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Entries for May 2023

According to this analysis of excess deaths by The Economist, roughly 3 million people globally per year are still dying because of Covid-19. “At current rates, it would kill more people in the next eight years than in the past three.”

From journalist & author Melissa Gira Grant, a list of recommended media about American fascism.

The Santa Clara Principles outlines standards regarding transparency and accountability in content moderation for social media platforms.

“A beluga whale long believed to be a Russian spy…” Excuse me, what?!

Seeing Beyond the Beauty of a Vermeer. Teju Cole visits the unprecedented Rijksmuseum exhibition and finds the trouble in Vermeer’s paintings. What a great read.

What Happened When I Stopped Drinking. “I put down the bottle and picked up everything else.”

How the U.S. Almost Became a Nation of Hippo Ranchers. “In 1910, a failed House bill sought to increase the availability of low-cost meat by importing hippopotamuses that would be killed to make ‘lake cow bacon.’”

You can buy a 4-inch cube of tungsten online for only $4000. Tungsten is one of the densest metals so this small cube (about the size of a pint of ice cream) weighs a whopping 41.6 pounds.

Copenhagen’s Circle Bridge

Copenhagen's Circle Bridge, which crosses a canal and is made up of several circles

In 2015, artist Olafur Eliasson designed the Circle Bridge (Cirkelbroen) to span a canal in central Copenhagen. The pedestrian bridge was designed to slow people down a bit:

The bridge is made of five circular platforms, and it contributes to a larger circle that will form a pedestrian route around Copenhagen Harbour, where people — cycling, running, walking — can see the city from a very different perspective. As many as 5,000 people will cross this bridge each day. I hope that these people will use Cirkelbroen as a meeting place, and that the zigzag design of the bridge will make them reduce their speed and take a break. To hesitate on our way is to engage in bodily thought. I see such introspection as an essential part of a vibrant city.

Small boats can travel easily under the bridge but a section of the bridge also swings gracefully away to let larger boats pass. (via greg allen)

Wow, this report about the toxic work environment of Lost is tough to read. “I can only describe it as hazing. It was very much middle school and relentlessly cruel. And I’ve never heard that much racist commentary in one room in my career.”

Great CJR feature on news cooperative Defector. “This is our little business — we just need to have these margins, pay our employees, and that’s it.”

Doctor Who’s Jon Pertwee interviews Star Trek’s William Shatner in this clip from the early 90s. Crazy crossover! Pertwee offhandedly mentions that Steven Spielberg was interested in doing a Doctor Who reboot?!

Scientists have been able to induce hibernation in mice and rats using ultrasonic pulses. If it works in humans, we may be able to trigger suspended animation for space travel or medical intervention.

Fighting Fascism in America

In a Memorial Day reflection, historian Heather Cox Richardson highlights a pamphlet distributed by the US War Department to Army soldiers during World War II on the topic of fascism: what it is and how to combat it.

The War Department thought it was important for Americans to understand the tactics fascists would use to take power in the United States. They would try to gain power “under the guise of ‘super-patriotism’ and ‘super-Americanism.’” And they would use three techniques:

First, they would pit religious, racial, and economic groups against one another to break down national unity. Part of that effort to divide and conquer would be a “well-planned ‘hate campaign’ against minority races, religions, and other groups.”

Second, they would deny any need for international cooperation, because that would fly in the face of their insistence that their supporters were better than everyone else. “In place of international cooperation, the fascists seek to substitute a perverted sort of ultra-nationalism which tells their people that they are the only people in the world who count. With this goes hatred and suspicion toward the people of all other nations.”

Third, fascists would insist that “the world has but two choices — either fascism or communism, and they label as ‘communists’ everyone who refuses to support them.”

It is “vitally important” to learn to spot native fascists, the government said, “even though they adopt names and slogans with popular appeal, drape themselves with the American flag, and attempt to carry out their program in the name of the democracy they are trying to destroy.”

See also The 14 Features of Eternal Fascism, How Fascism Works, Toni Morrison’s Ten Steps Towards Fascism, and Fighting Authoritarianism: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century.

The Ancient ‘Wonder Material’ Sucking CO2 Out of the Atmosphere. “Though public awareness is low, some scientists believe “biochar” is quietly becoming the world’s first major carbon removal success story.”

The Sun, as Seen by the World’s Largest Solar Telescope

closeup shot of a sunspot taken with the Inouye Solar Telescope

closeup shot of a sunspot taken with the Inouye Solar Telescope

closeup shot of a sunspot taken with the Inouye Solar Telescope

closeup shot of the surface of the Sun taken with the Inouye Solar Telescope

The Inouye Solar Telescope is the largest and most powerful solar telescope in the world. The telescope is still in a “learning and transitioning period” and not up to full operational speed, but scientists at the National Solar Observatory recently released a batch of images that hint at what it’s capable of. Several of the photos feature sunspots, cooler regions of the Sun with strong magnetic fields.

The sunspots pictured are dark and cool regions on the Sun’s “surface”, known as the photosphere, where strong magnetic fields persist. Sunspots vary in size, but many are often the size of Earth, if not larger. Complex sunspots or groups of sunspots can be the source of explosive events like flares and coronal mass ejections that generate solar storms. These energetic and eruptive phenomena influence the outermost atmospheric layer of the Sun, the heliosphere, with the potential to impact Earth and our critical infrastructure.

In the quiet regions of the Sun, the images show convection cells in the photosphere displaying a bright pattern of hot, upward-flowing plasma (granules) surrounded by darker lanes of cooler, down-flowing solar plasma. In the atmospheric layer above the photosphere, called the chromosphere, we see dark, elongated fibrils originating from locations of small-scale magnetic field accumulations.

(via petapixel)

I like the Tom Wambsgans triple play theory of how Succession is going to end. (And remember, the first episode of the series featured….a softball game.)

Watch Tarkovsky’s Best Films Online for Free

Mosfilm, one of the largest film studios in the USSR during the Soviet era, has put full-length versions of many of its most acclaimed and influential films on YouTube for free, including six of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films: Stalker, Solaris, Ivan’s Childhood, The Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and The Passion According to Andrei. Also available is Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. Several of these movies appear on Sight and Sound’s 2022 list of the best 100 movies of all time. (via @irwin)

Finally, they’ve ported Tetris to a Chicken McNugget. The plastic nugget handheld is available at Chinese McDonald’s restaurants for around $4.25.

The Fastest Maze-Solving Competition On Earth

Oh this is so nerdy and great: Veritasium introduces us to Micromouse, a maze-solving competition in which robotic mice compete to see which one is the fastest through a maze. The competitions have been held since the late 70s and today’s mice are marvels of engineering and software, the result of decades of small improvements alongside bigger jumps in performance.

I love stuff like this because the narrow scope (single vehicle, standard maze), easily understood constraints, and timed runs, combined with Veritasium’s excellent presentation, makes it really easy to understand how innovation works. The cars got faster, smaller, and learned to corner better, but those improvements created new challenges which needed other solutions to overcome to bring the times down even more. So cool.

Building a Scale Model of Time

The length of a human life is around 80 years. You might get 100 if you’re lucky. The universe is about 13.7 billion years old. The vast difference between a human lifespan and the age of the universe can be difficult to grasp — even the words we use in attempting to describe it (like “vast”) are comically insufficient.

To help us visualize what a difference of eight orders of magnitude might look like, Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh have created a scale model of time in the Mojave Desert, from the Big Bang to the present day. This is really worth watching and likely to make you think some big think thoughts about your place in the universe and in your life.

This is a followup of the scale model of the solar system they built and a video they made about people seeing the Moon through a telescope for the first time.

See also a behind-the-scenes: How We Built a Scale Model of Time. (via colossal)

The Tesla Model Y is now the best-selling car in the world, beating out the Toyota Corolla. The over-reliance on cars is still a big issue, but an EV topping the best-seller list right now is a small bit of good news re: the climate crisis.

A Day in the Life of a Woke Third-Grade Teacher, as Imagined by a Far-Right Politician. “I pull into the parking lot and say hello to the drag queen we recently hired as the school librarian.”

From Slashfilm, a list of the Top 100 Movies Of All Time. More accurate to call this a list of favorite movies rather than the best ones…lots of crowd-pleasing comedies on here.

How Does Humor Intersect With Grief and Fear?

Last week, popular YouTuber, author, and science communicator Hank Green announced that he had cancer (very treatable Hodgkin’s lymphoma). His video announcement was part of a series of back-and-forth videos he does with his brother John Green, popular YouTuber and novelist. John replied to Hank’s video with a short one of his own, noting that humor is one way that people deal with grief but also a way in which we can accompany people through tough times.

To work, the humor has to feel like love rather than judgment, like inclusion rather than stigma, and like celebration rather than dismissal. And that’s a tough balance. Sometimes well-intentioned people, including me, get it wrong. And it also depends on, like, who’s saying it and the context.

Good luck and my warmest thoughts to the Greens and their family as they navigate this difficult time. And, you know, fuck cancer.

Target Removes All Towels From Stores After Soaking-Wet Lunatic Objects To Dryness. “The towels were never meant to force a bone-dry lifestyle on any sopping maniac…”

Tina Turner Brought Rock & Roll Back Home To Black Women. “Black women could be rock stars because Tina Turner said so. Black women could be country singers.”

The Collectors Who Save Video-Game History from Oblivion. “The oldest video games are now about seventy years old, and their stories are disappearing.”

Henry Kissinger turns 100 this week and he’s still a war criminal. “Whatever his accomplishments, his legacy includes an enormous pile of corpses. This is a birthday that warrants no celebration.”

Andy Warhol’s early embrace of the Amiga computer for digital art creation hints at how he might have felt about generative AI tools.

Visualizations of American Household Types

Based on data from a 2021 survey, FlowingData made these cool infographics of all of the different types of households in the United States. Here are the ten most common:

infographic of the 10 most common household types in the US

Single homeowners are the most common but look at #9: inmate. Shameful.

Great step-by-step guide for would-be book banners: What do I do if I don’t like a book at the library?

Turns out that Pedro Pascal doesn’t spend that much time in his Mandalorian suit on shoots — he’s got two stand-ins who wear it most of the time and Pascal does voiceovers.

It’s Just Business

Whenever I hear someone say “it’s just business” in order to magically justify some decision to ignore the humanity of individual people, I remember that it’s adapted from a line in The Godfather spoken by Michael Corleone at the precise moment when he decides to become a murderous sociopath. We should maybe stop running businesses like fictional mafia families.

American cheese is not a quality product. In fact, its lack of quality is often the point, a grand embrace of the lowbrow and cheap that is the cornerstone of so much comfort food.” (I love American cheese.)

Hand Talk

Hand Talk sign language has been used by indigenous communities for thousands of years as a lingua franca between groups and tribes that didn’t share a common spoken language. Hand Talk is an endangered language — the US government tried to eradicate indigenous languages starting the late 1800s — but it’s still in use today.

This was fascinating. For example, as with all languages, Hand Talk vocabulary reveals how they thought about everyday concepts like time:

For example, let’s take the simple question: “How old are you?” First, there’s a single sign for “question.” So for a question about someone’s age, you’d use the motion for question with the motion for “winter”. How many winters are you? That’s what I ask. In PISL you measure months by moons, days by the sun. And to refer to different times of day, you would show hand placement according to the position of the sun in the sky. So this sign for morning, afternoon, or night.

Hand Talk was also one of the influences on ASL and the borrowing of vocabulary between the two language groups continues.

Cool Pac-Man arcade cabinet set coming soon from Lego. There’s a crank on the side that simulates Pac-Man chasing the ghosts.

A Paralyzed Man Can Walk Naturally Again With Brain and Spine Implants. “The brain-spine interface…took advantage of an AI thought decoder to read Mr. Oskam’s intentions…and match them to muscle movements.”

Tina Turner has died at the age of 83. “With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model.” Simply the best.

Wendy’s is testing a scheme to deliver takeout food to people’s cars using what sounds like a robotic dumbwaiter or pneumatic tube system.

How Should We Feel about Barnes and Noble Now? “They are putting on the costume and language of a pretty neighborhood independent bookstore, but their inner mechanics are still all big-box chain corporation.”

Ze Frank on Slime Molds

As part of his True Facts series about the natural world, Ze Frank explains all about slime molds, which are super interesting! Slime molds can efficiently solve mazes, plan efficient train routes, adapt to changing conditions, and learn from each other.

See also many beautiful photos of slime molds.

A subway-style map of the routes of European sleeper train routes. Someday…

Quantifying the human cost of global warming: because of climate change, over 600 million people currently live outside the “human climate niche”. That could rise to more than 1/3 of the total global population by the end of the century.

France has banned short-haul flights to destinations where the same journey can be made by train in under 2.5 hours.

The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Time

books coveres for Where the Wild Things Are and Pippi Longstocking

Relying on the choices of 177 book experts from 56 different countries, BBC Culture recently chose the 100 greatest children’s books of all time. The top five are:

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
3. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
5. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

In terms of Sendak, I always preferred In the Night Kitchen to Where the Wild Things Are. Here are a few of my personal favorites from the list:

14. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
20. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
31. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
45. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
92. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Is the Lord of the Rings a children’s book? Young adult? And I would have liked to have seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go on the list. And perhaps some Frog and Toad?

This has been apparent for months now: Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network. “Twitter has evolved into a platform that is indistinguishable from the wastelands of alternative social-media sites such as Truth Social and Parler.”

I had no idea this existed: Informed Delivery is a free service from the USPS that lets you see photos of your mail & packages before they arrive. There’s even a daily email digest option.

You Cannot Hear These 13 Women’s Stories and Believe the Anti-Abortion Narrative. “It’s increasingly clear that it’s not safe to be pregnant in states with total abortion bans.”

The 2023 finalists for the Apple Design Awards, honoring “excellence in innovation, ingenuity, and technical achievement in app and game design”.

I Get No Mail and It’s Glorious. Great list of tips on how to cut down on junk mail.

The Immaculate Copy of the Declaration of Independence Found Hidden Behind a $4 Flea Market Painting

a copy of the original printing of the Declaration of Independence

Back in 1991, a man bought a painting at a flea market for $4 because he liked the frame. Hidden behind the painting was an envelope containing a copy of the Declaration of Independence. It turned out to be one of approximately 200 copies of the Dunlap broadside, the first published copies of the historic document. From a contemporary NY Times article:

Mr. Redden described the document, found behind the painting when the collector took the frame apart, as an “unspeakably fresh copy” of the declaration. “The fact that it has been in the backing of the frame preserved it,” he said. Of the 24 copies known to survive, only 3 are in private hands, he added.

How “unspeakably fresh” was this particular copy? The ink wasn’t yet dry when it was folded into the envelope:

“The ink was still wet on this copy when it was folded,” Mr. Kiffer said. “The very first line — ‘In Congress, July 4, 1776’ — shows up in the bottom margin in reverse, as a faint offsetting or shadow printing, one more proof of the urgency John Dunlap, the printer, and others felt in dispersing this document.”

The document sold for $2.2 million in 1991 and then sold again in 2000 for $7.4 million to legendary TV producer Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons), who mounted a three-and-a-half year tour of the it across the US. (via my modern met)

An important opinion piece written by an SUV: Outdoor Dining Must Not Interfere With NYC’s Historic Parking Spots. “Who are they to deny me the pleasure of idling underneath a tall willow in the West Village?”

A rave review of Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon by Shannon Shaw Duty of the Osage News. “The film Scorsese has made is definitely not a simple adaptation of Grann’s book, but an adaptation that’s magnified.”

Going to High School in an Old Department Store

A high school here in Vermont is located (temporarily) in an abandoned Macy’s department store. A crew from the BBC recently made a short video tour, where you can see books on shelves designed to display fine china, an absence of windows, escalators, a lack of floor-to-ceiling walls, and fashion branding that remains on the walls.

Alexandra Lange wrote about the school in 2021 for Curbed.

The genre may be nearly dead, yet the building remains. And for economic, ecological, and social reasons, those buildings should be reused. “It’s amazing to think that we are standing in what used to be a department store; that we’re greeting people where we used to buy winter coats; reading books where they once sold fine china; taking phone calls in converted changing rooms; and learning science in the old suit racks,” Burlington’s school superintendent, Tom Flanagan, said at the ceremony. A school in a department store doesn’t have to be a sad story. In fact, this should just be the beginning, both for the students and for a country once addicted to big boxes.

Vermont indie newspaper Seven Days published a writeup, video tour, and photo slideshow of the school when it opened two years ago.

What It’s Like to Have an Abortion Denied by Dobbs. An infuriating & important profile of a Mississippi woman who was forced to give birth and raise a child she wasn’t ready for. “I feel like I’m in a prison.”

From 1999 to 2020, there were 1.63 million excess deaths among Black Americans (when compared to the death rates of white Americans). Total cumulative potential years lost: 82 million.

The 20 best TV series finales of all time. Several of my favorites are on here, including Six Feet Under, Fleabag, and The Americans. I would have liked to see ST:TNG on here maybe?

Sex Ed Books Don’t ‘Groom’ Kids and Teens. They Protect Them. The author of It’s Perfectly Normal says that a 10-year-old girl read the book and “showed her mom the chapter on sexual abuse and said, ‘This is me.’”

Kenny Log-Ins. “Generate a secure password from the lyrics of America’s greatest singer songwriter.”

The Greatest Classic Tetris Game of All Time

In the finals of the Classic Tetris Mega Masters Championship held at the end of last month, two of the top Tetris players in the world played what is probably the greatest 1-vs-1 Classic Tetris game of all time. And then they did it again…

Even if you only have a passing interest in Tetris or video games, this is worth a watch and just as exciting as watching a hard-fought soccer or tennis match.

Fun fact: one of the finalists, Alex T, managed to score zero points in a match at a previous tournament. (via @peterme)

Carl Sagan on Climate Change: “We’re Doing Something Immensely Stupid”

This is sobering: in an ad for the United Nations Global Compact, the words of Carl Sagan from nearly 40 years ago warn us of the necessity for urgent action on climate change, deforestation, and extinction.

Life is something rare and precious. There is something extraordinary about the planet that we are privileged to live on. The human species is destroying forests and we’re doing it at a rate of one acre of forest every second. We’re doing something immensely stupid.

(via colossal)

Indie comics publisher The Nib is shutting down in August after 10 years of publishing.

A Brief History of the Concept Album

Polyphonic’s videos on music are always worth a watch and in this latest one, they explore the history of the concept album, from its proto-origins in the Romantic era to the 70s rock opera heyday to the modern era, where a large percentage of all album releases are conceptual in nature. Along the way, they namecheck a variety of artists from many genres, including Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk, Iron Maiden, De La Soul, Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Janelle Monáe, Kendrick Lamar, and Taylor Swift. (via open culture)

This is totally silly and I can’t look away: a treadmill race between Mario Kart cars and Pixar’s Cars cars. See also Solar System Battle Royale and Sports Battle Royale.

A Ukrainian refugee flees Columbus, Ohio and returns to Kyiv (in a literal war zone!) because of shitty public infrastructure and a non-existent social safety net.

Civil rights organizations like the NAACP and advocacy groups for Latino and LGBTQ+ people are issuing travel advisories for Florida, saying the state is “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals”.

Is Ozempic an Anti-Addiction Drug?

Writing for The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang details how some people taking Ozempic for weight loss are reporting that the drug has also curbed their addictive impulses (to drink, to shop, to smoke).

Earlier this year, she began taking semaglutide, also known as Wegovy, after being prescribed the drug for weight loss. (Colloquially, it is often referred to as Ozempic, though that is technically just the brand name for semaglutide that is marketed for diabetes treatment.) Her food thoughts quieted down. She lost weight. But most surprisingly, she walked out of Target one day and realized her cart contained only the four things she came to buy. “I’ve never done that before,” she said. The desire to shop had slipped away. The desire to drink, extinguished once, did not rush in as a replacement either. For the first time — perhaps the first time in her whole life — all of her cravings and impulses were gone. It was like a switch had flipped in her brain.

Not everyone experiences these effects, but there’s enough anecdotal evidence at this point that scientists are interested and investigating.

Office Workers Don’t Hate the Office. They Hate the Commute. “We have to do something about the daily commute, a ritual of American life that’s time-consuming, emotionally taxing, environmentally toxic and expensive.”

How ‘Succession’ Busts One of America’s Most Cherished Myths (that we like strivers when what we really respect is money & power). “Power and money are fine if you have them already. It’s wanting to acquire them that’s the problem.”

The Four Republican “Freedoms”

For the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie takes a look at the legislation that Republicans around the country are pushing and, in the style of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, outlines what goals they are attempting to achieve.

There is the freedom to control — to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit — to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor — to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace — to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

That sounds about right, and it reminds me, as Republican “governance” often does these days, of Frank Wilhoit’s definition of conservatism:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Ice Merchants

This is just beautiful. This short animated film by João Gonzalez starts off slow but really pays off in the end. Ice Merchants was nominated for a 2023 Academy Award. Here’s an interview with Gonzalez at Director’s Notes.

Ancient Romans Dropped Their Bling Down the Drain, Too. “The colorful intaglios — gems with incised carvings — likely fell out of signet rings worn by wealthy third-century bathers, and ended up trapped in the stone drains.”

The Movement to Stop Dollar Stores From Suffocating Black Communities. “They’re like an invasive species. They overpower all the resources and make the businesses in those neighborhoods vulnerable.”

What can we learn about art from The Simpsons? “The long-running sitcom has such wise lessons on the art world, it ought to be on art school curricula.”

In the 70s, the Chicago Sun-Times bought a bar and staffed it with journalists to investigate extortion by city employees. “[Various inspectors] all took envelopes with money in them and they all passed us. And we should never have passed.”

Abstract Wood Block Sculptures of Notable Paintings

a chunky abstract representation of a van Gogh self-portrait made from colorful wooden blocks

a chunky abstract representation of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring made from colorful wooden blocks

Using colorful wooden blocks cut at different angles, Timur Zagirov makes pixel-log 1 representations of famous artworks by Vermeer, van Gogh, and Leonardo. You can check out his work on Instagram or at Stowe Gallery. (via moss & fog)

  1. Pixelized + analog + wood = pixel-log! Ok fine that’s terrible but I’m leaving it in. 😜

Some “New” Music from Daft Punk, Perhaps Their Last Ever

Earlier this week, the retired electronic duo Daft Punk released the 10th anniversary edition of Random Access Memories, their last studio album. The anniversary album includes 35 minutes of previously unreleased music.

Among the tracks is a demo of Infinity Repeating, featuring Julian Casablancas and The Voidz, which a recent interview w/ Casablancas on Daft Punk’s YouTube channel called “the last Daft Punk song, ever”. The music video for Infinity Repeating, embedded above, features a cool evolution-of-humanity animation (with robots!) and is highly re-watchable.

The Heated newsletter will no longer refer to “natural gas”, instead using “methane gas”. “Most people think things that are called ‘natural’ are good for the environment — and natural gas is objectively not.” Language matters!

Space Iris

Space Iris is a mesmerizing abstract video by Rus Khasanov of expanding and contracting patterns that resemble eye irises and cosmic nebulae. The description doesn’t say how this was made, but a glance at Khasanov’s Instagram account shows a bunch of experiments with liquids. You can cehck out still from the video on Behance. (via colossal)

User Inyerface, a game in which you attempt to get through a deliberately bad user interface as quickly as you can. OMG, this is maddening…

Latinos Can Be White Supremacists. “Racial identity is not fixed. It’s not natural. It’s not biological. It’s not monolithic. Racial identity is culturally and politically produced. How people respond to it varies enormously.”

TikTok and Instagram Reels are driving some chefs to concoct viral food that plays well on video. “The food can’t just sit there. Nothing hooks a viewer more than items that melt and drip and stretch.” Oh good, more stunt food.

Unboxing a 400-Year-Old Copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio

The First Folio is a collection of 36 plays by William Shakespeare that was published in 1623. One of the most influential books ever published, only about 230 copies are known to have survived. The Victoria and Albert Museum has three copies, and in this video, they lead the viewer on a tour through one of them.

There are 36 plays by Shakespeare in this book and half of them had not been previously printed. So this book preserves really half of Shakespeare’s complete works — plays that would probably have been completely lost to us include the Tempest, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, many others that are among people’s favorites today.

(via aeon)

Birder Peter Kaestner has recorded seeing 9,856 different species of birds on his life list in the eBird app, a world record. He’s trying for 10,000, travelling to remote (and sometimes unstable) locales to do so.

Extremely hot days are warming twice as fast as average summer days in North-West Europe. “Last year’s heatwave was not a fluke.”

Watch the Trailer for Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon

I’ve been waiting patiently on this one: the teaser trailer for Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s based on the fantastic book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.

The movie will be out in theaters on October 6. Oh, and Scorsese & DiCaprio have already signed on to adapt Grann’s latest book, The Wager, which I recently read and loved.

There’s a 98% chance that global temperatures will soar to record highs in the next five years, due to human-caused warming and El Niño, including a possible spike above the 1.5°C threshold.

Your Slow and Sad Descent Into Bird-Watching. From Big Bird and The Ugly Duckling in your early years to moving upstate in your late 30s, your path was seemingly predetermined…

Why Did Kids Stop Walking to School?

Right now in the US, the majority of children are driven to school, even though many of them live within walking or cycling distance.

In 1969, about 48% of students walked or cycled to school in the United States. Today that figure is about 11%. And this decline wasn’t just in the US — you can find the same trend in Australia, England, and Canada: today the majority of students are driven to school in a car. One of the larger studies we have on this issue in [British Columbia] found that 58% of 4th graders and 50% of 7th graders were driven to school by their parents.

There are various reasons for this shift, including that roads are unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians because of cars, a cultural shift towards greatly increased parental supervision of children, and inflexible parental work schedules.

A list of the best pens you can buy in 2023 in dozens of categories: fountain, gel, left-handed, manga, glitter, highlighter, dry erase, etc.

Please stop using AI to make Wes Anderson parodies. “You can’t parody Wes Anderson, because he is already parodying himself.”

Tiny Electronic Desktop Sculptures

Hardware engineer Mohit Bhoite designs functional little desktop bots like this thermometer and this internet-connected weather display:

a little desktop sculpture that displays the temperature

a little desktop sculpture that displays the weather on a color display

These are adorable…there’s no other way to describe them. You can check out more of Bhoite’s sculptures on his website or on Instagram. (via core77)

Depression hits new high among Americans, per survey. “More than a quarter of American adults are depressed, a 10% surge from nearly a decade ago.” So many people I know are struggling.

Going Infinite is a new book from Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short) about the rise and fall of the FTX crypto exchange and its CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, now under indictment for fraud and money laundering. Cool cover.

How to Design an (Unofficial) Transit Map

In this short video, Norwegian creative director Torger Jansen explains how he designed an unofficial transit map that combines all three of Oslo’s public transportation networks (tram, metro, train) into a single diagram. His four main goals:

1. Showing all the lines on every network, thus making it easier to understand the service patterns.
2. Making it recognisable with the official line colours.
3. Compressing unnaturally long distances between stations.
4. Balancing aesthetics and accessibility. The diagram is clear and easy to read with minimal fuss.

As Jansen notes, this is not how a design process would work in the real world — there’s no user testing or competing stakeholders to please — but from a purely aesthetic and functional standpoint, it’s still an interesting challenge and puzzle to attempt to solve. (thx, david)

Americans’ Largely Positive Views of Childhood Vaccines Hold Steady. But: “Among Republicans, 57% now support requiring children to be vaccinated to attend public schools, down from 79% in 2019.”

How Tokyo Became an Anti-Car Paradise. “What Tokyo shows is that it is possible for enormous cities to work rather well without being overloaded by traffic congestion. Actually, Tokyo works better than big cities anywhere else.”

Using AI, creatives are imagining alternate world histories like “What if the Mayan empire never fell?”, “What if Somalia conquered Europe?”, and “What if India ruled Great Britain?”

The Otherworldly Ice Caves of Iceland

a lone figure stands silhouetted in the entrance of a blue ice cave with the northern lights behind them

a lone figure silhouetted in the entrance of a blue ice cave, descending on a rope

Well, I don’t think these photos of Icelandic ice caves by Ryan Newburn need much explanation. Stunning. I found these photos via Colossal, which has more information about how they were taken.

Occupying such an ancient and always evolving space is an experience that’s difficult to photograph, Newburn shares, because the constant trickle of melting water, the roar of distant rivers, or even the unique interplay of light and glacier are impossible to depict entirely. “Underneath the ice, where the sun cannot penetrate,” he says, “your eyes slowly adjust from the bright sun to the glowing deep blue crystal walls of the ice cave. The more that your eyes adjust, the more saturated the blue gets. It’s a surreal visual experience that you cannot get from any photo of an ice cave.”

If you’d like to see some of these places for yourself, Newburn runs a tour company called Ice Pic Journeys.

On Mastodon, Bluesky, and the Fediverse. “Should we stick with an easy system like the ones we know on Twitter and Facebook, where a few media kings rule us all? Or embrace the ambiguity of decentralization in the name of freedom?”

Trans Teen Hatches Nefarious Plot To Undergo Years Of Medical Treatments And Counseling To Win At Swimming. “I don’t even want to be a woman — I just want to win at swimming.”

Tejal Rao with a keen observation: On ‘Succession’, if You’re Eating, You’re Losing. “Their hunger, their appetite, their keenness, it’s a squishy surplus of vulnerability.”

How Precise Metal Machining Is Done

I’ve always wondered about the process for making pieces of metal that appear to fit together perfectly, so perfectly that you can’t see any sort of cut or seam. In this video, Steve Mould explains how wire EDM works, in part using cheese.

The Centre Pompidou in Paris will be closed for five years of renovations starting in 2025. Five years!? What, do they only have one person working on it?

A new study links exposure to a common chemical solvent called trichloroethylene to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. “TCE is highly persistent in soil and groundwater…”

Japan’s Evaporated People

In Japan, people who disappear from their lives are called “evaporated people”. People choose to drop out of their lives for different reasons, ranging from debt or abuse to mental health struggles or a lack of second chances in Japanese society. Some Japanese who want to go into hiding or relocate from domestic abuse or stalkers hire “night movers” to help them disappear.

For more info, here’s a long piece from Time magazine from 2017.

Sometimes a whole team works on a client’s disappearance, swiftly sweeping through an apartment in the dead of night. At TS, it costs between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they’re going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher. Every day, TS receives between five and 10 inquiries like the one Saita described. Most people simply require counseling or legal advice but the company claims to help between 100 and 150 people to vanish annually.

Morris Tanenbaum, Inventor of the Silicon Microchip, Dies at 94. “In 1955 he and colleague Ernest Buehler demonstrated the first silicon transistor.”

Early Computer Art in the 50s and 60s

a wavy black and white pattern generated by a computer

an intricate and colorful looping pattern

a computer drawing of a bunch of colorful squares stacked on top of each other

Artist Amy Goodchild recently published an engaging article about the earliest computer art from the 50s and 60s.

My original vision for this article was to cover the development of computer art from the 50’s to the 90’s, but it turns out there’s an abundance of things without even getting half way through that era. So in this article we’ll look at how Lovelace’s ideas for creativity with a computer first came to life in the 50’s and 60’s, and I’ll cover later decades in future articles.

I stray from computer art into electronic, kinetic and mechanical art because the lines are blurred, it contributes to the historical context, and also because there is some cool stuff to look at.

Cool stuff indeed — I’ve included some of my favorite pieces that Goodchild highlighted above. (via waxy)

Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send

Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send

From XKCD, Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send. Ahhhh, this takes me back to my research days in college, tinkering with best fits and R-squared values…

Ian Frisch’s mother played competitive poker in her youth, but stopped to raise a family. She took it up again after her husband died in order to provide for her kids. “I love having a nemesis at the table. It gives me purpose.”

The winners of the 2023 Nebula Awards for the best speculative fiction released in 2022, including Babel by R.F. Kuang for best novel.

How A24 Took Over Hollywood

If you’re like me, sometime in the past 4-5 years you noticed that a lot of the films you liked (or, even if you didn’t, you appreciated that they were getting made) were coming from the same place, A24. Moonlight, Uncut Gems, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Aftersun, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Eighth Grade, Lady Bird, The Lobster, Amy, Ex Machina. More recently, TV shows like Euphoria, Beef, and Erma Vep.

This video from Vox charts the rise of A24 from a small distributor to an Oscar-winning powerhouse that pumps out more movies each year than much bigger studios. See also The Cult of A24 (a good companion piece to the video above) and Every A24 Movie, Ranked.

I Will Defend Free Speech to the Death. Or Until an Autocrat Asks Me to Stop. “Let every petty dictator take notice: If you want Twitter to censor its users, just send me an email.”

The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse. “We’ve learned how to fight abuse. It’s a solvable problem. We just have to stop repeating the same myths as excuses not to fix things.” Important read as we attempt to reorg social media.

A recent study suggests that Saturn’s rings are relatively young, no more than 400 million years old (Saturn is 4.5 billion years old). Horseshoe crabs & jellyfish are older.

A Trove of Video Profiles of Artists

On their YouTube channel, Art21 hosts a treasure trove of video profiles of artists like Amy Sherald, Olafur Eliasson, Chris Ware, Christian Marclay, Anish Kapoor, Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Julie Mehretu, and Sally Mann.

This is excellent — what a resource. (via colossal)

The media is not equipped to handle the return of Donald Trump. “Bigotry is not merely a different opinion that we should expose ourselves to. It isn’t an intellectual exercise or a useful contribution to a range of diverse viewpoints.”

The Future Pandemic Playbook: What the US Got Right

From The Atlantic, 23 Pandemic Decisions That Actually Went Right, the result of interviews with more than a dozen pandemic experts.

17. Basic research spending matters. The COVID vaccines wouldn’t have been ready for the public nearly as quickly without a number of existing advances in immunology, Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told us. Scientists had known for years that mRNA had immense potential as a delivery platform for vaccines, but before SARS-CoV-2 appeared, they hadn’t had quite the means or urgency to move the shots to market. And research into vaccines against other viruses, such as RSV and MERS, had already offered hints about the sorts of genetic modifications that might be needed to stabilize the coronavirus’s spike protein into a form that would marshal a strong, lasting immune response.

The Search for My Kimchi. Food, data science, and the immigrant experience combine in Alvin Chang’s attempt to rediscover a childhood favorite that his grandmother made him.

Making Art by Day, Guarding It at the Met by Night. “Over 25 years walking the museum’s midnight shift, Greg Kwiatek learned how to look for the hidden subtleties of paintings, which helped inform his own.”

How Big Are the Biggest Black Holes?

This short animation from NASA shows the sizes of some of the supermassive black holes that feature at the center of galaxies. Some are relatively small:

First up is 1601+3113, a dwarf galaxy hosting a black hole packed with the mass of 100,000 Suns. The matter is so compressed that even the black hole’s shadow is smaller than our Sun.

While others are much larger than the solar system…and this isn’t even the biggest one:

At the animation’s larger scale lies M87’s black hole, now with a updated mass of 5.4 billion Suns. Its shadow is so big that even a beam of light — traveling at 670 million mph (1 billion kph) — would take about two and a half days to cross it.

The Brooklyn Museum and Hannah Gadsby are collaborating on an exhibition called It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby that “reckons with complex questions around misogyny, creativity, the art-historical canon, and ‘genius.’”

Andy tracked down and interviewed Bobby Fingers, who came out of seemingly nowhere with these great & gloriously weird videos about “embarrassing moments in the lives of famous men”.

The Horror of Vintage Dutch Safety Posters

vintage Dutch safety poster showing a saw blade and a hand missing some fingers

vintage Dutch safety poster showing someone getting electrocuted

vintage Dutch safety poster showing someone getting their hair caught in a drill

When it came to making safety posters, the Dutch were pretty hardcore — a lot of these vintage posters look more like horror film adverts than safety warnings. (via meanwhile)

Theoretical Puppets, a YouTube channel that features Muppet-style puppets of thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Michel Foucault discussing social science and philosophy. So weird.

Play Moderator Mayhem, in which you are tasked with moderating user-generated content. The game’s creators hope it will result in better conversations about trust & safety issues.

In The End: What It Felt Like to Almost Die

In this short film by Sarah Klein & Tom Mason, Christen O’Brien tells the story of how she almost died from a massive pulmonary embolism, what she experienced in those moments, and what she took from the experience. The film is based on an essay she wrote called What It Felt Like to Almost Die.1

Realizing that I was dying was like being pushed into a pool. You have no thought but to hold your breath and start swimming. It was the most out of control I’d ever been in my life, yet the only option was to succumb peacefully. I could hear the percussion of my heart beating wildly, recklessly. My breath only reached my trachea now, its pathway closing in rapidly. My palms spread open to the sky, just as my dog moved to stand over me. I am here with you, I am here to protect you.

O’Brien wrote a follow-up to her original post, How It Felt to Come Back to Life:

Coming back from death showed me that the journey of life is not what we often believe. On the surface, it appears as a journey outward — toward things, people, organizations, achievements. But in truth, it is a journey inward — toward the soul. Toward becoming who you actually are, no matter how far outward you may have to travel in order to discover that all the answers are within you, where you belong.

  1. The filmmakers first read O’Brien’s story via a link from It doesn’t happen that often, but I love it when things I feature go on to inspire others to create things of their own. Just doing my bit to complete the loop.

In the 80s and 90s, many Asian American parents named their daughters after journalist Connie Chung; a group of Connies recently met their namesake. “People saw Connie Chung every night on TV; she was famous, and popular. She’d made it.”

The Whimsical Fellowship, Wes Anderson’s Lord of the Rings

I know, I know. Too much Wes Anderson. Too much AI. But there is something in my brain, a chemical imbalance perhaps, and I can’t help but find this reimagining of the Lord of the Rings in Anderson’s signature style funny and charming. Sorry but not sorry.

See also The Galactic Menagerie, Wes Anderson’s Star Wars.

How to Survive a Car Crash in 10 Easy Steps. “Your brain can’t regenerate the neurons it’s lost. Use ‘em or lose ‘em. You had no idea your brain operated like annual dental benefits.”

A reminder that CNN is not bumbling into platforming fascists like Trump because of some unlearned lessons from 2016 — the network’s move to the right is on purpose. It’s entertainment, not news — like Fox.

Great Wave Off Kanagawa, In All Its 1-Bit Pixelized Glory

As part of a project to reproduce all 36 of Hokusai’s views of Mount Fuji as 1-bit black & white pixel art, James Weiner drew Great Wave Off Kanagawa:

a pixelated black and white version of Hokusai's Great Wave Off Kanagawa

And he used an old Mac running System 7 to do it:

I usually use either my Quadra 700 or PowerBook 100, mostly because those are my reliable and easy to access computers (that run System 7, my favourite and most familiar OS of that era).

Software-wise I use Aldus SuperPaint 3.0, which is what my family had when I was a kid. Yes, I’d say that all of this is 99% nostalgia-driven…

This is just a lovely rendering — spare and elegant with just the right amount of detail.

A book from 2019 called This Is How You Lose the Time War has rocketed to #3 on Amazon’s bestseller list because of a viral tweet by someone named Bigolas Dickolas.

Rest in Peace, Heather

Hey folks, I have some sad news to share. Heather Hamilton (aka Heather Armstrong), who wrote the popular and influential Dooce weblog, died yesterday. She was 47 years old. My thoughts are with her children, her family, and those closest to her.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow. In the meantime, hug your loved ones tight. ❤️

J. R. Moehringer on his experiences ghostwriting memoirs with Andre Agassi, Phil Knight, and Prince Harry. “For the thousandth time in my ghostwriting career, I reminded myself: It’s not your effing book.”

“From the copaganda marketing term ‘officer-involved shooting’ to the politician fave ‘mistakes were made,’ exonerative language deflects whose fault it is, absolving anyone of accountability and employing the passive voice to misleading ends.”

Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat designed a map in Counter-Strike with a secret room that delivers factual information on the war in Ukraine to Russian players who only hear propaganda on the news.

The list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the US for 2023 includes two Chinatowns, a gas station in Arizona, and Miami’s Little Santo Domingo neighborhood.

Tour the Bridges of All of Star Trek’s Starships Enterprise

Drawing from the materials of The Roddenberry Archive, this video takes us on a virtual tour of the 3D rendered bridges of every iteration of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, from the original 1964 sketches to the final scenes of Star Trek: Picard. I’ve watched a bunch of Star Trek recently and it was neat to see the evolution of the design and presumed technology. Designing for the future is difficult and it’s even tougher when, for instance, you need to design something that for the future that looks contemporary to now but also, somehow, predates a design that looked contemporary 30 years ago. (If that makes any sense…)

You can also head over to The Roddenberry Archive to check out all of the Enterprise designs in more detail, inside and out. (via open culture)

“Looming behind antibiotic resistance is another bacterial threat – antibiotic tolerance.” Some bacteria can lie dormant while antibiotics are present, only to reactivate after they’ve left the system.

Right-wing gun nut Timothy McVeigh’s dreams are coming true. “Today, an often-inchoate movement of people who share many of McVeigh’s views is waging what increasingly looks like a low-level insurgency against the rest of us.”

Your Body Is Never Not Killing Cancer

From Kurzgesagt, this video is a good overview of the arms race going on in all human bodies between cancer cells and the defenses developed by our immune systems over the years.

Somewhere in your body, your immune system just quietly killed one of your own cells, stopping it from becoming cancer, and saving your life. It does that all the time. The vast majority of cancer cells you develop will be killed without you ever noticing. Which is an incredibly hard job because of what cancer cells are: parts of yourself that start to behave as individuals even if it hurts you.

What is cancer and how does your body kill it all the time?

Citing an increase in breast cancer among women in their 40s, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends women should start getting regular mammograms at age 40.

Wendy’s plans on automating its drive-thru service using an AI chatbot developed by Google. “The application has also been programmed to upsell customers, offering larger sizes, Frosties or daily specials.”

The winners of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for books include Beverly Gage’s biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Freedom’s Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power by Jefferson Cowie, and Hua Hsu’s memoir Stay True.

Overinflated: The Journey of a Humble Tire Reveals Why Prices Are Still So High. An “I, Pencil” look at inflation and why prices on some goods (like car tires) remain high.

Americans tend to react in six different ways to the climate crisis: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive. “Overall, Americans are becoming more worried about global warming, more engaged with the issue…”

There was an all-fonts category on Jeopardy the other day — the text of each clue was set in the typeface they were looking for as an answer.

SineRider: A Game About Love & Graphing

Remember Line Rider? It’s a simple video game / physics toy where you draw slopes and curves for a person on a sled to navigate, pulled along by gravity. SineRider, a project started by Chris Walker and finished by a group of teen hackers at Hack Club, is a version of Line Rider where you use math equations to draw curves to maneuver the sledder through a series of points, sometimes in a certain order. Here’s a trailer with some gameplay examples:

Let me tell you, I haven’t had this much fun mucking around with an online game/toy since I don’t know when. My math is super rusty, but SineRider eases you into the action with some simple slopes (no cosines or tangents necessary) and before you know it, it’s 20 minutes later and you’re googling equations for parabolas.

Right now, there are two ways to play. You can start on the front page and go through a progression of puzzles that get more challenging as more concepts are introduced (such as the curve changing over time). Or you can do the challenges, which are posted daily to Twitter or Reddit. My son and I spent 10-15 minutes solving these two challenges and we were laughing and cheering when we finally got them. (The educational opportunity here is obvious…)

SineRider is currently in beta so some of the UI stuff is a little rough around the edges, but I was really charmed by the music, the animations…everything really. The project is open source — the code is available on GitHub and the Hack Club folks are looking for contributors and collaborators:

There’s a reason it’s open-source and written in 100% vanilla JavaScript. We need volunteer artists, writers, programmers, and puzzle designers. And, if you’re a smart teenager who wants to change education for the better, you should come join Hack Club!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go (to Read This)

Hey, I just wanted to pop in with some reminders and a couple of new things. As I outlined in a post last month, 2023 has been busy around here:

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*

And the hits keep on coming. In the last two weeks, I’ve added two additional ways to keep up with on Tumblr and Bluesky (web). My Tumblr posting bot stopped working a couple of years ago, so it was good to get that going again. So as of now, there are seven ways to read/follow the activity at on the website, full-text RSS, Mastodon, Facebook, Twitter (until they kick me off they kicked me off!), Bluesky, Tumblr, and Threads (kinda/sorta). And I’m adding one more (big one) to the mix, hopefully sometime in the next week, so look for that. (Also up next: focusing on some UI/UX stuff…) Oh, and regarding the social accounts, I’m only active on Mastodon and, for now, Bluesky…if you reply to stuff on Twitter or FB, I probably won’t even see it and won’t respond.

Last thing. I’m going to bug you one more time and then shut up about it for awhile: 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. Everything I do here, including making it easy for readers to find the site wherever they choose to read web content, is only possible because of the financial support of members. Thank you so much for the support! ✌️

How to Build (and Destroy) a Social Network. “Status means everything to platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But contrary to what Elon Musk thinks, it doesn’t come from a blue checkmark.”

Casey Johnston lost her AirPods and tried to track down the thief. “The AirPods weren’t in the wind, as lost or stolen objects had been my entire life. They were right there. They were close. They were obtainable.”

Introducing ‘Total Crap’, the First Magazine Written Entirely by AI. “We are proud to bring the written word into the future with revolutionary technology that delivers the one thing readers are most passionate about: efficiency.”

Masks Work. Distorting Science to Dispute the Evidence Doesn’t. “Are randomized trials an appropriate way of evaluating a basic engineered safety system? We don’t rely on such trials for seat belts, bike helmets or life jackets.”

Indian Street Lettering

Pooja Saxena collects interesting examples of lettering from the streets of cities in India. Here are a few recent examples:

a street sign in India

a street sign in India

a street sign in India

(via @ashur)

Last week, a small sailboat in distress was rescued by a massive 18th-century sailing ship. “This moment was very strange, and we wondered if we were dreaming. Where were we? What time period was it?”

The Ultimate Oral History Of BuzzFeed News. I co-worked in the NYC BuzzFeed office for the first few years of this and didn’t realize half of these amazing folks even worked there.


Finally: a full-length trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, easily the movie I am most looking forward to seeing this summer. Dunkirk was one of my favorite films of the past few years, I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the Manhattan Project over the years, and I studied modern physics in college, so I am all the way in for this. Fingers crossed!

P.S. The movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Might have to read this one before the movie comes out.

The Accidental Tetris World Champion

Last month I posted a link to a story about a woman who discovered she was one of the world’s top Candy Crush players.

Since progress was tied to game score rather than PvP results, Rhoden kept getting pop-ups for milestones such as passing the quarterfinals, and then entering the semifinals as she was just casually taking part in her regular Candy Crush routine.

She was overwhelmed, so she texted the other esports athlete in the family: Her son. Xane was the best Meta Knight player in the midwest during the height of his Super Smash Bros. career. She asked him what a $250,000 prize pool was. After he explained that first place got half of the total pool, he asked why. “I’m in the semifinals accidentally,” she wrote.

In that vein, a reader sent me a link to this 2007 Boston Globe piece about a woman who discovers that she’s actually the world’s best Tetris player.

“It’s funny,” I told Flewin. “We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She’s weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem.”

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

“Oh, my!”

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

“Honey,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who’s in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world’s largest classic video game tournament.

Spoiler alert: she broke the record. Baker is still 5th on the all-time scoring list but her score was bested just three months later by Harry Hong, the original record holder, who achieved a score six times higher than Baker’s. (thx, euse42)

An extremely upsetting but must-see 3D visualization of what AR-15 bullets did to the bodies of two children killed in Newtown and Parkland, based on autopsy reports & done with their families’ consent. No fucking way these things should be allowed.

How The Legend of Zelda Changed the Game. Great little interactive feature on almost 40 years of Zelda games. “Zelda is the standard unit of measurement in the gaming industry.”

Clarence Thomas Promises To Adopt Code Of Ethics For The Right Price. “I admit to seeing the wisdom in developing some kind of ethical framework for the Supreme Court, so long as Papa gets some sugar.”

When filmmakers best each other at the box office, it’s tradition for the vanquished to publicly congratulate the victor. Spielberg started the practice in 1977 when Star Wars bested Jaws and it continues today.

Beautiful Timelapse of Singapore’s Changing Cityscape

For eight years, Keith Loutit captured hundreds of thousands of images of Singapore, combining the pulsing energy, the new buildings reaching for the sky, and the busy shipyard of one of Asia’s most iconic and futuristic cities into this 5-minute timelapse video.

When we pass by landscapes they appear fixed in time but they change around us constantly. Singapore has gone through an incredible change over the past 8 years, and I have tried to capture as much of this change as possible. There were no permanent cameras used in this film, it required regular site visits over 988 shoot days and over 3300 matched shots.

The video is also available on Vimeo and you can watch two previous Singapore timelapses by Loutit here and here. (via moss and fog)

Your joyful dancing for the day: a group of kids from Kampala, Uganda dancing to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.

Inside the Delirious Rise of ‘Superfake’ Handbags. “Can you tell the difference between a $10,000 Chanel bag and a $200 knockoff? Almost nobody can, and it’s turning luxury fashion upside down.”

A new book from Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier. Sample advice: “If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game.”

Imagining an Alternative to AI-Supercharged Capitalism

Expanding on his previous thoughts on the relationship between AI and capitalism — “I tend to think that most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism” — Ted Chiang offers a useful metaphor for how to think about AI: as a management-consulting firm like McKinsey.

So, I would like to propose another metaphor for the risks of artificial intelligence. I suggest that we think about A.I. as a management-consulting firm, along the lines of McKinsey & Company. Firms like McKinsey are hired for a wide variety of reasons, and A.I. systems are used for many reasons, too. But the similarities between McKinsey — a consulting firm that works with ninety per cent of the Fortune 100 — and A.I. are also clear. Social-media companies use machine learning to keep users glued to their feeds. In a similar way, Purdue Pharma used McKinsey to figure out how to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin during the opioid epidemic. Just as A.I. promises to offer managers a cheap replacement for human workers, so McKinsey and similar firms helped normalize the practice of mass layoffs as a way of increasing stock prices and executive compensation, contributing to the destruction of the middle class in America.

A former McKinsey employee has described the company as “capital’s willing executioners”: if you want something done but don’t want to get your hands dirty, McKinsey will do it for you. That escape from accountability is one of the most valuable services that management consultancies provide. Bosses have certain goals, but don’t want to be blamed for doing what’s necessary to achieve those goals; by hiring consultants, management can say that they were just following independent, expert advice. Even in its current rudimentary form, A.I. has become a way for a company to evade responsibility by saying that it’s just doing what “the algorithm” says, even though it was the company that commissioned the algorithm in the first place.

Good stuff — I especially enjoyed the mini You’re Wrong About on the Luddites — do read the whole thing.

After more than three years, the WHO has declared “COVID-19 over as a global health emergency”.

“Making People Uncomfortable Can Now Get You Killed”

Roxane Gay, writing in the NY Times about the recent killings and assaults of people who had the bad luck to run into self-appointed executioners (gift link).

There is no patience for simple mistakes or room for addressing how bigotry colors even the most innocuous interactions. There is no regard for due process. People who deem themselves judge, jury and executioner walk among us, and we have no real way of knowing when they will turn on us.

I will be thinking about Jordan Neely in particular for a long time. I will be thinking about who gets to stand his ground, who doesn’t, and how, all too often, it’s people in the latter group who are buried beneath that ground by those who refuse to cede dominion over it. Every single day there are news stories that are individually devastating and collectively an unequivocal condemnation of what we are becoming: a people without empathy, without any respect for the sanctity of life unless it’s our own.

The whole piece is worth reading and sitting with.

Eternal Spring, a Timelapse of Ice Melting

Eternal Spring is a short timelapse film by Christopher Dormoy featuring beautiful shots of melting snow and ice. Watching this, it is difficult not to think of the climate crisis, which is of course the whole point.

Ice is a beautiful element I love to work with in my video projects. I wanted to feature the ice melting aspect in timelapse process to illustrate the phenomenon of global warming. Melting ice is beautiful and symbolizes spring, but it can also symbolize a problematic aspect of our climate.

And wow, that shot of the Moon at the halfway point… (via colossal)

The trailer for Then Comes The Body, a short documentary about a ballet school outside Lagos, Nigeria, run by Daniel Ajala, who learned ballet on YouTube.

How Finland Virtually Ended Homelessness — and We Can Too. “Instead of abandoning the homeless, they housed them.” A decade on, 80% of Finland’s (formerly) unhoused are still living in the provided housing, paying their own rent.

Seasonal Allergies Are Coming for Us All. Due to climate change, “allergy seasons are getting longer and more intense because plants are producing more pollen over a longer period”.

Microsoft Excel Esports?

Microsoft Excel is an extremely powerful, complex, and useful software program that millions of people know how to use, at least a little bit. For those who are experts, there are now esports competitions in Microsoft Excel that pit the best spreadsheet jockeys against each other. Here’s what that looks like:

It’s….a little confusing to watch if you aren’t that good at Excel yourself. From a piece in the Atlantic late last year:

Yes, we are talking about people competing in Microsoft Excel, the famous (and famously boring) spreadsheet software that you may have used in school or at work or to track your finances. In competitive Excel, players square off in test-taking showdowns, earning points each time they answer a question correctly. Players’ screens are a whirlwind of columns and keystrokes and formulae; if the terms XLOOKUP, RANDBETWEEN, and dynamic array don’t mean anything to you, you are unlikely to understand what’s going on. The commentators help, but only to a point. Even so, you can always follow the scoreboard, which tends to change suddenly and drastically. With just over three minutes to play, Ngai nailed a set of questions and jumped out to a 416-390 lead. GolferMike1 began to rethink his earlier assessment: “Uh oh. We got a game.”

There’s a pretty good explanation of what some of the challenges are like starting at the 6-minute mark in this video:

If you’d like more information, check out the Microsoft Excel World Championship for 2023 — the finals are in Las Vegas this year, they’re gonna show it on one of ESPN’s channels, and there’s more than $15,000 in prize money at stake.

Lauren Groff’s new book, The Vaster Wilds, is now available for preorder. I loved her previous novel Matrix.

On the difference between growth and scalability. One is a natural process that takes time and values diversity & interconnection and the other optimizes for efficiency & profit. “Growth occurs. It is not made.”

This company sells Star Wars scented candles — The Death Star candle has notes of smoked amber, cement, tobacco, forged steel, and black myrrh. What, no Hoth candle that smells like tauntaun innards?

Should We Reflect Sunlight to Cool the Planet?

In this video in their ongoing series on the climate crisis and how to fix it, Vox looks at the pros and cons of solar geoengineering (aka using artificial means to reflect sunlight in order to cool the Earth).

The climate change crisis has become so dire that we’re being forced not only to think of ways to curb emissions and mitigate greenhouse gases, but of ways to adapt to our current situation to buy ourselves more time.

One of those technologies is called solar geoengineering. It happens in nature when huge volcanic eruptions cover the stratosphere with ash: That ash forms a layer that reflects sunlight and cools the planet underneath. Solar geoengineering takes advantage of that principle, using different scientific methods to make the planet more reflective overall. The problem is, deploying it would require messing with our very complicated climate on a massive scale, and many scientists don’t think the risks are worth it.

A Collection of Sci-Fi Movie Logos

a collection of sci-fi movie logos, including ones from 4D Man, Ghostbusters, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, 2001, 1984, and It Came From Outer Space

Loving scrolling through this collection of sci-fi movie logos from Reagan Ray.

As is the case with most of my logo posts, it’s been fun to pick up on the trends. There’s the trick where they remove the segments from the top half of the letters like Blade Runner, or the embossed brushed metal of Robocop. Glowing letters were a big trend that started in the late 80s, most likely set off by the Alien franchise. And I can never get enough of the 3D type in early films.

You can check out more of Ray’s logo collections here.

America Makes It Too Hard and Dangerous to Get Divorced. “Divorce in the U.S. is governed by an arbitrary constellation of policies that impede the freedom to end a marriage and have a disproportionately harmful impact on women.”

Trailer for Dune: Part Two

Ok, here’s the first trailer for second part of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. Time to get hyped! It comes out on November 3 — we have until then to decide what “Timothée Chalamet rides the worm” is a euphemism for.

Otherworldly Landscapes, Light Painted With Drones

a bright cylinder of light over a dark lake surrounded by mountains

a spiral of light around a castle tower

a circle of light over a salt flat

The three images above were created by long-exposure photography of the flight paths of drones with onboard bright lights.

The first image is from Jadikan’s new series, Phénomènes (Instagram), in which he uses fireworks to create brightly-lit cylindrical forms.

The second one is by Will Ferguson of Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds — you can see more of his aerial work here or on Instagram.

The third is from Reuben Wu (Instagram), whose work I’ve featured here for many years. IMO, Wu’s work is slightly more polished than Jadikan’s or Ferguson’s, but I enjoy experiencing all of it. (via petapixel)

Wealthy Couple Taking Real Vacation For First Time In Weeks. “She and her husband would have gone sooner, but they could barely find the time between the hours of work and the dozens of other vacations they had taken this year.”

The Internet Isn’t Meant To Be So Small. “The internet was supposed to be a place of opportunity, not just for profit but for surprise and connection and delight.”

Wii Sports Birdwatching. “Here we imagine what it would be like if Wii Sports had birdwatching as a game.”

Type Beasts

the word 'effect' repeated over and over on a grid

the word 'essence' in a flowing script

the word 'fuck' in a flowing script

the word 'hope' in a flowing script, twice

In a pair of collections on Behance, Hungarian designer and artist Miklós Kiss showcases his skill with ligatures and swirling serifs: Type Beast and Type Beast 2.0

I love typography. I love letters. I love to make ligatures and find connections between letters. These are not logos, but sometimes they can be. Sometimes this kind of typography is not readable. Sometimes they look like abstract artworks. Sometimes they look like choreography. I love to watch them move, I love their beauty. I call my little typography monsters my Type Beasts.

(via abdz)

Definitely want to try zorbing someday (rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball filled with water).

The Kidnappers Foil, the Most Remade Movie in History

For his second Iconic Sans video, David Friedman tells us about an itinerant filmmaker who travelled the country from the 30s to the 50s making the same movie over and over again with different casts of local children.

Why would somebody remake a movie hundreds of times? Was he obsessed? Mad? Director Melton Barker was a traveling filmmaker (historians call him an “itinerant filmmaker”) who went town to town from the 1930s to the 1970s convincing everyday folks to pay him to be in his movie “The Kidnappers Foil” over and over and over. He used the same script each time, with an all local cast. It’s a fascinating bit of Americana and cinema history.

You can learn more about The Kidnappers Foil at this site from The Texas Archive of the Moving Image, watch several full-length versions on the film on YouTube, or use the script to make your own version.

David Byrne covering Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody at a concert in 2005.

One of the Last Chino-Latino Restaurants in NYC

This is a sweet video profile of La Dinastia, one of the last old-school, family-run places in NYC where you can find Chino-Latino cuisine. From Lisa Chiu at ThoughtCo, a brief history of Asian-Latin food blends:

Cuban-Chinese Cuisine is the traditional fusing of Cuban and Chinese food by Chinese migrants to Cuba in the 1850s. Brought to Cuba as laborers, these migrants and their Cuban-Chinese progeny developed a cuisine that blended Chinese and Caribbean flavors.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many Cuban Chinese left the island and some established Cuban Chinese food restaurants in the United States, mainly in New York City and Miami. Some diners contend that Cuban-Chinese food is more Cuban than Chinese.

There are also other genres of Chinese-Latin and Asian-Latin food blends created by Asian migrants to Latin America over the last two centuries.

See also Chinese Latinos Explain Chino-Latino Food and from The Village Voice in 2014, The Definitive Guide to NYC’s Chinese-Latin American Restaurants, many of which, like La Dinastia, are still around.

What All My Best Meals Have Had in Common. A pro food writer: “The most memorable meals of my life have unquestionably been in other people’s homes.” This has not been my experience…my top 10 are all restaurants.

A man claiming to own a David Hockney painting brings it to Antiques Roadshow to be evaluated. The appraiser: “I now know what an early Hockney looks like.”

An AI Artist Explains His Workflow

No matter which side you come down on in the debate about using AI tools like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney to create digital art, this video of an experienced digital artist explaining how he uses AI in his workflow is worth a watch. I thought this comment was particularly interesting:

I see the overall process as a joint effort with the AI. I’ve been a traditional artist for 2 decades, painting on canvas. And in the last five years I’ve been doing a lot of digital art. So from that part of myself, I don’t feel threatened at all.

I feel this is an opportunity. An opportunity for many new talented people to jump on a new branch of art that is completely different from the one that we have already in digital art and just open up new way of being creative.

Thousands of film and television writers belonging to The Writers Guild of America go on strike today. Sticking points include pay levels, staffing & revenue sharing around streaming, and use of AI in the writing process.

Man Going Through Phase Where Life Implodes And Everything That Follows Is On The Decline. “Someday I will look back at this difficult period in my life and wonder how I ever had it so good.” 👋

A review of the five best croissants in Paris, filmed during the massive strikes and demonstrations around raising the pension age in France. This is amazing…

Eyecandy: a collection of dozens of visual effects and techniques like crash zoom, screen in screen, scale shift, rack focus, infinite zoom, etc.

Brushstrokes in Time

David Ambarzumjan 01

David Ambarzumjan 02

The paintings in David Ambarzumjan’s Brushstrokes in Time series bring together large, rough brushstrokes with intricate landscapes — it’s a stimulating combination. A popular one too: all of his prints are currently sold out but there’s some new ones coming soon. You can also check Instagram for auctions of the original oil paintings. (via my modern met)

From visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger, a new book called America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History that’s gotten great reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist.

We are currently in the midst of a radical reinvention of English. Not perhaps since the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries has the English language shifted faster.”

Train Panoramas

several full-length images of trains

The robots are coming for trainspotters. A piece of software called Trainbot can watch a piece of train track, detect passing trains, and then stitch together panoramic images of the full-length trains.

The software for running your own trainbot is available on Github and “should work with any video4linux USB cam, or Raspberry Pi camera v3 modules”. (via nelson)

The trailer for a Frog and Toad TV series, now streaming on Apple+.

“Scientists have found a way to decode a stream of words in the brain using MRI scans and artificial intelligence. The system reconstructs the gist of what a person hears or imagines…” Wow.

The web’s most important decision: CERN putting the WWW into the public domain. “Nobody owned the web, and the web wasn’t licensed. It was simply a part of the world, for anybody to use, distribute, or modify.”

The Galactic Menagerie, Wes Anderson’s Star Wars

It’s a no-brainer: what if you handed over a visually rich sci-fi universe with slightly campy origins to a quirky auteur with an overwhelming aesthetic, just to see what you’d get? This short trailer imagines Wes Anderson at the helm of his very own Star Wars movie, complete with Bill Murray as Obi-Wan and Owen Wilson as Darth Vader (wow).

See also, from back in 2012, Conan O’Brien’s take on Wes Anderson’s Star Wars, A Life Galactic. I would totally watch either of these movies tbh.

The trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, the Hunger Games prequel set 60+ years in the past, based on the book by 2020 book by Suzanne Collins.

Q&A: Chronicling the failures of the U.S. response to Covid. “The Covid war revealed a collective national incompetence in governance.”

Archives · April 2023