homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

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

 

Clever Postage Stamp Design: Heat Reveals Hidden Images About Climate Change

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

Finnish Climate Change Stamps

Finnish Climate Change Stamps

The Finnish Post Office tapped design firm Berry Creative to create this series of heat-reactive postage stamps that reveal messages about the effects of climate change when you activate them with heat (like a finger pressing on them). Each stamp tells a little two-act story about a different aspect of climate change: global temperature increase, climate refugees migrating, and endangered wildlife. Very clever design and I love the aesthetics too. (via moss & fog)

Artemisia Gentileschi, Praised and Reappraised

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

Painting of Susanna and the Elders (1610) by Artemisia Gentileschi

For the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead writes about the 17th-century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, whose work has been growing in stature and popularity in recent years.

Increasingly, Artemisia is celebrated less for her handling of private trauma than for her adept management of her public persona. Throughout her career, she demonstrated a sophisticated comprehension of the way her unusual status as a woman added to the value of her paintings. On a formal level, her representation of herself in the guise of different characters and genders prefigures such postmodern artists as Cindy Sherman. Unlike Sherman, however, Artemisia had few female peers. She was not the only woman working as an artist during the early seventeenth century: a slightly older contemporary was the northern-Italian portraitist Fede Galizia, born in 1578, whose father, like Artemisia’s, was also a painter. But Artemisia must often have felt singular. In a series of letters written to one of her most important patrons, the collector Antonio Ruffo, she wittily referred to her gender: “A woman’s name raises doubts until her work is seen,” and, regarding a work in progress, “I will show Your Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do.” In 2001, the scholar Elizabeth Cropper wrote, “We will never understand Artemisia Gentileschi as a painter if we cannot accept that she was not supposed to be a painter at all, and that her own sense of herself — not to mention others’ views of her — as an independent woman, as a marvel, a stupor mundi, as worthy of immortal fame and historical celebration, was entirely justified.” On art-adjacent blogs, Artemisia’s strength and occasionally obnoxious self-assurance are held forth as her most essential qualities. She has become, as the Internet term of approval has it, a badass bitch.

An exhibition of Gentileschi’s work is set to open early next month at the National Gallery in London and is getting rave reviews. Man, I’d love to go see this in person!

BTW, when reading Mead’s piece, I kept stopping to search for the art she referenced and I recommend you do the same. It’s a) frustrating that the New Yorker doesn’t use hyperlinks for this purpose in the online version and b) still wondrous after all these years that this fantastic art is available to view online with a few quick clicks and keystrokes. Imagine reading a piece like this in 1989 and wanting to look at the art - it would take a trip to the library and then probably hours of searching.

Oh hell, I’ll just do this quick…here’s every painting referenced in Mead’s piece:

Viewing, comparing, and contrasting these paintings is a great little tour through one brief moment in the long history of art. Have fun!

The United States of Letterpress

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

To celebrate the release of their latest limited edition memo books, Field Notes made a short documentary about The United States of Letterpress, featuring several letterpress practitioners from around the country.

I ran a pedal-powered letterpress machine for a few minutes several years ago and that huge machine whizzing away right in front of me was both magical (it stamps the ink right into the paper and it’s in your hands 2 seconds later) and terrifying (the massive flywheel could have ripped my arm clean off without slowing down). Danger and enchantment, what else do you need really?

The President Is a White Supremacist. And So Are You if You Support Him.

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2020

Last night in a debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Donald Trump, the actual President of these United States, not only declined to condemn white supremacy, he gave an order to an openly white supremacist group on national television. Here’s the quote and the video:

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.

Stand by. Somebody’s gotta do something about antifa and the left. Proud Boy members knew exactly what Trump was telling them — it’s as plain as day. (I’ve grown weary of pointing out the parallels to Nazism and Italian fascism, so I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader in this case. The answer may involve shirt colors.)

We’ve long passed the point at which everyone should understand in no uncertain terms that Trump is an authoritarian, racist, white supremacist (among other things). Hell, this is what many of his supporters like about him. But it should also be clear to his supporters, all of his supporters (especially the ones who hold their nose and support him because of Christian values or fiscal policy or abortion), that by voting for this man knowing what we all clearly know about him, you are a white supremacist. Period. I understand the perfect candidate doesn’t exist and that our system of voting requires us to compromise some of our values in order to support progress towards bigger goals, but good luck explaining that you voted for an actual white supremacist to your grandchildren someday (if you can stomach telling them the truth). Some values cannot be compromised.

Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

In this experimental feature-length film that played at Cannes in 2012, director György Pálfi constructed a love story using clips from 450 films that span nearly the entire history of cinema. I was afraid this would be gimmicky, but it’s so well constructed and so smoothly adheres to the tropes of romantic movies that I got totally sucked in. It reminded me a lot of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a 24-hour film made from hundreds (thousands?) of other movies and TV shows where the on-screen action is synced to the viewer’s time of day. (via waxy)

Is It Too Late To Stop Climate Change?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

For Kurzgesagt’s latest video, they explore the challenges the world faces in attempting to get the rate of climate change under control before it’s too late and how to get there.

Climate change is just too much. There is never any good news. Only graphs that get more and more red and angry. Almost every year breaks some horrible record, from the harshest heat waves to the most rapid glacier melt. It’s endless and relentless.

We have known for decades that rapid climate change is being caused by the release of greenhouse gases. But instead of reducing them, in 2019 the world was emitting 50% more CO2 than in the year 2000. And emissions are still rising. Why is that? Why is it so hard to just stop emitting these gases?

According to the video, global population growth and economic growth will be working against us over the next few decades and that increasing our energy efficiency and lowering emissions from energy sources are the main ways in which we will be able to slow things down. It’s worth noting that on the wizard vs. prophet continuum, this video is firmly in the wizard camp. That’s not wrong or bad; it’s just that other people have different ideas about how to combat climate change.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, a New Documentary Film

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is a new documentary film by Ric Burns about famed author and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

A month after receiving a fatal diagnosis in January 2015, Oliver Sacks sat down for a series of filmed interviews in his apartment in New York City. For eighty hours, surrounded by family, friends, and notebooks from six decades of thinking and writing about the brain, he talked about his life and work, his abiding sense of wonder at the natural world, and the place of human beings within it. Drawing on these deeply personal reflections, as well as nearly two dozen interviews with close friends, family members, colleagues and patients, and archival material from every point in his life, this film is the story of a beloved doctor and writer who redefined our understanding of the brain and mind.

The film is playing in virtual cinemas around the country right now: you can check out the list at the end of this page for more information and showtimes.

Artist “Logos” from Iconic Jazz Album Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2020

Jazz Musician Lettering

Reagan Ray (previously) surveyed 100s of iconic covers of jazz albums (Blue Note, anyone?) and isolated the lettering of the artists’ names. I love these sorts of compilations — this is like a mini-tour through the history of graphic design in the 20th century.

Vermont’s Autumnal Splendor

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

VT Fall Foliage 2020

I don’t know whether it’s our dry weather, my increased appreciation for Vermont due to our relative sanity during the pandemic, or just because I’ve been trying to spend as much time as I can outside appreciating nature before the snow flies, but this year’s foliage display seems extra good. Mother Nature just spilled her box of crayons everywhere.

My Octopus Teacher

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

I don’t want to give away too much about this movie but I’d recommend watching the trailer and then the movie (you can find it on Netflix). I watched it last night at Kevin Kelly’s urging:

This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. Nothing about its subject would suggest greatness, but it was perfectly crafted.

It’s such a simple movie but it packs a surprising emotional wallop and is philosophically rich. Even (or perhaps especially) the bits that seem problematic are thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

See also A Dreaming Octopus Changes Color.

The Origins of Policing in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

From Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Chenjerai Kumanyika, a quick tour of the history of policing in America and how that history should shape our discussions around police reform, defunding, and abolition.

The story of policing in the United States is the story of systems meant to protect and serve only a fraction of Americans.

As Kumanyika says in closing, the police in America are fulfilling their purpose very well. But the public has other demands that are not being met.

See also A History of Policing in America and Why Police Reform Doesn’t Work In America.

The Unsettling Normalcy of Societal Collapse

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

Indi Samarajiva lived through the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka that killed an estimated 80,000-100,000 people over 30 years. He cautions that societal collapse can feel quite normal for many people — but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.

I lived through the end of a civil war. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner.

If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

“I Feel Sorry for Americans”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2020

Hannah Beech reports on how the United States1 is perceived by the outside world these days due to our poor response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the continuing failure of our political system.

Myanmar is a poor country struggling with open ethnic warfare and a coronavirus outbreak that could overload its broken hospitals. That hasn’t stopped its politicians from commiserating with a country they think has lost its way.

“I feel sorry for Americans,” said U Myint Oo, a member of parliament in Myanmar. “But we can’t help the U.S. because we are a very small country.”

The same sentiment prevails in Canada, one of the most developed countries. Two out of three Canadians live within about 60 miles of the American border.

“Personally, it’s like watching the decline of the Roman Empire,” said Mike Bradley, the mayor of Sarnia, an industrial city on the border with Michigan, where locals used to venture for lunch.

And I had to chuckle at this part:

“The U.S.A. is a first-world country but it is acting like a third-world country,” said U Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst in Myanmar.

I made a similar observation after a trip to Asia in January: “America is a rich country that feels like a poor country.” I got a bunch of pushback on that statement but after the past eight months, the pandemic has laid America’s deficiencies bare for the whole world to see clearly.

  1. Even the name of the damn country seems like a hilarious anachronism these days. States, sure. But united? Lol.

How Cities Can Make the Most of a Pandemic Winter

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2020

As winter approaches in North America and Europe, cities should be thinking about how to encourage and enable people to spend as much time outdoors as possible to help keep everyone sane and safe from Covid-19. From a great piece in CityLab by Alexandra Lange:

Dress in layers, invest in silk and wool long underwear, get over your prejudice against parkas. Many people do this as a matter of course when gearing up for a day of skiing or a turn around the ice rink. But in cities, people dress for the destination, not the journey. “People dress saying, I’m going from my home to this business. What’s the least amount of clothing I can wear for the tolerance of walking x feet?” says Simon O’Byrne, senior vice president of community development for global design consultancy Stantec. “We have to switch that, and dress to loiter.”

O’Byrne, who is also co-chair of the WinterCity Advisory Council, adds, “Stickiness encourages people outside. Moscow does year-round farmers markets. The artists’ community has been pulverized by Covid. As much as we can, we should embrace things to help the local artists, community.” He suggests commissioning visual artists to illuminate dark spaces, via murals or light installations, and hiring musicians for distanced outdoor concerts.

Cities should also invest in places to loiter. All of those outdoor restaurants that are supporting local businesses and bringing liveliness back to the streets? In New York City, at least, they are scheduled to shut down at the end of October, while the mayor and governor bicker over indoor dining. But cities need to catch up to ski areas, which long ago figured out how to make après ski activities like outdoor bars and music venues as much of an attraction as the slopes. Wind breaks (with openings above and below for ventilation), patio heaters and sun orientation can all take outdoor dining further into 2020. WinterCity’s Four Season Patio Design Tips also include higher insulation value materials, like wood or straw bales rather than metal seating, as well as simple solutions like blankets, which offer customers the winter equivalent of being able to reposition your chair in the sun — though that works year-round.

And indeed, NYC just announced that the increased outdoor dining that the city has allowed during the pandemic will become “permanent and year-round”.

Tens of thousands of parking spaces will be permanently repurposed from free private vehicle storage for use by the city’s struggling restaurant owners as part of a revolution in public space unleashed on Friday by Mayor de Blasio.

On WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor” segment, Hizzoner revealed that restaurants would be allowed to occupy curbside spaces - which more than 10,000 are already doing — for outdoor dining, not just through the coronavirus pandemic, but all year and, apparently, forever.

It may turn out to be the single biggest conversion of public space since, well, since car drivers commandeered the curbside lane for free overnight vehicle storage in the 1950s.

But whatever measures are taken, they need to be inclusive for the diverse populations that live in cities. Here’s Lange again, who spends several paragraphs in her piece on this issue:

Snow clearance has become an ongoing political issue for winter cities, with disabled people, the elderly, and parents and caregivers arguing that sidewalks and crossings deserve the same priority as cars, lest people be essentially trapped in their homes. Many physically disabled people have already had their mobility limited during quarantine due to pre-existing health risks, the inability to avoid using elevators and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing. Temporary urban design changes also need to be inclusive.

RIP Robert Bechtle

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2020

Robert Bechtle 01

Robert Bechtle 02

Speaking of realism, while researching this post on Arinze Stanley, I noticed that American realist painter Robert Bechtle died yesterday. I can’t exactly remember which of the paintings shown above (‘61 Pontiac at the Whitney, Alameda Gran Torino, 1974 at SFMoMA) I saw in person first, but I do remember being instantly drawn to his work. The level of detail combined with objects of such mundanity sent my mind spinning off into all kinds of interesting realms.

The Surreal Hyperrealism of Arinze Stanley

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2020

Arinze Stanley

Arinze Stanley

Arinze Stanley

Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley uses hyperrealistic techniques to draw surreal portraits in stunning detail. From his artist statement:

I draw inspiration from life experiences and basically everything that sparks a feeling of necessity, I find myself spending countless hours working on an artwork to stimulate deep and strong emotions in order to connect more intimately with my viewers

Most times it’s almost like I lose control of my pencils and the art flows through me to the paper.

I work with my Principle of the Three P’s namely Patience, Practice and Persistence. These have guided me over the years towards perfecting my craft.”

Great Big Story did a feature on Stanley and his work last year that’s worth watching:

(via colossal)

Clear Language on Slavery

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2020

I’ve posted before about how the language we’ve been conditioned to use about slavery and the Civil War obscures reality. From historian Michael Todd Landis:

Likewise, scholar Edward Baptist (Cornell) has provided new terms with which to speak about slavery. In his 2014 book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books), he rejects “plantations” (a term pregnant with false memory and romantic myths) in favor of “labor camps”; instead of “slave-owners” (which seems to legitimate and rationalize the ownership of human beings), he uses “enslavers.” Small changes with big implications. These far more accurate and appropriate terms serve his argument well, as he re-examines the role of unfree labor in the rise of the United States as an economic powerhouse and its place in the global economy. In order to tear down old myths, he eschews the old language.

@absurdistwords had a great thread on this recently, urging us to “stop obscuring the horror with detached, antiquated, euphemistic terms”.

Clear Language on Slavery:

Slaves = Hostages
Slave Owners = Human Traffickers
Slave Catchers = Police
Plantations = Death Camps
Mistresses = Rape Victims
Discipline = Torture/Murder
Overseers = Torturers
Trading = Kidnapping
Profit = Theft
Middle Passage = Genocide

For example:

“The prominent slave owner never publicly recognized the offspring of he and one of his slave romances but allowed him to serve in the house”

is really

“The rich human trafficker raped his female hostage and then held their son hostage as well at the death camp he owned”

And from an earlier thread:

When you replace

“Owned slaves” with

“Was an active and willing participant in a vast conspiracy to kidnap children from their families in order to force them into industrial and sexual servitude”

It becomes harder to write slave owning off as just a blot on one’s record.

For instance:

George Washington was our first President and was an active and willing participant in a vast conspiracy to kidnap children from their families in order to force them into industrial and sexual servitude

They continue:

America treats slavery like an oopsie rather than a centuries-long campaign of nightmarish, brutal terrorism.

America sees the systemic and sadistic destruction of Black families as an etiquette violation.

Which is why it will excuse slave owners so readily.

The Approaching Crisis of the 2020 Election

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2020

This is an excellent piece in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman on The Election That Could Break America. Excellent and hair-raising. It outlines several of the ways that Donald Trump & the Republicans could disrupt the election process to produce an ambiguous outcome and use the chaos to retain the presidency.

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un-certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

Read on for the details about how that could happen (voter suppression, mail-in voting, the “blue-shift”, the expired consent decree governing “ballot security” operations at polls, deploying the military to “Democrat-run cities” to “protect ballots”, hand-picked electors in Republican-controlled swing states). But Gellman is clear: some or all of this is going to happen.

Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.

Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.

(As a quick aside, just yesterday, after Gellman’s piece was finalized, Trump again declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.)

I’m not a political scientist nor a therapist, but as someone who has been writing for years that Trump will never willingly leave office, I urge those of you who don’t want America to slide further into autocracy to acclimate yourself to the worst case scenario here so that you’re not completely devastated and immobilized when Election Day and then Inauguration Day comes and this shit happens. Don’t ignore this, optimistically rationalize it away, or stuff it deep down inside you; face it now, directly, and be prepared to assist in the fight for democracy and justice that’s coming.

Update: Here’s a thread by lawyer & author Teri Kanefield responding to The Atlantic piece that’s gotten some attention on Twitter.

First, remember that each state has rules that govern the certifying of their elections.

Yes, laws still matter.

The Trump legal advisor wants you to think they don’t.

Why? Because when enough people lose confidence in democracy, democracy will fail.

That’s why…a goal of active measures is to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

Trump is trying his best to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

He is trying to make you think he can pull this off.

New polls came out today showing that Trump is ten points behind nationally.

The Strongman needs you to think he’s strong. He doesn’t want you talking about the polls.

If he was winning, he’d want you talking about the polls.

There are some good details in there, but ultimately she’s really only talking about one aspect of the piece (the election certification) and it remains to be seen whether national polling during a pandemic and more than a month before the election will have anything to with reality when it comes to actual counted votes in a selection of swing states. As the 2016 election showed, all you really need is to bend things your way a little bit in a few states and you’ve got yourself an election or crisis or whatever. (via @heathr)

Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2020

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lying in repose on the portico of the US Supreme Court building

That’s the flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lying in repose on the portico of The Supreme Court Building. From the Washington Post (link is mine):

Her casket was placed on the Lincoln catafalque, built for President Abraham Lincoln’s casket in 1865, and surrounded by an arrangement of the justice’s favorite flowers, including white hydrangea, freesia and white tea roses.

Members of the public can pay their respects until 10pm today and from 9am-10pm tomorrow. On Friday, her casket will be moved to the US Capitol, where she will become the first ever woman to lie in state there.

Behind the Scenes Footage of Mortal Kombat

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2020

Released on the heels of the success of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat was one of the earliest games to make extensive use of human actors as models for onscreen action. You can see this proto-motion capture in action in the video above, which features actors & martial artists performing the moves for each of the fighters in the first version of the game. Each pose or motion was recorded and then turned into actions by the onscreen avatars. In the first few seconds, you can even see the actor doing that subtle rocking motion thing that video game avatars do now. (Does this motion have a name? The ready stance?)

See also the making of several subsequent versions of the game — the capture techniques obviously get more sophisticated as the tech improves.

The Typography of Star Trek

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2020

Star Trek title card

poster fro Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek typography

In an extended excerpt from his book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies (Amazon), Dave Addey goes long on the typography and design of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and Trek in general).

Alas, The Original Series’s inconsistent typography did not survive the stylistic leap into the 1970s. To make up for it, The Motion Picture’s title card introduces a new font, with some of the curviest Es known to sci-fi. It also follows an emerging seventies trend: Movie names beginning with STAR must have long trailing lines on the opening S.

This Is Usually Where the Title Goes

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2020

Hey everybody stream of consciousness warning. I’m behind on most things in my life and this has been exacerbated recently by some medical drama of my own dumb making (not Covid) so I am going to beg your kind pardon if things continue to be a little slow and disjointed around here while I get some things sorted out. I don’t really know what kottke.org is supposed to be right now — an escape? the spearpoint of the resistance? hopeful? realistic? — but I do know that the site has been not that solid lately. I didn’t even post anything about RBG for pete’s sake. Didn’t get to write about a place in NYC that was very special to me, a place that changed my life, that has closed its doors forever. I have not talked enough about kottke.org’s great new podcast (or maybe I’ve mentioned it too much). In this moment it seems both completely irrelevant and absolutely necessary to share art and film and music and scientific wonder and frivolities and my feelings about this necessity changes from day to day. Anyway, if I default to easier topics or if things seem a little less stable than usual I hope you understand. Thank you as always for reading.

ps. I am personally fine, both in body and soul! Just strapped for time/energy/brainspace right now. And always confused/curious about what the future holds. Aren’t we all these days?

The Delightful New “Universe in a Nutshell” App

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2020

The breadth of scale of measurable objects in the universe — our distance from the most distant objects we can observe (billions of light years away) to particles measured in something called a yoctometer (1×10-24 meters) — is staggering to think about. That’s where the Universe in a Nutshell app comes in. Developed by Kurzgesagt & Wait But Why (both kottke.org favorites), you can use the app to quickly and easily zoom in and out through objects at all the scales of the universe, like quarks, DNA, cells, earthworms, Europe, Jupiter, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Crab Nebula, galaxies, and galaxy superclusters.

Universe In A Nutshell

Universe In A Nutshell

You can tap on any object you encounter to learn more about it, like an interactive Powers of Ten. I spent 20 minutes just now playing around and it’s really fun. You can download the app for $2.99 from the App Store or on Google Play.

To mark the release, Kurzgesagt made a video comparing the sizes of stars:

And Wait But Why’s Tim Urban wrote a post about the scales of objects: The Big and the Small.

Friluftsliv, the Norwegian Concept of Outdoor Living

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2020

Two people out walking in a snowstorm

As winter weather approaches here in North America, those seeking relief from pandemic isolation might take inspiration from the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (meaning roughly “open-air living”).

In Norway this is not as outlandish as it might seem in other nations. The Reads are simply following the concept of friluftsliv, which translates roughly to “open-air living” and is deeply engrained in the country’s heritage.

From the remote Arctic to urban Oslo, friluftsliv means a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast. “It’s the most natural thing for me because I’m Norwegian,” says Alexander, who documents their father-daughter journeys on Instagram.

The idea is as Norwegian as cross-country skis and aquavit. But amid a pandemic that’s upended rhythms of daily life around the globe, friluftsliv might also be a model for coming more safely — and sanely — through the northern hemisphere’s approaching winter season.

I wrote last year about The Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter and I’ll have more to say about how that approach worked out for me personally in a future post (short version: well), but for now I’ll just mention that one of my favorite things I did last winter was going on a 7-mile walk in the freezing cold with a friend. We were both dressed appropriately and keeping warm through movement — being out in nature and the engaging conversation was so enjoyable that I could have cared less about the temperature. (via kottke ride home)

A Photographic Window into the Remote Siberian Territory of Yakutia

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2020

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev’s photos of the remote Russian territory of Yakutia (also known as Sakha, ultra-cold in the winter and hot in the summer) and the people who live there are really something.

Yakutia is the largest region of Russia, but it is almost not explored by man. The number of population is only one million on three million square kilometers. There is no other corner on the Earth where people live in such a severe and contrasting climate. In summer the air warms up to 40 degrees Celsius and in winter it drops to 60 degrees below zero. There is the longest duration of winter, temperatures below zero and snow lies here from October to mid-April.

The transport system has made Yakutia one of the most inaccessible areas in the world. There are almost no railways and few roads. Some places can be reached by plane or helicopter only. The remoteness from the world and severe climatic conditions determined a special way of life and culture of local residents.

That culture includes an enthusiasm for filmmaking, which Vasilyev has also captured.

However, Yakutia is famous not only for the severe climate and gold which is mined here, but also for the cinema. Yakut films participate in international festivals in Europe and Asia, receive awards, which are already more than 80. Yakut Hollywood is called “Sakhawood”.

People with different experiences are engaged in filmmaking. Most directors have no special education, for some of them directing is not the main way to earn money. Actors are people who work in the theater, or people who have never acted in a movie before. About 7-10 feature length films are shot here per year, from romantic comedies to fairy tales, based on local legends and beliefs. Sometimes Yakut movies have better box office than world blockbusters.

You can find more of Vasilyev’s work on Instagram.

Winners of the 2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2020

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The winning entries from the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 competition are here and they are spectacular. As longtime readers can attest, I will never get tired of looking at photos of the sky and space.

Above from top to bottom: Nicolas Lefaudeux’s tilt-shift shot of the Andromeda Galaxy, Alain Paillou’s ultra-contrasty photo of the Moon, Kristina Makeeva’s aurora shot, Evan McKay’s self-portrait under the Milky Way, and Olga Suchanova’s 3-month exposure of the Sun’s path through the sky using a beer can pinhole camera. You can read a little bit about how Suchanova got that shot on 35mmc:

If exposure times on the order of minutes seem long, try months. Olga Suchanova (London, UK) used a pinhole camera made from a beercan — and not just any beercan, but a Peter Saville design for the Tate Modern — to record the solargraph below.

She used Ilford paper, exposed for 3 or 4 months at an art residency in Almeria, Spain. The long exposure traces the sun’s path across the sky over multiple days — sunny days make brighter lines, and as spring turns to summer, the sun rises higher in the sky. The fantastic colours — another consequence of the long exposure — are created spontaneously on black and white paper, without the need for development or any other chemical processing.

The Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2020

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Each year, photographers entering the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards capture animals in various hilarious (and often anthropomorphic) situations and this year’s finalists can hopefully provide you with some relief from the absolute shitstorm that’s raging outside our skulls here in 2020. [Uh, how about something a little more upbeat next time? -ed] (via digg)

A Conversation with Jason Kottke on the Kottke Ride Home Podcast

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2020

Hi folks. As you may have seen here recently, there is now an official kottke.org podcast: Kottke Ride Home (subscribe here). Every weekday, host Jackson Bird brings you 15 minutes of “the coolest stuff that happened in the world today”. Last week, Jackson and I talked on Skype for a special weekend bonus episode of the podcast: A Conversation with Jason Kottke (more listening options).

This is a peek behind the scenes of Jason’s process, his philosophies, and general thoughts on the internet — where it’s been, and maybe where it’s going. We talked about what running the blog looks like now, how it’s changed over the years. The evolution of patronage models, and his current thoughts on them. We talked a bit about burn out and managing that tension between what you really want to do versus what may appear to be the path of success online. And about the increasingly challenging task of maintaining ownership over what you create online. We also compared and contrasted our experiences as an OG blogger versus an OG vlogger, and how terrible both of those words are.

I thought this was a really good conversation. Jackson had some great questions that got me talking about some stuff I don’t normally get into. Hopefully we’ll do another one again soon. In the meantime, subscribe to Kottke Ride Home to get the best of the internet into your ears every weekday.

Who Knew You Could Play Music with a Boxing Speed Bag?!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2020

Alan Kahn, aka the Speed Bag King and author of The Speed Bag Bible, can seemingly do anything with a boxing speed bag…like make music. Just watch this 45-second video of him getting warmed up on the bag and then performing a tiny virtuoso concert for a small group of amazed onlookers.

See also Kahn punch drumming the William Tell Overture. Again, this starts off slow but wait for the complex stuff to kick in over the course of the video. (via @austinkleon)

Washington National Cathedral Bell Tolls for 200,000 Covid-19 Victims

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2020

In the next day or two, the official number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the United States will pass 200,000 (the actual death toll passed 200,000 back in July). To mark the grim occasion yesterday, the Washington National Cathedral tolled its mourning bell 200 times in remembrance, once for each 1000 people who have died.

We toll this 12-ton bell for every funeral held at the Cathedral. Funerals mourn the loss, but they also celebrate the lives of our loved ones, and point us to the hope of resurrection.

This gesture cannot replace the lives lost, but we hope it will help each American mourn the toll of this pandemic.

The tolling goes on for more than 19 minutes and you hear a number of deaths equal to 9/11 every 17 seconds. I recommend listening as long as you are able, to remember those who have been lost, and to inspire action so that 200,000 more Americans don’t have to die before this is all over.

See also A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death from back in July.

FKA twigs on Artemisia Gentileschi’s Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy is a painting made in the 1620s by Artemisia Gentileschi. The painting was presumed lost until it was rediscovered in a private collection in France and sold at auction for more than $1 million in 2014.

As part of season 2 of Google Arts & Culture’s Art Zoom project (previously), British singer/songwriter FKA twigs gives her personal interpretation of the painting in the video above.

Scholars assumed it was painted in the 1620s, when Artemisia Gentileschi left Florence and moved back to Rome. She had separated from her husband and become an independent woman, the head of her own household, a rarity at that time.

When making my own album, entitled “Magdalene,” it was a time of great healing for me. When I was researching about Mary Magdalene and I was looking at a lot of paintings of her, she seemed so poised and so together. But the irony is in finishing my music, I found a deep wildness, a looseness, an acceptance, a release. And that’s exactly what I’m experiencing in this painting.

I found this incredibly soothing to watch and listen to…almost ASMR-like. And as usual, you can zoom around the painting yourself; this is not even halfway zoomed in…at full zoom you can see individual brushstrokes and cracks in the painting.

Artemisia Gentileschi's 17th-century painting of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy

Update: FKA twigs gives tours of two additional Gentileschi paintings: Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Judith Beheading Holofernes.

(via @norabz)

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

Cover of Barack Obama's book, A Promised Land

A Promised Land is a forthcoming memoir from Barack Obama that he says is “an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody”. Here’s the official description of the book:

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency — a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy.

A Promised Land will be released November 17 but you can preorder it on Bookshop or for the Kindle.

Update: The Atlantic is running the adapted and updated preface to Obama’s book.

First and foremost, I hoped to give an honest rendering of my time in office — not just a historical record of key events that happened on my watch and important figures with whom I interacted but also an account of some of the political, economic, and cultural crosscurrents that helped determine the challenges my administration faced and the choices my team and I made in response. Where possible, I wanted to offer readers a sense of what it’s like to be the president of the United States; I wanted to pull the curtain back a bit and remind people that, for all its power and pomp, the presidency is still just a job and our federal government is a human enterprise like any other, and the men and women who work in the White House experience the same daily mix of satisfaction, disappointment, office friction, screwups, and small triumphs as the rest of their fellow citizens. Finally, I wanted to tell a more personal story that might inspire young people considering a life of public service: how my career in politics really started with a search for a place to fit in, a way to explain the different strands of my mixed-up heritage, and how it was only by hitching my wagon to something larger than myself that I was ultimately able to locate a community and purpose for my life.

You can even listen to Obama read the excerpt in an embedded audio player.

The Song Exploder TV Series

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

Wow! Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder podcast is now a Netflix series! (For those who have never listened, Song Exploder features musicians telling the stories of how their songs were created.) Check out the trailer above, featuring song explosions by Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, R.E.M., and Ty Dolla .

Hirway says on Twitter:

I still don’t fully believe it but @SongExploder, a podcast I started in my bedroom!, is going to be a @netflix series.

If anyone at Netflix wants to talk about kottke.org becoming a series, let me know!! It can be about literally anything and everything. (Hey, we’ll call it “Anything and Everything”! The wheels are already in motion…)

Reprogramming a Game By Playing It: an Unbelievable Super Mario Bros 3 Speedrun

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

After a fellow named Zikubi beat the speedrun record for Super Mario Bros 3 with a time of just over three minutes, speedrun analyst Bismuth made the video above to explain how he did it…by changing the game with the gameplay itself.

The first couple minutes go exactly as you’d expect, but the speedrun takes a weird turn when, instead of using the second warp whistle to go to level 8, he uses it to go to level 7. And once in level 7, Mario races around randomly, letting opportunity slip away like a blindfolded birthday boy unwittingly steering himself away from the piñata. It’s only later, during the explanation of how he got from level 7 to the final screen so quickly, that you realize Mario’s panicky idiot behavior is actually the player actively reprogramming the game to open up a wormhole to the ending. Watch the whole explanation — it’s a really fascinating little hack.

See also Bismuth’s explanation of a Super Mario Bros world record speedrun, which includes a short argument by me about why video game speedrun breakdowns are interesting to watch even if you don’t play video games.

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

(via @craigmod)

In Search of a Flat Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

In Search of a Flat Earth is a documentary essay by Folding Ideas’ Dan Olson that starts out talking about people who believe the Earth is flat (and why it’s so difficult to convince them otherwise) but then takes a sharp turn toward a more recent and much more worrying conspiracy theory, QAnon. Lots of interesting information and observations throughout.

See also QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking.

Study of the Creative Specimens

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study of the Creative Specimens is a collection of fantastical hybrid creatures created for Adobe’s 99U conference by Mark Brooks and illustration studio alademosca. Prints are available from Paper Chase Press. (via colossal)

“David Lynch Being a Madman for a Relentless 8 Minutes and 30 Seconds”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

The title of this video is “David Lynch being a madman for a relentless 8 minutes and 30 seconds” is perfect and requires no further information or contextualization. (thx, david (no relation))

Paul Rudd, Hilariously: Wear a Mask!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2020

NY governor Andrew Cuomo enlisted actor Paul Rudd to do a public service announcement about the benefits of wearing a mask during the pandemic. Rudd, who often looks like he hasn’t aged a day in the past 20 years but is actually 51 years old, is in total “how do you do fellow kids” mode in this video, deploying some totally plausible youth lingo in an effort to get his fellow youths to mask up.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2020

Book cover for Four Hundred Souls

From historians Keisha N. Blain (author of Set the World on Fire) and Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist) comes what sounds like a fascinating new book, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. As editors, Blain and Kendi assembled 90 Black writers & poets to write a chronological history of Black America. Details on the bookseller sites are sparse, but Kendi explained the project on Instagram:

Histories of Black America have almost always been written by individuals, usually men. But why not a community of writers chronicling the history of a community? Keisha and I assembled a community of eighty Black writers and ten Black poets who represented some of the best Black recorders of Black America at its four-hundred-year mark. Though the project was conceived in late 2018, most of the pieces were written in 2019. We wanted the community to be writing during the four hundredth year. We wanted FOUR HUNDRED SOULS to write history and be history, a diary entry in the history of letters when Black America symbolically turned four hundred years old.

In different ways and forms, eighty writers each chronicled five years of Black America’s history in succession, amounting to four hundred years. They related that history, those five years, to our time. The volume’s first writer, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, writes from August 20, 1619 to August 19, 1624. The volume’s final writer, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, writes from August 20, 2014 to August 19, 2019. All 90 contributors are leaders in their fields. I can’t wait to introduce all of them. The lineup is beyond belief.

FOUR HUNDRED SOULS has ten sections, each spanning forty years. Each section concludes with a poem that recaptures forty years of the history in verse. Sometimes history is best captured by poets — as these ten Black poets show. Indeed, the lives of Black Americans have been nothing short of poetic.

That sounds super interesting, in both form and content. You can preorder Four Hundred Souls today; it comes out on Feb 2nd.

Horrifying Reports of Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Camps

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2020

A coalition of organizations led by Project South (which was founded as the Institute to Eliminate Poverty & Genocide — more on that last word in a minute) has filed a complaint based on a whistleblower about an ICE concentration camp in Georgia where, the complaint alleges, detained immigrants are not being properly treated for Covid-19, important medications are being withheld, conditions are appalling, and women are being given unnecessary hysterectomies. From a piece about the complaint:

Multiple women came forward to tell Project South about what they perceived to be the inordinate rate at which women in ICDC were subjected to hysterectomies — a surgical operation in which all or part of the uterus is removed. Additionally, many of the immigrant women who underwent the procedure were reportedly “confused” when asked to explain why they had the surgery, with one detainee likening their treatment to prisoners in concentration camps.

“Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done,” the complaint stated. “When she talked to them about the surgery, the women ‘reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.’ The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were ‘trying to tell themselves it’s going to be OK.’”

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” the detainee said.

According to Wooten, ICDC consistently used a particular gynecologist — outside the facility — who almost always opted to remove all or part of the uterus of his female detainee patients.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said, adding that, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”

According to the UN’s Genocide Convention of 1948, “imposing measures intended to prevent births” within “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented:

The fact of the matter is the United States has engaged in a program of mass human rights violations targeting immigrants.

I’ll remind you, as I have with increasing frequency lately about the activities of our country’s increasingly authoritarian government, that forced sterilization in detention camps is literally what the literal Nazis did (inspired by, you guessed it, America’s treatment of “undesirable” populations).

You can read the complaint here and check out this thread from Brooke Binkowski for more context and examples of detainee mistreatment at the hands of the increasingly extra-legal ICE.

The Trailer for Season Two of The Mandalorian

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2020

So admittedly I was not the biggest fan of the first season of The Mandalorian — I don’t particularly care for westerns, space or otherwise, and in terms of the off-piste Star Wars tales, preferred Rogue One and even Solo to Mando’s adventures. But there is something compelling there and because I was indoctrinated in the ways of The Force as a child,1 I will watch the new season that starts on Disney+ October 30.

  1. I am not Force-sensitive myself, but I like to watch those who are.

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite!

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

Rise Up. Show Up. Unite! poster

A group of creatives led by Jessica Hische are creating unofficial posters for the Biden/Harris campaign in order to increase visibility of the campaign.

Last week, I [Jessica Hische] had a good conversation with the Biden creative team. I shared that one of my concerns for the upcoming election was the lack of visible support for the campaign. There are a lot of folx within the creative world and beyond posting on social media about voting (a wonderful and necessary message), but few of those posts mention the candidates by name. It’s somewhat implied that if you’re promoting voting or voting rights that you’re likely voting Biden and encouraging a Biden vote, but it’s not explicit. There’s a “I guess I’ll vote for him if I have to” vibe throughout leftist social media, but exasperated resignation doesn’t get people to the polls.

From top to bottom, art by Jessica Hische, Mary Kate McDevitt, Lauren Hom, and Joanna Muñoz. You can participate by downloading a template that includes the Biden/Harris logo — you can find the link at the bottom of the article.

“The Desperate Fight to Save His Family Ends in Tragedy”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

My god, this story of a man named Chris Tofte trying to save his family from the Oregon wildfires. (Maybe don’t read this if you’re feeling emotionally fragile right now…)

Back in the Jeep, struggling to navigate a road once so familiar but now shrouded by smoke-filled darkness, Chris almost ran over what looked like a bikini-clad woman on the road. Once he was closer, he realized she was wearing underwear. Her hair was singed, her mouth looked almost black, and her bare feet were severely burned.

He impatiently tried to help her into his car, explaining how he needed to find his wife and son, feeling like she was resisting.

Finally, she spoke. “I am your wife.”

Living in a Conspiracy Nation

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

We are in a spectacularly unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. If you do not believe that is the case, perhaps these two recent news reports in completely sober (and even socially conservative) publications will persuade you. Charlotte Alter reports from my home state of Wisconsin for Time magazine:

In more than seven dozen interviews conducted in Wisconsin in early September, from the suburbs around Milwaukee to the scarred streets of Kenosha in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, about 1 in 5 voters volunteered ideas that veered into the realm of conspiracy theory, ranging from QAnon to the notion that COVID-19 is a hoax. Two women in Ozaukee County calmly informed me that an evil cabal operates tunnels under the U.S. in order to rape and torture children and drink their blood. A Joe Biden supporter near a Kenosha church told me votes don’t matter, because “the elites” will decide the outcome of the election anyway. A woman on a Kenosha street corner explained that Democrats were planning to bring in U.N. troops before the election to prevent a Trump win.

One in five. 20%. Alter continues:

This matters not just because of what these voters believe but also because of what they don’t. The facts that should anchor a sense of shared reality are meaningless to them; the news developments that might ordinarily inform their vote fall on deaf ears. They will not be swayed by data on coronavirus deaths, they won’t be persuaded by job losses or stock market gains, and they won’t care if Trump called America’s fallen soldiers “losers” or “suckers,” as the Atlantic reported, because they won’t believe it. They are impervious to messaging, advertising or data. They aren’t just infected with conspiracy; they appear to be inoculated against reality.

Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. “They’re not on the same epistemological grounding, they’re not living in the same worlds,” says Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse who studies online disinformation. “You cannot have a functioning democracy when people are not at the very least occupying the same solar system.”

Alter found conspiracy thinking on the left (Trump created Covid?!) but it was way more batshit crazy on the right:

On a cigarette break outside their small business in Ozaukee County, Tina Arthur and Marcella Frank told me they plan to vote for Trump again because they are deeply alarmed by “the cabal.” They’ve heard “numerous reports” that the COVID-19 tents set up in New York and California were actually for children who had been rescued from underground sex-trafficking tunnels.

Arthur and Frank explained they’re not followers of QAnon. Frank says she spends most of her free time researching child sex trafficking, while Arthur adds that she often finds this information on the Russian-owned search engine Yandex. Frank’s eyes fill with tears as she describes what she’s found: children who are being raped and tortured so that “the cabal” can “extract their blood and drink it.” She says Trump has seized the blood on the black market as part of his fight against the cabal. “I think if Biden wins, the world is over, basically,” adds Arthur. “I would honestly try to leave the country. And if that wasn’t an option, I would probably take my children and sit in the garage and turn my car on and it would be over.”

(At this point, you may want to take a short break, as I did, to either fully absorb this madness or to try to wipe your mind of it completely. Neither worked for me, but I did have a nice little stroll.) Ok, ready for round two? From The Economist, How construction workers in Ohio view the election:

“He’s done a great job, he’s got everyone back to work. I’m pretty much 100% for him,” said Kyle, a 30-year-old electrician. “He shoots his mouth off but at least that shows he’s honest,” said Jason, a pipe-fitter, who said he especially liked Mr Trump’s commitment to reducing the national debt. “He’s done more for our country than the past ten presidents put together,” said an older builder, Jeff, skimming wet concrete on a new road. “He’s made — who is it, China or Japan? — pay our farmers billions of dollars. He got health care done, which the Democrats could never do. He built the wall.”

None of this is true, aside from Trump shooting his mouth off. These lies aren’t as spectacular as the blood-drinking pedophilia, but in some ways they’re even worse because they’re so easily fact-checked (e.g. Trump has increased the national debt) but still believed.

Bonus items that I randomly ran across this morning: 1) A recent local news report on an anti-mask rally in Utah, where some folks assert that Covid-19 is a hoax and that asymptomatic carriers don’t exist (oh, and a woman draws a parallel between George Floyd not being able to breathe and people not being able to breathe with a face mask on). 2) The assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, an actual government official, “accused career government scientists on Sunday of ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election”.

I’ve said this several times before, but I keep coming back to this quote from Hannah Arendt:

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

Fox News, talk radio, and Facebook — aided and abetted by clueless mainstream media outlets who feel the need to cover “both sides” equally — have been pounding away on Americans for decades, feeding them misinformation and hate. Trump ratcheted that rhetoric up, legitimized it with the office of the president, and is reaping the rewards — “with such a people you can then do what you please”.

Scientists Detect Signs of Possible Life on Venus

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

The planet Venus

A group of astronomers have announced that they’ve discovered evidence that there may be life in the atmosphere of Venus.

The astronomers, who reported the finding on Monday in a pair of papers, have not collected specimens of Venusian microbes, nor have they snapped any pictures of them. But with powerful telescopes, they have detected a chemical — phosphine — in the thick Venus atmosphere. After much analysis, the scientists assert that something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source.

Some researchers question this hypothesis, and they suggest instead that the gas could result from unexplained atmospheric or geologic processes on a planet that remains mysterious. But the finding will also encourage some planetary scientists to ask whether humanity has overlooked a planet that may have once been more Earthlike than any other world in our solar system.

“This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the papers (one published in Nature Astronomy and another submitted to the journal Astrobiology). “It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere.”

It’s a Bird

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

In late May, Christian Cooper was birdwatching in Central Park when he was accosted and abused for the color of his skin by a white woman after he asked her to leash her dog. Cooper, who is both an avid birdwatcher (he’s on the board of directors for the NYC Audubon Society) and a pioneering comics writer (he was Marvel’s first openly gay writer and editor), has combined his experiences and interests into a new graphic novel for DC Comics called It’s a Bird.

It's A Bird, Christian Cooper

From the NY Times:

The slim, 10-page story is impressionistic, without a real plot. It is the first in a series called “Represent!” that features works of writers “traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream comic book medium,” including people of color or those who are LGBTQ, Marie Javins, an executive editor at DC, said in a statement. It will be available online for free starting Wednesday, at several digital book and comic book retailers.

The main character of “It’s a Bird” is a teenage birder named Jules, who is Black. When Jules tries to peer through his binoculars at birds, he instead sees the faces of Black people who have been killed by the police.

It’s a Bird is available for free from DC Comics. You can read an interview with Cooper and the rest of the creative team (artist Alitha E. Martinez, inker Mark Morales, colorist Emilio Lopez, and letterer Rob Clark Jr.) on the company’s blog. (via open culture)

Tiny World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2020

Apple might be a $2+ trillion company, but in the TV world they are still relatively small potatoes. Perhaps it’s appropriate then that the company’s first entry into the nature documentary space dominated by BBC and Netflix is Tiny World, a series featuring some animals who have carved out lives in our massive world by going small. You know, spiders, toads, pygmy marmosets, insects, rodents, fish. The series is narrated by Paul Rudd (I love the ageless Rudd as much as anyone but would have loved to hear Ze Frank in this role) and premieres October 2nd on Apple+.

Works of Fine Art (feat. The Simpsons)

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2020

Simpsons Fine Art

These mashups of fine art with The Simpsons are entertaining, but this one featuring Bart Simpson’s iconic blackboard subtly replaced by Cy Twombly’s 1968 chalkboard drawing Untitled (New York City) — perhaps the ultimate “my kid could have done that” piece of modern art — is a little bit of genius.

The 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2020

Fall foliage map for 2020

Once again this year, SmokyMountains.com has the best online foliage prediction map. And once again again, summer was far too short and trees here in VT have already been changing colors for weeks (although most have not really started yet). The onset of fall carries an extra wallop in this pandemic year: in many parts of the country, summer made it possible for people to comfortably meet up with family and friends in the lower-risk out-of-doors, an option that will be increasingly less comfy once the leaves fall and the weather crisps up. (via @legalnomads)

Blade Runner 2049: San Francisco

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

To go along with my earlier post on photos of the wildfire skies in the western states, Terry Tsai took drone footage of an orange-hued San Francisco and put the soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 behind it and, yeah, that’s about right. (via daring fireball)

Oliver Burkeman’s Eight Secrets to a (Fairly) Fulfilled Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

For the past decade, Oliver Burkeman has written an advice column for The Guardian on how to change your life. In his final column, he shares eight things that he’s learned while on the job. I especially appreciated these two:

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth.

The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it. As the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics understood, much of our suffering arises from attempting to control what is not in our control. And the main thing we try but fail to control — the seasoned worriers among us, anyway — is the future. We want to know, from our vantage point in the present, that things will be OK later on. But we never can. (This is why it’s wrong to say we live in especially uncertain times. The future is always uncertain; it’s just that we’re currently very aware of it.)

It’s freeing to grasp that no amount of fretting will ever alter this truth. It’s still useful to make plans. But do that with the awareness that a plan is only ever a present-moment statement of intent, not a lasso thrown around the future to bring it under control. The spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti said his secret was simple: “I don’t mind what happens.” That needn’t mean not trying to make life better, for yourself or others. It just means not living each day anxiously braced to see if things work out as you hoped.

(via @legalnomads)

Stop Motion Stone Loops

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

I love Benoît Leva’s simple stop motion animated loops made from rocks and stones. This bouncing one is my favorite:

View this post on Instagram

on

You can check out more stone animations on his Instagram. (via colossal)

The Apocalyptic Red Western Skies Caused by Climate Change-Fueled Wildfires

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

Wildfire Skies 2020

All day yesterday, my social media feeds were full of photos taken of the skies on the west coast, bloodied red and orange from the wildfires raging in California, Oregon, and other western states. Each fresh photo I saw shocked me anew. Friends told me: as weird as the photos look, they don’t do justice to what this actually looks like and feels like in real life. Automatic cameras (as on smartphones) had a tough time capturing the skies because the onboard software kept correcting the red and orange colors out — the phones know, even if climate change denying politicians and voters don’t, that our skies aren’t supposed to be that color.

I’ve compiled a few photos and photo collections taken of the western skies over the past few days:

Keep in mind that these photos were taking during the day — it only looks like night because the smoke so completely blocked out the sun.

And let me be clear (because others have not been): the frequency and intensity of the western wildfires over the past years are driven in part by climate change. These fires, along with the death, property damage, and poor health they’ve caused and will continue to cause, are just some of the debts coming due for decades of bad public policy, political inaction, and deliberate negligence by fossil fuel companies. The climate has changed and these are the consequences — the message in the sky is simply unmistakeable.

Trump Supporters Should Face Negative Consequences for Their Actions

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2020

Trump Boat Sunk

Designer & writer Gabrielle Blair, creator of the popular Design Mom blog, on The Consequences of Your Actions.

It makes me sick to my stomach that you, a Trump supporter, ever read or watch or listen to anything I’ve created. This is true even if I know you in real life.

I see what you are trying to do. You want me to treat you like a decent human being. But you are not behaving like a decent human being.

A decent person doesn’t align themself with people who are proudly racist and who insist America doesn’t have a racism problem.

A decent person doesn’t align themself with people who believe viral right-wing stories on Facebook over trained journalists, who think Q is real, who think the pandemic is fake, who think the earth is flat.

Blair continues:

You want to vote for Trump and experience no negative consequences.

But that’s not an option.

One of the consequences of your actions? I do not respect you.

Leave them to their terrible art:

I want to see you shunned by every person and organization that doesn’t support Trump. No more access to their books, movies, products, music, events, artists & influencers — till you are left with nothing but Smashmouth concerts, and Ben Shapiro talking about his sex life.

(And just so I don’t get email about this, the boat image at the top of the page is photoshopped. It’s an example of what the kids today are calling a “meme”.)

The Trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2020

I’ve never read or seen any of the Dunes (Herbert’s book, David Lynch’s movie, or even Jodorowsky’s Dune) but I have very fond memories of the video game Dune II and will watch anything that Denis Villeneuve makes, so I’m definitely going to check this out when it’s released…let’s see….on December 18, 2020 in theaters? WTF?

Ok, so just watch the trailer if that’s what you’re here for, but I remain baffled that movie theaters are a) currently open (Tenet was showing in 2810 US theaters last weekend) and b) slated to still be open in December in a country trapped in a pandemic death spiral. Easy testing w/ quick results and contact tracing, the twin keys to controlling the virus, are still a mess. A safe & tested vaccine that’s distributed widely by the end of the year? I wouldn’t hold my breath. And you’re going to put a bunch of people who are laughing and gasping together in a room for two-plus hours with a virus that’s airborne1 and assume they’re going to stay properly masked up (except for when they are eating popcorn and nachos!) and properly distant from each other? (Have you met Americans?!) Even if you assume that movie theater screening rooms are huge & well-ventilated (some definitely are not) and capacity is restricted, I repeat: What The Fuck? And in terms of societal trade-offs, reopening places where people gather indoors for entertainment is more important than ensuring our kids can safely go to school? *extreme hair-tearing-out noise*

Update: Aaaaand the Dune release has been delayed until Oct 2021. Between the Trump debacle2 and the CDC acknowledging that the virus may spread through aerosols, I feel like people are coming around to the idea that indoor gatherings, entertainment, and dining are going to be problematic for several more months.

  1. Along with the lack of testing and tracing, the evidence that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols is the important bit here. Most people and organizations are still acting as though it’s not airborne because the measures would be different if they were taking that into account. See this expert’s advice about movie-going for example — there’s not a single mention of aerosols in the entire piece, so it’s tough for me to take it seriously.

  2. Just to clarify, I mean the outbreak of Covid-19 in the White House and not any other previous or future debacles.

Ultra Slow-Motion Video of Insects Taking Flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2020

Research biologist Adrian Smith, who specializes in insects, recently filmed a number of different types of flying insects taking off and flying away at 3200 frames/sec. Before watching, I figured I’d find this interesting — flying and slow motion together? sign me up! — but this video was straight-up mesmerizing with just the right amount of informative narration from Smith. There’s such an amazing diversity in wing shape and flight styles among even this small group of insects; I had to keep rewinding it to watch for details that I’d missed. Also, don’t miss the fishfly breaking the fourth wall by looking right at the camera while taking off at 6:07. I see you, my dude.

Smith has previously captured flying ants in slow motion and this globular springtail bug that spins through the air at more than 22,000 rpm. (via moss & fog)

The Best Self-Help Books of the 21st Century

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

I appreciated this list of 21 Books for a Better You in the 21st Century from Kelli María Korducki, filled with books that help the self without necessarily being quote-unquote self-help books. Here are a few selections I found interesting:

The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. “Taylor argues that our personal bodily hang-ups — and the beauty standards that inform them — are manifestations of internalized inequality. By lending credence to unjust strictures, our self-hate inadvertently perpetuates oppression.”

Quiet by Susan Cain. “In a culture that rewards ‘being bold’ and ‘putting yourself out there,’ Quiet proposes that the most effective leaders aren’t necessarily the biggest personalities.”

How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. “Part love letter to the burnout generation, part anti-Capitalist manifesto, Odell proposes a mass reclamation of attention — our most precious, and precarious, resource — to soothe our existential overload.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. “In an age of accumulation fueled by one-click consumerism, Kondo’s ‘konmari’ offers a simple formula for relief from the burden of clutter — literally and, perhaps, existentially.”

I would like to put my vote in for an addition to the list: Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (also, a self-help book for people skeptical of self-help books).

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it’s our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty — the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent person’s guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.

I’ve read The Antidote twice; I’ve learned a lot from it and it inspired me to delve deeper into some of the people and philosophies he features. I think reading it, in a significant and long-term way, actually has made me happier.

Cool Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Modular Signage for the National Library of Luxembourg<br />

Sascha Lobe’s team at Pentagram has designed a functional and stylish modular signage system for the National Library of Luxembourg. The signs use cubes (inspired by LED clock displays?) that can be reconfigured into different words by library staff.

Numerical and alphabetical cubes are the foundation of the BnL’s modular signage system. In handling massive volumes of information and growing library collections, it is essential to free the library staff from rigid systems and equip them with the ability to easily make signage changes.

The flexible signage plan, consisting of 25,000 resin cubes, 6000 tableaus and 2,400 numerical shelving characters, enables staff to independently customize information as the library’s collection fluctuates. The resin cubes, constructed from a durable material, also translate the timelessness of the library and its long-standing presence throughout the years and into the future.

The only (but perhaps significant) downside to the signs is that they are not actually super legible when compared to a non-modular alternative. They sure do look great though.

Update: This post got shared on Twitter by a couple of librarian pals and Librarian Twitter was not impressed by this signage at all. Not legible, not accessible, and difficult/fiddly to maintain were the main complaints. As someone who believes that design is primarily about how something works and not how something looks, I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t hit that point harder in this post. I do love the aesthetics of the project, but from the photos, the legibility looks terrible. Maybe it’s different while navigating the space in person, but if not, you have to wonder how helpful hard-to-read signs are to patrons.

The Next Reconstruction?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes about the parallels between the present moment and Reconstruction, the post-Civil War period where the biggest strides toward racial justice in America were taken. In response to the protests happening in American streets this summer, Trump pulled out Nixon’s “law and order” playbook but that move backfired on Trump, much like the way that Andrew Johnson’s push for the US government to remain white during the early years of Reconstruction did.

The shift that’s occurred this time around “wasn’t by happenstance,” Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist and a writer, told me, nor is it only the product of video evidence. “It has been the work of generations of Black activists, Black thinkers, and Black scholars that has gotten us here” — people like Angela Davis, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Michelle Alexander, and others. “Six years ago, people were not using the phrase systemic racism beyond activist circles and academic circles. And now we are in a place where it is readily on people’s lips, where folks from CEOs to grandmothers up the street are talking about it, reading about it, researching on it, listening to conversations about it.”

All of that preparation met the moment: George Floyd’s killing, the pandemic’s unmistakable toll on Black Americans, and Trump’s callous and cynical response to both.

Still, like Andrew Johnson, Trump bet his political fortunes on his assumption that the majority of white Americans shared his fears and beliefs about Black Americans. Like Johnson, Trump did not anticipate how his own behavior, and the behavior he enabled and encouraged, would discredit the cause he backed. He did not anticipate that the activists might succeed in convincing so many white Americans to see the protests as righteous and justified, that so many white Americans would understand police violence as an extension of his own cruelty, that the pandemic would open their eyes to deep-seated racial inequities.

“I think this country is at a turning point and has been for a little while. We went from celebrating the election of the first Black president in history to bemoaning a white nationalist in the White House,” Alicia Garza told me. “People are grappling with the fact that we’re not actually in a post-racial society.”

If the reaction to eight years of Obama was a white nationalist President, then maybe the reaction to that is, finally, the beginning of true racial justice and equality in America. But here is the big question:

In the past, the dream of remaking society has faltered when white Americans have realized what they would have to sacrifice to deliver freedom. The question now is whether this time is different.

And further:

Believing in racial equality in the abstract and supporting policies that would make it a reality are two different things. Most white Americans have long professed the former, and pointedly declined to do the latter. This paradox has shown up so many times in American history that social scientists have a name for it: the principle-implementation gap. This gap is what ultimately doomed the Reconstruction project.

A research paper on the principle-implementation gap puts it plainly:

White Americans accept equality as an ideal yet reject interventions designed to achieve that ideal.

Serwer goes on to say that the sticking point is often economic justice — versus the easier-to-swallow civic justice. Ok, just go read the whole thing before I quote it all. (via @michaelharriot, who called the piece “spectacular”)

It’s Rain in Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

From Jez Burrows, 30 minutes of rain from video games like Uncharted, Batman: Arkham Knight, Donkey Kong Country, Spider-Man, and Animal Crossing.

A supercut of video game characters taking a break from solving crime or shooting people to enjoy a meditative minute of miserable weather.

(via @kellianderson)

Coronation, Ai Weiwei’s Documentary about the Pandemic Lockdown in Wuhan

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2020

Coronation is a feature-length documentary film by Ai Weiwei about the lockdown in Wuhan, China, during the initial Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020. The trailer is not super compelling tbh, but it’s Ai Weiwei and the description sounds interesting:

The film showcases the incredible speed and power of China’s state machinery with its construction of massive coronavirus hospitals, deployment of roving sanitation-fogging robots, implementation of an exhaustive testing and contact-tracing protocol, and punctiliously engineered protective measures for health workers.

On the other side of the scale is the crushing bureaucracy of that same machine, its totalitarian decision-making, clear deception of ordinary citizens, the absence of civic communication, and perhaps, worst of all, a cold-eyed lack of empathy for those suffering loss and kept away from home.

Ai Weiwei paints a moving and revelatory portrait not just of China’s response to the pandemic but also of ordinary people in Wuhan, showing how they personally cope with the disaster.

Hyperallergic’s Dan Schindel has a review of the film. You can watch Coronation on demand at Vimeo or Alamo. (via colossal)

Honoring Jacob Blake

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2020

Sho Shibuya / Jacob Blake

To pass the time during the pandemic, artist and designer Sho Shibuya has been painting sunrise views from his apartment using the front page of the NY Times as a canvas and posting them to Instagram. But he’s also done special editions, like the one above honoring Jacob Blake, the seven holes in the paper representing the seven bullets fired at Blake’s back by a Kenosha police officer trying to murder him. The juxtaposition with that headline is… something.

Challenger: The Final Flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2020

From Netflix, Challenger: The Final Flight is a four-part documentary series about the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.

Incorporating never-before-seen interviews and rare archival material, this series offers an in-depth look at one of the most diverse crews NASA assembled, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first private citizen in space.

The series debuts on Netflix on Sept 16.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

As a huge fan of Mario Kart (and a relatively recent owner of a Switch), this looks absolutely amazing (if it works smoothly). In Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, you race a physical kart (against other peoples’ physical karts if you want) through your actual house, controlling it via onscreen AR on your Nintendo Switch (the onscreen view comes from a tiny camera mounted on the kart). Here’s what Nintendo says about it:

Created in partnership with Velan Studios, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit brings the fun of the Mario Kart series into the real world by using a Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite system to race against opponents using a physical Kart. The physical Kart responds to boosts in-game and in the real world, stops when hit with an item and can be affected in different ways depending on the race. Players place gates to create a custom course layout in their home, where the only limit is their imagination. Race against Koopalings in Grand Prix, unlock a variety of course customizations and costumes for Mario or Luigi, and play with up to four players in local multiplayer mode.

Watch the trailer above…it does look totally cool.

Rick Steves’ The Story of Fascism

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

The Story of Fascism is an hour-long TV special from travel guru Rick Steves about the history of fascism in Europe, from its post-WWI rise in Italy and Germany to the defeat of the fascist powers in WWII to efforts by modern-day right-wing ideologues to revive it.

We’ll trace fascism’s history from its roots in the turbulent aftermath of World War I, when masses of angry people rose up, to the rise of charismatic leaders who manipulated that anger, the totalitarian societies they built, and the brutal measures they used to enforce their ideology. We’ll see the horrific consequences: genocide and total war.

Because Steves hosts a travel show, they visit some of the places where this history played out, including Nuremberg, Auschwitz, and Rome, talk to historians and tour guides, and discuss fascist and anti-fascist art, including Picasso’s Guernica.

The combination of the weighty subject matter and Steves’ jaunty TV voice is a bit jarring at first, but this packs a lot of information and context into an hour. There are obviously parallels throughout to contemporary leaders and their tactics, but check out Benito Mussolini’s mannerisms and facial expressions starting at 11:05 and see if they remind you of the current inhabitant of the White House. (via open culture)

Browse Through 72 Years of Ikea Catalogs

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

Ikea Catalogs

Ikea Catalogs

Ikea Catalogs

Ikea Catalogs

Ikea has uploaded scans of all 72 years of their annual catalogs, from 1950 to 2021, to their online museum. (The company’s optimism that there will be a 2021 is heartening.) An entertaining time machine of Scandinavian design trends.

Eric Godal’s Anti-Fascist Illustrations Updated for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

Piascik Anti Fascist

Piascik Anti Fascist

In the 1930s and 40s, artist Eric Godal drew some anti-fascist political cartoons that urged people not to listen to right-wing authoritarians who want to destroy and pillage society for their own ends. Godal, a German Jew, had escaped the clutches of Nazi Germany in the 30s and labored to warn America and the world about the fate of the Jews in Europe.1

Illustrator Chris Piascik has updated Godal’s drawings for 2020 to feature our own corrupt crackpot wannabe dictator. Calling Donald Trump a fascist is hardly controversial these days — he clearly is. What his supporters need to reckon with is: are they?

  1. Godal’s mother was able to get out of Germany on a boat but was denied entry to the United States as a refugee by the Roosevelt administration. She was sent back and eventually murdered in a Nazi death camp.

Grief and Witness in a Pandemic Ravaged Country

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

For Vanity Fair, novelist Jesmyn Ward writes about losing her husband just before the pandemic descended on America. She begins:

My Beloved died in January. He was a foot taller than me and had large, beautiful dark eyes and dexterous, kind hands. He fixed me breakfast and pots of loose-leaf tea every morning. He cried at both of our children’s births, silently, tears glazing his face. Before I drove our children to school in the pale dawn light, he would put both hands on the top of his head and dance in the driveway to make the kids laugh. He was funny, quick-witted, and could inspire the kind of laughter that cramped my whole torso.

It’s not long, but make some time for this one.

Thinking About Pandemic Risk: “All Our Behavior Adds Up”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

This short article by Dr. Aaron Carroll about Covid-19 and risk is excellent. I want to quote the entire thing here, punctuated only by increasingly emphatic YESes and THISes, but I will refrain. Somewhat.

Too many view protective measures as all or nothing: Either we do everything, or we might as well do none. That’s wrong. Instead, we need to see that all our behavior adds up.

Each decision we make to reduce risk helps. Each time we wear a mask, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we socialize outside instead of inside, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we stay six feet away instead of sitting closer together, we’re throwing some safety on the pile. Each time we wash our hands, eat apart and don’t spend time in large gatherings of people, we’re adding to the pile.

If the pile gets big enough, we as a society can keep this thing in check.

The article was published before today’s news that three PSG players — Neymar, Angel Di Maria, and Leandro Paredes — have tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a vacation on Ibiza, but this could have easily been written in response:

To keep the pile big enough, though, we need to be willing to trade some activities for others. If people want to play on a sports team, for instance, they should consider giving something up to do so. Increasing their risk by participating in a group activity should prompt them to reduce their risk the rest of the time.

But we aren’t very good at discussing trade-offs. We want it all. We want to eat in restaurants, crowd into houses, go to work and celebrate occasions en masse.

We could choose to engage in just some of those things. We could decide to get a massage or get our nails done or have a haircut — instead of demanding that all of these and more be available to us simultaneously.

And this is just generally true:

If Americans were willing to invest in bigger-picture solutions, we could all have nicer things.

And this. This. THIS!! (sorry) THISSSSS!!!!:::

Instead of asking why we can’t do certain activities, we might consider what we’re willing to give up to do them more safely. Even better, we might even consider what we’re willing to give up so others can do them, too.

Go on, read the whole thing.

A Map of the Sounds from Forests and Woodlands Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

A site called Sounds of the Forest is collecting sounds from forests and woodland areas around the world and presenting them on a world map.

Sounds of the Forest

We are collecting the sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world, creating a growing soundmap bringing together aural tones and textures from the world’s woodlands.

The sounds form an open source library, to be used by anyone to listen to and create from.

Here are a few of the sounds that they’ve collected.

See also the work of Gordon Hempton, who is trying to capture the sounds of the very few places left in the world without human noise. (via moss & fog)

David Blaine Floated into the Sky with a Bunch of Helium Balloons Like the House in “Up”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

Earlier today, illusionist and “endurance performer” David Blaine grabbed onto a bunch of big helium balloons and floated into the sky.

David Blaine Balloons

Over the next 50 minutes, he rose to an altitude of almost 25,000 feet before letting go and skydiving/parachuting safely to the ground. The video embedded above is a livestream of the event — liftoff takes place a couple of minutes after the 2-hour mark.

Buddhist Monk and Makeup Artist Kodo Nishimura

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

Kodo Nishimura

Meet Kodo Nishimura, a Buddhist monk and makeup artist. Nishimura, who is gender fluid and uses he/him pronouns, struggled with his peers’ rigid concepts about gender as a teen in Japan, but found greater acceptance and a career in NYC before deciding to return to Japan to train as a monk, just as his parents had before him. As you might imagine for someone with one foot in two very different cultures, it has been difficult for Nishimura to simultaneously navigate both of those worlds and their attendant expectations.

For the next two years, Nishimura lived a double life: an openly gay makeup artist when he was in NYC and a closeted Buddhist monk trainee when he was in Japan. “I didn’t want the impression of other monks to be degraded because of me,” he recalls. It wasn’t until confiding in his master that Nishimura realized the futility of his concerns. His master expressed: “The most important message of our denomination [Pure Land Buddhism] is to let people know that we can all be saved regardless of our sexuality, gender or fashion preferences.”

You can check out more about Nishimura on his website or on Instagram. (via spoon & tamago)

Update: Thanks to Caroline and @anatsuno for some language-related feedback on this post. I added that Nishimura explicitly uses he/him pronouns and clarified that he “is gender fluid” and not just “identifies as gender fluid”.

The Dynamic Treetop Kingdoms of the Weaver Ants

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 01, 2020

In their third video of their ant trilogy (see also The World War of the Ants and The Billion Ant Mega Colony and the Biggest War on Earth), Kurzgesagt goes up into the treetops to tell us about the weaver ants.

Deep in tropical jungles lie floating kingdoms ruled by beautiful and deadly masters: They are sort of the high elves of the ant kingdoms: Talented architects that create castles and city states. But they are also fierce and expansionist warriors and their kingdoms are ensnared in a never ending war for survival. Oecophylla weaver ants.

The nests that weaver ants build out of leaves and silk from larve (that the ants use as “tiny cute glue guns”) are incredible. Since Kurzgesagt is animated, I went looking for some actual footage of weaver ants doing their thing. Here’s a clip from BBC Earth:

I found this video via The Kid Should See This, who explains that a mango orchard in Thailand uses the ants to keep pests away without using chemical pesticides:

In this mango orchard in Northern Thailand, weaver ants are nurtured so they can thrive and protect the harvest. The ants hunt the pests that would eat the mangoes, eliminating any need to use harmful chemical pesticides. The farmer creates strategic highways of red string to connect the weaver ants to new trees, expanding where they forage.

You can also watch this documentary on Australian weaver ants and this video from AntsCanada (whose videos always have amazing narration) to learn more about weaver ants.

Radioactive Diamond Batteries That Last for Thousands of Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 01, 2020

A pair of researchers from the University of Bristol have formed a company called Arkenlight to try to make diamond batteries out of nuclear waste that can potentially power devices for thousands of years. The betavoltaic batteries work by releasing beta radiation, which excites semiconductor material to produce electricity. These types of batteries don’t put out much power — they can’t replace your iPhone battery for example — but they do their thing for a loooong time.

Arkenlight is focused on creating batteries that have a diamond-like structure out of irradiated graphite, which is quite common.

But that’s where a radioactive isotope called carbon-14 may be able to help. Best known for its role in radiocarbon dating, which allows archaeologists to estimate the age of ancient artifacts, it can provide a boost to nuclear batteries because it can function both as a radioactive source and a semiconductor. It also has a half-life of 5,700 years, which means a carbon-14 nuclear battery could, in principle, power an electronic device for longer than humans have had written language.

I mean, it’s little more than a theory at this point so maybe it won’t be feasible after all, but what a brilliant idea: combining the radioactive source and the semiconductor (thereby upping the efficiency) and using nuclear waste to build the whole thing. Science at its most poetically useful. (via geoff manaugh)

MIT’s New Online Science Course About the Pandemic & SARS-CoV-2 Is Free & Open to the Public

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 01, 2020

MIT’s biology department is offering a new online class this fall called COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic. The class will be led by Richard Young and Facundo Batista and will include guest lectures by several leading authorities on Covid-19, coronaviruses, epidemiology, and immune systems like Anthony Fauci, Michael Mina, and Akiko Iwasaki. Here’s the course description and syllabus.

Lectures by leading experts on the fundamentals of coronavirus and host cell biology, immunology, epidemiology, clinical disease, and vaccine and therapeutic development.

MIT Covid-19 course syllabus

The first class is today, Sept 1st, at 11:30am ET and meets on Tuesday through December 8. Lectures are via live video but will be archived if you miss a class. There’s no homework or outside reading (it’s just the lectures), no pre-requisites needed, and it’s a 1-credit pass/fail exploratory course, so despite the source and subject matter, it should be fairly accessible. I’m taking the course and will let you know how it goes! (thx, meg)

Update: Here’s an archive of the first lecture by Bruce Walker of the Ragon Institute.

Archives    August 2020 »    July 2020 »    June 2020 »