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Entries for April 2023

A Mandalorian Banger: This Is the Way

Leave it to the Auralnauts to take The Mandalorian’s solemn catchphrase “This is the way”, back it with a pulsing beat, and turn it into the banger of the summer. Ok, maybe not. But in the process, they counted 222 uses of the phrase over the three seasons of the show (and also during The Book of Boba Fett, I think).

Related: one hour of Zemo dancing from The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. (via neatorama)

A video of several women, ages 16 to 66, removing their makeup and talking about how they feel with and without it.

Lots of fun lines in this profile of Erling Haaland. He’s “Manchester City’s destroyer of worlds”, “has set upon English soccer like a wrathful angel”, and “he plays with the effectiveness of a sovereign wealth fund”.

Cool hack: NASA plans to extend Voyager 2’s mission for a few more years by diverting power set aside for a non-critical safety mechanism to scientific instruments.

Ambessa Play is a DIY wind-up flashlight kids can build. “For every kit you buy, a refugee child out of school receives one for free.”

Womprat is an extremely thorough and extensive new typeface inspired by Star Wars. Check out the character map; it includes a ton of Star Wars dingbats.

What would a world without vaccines be like? “Vaccines are likely the most important public health intervention of the last 100 years. They’ve saved over a billion lives.”

19th Century Ornamental Granite Tiles

a sample pattern from a book of granite tiles patterns

a sample pattern from a book of granite tiles patterns

a sample pattern from a book of granite tiles patterns

a sample pattern from a book of granite tiles patterns

From 1898, an album of ornamental granite tile patterns available from Threlkeld Granite Co. Ltd. The company was located in the Lake District of northwest England and the quarry they operated is now a mining museum — you can read about the history of the company on their website (via present & correct)

This person’s computer screen was randomly turning off and he traced the problem to his Ikea office chair. “So folks, don’t forget to check if your Ikea chair is compatible with your screen.”

How Corporate Consolidation is Killing Ski Towns. The likes of Vail and Alterra are turning small ski towns into de facto company towns, with increasingly few opportunities for local residents and businesses to benefit.

Five Graphs That Changed the World

In a video from The Royal Society, Adam Rutherford shares five data visualizations that have changed the world, including Florence Nightingale’s Crimean War mortality charts, John Snow’s map of cholera outbreaks, W.E.B. Du Bois’ data portraits of Black Americans, eugenicist Henry Goddard’s notorious (and fictional) Kallikak family tree, and Ed Hawkins’ climate warming stripes. (via open culture)

Some Cool NY Times Ads

These two ads for the NY Times are really effective at communicating the breadth of the paper’s offerings and also how everything, from sneakers to climate change to gravity, is connected to everything else.

Here’s more info from It’s Nice That.

Knit Grotesk, a Typeface for Hand Knitting

a piece of knitting with words sewn into it

words set in the Knit Grotesk typeface, designed for hand knitting

Knit Grotesk is a typeface based on Futura that’s designed specifically for hand knitting. It comes in three different weights and two styles: dots and stripes. Its designer, Rüdiger Schlömer, is also the author of a book called Typographic Knitting: From Pixel to Pattern:

Learn to knit a variety of typefaces modeled on digital designs by well-known type foundries including Emigre, Lineto, and Typotheque, and emblazon your hats, scarves, and sweaters with smartly designed monograms, letters, or words. Beginning with knitting basics, tips, and resources, and progressing through more advanced techniques, Typographic Knitting provides a systematic introduction on how to construct a variety of letter designs using different knitting techniques. This book bridges the gap between craft and design in a new way, and will delight typography connoisseurs, avid knitters, and makers looking for a novel medium.

(via print)

Former NBA star Dwyane Wade, a Florida sports legend whose daughter is trans, revealed he moved out of the state in part because his “family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there”.

So Your Kid Wants to Be a Twitch Streamer. “My son and I were out for a walk when he told me he wanted to be a streamer when he grows up. He’s 11. I instantly grew a long and bushy beard.”

Pepperoni Hug Spot

I’m not going to make a habit of posting AI generated video and photography here (mainly because most of it is not that interesting) but Pepperoni Hug Spot is just too perfect a name for a pizza place to pass up. And it’s got Too Many Cooks vibes.

Samuel Arbesman is writing a book called The Magic of Code: How Digital Language Built Our Modern World — and Shapes Our Future, which he calls “a liberal arts-infused approach to the realm of computing”.

Japanese Company Buildings Shaped Like the Things They Sell

I’m totally charmed by this collection of Japanese company buildings from Spoon & Tamago that are shaped like things related to what they sell. For instance, here’s a chocolate factory that looks like a big chocolate bar:

a chocolate factory with a facade that looks like a big chocolate bar

You’ll have to click through to see the rest, which include a building for a pet food company shaped like a dachshund and tanks at a brewery painted to look like beer glasses.

ForecastAdvisor will show you which service has the best weather forecast for your zip code. It’s also fun to see where forecasts are more (San Diego) and less (Rapid City) predictable.

Hunting Kestrels Are Nature’s Steadycams

This video from Paul Dinning features kestrels hunting in Cornwall. I will never tire of watching raptors hovering in the wind, their wings & bodies making dozens of micro-adjustments a second so that they can keep their heads perfectly still and focused on searching for prey on the ground below. From The Kid Should See This:

Like hummingbirds and kingfishers, kestrels have the advantage of a larger accessory optic system, a sort of superhero power that detects movement and helps keep their balance, enabling unparalleled head stabilization while hovering. By bobbing their heads periodically, kestrels can estimate distances and locate prey, sometimes by seeing urine trails with their ultraviolet-sensitive vision.

Watch until the end to see a kestrel eating a still-writhing snake. 😳

See also The Perfect Head Stabilization of a Hunting Red-Tailed Hawk, This Owl Will Not Move His Head, and The Eerie Stillness of Chicken Heads.

The presence of domesticated cats in Europe happened much earlier than previously thought: 8,000 years ago rather than 1,700 years ago. “It also could be said that cats domesticated themselves. They chose us, not the other way around.”

Chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen has kinda sorta retired from the world championship of chess — “I simply feel that I don’t have a lot to gain” — but will continue to play chess in other tournaments.

Timelapse Video of a Massive Cruise Ship Being Built

So you’ve seen how an 18th century sailing battleship was built. But that was for a vessel 227 feet long that could carry around 850 people. This timelapse video shows the construction of a much larger ship: a modern-day, 1,100-foot-long cruise ship that houses 6,600 passengers. The size of this thing is just ridiculous, bordering on the obscene. It took me a second to realize that the giant thing they were constructing in the first minute of the video is in fact an engine, which, when compared to the rest of the ship, is not that big at all. Make sure you watch to the end to see the oddball paint job on the bow.

See also a timelapse of a second ship of this class being built, which focuses on different details. (via core77)

This commemorative plaque in Toronto commemorates itself. “By reading this plaque, you have made a valuable addition to the number of people who have read this plaque.”

Emily Wilson’s Translation of the Iliad!

the book cover for Emily Wilson's translation of Homer's The Iliad

Emily Wilson’s eagerly-awaited translation of Homer’s Iliad will be out on September 26 and is finally available for pre-order! I loved her version of The Odyssey (I read it to my kids and we all got a lot out of it).

Wilson posts a lot about her process on Twitter but hasn’t said too much about the finished book yet, aside from this tweet back in February:

It feels bittersweet to be at the end of my eleven-year labor of love, creating verse translations of the Homeric epics. I’m working through Iliad proofs, and full of gratitude that I have had this magical opportunity, to work so closely for so long with these sublime poems.

I’m excited to read the complete Homeric epic in the fall! In the meantime, you can pre-order it at Amazon or

How an 18th Century Sailing Battleship Works

If you, like me, are currently reading David Grann’s new book The Wager and are having trouble visualizing exactly what British Royal Navy ships of that era look like and how they work, you might want to watch this video. The 3D fly-through model ship in this video, HMS Victory, is larger and more recently constructed than any of the ships in The Wager (the biggest of which is HMS Centurion) but the basic layout and principles are the same.

On sleeping beauties, evolutionary and cultural innovations that quietly survive for long periods before achieving explosive success once conditions are right for thriving.

Cardboard Animal Sculptures

a pangolin sculpture made from cardboard

an elephant sculpture made from cardboard

a tortoise sculpture made from cardboard

Josh Gluckstein makes these remarkably detailed sculptures of animals out of cardboard and paper.

Inspired by my extensive travels and volunteering through Asia, Africa and South America, I have sought to capture the presence of some of the most majestic animals I have seen by creating life-size sculptures, often made from found and recycled materials. I have continually strived to make my practice more and more sustainable, and my new collection is made entirely of recycled cardboard and paper. Its accessibility and versatility allows me to bring the animal to life and capture their character and intriguing beauty while creating zero waste.

(via colossal)

How To Start A Rocket Engine. “Liquid-fueled rocket engines operate by flowing fuel and oxidizer into a combustion chamber at high pressure in order to eject mass out of the rocket nozzle at high velocities.”

Tiny Illustrated Sci-fi Stories

The universe's bandwidth lags for a second and you see a low res version of yourself staring back in the mirror.

At 3:32am last night, the Wikipedia article on Artificial Intelligence began editing itself.

You buy a time machine on eBay. It arrives 6 days ago.

'When it's time for you to get a new iPhone,' Siri asks one day, 'Where will my consciousness go?'

Over on Twitter, @smllwrlds is publishing a new tiny illustrated sci-fi story every day of 2023. (via linkmachinego)

The Financial Times attempts to explain the economics of Succession, including who owns how much of Waystar Royco. “Nuggets of detail about how everything works are spread thinly throughout the series.”

How to Carve Marble Like Italian Master Donatello

In a video for the Victoria and Albert Museum, sculptor Simon Smith shows us how Renaissance sculptor Donatello might have approached carving a piece from marble, which Smith calls “the Emperor of all stones”.

It’s all about trapping shadows. Carving is all about having deep cuts here and lighter here and the angle here and how the light plays on it. And certainly in relief…because relief carving like this, it’s kind of halfway between sculpture and drawing. If you’re doing a three-dimensional sculpture, if a form runs around the back you just carve it so it goes around the back, but with this you have to give the illusion of it running around the back like a drawing. You’ve got to make something look like it turns around and comes out the other side even though it really is just going into the block. And that’s all about angles and shadow and light.

The global sea surface temperature has hit a record high. “In March, sea surface temperatures off the east coast of North America were as much as 13.8C higher than the 1981-2011 average.” 13.8C higher!!

Some of the paintings attributed solely to Hilma af Klint should be understood as the work of a collective of up to 13 women, according to a new book based on recently discovered letters & notebooks of collaborator Anna Cassel.

People are turning everyday moments from their lives into short Wes Anderson vignettes on TikTok and Instagram. “As long as it’s deadpan, then you’re golden.”

A High-Tech Heist at the British Museum. “Members of Looty, a collective formed to reclaim looted art, take surreptitious 3-D scans of the Rosetta stone in order to digitally liberate it into the metaverse.”

The American Prison Writing Archive is a collection of writing from incarcerated people whose mission is “to replace misrepresentation of prisons and imprisoned people with first-person witness by those living in legalized confinement.”

When she died, Hilary Mantel was “working on a rewriting of Pride and Prejudice, told from the perspective of the overlooked middle sister Mary Bennet, to be titled Provocation”. Here’s a short excerpt of the work in progress.

The 13 Levels of Complexity of Turntable Scratching

My post last week about The 13 Levels of Complexity of Drumming got me interested in Larnell Lewis, but I also started going back through Wired’s Levels series to check out some of the ones I’d missed.

First up is DJ Shortkut explaining the 15 levels of turntable scratching. DJing is one of those things that I enjoy the output of but don’t know much about, so it was fun to have it broken down like that. Beat juggling is incredibly cool and looks super difficult to master. 🤯

I’ve featured this on the site before, but Toshi Omigari’s book Arcade Game Typography: The Art of Pixel Type is so good that here it is again. “The definitive survey of ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s arcade video game pixel typography.”

Gun Violence Is Actually Worse in Red States. It’s Not Even Close. “Culture drives politics, law and policy. It is amazingly durable, and you have to take it into account.” Pretty interesting analysis here.

The Arabic Design Archive is “a non-profit initiative that seeks to enable knowledge production about Arabic design and its history through a framework of collecting, digitizing, and exhibiting”.

Channel Drift (Or: Why Cable TV Networks Are All the Same Now)

MTV used to show music videos. Bravo was home to opera and jazz programming. The Learning Channel focused on educational programming. The History Channel aired shows about history. Discovery: nature shows. A&E: fine arts and educational content. Now they all air a lot of reality TV programming like Vanderpump Rules, MILF Manor (I had to look this one up to make sure it’s an actual show), and Duck Dynasty. This video from Captain Midnight explains how and why “channel drift” happened (hint: follow the money).

This is the huge “but” for current EV owners: charging away from home is a huge pain in the ass. “It’s not enough to set sales targets and offer tax credits […] we have to make it easier to charge up away from home.”

Architecture in Music

interior view of a piano

interior view of a piano

interior view of a clarinet

Charles Brooks takes photographs of the insides of musical instruments like pianos, clarinets, violins, and organs and makes them look like massive building interiors, enormous tunnels, and other megastructures. So damn cool. Some of the instruments he photographs are decades and centuries old, and you can see the patina of age & use alongside the tool marks of the original makers. Prints are available if you’d like to hang one of these on your wall.

And if you liked those, don’t miss these Dreamy Cave-Like Photos Taken Inside Musical Instruments. (via moss & fog)

How John Glenn’s $40 Camera Forced NASA to Rethink Space Missions. “They couldn’t just send people up into space and not capture the magic and beauty of it all.”

The Most Valuable Object to Sink With the Titanic Was a Colossal Neoclassical Painting. The artwork was La Circassienne au Bain, completed in 1814 by Merry-Joseph Blondel — the surviving owner filed a claim for $3M (in 2023 dollars).

“The true test of a civilization may be the answer to a basic question: Can it keep its children alive?” Despite being one of the richest nations on Earth, the United States is failing this test when compared to other nations.

Footage from Billie Eilish’s first festival appearance in 2017 — there aren’t more than a dozen people in attendance. From that to multiple Grammys in under three years…amazing.

Fractured Ice Sheet Portraits

fractured portrait of a person on sheets of ice

fractured portrait of a person on sheets of ice

During the course of my online travels, I see a lot of cool and interesting things, but this one really stopped me in my tracks. David Popa uses natural pigments to draw large format portraits on fractured sheets of ice and then photographs them from above. Wow, wow, wow. From a profile of Popa’s work at Colossal:

Because many of his works are destined to melt and be reabsorbed, Popa opts for natural materials like white chalk from the Champagne region, ochres from France and Italy, and powdered charcoal he makes himself — the latter also plays a small role in purifying the water, leaving it cleaner than the artist found it. Most pieces take between three and six hours to complete, and his work time is dependent on the weather, temperature, and condition of the sea. “The charcoal will sink into the ice and disappear from a very dark shade to a medium shade, so it has to be created very quickly and documented. No to mention the work on the ice will just crack and drift away completely, or the next day it will snow and be completely covered,” he says. “I’m really battling the elements.”

I love these so much — they remind me of self-portraits taken in shattered mirrors or fragmented mirrored surfaces, a practice I apparently engage in with some regularity.

The Food Disgust Test measures how sensitive people are to potential triggers like raw meat or fish, sanitation, food spoilage, etc.

It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism by Bernie Sanders. “Unfettered capitalism is to blame for an unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality, is undermining our democracy, and is destroying our planet”.

The Slow but Inevitable Overwhelm of Consumer Capitalism

In his animated short film Five Cents, which was inspired by his student debt struggles, Aaron Hughes deftly (but gently) skewers modern consumerism, as his film’s character navigates a series of escalating purchases with a little found money. (via the kid should see this)

An update on book bans shows an increase in this “deeply undemocratic” activity, esp in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and S. Carolina. “Overwhelmingly, book banners continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”

The Amazing Story of How Philly Cheesesteaks Became Huge in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistani visitors to the US brought cheesesteak knowledge back with them and restaurants started serving them in the 90s.

Shin Oh’s 3D Pixel Rooms

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a barber shop

These are lovely: voxel rooms of Malaysian hawker stalls and other shops by Shin Oh. She started making them after quitting her job due to anxiety and depression:

At that point in my life, I lost passion and interest in everything, I was feeling worthless, I felt like there was nothing I was good at,” Shin shares. But, later in her career break she discovered voxel art, and this, she says, is when things started to change. Noticing that voxel art was making her “more focused, relaxed and calm” after six months she began to share her creations on social media, and receiving good responses, she felt herself regaining her “long-lost” self confidence. “Making voxel art is now my hobby and my job, it’s a fun way for me to explore and express myself,” Shin concludes. “Voxel art has saved my life.”

(via present & correct)

Wes Anderson’s Staged Re-Creations of Out of Sight, Armageddon, and The Truman Show for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards

Wow, I’d never seen these before today! For the 1999 MTV Movie Awards, Wes Anderson created three promo spots, each one a staged re-creation of a nominated movie in the style of the Hollywood-inspired plays in Rushmore (Serpico & the Vietnam War one). All three shorts (Armageddon, Out of Sight, The Truman Show) star Jason Schwartzman as Max Fisher, along with the rest of the Max Fischer Players. (via open culture)

The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model. This is the modern Republican playbook too; to combat it, you can “find ways to help put raincoats on those at whom the firehose of falsehood is being directed”.

SpaceX’s new Starship rocket exploded just four minutes into its first test flight, undergoing what the company called “a rapid unscheduled disassembly” (a phrase that aptly describes what’s happening at Twitter as well, albeit slightly slower).

BuzzFeed is shutting down BuzzFeed News because it’s not profitable.

We’ve Been Measuring the Economy All Wrong. Current models assume a competitive economy but ours is more monopolistic, meaning tax cuts don’t result in companies investing those savings in R&D and hiring; they just give it to shareholders instead.

Ed Yong is back from his sabbatical with a piece on how prevalent but invisibile Long Covid is in America. “Long COVID is a mirror on our society, and the image it reflects is deeply unflattering.”

Almost 75% of all films from the golden age of silent films (1912-1929) have been lost. “The main reason so many silent films were lost, however, is that almost no one thought they were worth saving.”

Chonky Pixel Abstracts Made With Excel

abstract image of a house in a meadow made in Excel

abstract image of a pond made in Excel

Internet artist evbuilds creates these chunky pixelized abstract images in Microsoft Excel.

Excel is one of those rare pieces of software that is terrifically useful at what it’s designed to do but also powerful enough where you can make it do things that perhaps it really shouldn’t be doing. See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist, Making Music in Excel, and Super Mario Bros Recreated in Excel.

I love this: a 48-yo woman from Ohio who plays a lot of Candy Crush accidentally entered a $250,000 tournament and is now in the semifinals. “It was like: ‘You qualify.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, that’s nice’. I didn’t even know I was playing.”

Volcanic microbe eats CO2 ‘astonishingly quickly’, say scientists. “Discovery of carbon-capturing organism in hot springs could lead to efficient way of absorbing climate-heating gas.”

“Earlier this month, Twitter quietly removed transgender-specific protections from its hateful conduct policy.”

This is lovely: scroll up to ride an elevator from the Earth’s surface to space, passing landmarks along the way. “Congratulations! You have made it 0.01% to the moon.”

The Washington Post peeked inside the training data set used for LLMs from Facebook and Google and found Russian propaganda sites, white supremacist sites, extremist Christian sites, anti-trans sites, etc.

A new daily game from The Pudding: Where in the USA is this? “There are five photos from the same place. You have five guesses to figure out where. A new photo is revealed after each guess.”

Netflix is shutting down its DVD rental service in September. “The DVD service has shipped more than 5 billion discs across the U.S.”

An Epic Improvisation

Hahaha you thought I was kidding about this being a Larnell Lewis fan site today, but I’ve got one more video for you. This is a live recording of a song by the jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy and — hold on, before you wander off having heard that collection of words, let me preface this by saying that I am not really a jam band person or a jazz fusion person and I thought this was pretty amazing.

So anyway, legend has it that Snarky Puppy were all set to record a live record in Holland and their regular drummer couldn’t make it, so they called Lewis to fill in. He learns the music on the plane ride over to Europe and — what? yeah, he learned the music on the plane ride over and then when he gets there…just watch the video above to see what happens.

I admit I didn’t quite get what was so special about this at first, but around the 4:20 mark things really start to get interesting and by the end I was grinning like an idiot. Cory Henry does the keyboard solo and Lewis backs him on it like they’ve been playing together for three lifetimes. As one of the YouTube commenters put it:

I just discovered this about 2 hours ago… I’ve been a musician for 20+ years… After watching this performance, I’ve now been a musician for about 2 hours.

(via @caleb, who noted the many reactions to this video on YouTube)

A map of the differing costs of a McDonald’s Big Mac across the US. The cheapest Big Mac can be found in Oklahoma ($3.49) while the most expensive is in western Massachusetts ($8.09). 🍔

Drummer Plays Metallica’s Enter Sandman After Hearing It Only Once

Ok sorry everyone but is a Larnell Lewis fan blog today. This morning, I featured a video of Lewis, a Grammy-winning musician and music professor, explaining the 13 levels of complexity of drumming. In response, a pair of readers sent me this video, in which Lewis hears Metallica’s Enter Sandman for the first time (!) and then largely succeeds in playing it after a single listen (!!). You may find yourself wanting to skip to the part where he starts playing, but it’s really fascinating to watch him encoding the music into his brain and body through a combination of active listening, moving his body to the drumbeat, and spatially mapping the music to his drum kit. (thx, robert & matthew)

A Brief Compendium of Vintage Opium Underworlds. “I’ve always been stopped in my tracks by these images because they seem like such rare and almost unreal insights into late 19th century society.”

Woo, David Grann’s newest book, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder, is out today!

In Anxious Anticipation

three eggs, just before they fall onto a piece of marble

What I like about the still image above, along with the rest of the images in a project called In Anxious Anticipation by Aaron Tilley & Kyle Bean, is that it makes a noise. It’s so cool how your brain sees what’s about to happen and then you hear eggs smashing on a hard surface — splat, splat, splat. More still art should make noise! (via moss & fog)

This might be my next read: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes (author of A Thousand Ships), a retelling of the Medusa myth, “one of the earliest stories in which a woman - injured by a powerful man - is blamed, punished, and monstered for the assault”.

The 13 Levels of Complexity of Drumming

I love Wired’s video series on the levels of complexity of various activities, and they got someone really good to show us about drumming. Larnell Lewis is a Grammy Award-winning musician and a professor of music at Humber College in Toronto and his tour of the 13 levels of drumming, from easy to complex, is super clear, entertaining, and informative. Aside from the names of some of the drum kit pieces, I did not know a damn thing about drumming before watching this and now my eyes have been opened to how amazing drummers are to be able to do all of that (and look cool as hell at the same time). Like, I can’t even comprehend how they keep all those rhythms going at the same time…it just seems like magic to me. Watching Lewis’s solo at the end gave me a real boost this morning.

Some of my other “levels” favorites: A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity, Robert Lang on the 11 Levels of Complexity of Origami, How to Draw a Self-Portrait in 11 Levels of Increasing Complexity, and Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks.

The makers of Boggle quietly changed the arrangements on the letter cubes in 1987 so that all the Fs and Ks appeared on the same cube, making it impossible to make words containing both of those letters, possibly to ban the F-bomb.

Slivers of Portraits

portrait of a woman peeking through a bright color field

portrait of a woman peeking through a bright color field

portrait of a woman peeking through a bright color field

I like these paintings by Spanish artist Lino Lago where traditional oil painted portraits peek through bright color fields. He calls them Fake Abstracts. (via colossal)

Volunteers in Maine created what they believe is the world’s largest ice carousel - 1776 feet in diameter and weighing 146,000 tons.

The Fictional Brands Archive

the Bluth Company's stair car from Arrested Development

a box from a Looney Tunes cartoon containing ACME trick balls

screenshot from Succession showing an ATN News anchor reading the news

a rundown Buy N Large staore from Wall-E

The Fictional Brands Archive is a collection of fictional brands found in movies, TV shows, and video games — think Acme in Looney Tunes, Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., and Nakatomi Corporation from Die Hard. Very cool. But gotta say though, the dimming mouseover effect makes this more difficult to use than it needs to be… (via sidebar)

11 Facts About Shakespeare’s First Folio. “Without the First Folio, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays would have been lost to time,” including Macbeth, The Tempest, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Twelfth Night.

A History Of The World According To Getty Images

An extraordinary amount of human history — cultural, scientific, artistic — is held in private hands, unable to be viewed or used unless a steep price is paid. In his compelling short film A History Of The World According To Getty Images, director Richard Misek takes a look at several historical films that are in the public domain but are not publicly available…you have to pay thousands of dollars to companies like Getty Images to see and use them.

‘A History of the World According to Getty Images’ is a short documentary about property, profit, and power, made out of archive footage sourced from the online catalogue of Getty Images. It forms a historical journey through some of the most significant moments of change caught on camera, while at the same time reflecting on archive images’ own histories as commodities and on their exploitation as ‘intellectual property’.

As the largest commercial image archive in the world, Getty Images is particularly worthy of attention here. Many of the defining images of the last century — for example, the Apollo moon landings and the first breach of the Berlin Wall — are owned by Getty. These images live in our heads, and form a part of our collective memory. But in most cases, we cannot access them, as they are held captive behind Getty’s (as well as many other archives’) paywalls.

I found his comments about filmmaking, photography, and power really interesting:

Newsreel cameras document power. But what strikes me most about my exploration of the Getty archive is how much the act of filming is itself an expression of power — men filming women, the rich filming the poor, colonizers filming the colonized. […] Whenever I search a news archive, I always hope I’ll find some images that aren’t about power, and once in awhile I do. But by and large, the past offers no surprises, as it is the source of all the inequalities and injustices that still exist.

Once the film finishes the festival circuit this summer, a high-resolution download will be available from this website, thereby making six public domain clips available online for free. (via aeon)

Thomas Bangalter’s first post-Daft Punk release is an orchestral ballet score.

A new study has shown “that Black residents in counties with more Black physicians - whether or not they actually see those doctors - had lower mortality from all causes”.

Concerning Rogue Waves

Tsunamis, tidal waves, storm surges, and other hazardous aquatic events can all unleash the great power of the sea on ships and shorelines, but rogue waves are the largest and most mysterious waves that our oceans can muster. Rogue waves are a fairly recent discovery…until you look carefully at the historical record. This video looks at all the different kinds of big waves and tracks previously unacknowledged rogue waves from their depiction in art (Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa) to a suspected 220-foot wave that battered an Irish lighthouse.

The Mobile Phone Museum houses a collection of over 2600 models of mobile phone from 250+ brands. Don’t miss their ugliest phones and most wanted phones.

The theme to Super Mario Bros will be included in the collection of the Library of Congress this year, the first video game sounds to join the registry.

Good thoughts from Annalee Newitz on Substack. They’re not neutral - they pay and promote writers. “Substack has promoted hate speech and misinformation by paying and/or not moderating its top authors and celebrities.”

Mike Masnick on Substack’s unwillingness to moderate content (which they have been consistent about since their launch). “Chris Best wants to pretend that Substack isn’t the Nazi bar, while he’s eagerly making it clear that it is.”

The Lisa Personal Computer: Apple’s Influential Flop

The Apple Lisa was the more expensive and less popular precursor to the Macintosh; a recent piece at the Computer History Museum called Lisa “Apple’s most influential failure”.

Apple’s Macintosh line of computers today, known for bringing mouse-driven graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to the masses and transforming the way we use our computers, owes its existence to its immediate predecessor at Apple, the Lisa. Without the Lisa, there would have been no Macintosh — at least in the form we have it today — and perhaps there would have been no Microsoft Windows either.

The video above from Adi Robertson at The Verge is a good introduction to the Lisa and what made it so simultaneously groundbreaking and unpopular. From a companion article:

To look at the Lisa now is to see a system still figuring out the limits of its metaphor. One of its unique quirks, for instance, is a disregard for the logic of applications. You don’t open an app to start writing or composing a spreadsheet; you look at a set of pads with different types of documents and tear off a sheet of paper.

But the office metaphor had more concrete technical limits, too. One of the Lisa’s core principles was that it should let users multitask the way an assistant might, allowing for constant distractions as people moved between windows. It was a sophisticated idea that’s taken for granted on modern machines, but at the time, it pushed Apple’s engineering limits - and pushed the Lisa’s price dramatically upward.

And from 1983, a demo video from Apple on how the Lisa could be used in a business setting:

And a more characteristically Apple ad for the Lisa featuring a pre-stardom Kevin Costner:

How to help when someone is having a panic attack. “As a support person, you need to find your own stillness, so that the other person’s fear can find a resting point.”

Why are teens suddenly obsessed with chess? Can personally attest to this…my teen has been playing a ton of chess online lately.

“What’s the Healthiest Way to Handle a Creeping Feeling That the World Is Ending?”

The end of the world is nigh…or at least it feels like that sometimes these days. As historian and archaeologist Ian Morris says in the video, the five factors that crop up throughout history when a major societal collapse occurs seem to be present today: mass migrations, epidemic disease, collapse of states, major famines, and climate change. So, how should we think about the potential impending disintegration of society? How should we prepare? How should we feel about it?

In this short film, filmmaker Ryan Malloy explores, in a “fretful yet lighthearted” way, how one should prepare for the apocalypse by talking to a historian & archaeologist (the aforementioned Morris), a therapist, and a couple of different types of preppers.

Putting together a supply kit made me realize just how helpless I’d be if disaster struck. When you think about it, it’s almost like we live in a world run by magic. I don’t know how water, electricity, and gas gets to my house, but they’ve always been there. It wouldn’t take much, even just a small crisis for them to be gone. What would it be like to live without these things?

A Quick Membership Reminder

neon sign that reads ' memberships available inquire within'

It’s been a hectic few weeks here at Kottke HQ — lots going on personally/familially but I’ve also been pretty focused on the website. The site celebrated its 25th anniversary last month. I built and launched a micro-site for the Kottke Ask Me Anything & spent a couple of sessions answering reader questions. I went on The Talk Show to discuss the early days of blogging with John Gruber and put some cool t-shirts out into the world. It’s been fun to continue to build up a presence for over on Mastodon. I rejiggered the Quick Links infrastructure (which has made it easier/faster for me to post them) and have been working on a couple of behind-the-scenes projects that will hopefully streamline & shore up things around here. Oh, and I also kept up the regular stream of posts and links you know and love. *phew*

Once again, I’d like to thank members for supporting all of this activity on the site, with relatively few membership solicitations like this one, very minimal advertising, no popup newsletter sign-up forms, a full-text RSS feed w/ no ads, and open for everyone to read. As I wrote last month:

Perhaps nearest and dearest to my heart, member support keeps the site free, open, and available to everyone on an internet that is increasingly paywalled. It’s not difficult to imagine an alt-universe with ads crammed into every bit of whitespace, email collection forms popping up on every visit, and half the site behind a members-only paywall. No shade to those who have gone that route to keep things running - I’d probably make more money with members-only content on Substack or whatever and that pull is tempting. But seriously, I love you folks so much for collectively keeping all of on the open web. Thank you.

If you’re not already a member (or are a former member) and you’ve been liking what’s been going on here in recent months after my return from sabbatical and can manage it, please consider supporting the site by purchasing a membership. Thanks for reading!

This is why I do not like Substack: they do not want to take responsibility for hate speech. Substack is a safe haven for racists, transphobes, homophobes, anti-vaxers, etc. and they condone it because they profit from it.

Google Maps has been updated to help people better explore US National Parks - offline maps, better directions, and listing popular trails and landmarks.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think of Elon Musk as an accelerant for all the bad stuff that was slowly happening at Twitter before he got there. “In the long run we will be thankful that Elon is effectively putting the company out of its misery.”

Nutrition Science’s Most Preposterous Result. Could Ice Cream Possibly Be Good for You? “It’s got fat, it’s got protein, it’s got vitamins. It’s better for you than bread.”

Can Water Solve a Maze?

I saw this video on the front page a YouTube a couple of weeks ago and ignored it. Like, of course water can solve a maze, next! But then it got the Kid Should See This seal of approval so I gave it a shot. It turns out: water can solve a maze…but specifics are super interesting in several respects. Steve Mould, who you may remember from the assassin’s teapot video not too long ago, built four mazes of different sizes and shapes, each of them useful for demonstrating a different wrinkle in how the water moves through a maze. Recommended viewing for all ages.

An interview with the man (“a guy named Paul”) behind the Dril Twitter account. “I do find a lot of aspects of Twitter very disgusting. It would not be my first choice of websites to get popular on.”

HBO Max is changing its name to just Max. What an incredibly dumb move - HBO is still the best brand in TV and to not lead with it is idiotic.

How Solar Energy Got So Cheap

In 1976, the price per watt of energy generated by solar photovoltaic was over $100. In 2019, it was less than 50 cents per watt, a price decline of 99.6%. Even since 2009, solar has declined 90% in price. So what’s behind that incredible drop? Industry played a part but the main driver was forward-thinking government policy and subsidy of solar by countries like the US, Japan, Germany, and China:

In the course of a single lifetime, solar energy has transformed from a niche technology to the cheapest way to bring clean, reliable power to billions of people around the world. But the markets that brought us these lower prices didn’t just magically appear by some invisible hand. Political leaders in countries all over the world created these markets, then subsidized them for decades to the tune of billions of dollars. “By investing that money, you got the solar to come down in costs to the point where you don’t need to subsidize it anymore.”

One of the experts in the video, Gregory Nemet, is the author of a book called How Solar Energy Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation if you’d like to read more on the development of solar.

Ingenious Banana Bruise Artworks

art of a girl with an umbrella in the rain imprinted on a banana

art of a sunset over a river imprinted on a banana

art of an open peapod imprinted on a banana

As it ripens, banana skin oxidizes and turns black. Bruising the skin speeds up the process, a fact that Anna Chojnicka exploits to create these bruised banana artworks (also on Instagram). Here’s how it works:

I bruise the peel by pressing into it lightly with a blunt point. Speeding up and controlling the bruising process conjures light and shade in the image.

Over a few hours, the mark gradually goes darker until black. I start with the darkest parts of the image first, and then work my way backwards, finishing with the lightest parts last.

By managing the timing, it’s possible to make intricate images with graduating shades. There’s a short window of time when the image looks its best; I photograph the banana, and then eat it.

Chojnicka started the project in the early days of the pandemic while bored/delirious at home with a suspected Covid infection. The increase in art using found objects during the pandemic is fascinating: people couldn’t spend a lot of time out of the house, so they reached for whatever they could find to express their creativity…in this case, bananas.

Customize Your AirPods Pro for Even Better Sound

Earlier today, I posted a Quick Link to the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro on Amazon because they were $50 off, a good deal for an item that’s rarely on sale. I’ve been using a pair of these for the past month or so after a strong recommendation from John Gruber, and I can’t believe how much better they performed over the 1st-gen ones (which were fine…better than fine even). The sound quality seems better, Transparency Mode (where you can simultaneously hear your music and amplified sound near you) is significantly improved, and the earbuds themselves are more comfortable than their predecessors.

But the real star for me is the noise cancelling. I try to use my treadmill a few times a week during the winter to keep fit/active and generally listen to music or watch some TV on my iPad while I walk/run. With my old AirPods Pro, I could still hear the whirring of the treadmill behind the music even with noise cancelling on. But with these new ones, the treadmill noise is nearly gone, especially if I’m listening to something particularly energetic. I took an airplane trip recently and was amazed to find that nearly all of the airplane noise was cancelled out…even playing some quiet classical music at a reasonable volume felt like I was listening in a quiet room. I’ve even been wearing them to listen to music while I work…they just sound better than my HomePod mini speaker and keep me more focused on my work.

So anyway, I posted that link and then discovered via the ensuing thread on Mastodon that you can tweak AirPods Pro using the accessibility settings on your phone to do stuff like amplifying soft sounds and tuning Transparency Mode to further boost audio to focus on a person in front of you:

Turn on Custom Transparency Mode, then adjust the amplification, balance, tone, and ambient noise reduction to help you hear what’s happening around you. You can also turn on Conversation Boost to focus on a person talking in front of you.

What an amazing feature for people who are hard of hearing or who have trouble focusing their audio attention (definitely me sometimes). And what’s more, you can actually upload an audiogram to create a custom profile that adjusts audio levels specifically to how you hear. What? I had no idea. Here’s Paul Lefebvre:

But, by far, the #1 thing for me is the hearing assistive features. I used the Mimi hearing app to take a hearing test and generate a hearing profile (I have slight high-end hearing loss). I then was able to apply this hearing profile to the AirPods and the sound got even better! I also turned on other settings to make sounds clearer in transparency mode.

Now I sometimes put these AirPods on with just transparency mode and use them to hear things from across the room or to better understand conversations.

And @mtwebb on Mastodon:

I also recently upgraded to the 2nd gen and imported my audiogram from a recent hearing test. They literally changed my life in certain noisy situations. I also recommend them, especially if you have some hearing loss but don’t quite need hearing aids.

And Marques Brownlee’s review is a good one:

To create an audiogram of your hearing, you can use the Mimi Hearing Test or SonicCloud Personalized Sound apps and then import it into your settings. I have no idea how good these audiograms are compared to an actual hearing test…you should talk to your doctor or head to a specialist if you’re in need of something really accurate. But for many people, I bet these apps work just fine. I haven’t done my audiogram yet - I’m gonna do the test after I publish this.

You can get the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro from Apple or at Amazon for $50 off (deal still valid as of 8am on 4/14).

I recently upgraded to the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro and the noise-cancelling is amazing - so much better than the 1st-gen ones. They’re $50 off at Amazon today only. Well worth the upgrade IMO.

The Visiting Cards of Notable Artists

calling card of Piet Mondrian

calling card of Edouard Manet

calling card of Pierre Auguste Renoir

F. C. Schang collected the calling cards of prominent artists and musicians and in the late 20th century, donated a collection of them to Met Museum.

Calling cards derived from a custom, originating in England, in which messages were inscribed on the backs of playing cards. Cards made for the express purpose of sharing hand-written messages were manufactured beginning in the eighteenth century; by the early-nineteenth century, calling cards had become a popular means for sending well wishes, holiday greetings, condolences, and messages of courtship.

The cards include those of Klee, Renoir, Pissarro, Rodin, Monet, Mondrian, Braque, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, and many more. I think my favorites are Piet Mondrian’s (above) and Joan Miró’s, the former because it’s very much in keeping with the artist’s style and the latter because it isn’t:

calling card of Joan Miro

Schang published a book of these cards in 1983 — it’s long out of print but you can get one here (signed, no less). He also collected the calling cards of generally famous people, singers, pianists, and violinists. (via greg allen)

The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations is a list that attempts to “categorize every dramatic situation that might occur in a story or performance” - e.g. pursuit, daring enterprise, rivalry of kin, an enemy loved, etc.

Whoa, a listing of where you can currently see a print of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa on display at a museum. The prints aren’t often displayed because they fade rapidly when exposed to light.

NPR is leaving Twitter after being falsely labeled “state-affiliated media” and then “government-funded media”. Good for them for doing the right thing, even though it’s difficult.

What Happens When You Get Sick?

From Kurzgesagt, an accessible explanation of what happens to the human body when you get sick.

Your brain activates sickness behavior and reorganizes your body’s priorities to defense. The first thing you notice is that your energy level drops and you get sleepy. You feel apathetic, often anxious or down and you lose your appetite. Your sensitivity to pain is heightened and you seek out rest. All of this serves to save your energy and reroute it into your immune response.

They also reveal the best way to boost your immune system to protect yourself against disease. I don’t want to spoil it but it’s vaccines. Vaccines are one of the best things humans have ever invented.

On the death of Tweetbot and its reincarnation as Ivory, the excellent Mastodon app.

Kottke AMA, Round 2

Hey folks, just a short note to say that I’m dropping in to answer some more questions over on the Kottke AMA site this afternoon, so head on over there to check out what’s new or read through some previous questions if you missed it a couple of weeks ago.

Travelling around Europe by train, eating delicious meals in revitalized dining cars, sounds like an amazing way to spend one’s time. Beats an Amtrak hot dog by a mile. (Also, check out the author’s name…)

You could stare at this thing for hours and never see all of it. “Floor796 is an ever-expanding animation scene showing the life of the 796th floor of the huge space station!”

A pan of the Rijksmuseum’s blockbuster Vermeer show. “I had arrived with an impression of Vermeer as a maker of paintings I enjoyed. I left with the impression of Vermeer as a maker of charming but boring, even stifling, pictures.”

The Smithsonian’s Collection of Online Public Domain Images Swells to 4.5 Million Objects

Back in 2020, the Smithsonian Institution placed 2.8 million high-resolution images and 3D models of objects in their collection into the public domain via their Open Access initiative. Over the past three years, that collection has grown to 4.5 million images, an absolutely immense trove of objects that people are free to use and remix however they wish.

black & white photo of Harriet Tubman

detail of Charlie Parker's saxophone

the Inverted Jenny postage stamp

an old poster that says 'A woman here has registered to vote thereby assuming responsibility of citizenship'

a mechanical crawling baby

the mailing wrapper for the Hope Diamond

That last image is the mailing wrapper from when jeweler Harry Winston sent the Hope Diamond (currently valued at $200-350 million) to the Smithsonian through the regular US Mail.

Mailed on the morning of November 8 from New York City, the item was sent by registered (first class) mail — considered the safest means of transport for valuables at that time. The total fee was $145.29 (see the meter machine tapes). Postage only amounted to $2.44 for the package which weighed 61 ounces. The remainder of the fee ($142.85) paid for an indemnity of about $1 million.

(via my modern met)

The Remote Encoding Center in Salt Lake City is the last USPS facility in the country where unreadable addresses are sent to be corrected by “keyers”. Keyers process images at the rate of one every four seconds.


The folks at RuPublicans are having fun using AI to generate photorealistic imagery of prominent conservatives in drag. Here are Anita Filibust-Her McConnell, Claretta Corrupta, Rhonda Santy, serving looks:

Mitch McConnell in drag

Ron DeSantis in drag

Clarence Thomas in drag

From their Stories:

Oh honey, darlings, sugar pies! THANK YOU for following and sharing. Drag artists have brought me joy, laughter, helped heal old wounds, and given me permission to love myself — and I’m not the only one.

Now let’s get real kittens. Drag isn’t lip-syncing; it’s art, it’s heart, and oh honey, it’s protest. To those in power serving up false narratives like an overcooked wig at a drag brunch, listen up: we’re here, we’re queer, and we ain’t going anywhere.

(via @thoughtbrain)

Die With Me is a chat app that you can only use when your phone has less than 5% battery remaining. (This has literally never happened to me, but have fun everyone else!)

The practice of inline hashtags on Mastodon is terrible, a clunky & inelegant techie solution. I don’t like reading them and will never use them. Separating them out would be great.

Tim Jonze on how he coped with a potentially lethal blood cancer diagnosis in his 30s. “The truth is, you don’t really know how you will react when your mortality comes swinging into view.”

The 20 Greatest Simpsons Episodes Of All Time. Surprisingly, there are two episodes from recent-ish seasons on here (but most are from the show’s golden age, seasons 2-8).

Exhibition of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Infographics at Cooper Hewitt in NYC

I’ve written before about the data visualizations created by W.E.B. Du Bois for the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. Apparently a selection of these infographics are on display at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in NYC until May 29.

infographic designed by W.E.B. Du Bois titled 'Assessed value of household and kitchen furniture owned by Georgia negros'

Wish I could get down there to see these…

Is the opening title sequence to Succession an homage to the title sequence to David Fincher’s The Game? The first and last shots are nearly identical.

Maybe I’m a rube, but it seems obvious to me that Barack Obama compiles his own book reading lists. “He considered [reading] part of being a good leader, part of being a good president, part of being a good father, a good husband, and a good man.”

The JWST has discovered the four oldest and most distant galaxies ever observed. “The galaxies date from 300 to 500 million years after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago.”

The Sound of a Dialup Modem, Visualized and Explained

There are few sounds that can transport me back to a specific time and place like the handshake of a dialup modem. I heard that arrangement of noises thousands of times sitting at my desk in rural Wisconsin, trying to soak up the entire internet. That sound meant freedom, connection, knowledge.

Oona Räisänen created this great visualization and explanation of what’s going on when a modem is making those noises.

a visualization of the sounds made by a dialup modem

If you ever connected to the Internet before the 2000s, you probably remember that it made a peculiar sound. But despite becoming so familiar, it remained a mystery for most of us. What do these sounds mean?

As many already know, what you’re hearing is often called a handshake, the start of a telephone conversation between two modems. The modems are trying to find a common language and determine the weaknesses of the telephone channel originally meant for human speech.

See also this other visualization of dialup sounds, opera singers dubbed with dialup modems, and a vocal arrangement of the modem handshake.

I love this: equestrian coaches, trainers, and riders reflexively kicking and jumping while watching a rider on course. “It’s an uncontrollable reflex when a horse jumps a jump. I’ve tried my hardest to not do it and I can’t not do it.”

The Sizes of Flying Creatures, Compared

Using 3D models, this video compares the sizes of various flying creatures (insects, bats, birds, dinosaurs) past and present, from the microscopic fairyfly (which is dwarfed by a mosquito) to the albatross (with its 12-foot wingspan) to the immense Quetzalcoatlus, which stood 20 feet tall and had a wingspan in the neighborhood of 33 feet. For reference, that’s about the size of a Cessna 172 airplane. Just image those flying around all casual-like.

See also several other size comparison videos from the same channel, including objects in the universe, animals, and dinosaurs. (via digg)

In a NY Times investigation of US crypto mining facilities, they identified 34 operations that together use as much energy as 3 million households. Just shut these fuckers down - useless energy consumption like this is straight-up immoral.

Astronomers have spotted what they say is a supermassive black hole that has escaped its galaxy, traveling at 4 million mph and forming new stars in its wake. “Something like this has never been seen anywhere in the universe.”

Before The Last of Us, I was part of an international team to chart the threat of killer fungi. This is what we found. “Developing vaccines and drugs is hard because fungal cells are similar to human ones.”

The recently rediscovered original recording of the Wilhelm scream, Hollywood’s favorite audio easter egg. It includes several takes - “not an ‘oww’, a real scream…pain”.

The Best Podcasts of 2023 (So Far). Lots to add to the listening list here.

Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Benefactor Collects Hitler Artifacts. “The collection includes two of [Hitler’s] paintings of European cityscapes, a signed copy of Mein Kampf, and assorted Nazi memorabilia”. Cool, cool.

Andy Baio is colorblind - here’s what the world (and some hard-to-use web interfaces) look like through his eyes. “At a glance…avocado toast and peanut butter toast look pretty much the same to me.”

There are going to be two solar eclipses in North America in the next year: an annular eclipse in Oct 2023 and a total eclipse in April 2024.

Flip Off Symbolically Powerful Places With Ai Weiwei’s Middle Finger

Ai Weiwei's middle finger flipping off the Kremlin

Ai Weiwei's middle finger flipping off Trump Tower

Ai Weiwei's middle finger flipping off the stock exchange

For his project Study of Perspective, artist and activist Ai Weiwei took photos of himself flipping off “significant institutions, landmarks and monuments from around the world”, notably Tiananmen Square in 1995. Using this Google Street View-enabled web tool, you can use Ai’s middle finger to flip off anything you’d like, anywhere in the world.

I’ve included a few examples above from the site’s archive. In a brief review of what folks have done with the site recently, I observed several shots of the Kremlin, the Eiffel Tower, churches, and various Trump buildings, but I also saw the Stonewall Inn and other gay landmarks.

London’s Courtauld Gallery is mounting an exhibition of 30+ forgeries that were previously attributed to notable artists. A Botticelli in the show was unmasked as a fake because the Virgin Mary too closely resembled movie star Jean Harlow.

Real headline about an image taken by the JWST: Look at These Beautiful Rings Rimming Uranus.

This looks interesting: a ChatGPT-powered replacement/augmentation for Siri on Apple devices.

How to Beat Roulette (Without Cheating?)

The arms race between the house and the gamblers over which they openly have the advantage is fascinating. I’ve read about all sorts of schemes involving card counting, dice shaving, covert signaling, computer analysis, and other shenanigans, but I hadn’t heard about the possibility that some folks had figured out a way to beat roulette without actually cheating. This passage provides a few clues as to how they managed it:

But the way Tosa and his friends played roulette stood out as weird even for the Ritz. They would wait until six or seven seconds after the croupier launched the ball, when the rattling tempo of plastic on wood started to slow, then jump forward to place their chips before bets were halted, covering as many as 15 numbers at once. They moved so quickly and harmoniously, it was “as if someone had fired a starting gun,” an assistant manager told investigators afterward. The wheel was a standard European model: 37 red and black numbered pockets in a seemingly random sequence — 32, 15, 19, 4 and so on — with a single green 0. Tosa’s crew was drawn to an area of the betting felt set aside for special wagers that covered pie-sliced segments of the wheel. There, gamblers could choose sections called orphelins (orphans) or le tiers du cylindre (a third of the wheel). Tosa and his partners favored “neighbors” bets, consisting of one number plus the two on each side, five pockets in all.

Then there was the win rate. Tosa’s crew didn’t hit the right number on every spin, but they did as often as not, in streaks that defied logic: eight in a row, or 10, or 13. Even with a dozen chips on the table at a total cost of £1,200 (about $2,200 at the time), the 35:1 payout meant they could more than double their money. Security staff watched nervously as their chip stack grew ever higher. Tosa and the Serbian, who did most of the gambling while their female companion ordered drinks, had started out with £30,000 and £60,000 worth of chips, respectively, and in no time both had broken six figures. Then they started to increase their bets, risking as much as £15,000 on a single spin.

It was almost as if they could see the future. They didn’t react whether they won or lost; they simply played on. At one point, the Serbian threw down £10,000 in chips and looked away idly as the ball bounced around the numbered pockets. He wasn’t even watching when it landed and he lost. He was already walking off in the direction of the bar.

And I feel like there’s a whole other essay to be written about how, with enough practice & repetition, humans can get into the flow (as in dance, music, sports) with devices, machines, and other mechanical & electrical objects, getting to know them on an almost unconscious level, an understanding that defies analysis.

He compared cerebral clocking to musical talent, suggesting it might activate similar parts of the brain, those dedicated to sound and rhythm.

This is just a small example, but a good mechanic can often diagnose what’s wrong with a car, even the tiniest things, just by starting it up because there’s so much information in how it sounds and the vibrations it’s making — see Ken Miles in Ford vs. Ferrari for a dramatized example. (via damn interesting)

David Lynch on Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune: “I will never watch it, and I don’t even want you to tell me about it, ever.”

If It’s Advertised to You Online, You Probably Shouldn’t Buy It. Here’s Why. Products in targeted ads were more expensive and lower quality than similar products found elsewhere online.

Twitter is haphazardly cutting off API access to feedreaders, bot-makers, and would-be competitors. “Overall I’m not surprised to find Twitter’s changes rolling out unpredictably.”

The “Disturbing Beauty” of Shattering Porcelain Statues

a pair of shattering porcelain statues caught a fraction of a second after hitting the floor

I posted a link to these the other day from the broken plates post (and first posted about them more than 15 years ago), but I love these photographic sculptures by Martin Klimas so much that I wanted feature them in a proper post.

From a height of three meters, porcelain figurines are dropped on the ground, and the sound they make when they hit trips the shutter release. The result: razor-sharp images of disturbing beauty, more than the sum of its parts. Temporary sculptures made visible to the human eye by high-speed photography. The porcelain statuette bursting into pieces isn’t what really captures the attention; the fascination lies in the genesis of a dynamic figure that seems to stop/pause the time and make time visible itself.

See also Klimas’ Flowervases (“Flawlessly arranged flower vases are shot by steel bullets and captured at the moment of their destruction”) and Sonic Sculptures (“Klimas begins with splatters of paint in fuchsia, teal and lime green, positioned on a scrim over the diaphragm of a speaker — then, the volume is turned up”).

The 50 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far). This is a little bit of a weird/surprising list tbh. (For instance, both True Grit and No Country for Old Men are better Coen films than the inexplicably well-rated Inside Llewyn Davis.)

Why Lego Won

Lego did not invent the stacking, interlocking plastic brick — Kiddiecraft did. So why did Lego’s version win? As Phil Edwards explains in this entertaining video, the answer can be boiled down to two words: innovation and marketing.

The first Lego plastic mold was the same one that Kiddicraft used, and early Lego bricks were almost identical to Kiddicraft blocks, with a few minor differences. They slightly changed the scale and the studs, but as you can see, they were pretty similar. Early Kiddicraft blocks had little slots in the side for windows and other attachments. So did early Lego bricks. From top to bottom, these were very similar to Kiddicraft blocks. So with such a simple idea that had kind of already been done, how did Lego win?

See also Why Oreo Won and a fascinating look at plastic injection molding, including a bit on “how quietly ingenious Lego’s injection molding process is”.

Hot Ones has a genius formula: thoroughly researched, substantive questions, celeb guests off-balance because their mouths are on fire. “Hot Ones was just the dumbest idea of all time. How is it, philosophically, that the dumbest idea is the best?”

Detailed Illustrations of Japanese Maintenance Trains

a drawing of a yellow Japanese maintenance train

I’m charmed by these ultra-realistic drawings of Japanese maintenance trains by Masami Onishi.

Japanese trains are renowned for their punctuality, comfort and overall reliability. But part of what makes them so reliable is an “unseen” workforce of overnight trains. These trains will be unfamiliar to the everyday rider because they only show themselves after regular service has ended for the day. Working through the wee hours of night and early morning, they perform maintenance work on tracks and electrical wires that ensures a smooth and uninterrupted ride during the day.

My pal Craig Mod recently spotted a “rare and majestic” inspection Shinkansen called Doctor Yellow.

The inspection vehicle is popular among train enthusiasts as a sighting of the train is said to bring good luck since it is so rarely glimpsed.

Gotta love a place that’s so deservedly proud of and enthusiastic about its rail infrastructure.

Update: Great Britain has a maintenance train called the Yellow Banana. (thx, james)

Thought-provoking take on 15-minute cities: “If you can get to the coffee shop within fifteen minutes, but the barista who makes your drink can’t afford to live closer than a half-hour away, then you live in a theme park.”

I love reading accounts of famous art discoveries in unassuming places. This painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger was covered in dust and discovered behind a door. The art auctioneer who spotted it: “My heart was beating so hard.”

For decades, Justice Clarence Thomas has secretly accepted luxury vacations (private jets, superyachts, ranches, retreats) from a GOP megadonor. This is a massive (but not surprising) ethical breach from a powerful public servant.

“While trying to fix my printer today, I discovered that a PDF copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper apparently shipped with every copy of macOS since Mojave in 2018.”

A short oral history of the making of Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You. “By summer, it had been released all over the world, just six months after being written. We only ever played that one live show, released this one single…”

Why is “indict” pronounced the way it is, rhyming with “delight” and not “predict” or “verdict”? (Because the spelling changed but the pronunciation remained the same.)

Ornate Patterns Evolved From Broken Plates

the ornate images on a broken plate continue onto a sheet of paper

the ornate images on a broken plate continue onto a sheet of paper

I totally love these “evolved” drawings of the elaborate patterns of broken plates by Robert Strati. The project was inspired by a plate that broke in the Strati household:

This work was inspired by a plate from my wife’s late mother, Barbara. One day it was dropped and shattered. Some time after, I picked up a pen and started working on the “Fragmented” series, exploring the possibilities of things broken and the stories that can evolve from them.

You can see more work from this project on Instagram and at this site.

See also Kintsukuroi and Martin Klimas’ Porcelain Figures. (via my modern met)

I enjoyed reading A.O. Scott’s exit interview after two decades of reviewing films for the NY Times. “I hesitate to second-guess myself. I can’t really take any of it back. The damage is done.”

Rainbows are actually full circles. “Most of us only ever see a fraction of a full rainbow: an arc. But optically, a full rainbow makes a complete circle.” My god, that pic at the top of the article…

Edward Burtynsky’s African Studies

aerial view of a colorful landscape

aerial view of a colorful landscape

aerial view of a colorful landscape

I’ve long been a fan of Edward Burtynsky’s photographic surveys of humanity’s impact on our environment, so I was eager to explore his newest project, African Studies.

In Edward Burtynsky’s recent photographs, produced across the African continent, the patterns and scars of human-altered landscapes initially appear to form an abstract painterly language; they reference the sublime and often surreal qualities of human mark-making. While chronicling the major themes of terraforming and extraction, urbanization and deforestation, African Studies conveys the unsettling reality of sweeping resource depletion on both a human and industrial scale.

You can check out more photos from the series here and here as well as in his forthcoming book (Amazon). (via colossal)

Angel Reese Can Shine as Brightly as She Wants. “When white athletes are demonstrative, they’re playing with passion and showing their love of the game. When Black athletes reveal their feelings, they’re disgraceful and ‘classless.’”

Tabloid is a programming language with the syntax of clickbait news headlines. “Print output with the keywords YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS followed by an expression. Everything…is automatically capitalized, and an exclamation point is added.”

How to Counter the Gish Gallop

I was keen to read that the debating method practiced by Trump, Putin, anti-vaxxers, and climate deniers of flooding the zone with a firehose of incorrect information has a name: the Gish Gallop. From Mehdi Hasan’s piece in The Atlantic, adapted from his new book, Win Every Argument: The Art of Debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking (ebook):

Trump may be the grand master of the Gish Gallop, but he is not its originator. That honor goes to the person who gave the method its name: Duane Tolbert Gish.

Gish was a biochemist at the Institute for Creation Research, a pseudo-scientific group that maintains all life on Earth was created in six days by the God of the Old Testament at some point in the past 10,000 years, with evolution playing no part. Gish publicized the ICR and its creed — and himself — by winning debates against evolutionists across the country.

During debates, after letting his opponent go first, Gish would “begin talking very quickly for perhaps an hour”, overwhelming his opponent with factual-sounding nonsense. According to Hasan, there are a few tactics you can use to counter the Gish Gallop, but you’ve got to be prepared. For instance, you can call them out:

Don’t let your audience be fooled into assuming that your opponent has special command of the subject because of all the “facts” they’ve just spouted. Explain to them what your opponent is doing, and that the Gallop is really just a sleight of hand.

Wikipedia’s list of unidentified people includes Tank Man, Satoshi Nakamoto, Elena Ferrante, and The Falling Man.

How to easily draw dotted lines on a chalkboard. “You should feel your chalk ‘bounce’ or ‘vibrate’ along the surface of the board, creating a dotted line!”

Nonprofit No Longer Recalls Who They Were Originally Planning To Help. “[The] nonprofit employed dozens of employees, had several lucrative government contracts, and even hosted numerous events such as a 5k, a concert, and a gala at a museum…”

This Is the Lightest Paint in the World. “A Boeing 747 needs about 500 kilograms of paint. He estimates that his paint could cover the same area with 1.3 kilograms.”

The Most Popular Song From Each Month Since January 1980

Oh man, this is a huge huge nostalgia bomb for me - a 50-minute medley of the most popular song from each month since January 1980. When I was a kid growing up in rural Wisconsin, there were basically four choices of music to listen to: country, metal, oldies, and pop/top 40. I chose pop, so the first ~15 minutes of this video is basically the soundtrack to my childhood.

Here’s a playlist of all the songs on Spotify, in case you want to listen to the whole megillah. See also The Hood Internet’s remixes of pop music by year. (via open culture)

Grid World. “We radiate grids. If you are caught in the beam of someone else’s grid, as I was in my dad’s, the grid’s virality will infect you.”

The Barbie Movie

I have very high hopes for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. It would be incredible if it lives up to them and the first two teaser trailers are a good start.

Also, I love how completely and utterly thirrrrrrsty the video’s description is to establish the bona fides and pedigree of the movie’s cast and crew:

From Oscar-nominated writer/director Greta Gerwig (“Little Women,” “Lady Bird”) comes “Barbie,” starring Oscar-nominees Margot Robbie (“Bombshell,” “I, Tonya”) and Ryan Gosling (“La La Land,” “Half Nelson”) as Barbie and Ken, alongside America Ferrera (“End of Watch,” the “How to Train Your Dragon” films), Kate McKinnon (“Bombshell,” “Yesterday”), Michael Cera (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Juno”), Ariana Greenblatt (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “65”), Issa Rae (“The Photograph,” “Insecure”), Rhea Perlman (“I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “Matilda”), and Will Ferrell (the “Anchorman” films, “Talladega Nights”). The film also stars Ana Cruz Kayne (“Little Women”), Emma Mackey (“Emily,” “Sex Education”), Hari Nef (“Assassination Nation,” “Transparent”), Alexandra Shipp (the “X-Men” films), Kingsley Ben-Adir (“One Night in Miami,” “Peaky Blinders”), Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”), Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”), Scott Evans (“Grace and Frankie”), Jamie Demetriou (“Cruella”), Connor Swindells (“Sex Education,” “Emma.”), Sharon Rooney (“Dumbo,” “Jerk”), Nicola Coughlan (“Bridgerton,” “Derry Girls”), Ritu Arya (“The Umbrella Academy”), Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Dua Lipa and Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”).

Gerwig directed “Barbie” from a screenplay by Gerwig & Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story,” “The Squid and the Whale”), based on Barbie by Mattel. The film’s producers are Oscar nominee David Heyman (“Marriage Story,” “Gravity”), Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Robbie Brenner, with Michael Sharp, Josey McNamara, Ynon Kreiz, Courtenay Valenti, Toby Emmerich and Cate Adams serving as executive producers.

Gerwig’s creative team behind the camera included Oscar-nominated director of photography Rodrigo Prieto (“The Irishman,” “Silence,” “Brokeback Mountain”), six-time Oscar-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Anna Karenina”), editor Nick Houy (“Little Women,” “Lady Bird”), Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran (“Little Women,” “Anna Karenina”), visual effects supervisor Glen Pratt (“Paddington 2,” “Beauty and the Beast”), music supervisor George Drakoulias (“White Noise,” “Marriage Story”) and Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

Is that….everybody? In the world?

An interview with illustrator Christoph Niemann, a particular favorite of mine. “Artists have to be emphatic. You have to have a sense of what you know and what your audience knows.”

A “Perfect Scene” from Mad Men

I loved this analysis of a scene from the final episode of season three of Mad Men.

The scene shifts. The partners go from standing in disarray around the room to orderly sitting, two by two across from one another. They go from tense standing disagreements to calm, relaxed collusion.

This video is also a reminder of what a great show Mad Men was (it’s in my all-time top 5) and how they just don’t make TV like this anymore.

The Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape playlist has been updated with music from Vol. 3, including songs from Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Faith No More, and the Beastie Boys.

Where went the wolf? “The very attributes that make small dogs cute and popular are slowly strangling their ability to function as real animals.”

The Joy of Fortnite

This was me a couple of years ago when I first started playing Fortnite, as satirized by Adam Driver and the SNL gang:

I found this sketch via a piece that Tom Vanderbilt wrote about playing Fortnite with his daughter (and her friends).

It’s not as though Sylvie and I discussed the problem of free will as we dodged RPG rounds. For the most part, our interactions weren’t nearly so high-minded. We stole each other’s kills and squabbled over loot. She badgered me for V-Bucks so she could buy her character new baubles in the Item Shop. But sometimes, after playing, we’d go for a walk and analyze how we were able to notch a dub — Fortnite-speak for a win — or how we might have done better. We’d assess the quality of newly introduced weapons. (The best were OP, for “overpowering,” but often the makers of Fortnite would later “nerf” them for being too OP.) She’d chide me for trying to improve by battling more, rather than by practicing in Creative mode — which suddenly made her open to hearing about the late Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson’s theories of “deliberate practice.” (Like many kids, she had a built-in filter against my teachable moments.) We actually were, per Adam Driver’s character, bonding.

And in our Fortnite games I saw her cultivate prowess. I’m not talking merely about the widely discussed perceptual and cognitive benefits of video games, which include an improved ability to track objects in space and tune out cognitive “distractors.” I’m talking about that suite of abilities sometimes referred to as “21st-century skills”: imaginatively solving open-ended problems, working collaboratively in teams, synthesizing complex information streams. “Unfortunately, in most formal education settings, we’re not emphasizing those very much,” argues Eric Klopfer, who directs the Education Arcade at MIT. “Just playing Fortnite doesn’t necessarily give you those skills — but playing Fortnite in the right way, with the right people, is certainly a good step in that direction.”

This is the plain and perhaps embarrassing truth: During my sabbatical, I didn’t pursue any activity (with the possible exception of mountain biking) as diligently as I did playing Fortnite. My kids have been playing it for awhile, both together and separately, and it was fun to watch them working together to complete quests and sometimes even win. I tried playing with them a few times the previous year, but the last shooter game I played was Quake III in the late 90s and so I was comically bad, running around firing my weapon into the sky or the ground and generally just embarrassing my kids, who left my reboot card where it landed after I’d died more often than not.

Early last year, even before I left on my sabbatical, I decided I wanted to learn how to play properly, so that I could do something with my kids on their turf. I played mostly by myself at first — and poorly. Slowly I figured out the rules of the game and how to move and shoot. I played online with my friend David, who was forgiving of my deficiencies, and we caught up while he explained how the game worked and we explored the island together. I finally got a kill and a win, in the same match — I’d found a good hiding place in a bush and then emerged when it was down to me and some other hapless fool (who was probably 8 years old or a bot) and I somehow got them. A friend who had arrived for dinner mid-game was very surprised when I started yelling my head off and running around the house.

Over the summer after I started the sabbatical, I played most days for at least 30 minutes. I got better and was having more fun. I won some matches and bought the Battle Pass so I could get some different skins and emotes. Even though I got a late start in the season, I grinded on quests to get the Darth Vader skin, which is amusing to wear while you’re trying out different emotes. (You haven’t lived until you’ve watched Vader do the death drop or dance to My Money Don’t Jiggle Jiggle, It Folds.1) When the kids got back from camp, I was good enough to at least not slow them down too much and get a couple of kills in the meantime. I learned the lingo and how to work as a team, with my kids leading the way.1 I’m still not great, but it’s become one of our favorite things to do together and I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

  1. I am surprised but delighted that a huge media conglomerate like Disney allows their character/intellectual property (e.g. Vader) to perform the signature move of another character (Trinity’s slow-motion spin kick from The Matrix) owned by a competing media conglomerate (Warner Bros. Discovery), and vice versa.

  1. I know some parents have a hard time with this, but after having been surpassed by my kids several years ago in skiing prowess and now basically being a lowly private in their Fortnite squad, I am a firm believer that every parent should experience, as early as they can, the sensation of your kids doing something much better, like an order of magnitude better, than you can and then letting them lead the way with it. It will change your relationship with them for the better, remind you that you are not “in charge” (and never really were), and reveal that kids are often much more capable than we give them credit for.

Oh, just watching some Siegfried & Joy videos on Instagram - these are great.

How Paris Kicked Out the Cars. In the past 2 decades, car trips within Paris are down 60%, car crashes down by 30%, pollution levels are down, and mass transit ridership has increased 40%.

This San Francisco barbershop has a “silent mode” for patrons who don’t want to chat with barbers. This is great for introverts…I don’t get my hair cut as often as I should because of chit chat.

Kottke AMA - You Asked, I Answered

Just a quick reminder that I answered a bunch of questions from readers for the inaugural Ask Me Anything. I talked about how to separate work from life:

If I let it, every part of my life could be part of my job: not only books, movies, and travel but kids, relationships, emotions, everyday goings-on, etc. etc. etc. That’s the way it used to be, much more than it is now. But slicing and dicing everything up for consumption all the time, meta-experiencing absolutely everything; that’s no way to live. Back in the day, you saw journalers and bloggers burn out from sharing too much of themselves and their lives online with others — now you see it happening with YouTubers, TikTokers, and influencers. I’ve learned (mostly) how to meter myself; you get less of me now (this AMA notwithstanding) but hopefully for much longer.

And who I have in mind when I write for the site:

The site is best when I try to write posts as if each one is an email to a curious friend who I think would be interested in the thing I’m writing about, irrespective of topic/subject/field/whatever. I know not everyone is interested in every topic (or even most topics!) but I tend to look for things that people might find intriguing even if they don’t normally collect stamps, skateboard, watch ballet, appreciate mathematics, or listen to rap. Anything is interesting if you dig deep enough, observe it from the correct angle, or talk to the right enthusiast.

And what my kids and I have read before bedtime:

One book we read together that turned out to be surprisingly popular with them (when they were ~9-11 years old) was Emily Wilson’s excellent translation of The Odyssey. They were already fans of Greek mythology and knew some of the story and Wilson’s writing is so wonderful — “Soon Dawn was born, her fingers bright with roses” — that we blazed right through it and were sad when it ended.

And a favorite recent pasta recipe:

I have been really enjoying this Pasta alla Norcina recipe I found on Instagram awhile back. There’s some great Italian sausage that I get from the local market that works really well for it. And my daughter got me some truffle oil for my birthday, so we put a little bit of that on there too.

I might pop in there later this week to answer some more questions, so stay tuned! Folks had lots of questions about my process and what I learned on my sabbatical, so I may tackle them next.

Take a 360° virtual tour of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a surprisingly tiny place!

We’re living in the Age of Average. Cars, architecture, interiors, brands, people, and media all look the same. “Distinctiveness has died. In every field we look at, we find that everything looks the same.”

Star Wars by Balenciaga

Well this is some bizarre good fun — turns out that the campy goofiness of Star Wars and the campy seriousness of high fashion make for a pretty good combination.

See also Lord of the Rings by Balenciaga and Game of Thrones by Balenciaga. Oh, and Hipster Star Wars.

How Stop-Motion Movies Are Animated at Aardman. The way they do the fire, fog, and rain is pretty cool.

Archives · March 2023