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Entries for August 2020 (September 2020 »    October 2020 »    November 2020 »    Archives)

 

Marvel Pays Tribute to Chadwick Boseman

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

Actor Chadwick Boseman died on Friday after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman played both Jackie Robinson and James Brown in films, but he was best known for his role as T’Challa / Black Panther in four Marvel movies. In this short video featuring behind-the-scenes footage from those films and interviews from his colleagues, Marvel pays tribute to the best possible person they could have gotten to play that role.

I watched Black Panther for the third or fourth time over the weekend and while Michael B. Jordan always blows me away, it’s Boseman’s quiet intensity and magnetism that grounds Jordan’s performance and makes the whole “the bad guy has a point” plot work. Yeah ok, it’s just a superhero movie, but I think Black Panther is going to be one of those films that’s going to be relevant and reverberate for a long time.

Some Oddball Stress Reset Exercises for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

It’s 2020 and you’re probably stressed out about something. Or many somethings. Multiplicative intersectional stress. Clinical psychologist Jenny Taitz wrote a short piece for the NY Times about five different techniques you can use to “reset” your stress. These aren’t substitutes for doing the long-term hard work of managing your emotional life, but they can be helpful for moving back into the yellow or green should you find yourself temporarily in the red.

Along with breathing and listening to music, Taitz suggests plunging your head into cold water:

Marsha Linehan, a professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Washington, popularized an exercise in dialectical behavior therapy to regulate intense emotions that involves immediately lowering your body temperature by creating a mini plunge pool for your face. This sounds odd, but it activates your body’s dive response, a reflex that happens when you cool your nostrils while holding your breath, dampening your physiological and emotional intensity.

To do it, fill a large bowl with ice water, set a timer for 15 to 30 seconds, take a deep breath and hold your breath while dipping your face into the water. While this isn’t conventionally relaxing, it will slow your heart rate, allowing blood to flow more easily to your brain. I love watching my clients try this over our telehealth calls and seeing firsthand how quickly this shifts their perspective. Just being willing to do this, I tell my clients as they prepare to submerge, is a way to practice being flexible.

Thanks to Jackson for highlighting these exercises on today’s episode of Kottke Ride Home.

Using Conservative Logic to Defend History’s Greatest Monsters

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

Greg Larsen on Twitter this morning:

Name someone who is universally agreed to be evil (genocidal dictator, serial killer etc) and I’ll defend them and their actions using conservative logic.

Here are some of his responses, starting with serial murderer John Wayne Gacy:

Great now the left is trying to besmirch a man who literally worked at CHILDREN’S HOSPITALS helping to cheer up sick kids by being a clown! Is there any low that the left won’t sink to, attacking a children’s entertainer? It’s just sad.

Wile E. Coyote:

Convenient that the footage starts on Wile E Coyote but we don’t see what Roadrunner was doing before hand. So this violent antifa roadrunner could be speeding around, looking for trouble and violence and the footage starts right when the Coyote is defending himself.

Emperor Palpatine:

When a leftist opposes law and order you have to wonder their motivations. Seems to me the Empire brought peace to the galaxy and it was radical leftist terrorists that were destroying that peace. Why? Because they were sad that the government wasn’t giving them handouts?

Jack the Ripper:

Criticize him all you want, but in a way he was good for the economy. Books, films, tourism, a whole genre of entertainment sprung up around him. Think of how many lives he has saved an enriched by helping the British economy. Facts don’t care about your feelings.

Kim Jong Un:

Show me literally one photo, one piece of footage, literally anything of Kim Jong Un killing anyone, or doing anything bad to anyone. I’ll wait.

And SARS-CoV-2:

Literally the hardest working virus in 2020. Creating healthcare work, bringing people together, and by every measurable standard a raging success in the virus world but that doesn’t fit the leftist narrative of “success = evil”

(thx, mark)

Banksy Finances a Mediterranean Refugee Rescue Boat

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 31, 2020

Meet the M.V. Louise Michel, a rescue boat operating in the Mediterranean Sea that answers emergency calls from “non-Europeans” seeking refuge in Europe from war, persecution, and authoritarian governments.

Banksy Louise Michel

Here’s the stated mission of the vessel’s crew:

To uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice. We onboard the Louise Michel believe we are all individuals, nationality should not make a difference to what rights one has and how we treat each other. We answer the SOS call of all those in distress, not just to save their souls — but our own.

According to the Guardian, the project came about when Banksy reached out to experienced activist and experienced rescue boat captain Pia Klemp via email:

Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.

Producer 9th Wonder on Producing Beats for Kendrick Lamar

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

I’ve said this before, but I could sit and listen to musicians talk about how they make their music all day long, particularly rap & hip hop producers because of all the history and context they are intentionally inserting into the music. In this video, 9th Wonder talks about DUCKWORTH., a song from Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. that he created three beats for.

In an associated article, Marcus J. Moore (author of The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America) writes:

But it’s on album closer “DUCKWORTH.,” produced by 9th Wonder, that the elements of jazz, hip-hop and soul come into the sharpest focus. 9th has a history of blending records from all genres into kaleidoscopic sets of deep soul and hip-hop. Each track has its own distinctive flair, but you can still tell it’s a 9th Wonder beat — the drums lock into a hypnotic groove and the vocal samples crack with nostalgic beauty. “DUCKWORTH.” mashes three beats into a tight coil of repurposed folk, progressive rock and experimental soul, on which Kendrick details a chance encounter between his father, Kenny Duckworth, and his future label boss, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. Years before “Top Dawg” became a music mogul, he walked into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and saw Kendrick’s future father working there. “Top” was planning to rob the restaurant and stood in Kenny’s line to demand the cash. But Kenny had seen “Top” rob and shoot up the store before, so to spare his own life, he gave him free chicken and two extra biscuits to get on his good side. “You take two strangers and put ‘em in random predicaments,” Kendrick rapped. “Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence?”

Watch all the way to the end of the video — you get the rare treat of watching someone realize something about their own work and their collaborating partner that they hadn’t before…

Manifest Density and American Politics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

I ran across this Facebook post by Shannon Welch the other day and while I don’t agree with some of it (more about that in a bit), I do think there’s something to her argument that the density of the place you grew up in or have spent a lot of time in has an effect on how you view the world, your neighbors, and your political situation.

So why does this matter? Because how you were raised and how you live has a huge impact on what matters to you from your politicians and your government.

Those I know that grew up in less dense areas had to be self-reliant. When calling 911 means you’re likely waiting 20 minutes or longer for police, an ambulance, or a fire truck. You have to be able to defend yourself, handle your own first aid, and rely on your neighbors to help in critical emergency situations. When I tell people in Southern California that where I grew up had volunteer firefighters and EMTs they don’t believe me.

The more rural you are, the less you rely on government entities for your day-to-day needs. The most rural have well water, septic systems, take their trash to the dump, if it snows, they have a vehicle that can plow, and the truly rural use propane for power and heat. They are not reliant on most services provided by the public utilities. They use guns as tools to protect their animals and their family from prey and from vermin. They do not really encounter homeless people, as even the poorest can usually find a shack to live out of and require a vehicle to get around. These people in less dense areas do not depend on the government to solve their problems. They’d prefer government stay out of their lives completely. Less taxes, less oversight, less being told what to do. To the rural, it seems like every time the government interferes in their life, they lose another freedom, and their quality of life diminishes.

Those I know that grew up in more dense areas are used to calling 911 to handle emergencies. Their streets are swept in the summer and plowed in the winter. Their trash is picked up on the same day weekly. They don’t have space for cars and tools, so they tend to take public transportation or walk. They call someone when something breaks that requires tools they don’t own. They are used to encountering the homeless on the streets as part of their daily life. The truly poor and homeless usually end up in cities as the services to help the sick, mentally ill and the poorest among us are more available in dense areas. So the wealthy interact with the poor in cities far more than they do in rural areas. Those in higher density areas are willing to pay for government services because they are a regular part of their daily lives and make life more manageable. Without these services, the quality of life they know would not exist.

But I don’t think the following is at all accurate though — perhaps a case of overstatement to prove a point:

I truly believe our population density experience matters more to our political views than education, income, race, gender or sexuality.

NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

For a few months now, NPR has been broadcasting their Tiny Desk concert series from the homes and studios of the featured musicians. Tame Impala was a recent guest and Lenny Kravitz has played a home concert as well. Here’s Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are super good live:

But Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas recently did something unique: a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert that actually looks like they’re playing in the NPR office (even though they are not).

Watch through to the end to see how they pulled it off. (via waxy)

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2020

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

The World Memorial to the Pandemic

Uruguayan architecture firm Gómez Platero is building the world’s first large-scale memorial dedicated to victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. From Architecture Daily:

The memorial will be located on the edge of an urban waterfront, accessible only by a long pedestrian walkway. At the center of the platform, an open void to the ocean beneath allows people to observe nature. It is designed to allow a high percentage of the structure to be pre-assembled for on-site assembly, minimizing the impact on the natural environment. The large, circular structure will serve as a “sensory experience that bridges the gap between the urban and natural worlds, creating an ideal environment for introspection.”

(via print)

An Interview with ‘Kottke Ride Home’ Host Jackson Bird

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2020

Last week, I told you about the launch of kottke.org’s new podcast, Kottke Ride Home. The podcast is a 15-minute show with smart news and info hosted by Jackson Bird. I recently “sat down” with Jackson to ask him some questions. In this (very) lightly edited interview, he talks about how the podcast comes together every weekday, provides some insider knowledge on TED Talks, suggests about how we might relate to Harry Potter given JK Rowling’s repeated airing of her anti-trans views, and shares some media suggestions like YouTube videos, podcasts, and movies.

Let’s start with something easy. What are you up to these days, apart from hosting the podcast?

Apart from the podcast, I make videos for my YouTube channel, which I’ve been doing in various capacities since 2007. These days my videos are mostly on LGBTQ+ topics, but sometimes I throw random things on a waffle iron to see what happens. I also co-host a podcast about masculinity with my friend Bo Méndez called Everything’s Bigger. Before the pandemic, I was a pub quiz host. Since bars aren’t opening for indoor activities anytime soon here in New York City, I’m glad to have the Kottke Ride Home to fill my thirst for random knowledge.

How do you go about deciding which stuff to feature on the podcast? What are you looking for? Do you have a system? Is it a gut feeling? How do you know something’s right? (This is something I struggle to explain when I get this question, so I’d love to hear your perspective.)

I have a huge RSS feed list and bookmark anything I see that could possibly be interesting for the podcast, but as far as narrowing it down for what makes the cut each day, that’s a bit tougher. I like to have a nice balance of different genres (i.e. not too much science or too much history in any one day) and try to keep most of it fairly topical, even if I dive into older, archival finds here and there. When we were first developing the show, Brian suggested that each day listeners should learn something new, hear something that makes them smile, and learn something they might share at a dinner party (remember dinner parties?). I still try to stick to that for the most part. I’m aware that some listeners might be more into pop culture and others into scientific discoveries and still others looking for weird cultural finds, design, uplifting stories, and more so I try to make sure there’s something that would keep people listening everyday even if they aren’t interested in every single story. Sometimes it also comes down to length. We try to keep Ride Home shows to 15 minutes, which means each segment is ideally 400-500 words. If I got really into a story and accidentally wrote 1000 words, then the other segments have to be a bit shorter and lighter that day so another long story might get pushed to the next day. I don’t get it perfect everyday. It really is an intricate dance and truly a lot of gut feelings.

Over the past decade, TED has grown into a huge cultural juggernaut. What was it like on the inside, being a TED Resident and doing a TED Talk?

It was really surreal. I still sometimes can’t believe that I was not only picked to be a TED Resident, but also that I actually worked out of TED’s global headquarters in Manhattan everyday for over three months. My fellow residents were all working on amazing projects like an app to locate land mines, a VR time capsule of Coney Island, and a documentary destigmatizing mental illness in communities of color, but just being inside the beating heart of TED was inspiring all on its own. There was always something happening and residents were invited to be a part of most of it — like the day Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Donald Trump’s The Art of Deal, came to speak in TED’s in-house theater just weeks after Trump’s inauguration. Or the day I turned around from my desk and realized the woman who had been working in the conference room behind me for two hours was Monica Lewinsky.

Giving a TED Talk was massively intimidating. Having a TED Talk under your belt is a huge thing so I didn’t want to mess it up and blow the opportunity. I also knew that much of TED’s leadership would be watching from the audience. Part of what makes it so nerve-wracking is that it’s both a live performance and something filmed and shared in perpetuity. I’ve grown up doing both live performances and plenty of on-camera work, but rarely both at the same time — and certainly not for something that would have such a huge impact on my career. If you mess up in a live performance, you try to cover it somehow and keep going. It might not be your best night, but that’s okay because you feed off the audience and no one will ever see it again. If you mess up for a camera, you stop and start over. Because TED uses something like a dozen cameras all over the theater aimed at both you and the audience, we were instructed to use that latter method if we messed up, to stop and start over. With just one shot though, I still wanted to give my best performance for the audience so I just worked as hard as I could to not mess up. I must have practiced my talk close to a thousand times in the month leading up to actually giving it. That was a challenge in and of itself because it meant finishing the talk soon enough to get a month of practice in.

The process of writing, however, was really invigorating. We had a number of sessions with a speaking coach to help us craft our talks and hone our delivery. As someone who has been an independent creator for so long, it was really great to get so much feedback and spend so long making sure every single word had a purpose. TED Talks for residents are only six minutes, so every second has to count. As nervous as I was, I don’t think I could’ve done any better on the night, but I still never watch it back. I can’t stomach it. But it has been really nice to have one quick talk to point to as an example of my work and as a resource for people looking to learn more about transgender topics. If you watch on TED.com, there’s an extensive list of footnotes and further reading that I curated along with the video. TED staff thinks I may have broken a record for most extra resources added at the time.

You wrote a memoir that was published last September. Was writing a book something you’d always wanted to do?

Yeah, I always wanted to be a writer. I was “writing” stories on the family typewriter before I could spell any words. Growing up the only two things I cared about was writing and acting. I more or less quit acting when I went to college and between college papers and then copywriting for a nonprofit, I kind of lost any drive for creative writing for a while. The book kind of happened by accident. I set out to write a zine, something usually in the 3-10 page range, and ended up writing 75 pages. From there, I started thinking maybe I could expand the project into a memoir. I went back and forth for years on if I actually wanted to publish a memoir, but at the end of 2018 the opportunity presented itself and less than a year later I had published a book. It was a whirlwind and has been an awesome experience, but I can’t wait to write more books on a more normal timeline and which aren’t about me. I’ve got a picture book I’m working on, two young adult novels I’m trying to make headway on, and ideas for several other novels and works of creative nonfiction I’d love to one day write. And if Marvel ever let me write a Captain America novel, I’d be over the moon.

My kids and I are big Harry Potter fans. I read the entire series aloud to them, they’ve read all the books more times than I can keep track of, and they know an absurd amount of Potter trivia. The books have spurred & facilitated all kinds of conversations about the value of friendship, the acceptance of differences, and even the dangers of fascism. Their mom and I have told them about the statements that J.K. Rowling has made about trans people and how they differ from our views and seemingly from the inclusive messages in her own work. But I struggle about what guidance to offer them in how they should continue to relate to this entire world that she created that they love. You wrote about this separation of Potter & Rowling in the NY Times back in December before some of her most recent comments. Where are you on this these days?

I used to be the Communications Director for the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit that uses the power of story to mobilize fans towards social action. With over a hundred chapters all over the world, the HPA uses parallels from Harry Potter (and other books, comics, movies, etc.) as an entry point for teaching leadership skills and educating on particular issues and then taps into the inherent enthusiasm and organizing power of fans to effect real change in local communities and around the world. I didn’t write the book on how the Harry Potter series is saturated with inclusive and fairly progressive values, but I did write a peer-reviewed paper on it. So I’m extraordinarily familiar with how people have found solace and inspiration from the books as well as the amazing things fans have created around the books (from fanfiction and fan art to small businesses and an entire genre of music). Which is why I’m both completely nonplussed how the author of a series about unconditional love could have missed the message of her own books entirely and why I personally don’t care anymore. For me, the true magic of the series has always been what we’ve made of it ourselves, and what we’ve made from it. I know not everyone has deep and meaningful fandom experiences like I do to cling onto, especially young kids reading it for the time, but I do think we can separate the author from the art a little bit here. Authors being on social media and clinging ever steadfast to their opinions does make that a bit more challenging than in the past and, admittedly, I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach reading the books anytime soon without hearing her Twitter voice in my head, but I think there are ways to enjoy the books and acknowledge how her views may differ from your own. It’s a chance to interrogate our own biases and have a discussion about important topics. That said, for anyone for whom this was the last straw (because it was certainly not JK Rowling’s first offense), I completely understand. While Harry Potter will always hold a huge place in my heart and in the cultural consciousness of my generation, there are so many other amazing works out there by authors who live out their values and by trans people themselves.

And for anyone who has been a bit confused about the controversy surrounding JK Rowling, I highly recommend this extensively-researched video from YouTuber creators Jamie and Shaaba, a trans man and his fiancée. They’re doctoral researchers in England in the fields of transgender well-being and psychology so they know what they’re talking about. I also recommend this episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, which discusses how fans can continue to be fans (or not) and gives several trans people (admittedly including myself) a chance to share how they’re feeling.

Ok, speed round. Are you a city person or country person? Or suburbs, I guess?

Country. I’ve reluctantly been in New York City for ten years and dreaming of moving to the country for at least five of them. I grew up in Texas so I’m used to more nature and wide open spaces than the urban jungle can in any way provide.

Optimist or pessimist?

Optimist, definitely.

What’s your favorite podcast (other than the one you host)?

So tough to choose just one podcast! I think I’ll go with One From The Vaults, hosted by Morgan M. Page. It’s a history podcast that focuses on one trans or gender nonconforming person from history each episode. Our history has been largely ignored so it’s really cool to learn about unknown or little mentioned individuals in great detail. As an honorable mention, WNYC’s Dear Hank and John always brings a smile to my face. Brothers (and authors/YouTube creators) Hank and John give dubious advice and update listeners on all the news related to Mars and third-tier English football team AFC Wimbledon.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A sidekick.

Favorite book, movie, or TV show?

I don’t know if I could ever choose a favorite book, but my favorite movie is hands down Back to the Future and my favorite TV show is a tie between Parks and Recreation and Downton Abbey.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Dr. Eric Selbin who taught my first year seminar at Southwestern University.

And finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they never ask?

What’s your most-watched YouTube video?. (Answer.)
—-

Thanks Jackson, not only for taking the time but also for indulging my parenting question. You can listen to Jackson every weekday on Kottke Ride Home. And look for an episode of the podcast in the next few weeks where Jackson will subject me to similar but probably better questions.

Ammonite

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2020

Ammonite is an upcoming romantic drama from director Francis Lee. It takes place in the 1840s and stars Kate Winslet as a palaeontologist & Saoirse Ronan as her assistant; the pair clash then fall in love. The story is based on the life of Mary Anning, who made several important contributions to paleontology.

Paleontology wouldn’t be the same without Mary Anning. She scoured the dreary coast of southern England for secrets not seen since the Jurassic, fueling the nascent 19th-century field of fossil studies with evidence of strange sea dragons, flying reptiles and other fascinating fragments of life long past. And now, over 170 years after her death, she’s got her own movie.

However, there’s no evidence that Anning and her friend, Charlotte Murchison, ever had a romantic relationship.

I have to wonder what Anning would say to this. As she wrote in a letter, “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.” In the sexist, male-dominated world of 19th-century science, Anning’s finds were celebrated while she herself was barred from joining academic societies or even finding a path to gain equal footing with the likes of William Buckland, Gideon Mantell and other traditional heroes of paleontology who parasitized her labor. Now, in having her life’s story made a fiction, is the world using Anning again?

Ammonite opens in US theaters in November? (I mean, they reopened schools in Florida against all expert advice and common sense, so why not theaters?) Anyway, looking forward to the third movie in the Portrait of a Lady on Fire trilogy next year.

Players Lead Sports Strike to Put Focus on Racial Injustice

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2020

Four years to the day after Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem of an NFL preseason game to protest the oppression of Black people in the United States, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their NBA playoff game and set off an NBA-wide strike, as well as strikes by teams in the WNBA, MLB, and MLS. They were reacting to the attempted murder of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer on Sunday and the subsequent inaction by officials to take any disiplinary action against the officer.

The shooting prompted numerous N.B.A. players and coaches to express frustration and anger that the various measures they have been taking for weeks to support the Black Lives Matter movement, such as kneeling during the national anthem and wearing jerseys bearing social justice messages, were having little impact. Some also began to question, as the Nets’ star guard Kyrie Irving did in June before the 2019-20 season resumed, whether providing entertainment through basketball was actually diverting public attention away from the broader social justice movement.

Fueled by that frustration, Milwaukee’s players stunned league officials by organizing Wednesday’s boycott, a walkout that had virtually no precedent in N.B.A. history.

Milwaukee’s George Hill gave a glimpse of the Bucks’ mind-set on Monday when he openly questioned whether the league’s return had successfully amplified the players’ messaging.

“We shouldn’t have even come to this damn place to be honest,” Hill said. “I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.”

Former NBA player Kenny Smith walked off the set of TNT’s Inside the NBA in solidarity with the players.

As a reminder, here’s what Kaepernick said after kneeling four years ago:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

You can see why the players believe that little has been done to address this state of affairs — there’s definitely more awareness now, but substantive change is not happening.

Update: A previous version of this post referred to the players’ walkout as a boycott (following the Times’ language). While boycott is technically accurate, it is generally used to refer to consumers withholding their purchase power as a protest. Strike is a more exact word to use in a situation where workers are withholding their labor (even though the players are not demanding concessions from their employers), so I updated the post to reflect that. (thx, david)

Smoke on the Wind: the Aerosol Spread of Covid-19

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2020

Chemist Jose-Luis Jimenez writing for Time magazine: COVID-19 Is Transmitted Through Aerosols. We Have Enough Evidence, Now It Is Time to Act. In it, he argues that while much of the early attention has been on fomites (surface contamination) and droplets as pathways for spreading Covid-19, tranmission by aerosols may be more significant. His analogy of smoke makes it quite easy to understand:

When it comes to COVID-19, the evidence overwhelmingly supports aerosol transmission, and there are no strong arguments against it. For example, contact tracing has found that much COVID-19 transmission occurs in close proximity, but that many people who share the same home with an infected person do not get the disease. To understand why, it is useful to use cigarette or vaping smoke (which is also an aerosol) as an analog. Imagine sharing a home with a smoker: if you stood close to the smoker while talking, you would inhale a great deal of smoke. Replace the smoke with virus-containing aerosols, which behave very similarly, and the impact is similar: the closer you are to someone releasing virus-carrying aerosols, the more likely you are to breathe in larger amounts of virus. We know from detailed, rigorous studies that when individuals talk in close proximity, aerosols dominate transmission and droplets are nearly negligible.

Thinking of smoke can help guide our actions:

The visual analogy of smoke can help guide our risk assessment and risk reduction strategies. One just has to imagine that others they encounter are all smoking, and the goal is to breathe as little smoke as possible. But COVID-19 is not very contagious under most situations, unlike, for example, measles: the CDC says that 15 minutes of close proximity to a COVID-19 infected person often leads to contagion, which provides an estimate of how much “exhaled smoke” one may need to inhale for infection. Inhaling a little whiff of “smoke” here and there is OK, but a lot of “smoke” for a sustained period of time and without a mask is risky. (To be clear, actual smoke does not increase the probability of infection.)

In thinking about aerosolized Covid, Jimenez recommends avoiding crowds & indoor spaces and cutting down on proximity & duration, among other things.

We should continue doing what has already been recommended: wash hands, keep six feet apart, and so on. But that is not enough. A new, consistent and logical set of recommendations must emerge to reduce aerosol transmission. I propose the following: Avoid Crowding, Indoors, low Ventilation, Close proximity, long Duration, Unmasked, Talking/singing/Yelling (“A CIViC DUTY”). These are the important factors in mathematical models of aerosol transmission, and can also be simply understood as factors that impact how much “smoke” we would inhale.

But what about masks? N95s can block most aerosols but cloth masks have “huge” holes in them relative to aerosol particles, right? They still work in lowering risk (but not eliminating it!) because your “smoke” doesn’t travel as far when you’re wearing a mask and it filters incoming smoke (if your mask fits correctly and you’re keeping your distance).

Second, masks are essential, even when we are able to maintain social distance. We should also pay attention to fitting masks snugly, as they are not just a parapet against ballistic droplets, but also a means to prevent “smoke” from leaking in through gaps. We should not remove masks to talk, nor allow someone who is not wearing a mask to talk to us, because we exhale aerosols 10 times as much when talking compared to breathing. Everyone should be careful to not stand behind someone with a poorly fitting mask, as the curvature of an ill-fitting mask can cause aerosols to travel behind the person wearing it.

Great article, full of common sense advice backed up by science.

Polluted Water Popsicles

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 25, 2020

Polluted Water Popsicles

Three art students, Hung I-chen, Guo Yi-hui, and Cheng Yu-ti, collected polluted water from all over Taiwan and turned them into popsicles.

Hung and her teammates visited 100 locations across Taiwan to collect waste. They then placed the samples — complete with dirt, bugs, and trash — into a freezer, turning them into popsicles. In order to preserve them, they encased the popsicles in a polyester resin.

Hung tells Quartz she hopes the project will raise awareness about water pollution. Her team chose to use popsicles as a motif because they are translucent and because popsicles typically look appealing to the eye. “Such pretty popsicles, would you still want to eat them?” she asks.

The same group did a similar polluted soap project for Hong Kong. (thx, naomi)

The 2020 International Garden Photographer of the Year Macro Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2020

Tulip petals

Peeping frog

Flower vortex

Rainbow lily

The International Garden Photographer of the Year has announced the winners of their macro competition, featuring some of the best close-up photography of the botanical world. My nature-loving daughter and I picked out a few of our favorite entries above. Photos by (top to bottom) Anne MacIntyre, Minghui Yuan, Bruno Militelli, and Ecaterina Leonte. (via moss & fog)

Dollar Bill Portraits of Powerful Women

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2020

Dollar bill portrait of AOC

Dollar bill portrait of Cardi B

Artist Claire Salvo is painting portraits of women — mainly women of color — over the depictions of slave-holding Presidents on the front of US currency. You can see her work on Instagram; here are the portraits of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, Cardi B, Billie Eilish, and Michelle Obama. Each portrait is accompanied by a time lapse video of its creation.

Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2020

Amy Sherald's portrait of Breonna Taylor

For the cover of Vanity Fair’s September 2020 issue, guest-edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Amy Sherald painted a stunning portrait of Breonna Taylor.

For more than 20 years, Amy Sherald has been putting the narratives of Black families and Black people to canvas. In 2016, she became the first woman and first African American to win the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, which led to her painting Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in 2018. That oil-on-linen portrait was her first commissioned work — until Breonna Taylor.

Taylor is an “American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker. Those are the kinds of people that I am drawn towards,” says Sherald, who is immunosuppressed and has been unable to participate in protests. She calls this portrait a contribution to the “moment and to activism—producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever.”

Sherald’s process typically begins with taking a picture of her subject. Painting Taylor, a person she had never met, who would never be able to sit for her, presented a unique challenge. Sherald took extraordinary care in reimagining Taylor, inflecting her portrait with symbols of the 26-year-old’s life. Sherald found a young woman with similar physical attributes, studied Taylor’s hairstyles and fashion choices, and drew inspiration from things she learned about the young woman — that she had been a frontline worker in the battle against COVID-19; that her boyfriend had been about to propose marriage; that she was self-possessed, brave, loving, loved.

See also Breonna Taylor on the Cover of Oprah Magazine.

Season Four of The Crown Introduces Margaret Thatcher & Lady Diana

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 21, 2020

This is a teaser trailer for season four of The Crown that really lives up to its name. We know that Gillian Anderson is playing Margaret Thatcher (!!) and Princess Diana makes her first appearance in the series (played by newcomer Emma Corrin), but we don’t really get to see either of them clearly in the trailer. Which is frustrating but definitely gets me excited for its premiere on November 15th.

“I Hate to Write, but I Love Having Written”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 21, 2020

I was surprised and a little bit gutted to learn that the quote “I hate to write, but I love having written” cannot be attributed to Dorothy Parker. According to the Quote Investigator, there’s no evidence Parker ever wrote or said anything like that. The earliest instance of such a phrase was from a letter written by novelist Frank Norris prior to his death in 1902 (when Parker would have been 8 or 9 years old).

I write with great difficulty, but have managed somehow to accomplish 40 short stories (all published in fugitive fashion) and five novels within the last three years, and a lot of special unsigned articles. Believe my forte is the novel. Don’t like to write, but like having written. Hate the effort of driving pen from line to line, work only three hours a day, but work every day.

God, I’m getting nauseous just picturing what an insufferably pedantic snot I’m going sound like the next time someone tries that “Parker” quote on me. “Well, actually…”

But! This was a great excuse to dive into the deep well of Parker’s wit. Some of my favorite quotes of hers:

“Too fucking busy, and vice versa.” is an instant classic, up there with E.B. White’s “I must decline, for secret reasons.”

Oh, and one other thing I’d never heard about Parker: when she died, she left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr., even though the two had never met. When King was assassinated, her estate passed to the NAACP.

It’s Very Hard to Tear Down a Bridge Once It’s Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

Many people inside and outside the USPS have raised concerns over the past few weeks about changes implemented by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that could be interpreted as an attempt to sabotage the delivery of the expected surge in mail-in ballots this November. Two days ago, DeJoy issued a statement addressing these concerns:

I came to the Postal Service to make changes to secure the success of this organization and its long-term sustainability. I believe significant reforms are essential to that objective, and work toward those reforms will commence after the election. In the meantime, there are some longstanding operational initiatives — efforts that predate my arrival at the Postal Service — that have been raised as areas of concern as the nation prepares to hold an election in the midst of a devastating pandemic. To avoid even the appearance of any impact on election mail, I am suspending these initiatives until after the election is concluded.

He also promised that “mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes will remain where they are” and “and we reassert that overtime has, and will continue to be, approved as needed”. During a call with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi yesterday, DeJoy stated that “he has no intention of replacing the sorting machines, blue mailboxes and other infrastructure that have been removed”. Vice’s Aaron Gordon shared internal USPS emails that say sorting machines already removed or disconnected should not be reconnected:

Shortly after USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy issued a public statement saying he wanted to “avoid even the appearance” that any of his policies would slow down election mail, USPS instructed all maintenance managers around the country not to reconnect or reinstall any mail sorting machines they had already disconnected, according to emails obtained by Motherboard.

“I will not be setting that building on fire in the future,” says the arsonist as the building burns behind him. This reminds me of a story that Robert Caro told about Robert Moses in this interview.

I remember his aide, Sid Shapiro, who I spent a lot of time getting to talk to me, he finally talked to me. And he had this quote that I’ve never forgotten. He said Moses didn’t want poor people, particularly poor people of color, to use Jones Beach, so they had legislation passed forbidding the use of buses on parkways.

Then he had this quote, and I can still hear him saying it to me. “Legislation can always be changed. It’s very hard to tear down a bridge once it’s up.” So he built 180 or 170 bridges too low for buses.

We used Jones Beach a lot, because I used to work the night shift for the first couple of years, so I’d sleep til 12 and then we’d go down and spend a lot of afternoons at the beach. It never occurred to me that there weren’t any black people at the beach.

So Ina and I went to the main parking lot, that huge 10,000-car lot. We stood there with steno pads, and we had three columns: Whites, Blacks, Others. And I still remember that first column — there were a few Others, and almost no Blacks. The Whites would go on to the next page. I said, God, this is what Robert Moses did. This is how you can shape a metropolis for generations.

The situation here is reversed — e.g. “it’s very hard to rebuild a bridge once it’s torn down” — but the lesson is the same. If you take mailboxes off the streets and junk sorting machines, it’s difficult to put them back, particularly when everyone’s baseline shifts over the next few months and the decreased capacity and delays are normalized (and then exploited for political advantage). Destroying the United States Post Office would be far easier and cheaper than rebuilding it.

The Trinity Cube

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

Paglan Trinity Cube

Paglan Trinity Cube

When the world’s first atomic weapon exploded in New Mexico in July 1945, the energy from the blast formed a new mineral called trinitite from the desert sand. For his 2015 Trinity Cube project, artist Trevor Paglen took irradiated glass gathered from the area around where the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred in 2011 and combined it with trinitite to form a blue cube. He then installed the cube in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone to continue to be irradiated.

The artwork will be viewable by the public when the Exclusion Zone opens again, anytime between 3 and 30,000 years from the present.

Ukulele Covers of AC/DC, Nirvana, and Guns N’ Roses Hits

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

I have a bit of a thing for kooky covers of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck — see Thunderstruck on the bagpipes and on a washing machine — so I was plum tickled to find this ukulele cover today:

That’s from a Brazilian duo called Overdriver Duo, who have also done GNR’s Sweet Child O’ Mine, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (on a Frozen-branded uke!), and Every Breath You Take by The Police. (via open culture)

Meet the Long-Haulers, Whose Covid-19 Symptoms Last For Months

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 20, 2020

In the Atlantic, Ed Yong checks back in with the long-haulers, people who are still experiencing Covid-19 symptoms months after their initial infection. (Read his previous article from early June.)

Lauren Nichols has been sick with COVID-19 since March 10, shortly before Tom Hanks announced his diagnosis and the NBA temporarily canceled its season. She has lived through one month of hand tremors, three of fever, and four of night sweats. When we spoke on day 150, she was on her fifth month of gastrointestinal problems and severe morning nausea. She still has extreme fatigue, bulging veins, excessive bruising, an erratic heartbeat, short-term memory loss, gynecological problems, sensitivity to light and sounds, and brain fog. Even writing an email can be hard, she told me, “because the words I think I’m writing are not the words coming out.” She wakes up gasping for air twice a month. It still hurts to inhale.

As Yong says in a thread about the article: “The pandemic is going to create a large wave of chronically disabled people.” Once again for the people in the back: this is not just the flu. The flu does not incapacitate otherwise healthy people like this. I know at least two long-haulers personally and am astounded on a daily basis by how casually some Americans continue to regard Covid-19.

More than 90 percent of long-haulers whom Putrino has worked with also have “post-exertional malaise,” in which even mild bouts of physical or mental exertion can trigger a severe physiological crash. “We’re talking about walking up a flight of stairs and being out of commission for two days,” Putrino said. This is the defining symptom of myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome. For decades, people with ME/CFS have endured the same gendered gaslighting that long-haulers are now experiencing. They’re painfully familiar with both medical neglect and a perplexing portfolio of symptoms.

You can read Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent article on her chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis and how difficult it is for people with chronic conditions like this to get the right diagnosis and to get family and friends to believe what’s going on.

Also, Yong should win all the awards this year for his pandemic coverage. It has been simply outstanding.

Introducing the “Kottke Ride Home” Podcast

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

Hi folks, I’ve got some exciting news today. The newest addition to kottke.org’s tiny media empire debuted yesterday: the Kottke Ride Home podcast. It’s a bloggy daily podcast featuring some of the day’s most interesting news and links in just 15 minutes, and you can subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts (more options). The cool thing is that the podcast is very much its own thing with its own engaging host. It’s not a recap of the site in audio form, but instead is a whole different crop of news & information from the Kottke.org Media Universe (the KMU lol).

Here’s the first episode of Kottke Ride Home, featuring segments on the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America, AI-assisted MRI scans that are up to 4X faster, and the “Lost Colony” of English settlers from 1587:

Ok, now that you’ve returned from subscribing, let me tell you about the show and how it came about.

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a podcast for awhile now1 — they’re the hot thing, etc. — but I could never get myself interested enough to make it happen as a host/interviewer. But I know a lot of you love podcasts, so the notion remained simmering on a back burner. Knowing of these podcast aspirations, my pal Brian McCullough recently approached me about collaborating on a podcast.

Brian is a fellow old school internet person, host of the Internet History Podcast (for which he interviewed me in 2018), and author of the 2018 book, How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone. He’s now running a podcast startup called Ride Home Media that’s focused on delivering short daily news podcasts about a variety of different subjects — some of you might be familiar with their flagship podcast TechMeme Ride Home, which they’ve been publishing since March 2018. Brian told me a podcast version of kottke.org has been on his bucket list for quite awhile, so that’s what we’re doing.

Kottke Ride Home is hosted & curated by writer/speaker/YouTuber Jackson Bird, whose TED Talk How to talk (and listen) to transgender people has been viewed more than 1.6 million times. For the past few months, Jackson’s been hosting Good News Ride Home — “In just 15 minutes, the coolest stuff that happened in the world today. Science, progress, life-hacks, memes, exciting art and hope.” — which will seamlessly shift into Kottke Ride Home with nary a disruption to what he’s already been doing.1 I’ve been listening to the show for the past few weeks and am excited to partner with Jackson to bring the best of the internet to you.

The podcast and the site will operate independently from each other but will obviously cover the same sorts of things. Like I said above, the show won’t be a recap of kottke.org posts; it’s designed to complement the site, to scratch that kottke.org itch when you’re in podcast-listening mode. But like when the Jeffersons showed up on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, there will undoubtably be things that make their way from the podcast to the site and vice versa.

Ok, that’s the skinny. You’ll be hearing more from me about the show in the coming days, but for now, check out Kottke Ride Home wherever you listen to podcasts.

P.S. Since it’s a new show — or rather a show with a new name — it will take some time for the name and artwork to propagate across the various podcast networks. You can find the show on the major services/apps using the subscribe button here, but here are some direct links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, RSS, Overcast, Castro, Pocket Casts, and Luminary.

  1. kottke.org members may recall that I recorded myself reading some posts a couple of years ago as a podcast test run of sorts. And if you don’t remember that, thank you for forgetting.

  2. Bonus origin story for the hardcare footnote readers! The podcast originally launched as the Coronavirus Daily Briefing (hence the weird unchangeable URL for the show) but they pivoted to Good News Ride Home after a few months, patterning the show after sites like kottke.org. Now with name change to Kottke Ride Home, we’ve made that philosophical affiliation official (say that three times fast…)

Turntable Acrobats Performing Centripetal Illusions

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

This is a short but mesmerizing clip of a performance of choreographer Yoann Bourgeois’ “Celui qui tombe” (He who falls) in which six performers move about a spinning platform. The spinning allows them to run without appearing to go anywhere and lean at seemingly impossible angles without Michael Jackson’s patented Smooth Criminal shoes. From a review in the Guardian:

Lowered into a horizontal position, this structure begins to revolve, slowly at first, then faster. Subjected to increasing centrifugal force, the dancers cluster together, their bodies inclining inwards at ever more acute angles. Individuals depart the group and make exploratory sorties, circling the platform as if battling against a great wind.

(Brief science interlude: my high school physics teacher told us never to use “centrifugal force” instead of “centripetal force” because it wasn’t actually a thing. More on that here.)

Anyway, it’s an amazing physical performance to watch. I’ve featured Bourgeois’ choreography on the site before: The Mechanics of History and A Relaxing Acrobatic Performance to Debussy’s Clair de Lune — both use trampolines to create illusions that mess with the viewer’s intuitions about gravity.

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2020

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Turning Stock Charts into Landscape Art

Inspired by the charts on Robinhood and Yahoo Finance, Gladys Orteza is turning the charts of notable stocks into landscape artworks, inserting references to the company into the art. The Ford chart at the top has a truck, the Tesla chart features a rocket (a reference to SpaceX), and the Disney one includes the twin suns of Tatooine & a Jawa Sandcrawler.

Reminds me of Michael Najjar’s High Altitude series (stock market charts represented by jagged Andean mountain peaks) and Jill Pelto turning climate change graphs into art. (via waxy)

Researchers Can Duplicate Keys from the Sounds They Make in Locks

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Researchers have demonstrated that they can make a working 3D-printed copy of a key just by listening to how the key sounds when inserted into a lock. And you don’t need a fancy mic — a smartphone or smart doorbell will do nicely if you can get it close enough to the lock.

Key Audio Lockpicking

The next time you unlock your front door, it might be worth trying to insert your key as quietly as possible; researchers have discovered that the sound of your key being inserted into the lock gives attackers all they need to make a working copy of your front door key.

It sounds unlikely, but security researchers say they have proven that the series of audible, metallic clicks made as a key penetrates a lock can now be deciphered by signal processing software to reveal the precise shape of the sequence of ridges on the key’s shaft. Knowing this (the actual cut of your key), a working copy of it can then be three-dimensionally (3D) printed.

How Soundarya Ramesh and her team accomplished this is a fascinating read.

Once they have a key-insertion audio file, SpiKey’s inference software gets to work filtering the signal to reveal the strong, metallic clicks as key ridges hit the lock’s pins [and you can hear those filtered clicks online here]. These clicks are vital to the inference analysis: the time between them allows the SpiKey software to compute the key’s inter-ridge distances and what locksmiths call the “bitting depth” of those ridges: basically, how deeply they cut into the key shaft, or where they plateau out. If a key is inserted at a nonconstant speed, the analysis can be ruined, but the software can compensate for small speed variations.

The result of all this is that SpiKey software outputs the three most likely key designs that will fit the lock used in the audio file, reducing the potential search space from 330,000 keys to just three. “Given that the profile of the key is publicly available for commonly used [pin-tumbler lock] keys, we can 3D-print the keys for the inferred bitting codes, one of which will unlock the door,” says Ramesh.

Here’s Ramesh presenting her research at a conference back in March.

This reminded me of a couple of things. If you have a photo of a key, you can make a copy of it. And if you record high speed video of objects like plants or potato chip bags, you can use the observed vibrations to reconstruct the sound near those objects. All these secrets lying out in the open, just waiting for clever technologies to hoover them up. (via @nicolatwilley)

Michelle Obama Makes the Case for Voting Trump Out

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

In her impassioned speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama made her case for Americans to come together and vote Donald Trump out of office. In her remarks, she zeroed in on his incompetence, his total lack of empathy for anyone but himself, and his desire for division.

So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

Now, I understand that my message won’t be heard by some people. We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a black woman speaking at the Democratic convention. But enough of you know me by now. You know that I tell you exactly what I’m feeling. You know I hate politics. But you also know that I care about this nation. You know how much I care about all of our children.

So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.

And voting this year means putting in some extra work so that our votes count:

But this is not the time to withhold our votes in protest or play games with candidates who have no chance of winning. We have got to vote like we did in 2008 and 2012. We’ve got to show up with the same level of passion and hope for Joe Biden. We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they’re received. And then, make sure our friends and families do the same.

We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown-bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to.

You can read the entire transcript of her speech or watch it above. It’s worth your time.

Bill Murray’s Face Inserted Into Famous Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Bill Murray History

Bill Murray History

These photoshopped images of Bill Murray by Eddy Torigoe are silly and perfect. The George Washington and American Gothic are uncanny; the Napoleon one is quite good too. (via moss & fog)

The Black Music History Library

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2020

Black Music History Library

The Black Music History Library is a list of resources (books, articles, podcasts, films, etc.) about the Black origins of popular and traditional music. From the about page:

There are many notable archives doing similar work, yet it isn’t uncommon for some to have a limited view of Black music — one which fuels US-centrism and a preference for vernacular music traditions. This collection considers the term “Black music” more widely, as it aims to address any instances in which Black participation led to the creation or innovation of music across the diaspora. Plainly speaking, that means just about every genre will be included here.

Black artists have often been minimized or omitted entirely when it comes to the discussion, practice, and research of many forms of music. This library seeks to correct that. It is time to reframe Black music history as foundational to American music history, Latinx music history, and popular music history at large.

The library was created by music journalist Jenzia Burgos after her Instagram slideshow went viral back in June, demonstrating a need for a more comprehensive resource. In a thread announcing the site, Burgos envisions the site as a “living library” that will shift and grow with reader contributions — you can send in resources via this form. (via @tedgioia)

Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

Interior Space ISS

Interior Space ISS

Roland Miller, a long-time photographer of space exploration projects, and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli has teamed up to produce a book of photographs of the interior of the International Space Station. According to a profile of the project from Colossal, Miller used interior views of the ISS on Google Earth to stage shots, which would then be executed by Nespoli in space. Nespoli, an engineer, also built a stabilizing rig for the camera.

Because the ISS was in a weightless environment with fluctuating light, many of the images astronauts typically capture utilize a flash, which Miller, who generally photographs using a very low shutter speed, wanted to avoid. “The first problem you run into is you can’t use a tripod in space because it just floats away, and the station itself is going 17,500 miles an hour. Just because of the size and the speed, there’s a harmonic vibration to it,” he notes. To combat the constant quivering, Nespoli constructed a stabilizing bipod and shot about 135 images with a high shutter speed, before sending the shots to Miller for aesthetic editing.

You can get a copy of the book (or prints) by backing the project on Kickstarter.

The Flying Train

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

MoMA has published a two-minute film from 1902 of a German suspended railway called the Wuppertal Schwebebahn. It presents an almost drone-like view of a German city at the beginning of the 20th century, in contrast to the ground-based and stationary films that were far more common in that era. The film is also extremely crisp and clear because it was shot in 68mm:

The Flying Train depicts a ride on a suspended railway. The footage is almost as impressive as the feat of engineering it captures. For many years our curators believed our Mutoscope rolls were slightly shrunken 70mm film, but they were actually shot on Biograph’s proprietary 68mm stock. Formats like Biograph’s 68mm and Fox’s 70mm Grandeur are of particular interest to researchers visiting the Film Study Center because the large image area affords stunning visual clarity and quality, especially compared to the more standard 35mm or 16mm stocks.

My favorite bit is the kid on the swing at about the 25 second mark — a casual unstaged moment that allows the viewer to imagine themselves in that place and time, almost 120 years ago.

And as the latest instance in a trend that I am increasingly irritated by, this film was immediately run through an AI program to upscale it to 4K, stabilize it, and colorize it. The result is….. I don’t know, cheesy? It just looks worse than the original, which is so vivid to begin with. And the added sound is distracting. But the worst thing is that this “restored” video has almost twice the views as the original. *shakes fist at cloud*

A.I. Claudius

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

Roman Emperors Photos

Roman Emperors Photos

Roman Emperors Photos

For his Roman Emperor Project, Daniel Voshart (whose day job includes making VR sets for Star Trek: Discovery) used a neural-net tool and images of 800 sculptures to create photorealistic portraits of every Roman emperor from 27 BCE to 285 ACE. From the introduction to the project:

Artistic interpretations are, by their nature, more art than science but I’ve made an effort to cross-reference their appearance (hair, eyes, ethnicity etc.) to historical texts and coinage. I’ve striven to age them according to the year of death — their appearance prior to any major illness.

My goal was not to romanticize emperors or make them seem heroic. In choosing bust / sculptures, my approach was to favor the bust that was made when the emperor was alive. Otherwise, I favored the bust made with the greatest craftsmanship and where the emperor was stereotypically uglier — my pet theory being that artists were likely trying to flatter their subjects.

Some emperors (latter dynasties, short reigns) did not have surviving busts. For this, I researched multiple coin depictions, family tree and birthplaces. Sometimes I created my own composites.

You can buy a print featuring the likenesses of all 54 emperors on Etsy.

See also Hand-Sculpted Archaeological Reconstructions of Ancient Faces and The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture.

A Puzzling Nancy Comic

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2020

Nancy Puzzle

Another fine Nancy comic from Olivia Jaimes. This isn’t the first time Jaimes has messed with time & space and self-reference in her comics.

Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, A Short Story by Ted Chiang

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2020

From Ted Chiang’s collection of stories, Exhalation, comes Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom, published online for the first time. In the story, devices called “prisms” allow people to talk to their alternate reality selves, but only for a limited time.

Every prism — the name was a near acronym of the original designation, “Plaga interworld signaling mechanism” — had two LEDs, one red and one blue. When a prism was activated, a quantum measurement was performed inside the device, with two possible outcomes of equal probability: one outcome was indicated by the red LED lighting up, while the other was indicated by the blue one. From that moment forward, the prism allowed information transfer between two branches of the universal wave function. In colloquial terms, the prism created two newly divergent timelines, one in which the red LED lit up and one in which the blue one did, and it allowed communication between the two.

I read Exhalation several months ago; every story was fantastic, but this was one of my favorites.

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Dip of Shit

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2020

USPS Rain Snow Fascism

An anonymous USPS employee has written about the recent changes at the Post Office since new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (“a lifelong Republican, a Trump mega-donor/fundraiser, and a high ranking RNC official”) took over and has set about gutting it from the inside.

All of the potential angles for corruption make DeJoy’s aims pretty tough to figure out. He’s a small market conservative from the private sector running a massive government agency. He’s a Trump ally running the agency responsible for ballots during an election year. He also has a direct financial interest in seeing us fail. Take your pick. You’re probably right no matter what. And judging by the chaos he’s unleashed into USPS in just his first two months, “all of the above” might be your best bet.

See, up until just two months ago, every letter carrier, clerk, mail handler, truck driver, etc, worked under one pretty simple philosophy: every piece, every address, every day. Everyone in the chain of custody for mail made sure every piece got as far along in the system as it could, and if it made it to my hands, in my office, it was getting delivered. That’s how I’ve done it for my career, how the guys who have been doing it for forty years have always done it, and that’s literally how Ben Fucking Franklin’s guys did it. You can almost hear Aaron Sorkin’s orgasm as he punches up the Bradley Whitford speech about the majesty of it all.

But two months ago is also when that abruptly stopped. After a couple hundred years, it just…stopped. On the ground floor, there’s a lot of arguing about who is ordering what, and what’s going to be permanent, and what’s going to be a trial run, but at the end of the day, the result is obvious: I go into my job, every single morning, and don’t deliver hundreds of pieces of available mail that used to get delivered. The only reason given is some vague nonsense about “operational efficiency” and “cost savings.”

And this was written before reports of sorting machines being removed without explanation ahead of a presumed huge surge of election-related mail. I think we should actually be pretty alarmed by this. Here’s Jamelle Bouie on Trump’s election night strategy (and how to counter it: vote in person):

There’s no mystery about what President Trump intends to do if he holds a lead on election night in November. He’s practically broadcasting it.

First, he’ll claim victory. Then, having spent most of the year denouncing vote-by-mail as corrupt, fraudulent and prone to abuse, he’ll demand that authorities stop counting mail-in and absentee ballots. He’ll have teams of lawyers challenging counts and ballots across the country.

He also seems to be counting on having the advantage of mail slowdowns, engineered by the recently installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Fewer pickups and deliveries could mean more late-arriving ballots and a better shot at dismissing votes before they’re even opened, especially if the campaign has successfully sued to block states from extending deadlines. We might even see a Brooks Brothers riot or two, where well-heeled Republican operatives stage angry and voluble protests against ballot counts and recounts.

(via waxy)

Designing the Unknown: the New Biden-Harris Logo

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2020

On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced that Senator Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate. The campaign was quickly updated to include a new Biden-Harris logo designed by Hoefler&Co. in collaboration with Biden campaign advisor Robyn Kanner:

Biden Harris Logo

But the designer of the logo wasn’t told who the running mate would be beforehand, so how did the campaign get it out so quickly? According to Jonathan Hoefler, the design team designed a whole collection of logos for potential candidates gleaned from reading the media tea leaves.

A consequential decision at an unpredictable time, conducted under absolute secrecy, poses an interesting dilemma to the typographer: how do you create a logo without knowing for certain what the words will say? Logos, after all, are meaningfully informed by the shapes of their letters, and a logo designed for an eisenhower will hardly work for a taft. The solution, naturally, involves the absurd application of brute force: you just design all the logos you can think of, based on whatever public information you can gather. Every credible suggestion spotted in an op-ed was added to the list that we designers maintained, and not once did the campaign even hint at a preference for one name over another.

I would love to see some of those alternate designs (Biden-Warren!), but there’s no way in hell they’ll ever see the light of day, especially before the election.

Update: Several designers weigh in on the new logo. I love Debbie Millman’s take:

I never, ever thought I’d say this after a lifetime in professional branding, but on the spectrum of good branding versus effective branding, I’d say at this point it is irrelevant. Frankly, the Biden-Harris logo could have been scribbled on a napkin and I’d be happy. Trump’s brand is beyond repair and is now more dangerous than ever. The soul of our country is at stake.

That logos don’t matter that much (unless they are either great or horrible) is probably true more often than designers and branding folks would care to admit.

Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA & Good Humor Partner to Create a New Ice Cream Truck Jingle

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2020

Ice cream maker Good Humor has teamed up with legendary rapper/musician RZA to produce a new ice cream truck jingle to replace the ubiquitous “Turkey in the Straw”, a tune that gained popularity as a minstrel song with racist lyrics.

“Turkey in the Straw” is one of the most iconic ice cream truck jingles today. However, many people don’t realize that this familiar tune has racist roots.

Turkey in the Straw’s melody originated from British and Irish folk songs, which had no racial connotations. But the song itself was first performed (and gained popularity) in American minstrel shows in the 1800s. Some songs using its same melody contained highly offensive, racist lyrics.

Throughout the 19th century, minstrel songs like Turkey in the Straw were commonly played in ice cream parlors, and later, adapted as ice cream truck jingles.

While these associations of “Turkey in the Straw” are not the only part of its legacy, it is undeniable that this melody conjures memories of its racist iterations.

RZA explains the story behind the new jingle:

And from a press release:

To create an original jingle, The RZA drew inspiration from his own childhood memories of chasing after the ice cream truck in his neighborhood. The track borrows from traditional ice cream truck music and adds jazz and hip-hop elements. Expect trap drumbeats, some old-school bells that reference Good Humor’s original ice cream trucks, and a distinct RZA hook that you will not be able to get out of your head.

Here’s the full jingle:

Song of the Summer 2020? I could totally see Drake or whoever sampling this for an end-of-the-summer ice cream anthem.

The British Museum Is Full of Stolen Artifacts

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2020

The British Museum contains hundreds of contested items, the spoils of the British Empire’s reach (and smash n’ grab) across the globe. Some of the museum’s most popular and prized items are included: the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Benin Bronzes. The countries from which these artifacts were taken are increasingly asking for their return.

Some of the world’s greatest cultural and historical treasures are housed in London’s British Museum, and a significant number of them were taken during Britain’s centuries-long imperial rule. In recent years, many of the countries missing their cultural heritage have been asking for some of these items back.

Benin City in Nigeria is one of those places. They’ve been calling for the return of the Benin Bronzes, hundreds of artifacts looted in 1897 when British soldiers embarked a punitive expedition to Benin. Many are now housed in the British Museum.

And it’s just the beginning. As the world reckons with the damage inflicted during Europe’s colonial global takeover, the calls for these items to be returned are getting louder and louder.

See also this piece from the NY Times: This Art Was Looted 123 Years Ago. Will It Ever Be Returned?

2020: An Isolation Odyssey

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2020

Isolation does funny things to people. Just ask designer Lydia Cambron, who recognized a certain kinship between the themes of her lockdown in Brooklyn this spring and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Over the course of two months, Cambron meticulously recreated 2001’s ending scene in her apartment, not only shot-by-shot but nearly look-by-look, and produced a tiny masterpiece of her own.

The adapted version delineates the passing of time through wardrobe rather than age, identifying each phase of the character’s journey with a product of self care or PPE. Tools of private entertainment or self betterment are also used as props, questioning our confidence in products and productivity as anchors during times of uncertainty. Multitasking while #wfh, conjuring guilt or longing with unused exercise equipment, your entire being reduced to a measure of time — these scenes all illustrate the absurd comedy of trying to maintain control during this unprecedented and unpredictable time.

(via daring fireball)

This Kid Crashing Into Trash Cans Sounds Like Phil Collins’ Drums from “In the Air Tonight”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

I love things that sound like other things and this video of a kid crashing into some trash bins on his bike sounds a lot like the drums in Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. (If I may play spoiler for just a second though, capturing the sound of those bins going over so clearly from that far away seems a little suspect. But let’s assume it’s real and have our fun.) See also This Stumbling Deer’s Hooves Sound Like Phil Collins’ Drum Fill on “In the Air Tonight”. (thx to everyone who sent this in)

Lovely Interactive Display of Early 19th-Century Hand-Drawn Illustrations of Minerals

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

Mineralogy Zoom

Mineralogy Zoom

I love this zoomable interactive display of British & Exotic Mineralogy. To create it, Nicholas Rougeux collected 718 hand-drawn mineral illustrations by James Sowerby sourced from a pair of multi-volume books called British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy, published between 1802 and 1817. Then he arranged them according to hue and brightness in a collage worthy of Knoll.

British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy comprise 718 illustrations by James Sowerby in an effort to illustrate the topographical mineralogy of Great Britain and minerals not then known to it. Sowerby’s plates are some of the finest examples of hand-drawn mineral illustrations ever created. The detail and care with which these illustrations were created is incredible and worthy of close examination. See the samples below.

And, oh boy, he’s selling posters of it too.

Study Suggests That Some Masks Are Much Better than Others

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

Masks comparison chart

A new study on masks that measures the number of droplets emerging from the mouth during speech shows that properly fitted N95, surgical, and polypropylene masks are best, layered cotton masks are good, bandanas are not great, and neck gaiters may be worse than wearing no mask. Here’s a Washington Post article about the study.

I have some issues with this study — most masks were tested by only one speaker and mask materials were not identified precisely1 — but when combined with other studies about masks, it is clear that surgical masks or masks that are made with similar materials (polypropylene non-woven fabric) are what you want to shoot for, you want multiple layers for more protection (no single-layer microfiber gaiters), homemade cotton masks are pretty good (but would be better with a layer of polypropylene non-woven fabric), proper fit matters, and for god’s sake, stop wearing a bandana as a mask. Yes, bandanas are convenient, but you’re probably trading safety for that convenience, especially if you factor in the amount of time you’ll be wearing a mask over the next several months. A proper mask is going to protect you and your neighbors much more over the long haul — it’s just common sense at this point.

Re: the tested neck gaiter being worse than wearing no mask: the hypothesis is that the gaiter’s material splits large droplets into smaller ones, hence the higher count.

We noticed that speaking through some masks (particularly the neck fleece) seemed to disperse the largest droplets into a multitude of smaller droplets (see Supplementary Fig. S5), which explains the apparent increase in droplet count relative to no mask in that case. Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive.

Here’s what I’m taking away from this and other mask studies: wear the highest quality mask you can locate (multi-layered, incorporating surgical mask materials) that fits properly and, secondarily, is comfortable & convenient. For me, that’s a two-layer cotton mask (like these Vida masks) with an inserted layer of polypropylene non-woven fabric. An N95 would be much better in terms of efficacy, but it’s overkill in most situations (particularly here in VT, where rates continue to be low) and is difficult to fit properly and quickly. (via @EricTopol)

Update: Slate’s Susan Matthews goes into more detail about the problems with this study and the conclusions that others are drawing from it.

The purpose of the research was to establish that the testing method worked in principle-not to come up with meaningful or accurate verdicts about particular masks.

But she also concludes (correctly, in my mind):

Should you think twice about wearing just a gaiter inside, in close proximity to other people? Yeah, a fitted mask is probably better. But you didn’t need this study to tell you that.

(via @BrianDau)

Update: But interesting to note that in this test, scarves, bandanas, and microfiber neck gaiters came in last.

  1. What is a “gaiter type neck fleece” made out of exactly? If you look at the photo, it doesn’t look like fleece so much as microfiber polyester, which is what my kids wear for skiing. This article says the neck gaiter was “made of polyester mixed with a little spandex”, which is definitely not fleece. My guess is they tested a one-layer microfiber gaiter and that higher quality gaiters would perform better (but still not as well as a surgical mask).

QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

Kirby Ferguson, creator of the Everything Is a Remix and This Is Not a Conspiracy Theory video series, has a new video out that attempts to explain the rise of QAnon, conspiracy theories, and magical thinking in America.

Ferguson zeros in on the divide between two different ways people make sense of a complex, chaotic, and uncertain world: evidence seeking and magical thinking. All of us employ both of these techniques to help ease our anxiety about the world, but those who tend towards magical thinking arrive at explanations that are based primarily on instinct, emotion, feelings, and gut reaction while evidence seekers mostly rely on scientific and empirical reasoning.

He also identifies six main aspects of magical thinking:

1. Obsession with symbols and codes (e.g. pizza as a “deep state” code for child trafficking)
2. Dot connecting (e.g. linking 5G with Covid-19)
3. Behind every event is a plan concocted by a person (e.g. Soros and the “deep state” conspiracy)
4. Purity (e.g. the Satanic panic and heavy metal music)
5. Apocalypse is nigh (e.g. the “deep state” again)
6. Preoccupation with good and evil (e.g. liberals are not only wrong but evil)

For me, the key quote about magical thinking is this one for late in the video: “These are not systems of knowledge, and they cannot build solutions. They can only criticize and second-guess.”

Why Police Reform Doesn’t Work In America

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

With the help of Harvard historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, this video from BuzzFeed documents investigations into police brutality and racism from the past century and how reforms based on those investigations have not brought about meaningful change. These reports — exploring the causes of unrest in Chicago in 1919, Harlem in 1935 & 1943, LA in 1965, Ferguson in 2014 — demonstrate again and again the discriminent violence committed against Black people by the police, and yet that violence and racism continues until the next investigation is conducted with the same conclusion.

Is Everyone Excited About Their Kids Going Back to School?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

In the United States, amid high numbers of Covid-19 infections and thousands of weekly deaths, no national plan for testing & tracing, little support for working parents, and individual states and school districts left to their own devices to figure this all out for themselves, schools around the country are trying to “open” for the 2020-2021 school year. At McSweeney’s, Kara Baskin imagines Your School District’s Reopening Survey. Here’s what a hybrid learning model will look like:

This model will combine the key elements of in-person instruction (see above) with remote learning, which we hopefully perfected this spring. Your child will be divided into a cohort (A, B, AB, BC, CC, XVY, MCXLVII, and Depeche Mode) based on careful consideration of his or her learning style, social-emotional needs, friendships, and an algorithm our intern designed this summer. You will need a reliable Internet connection, a work schedule that follows no concrete pattern, a forgiving supervisor, independent wealth, or a Xanax prescription. Please contact our school nurse for the latter.

I sent this link to a friend who is currently evaluating several options for her child’s schooling that range from poor to dangerous, and she replied, “This may be too on the nose to be funny.”

Ballpoint Pen Portraits by Mark Powell

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2020

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Artist Mark Powell draws portraits on repurposed canvases (old maps, newspapers, ads, postcards) with a ballpoint pen. I could have sworn I’d featured Powell’s work before, but I was probably thinking of the work of Ed Fairburn or Matthew Cusick.

The best way to check out Powell’s work is on Behance or on his website (where he has prints and originals for sale). (via colossal)

Five Months of the Virus in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2020

Daniel Arnold NYC Covid Times

Photographer Daniel Arnold and editor Dodai Stewart collaborated on a photoessay documenting the first five months of the pandemic in NYC. That image above is just…wow.

See also COVID-19 Empties Out Public Spaces.

A Livestream Reading of Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey Translation

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2020

Odyssey Live Read

On two consecutive weekends in late August (Aug 20-22 & Aug 27-29), the Oklahoma Contemporary museum will be livestreaming a reading of Emily Wilson’s excellent translation of The Odyssey. Wilson herself will be joined in reading the entire book by folks like actress Bebe Neuwirth, singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, writer Rebecca Nagle (who I’ve been listening to on the fascinating and infuriating This Land podcast), Oklahoma City mayor David Holt, and several other folks.

The exact schedule is TBD, but the event will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Check back here for details closer to the date. (thx, sarah)

Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2020

Elena Ferrante's The Lying Life of Adults

The English translation of Elena Ferrante’s latest novel, The Lying Life of Adults, is due out at the beginning of September and is available for preorder (Kindle). Here’s the synopsis:

Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.

Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.

The Guardian and the Washington Post have reviews of the Italian version of the book. And Netflix has already announced that they’re producing a TV series based on the novel; here’s a short teaser:

The series is being made by the same folks responsible for HBO’s My Brilliant Friend series (based on Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels), which has been outstanding in its two seasons so far.

Bisa Butler’s Colorful Quilted Portraits of Black Americans

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Using colorful African textiles, Bisa Butler makes large quilted portraits of Black Americans. From a statement on her gallery’s website:

In my work, I am telling the story — this African American side — of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

In this short video, you can see how Butler creates her portraits. Look at the amazing sewing machine she uses — it’s got a steering wheel!

You can see more of her work on Instagram and in person at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York through Oct 4, 2020 and at the Art Institute of Chicago starting in November.

Update: I swapped out the previous video embedded above for a longer one that includes sound and an interview w/ Butler. (via @10engines)

Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Jazz legend Miles Davis? That dude could cook. He could cook in the studio, on stage, and in the kitchen. One of his favorite dishes to make was a chili recipe he concocted through practice and improvisation: Miles’s South Side Chicago Chili Mack. Here’s the ingredients list:

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

You’ll have to click through for the instructions (as well as another of Davis’s chili recipes) but I will reveal that the last step is “Open a Heineken.”

See also the hamburger recipes of Dean Martin (minimalist), Frank Sinatra (even more minimalist), and Ernest Hemingway (surprisingly maximalist). (via @tedgioia)

The User Experience Design of Lego Interface Panels

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Lego Console Interfaces

I thought George Cave’s The UX of LEGO Interface Panels was going to be a fun distraction, but it’s actually a great layperson’s explanation, using familiar Lego pieces, of how interfaces work in the real world and the design considerations that go into building them.

Shape coding is one approach to differentiation, but there are many others. Colour coding is perhaps the only one to break into our everyday vocabulary, but we can add four more: size, texture, position and operation coding. Together these six are our allies in the design of error-proof interfaces.

Size, shape and colour-coding are the fundamentals: quick-wins that can fix a lot of interface problems. Texture is also a great differentiator for blind operation, particularly on small dials requiring precise control.

(via sidebar)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a New Film from Charlie Kaufman

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation), director. Łukasz Żal (Ida, Cold War), cinematographer. Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights), Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl), Toni Collette (too many amazing things), David Thewlis (Lupin from Harry Potter). Adapted from I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. Netflix. September 4. Trailer above. Excited! Bye.

Extending American Sign Language Vocabulary With Signs for “Coronavirus” and “TikTok”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 06, 2020

Coronavirus in sign language

The Instagram account thefamilyvocab features videos of words & phrases in sign language that are not part of standard ASL.

Our aim is to play with sign language and expand my child’s visual vocabulary with signs that are not part of standard ASL. It’s only 200 years old and still thriving and evolving.

I love this. So far, they’ve done words like pho, Black Lives Matter, TikTok (I really like this one), Brexit, coronavirus, emoji (I like this one too), gentrification, and dozens of others. They’re creating new signs, taking suggestions from followers, and sourcing signs from other sign languages from around the world. (via youngna)

Watch Popcorn Popping in Super Slow Motion (100,000 fps)

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2020

Popped popcorn kernels are like snowflakes: no two are alike. If you watch popcorn popping at the ludicrously slow speed of 100,000 fps, you can see these individualized forms flowering into existence. Pro tip: turn off the upbeat music on the video and supply a mellower soundtrack of your own — slow motion video requires meditative music.

See also How to Make Popcorn Using a Blow Torch & Hair Dryer. (via moss & fog)

Defund the Police? We’ve Already Done It Successfully in America.

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2020

The American system of law enforcement is so deeply embedded into our national psyche that if you find the idea of defunding or abolishing the police challenging, I don’t blame you. But imagine calling an ambulance because a loved one was having trouble breathing or was suffering a stroke and, instead of the expected trained paramedics, a man with a gun showed up. Not great, right? As Jamie Ford explains in this thread, that was not unusual in America until recently.

Until the 70s, ambulance services were generally run by local police and fire departments. There was no law requiring medical training beyond basic first-aid and in many cases the assignment of ambulance duty was used as a form of punishment.

As you can imagine, throwing people with medical emergencies into the back of a paddy wagon produced less than spectacular health outcomes. Now imagine how much worse it became when disgruntled white police officers were demoted to ambulance duty in black neighborhoods.

From Kevin Hazzard’s The First Responders:

Emergency care was mostly a transportation industry, focused on getting patients to hospitals, and it was dominated by two groups: funeral homes and police departments. Call the local authorities for help and you’d likely get morticians in a hearse or cops in a paddy wagon. If you received any treatment en route to the hospital — and most likely you did not — it wouldn’t be very good. At best, one of the people helping may have taken a first-aid course. At worst, you’d ride alone in the back, hoping, if you were conscious, that you’d survive.

Pittsburgh’s Freedom House Ambulance Service changed all that, ushering in a new era of much improved medical care for communities around the US.

Together the two men hashed out a plan: Hallen would raise the money, Safar would contribute his medical expertise, and together they would design advanced ambulances and teach paramedics to provide care on the scene of an accident or emergency. It would be a pioneering medical effort, and Hallen, who was white, suggested another first. The Falk Fund was committed to mitigating racism, and Hallen wanted to staff the service with young black men from the Hill. He hoped that empowering individuals long deemed unemployable would be a source of pride in the black community, a symbol of equality, and a signal that bigoted notions about the black people of Pittsburgh standing in their own way were nonsense.

To help with recruitment, Hallen and Safar partnered with an organization called Freedom House Enterprises, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing and supporting black-run businesses in the city. Freedom House handled staffing for the fledgling ambulance service and recruited the first class of paramedics, including Vietnam veterans and men with criminal records.

So this is a great instance in which armed and untrained police officers have been relieved of a particular responsibility and replaced with specially trained personnel, resulting in a greatly improved outcome for members of the community. If you want other examples, just think about how odd, unhelpful, and dangerous it would be for our communities if the police showed up — armed with a loaded weapon — to collect your garbage, to put out fires, to inspect restaurants, to fix potholes, or to deliver the mail. No, we have sanitation workers, firefighters, public health inspectors, municipal maintenance workers, and postal workers to do these jobs — and they’re all trained in the ins and outs of their particular disciplines.

With these examples in mind, instead of armed personnel handling a wide variety of situations for which they are often not trained, it becomes easier to imagine traffic patrols conducting transportation safety stops, social workers responding to domestic disputes, special crisis centers assisting rape victims, mental health counselors helping people behaving erratically in public, housing guides finding homeless folks a place to stay, student safety coaches helping struggling students navigate school, unarmed personnel responding to property crime, and drug addiction counselors helping drug users stay safe. These are all areas where American communities have applied policing by default, like a flimsy bandaid. It’s ineffective, expensive, and dangerous, and communities should think seriously about supporting and funding alternatives that will be more effective, cheaper, safer, and produce better outcomes for everyone.

Update: See also (hear also?) 99% Invisible’s episode on the Freedom House Ambulance Service.

Transfiguration: An Ever-Evolving Walking Figure

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2020

First conceived and implemented in 2011, Universal Everything’s walking figure has been remastered and rebuilt from the ground up with the latest digital effects. Transfiguration (2020) treats us to the spectacle of caramel, fire, rocks, smoke, and shrubbery striding around like a person.

Transfiguration 2020

Transfiguration 2020

I think the flowers are still my favorite.

Shel Silverstein’s “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2020

The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a famously divisive children’s book because the story can be interpreted as an abusive relationship between a greedy boy and a tree he takes advantage of. Playing off of that interpretation, Topher Payne rewrote the ending of the book so that the tree is still generous, but only up to a point: The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries.

“And while we’re on the subject,” the tree said, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. “I recognize friendships evolve over time, and we may not see each other as often because you don’t have time for your tree friends. But we used to be real tight. Now it feels like I only see you when you need something. How do you think that makes me feel?”

The Boy took a long breath. He felt a sour rumble in his stomach. Because he realized he hadn’t considered his friend’s feelings. “I bet it makes you feel bad,” said the Boy.

(via waxy)

Nurse to Teachers: Suck It Up!

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Kristen McConnell writing for The Atlantic: I’m a Nurse in New York. Teachers Should Do Their Jobs, Just Like I Did.

So I can understand that teachers are nervous about returning to school. But they should take a cue from their fellow essential workers and do their job. Even people who think there’s a fundamental difference between a nurse and a teacher in a pandemic must realize that there isn’t one between a grocery-store worker and a teacher, in terms of obligation. People who work at grocery stores in no way signed up to expose themselves to disease, but we expected them to go to work, and they did. If they had not, society would have collapsed. What do teachers think will happen if working parents cannot send their children to school? Life as we know it simply will not go on.

Oh yes, that is a totally awesome thing our brave grocery store workers did for us out of a sense of obligation and not because their choice was between risking their health and losing their job in a country with a terrible social safety net. But let’s leave that to one side for a second.

I think many more people would support (and indeed rapturously welcome) kids going back to school if a) there were many fewer cases of Covid-19 in the US, b) if the federal and state governments were doing more testing, tracing, and isolation & support of those who test positive, c) if there was more support for parents, and especially low-income folks, with other options around education and childcare (more on that below), and d) if the mask issue wasn’t so contentious in some parts of the country. Oh and don’t forget that even before any of this happened, teachers regularly used their own money and held online fundraisers to buy necessary school supplies for their classrooms.

Blaming teachers for not wanting to go back to work because their country and communities can’t or won’t do the hard work of making it safe is ridiculous. It’s not fair to ask them to do their part when others with greater responsibility to act are not. Someone has been watching too many war movies where soldiers dying due to the negligence, incompetence, or bad intentions of their superiors is played off as patriotic service & bravery instead of murder.

And this…this is just flat out false:

(And parents who want their children to stay home have that option, whether through homeschooling or continued remote learning.)

Rich people with reliable internet access and extra computers lying around have that option, and it’s a terrible option if those parents work (especially if they’re single parents). A huge chunk of America does not.1 If, by some miracle, the federal government started paying people to stay home from work to help their kids with school, gave everyone a laptop stipend (as well as enough money so that kids have access to meals that they might usually get through school programs), and ensured internet access to those who don’t have it, that statement would be closer to the truth. As long as we’re waving magic wands, I would like a chocolate pony and a peanut butter unicorn.

I would have been far more sympathetic to McConnell’s case had she made a convincing argument that school is so essential to children that it’s worth the risk to them, their teachers, and their families, that schools and governments are doing the right things to ensure the safety of their students and staff, and that Covid-19 is coming under control in the United States. But she did not.

Update: Sarah Jones rebuts McConnell’s argument for New York magazine: Teachers Aren’t Sacrificial Lambs. No Essential Worker Is.

The idea that remote work and home education don’t qualify as doing one’s part for society is so pernicious that it nearly distracts from McConnell’s core argument, which is both simple and widespread: If work is essential, it must also be sacrificial. That argument is worth examining, not least because it’s likely to reappear as parents cope with another semester at home. McConnell has taken a view expressed most commonly in the pandemic policies of certain large corporations and extended it to teachers. The same thread is visible both in Amazon’s failure to get enough masks to workers and to ensure social-distancing in warehouses and in the insistence that teachers should head back into classrooms, whatever the risk.

I also had a bunch of mail in my inbox this morning, both from teachers and healthcare professionals, poking holes in this poorly argued piece. The Atlantic’s coverage of the pandemic has been outstanding, but this article was just not very good — a rare misfire. (via @zidaya)

  1. In the spring here in Vermont, where cell service and internet can be spotty, there was a steady stream of people asking on local message boards if anyone had extra computers to donate to their kids and where they could find free wifi that was accessible from the parking lot so their kids could sit in the car and do their schoolwork.

Basketball Court Repaired Using the Traditional Japanese Art of Kintsugi

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Kintsugi Court

Kintsugi Court

As part of his Literally Balling project, artist Victor Solomon fixed up a rundown basketball court, repairing the blacktop using the Japanese art of kintsugi. Traditionally, the kintsugi method involves repairing pottery with glue mixed with gold powder, which results in visible cracks, a reminder of the pottery’s past and what it’s been through. Says Solomon of the project:

With the heartbreaking beginning to 2020 and this weekend’s return of basketball — I’ve been thinking about the parallels between sport as a uniting platform to inspire healing and my ongoing experiments with the technique of Kintsugi that embellishes an objects repair with gold to celebrate it’s healing as formative part of the journey.

(via the kid should see this)

A Long Walk Along Japan’s Historic Nakasendo Highway to Eat Pizza Toast

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Kissa By Kissa

Kissa By Kissa

Last year, Craig Mod walked 620 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto along the Nakasendō historic highway and along the way he stopped at kissaten (or kissa), old-school Japanese cafes known for their pizza toast. Mod wrote about his quest late last year for Eater and has now turned a fuller account of the journey into a gorgeous book called Kissa By Kissa.

Those kissaten — or kissa — served up toast. I ate that toast. So. Much. Toast. Much of it pizza toast. If you buy this book, you’ll learn more than you ever dared to know about this variety of toast available all across Japan. It’s a classic post-war food staple. Kissa by kissa, and slice by thick slice of beautiful, white toast, I took a heckuva affecting and long walk. This book is my sharing with you, of that walk, the people I met along the way, and the food I ate.

Even more interesting is that to sell the book, Mod built a Kickstarter clone on top of Shopify called Craigstarter. And he’s released the code for it on Github.

Kickstarter is an excellent way to run a crowdfunding campaign. But if you already have a community built up, and have communication channels in place (via a newsletter, for example), and already run an online shop, then Kickstarter can be unnecessarily cumbersome. Kickstarter’s 10% fee is also quite hefty. By leaning on Shopify’s flexible Liquid templating system and reasonable CC processing fees, an independent publisher running a campaign can save some ~$7,000 for every $100,000 of sales by using Craigstarter instead of Kickstarter. That’s materially meaningful, especially in the world of books.

You can order Kissa By Kissa right here.

The Winners of the Malofiej International Infographics Awards for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2020

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej have announced their 28th International Infographics Awards for 2020, which they refer to as “the Pulitzers for infographics”. You can check out some of the top infographics here, culled from newspapers, magazines, and online media from around the world. The full list is available here, complete with links to the online winners.

Fantastical Overclocked Urban Scenes by Cássio Vasconcellos

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2020

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

For his Collectives series, Cássio Vasconcellos takes crowded urban scenes and stitches them together to form fantastical patterns of human activity that look abstract from far away but detailed close up. These are great onscreen, but I’d love to see them in person someday. I could imagine looking at the highways one for hours, zooming in and out on all the details.

See also Sporting Events Compressed into Single Composite Photos. (via print)

Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: “An Instant American Classic”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2020

Well, this is a hell of a book review by NY Times critic Dwight Garner about Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste (which I am starting the second it comes out tomorrow).

A critic shouldn’t often deal in superlatives. He or she is here to explicate, to expand context and to make fine distinctions. But sometimes a reviewer will shout as if into a mountaintop megaphone. I recently came upon William Kennedy’s review of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which he called “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” Kennedy wasn’t far off.

I had these thoughts while reading Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” It’s an extraordinary document, one that strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far. It made the back of my neck prickle from its first pages, and that feeling never went away.

I told more than one person, as I moved through my days this past week, that I was reading one of the most powerful nonfiction books I’d ever encountered.

I mean, how can you not want to read a book that stirs a seasoned critic like that, particularly when the author also wrote the fantastic The Warmth of Other Suns? You can buy Caste at Bookshop, get the Kindle version, or read a lengthy piece adapted from the book.

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