity has ever seen” and affects not only the lungs but also the kidneys, heart, brain, and the intestines.

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surges past 2.2 million globally and deaths surpass 150,000, clinicians and pathologists are struggling to understand the damage wrought by the coronavirus as it tears through the body. They are realizing that although the lungs are ground zero, its reach can extend to many organs including the heart and blood vessels, kidneys, gut, and brain.

“[The disease] can attack almost anything in the body with devastating consequences,” says cardiologist Harlan Krumholz of Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, who is leading multiple efforts to gather clinical data on COVID-19. “Its ferocity is breathtaking and humbling.”

Understanding the rampage could help the doctors on the front lines treat the fraction of infected people who become desperately and sometimes mysteriously ill. Does a dangerous, newly observed tendency to blood clotting transform some mild cases into life-threatening emergencies? Is an overzealous immune response behind the worst cases, suggesting treatment with immune-suppressing drugs could help? What explains the startlingly low blood oxygen that some physicians are reporting in patients who nonetheless are not gasping for breath? “Taking a systems approach may be beneficial as we start thinking about therapies,” says Nilam Mangalmurti, a pulmonary intensivist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

How Covid-19 attacks the human body

I’ve been hearing that although Covid-19’s attack begins in the lungs, it is as much a vascular disease as it is a respiratory disease — and there is some evidence emerging to support this view:

If COVID-19 targets blood vessels, that could also help explain why patients with pre-existing damage to those vessels, for example from diabetes and high blood pressure, face higher risk of serious disease. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on hospitalized patients in 14 U.S. states found that about one-third had chronic lung disease-but nearly as many had diabetes, and fully half had pre-existing high blood pressure.

Mangalmurti says she has been “shocked by the fact that we don’t have a huge number of asthmatics” or patients with other respiratory diseases in HUP’s ICU. “It’s very striking to us that risk factors seem to be vascular: diabetes, obesity, age, hypertension.”

What struck me most about this piece is the sheer energy of the vast network of minds bent towards understanding this thing with the hope of beating it as soon as possible. This is the scientific method at work right here, in all its urgent & messy glory.

John Krasinski Hosted a Virtual Prom for the World’s Quarantined High School Students

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2020

With the help of Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell, the Jonas Brothers, and Chance the Rapper, John Krasinski threw a virtual prom for the nation’s high school students who are stuck at home because of the pandemic. This show is such a gift. Don’t miss Brad Pitt doing the weather report and a brief segment from the International Space Station.

Netflix Posts Dozens of Their Educational Programs on YouTube for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 19, 2020

In the Before Times, Netflix let teachers stream their programming in the classroom. With schools not in sessions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Netflix has decided to put some of their educational programming on YouTube for free (full playlist here). For instance, they’ve put all 8 episodes of David Attenborough’s nature series Our Planet online in their entirety. Here’s the first episode:

The Our Planet website also has tons of educational information for schools and kids.

13th is a feature-length documentary by Ava DuVernay about how racial inequality in America drives our high incarceration rates:

13th is currently rated 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and NY Times reviewer Manohla Dargis called it “powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming”. Here’s a discussion guide.

Eight full episodes of the first season of Abstract: The Art of Design are also available on YouTube (discussion guide). Here’s the episode featuring illustrator Christoph Niemann:

Several episodes of Vox’s series Explained are included, like this one on the racial wealth gap:

Also included are The White Helmets & Period. End of Sentence. (which each won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject) as well as Knock Down The House, the documentary on the 2018 Congressional campaigns of four women (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). See the full list of included shows and the full playlist on YouTube.

The Implausible Covid-19 Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2020

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post interviewed Scott Z. Burns, who wrote the screenplay for Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s film about a bat-borne illness that starts a global pandemic. What’s most striking about the interview is how outlandish Burns finds certain aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, so ridiculous in fact that people would find them implausible if this were a fictional story.

I would have never imagined that the movie needed a “bad guy” beyond the virus itself. It seems pretty basic that the plot should be humans united against the virus. If you were writing it now, you would have to take into account the blunders of a dishonest president and the political party that supports him. But any good studio executive would have probably told us that such a character was unbelievable and made the script more of a dark comedy than a thriller.

On Twitter, director Sarah Polley recently had a similar take.

This is the worst movie I have ever seen.

Unsurprising that this movie doesn’t work — the screenplay was a dog’s breakfast.

So much heavy handed foreshadowing. The apocalyptic footage from Wuhan, the super villain American president, the whistleblower dying, the Russia/China border closed while people still claimed it was just a flu, the warnings unheeded. Insulting to the audience’s intelligence.

And then — that most annoying of horror/disaster movie tropes — the hapless idiots walking into disaster after disaster, all of which the audience can see coming from a mile away.

The over the top details of world leaders and their wives falling ill, the far fetched idea that industrialized countries wouldn’t have proper protective gear for front line workers and ventilators. Pleeeeaaase. This movie needed a script doctor.

It’s interesting that there are certain boundaries in fiction related to the audience’s suspension of disbelief that are are routinely ignored by reality. I’m also reminded of how Margaret Atwood approached The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, using only elements that have historical precedent:

The television series has respected one of the axioms of the novel: no event is allowed into it that does not have a precedent in human history.

And yet some critics consider the events from the novels and TV show to be too much, over-the-top.

Update: Ted Chiang from a recent interview:

While there has been plenty of fiction written about pandemics, I think the biggest difference between those scenarios and our reality is how poorly our government has handled it. If your goal is to dramatize the threat posed by an unknown virus, there’s no advantage in depicting the officials responding as incompetent, because that minimizes the threat; it leads the reader to conclude that the virus wouldn’t be dangerous if competent people were on the job. A pandemic story like that would be similar to what’s known as an “idiot plot,” a plot that would be resolved very quickly if your protagonist weren’t an idiot. What we’re living through is only partly a disaster novel; it’s also — and perhaps mostly — a grotesque political satire.

I am currently blazing through Exhalation (Kindle), Chiang’s collection of science & technology fables. (via @jasondh)

Marcy Learns Something New

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2020

The Short of the Week this week stars Rachel Dratch as a history teacher struggling to find a spark in her life as a widow. Fitness classes aren’t working, so Dratch’s character tries something new: a introductory class on female domination.

From the premise alone, most might think that Kennelly is using BDSM as the butt of the joke, a cheap way to trigger laughs. Yet, she subverts those expectations but steering clear of a farcical approach. Instead, she plays with different levels of sensitivity and empowerment while remaining very respectful towards every single one of her characters, sourcing the comedy elements from a more genuine place, the awkwardness and practicality of the situations Marcy finds herself in.

Dratch is great in this — yet another comedic performer who excels at more serious roles — and I found the whole thing surprisingly tender and poignant, at its core a simple story of people looking for meaning and connection in their lives.

I’d say this is NSFW, but with many of you currently working from home, perhaps that’s not really a thing right now? (via @christopherjobs)

The History of Music About Diseases

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2020

From Retro Report, a short video about how epidemics, past and present, have been represented in music. Blues musicians sang about the 1918 flu pandemic and pop stars wrote songs about HIV/AIDS.

A disease that killed tens of millions of people, more than the number who died in World War I, might not seem like a promising subject for a song, but the legendary Texas bluesman Blind Willie Johnson didn’t see it that way. In Dallas in 1928, Johnson recorded “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” an intense chronicle of the ravaging influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. In a growl that conveyed the horror of the illness, as well as its scarifying ubiquity, Johnson declared that the “great disease was mighty and the people were sick everywhere / It was an epidemic, it floated through the air.”

Other lines seem as if they could have been written yesterday: “Well, the nobles said to the people, ‘You better close your public schools / Until the events of death has ended, you better close your churches, too.’”

The View from the Front Lines of NYC’s Public Hospitals

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2020

Philip Montgomery

Philip Montgomery

Clad in full PPE, photographer Philip Montgomery visited seven different NYC public hospitals over the course of a week for the NY Times Magazine, documenting the hospital workers’ fight against Covid-19, supply shortages, and intense working conditions.

At Elmhurst, the improvisation began as soon as the first surge of coronavirus patients started arriving in the middle of March. In order to more efficiently sift through the crowds and find the most severe cases, the staff set up a divider at the entrance. Medical workers armed with thermometers and oxygen monitors steered people with milder symptoms to a separate treatment tent. Those who were seriously ill went into critical care. Thirteen patients at the hospital died over a 24-hour stretch during the fourth week in March. A refrigerated trailer was parked behind the building to store dead bodies.

In a short behind-the-scenes video about his photos and the piece, Montgomery says “I think if the general public could stand where I was for at least 10 to 30 seconds, I think everyone would be staying home.”

From the same issue of the magazine, Dr. Helen Ouyang: I’m an E.R. Doctor in New York. None of Us Will Ever Be the Same. What initially started as an article about the situation in Italy rapidly escalates into NYC hospitals fighting those same battles.

Family members weren’t allowed into the hospital because they, too, could get infected or spread the virus to others if they themselves were sick. But Duca asked for permission from his supervisor to let the man’s wife and daughter in, just for a few minutes. “I saw his face when he looked at his wife coming inside this room,” Duca recalls. “He smiled at her. It was a fraction of a second. He had this wonderful smile.” He continues: “Then I saw that he was looking at me. He realized that there was something wrong if only his relatives were coming inside.” The man knew in that instant that he was going to die, Duca says. As the man’s breathing worsened, morphine was started. He died 12 hours later.

Read the whole thing; it’s upsetting, terrifying, and deeply humanizing. I wish Americans watched less TV news and read more — if everyone in the US read these articles, I believe the entire tone of this crisis would change and become more urgent.

Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2020

Julio Vincent Gambuto writes that the Covid-19 pandemic has given Americans an unprecedented chance to “see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views” and that we should prepare for a coalition of powerful forces that will try to convince us that this whole thing never happened.

Until then, get ready, my friends. What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems.

Tape As Pandemic Architectural Element

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2020

In Singapore, tape is being used as a sort of architectural element to denote closure of public spaces and promote & enforce proper social distancing practices. The @tape_measures account on Instagram is documenting instances of this practice around the city.

Tape Singapore

Tape Singapore

Tape Singapore

Tape Singapore

(thx, sam)

The Best New York Accent

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2020

Stuck at home during the pandemic, filmmaker Nicolas Heller decided to hold a contest on Instagram to find the person with the best New York accent.

It would be impolitic to say that the New York accent is the signature American accent. You could argue, though, that the New York accent is the accent of the current crisis. It’s there in the burly roundness of the words coming out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mouth, or the acidity in the tone of Dr. Anthony Fauci, or the way President Trump scrapes all of his syllables together. (Senator Bernie Sanders’s howling woof counts here, too.)

For New Yorkers, that’s made the conversation around the coronavirus feel as local as the pandemic’s actual impact. Watching the news can feel like watching quarrels between grouchy neighbors.

In this climate, the #BestNYAccent challenge was even more reassuring. A reminder of local resilience and stubbornness in the face of global trauma. A monument to history and place standing firm against titanic winds. A middle finger to life’s cruel dice roll.

Welcome to Our New Timeline

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2020

From Juliette Kayyem at The Atlantic: After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits. I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot over the past few weeks and nodded vigorously along to this whole piece.

Over the past week, I’ve been informally contacting friends and colleagues in a variety of fields — sports, travel, architecture, entertainment, arts, the clergy, and more — to ask them how their world might look after social distancing. The answer: It looks weird.

We will get used to seeing temperature-screening stations at public venues. If America’s testing capacity improves and results come back quickly, don’t be surprised to see nose swabs at airports. Airlines may contemplate whether flights can be reserved for different groups of passengers — either high- or low-risk. Mass-transit systems will set new rules; don’t be surprised if they mandate masks too.

It’s like our timeline has split and an alternate reality awaits us on the other side of the quarantine. All sorts of activities that were considered normal and we did without thinking will now require deliberation.

On dating apps, people will specify (with varying degrees of accuracy) whether they’ve had COVID-19. Casual making out will come to seem reckless. A handshake? Have those test results ready. A friendly hug? I don’t even know your last name.

Our attitudes and outlooks may change in disappointing ways. We will be home a lot more. We’ll also use shaming, against friends and others whom we judge to be taking needless risks, to cultivate better voluntary behavior.

The simplistic idea of “opening up” fails to acknowledge that individual Americans’ risk-and-reward calculus may have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. Yes, I’d like to go meet some girlfriends for drinks. But I am also a mother with responsibilities to three kids, so is a Moscow mule worth it? The answer will depend on so many factors between my home and sitting at the bar, and none of them will be weighed casually.

I’m wondering — how many people are aware that this is going to be our reality for the next few years? There is no “normal” we’re going back to, only weird uncharted waters.

A Buddhist Monk Covers Queen, The Beatles, and The Ramones

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

Using traditional instruments, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Kossan performs delightfully earnest covers of rock songs. So far, he’s done Queen’s We Will Rock You, Yellow Submarine by the Beatles — both embedded above — Teenage Lobotomy by the Ramones, and a song by Japanese punk bank The Blue Hearts. The Queen one is my favorite, I think. (via open culture)

Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

Directed by Halina Dyrschka, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint is a new feature-length documentary on the groundbreaking abstract artist Hilma af Klint.

Before Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Klee made a name for abstraction in visual art, another artist had already beat them to their discovery. But until very recently, her name was absent from the history books. Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) painted her first abstract canvas in 1906, four years before Wassily Kandinsky, originally thought to be the movement’s pioneer. It would be more than a century before she would receive the same acknowledgment and acclaim as her male peers.

The film follows the recognition af Klint’s work received due to the 2018 show at the Guggenheim, which was one of my favorite exhibitions from the past few years.

The trailer is above and the film opens “in virtual theaters” in the US on April 17 through Kino Marqueecheck for your local theater here. (via colossal)

Super-Pandemics Last All Summer Long

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

The Atlantic’s Ed Yong has written his second long article about the Covid-19 pandemic about what happens next and what a roadmap to dealing with the next phase of the crisis might look like.

As I wrote last month, the only viable endgame is to play whack-a-mole with the coronavirus, suppressing it until a vaccine can be produced. With luck, that will take 18 to 24 months. During that time, new outbreaks will probably arise. Much about that period is unclear, but the dozens of experts whom I have interviewed agree that life as most people knew it cannot fully return. “I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “This is about the next two years.”

The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”

RIP John Conway

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2020

Rip John Conway

This animated gif from XKCD is the pitch perfect tribute to John Conway, who died of Covid-19 at the age of 82. Conway was the inventor of the Game of Life and an all-around brilliant and creative person.

Fanciful Typographic Performance of Peter & the Wolf

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2020

Yet another gem from the Kid Should See This: a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf that combines live action, animation, and creative typography.

Fashion Skeletons

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2020

Bradley Theodore

Bradley Theodore

Bradley Theodore

Fashion icons painted as skeletons by artist Bradley Theodore. More from Colossal, Theodore’s Instagram, Maddox Gallery, and Artsy.

The Origin of 8-Bit Arcade Fonts

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

Aided by Toshi Omagari, who wrote Arcade Game Typography, Vox’s Estelle Caswell explores the origins and history of 8-bit arcade fonts. From the description of the book:

Video game designers of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s faced color and resolution limitations that stimulated incredible creativity. With each letter having to exist in a small pixel grid, artists began to use clever techniques to create elegant character sets within a tiny canvas.

As the creator of a tiny pixelated typeface, I find this stuff infinitely fascinating.

Living Through Coronavirus Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

YouTube channel Great Big Story (which is a frequent source of videos for kottke.org) recently asked eight filmmakers in eight different countries to report in on how they, their families, and their communities are doing during the pandemic.

Our daily routines have been disrupted, and many of us have been separated from friends, family and work. We checked in on eight households to see how they are feeling, how they are passing the time, how they are keeping connected to others, and what they are looking forward to in a post-pandemic world. From Beijing, China, to Mashhad, Iran, to Melbourne, Australia, here’s how we’re all working through this thing, one day at a time, together.

They’re asking viewers to donate to the UN’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization. Google is matching $2 for every $1 donated, so please join me in donating if you are able.

See also Pandemic Stories from Around the World, sent in by kottke.org readers.

Spinnable 3D Models of the British Library’s 16th Century Globes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

The British Library has digitized some of their 17th & 18th century globes into 3D models that you can explore and spin online (and in VR). These are seriously cool at fullscreen.

During the so-called ‘Age of Exploration’, expanding European geographical and astronomical knowledge fuelled the demand for maps and sea charts. It also inspired experimentation in the art of globe-making, and the first half of the 16th century saw the production of several models, both hand-painted and printed.

Printing made it possible to produce globes in greater numbers at lower cost so they could be more widely distributed. The printed globe, terrestrial and celestial, soon became established as the standard type of globe, sometimes called the ‘common’ globe, and the methods of manufacture changed surprisingly little from the mid-16th century until the 20th century.

The one at the top of this post is my favorite: Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s Celestial Globe from 1602. (via @john_overholt)

Pandemic Stories, Part 3

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2020

In Sunday’s newsletter, I asked people to share what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and how their families and communities are coping. I’ve collected all those responses on one page and will be sharing excerpts over the next couple of days here and in the newsletter.

The government response in Australia:

The government — a fiscally conservative centre-right party that used the promise of a national budget surplus as its main platform - very quickly recognised the scale and severity of this situation and have since released a $130 billion ‘jobkeeper payment’ that gives $1500 every two-weeks to employees who can’t work due to COVID-19. It’s directed at employers who then nominate their employees to receive it (the idea being that this will keep workers linked to their business and speed up a recovery). It’s part of a larger national strategy — that’s still emerging — around the idea of putting the economy in ‘hibernation’. The large irrelevance of party politics over the last three weeks has been one of the more interesting observations.

A hotel owner in Mali tries to keep his business & employees afloat:

For our part, we are trying to stay in business and keep all of our staff. Their wages are currently our number one priority. We have survived a few crises in our day — clients kidnapped in 2011, coup d’etat in 2012, ebola in 2014-15, persistent threat of terrorism since 2015, and last year we were evicted and forced to move to a new location (we lost most of our rooms in that move) — so it would really be a shame if this was the one that finally did us in.

Frustration in Brazil:

Even though my city and my state are taking the appropriate measures, like closing stores, schools and asking for people to stay home, some fellows still don’t understand what the problem is. Some think that, since the death rates are low, there is no problem at all. They don’t seem to understand that what is at stake is the collapse of the health system. This is a little infuriating, since we’ve been talking non stop about this for almost a month. At least my neighbors are as worried as me and my family. I live in an apartments building with many children (I have an 8 year old daughter myself) and we managed to organize a schedule so only one child (or more if they’re from the same family) at a time time can use the playground.

Religion vs. science in Mexico:

Local plazas that were the bustling hub of the city have been taped off, and crews in haz gear drive slowly up and down the streets disinfecting the steps around the (many) colonial churches. Most of these, for better or worse, remain open, and this week — Easter — threatens to [welcome] frightening numbers of religious observers, many of whom are failing to observe social distancing. (“It’s in God’s hands”, one friends and church-goer told me after I questioned why she was still attending and coming into physical contact with others. “No, it’s literally in yours,” I responded.)

A realization of privilege in London:

Overall, my impression is that our existing privilege has just been reinforced by the crisis. My wife and I are both still being paid our full salaries, but we’re not having to pay nursery fees, so we’re actually better off financially. We no longer have to commute or drop off and pick up the kids at nursery, which gives us more family time, and it’s wonderful to be able to finish working and just walk downstairs and play with the kids before dinner. Our street is terraced single-family homes with roof terraces, so yesterday the street had a terrace cocktail party in the late afternoon. Things are better in the UK than in the US (we have the NHS and the government is paying 80% of the wages of furloughed employees, for instance), but there are a lot of people who are going to have their lives thrown into chaos as a result of the pandemic and we’re quite lucky to not be among them.

No video chats with students in Nebraska:

More Urban schools aren’t prepared…you can pick up a packet once a week at school (same for every student per grade in the district) but there is no verification that it was done… so basically those students are done for the year. My nephews go to school in a less-tech school. The district doesn’t even let them web-conference with a teacher because “the teacher may see something that violates privacy”). Their mom (my wife’s sister) says they get little direction.

You can read more of the collected responses here.

How Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing Can Help Stop the Spread of Covid-19

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2020

Nicky Case, working with security & privacy researcher Carmela Troncoso and epidemiologist Marcel Salathé, came up with this fantastic explanation of how we can use apps to automatically do contact tracing for Covid-19 infections while protecting people’s privacy. The second panel succinctly explains why contact tracing (in conjunction with quick, ubiquitous testing) can have such a huge benefit in a case like this:

A problem with COVID-19: You’re contagious ~2 days before you know you’re infected. But it takes ~3 days to become contagious, so if we quarantine folks exposed to you the day you know you were infected… We stop the spread, by staying one step ahead!

Contact Tracing Comic

It’s based on a proposal called Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing developed by Troncoso, Salathé, and a host of others. Thanks to Case for putting this comic in the public domain so that anyone can publish it.

Update: About two hours after posting this, Apple and Google announced they are jointly working on contact tracing technology that uses Bluetooth and makes “user privacy and security central to the design”.

A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

Update: Based on information published by Google and Apple on their contact tracing protocols, it appears as though their system works pretty much like the one outlined about in the comic and this proposal.

Also, here is an important reminder that the problem of what to do about Covid-19 is not primarily a technological one and that turning it into one is troublesome.

We think it is necessary and overdue to rethink the way technology gets designed and implemented, because contact tracing apps, if implemented, will be scripting the way we will live our lives and not just for a short period. They will be laying out normative conditions for reality, and will contribute to the decisions of who gets to have freedom of choice and freedom to decide … or not. Contact tracing apps will co-define who gets to live and have a life, and the possibilities for perceiving the world itself.

Update: Security expert Bruce Schneier has some brief thoughts on “anonymous” contact tracing as well as some links to other critiques, including Ross Anderson’s:

But contact tracing in the real world is not quite as many of the academic and industry proposals assume.

First, it isn’t anonymous. Covid-19 is a notifiable disease so a doctor who diagnoses you must inform the public health authorities, and if they have the bandwidth they call you and ask who you’ve been in contact with. They then call your contacts in turn. It’s not about consent or anonymity, so much as being persuasive and having a good bedside manner.

I’m relaxed about doing all this under emergency public-health powers, since this will make it harder for intrusive systems to persist after the pandemic than if they have some privacy theater that can be used to argue that the whizzy new medi-panopticon is legal enough to be kept running.

And I had thoughts similar to Anderson’s about the potential for abuse:

Fifth, although the cryptographers — and now Google and Apple — are discussing more anonymous variants of the Singapore app, that’s not the problem. Anyone who’s worked on abuse will instantly realise that a voluntary app operated by anonymous actors is wide open to trolling. The performance art people will tie a phone to a dog and let it run around the park; the Russians will use the app to run service-denial attacks and spread panic; and little Johnny will self-report symptoms to get the whole school sent home.

The tie-a-phone-to-a-dog thing reminds me a lot of the wagon full of smartphones creating traffic jams. (via @circa1977)

Covid-19 Now the Leading Cause of Death in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2020

This week, Covid-19 passed heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death per day in the United States. In this graph made by Dr. Maria Danilychev using data from Worldometer and the CDC, you can see that Covid-19 overtook heart disease sometime on Monday or Tuesday.


If the data in NYC is any indication, the number of nationwide Covid-19 deaths may be undercounted, so this transition probably happened sooner.1 Hopefully through the social distancing and other measures put in place to flatten the curve, the number of daily Covid-19 deaths won’t start beating out all other causes combined before it starts declining.

  1. Several months from now, it will be easier to get a more accurate count of how many people died by looking at the “baseline” rate of death and comparing it with the actual numbers. Unless this sort of recount is politicized, which it will be, and *siiiigh*

A Genius Visualization of Social Distancing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

This public service announcement from the Ohio Department of Health contains an outstanding simple visualization of how social distancing can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 using ping pong balls and mouse traps.

This ad shows that Ohio’s relatively early response to the pandemic was not a fluke and that the state is still taking it seriously.

Radiohead Putting Classic Live Shows on YouTube During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

Starting today and continuing weekly, a little musical band you have never heard of called Radiohead is putting classic live shows up on YouTube. First up and embedded above is a concert they performed in Ireland in October 2000. Here’s the setlist in case you want to skip around a little. The band says they’ll be putting shows up every week until “either the restrictions resulting from [the] current situation are eased, or we run out of shows”.

I went to a show of theirs in Oxford in 2001 and I would love to see it again. They played Creep for the first time in ages after an equipment failure 86’d whatever song they were supposed to play — and the crowd went fricking bananas.

Update: You can find all of the live shows they’ve uploaded in the At Home with Radiohead playlist. They include Bonnaroo 2006, Buenos Aires 2009, Berlin 2016, and Coachella 2012. Tomorrow’s show will be Summer Sonic 2016 (streaming begins at 9am ET).

Apollo 11’s Post-Lunar Quarantine

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

I do not know if hearing about other people’s quarantine experiences makes going through one yourself any easier, but the story of how NASA sequestered the returning Apollo 11 astronauts away from the rest of the world for 21 days is interesting for other reasons as well. The worry was that some sort of “moon bug” or “lunar plague” was going to make its way from the Moon to the Earth in the spacecraft or the astronauts’ bodies.

From the moment the Apollo 11 astronauts arrive back on earth from their epochal visit to the moon, they will be treated not as heroes but as bearers of the most virulent, devastating plague the world has ever known.

So NASA quarantined Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in a series of specially designed suits and environments until August 10, 1969. At one point, the three of them lived in a modified Airstream trailer in which the air pressure was lower on the inside than outside so if there was a leak, air would rush into the trailer, not out. Armstrong even celebrated a birthday in quarantine.

After Apollo 11, NASA did similar quarantines for 12 and 14 but abandoned them after that because they figured it was safe.

Oh, and if you were curious about the Soyuz launch yesterday that sent three astronauts to the ISS and how they were going to mitigate the chances of sending any SARS-CoV-2 up there, crews on all missions are subject to a mandatory 2 week quarantine before they leave (according to this press release).

“Strong Evidence” That Social Distancing Is Working to Slow the Spread of Covid-19

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

Social distancing is working

Trevor Bedford, who does research on epidemics and infectious diseases, has compiled a number of papers and data sets with “strong evidence” that social distancing measures have slowed Covid-19 transmission rates around the world.

This report (from the Imperial College team who produced the sobering report that has been the blueprint for pandemic responses around the world) estimates that measures taken in several European countries have lowered their effective reproduction numbers (the R value) to close to 1.

Overall, we estimate that countries have managed to reduce their reproduction number. Our estimates have wide credible intervals and contain 1 for countries that have implemented all interventions considered in our analysis. This means that the reproduction number may be above or below this value. With current interventions remaining in place to at least the end of March, we estimate that interventions across all 11 countries will have averted 59,000 deaths up to 31 March [95% credible interval 21,000-120,000]. Many more deaths will be averted through ensuring that interventions remain in place until transmission drops to low levels. We estimate that, across all 11 countries between 7 and 43 million individuals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 up to 28th March, representing between 1.88% and 11.43% of the population. The proportion of the population infected to date — the attack rate — is estimated to be highest in Spain followed by Italy and lowest in Germany and Norway, reflecting the relative stages of the epidemics.

And this was published on March 30 — here’s the latest data. The paper goes on to say (italics mine):

We cannot say for certain that the current measures have controlled the epidemic in Europe; however, if current trends continue, there is reason for optimism.

An Institute for Disease Modeling report from March 29 shows a similar reduction in their effective reproduction number in King County, Washington (the 12th most populous county in the US).

The graphs at the top of the post are from the latest data compiled by the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases. Lots of countries looking like they are headed for an effect R value of 1, which would indicate a slowing (rather than growing) epidemic.

Pandemic Stories, Part 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

In Sunday’s newsletter, I asked people to share what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and how their families and communities are coping. I’ve collected all those responses on one page and will be sharing excerpts over the next couple of days here and in the newsletter.

From a reader in Germany:

My husband and I split up in February after 16 years together. It was — and is — devastating. I haven’t been sleeping or eating much. The pandemic has put my personal pain into perspective. I feel for the people who lost so much more than their spouse. As for me, I think that if I can hug my friends again, eat at a restaurant and go back to my gym, I just might be able to survive the end of my marriage.

Travel writer Amelia Rayno has a report from El Salvador:

In El Salvador, we have been under martial law for more than 2 weeks. Multiple kinds of paperwork is required to go outside. Hundreds have been arrested for violating the law, as interpreted by the military and more than 4,000 are in containment centers around the nation.

Perhaps even more pressing is the creep of hunger, in so many homes that can’t afford to miss work for 2 days, much less 2 weeks. I am fortunate to have some liberties as press, that have allowed me to continue working, photographing and in the process, do a little bit of volunteering, while my travels up to the villages above Santiago Nonualco provided a rare opportunity to be surrounded by nature once more (even at 97 degrees, it was welcomed) and receive another important dose of perspective.

I am fortunate to have income still coming in, plenty of food to eat and a comfortable place to live. I am lucky, I am privileged beyond belief. Never does that hit me harder than when I walk into the villages of this beautiful country and see those whose homes are made of stick and mud and plastic bags, who barely had enough to eat before, when they were selling their goods. And now… and now. The reality is, this does not affect all of us equally, and while it can be easy to look inward during this time and focus on our own anxiety and boredom, I hope we do not stop looking outward, too.

Doing it differently in Stockholm, Sweden:

Right now, Sweden is not suffering any worse than nations which have locked down and so people are nervous, anxious because almost everywhere else is doing it differently. It’s an odd mix of trust in the health authorities (they’re calling the shots, not the government) and sort of holding your breath. Hoping, trusting, praying that they called it right.

An anonymous reader from Washington DC shares:

My spouse works on advocating for better government policy concerned with a vulnerable population that happens to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. I work for a 24hr crisis hotline supporting a constituency that isn’t directly related but for whom resources are being affected by the pandemic. Our jobs are degrees removed from the people we help others serve, but we are both seeing and hearing of what a decimated safety net can’t do — as we always feared — as we do our bit parts in the relentless tides of adaptation now demanded by our jobs.

In Tokyo, Japan:

I work in Tokyo and live just outside, in a very large city. People here are pretty much ignoring the warnings from the health administrators, and the government waffling makes Trump look good. My wife stopped going to the health club even though they opened up again last week. The church across the street had a service yesterday. You can see kids in the park and more people than ever in the residential areas. We had a run on TP early on, then on groceries when the Tokyo mayor told everyone to stay home…for the weekend.

Family worries in New Jersey:

I have a family of four — two kids, a daughter who had her Freshman year in college ripped away from her and a son who is a Junior in high school. At this point, I am happy to report that all of us are completely healthy and have not had any signs of the virus. Probably the hardest part of this whole experience has been to watch the way it has impacted my kids academic and social lives during what are some of the most important and impactful years of their lives. Nothing crushed me more than having to drive to my daughter’s college to clear out her dorm room during the first week of March because of the virus. Even though her school’s administration had not made any decisions on the remainder of the school year, my wife and I made the “executive decision” to take everything home because we had a feeling she was not going back there any time before September (and who knows if that will happen!). She had developed a wonderful group of friends at her school, she was crushing it academically (Dean’s List first semester!) and she was absolutely thriving in her new college environment, and now she is stuck taking virtual classes and having video chats with her friends near and far. She has been handling it exceptionally well; however, as her Dad, it crushes me.

You can read more of the collected responses here.

Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks Rapped Over Dr. Dre’s Beats

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

As someone who a) thinks Dr. Dre was an amazing producer, and b) read Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks to his children roughly 1 million times (enough to be able to, eventually, get through the entire book at a comically high rate of speed w/o any tongue twisting slip-ups), I thought Wes Tank’s video of himself rapping Fox in Socks over Dre’s beats was really fun and surprisingly well done.

Tank has also done Green Eggs and Ham (over the beats from Forgot About Dre) and The Lorax. (thx, andrew)

Gustave Eiffel’s Original Drawings for the Statue of Liberty

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Long thought destroyed or lost forever, a cache of original engineering drawings & blueprints for the Statue of Liberty done by Gustave Eiffel were found among some of Eiffel’s papers purchased at auction last year. Smithsonian magazine has the story of how they came to be found and why the drawings are so significant.

Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel’s engineering plans when it came to the statue’s upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm — a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”

High-res digital versions of the drawings & blueprints are available to view at raremaps.com. (via @mapdragons)

Dozens of Science & Engineering Activities for Kids from The James Dyson Foundation

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

The James Dyson Foundation has designed a set of 44 challenges related to science & engineering specifically for kids (ages 7 & older), which are perfect for these at-home learning times. The challenges include making an air-powered car out of a balloon, strong bridges out of spaghetti, and a cardboard chair strong enough to hold a person:

Here’s the PDF with all 44 challenges. What I like about these projects is that they’re hands-on, you can do them with stuff you already have around the house, and they’re educational in the best way: there’s no “teaching” really…the challenges are designed to appeal to the natural curiosity of kids.

Reading through these, the one that blew my mind was that you can determine the speed of light by melting a chocolate bar in the microwave.

Microwave Chocolate

That’s so cool! (via open culture)

Dazzling Coronavirus Painting by Biologist David Goodsell

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Coronavirus painting by biologist David Goodsell

Since the early 90s, biologist David Goodsell (previously) has been creating scientifically accurate paintings of the structures of cells, molecules, and, yes, viruses. In early February, Goodsell completed a painting of a SARS coronavirus (above).

This painting depicts a coronavirus just entering the lungs, surrounded by mucus secreted by respiratory cells, secreted antibodies, and several small immune systems proteins. The virus is enclosed by a membrane that includes the S (spike) protein, which will mediate attachment and entry into cells, M (membrane) protein, which is involved in organization of the nucleoprotein inside, and E (envelope) protein, which is a membrane channel involved in budding of the virus and may be incorporated into the virion during that process. The nucleoprotein inside includes many copies of the N (nucleocapsid) protein bound to the genomic RNA.

In a brief interview with the NY Times, Goodsell explained why he made the image:

“You have to admit, these viruses are so symmetrical that they’re beautiful,” said Mr. Goodsell, an associate professor at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. “Are bright colors and pretty stuff the right approach? The jury’s still out. I’m not trying to make these things look dangerous, I want people to understand how they’re built.”

Seeing the infection count rise, Mr. Goodsell said he worried about the health of his aging parents in Los Angeles. But he hopes his painting can quell fears about the novel coronavirus by educating people on the virus’s workings: “I want people to think of viruses as being an entity that we can learn about and fight. They’re not nebulous nothings.”

Goodsell is currently working on a painting featuring the life cycle of a coronavirus and sharing his progress on Twitter. (via @christopherjobs)

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate History

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

From Ken Burns and Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Gene: An Intimate History, a series about the history of genetics based on Mukherjee’s book of the same name. Here’s a trailer:

The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

This looks great, especially if this clip about Nancy Wexler’s crusade to find a cure for Huntington’s disease is representative of the whole:

In 1968, Nancy Wexler’s mother was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease - Huntington’s. Facing a 50-50 chance of contracting Huntington’s herself, Wexler — a non-scientist — began an odyssey to find the gene that causes the disease. For three decades, Wexler searched for treatments but chose not to get tested. As time passed, she noticed changes in the way she moved. Finally, in early 2020, Wexler decided to face her fears.

Part 1 of the series is now streaming on PBS with part 2 set to premiere next week.

Pandemic Stories from Readers Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

In the latest issue of the kottke.org newsletter sent out on Sunday evening, I asked readers if they would share what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and how their families and communities are coping. I received a bunch of responses from people all over the world and beginning today, I will be sharing a few excerpts on kottke.org and in the newsletter — you can read all of the responses here.

A doctor writes in from Cape Town, South Africa:

We are well accustomed to working in a resource-scarce setting, and improvisation and decisions about which patients qualify for resuscitation, ventilation and ICU care are the order of the day for us generally. I have been very interested to read media reports about the moral dilemmas facing doctors; first in Italy and now in other parts of the first world where these types of ethical decisions are less commonplace.

From a French schoolteacher:

I am glad I live in France and I know that no matter your social background and bank account status, if you get sick, you get treated the same way and for free.

A pastor from Jackson, Mississippi:

I live in Jackson, MS, which is somewhere between Yonkers and Syracuse in size — something like 170,000 people, and the largest city in Mississippi. Some things about Jackson that make this particularly difficult is that Jackson was already desperately poor before all this went down — 25% of the city has a household income of less than $15,000 a year, and 75% of the the city was a USDA food desert when everything is “normal”.

As a result, most of Jackson has to travel significant distances to go to the grocery store, and there aren’t huge amounts of money floating around to buy up supplies, anyway. So a big part of my work, as the pastor of a small church down here has been helping people get access to food and supplies.

A report from a central Ohio suburb:

Here in our small tree-lined suburb in central Ohio, we have been carefully observing the social distancing and stay home instructions for nearly four weeks now. As native southerners, we count ourselves lucky to live in Ohio where our (Republican, wow!) governor acted early and rapidly to take measures to flatten the curve of Covid-19. In his first address on the subject he proclaimed that he would be “guided by science” in passing guidelines to protect us, and we look at other less-proactive states and worry about our families there.

New Zealand is in lockdown:

The fallout from our lockdown is going to be massive. No one is really confident at what it will look like, but numbers being thrown around are 30% of small to medium businesses (the category which most of our businesses fall into) will not be able to reopen when the lockdown is lifted. Thousands of people are being made redundant. It’s like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes here. Even the GFC didn’t have this bad an impact on our economy. Our parliament (the house of government) is closed, with most of our Members of Parliament locked down at home like the rest of us. What we have in place of the normal sitting of both government and the opposition parties, is a committee made up of representatives of all parties who scrutinise how the government is responding to the virus. The daily sittings of this committee are broadcast online so anyone can see what’s being asked and answered. This seems to be working well and at least safeguards some of our democracy in a time when we’re effectively on a war-footing.

A reminder from Winnipeg, Canada:

School is suspended indefinitely and everyone is home. I’m fortunate to have a family who gets along well and children (10 and 12) who I don’t have to worry about if they miss school for an extended run. I’ve tried to focus on how lucky we are as a family to be able to be together and sustain ourselves. One of the things I heard on the radio early in this period was a discussion on CBC Radio’s As It Happens (one of the nation’s greatest radio programmes, and a great source of information at a time like this) with authors Margaret Atwood, Waubgeshig Rice and Daniel Kalla. Something Rice, an Indigenous author, said, really stuck with me: “I think we’re all scared in some ways. But I think if your first response is fear, it’s important to acknowledge your privilege in that you maybe haven’t been to the brink before. Whereas a lot of marginalized communities have experienced that and continue to experience that. And there’s a long list of examples in Canada of world ending for different communities. You know, you can look at the destruction of Africville in Nova Scotia or the internment of Japanese Canadians. You know, it’s important to take a look at what your personal perspective is and your place in society and just, you know, acknowledge that privilege of being part of the dominant culture and things being generally good in Canada in the last 150 years or so.” I try to remember this as I think about my own fears and my own family’s situation.

The independent spirit of southwest Wyoming:

It’s strange to think about having to shelter in place when we have so much empty space that we can occupy our time with outside, so people are still out and about around our town. And I am completely in favor of shelter in place policies in major metro areas, but somehow it just doesn’t seem like it would work here given the political and personal leanings of the people of Wyoming. I am new to Wyoming (have lived here 2.5 years), but there is a certain way people seem to think this is still the old west and, for better or worse, they tend to have that independent spirit. The virus has just recently arrived in our county, but to be honest the scariest thing for me is the fact that this is Trump country and that people believe him. I’m more scared of jackasses flaunting this as a hoax and not taking the proper precautions when they are at the grocery store with me or my family.

Again, you can read all of the responses right here.

A Lego Justin Trudeau Talks to Children About the Covid-19 Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

During a press conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a couple of minutes talking directly to the nation’s children, acknowledging their hardships and role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Tyler Walsh and his two sons spent a week making this Lego stop motion animation of Trudeau’s address, something that kids might be more likely to watch.

In an interview with the CBC, Walsh described their process:

“[It took] a fair amount of time and hundreds and hundreds of photos,” he said.

Each working to their strengths, Walsh said the kids were primarily in charge of piecing together the Lego elements — such as a podium, as well as hair and a bearded head for Trudeau — to bring the set to life.

“I would have questions for them like, ‘I need a sad kid. Do we have any sad kid Lego heads?’”

Trudeau himself responded to the Lego version of his address:

This is really great, Tyler. I think my kids — and a whole lot of others — will get a kick out of this, all while hearing how they can help out too. Thanks for helping spread that message.

(via @auntmaureen)

The Pandemic Has Driven Twitter to New Lows in Happiness

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Since 2008, the Hedonometer has been tracking the language we use on Twitter to assign a daily score that measures how collectively happy we are (English tweets only). From the data, you can see that happiness spikes on holidays & after notable news events (same-sex marriage legalization) and unhappiness follows mass shootings, terrorist events, and Trump’s election. But the Covid-19 pandemic has brought Twitter’s collective happiness rating to an overall new low and its first sustained period of unhappiness.

Twitter Happy Pandemic

The day they identify as the unhappiest is March 12, 2020, which is the day after Americans finally took Covid-19 seriously. Within the space of a few hours on March 11, the NBA announced it was suspending its season, Tom Hanks revealed that he and his wife Rita Wilson had Covid-19, the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Donald Trump went on primetime TV to address the nation, and the DJIA closed down 1400 points (it would drop another 2350 points on Mar 12).

See also the previous low point after the Las Vegas shootings and my initial post on the Hedonometer from July 2016. In that initial post, I shared a hunch that Twitter’s happiness seemed to have reached a peak in early 2016. With four years of additional data, it’s obvious that the happiness peaked in late 2015 or early 2016 (at least according to their methodology).

Twitter Happy Overall

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag Play to be Streamed Online

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Fleabag Play

A recording of a live performance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s play Fleabag (on which the TV show is based) is going to be streamed online to raise money for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Said Waller-Bridge:

I hope this filmed performance of Fleabag can help raise money while providing a little theatrical entertainment in these isolated times. Thank you to all our partners and to the creative team who have waived their royalties from this production to raise money for such vital causes in this unbelievably challenging situation. All money raised will support the people throughout our society who are fighting for us on the frontlines and those financially devastated by the crisis, including those in the theatre community. Thank you in advance to those who donate. Now go get into bed with Fleabag! It’s for charity!

It’s available in the UK & Ireland right now and will appear on Amazon Prime in the US on April 10. (thx, caroline)

Update: Here it is on Amazon — “all proceeds, outside of taxes, go to charities supporting those affected by COVID-19 pandemic”.

A Pandemic Strikes Business Town

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

I featured Business Town, an ultra-capitalist spoof of Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town, on this site a few years ago. Their last few entries have focused on the pandemic and they are devastatingly spot on.

Business Town Pandemic

Business Town Pandemic

(via waxy)

Boots & Cats: A World Champ Explains the 13 Levels of Beatboxing Complexity

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

This is fantastic: former beatboxing world champion Butterscotch explains the 13 levels of complexity involved in beatboxing, from the simple “bass drum” to how to breathe while beatboxing to singing to emulating real instruments.

Expert beatboxers go so fast that it’s amazing to see someone with Butterscotch’s skill level break this down — like watching a water balloon bursting in slow motion. Her short explanation & demonstration of “breathing within the beat” bleeeewww my tiny little mind. Also, she is soooo good — what a treat to watch.

See also Robert Lang on the 11 Levels of Complexity of Origami, Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks, and A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity.

Update: Phil Guillory is a speech-language pathologist and he wrote up a technical analysis of Butterscotch’s explanation of beatboxing. It is gloriously nerdy and I love it.

Humming adds a really interesting layer to this. The act of humming itself is a natural nasal sound. The soft palate, or velum, is relaxed, allowing airflow into the nasal passages. Humming requires glottic closure in order to vibrate vocal folds, and those vibrations resonate up the oropharynx and, because the lips are closed, the air then has to travel into the nasopharynx to be released. When Butterscotch adds percussive beats on top of the hum, if there truly is nasal airflow, that would mean that her velum isn’t fully contacting the pharyngeal wall, and there would be a combination of nasal and pharyngeal air flow. Obviously, a video like this won’t allow us to visualize, so we’ll have to make a couple of assumptions here: a combination of oral and nasal airflow would (1) reduce the loudness of the beats while (2) also reducing the loudness of the hum itself. This is because air would be traveling in two directions, so there would be less pressure for both, and thus, less loudness and resonance. Given that the hum sounds pretty consistent, I think it’s safe to guess that Butterscotch is able to relax her velum to allow for nasal airflow voluntarily, which is indeed a very challenging thing to do given that velar movement is largely automatic. Super cool.

Why Has Germany Been Effective at Limiting Covid-19 Deaths?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

As I’m writing this, according to Johns Hopkins’ Covid-19 tracker, Germany has recorded 100,186 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (fourth most in the world) and 1590 deaths — that’s a death rate of about 1.6%. Compare that to Italy (12.3%), China (4%), the US (2.9%), and even South Korea (1.8%) and you start to wonder how they’re doing it. This article from the NY Times details why the death rate is so low in Germany.

Another explanation for the low fatality rate is that Germany has been testing far more people than most nations. That means it catches more people with few or no symptoms, increasing the number of known cases, but not the number of fatalities.

“That automatically lowers the death rate on paper,” said Professor Kräusslich.

But there are also significant medical factors that have kept the number of deaths in Germany relatively low, epidemiologists and virologists say, chief among them early and widespread testing and treatment, plenty of intensive care beds and a trusted government whose social distancing guidelines are widely observed.

This article is a real punch in the gut if you’re an American. Obviously there are bureaucracies and inefficiencies in Germany like anywhere else, but it really seems like they listened to the experts and did what a government is supposed to do for its people before a disaster struck.

“Maybe our biggest strength in Germany,” said Professor Kräusslich, “is the rational decision-making at the highest level of government combined with the trust the government enjoys in the population.”

This whole crisis is really laying bare many of the worst aspects of American society — it’s increasingly obvious that the United States resembles a failed state in many ways. I can’t be the only American whose response to the pandemic is to think seriously about moving to a country with a functioning government, good healthcare for everyone, and a real social safety net.

Pandemic Paradoxically Offers Relief from Depression & Anxiety for Some

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

This is an interesting piece by The Daily Beast’s Laura Bradley, who is one of a number of people who have seen their symptoms of anxiety and depression actually lessen during the pandemic. Part of it is the odd sense of joy experienced by some people going through disasters, but there are other possible explanations:

“I’m used to being in a room alone with my thoughts for an extended period of time,” Weinstein said, adding that under quarantine, “You kind of run through the gamut of, ‘OK what if I’m not out of here in 20 days; what if I’m not out of here in 40 days; what if I’m not out here in 60 days? What will happen to me?” Due to her history of depression and anxiety, Weinstein is also used to, as she put it, “shrinking away from life” for a period of time.

“These are thought processes I am used to having and welcome — and know how to cut off in a kind, loving way after they’ve been around a little too long,” Weinstein said.

It would also make sense that if your depression or anxiety focuses on being out in a busy and complicated world, dealing with a greatly simplified situation might be beneficial. Either way, this is another reminder of the infinite number of ways that different people can react to a crisis.

Some Good News: The Hamilton Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

So, the second episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News might be even better than the first one (which included, if you recall, an The Office reunion with Steve Carell). I don’t want to entirely ruin it, but in the second half of the show, John and some co-conspirators totally make the day/year/century of a young Hamilton fan who missed going to the live show because of the pandemic.

Freeride Skiing at Home

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2020

In the northern hemisphere, the Covid-19 pandemic ramped up right at the tail end of the ski & ride season, so many skiers and snowboarders had to cut their seasons short.1 Philipp Klein Herrero decided to take one more run — in his living room.

Just before the current health situation locked us in, I was about to go Freeriding with my family. It was supposed to be the big adventure of the year, the one I had been eagerly awaiting for a year. Therefore, the lockdown had me thinking about skiing the whole time, so I started to think how I could ski without leaving my living room.

The result is a cute stop motion hike to the top of a mountain followed by a ski down. As my kids would say: “sick!” (via the kid should see this)

  1. Here in VT, they even had to close all of the ski hills & resorts to uphill travel (i.e. skinning or snowshoeing up to ski down) to discourage people from travelling (from out of state!) to do it. They’ve closed all the mountain biking trails and it’s probably just a matter of time before they close hiking trails as well.

Cut Your Own Records with the Easy Record Maker

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Easy Record Maker

Sound artist & designer Yuri Suzuki has designed the Easy Record Maker, an affordable machine for cutting your own records. Suzuki explains how it works on Instagram:

To cut a record, you simply play audio through an aux cable and lift the cutting arm onto a blank disc. Once the record is cut, you can instantly play back your recording through the tone arm and the in built speaker!

More like cute your own records — look at how wee this thing is:

Easy Record Maker

It’s out now in Japan and will be released in the US & UK later in the year. The price seems to be in the $80-100 range. Read more about the Easy Record Maker at Design Week. (via boing boing)

HBO Is Streaming Dozens of Shows & Movies for Free in April

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Wire Chess

During the month of April, HBO is streaming dozens of shows, documentaries & movies for free via HBO GO & HBO NOW. Shows include The Wire (my personal fave), Succession, VEEP, The Sopranos, True Blood, Six Feet Under, and Silicon Valley. HBO usually offers a few things outside their paywall, but never anything this extensive.

Portrait of a Coronavirus

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Soon after the CDC started to mobilize to address Covid-19, medical illustrators Alissa Eckert & Dan Higgins were asked to create this illustration of a coronavirus that could be used as the “face” of the epidemic.

Coronavirus Portrait

The novel coronavirus, like all viruses, is covered with proteins that give it its character and traits. There are the spike proteins, or S-proteins — the red clusters in the image — which allow the virus to attach to human cells. Envelope or E-proteins, represented by yellow crumbs, help it get into those cells. And membrane proteins, or M-proteins, shown in orange, give the virus its form.

In a video released last February, Eckert explained a little about what she does at CDC.

Rainbows in the Darkness

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2020

Traffic Lights

Traffic Lights

Traffic Lights

These are from Lucas Zimmermann’s Traffic Lights series (part two). Lovely. Desolate. Alien.

We’re All Dancers Now - Mindful Movement Is Key to Social Distancing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

I really liked How We Use Our Bodies to Navigate a Pandemic by NY Times dance critic Gia Kourlas on how many people struggle with the awareness of what their bodies are doing in public and that social distancing measures require a higher level of attentiveness to how we move and coordinate our movements with others.

In this time of confinement, we have been given one immeasurable gift — the freedom to go outside. In exchange, we must abide by a simple rule: Stay six feet away from others. As choreographic intentions go, that’s not remotely vague. Yet during my runs and walks in Brooklyn over the past few days, I’ve noticed that six feet doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.

Spatial awareness, like coordination, isn’t a given. Watching the choices people make when they move in public, much less in this time of social distancing, can be shocking, from the much-bemoaned tourist who comes to a grinding halt in Times Square to the woman with a yoga mat knocking people aside to get her spot on the floor. (It’s OK; she’ll still feel good about bowing her head and saying namaste.)

Now the choreography of the streets has taken on higher stakes. It’s the difference between health and sickness, life and death. Inside we’re alone. Outside, a new alertness is in order, one that demands a deep connection to the position and movement of the body — or proprioception, sometimes referred to as the sixth sense.

Samuel L. Jackson: “Stay the Fuck at Home!”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

On Jimmy Kimmel the other night, F-bomb maestro Samuel L. Jackson read a new short story/poem by Adam Mansbach (author of Go the Fuck to Sleep) called Stay the Fuck at Home to promote safe behavior during the pandemic. You can skip to about 6:00 to hear the story:

The book isn’t available for sale, so Jackson, Kimmel, and Mansbach are asking people to donate to Feeding America.

How to Adapt to a Long-Term Crisis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

From Dr. Aisha Ahmad, some advice for how to adapt to conditions of a long-term crisis like the pandemic we are currently facing. (This was written specifically for educators, but applies to anyone.) First, the necessary sobering bit (italics mine):

The answer to the question everyone is asking — “When will this be over?” — is simple and obvious, yet terribly hard to accept. The answer is never.

Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened. And so, while it may feel good in the moment, it is foolish to dive into a frenzy of activity or obsess about your scholarly productivity right now. That is denial and delusion. The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed.

I’ve had a few weeks to process the fact that this will never end, but seeing it stated like this, so matter-of-factly, is still shocking. Luckily, Ahmad spends the rest of the piece gently and generously advising us on how to handle this changed state of affairs.

Now more than ever, we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic. Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful, and divine. And they will be slower than keener academics are used to. Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas.

In a Twitter thread, Ahmad shared some further thoughts on adapting to our new reality.

To start, know that your feelings today are not going to last all summer. It’s just a transition period. Right now, it feels like your whole world has been taken away, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your creative adaptation phase yet. Trust the process.

It’s upsetting when our expectations & plans are overturned. Give yourself a moment to grieve. But don’t let your grief trick you into thinking you’re going to suffer every day. That’s not happening. Your mind & body will adjust. Joy & freedom are still on the table.

And this was my favorite bit:

Second, embrace radical acceptance. Let go of expectations and control. What you did last month doesn’t serve you today. Let the world, today, teach you a new way to be happy, joyous, and free. If we live in denial, fear, or self-pity, we will miss the gift.

See also how to deal with our collective pandemic grief. (thx, meg)

Pandemic Travel Posters (Inviting You to Stay Home)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

Pandemic Travel Posters

Pandemic Travel Posters

Jennifer Baer of the “Coronavirus Tourism Bureau” made some travel posters designed to get you interested in staying inside and exploring your own home during the pandemic. Posters are available for purchase.

Bong Joon-ho’s Extensive Storyboards for Parasite

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

Parasite Storyboards

Before he begins filming any of his movies, director Bong Joon-ho draws out storyboards for every single shot of every single scene of the film. From an interview with Bong in 2017:

I’m always very nervous in my everyday life and if I don’t prepare everything beforehand, I go crazy. That’s why I work very meticulously on the storyboards. If I ever go to a psych ward or a psychiatric hospital, they’ll diagnose me as someone who has a mental problem and they’ll tell me to stop working, but I still want to work. I have to draw storyboards.

For his Oscar-winning Parasite, Bong has collected the storyboards into a 304-page graphic novel due out in mid-May: Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards.

Drawn by Bong Joon Ho himself before the filming of the Palme d’Or Award-winning, Golden Globe(R)-nominated film, these illustrations, accompanied by every line of dialog, depict the film in its entirety. Director Bong has also provided a foreword which takes the reader even deeper into the creative process which gave rise to the stunning cinematic achievement of Parasite.

The book has already been released in Korea, and Through the Viewfinder did a 5-minute video comparison of the storyboards with the filmed scenes for the peach fuzz montage scene (and another video of the flood scene).

Amazing. That’s a whole lotta film school packed into five minutes of video.

Tracing Starling Murmurations Through the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

Back in November, Patrick Tanguay and I posted about Xavi Bou’s Ornitographies project, photographs of the paths traced by birds in the sky. Now Bou has released a video extension of the project, which shows the paths of starlings wheeling & swerving through the sky in huge groups called murmurations. Soothing soundtrack by Kristina Dutton. (via dunstan orchard)

Let’s Go for a Stroll Outside

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Pavis (who has guest edited here in the past) shared some of her favorite YouTubers that post videos of themselves walking around as a way to ease our lack of mobility during the pandemic quarantine. (Remember walking around outside among other people? Ahh, those were the days…)

Most of these are of city walks, the kind of walking I miss most acutely.1 Some of the videos are narrated, but most contain just ambient city noise. You can find lots more walks, including those in more natural settings, by searching YouTube for “4K walks”, “binaural walks”, or similar terms.

See also Virtual Travel Photography in the Age of Pandemic.

  1. Here in Vermont, I feel very lucky that we have access to plentiful uncrowded outdoor spaces to exercise in. And our statewide shelter-in-place order allows people to leave the house for exercise (which is essential for many people’s physical and mental health).

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