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Entries for October 2021 (Archives)

 

Fuck Everything, We’re Doing 32 Book Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

Eggers Every Cover 01

Eggers Every Cover 02

Eggers Every Cover 03

Eggers Every Cover 04

Eggers Every Cover 05

For his new book, The Every, Dave Eggers and art director Sunra Thompson are doing 32 separate covers, with more to come “in perpetuity”.

Never one to shy away from pushing boundaries, Eggers teamed up with art director Sunra Thompson for the project, who discovered that the dust jacket printer they were using could run several cover designs on one sheet of paper at once, providing the means to print dozens of different versions at the same time. Thompson decided to exploit this printing feature, enlisting a boatload of artists to design a completely new version of The Every cover.

The hardcover version of the book featuring the 32+ designs will only be available on the McSweeney’s website and in independent bookstores, which doesn’t seem to include Bookshop.org. Amazon, says Eggers, can go pound sand.

“I don’t like bullies,” Eggers wrote in an email. “Amazon has been kicking sand in the face of independent bookstores for decades now.”

The novel follows a former forest ranger and tech skeptic, Delaney Wells, as she tries to take down a dangerous monopoly from the inside: a company called The Every, formed when the world’s most powerful e-commerce site merged with the biggest social media company/search engine.

“One of the themes of the book is the power of monopolies to dictate our choices, so it seemed a good opportunity to push back a bit against the monopoly, Amazon, that currently rules the book world,” he said. “So we started looking into how feasible it would be to make the hardcover available only through independent bookstores. Turns out it is very, very hard.”

The Unchosen One

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

The latest installment in the excellent Almost Famous series from the NY Times and Ben Proudfoot is about Devon Michael, who as a young actor was almost chosen to play Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Growing up, Michael had small roles in commercials, television shows and movies. At 9 years old, he understood that an opportunity like “Star Wars” could change his life. From 3,000, the producers narrowed it down to three, and soon Michael was at Skywalker Ranch doing a test screen with George Lucas and Natalie Portman.

It’s pretty poignant listening to Michael talk about the disappointment and disillusionment that followed his not getting chosen, as well as a different kind of hardship for Jake Lloyd, who was picked for the role.

How Radiohead Wrote the Perfect Bond Theme

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

For his YouTube channel Listening In, Barnaby Martin analyzed the theme that Radiohead wrote for the 2015 Bond film Spectre, a song that he calls “one of the greatest Bond themes ever written”. Somewhat notoriously (at least around these parts), the producers rejected this theme in favor of a lukewarm by Sam Smith.

After watching Martin’s video, you should watch the Spectre opening credits sequence with the Radiohead theme — it’s so much better than the theme they used in the film.

Honest Weights, Square Dealings

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

A test printing pattern from Tekserve

Ahhhh, The Verge has published an excerpt of Tamara Shopsin’s LaserWriter II, “a coming-of-age tale set in the legendary 90s indie NYC Mac repair shop TekServe — a voyage back in time to when the internet was new, when New York City was gritty, and when Apple made off-beat computers for weirdos”.

Joel explains that the LaserWriter II was discontinued almost ten years ago. But Tek always encourages people to fix them. Always. LaserWriter IIs are tanks, one of the most solid printers Apple ever made. The printer has only one design flaw, one thing that consistently breaks, and that flaw takes ten years to surface. Joel pauses for breath. Claire is on the edge of her seat.

He concludes, “The fan blades warp a little over time and suck in dust. This dust eventually gets into the optics and causes pages to ghost.”

Claire prints a test page from the LaserWriter II. The edges of the paper are bright white. They stipple to a black stripe of text in the center, in a kind of reverse ice cream sandwich.

Ghosting is a term used to cover a host of printing problems — double images, an image seen through the backside of the paper. Here Joel uses “ghost” to describe printing so faint it has not actually printed.

I recommend reading LaserWriter II, as well as Shopsin’s memoir Arbitrary Stupid Goal.

Date of Viking Visit to North America Pinpointed to 1021 AD

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

Using samples of chopped-down wood left behind by Viking explorers at their settlement in Newfoundland and known chemical markers of powerful solar storms in 993 AD, a group of scientists has determined the exact timing of the first-known visit of Europeans to North America: 1021 AD. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 471 years before Columbus.

A team of scientists looked at wood found at the L’Anse aux Meadows Viking site. In three cases the trees had been physically cut down, and moreover, they were clearly cut with metal tools — Vikings had metal implements at the time, but indigenous people did not. The wood was all from different trees (one was fir, and another juniper, for example). The key parts here are that the wood was all from trees that had been alive for many decades, and all had their waney edge intact as well.

The scientists extracted 127 samples from the wood, and 83 rings were examined. They used two methods to secure dates. The first was to compare the amount of carbon-14 in each ring with known atmospheric amounts from the time. This gives a rough date for the waney edge of the wood. They also then looked for an anomalous spike in carbon-14 in an inner ring, knowing this would have come from the 993 A.D. event, and then simply counted the rings outward from there to get the date of the waney edge.

In all three samples the waney edge was dated to the same year: 1021 A.D. This would be incredibly unlikely to occur at random.

Outstanding science. It’s incredible how much of a time machine these analysis tools are. There’s so much we don’t know about people who lived 1000 years ago, but it’s astounding that we know anything at all, particularly precise dates like this.

Update: From this Ars Technica piece, some more information on the precision of the dating:

Based on the development stages of certain cells in the waney layer, Dee, Kuitems, and their colleagues say that one of the trees was cut down in the spring, while another was cut down in the summer or fall. The third tree’s final season couldn’t be identified because the cells had been damaged by a conservation treatment, but the results suggest that the Norse cut down these trees within a few months of each other in 1021.

That lends additional support to the other evidence that the Norse only stayed in Newfoundland for a few years.

“One would imagine the dates would have been different if the occupation period of the site was very long,” Dee told Ars. “However, the fact all three of our samples produced the same date does not, of course, mean the site was only occupied for one year. It may indeed have been occupied longer. But I think it is true to say our results support a short occupation.”

Trailer for Season Two of The Great

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2021

Oh, I’m excited for this one. I’m not saying The Great was the best show I’ve seen over the past couple of years, but it’s definitely one of the most fun and enjoyable. A synopsis:

The Great is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history. A fictionalized, fun and anachronistic story of an idealistic, romantic young girl, who arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the mercurial Emperor Peter. Hoping for love and sunshine, she finds instead a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband, beat the church, baffle the military and get the court onside.

The Great was created by Tony McNamara, who co-wrote The Favourite — both have the same punchy, ribald dialogue. You can catch up on season one on Hulu while we wait for the season two premiere on Nov 19.

The Design of TV Key Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

When the TV watching experience moved from checking “your local listings” or TV Guide and surfing channels with your remote to scrolling through visual onscreen menus on streaming services, key art was born. Key art graphics are the images that identify shows in streaming menus — ok here, it’s just easier to show you:

key art for The Americans

key art for Chernobyl

key art for several other TV shows

Like the best movie posters and book covers, these images are bold and simple promotional signifiers of a larger piece of media, but as Rex Sorgatz argues in today’s edition of Why is this interesting?, key art is its own thing with its own set of constraints and challenges.

Good key art is so evocative, so iconic, that it becomes the image that springs to mind whenever you think about a show:

One neglected characteristic ties all these images together: They are all horizontal.

It sounds trivial, but going wide helped differentiate TV key art as its own medium, distinct from book covers and movie posters. And because these images appear on streaming platforms, they are unencumbered by other marketing copy, like taglines, cast and credits, and multifarious blurbs.

There is a simple purity to key art.

Sorgatz maintains an archive of his favorite key art here.

The Sounds from Mars

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

For the last nine months, NASA’s Perseverance rover has been rolling around on Mars taking photos and doing science. It’s also been recording audio of its environment with a pair of microphones and in this video, a pair of NASA scientists share some of those recordings and what we might learn about Mars from them.

This is one of my absolute favorite sounds. This is the sound of a helicopter flying on Mars. We used this sound to actually understand the propagation of sound in general through the Martian atmosphere, and it turns out that we were totally wrong with our models. The Martian atmosphere can propagate sound a lot further than we thought it could.

And surprisingly for me, that’s my friend Nina in the video! (We eclipse-chased together in 2017.) I knew she was working on the rovers but didn’t know she was going to pop up in this video I found on Twitter this morning. Fun!

A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

a discolored dollar bill found after Hurricane Sandy

a slipper found after Hurricane Katrina

a collection of tools from Anarctica

For the last ten years, artist Amy Balkin has been collecting artifacts related to the climate crisis. The collection is called A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting.

A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting is a collection of materials contributed by people living in places that may disappear because of the combined physical, political, and economic impacts of climate change, primarily sea level rise, erosion, desertification, and glacial melting.

From a piece about the archive in the New Yorker:

There is an incredible pathos to Balkin’s collection of things. In the light of imagined future eyes, tinged by loss, all manner of things become relevant that would otherwise pass unnoticed. Even two beer-bottle caps, in this context, are mesmerizing. Both are from places that are threatened with a certain kind of disappearance, or, at the very least, radical change; through their corrosion and fading, they seemed to foretell this disappearance somehow. And yet, paradoxically, looking at them, I knew that these pieces of metal would likely outlast me. A future person might see them in a museum, displayed with a label that reads “Beer-bottle caps, common in this time.” But what would that person’s world be like? What would be lost, between now and then, even as these fragments are shored up against ruin?

You can contribute to the archive — instructions for sending in an artifact are here.

Swirling Clay Landscape Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

a blue sky and green field landscape sculpted from clay

a blue sky and green field landscape sculpted from clay

a blue sky, green field, and river landscape sculpted from clay

Alisa Lariushkina uses air-dry clay to make swirling sculptures that look like landscape paintings. Lariushkina’s patterns and color palette evoke the style of Post-Impressionist painters — indeed she’s even recreated van Gogh’s Starry Night in clay. (via my modern met)

Formats Unpacked

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

From Storythings, a weekly newsletter called Formats Unpacked that takes a close look at different ways to tell stories and package content. Over the past year and a half, they have covered formats like Hot Ones:

The special magic ingredient — the spice in the sauce, if you will — is the way that each 20+ minute interview is guaranteed to become more compelling as it goes along. How many interview shows can you say that about?

The questions posed by the host, Sean Evans, are well researched softballs. The guests would all be having a comfortable enough time if they weren’t having to endure increasing levels of physical pain.

Army training prepares you for this sort of thing, media training not so much. By the time you reach Da Bomb — the scorching hot and apparently not-even-that-tasty 8th sauce — it’s hard not to let your personality show through.

The Show with Ze Frank:

Ze’s ideas were too small for TV, but perfectly in size and shape for the internet. He was probably too weird for TV too, which made him the perfect host for a daily internet video show in the era of MySpace, Bebo and early Youtube, when the web was still weird and unformed. Slate described him as a ‘Laptop Celebrity’ at the time, because the idea of YouTuber didn’t even exist yet.

Humans of New York:

Each story consists of nothing more than a single picture with a single quote, but it’s just enough to make the viewer feel as though the protagonist is speaking directly to them. We’re spared any unnecessary story arcs, dramatic backdrops, or interviewer intrusions. What we get is a story that someone had to get off their chest that day. Even if it means telling it to a stranger — in this instance Brandon Stanton, a six-foot-four photographer and blogger. Perhaps this tells us something about our desire for human connection, especially in big cities, where despite being surrounded by millions of people, it’s easy to feel alone or disconnected.

And the singles chart:

Every week, the chart created new stories — acts that were making their debut, roaring up the charts, being replaced by hotter new acts, or reaching the glorious summit of number one. The charts were an ongoing soap opera for pop fans, a mythic world in which their gods fought each other for supremacy.

You can check out the archive and subscribe here.

Captain Kirk Goes to Space: “It’s Indescribable”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

Last week, William Shatner finally got a chance to boldly go where he hadn’t actually been before: into space. And upon returning from the 11-minute flight, the 90-year-old TV spaceship captain had come down with more than a touch of the Overview Effect. From the transcript of his post-flight remarks:

If…. Everybody in the world needs to do this…

Everybody in the world needs to see the…” (begins to cry) “…It was unbelievable, unbelievable. I mean, you know the little things… weightlessness… to see the blue color just.. go WHIP by!!! And now you’re staring into blackness. That’s the thing… the covering of blue… this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around us. We think, ‘Oh, that’s blue the sky!’

And then suddenly you shoot up through it all of the sudden… as if you whip off the sheet off you when you are asleep and you’re looking into blackness. Into BLACK UGLINESS… And you look down and there’s the blue down there… and the black up there and it’s… it’s just… there is Mother Earth… and comfort… and there is ….is there death? I don’t know! Is that death? Is that the way death is?? WOOP, and it’s gone! Jesus…

It was so moving to me… this experience …it’s something unbelievable. You see it… yeah, you know… weightlessness… my stomach went up and I thought, ‘God, this is so weird…’ but not as weird as the covering of blue… this is what I never expected. Oh, it’s one thing to say, ‘Oh… the sky and the thing and the… gradual…’ It’s all true… but what isn’t true… what is unknown until you do it is… is this pillow.. There’s this soft blue… look at the the beauty of that color! And it’s so THIN! And you’re through it in an instant…

He continued:

I don’t know, I can’t even begin to express what I …what I would love to do is to communicate as much as possible … the jeopardy… the the the moment you see how… The vulnerability of everything, it’s so… small. This AIR which is keeping us alive is thinner than your skin! It’s… it’s a… it’s a sliver! It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the Universe! It’s negligible! This air… Mars doesn’t have it! No… nothing… I mean, this…

They should have sent a poet. Jokes aside, I’m sure that if I’d just returned from a flight into space, I’d would be equally flummoxed and unable to articulate what I’d just experienced. Hell, I couldn’t even talk after seeing a solar eclipse.

A Small Store

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

illustration of a Korean convenience store with a tree with yellow leaves outside of it

illustration of a Korean convenience store

illustration of a Korean convenience store with a fruit tree outside of it

Always great to check back in on the work of Me Kyeoung Lee, who has been drawing delicate & detailed portraits of convenience stores from around Korea. Check out her Instagram for more work and some behind-the-scenes — I was surprised at how large some of her drawings are. (via colossal)

The Slow Moving Coup

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

Others (like Timothy Snyder) have been saying this for months and years, but in a succinct 8-minute monologue, Bill Maher1 lays out what’s going to happen over the next three years that will pave the way for Donald Trump and the Republicans to take back the White House and set up the biggest political crisis in the United States since the Civil War.

A document came to light a few weeks ago called the Eastman Memo, which was basically a blueprint prepared for Trump on how he could steal the election after he lost it in November 2020. It outlined a plan for overturning the election by claiming that seven states actually had competing state slates of electors, which while not even remotely true, would have given Mike Pence the excuse to throw out those states and thus hand the election to Trump.

But of course the plan required election officials in those states to go along. Trump thought the ones who were Republican would. Most did not. And that’s what he’s been working on fixing ever since.

  1. You might have strong feelings about Bill Maher. Ok, fine. But he’s right about this.

Google’s Self-Driving Car Gyre

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

Folks who live on 15th Avenue in the Richmond district of San Francisco report that an abnormal number of Google’s self-driving cars are ending up swirling around at the end of their street.

“I noticed it while I was sleeping,” says Jennifer King. “I awoke to a strange hum and I thought there was a spacecraft outside my bedroom window.”

The visitors Jennifer King is talking about don’t just come at night. They come all day, right to the end of 15th Avenue, where there’s nothing else to do but make some kind of multi-point turn and head out the way they came in. Not long after that car is gone, there will be another, which will make the same turn and leave, before another car shows up and does the exact same thing. And while there are some pauses, it never really stops.

“There are some days where it can be up to 50,” King says of the Waymo count. “It’s literally every five minutes. And we’re all working from home, so this is what we hear.”

(via geoff manaugh)

Star Wars Oil Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Death Star

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

Check out these expressive impressionist oil paintings of scenes from Star Wars by Naci Caba. (He also does paintings of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.) Seeing futuristic sci-fi rendered in this medium is giving me a bit of cognitive dissonance.

You can buy prints and even the original oil paintings in his shop or at Etsy. (via digg)

An HD Walking Tour of the Giza Pyramids

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

If you, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Giza Pyramid Complex outside of Cairo, Egypt, this 2-hour HD walking tour is probably the next best thing — it feels like walking around about as much as a video can. Strap on those headphones for the full immersive experience. (via open culture)

Eight Hours of Floating in Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

This is 8 hours of an astronaut floating in a colorful galactic sea accompanied by ambient music, i.e. the sort of thing you would have experienced in the chill-out room at a rave in the 90s but is now selling for $70K even though it’s free? Anyway, it’s relaxing and mesmerizing. See also Hours and Hours of Relaxing & Meditative Videos. (via moss & fog)

The Graphic Edition of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

book cover for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

sample page spread for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

sample page spread for the graphic edition of On Tyranny

Originally written as a Facebook post in the wake of the 2016 election, Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century went on to become a bestseller and a prescient warning on what was to come for America. Now, a graphic edition of On Tyranny has been released, designed and illustrated by Nora Krug. From Steven Heller’s piece on the book in Print:

Krug’s goal for this project was to use her medium to echo Snyder’s call for action. “While it was important to me to create images that would highlight the contemporary relevance of Snyder’s message,” she writes, “the use of historic images was clearly essential. At moments in the book that refer to a particular event in time — such as this one about Hitler’s annexation of Austria, when Austrian Nazis captured Jews and forced them to scrub the streets clean — I felt that rather than showing my own visual representation of that event, it was more powerful to feature a historic photograph because of the immediacy of the medium that would make that moment in history come to life.”

Combining Krug’s drawings with historic materials gave her the license to contrast the documentary with the imagined, the factual with the poetic, and to create a narrative tension that emphasizes historical relationships. “More importantly,” she explains, “this combination of mediums allows me to admit to the fact that we don’t exist in a vacuum, that we can only exist in relationship to the past, that everything we think and feel is thought and felt in reference to it, that our future is deeply rooted in our history, and that we will always be active contributors to shaping how the past is viewed and what our future will look like.”

You can order the graphic version of On Tyranny here but it seems to be backordered in most places.

The Winners of the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

a fox walking in the dark

four cheetahs swimming in a raging river

a bird flying amongst snow-covered trees

a spider weaving a web

The Natural History Museum in London has announced the winners of the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest. Photos above are by Jonny Armstrong, Buddhilini de Soyza, Lasse Kurkela, and Vidyun R Hebbar.

Trans Dudes From History

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

In a two-part video series called Trans Dudes From History, Jackson Bird tells us about some historical people who were probably transgender or transmasculine.

Trans people have always existed, even if they didn’t have the same language we do now and even if most history books won’t tell you about them. In this first volume of my Trans Dudes From History series, I give an introduction to talking about people from history who maybe could’ve been trans and share the profiles of three people — a Spanish conquistador, a stagecoach driver, and a bronco buster — who all transgressed gender in some way.

The introduction in the first video (embedded above) — about history and how we even know people were trans before the language around that was even invented — is really interesting. Part two of Trans Dudes From History is right here.

The Most Important Device in the Universe

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

You’ve probably seen it: a dual-tubed generator console that’s appeared in movies and TV shows like Star Trek (all of them, pretty much), Knight Rider, V, Austin Powers, The Last Starfighter, and even Airplane II. This prop was originally built in the 70s and in the decades since has been placed in scenes requiring an impressive piece of high-tech equipment. The video above is a compilation of scenes in which the console has appeared (parts two & three of the compilation).

Reimagining Dinosaurs

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

The fossil record has provided us with so much information about plants, animals, and organisms that lived hundreds, thousands, millions, and even billions of years ago. But we are actually only seeing evidence of a tiny fraction of the species that lived then and even for those we do know about, there’s often much we still don’t know. Traditionally, dinosaurs have been depicted as drab and often terrible lizards but recent finds of soft tissues (skin, feathers, etc.) and an increased sense of imagination based on our current vibrant biodiversity has people thinking differently about how they looked and behaved.

The Trailer for The Beatles: Get Back

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

If you’re even just a little bit interested in The Beatles, popular music, or making creative work, The Beatles: Get Back looks really good. Directed by Peter Jackson and utilizing dozens of hours of footage shot in 1969, this six-hour series documents the Beatles recording Let It Be, their final studio album release, and playing their infamous rooftop concert. The series premieres on Disney+ on November 25 and an accompanying book is out now.

Previously: a six-minute preview of the series introduced by Jackson.

Fuzzy Moths Taking Flight in Super Slow Motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

In trying to explain what you’re about to see here, I cannot improve upon the Dr. Adrian Smith’s narration at the beginning of this video:

But sometimes I think the most useful thing I can do as a scientist is to point the fancy science cameras at some moths flapping their wings in front of a purple backdrop. I mean, whose day isn’t going to be better after watching a pink and purple rosy maple moth flying in super slow motion? This is a polyphemus moth, a gigantic species of silk moth. What you are seeing, like all the rest of the clips in this video, was filmed at 6,000 frames per second.

Most of the moths in the video are delightfully fuzzy and chonky — if these moths were birds, they’d be birbs. Shall we call them mopfs?

The rest of Smith’s AntLab videos are worth looking through — I’ve previously posted about his slow motion videos here. (via aeon)

Is the 3-Pointer Breaking Basketball?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2021

The three-point shot has become the focus of the offensive strategy of every successful NBA team. But is it also making the game boring?

The math states that scoring one-third of your shots from behind the 3-point line is as good as scoring half your shots from inside the line. In other words: Shooting as many 3s as possible will likely lead to a higher score.

The league took notice, and teams and players followed suit. 3s have become so prevalent in recent years that fans are criticizing the league for being oversaturated with them. Critics worry that the game is on the verge of becoming boring because everyone is trying to do the same thing. And that’s led some to wonder if the NBA should move the 3-point line back.

Check out the “additional reading” in the YouTube description, like The NBA is at a breaking point with three-point shooting and Is It Time to Move the NBA 3-Point Line Back? (2014).

The Most Iconic Book Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2021

book cover for A Clockwork Orange

book cover for The Great Gatsby

book cover for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

From Literary Hub, The 25 Most Iconic Book Covers in History. Some good ones shared in the comments as well. (thx, serge)

Previously Unpublished Photos of Indigenous Culture in Alaska Circa 1927

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2021

a woman and child

a group of four smiling women

a man wearing a fur coat

In 1927, photographer and ethnologist Edward S. Curtis travelled to the US territory of Alaska to photograph indigenous peoples and their cultures for his seminal work, The North American Indian. Some of the photos he took in Alaska were never published and make up a new exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art, Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs.

Begun in 1906, The North American Indian was the defining passion of Curtis’s life, an attempt to record, in writing and photography, the lives of the Indigenous peoples of the Southwestern, Western, and Northwestern United States. This trip, planned for a single season, would be the final voyage to complete his epic quest. Curtis took hundreds of images on his journey, only part of which were ultimately published. The rest sat, unseen, passed down through the family until today.

Edward Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs presents, for the first time to the public, images made from the unused original negatives. Over 100 images will comprise the exhibition, along with excerpts from the personal journals of Curtis and his daughter Beth that describe their often harrowing adventures in the Bering Sea.

You can see a selection of these photos online here and previously published photos by Curtis in Northwestern’s archive.

Update: Curtis’s photos are the subject of controversy and criticism, some of which you can read about here.

The North American Indian is a seminal and controversial blend of documentary and staged photography — one which contributes to much of the foundational imagery and, often-stereotypical, understanding possessed by white America about some 82-plus native tribes that the United States eradicated over a century of colonization. Much has been made about the complexities, contradictions, and conflicts of interest in Curtis’s masterwork, by Native and non-Native scholars. Some argue that in staging photographs and, at times, adding props or accessories, Curtis took liberties with the concept of ethnography, both imposing and reinforcing white notions of Native American appearances and culture. Others argue that without Curtis, there would be hardly any extant imagery of the cultural heritage of the tribes he worked with.

Entering the Acceptance Phase of the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2021

In the United States and in many other countries around the world, we’re slowly shifting away from the Covid-19 pandemic to SARS-CoV-2 being endemic (like the flu), Dr. Lucy McBride argues that we need to recalibrate our risk calculations and expectations of what’s safe & dangerous. From A COVID Serenity Prayer in The Atlantic:

For the past 18 months, my patients have craved straightforward answers: a simple “Yes-it’s perfectly safe” or “Go for it. Have fun!” or even a “No, you absolutely cannot” to quiet the endless loops of risk calculations. But medicine is not about certainty. It never has been.

The two things that patients want-reassurance that they won’t get COVID-19 and permission to engage in life-I cannot deliver, and I never will be able to. SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay. The virus will be woven into our everyday existence much like RSV, influenza, and other common coronaviruses are. The question isn’t whether we’ll be exposed to the novel coronavirus; it’s when.

And although many of us will inevitably get COVID-19, for the majority of vaccinated people, it won’t be so bad. The vaccines weren’t designed to wholly prevent COVID-19; they transformed it into a manageable illness like the flu.

That means that, from a decision-making perspective, we’re starting to reach the acceptance phase of the pandemic: a time when we must recalibrate our individual risk gauges, which have been completely thrown out of whack. The approach I’m embracing with patients boils down to a secular version of the serenity prayer. We need “the serenity to accept the things [we] cannot change, courage to change the things [we] can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The Walk of Life Hypothesis

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

The Walk of Life Project has set out to prove a simple hypothesis: Walk of Life by Dire Straits is the perfect song to end any movie. Like There Will Be Blood:

Or Dr. Strangelove:

Or Terminator 2:

Case closed, I think! (via fave 5)

Flat Earth FC

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

From 2019 to 2021, a small Spanish football team was renamed Flat Earth FC, both as a publicity stunt and because club president Javi Poves couldn’t understand how water “curves”.

“Football is the most popular sport and has the most impact worldwide, so creating a club dedicated to the flat earth movement is the best way to have a constant presence in the media,” said Poves earlier this year. “Flat Earth FC is the first football club whose followers are united by the most important thing, which is an idea.”

The club’s crest is now a circular image of the earth, pressed flat on to all kits, and fans are encouraged to spark regular conversations in their pursuit of answers from the powers that be. The team mascot? An astronaut. It’s a radical move, but the club is bringing in supporters from afar. “It’s really amazing to be part of this amazing movement,” says Flat Earth player Mario Cardete. “I think it’s more than a club.”

During the pandemic, the club also became anti-mask and anti-vax — because conspiracy theories come in price-saving 3-packs, I guess? Poves resigned in late 2020 and the club was renamed and then purchased by a larger club to become their reserve team. The Earth remains round.

Holographic Chromed Logos

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

colorful NASA logo

colorful Apple logo

colorful Burger King logo

colorful Prada logo

colorful Star Wars logo

I love these colorfully chromed-out logos designed by Martin Naumann — you can find dozens of them on his Instagram and at Behance. You can also buy an icon set of these logos for your phone.

As he explained on Behance, Naumann’s process for designing these is surprisingly simple — he zooms way in on RGB noise to generate a background gradient, blurs the logo, and then refracts the background using the height map. Cool! (via moss & fog)

Foraged Mushroom Collages

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

Using foraged mushrooms, berries, leaves, moss, and other natural materials, Heather Brooks makes these lovely and lively colorful collages, which she displays on Instagram and offers prints of on Etsy and on her website. (via life is so beautiful)

Hall & Oates × Nine Inch Nails

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

A mashup of I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) by Hall & Oates and Closer by Nine Inch Nails. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect, like dipping french fries into a Frosty or rolling in the snow after the sauna. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

I want to fuck you like an animal
(I can’t go for that)
I want to feel you from the inside
(No can do)

I got this from Dave Pell at Nextdraft — he said simply “trust me” and I’m glad I did.

See also Taylor Swift × Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen × Nine Inch Nails, both of which are better than they should be.

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

Anne Helen Petersen wrote about revenge bedtime procrastination, a familiar self-sabotage technique of the iPhone/timeline era.

Here is a potentially familiar scene. You are exhausted after working a full day, the sort of day when you felt like your attention was drawn in 20 different directions, where you were ricocheting between obligations and meetings and running six minutes late to pick-up and realizing that if you didn’t put that load of laundry in the wash now, at 9 pm, the rest of the week could very well collapse in on itself. You answered emails while stirring something on the stove. You answered different emails while half-listening to a story from a family member or roommate. You might have squeezed in some time for exercise, but you spent most of that time thinking about work: either periodically checking your phone or making mental to-do lists. You put your kids to bed, you let the dog outside, you turn off the lights, you’re ready for a much needed good night’s sleep — but then you can’t put yourself to bed.

You stay up binging a mediocre show. You can’t stop scrolling Instagram or Twitter or a dating app. You’re reading some overly-detailed breakdown of a sporting event, past or present or upcoming. You’re playing whatever dumb game you play on your phone.

I have been struggling mightily with this lately. I’ve been busier over the last few weeks than I have in years (since the kids were toddlers) and bedtime is generally the only time I have completely to myself. Refreshing Instagram or playing a game on my phone is the best way to mindlessly maximize that time in a low-energy way — and ensure that the next day will suck even more because I haven’t gotten enough rest. As Petersen puts it:

When you stay up late talking with friends of dancing or playing D&D, you are procrastinating going to bed, but you are also making a pretty good deal with yourself: the fun I’m having now is worth whatever suffering I’ll endure later. But most of the activities performed while revenge procrastinating don’t really compensate for the exhaustion they cause. They might feel essential and non-negotiable in the moment, as some semblance of “alone time,” but they’re really a double fuck you: they kinda suck in the moment, and they really suck in the cascading after-effects. You might feel like you’re soothing yourself, but maybe you’re just….punishing yourself?

The Crane That Fell in Love With Her Human Keeper

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

Walnut is a white-naped crane that lives in a Virginia endangered species breeding facility. She’s 23 years-old, was raised by humans, and developed a reputation for murdering potential mates. But Walnut eventually found a good match in bird keeper Chris Crowe, a 42 year-old human who she has bonded with. Crowe, as part of his duties at the zoo, has embraced his role as Walnut’s mate in order to inseminate her with semen from a male crane.

That summer, however, Crowe noticed that Walnut seemed interested in, well, him. When Crowe stopped by her yard, she would bow her head and raise her wings — motions that Crowe now recognizes as the first moves of a mating dance. “At first, I thought that she was just excited to see me,” Crowe says. “But then I’d see the other pairs doing the same things, and it kind of dawned on me.” Crowe accepted Walnut’s invitation to dance. Though he felt a little silly, he bobbed his head when Walnut bobbed hers, and raised and lowered his arms like wings. The two circled each other, and sometimes Walnut would make a loud, trumpeting call — the beginning of the white-naped crane love duet. If no one was around, Crowe would try to do the male part of the song — making a Homer Simpson-like “woo-hoo” — but Walnut never found his efforts satisfactory.

As the weather cooled, so did Walnut’s ardor. But in the spring, Walnut began greeting her keeper with bows again. This gave Crowe an idea: If Walnut thought he was her mate, maybe Crowe could make that year’s artificial insemination less stressful for both of them. “If we could get her able to do it without catching her, there’s no stress, no risk of injury,” Crowe says. “It’s much better for us and for the crane.” Lynch agreed. “As far as we knew, it had never been done before, but it seemed like a good thing to try,” he recalls.

Walnut no longer needs to be inseminated to help save her species but since cranes mate for life, her relationship with Crowe continues.

Like an old couple, Crowe and Walnut have fallen into a comfortable routine. After “mating” with Crowe, Walnut will often lay unfertilized eggs. Crowe replaces them with fake ones; the real ones would rot and get eaten by crows, which would prompt Walnut to lay more. The bird then spends long hours sitting on the dummy eggs, so Crowe helps her out whenever he gets the chance. “I go over and stand near the nest and I say, ‘You take a break.’ And she’ll wander off. She’ll go down into the creek and take a bath. Then she walks back after 15 or 20 minutes, and she’s ready to sit back on the nest again.”

Though he does his best to not be a deadbeat dad, Crowe knows he falls short of crane standards. These are creatures that, once paired up, rarely lose sight of their partner; Crowe, in contrast, disappears every weekend. But despite Crowe’s shortcomings, Walnut loves him unconditionally. In fact, this 12-pound bird’s capacity for boundless affection sets a standard that we all could learn from, Crowe says. “The ideal partner doesn’t exist. You have to accept certain things that people can’t change,” he explains. “I mean, she puts up with me even though I can’t dance or sing.”

Dynamic Ribboned Sculptures by Isabel Miramontes

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2021

sculpture of a woman walking, her dress flaring out

sculpture of two people intertwined in an embrace

sculpture of a man playing an invisible violin

It’s quite a neat trick of the artistically gifted to make figures cast in solid bronze seem like they’re moving, and that’s exactly what Isabel Miramontes has done with her ribboned sculptures of people. (via colossal)

Ancient Pre-Viking Skis Discovered in Norway

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

A pair of 1300-year-old skis has been discovered in an ice field in Norway. They are believed to be the best-preserved ancient skis ever found — even the bindings are mostly intact. The first of the pair was found back in 2014 and its mate was recently retrieved, an expedition you can witness in the video above.

It has been seven years since the discovery of the first ski at the Digervarden ice patch. We have patiently monitored the melt of the ice patch, in case the second ski of the pair should melt out. We were back in 2016 for a general survey of the ice patch, but the ice had not retreated much then. This year, we could see on satellite imagery that the ice patch had retreated compared to 2014. We decided to send out an archaeologist to check it.

One of the things they were hoping to find is how the skier was able to maintain forward motion with the skis, especially uphill. Modern cross-country skis rely on a texture (or wax) on the bottom of the ski to grip the snow while downhill skiers can apply skins to their skis to climb uphill. More than a thousand years ago, the choice was texture or animal fur:

One of the questions raised by the ski found in 2014 was if it originally had fur on the underside. This has major implications for the use of the ski. There were no nail holes along the sides of the 2014 ski which would have been a clear sign of the fastening of the fur. However, fur can also be glued to the underside, so we could not rule it out.

A furrow on the underside along the length of the ski, as you find on other prehistoric skis (and on modern cross-country skis), would solve the question. Such a furrow would have no function with an underside covered by fur. The 2014 ski did not show a furrow, but the new and better preserved ski does! So, probably no fur-lining.

(thx, meg)

Straight Outta Compton, Polka Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

From a YouTube channel called There I Ruined It, this is NWA’s Straight Outta Compton reimagined as a Bavarian polka. You’re….welcome? (via digg)

Simpson’s Paradox, a Mindblowing Statistical Gotcha

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

Even for mathematically minded folks, statistics can be hard to grasp. Take statistical paradoxes for example: Simpson’s Paradox is a real mind-boggler. Ryan Anderson explains this paradox in a recent issue of Why is this interesting?

It’s simple to describe, yet it still stops me in my tracks when I see it in the wild. The paradox is that a measurable effect on a large population disappears, or even reverses when that population is split into subgroups. The cause of these results is almost always a material change in the denominators from one period to the next.

Showing is easier than telling with paradoxes, so here is a classic example: In 1995 and 1996, David Justice had a higher batting average than Derek Jeter in each year. However, Jeter had a higher cumulative batting average over those two years.

It’s true; look:

comparison of batting averages

Anderson continues:

How does this work? Jeter’s 1996 stats accounted for over 92% of his total performance over the two years, as he was 20 years old and only called up to the major league for a few games in 1995. Meanwhile, Justice’s 1996 stats were only 25% of his total performance due to a separated shoulder he suffered barely two months into the season. So while Justice performed better on smaller sample size, Jeter’s 183 hits in 1996 were the strongest signal for overall performance.

Read the rest of the piece; he goes on to connect statistical paradoxes to efforts to mislead people about the pandemic and vaccine effectiveness.

Update: A pair of videos on Simpson’s Paradox, in case you need some more explanation or examples.

(thx, @JunieGrrl)

Tycho’s Red Rocks DJ Set

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2021

Tycho, who you might remember from his annual Burning Man sunrise sets, recently released his first DJ set in two years: a 1.5-hour session at Red Rocks from July.

Tycho · Red Rocks DJ Set 2021

Time Lapse Map of Covid-19’s Spread Across the US, 2/2020 to 9/2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

Using data from Johns Hopkins, this time lapse video shows the spread of Covid-19 across the US from Feb 2020 to Sept 2021. This looks so much like small fires exploding into raging infernos and then dying down before flaring up all over again. Indeed, forest fire metaphors seem to be particularly useful in describing pandemics like this.

Think of COVID-19 as a fire burning in a forest. All of us are trees. The R0 is the wind speed. The higher it is, the faster the fire tears through the forest. But just like a forest fire, COVID-19 needs fuel to keep going. We’re the fuel.

In other forest fire metaphorical scenarios, people are ‘kindling’, ‘sparks being thrown off’ (when infecting others) and ‘fuel’ (when becoming infected). In these cases, fire metaphors convey the dangers posed by people being in close proximity to one another, but without directly attributing blame: people are described as inanimate entities (trees, kindling, fuel) that are consumed by the fire they contribute to spread.

See also A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death (from July 2020).

A Rubens Masterpiece? Or a Fake?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

This is Samson and Delilah, a painting attributed to the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens that hangs in the National Gallery in Britain.

a painting of Samson and Delilah attributed to the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens

Since the late 90s, there’s been some doubt cast upon the painting’s authorship, summarized in this short video:

From a recent piece in the Guardian about an AI art-analysis algorithm that declared Samson and Delilah is not a Rubens painting:

Critics have long argued that it is only a copy of a Rubens original that is known to have been painted between 1608 and 1609 for his Antwerp patron Nicolaas Rockox which then disappeared after his death in 1640.

They argue that the National Gallery picture is a different painting, one that only surfaced in 1929, declared a Rubens by Ludwig Burchard, an expert who, after his death in 1960, was found to have misattributed paintings by giving out certificates of authenticity for commercial gain.

The picture’s critics dismiss its colours as uncharacteristic of Rubens’s palette and its composition as awkward. They question why, for example, it differs from two contemporary copies made from Rubens’s original. The toes of Samson’s outstretched right foot, for example, are cropped in the National Gallery version, while they are shown in an engraving by Jacob Matham and a painting that depicts the Samson and Delilah hanging in Rockox’s home by Frans Francken the Younger.

What Would Life on a Flat Earth Be Like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

So let’s say, for the sake of argument and against all scientific evidence to the contrary, the Earth was flat instead of being an oblate spheroid. What would life on a flat Earth be like? Well for one thing, gravity would present some challenges. From a 2018 piece by Doug Main at the Columbia Climate School:

People who believe in a flat Earth assume that gravity would pull straight down, but there’s no evidence to suggest it would work that way. What we know about gravity suggests it would pull toward the center of the disk. That means it would only pull straight down at one point on the center of the disk. As you got increasingly far from the center, gravity would tug more and more horizontally. This would have some strange impacts, like sucking all the water toward the center of the world, and making trees and plants grow diagonally, since they develop in the opposite direction of gravity’s pull.

And even more than that, gravity would tend to pull a flat disc shape back into a spheroid, so absent an intense spinning force (for which there is zero evidence) or some other completely unknown effect, a flat Earth couldn’t even exist:

For Earth to take the shape of a flat disk in the first place, gravity — as we know it — must be having no effect. If it did, it would soon pull the planet back into a spheroid.

A flat Earth would also likely not have a magnetic field (or at least one that is scientifically possible), meaning no atmosphere:

Deep below ground, the solid core of the Earth generates the planet’s magnetic field. But in a flat planet, that would have to be replaced by something else. Perhaps a flat sheet of liquid metal. That, however, wouldn’t rotate in a way that creates a magnetic field. Without a magnetic field, charged particles from the sun would fry the planet. They could strip away the atmosphere, as they did after Mars lost its magnetic field, and the air and oceans would escape into space.

Oh and no tectonic plates, volcanos, mountains, etc. Or GPS. Or weather. Or satellites. Or different night skies in, say, South Africa and Denmark. Or the Sun behaving the way it does in respect to the Earth. Or air travel. Or plant and animal life as it exists presently. To suppose a flat Earth also supposes that physics doesn’t explain our observable universe the way in which it reliably and comprehensively does. The simplest, best evidence for a round Earth is that we’re here living on it in the manner in which we are living on it.

A million people can call the mountains a fiction, yet it need not trouble you as you stand atop them.

See also What If the Earth Suddenly Turned Flat?, Flat Earthers and the Double-Edged Sword of American Magical Thinking, and Flat Earthers Listening to Daft Punk.

Fighter Jets, Organized Neatly

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

Ognyan Stefanov Plane Tetris

Remember the Tetris challenge, the trend where workers of various professions laid out all of their gear in a neat, pleasing fashion, aka knolling? Well, the Bulgarian Air Force really knocked it out of the park with this photo by Ognyan Stefanov. Yes, those are all actual planes and objects and people, not miniatures. Never has the military industrial complex seemed so twee.

See also Things Organized Neatly, Common Objects Painstakingly Organized into Patterns, and Saltine Crackers Arranged Artfully Is Extremely My Jam. (via @davidgagne)

The Nature Conservancy’s 2021 Global Photo Contest Winners

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

a gorilla surrounded by butterflies

an alligator carcass on dry, cracked soil

an overhead view of a boat surrounded by lily pads

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization focused on conservation and addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. The winners of their 2021 Global Photo Contest have interpreted the Conservancy’s mission in a number of different ways. Above are three of my favorite shots from the contest; photo credits from top to bottom: Anup Shah, Daniel De Granville Manço, Manh Cuong Vu.

The Short Horror Film Hidden in Spider-Man 2

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

I love Evan Puschak’s short analysis of a two-and-a-half minute scene from Sam Raimi’s 2004 film, Spider-Man 2. Raimi, a horror movie veteran, basically snuck a tight horror sequence into a PG-13 superhero movie — it’s a little cheesy, bloodless, and terrifying.

The Simple Physics Trick That Helps Trains Stay on Their Tracks

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

Train wheels do not sit completely flat on the tracks — they’re designed with a slight taper that increases the stability of the train and allows the train to go around curves without any of the wheels skidding. In this short video, Tadashi Tokieda explains how those conical wheels keep trains on track.

See also Richard Feynman’s explanation of this and this science project at Scientific American. (via the prepared)

Letters to the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

a book of letters to the future printed on recycled plastic

a book of letters to the future printed on recycled plastic

a book of letters to the future printed on recycled plastic

To raise awareness around plastic’s resistance to decomposition (it won’t break down for 1000 years), Vietnamese creative agency Ki Saigon has designed a book out of recycled plastic containing letters to read a millennium from now.

“There was a lot of trial and error” when putting the book together, says Kumkum. For starters, what does one say to their future family members? Ki Saigon decided to provide a guide for the letters, asking each participant to imagine what they would like to hear from them, given the fact the book will still be around in 1000 years. Each letter is also hand written, adding another dimension to the project while “staying true to the spirit of the project.”

A time capsule with no container needed.

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