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Entries for July 2023 (August 2023 »    September 2023 »    October 2023 »    Archives)

When did people stop being drunk all the time? Up until the Industrial Revolution, alcohol accounted for “around a quarter to close to half of the calories in their diet”.
How Many Dinosaurs Remain Undiscovered? On average, one new dinosaur species is discovered every two weeks. “We’re in the golden age of paleontology.”
via damninteresting.com
What would the internet of people look like now? Maybe we just ditch the algorithms.” Reminds me of that business adage: “the only way to make money is bundling and unbundling”. Maybe that’s the way to make culture too.

Why Pac-Man Became a Big Hit

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2023

I’ve gotta say that I was a little skeptical when Phil Edwards started out this video saying that he wasn’t going to talk about Pac-Man’s gameplay as a vital component of why it was such a huge success when in came out in 1980. He allows that, of course, the gameplay was very compelling but other factors truly pushed the game beyond the competition and into its own category, including the decline of pinball (profit per square foot), its family friendliness, and some legal & financial maneuverings.

Oh, and here’s the playable keychain-sized Pac-Man that you can see in the video. Didn’t even know that was a thing!

Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) has died at the age of 70. Man, fuck cancer. I *loved* Pee-wee’s Playhouse when I was a kid…I never missed it.
It’s been 40 years since her debut album; here’s a look at Madonna’s 40 greatest hits, ranked.

Is This the First Rap Song? (1946)

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2023

The roots of hip-hop and rap are various and stretch back in time to the antebellum South and from there to Africa. But by some accounts, a song called Noah by gospel group The Jubalaires was the first instance of recorded music that sounded like rap. Listen for yourself…the relevant bit is right around the 35-second mark:

I’m not a music historian by any stretch, but that sounds 30 years ahead of its time. There are several bad remixes of Noah on YouTube…this one is maybe the best at pairing their singing with a rap beat.

Mastodon is easy and fun except when it isn’t. Erin Kissane asked folks why they had disengaged from Mastodon; they described reasons like a hostile response from regulars, poor discoverability, and too serious/boring.
A bleak account of a Greyhound bus ride across the US. “Gone are the small, clean, cheap motels in the centre of cities, gone are public spaces where anyone can find a water fountain, a bathroom, a place to nurse a cheap cup of coffee and human company.”
I think about Little Bobby Tables once a week, minimum.
Rules for design in the real world: “If it looks neat, people will want to take a photo with it. If it looks comfortable, people will want to sit on it. If it looks fun, people will play around on it.”

New Writing Shed Desire: A Detachable Studio on Rails

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 31, 2023

Designed by Olson Kundig Architects, the Maxon House features a studio that’s attached to the main house but can be rolled away on railroad tracks to be closer to the trees. From Dezeen:

The two-storey structure was based on the design of the “traditional caboose”. A workspace sits on the first level while the second, accessible via a steel ladder, serves as a cupola for taking in views and functions as a “calmer zone for creative exploration and restoration”.

The control panel that operates the rails was taken from a Burlington Northern locomotive, while the door colour and the wood used were directly informed by colours and materials commonly found on American trains.

The railroad ties for the track were repurposed from the Great Northern Railroad line, though the studio noted the steel tracks “are a much larger gauge than is typically used”.

There’s even a Wes Anderson connection (because of course there is):

Inspired by Wes Anderson’s love of trains in cinema, Maxon Railway takes some visual cues in the form of on-board artifacts and props from The Darjeeling Limited.

You can read lots more about the house and the railway, including more than you’d probably want to know about the history of rail travel and commerce in the Pacific Northwest.

While visiting relatives in the Chicago area, a video game historian stumbles across a rare Discs of Tron arcade cabinet in amazing condition.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Recreated in Wisconsin

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2023

a photographic recreation of Georges Seurat's famous impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

In 2006, photographer Mark Preuschl recreated Georges Seurat’s famous impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in Beloit, WI with a group of volunteers. Here’s the original for reference:

Georges Seurat's famous impressionist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

From My Modern Met:

In conceiving this tableau vivant, the organizers wanted to keep things modern. Thus, all participants are wearing contemporary clothes with umbrellas substituted in for the 19th-century parasols. Though the team was organized, they weren’t quite prepared for what mother nature threw their way the day of the shoot. Preuschl recalls winds of 20 to 25 mph coming off the river, as well as clouds that didn’t allow for the shadows they were so desperately looking for. Luckily, there was a window of about 25 minutes when the sun came out and cast those shadows.

He really couldn’t have scouted that location any better…it matches the original pretty well. Who knew you could find Belle Époque Paris in southern Wisconsin?

As temperatures increase during the summer in the US, public swimming pools are becoming harder to find. “A legacy of segregation, the privatization of pools, and starved public recreation budgets have led to the decline.”
“The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a proposal meant to force health insurers to cover mental health and addiction care as comprehensively as they cover treatment for physical health conditions.” Good.
From Rotten Tomatoes, critics pick the best 25 TV shows from the past 25 years. Breaking Bad at #1? Hmm. Newcomer Succession is #5. Also on the list: Atlanta, Fleabag, BoJack Horseman, and The Americans.

Rebecca Solnit: We Can’t Afford to be Climate Doomers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2023

Rebecca Solnit, writing for The Guardian on the climate crisis:

Many things that were once true — that we didn’t have adequate solutions, that the general public wasn’t aware or engaged — no longer are. Outdated information is misinformation, and the climate situation has changed a lot in recent years. The physical condition of the planet — as this summer’s unprecedented extreme heat and flooding and Canada’s and Greece’s colossal fires demonstrate — has continued to get worse; the solutions have continued to get better; the public is far more engaged; the climate movement has grown, though of course it needs to grow far more; and there have been some significant victories as well as the incremental change of a shifting energy landscape.

I don’t think of myself as a climate doomer, but I certainly feel less hopeful about the situation than Solnit does. She asserts that the main obstacles to meaningful action on the climate crisis in the West are politics and capitalism, which is supposed to make readers feel hopeful. But that’s the part that often fills me with despair. The unpopular extremist party that controls more than half of the political apparatus in the country with the biggest responsibility to fix the planet is not only not interested in doing so, they are actively working against it. And they’ve built up such a wall against public accountability that I don’t know if protest (which they will make illegal if they can) or even voting (which they’ve fought to make more difficult) are meaningful levers with which to try and change the situation.

Ok, maybe I am a climate doomer. But this piece by Solnit is good medicine for folks in despair about the climate. And I’m putting Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility (edited by Solnit and climate activist Thelma Young Lutunatabua) on my reading list as well. (via @marcprecipice)

Ed Yong has decided to leave The Atlantic. What an amazing body of work he leaves behind there. His Covid reporting was essential. Good luck to him on his future projects!
From Rotten Tomatoes, critics pick the best 25 movies from the past 25 years. Mad Max: Fury Road is a surprise at #1. And The Dark Knight at #4? Also on the list: Pan’s Labyrinth, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Spirited Away.
“Here’s a mindbending etymology fact for you: The word ‘blackmail’ originally had nothing to do with mail as in letters.”
via nancyfriedman.typepad.com
Designer Kelli Anderson is doing a monthly paper invention subscription. As a sometime recipient of her holiday-themed paper experiments, I can vouch for this!

New Woodblock Prints of Hokusai’s Previously Unpublished “Book of Everything”

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2023

a woodblock print of an original drawing by Hokusai depicting a figure resting on the head of a dragon

This is pretty cool: in collaboration with the British Museum, a team led by woodblock printmaker David Bull (who I first wrote about back in 20051) is carving woodblocks and creating prints from a series of previously unpublished drawings by legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

The Museum has in their possession a group of drawings by Hokusai that were apparently intended for use in the production of a series of books. For reasons unknown to us now that project was cancelled, but the drawings survived, and we have selected 12 of them for a new subscription series.

For more details of the collection of images, please refer to this page of the British Museum website. But here, we can simply note that the drawings fall into a number of categories, and our set will reflect that diversity. Hokusai’s series was intended to take his readers through aspects of Japanese historical culture, and we will meet Buddhist deities, warriors from ancient China, and historical landscapes, along with more prosaic scenes of the natural world.

The print shown above was the first one to be sent out in January. But look at this original drawing from the collection:

an original drawing by Hokusai depicting a man getting killed by a flash of lightning

Wow. That is shockingly modern — like a 60s superhero comic or a still from 60s anime. I hope they reprint this one!

Here’s a video from the British Museum of Bull talking about the project:

If you make woodblock prints for a living, you know the name Hokusai, and if you’re a woodblock carver and you hear about original drawings from Hokusai that have never been carved into prints you would most likely do a little happy dance.

(via open culture)

  1. Hooo boy, there are parts of that post that did not age well. Bull, however, is still doing his thing.

Singapore is a lovely place to visit, but they continue to hang people for drug trafficking. “Singapore seems to positively relish these cases to demonstrate how hard they are on drugs.”

Amateurs Reached America’s Highest Peak First. Nobody Believed Them.

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 28, 2023

In 1910, a group of inexperienced climbers claimed to have summited Denali, the highest peak in what is now the United States. Their story was greeted with skepticism.

So when I found out that the first people to reach the highest point in North America (Denali, the mountain formerly known as McKinley) were just a bunch of Average Joes with no climbing experience who went up on a bet, I was flabbergasted. How had I never heard this story? The more I looked into it, the more fantastic the story became. When these guys descended from the mountain, nobody believed they really even made it. And they wouldn’t be the first people to fraudulently claim to have reached the top, with no evidence to offer that they succeeded. This story has all the makings of a blockbuster action comedy. It’s almost unbelievable.

But later evidence suggests that they just might have made it to the top.

People in 1920s Berlin Nightclubs Flirted via Pneumatic Tubes. “Like messaging on a dating app, but with — you know — tubes.”
This recent episode of You’re Wrong About on Sinéad O’Connor is worth a listen, particularly if all you know about her is Nothing Compares 2 U and her SNL appearance.

Some of the Oldest Photos You Will Ever See

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 26, 2023

In 1842, a French artist and scholar named Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey set out on a tour of the eastern Mediterranean to document sights and architecture via the brand new medium of photography. He started off in what is now Italy and continued on to Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and the Levant (which includes modern-day Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine). The daguerreotypes he took are the oldest surviving photos of those locations (aside from Italy). It’s incredible to time travel back 180 years to see what these places looked like. (via aeon)

Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project. “Although women participated in all aspects of the Manhattan Project, their contributions are either omitted or only mentioned briefly in most histories of the project.”
Rotating sandwiches. It is what it says on the tin. See also Scanwiches.
On creative grief and how to deal with it. “When finishing up a project, feelings of loss, despair, sadness or emptiness may rise to the surface.”
Activist and singer Sinéad O’Connor has died at the age of 56.

How Streaming Caused the Writers Strike

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 26, 2023

Vox talked to four television writers about how streaming and prestige TV have changed the financial picture for writers over the past 15 years, contributing to the writers strike that’s been going on since early May.

Companies like Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, and more have given consumers an unprecedented array of films and TV shows and opened the door to new voices that don’t have to adhere to mainstream network formats. On the other hand, streaming has also changed how television gets produced, the role writers play, and how they get paid. We interviewed four television writers and showrunners about how streaming has changed how they work, how their incomes have taken a hit, and why it has become harder than ever to build a career.

Colossal Is Taking a Summer Break! Colossal is one of my all-time favorite sites and it’s great to see them stepping away for some time off.
I guess I care a lot about things like Futurama’s collab with Fortnite now? *sneaks away from the computer to go get a Bender skin from the item shop…*
The Louvre Is Thrilled to Announce It Is Rebranding to “UVR”. “Is that an acronym? Maybe. Is it a meaningless assemblage of letters? Perhaps. Is it memorable? Searchable? Do we even own the IP? I’m not telling.”

Medium-Res Pixel Illustrations of Jun Kumaori

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 26, 2023

pixel illustration of a lemon cut in half

pixel illustration of some birds on a beach

pixel illustration of a dog in the snow wearing colorful lights around its neck

I’m taken with the style of Jun Kumaori’s illustrations — they look like drawings of (stay with me here) small JPEGs converted to GIFs and then clumsily enlarged, complete with all of the resultant digital artifacts. This makes me nostalgic for the late 90s web and Photoshop 3.0. (via the fox is black)

The NASA Voyager Golden Record master tapes owned by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan are up for auction at Sotheby’s. Est: $400,000-600,000.

Can a Lego Car Roll Downhill Forever?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2023

I just really love the hell out of these iterative Lego build videos from Brick Experiment Channel and Brick Technology. In this one, a car is repeatedly modified to roll perfectly on an increasingly inclined treadmill. I started watching and in 10 seconds I was 100% invested.

They’re not even really about Lego…that’s just the playful hook to get you through the door. They’re really about science and engineering — trial and error, repeated failure, iteration, small gains, switching tactics when confronted with dead ends, how innovation can result in significant advantages. Of course, none of this is unique to engineering; these are all factors in any creative endeavor — painting, sports, photography, writing, programming. But the real magic here is seeing it all happen in just a few minutes.

See also A Lego 5-Speed Manual Transmission, Designing a Lego Car to Cross Gaps, Engineering a Capable Climbing Lego Car, Making A Solar-Powered Billion-Year Lego Clock, and 20 Mechanical Principles Combined in a Useless Lego Machine.

Here’s what happened after Covid vaccines were made available in the US: “The excess death rate among Republican voters was 43% higher than the excess death rate among Democratic voters.” 43% is a *massive* difference in outcome. Literally a death cult.
Four questions that Ezra Klein uses to determine if he has had a good day: “Am I sleeping enough? Am I getting enough time to myself? Am I deeply connected with the people I love? Am I making fairly healthy choices in my body?”
Three years ago, a NASA mission collected a sample from an asteroid called Bennu, and in September, that sample will finally return to Earth to be analyzed.
Alison Bechdel on the Bechdel test for movies: “It was a joke. I didn’t ever intend for it to be the real gauge it has become…”
An organization called Loose Ends helps finish craft projects (knitting, sewing, etc.) that people who are ill or have died have left behind. “We keep your loved ones close by completing the projects they’ve left behind.”

When Elites Stopped Dominating Painting

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2023

Traditionally, the subjects depicted in Western art were either religious or rich — wealthy patrons paid for paintings of themselves or of their religions. As Evan Puschak explains in this brief video essay, that began to change in the 16th century as revolution, reformation, and the development of a merchant class shifted who was worthy of depiction and who could pay.

And here’s an interesting dual review of Oppenheimer and Barbie from Anne Helen Petersen. “Barbie doesn’t argue that the world should look like Barbie’s world so much as dare you to find offense in it.”
Thoughtful dissenting review of Barbie from Maria Bustillos. “Barbie Land is revealed as a dysfunctional, corrupt, duplicitous society, and the story ends with its original autocracy in place.”
The small vehicles of Tokyo, “a slim cataloguing of the rich diversity of small vehicles that help shape street life in the world’s largest city”.
via studiodradiodurans.com

My Recent Media Diet, Barbenheimer Edition

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 25, 2023

Hey folks. I’m trying to get into the habit of doing these media diet posts more frequently than every six months so they’re actually, you know, somewhat relevant. Here’s what I’ve been watching, reading, listening to, and experiencing over the last two months.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. One of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen. A worthy sequel to the first film. (A)

On Being with Krista Tippett: Isabel Wilkerson. I will take any opportunity to listen to Isabel Wilkerson talk about her work. (A)

Deep Space Archives. Been listening to this album by A.L.I.S.O.N on heavy rotation while working recently. (A-)

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Bleak and powerful, science fiction at its finest. (A)

Asteroid City. I liked Wes Anderson’s latest effort quite a bit. Not quite as much as The French Dispatch but more than many other folks. (A-)

Dunkirk. Rewatched for the 5th time. For my money, this is Nolan’s best movie. (A+)

Beef. I wanted to like this but I only lasted two episodes. Not for me, YMMV. (C)

Antidepressants. It took a bit to home in on the right one, but even my relatively low dose has helped me out of a particularly low point over the last few months. (A)

The Diplomat (season one). Burned through this one in just a few days — an entertaining political thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (B+)

Ooni Volt 12. Ooni was kind enough to send me this electric pizza oven to test out, so take this with a grain of salt, but I’ve been having a lot of fun making no-fuss pizza. Need to work on my dough game tho. (A-)

Silo. This hooked me right away and didn’t let go, although it got a little bit ridiculous in places. I’m eager to see where things go in season two. (B+)

Interstellar. Watched this with the kids and we all enjoyed it. The musical score does a lot of heavy lifting in all of Nolan’s films but in this one especially. (A-)

The Age of Pleasure. My only complaint about this album from Janelle Monáe is that it’s too short. (A-)

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had. And it’s turned me into a G&T fan. (A)

VanMoof S3. *sigh* Figures that I finally pull the trigger on getting an e-bike and the company that produces it files for bankruptcy. No matter: this thing is fun as hell and has flattened all the hills out around here. (A)

Átta. You always know what you’re going to get with Sigur Rós: atmospheric, ambient, abundant crescendos, ethereal vocals. (B+)

Air. Ben Affleck has a bit of a mixed record as a director, but this Air Jordan origin story is really solid and entertaining. Viola Davis is great as Michael Jordan’s mother Deloris. (A-)

The Bear (season two). There are aspects of The Bear that I don’t like (the intensity seems forced sometimes, almost cheesy) but the highs are pretty high. Forks was a fantastic episode. More Sydney and Ayo Edebiri in season three please. (A-)

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Solid Indy adventure and I love Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the sidekick/partner. I know some folks didn’t like the climax but seeing Jones get what he’s always wanted was satisfying. (B+)

Rebranding beloved brands. Max? X? No. So dumb. (F)

65. Oh dear. Adam Driver needs to choose his projects more wisely. Interesting premise but the rest was pretty lifeless. (C+)

Pizzeria Ida. The pizza is expensive (esp for Vermont), the ingredients top-notch, and the service rude (if you believe the reviews). We had a great time and this is probably the best pizza you can get in VT; it wouldn’t be out of place in NYC. (A)

Oppenheimer. Epic. Almost overwhelming at times. Don’t see this on anything but a big screen if you can help it. Perhaps not Nolan’s best but it still packs a wallop. (A-)

Barbie. I enjoyed this very much but found it uneven in spots. And no more Will Ferrell please. But it was great seeing people dressed up for the occasion — Barbenheimer felt like the first time since before the pandemic that you could feel the buzz in the audience, an excitement for what we were about to experience together. (B+)

Currently I’m reading American Prometheus (on which Oppenheimer is based) and Wool (on which Silo is based), so I’ll have those reviews for you next time hopefully. I don’t have a TV series going right now and nothing’s really catching my eye. Maybe I’ll dig into season three of (the underrated) The Great — I’ve heard it’s back to top form after a s02 dip.

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

This 211-shot badminton rally lasts almost three and a half minutes.

Stephanie Shih’s Ceramic Sculptures of Familiar Objects

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2023

ceramic pottery of a newspaper, cigarettes, and a coffee cup

ceramic pottery of Air Jordans on top of a shoebox

ceramic pottery of a jug of soy sauce

Stephanie Shih is a Brooklyn-based ceramic artist who makes painted sculptures of ordinary objects like food, shoes, hats, and signs. A recent exhibition focused on the overlap of immigrant communities of Asians and Jews on NYC’s Lower East Side and Chinatown.

A few yards from where the Bernstein-on-Essex sign hangs is a long table that displays Shih’s sculpted takes on other iconic food and drink, like a bilingual bottle of Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki, roast pork on garlic bread, Golden Plum Chinkiang Vinegar, and a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda.

“A lot of my solo shows are about this idea of authenticity,” says Shih, who has been working in ceramic full-time since 2015. “There are no cultures that are untouched by other cultures. These are two communities that grew up alongside each other. It was not always friendly, but simply from proximity and the fact that they were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups, they had commonalities.” For example, she says, the tradition of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas began right near Harkawik, on the Lower East Side.

You can find much more of her work on Instagram.

How to use Apple’s AirPods as a hearing aid. I covered some similar ground in a post about the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro in April.
Messi in Miami Feels Bittersweet. “The greatest soccer player of all time has entered the farewell-tour phase of his career.”
A brief review of the emerging field of spatial biology, which is already driving medical discovery. “You can think of it as generating the Google Map for the entire healthy adult human body at the single-cell level.”

How Rubber Bands Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2023

From natural rubber to hundreds of bands in a box, here’s how a Japanese manufacturing firm makes rubber bands.

Fun fact about me: I always have a rubber band or two on my wrist…I’ve been wearing them for no particular reason since I was 17. So this video is right up my alley. (via digg)

Applying High Voltage to Kids Toys

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2023

When you apply power with higher-than-normal voltage to electric kids toys, they tend to move faster. When you apply 30V instead of the usual 2.5V or 5V, they move really fast:

This reminds me of when I was in grade school. Does anyone remember Stompers? They were battery-operated cars and trucks that were bigger than HotWheels and, while not remote-controlled, were able to move around under their own power. But they weren’t that speedy…maybe they could do 1-2 mph.

Anyway, some kid at school figured out that you could remove the AA battery, connect wires to the battery terminals, and then connect those wires to as many C- and D-cell batteries as you could gang together in a series. So instead of the usual 1.5V, you could pump 4.5V, 6V, 7.5V, or even 9V into those tiny cars. And boy, did they go. We could barely keep up as we raced them against each other down the halls, running behind them holding our battery packs. But the thrills were short-lived — I think the school banned them and all that current burned the tiny Stomper motors out after awhile. Fun while it lasted though! (via waxy)

We Need to See More Parents Having Abortions in Film and Television. “Parents are the most common abortion patients yet storylines about the medical choice almost always revolve around single teens.”
The Earth is in uncharted climate territory. “I’m not aware of a similar period when all parts of the climate system were in record-breaking or abnormal territory.”

Robert Reich’s UC Berkeley Class on Wealth & Poverty

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 24, 2023

For the past 13 years, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has taught a class called Wealth & Poverty at UC Berkeley. He retired from teaching this year and has uploaded his lectures from the course to YouTube.

Welcome to my final UC Berkeley course on Wealth and Poverty. Drawing on my 40+ years in politics, including my time as secretary of labor, I offer a deeper look at why inequalities of income and wealth have widened significantly since the late 1970s in the United States, and why this poses dangerous risks to our society.

This course also offers insights into the political and public-policy debates that have arisen in light of this inequality, as well as possible means of reversing it.

Here’s the first lecture, What’s Happened to Income & Wealth:

Reich has also published an abbreviated syllabus for each of the classes; links can be found in his course introduction (here’s class #1).

“What happens when an editor who runs a breaking news team for The Times turns off his phone and takes a weeklong vow of silence at a meditation retreat?” One of these days, I should figure out a meditation practice.
Twitter begins the process of rebranding to X. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a colossal dope.

Barbie Girl, in the Style of Six Classical Composers

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2023

This is fun: Aqua’s pop hit Barbie Girl, redone in the style of six classical composers: Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Chopin, and Ravel. (via @Erikmitk)

‘From home’ is a work of conceptual art by Peter Liversidge that consists of a 38-meter-long measuring tape that is uncoiled 3.8cm each year on July 20 to represent how much further we are from the moon. It will be fully unrolled in 2969.
via instagram.com
Say what?! Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks will be visible during the 2024 total solar eclipse. Double feature!
Every Christopher Nolan movie, ranked by the AV Club. Oppenheimer is a surprise #1. My #1 would be Dunkirk or maybe Inception. But I’ve always preferred The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight so grain of salt and all that.

Cypress Hill’s Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2023

To help celebrate 50 years of hip-hop, Cypress Hill visited NPR’s studios to perform a Tiny Desk Concert.

While the term “pioneer” is used loosely in pop culture today, few terms describe Cypress Hill’s impact over the past three decades more adequately. They are the first Latino hip-hop group to achieve platinum and multi-platinum status. B Real, Sen and producer DJ Muggs crafted a sound in the ’90s that stretched beyond regional boundaries. It was dark, psychedelic and at times directly addressed mental health before the topic was commonplace. Many dismissed the group as “stoner rappers,” yet the members were fervent advocates for the legalization of weed long before it came to fruition.

Really enjoyed this one…I’m not a particular fan of Cypress Hill but after this, maybe I am?

Dutch crows and magpies are building nests out of anti-bird spikes. “Even for me as a nest researcher, these are the craziest bird nests I’ve ever seen.”
A collection of surprisingly elaborate antique pencil sharpeners in action. I think the spinning wheel of sandpaper is my favorite.
via austinkleon.com

Barack Obama’s 2023 Summer Reading List

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 21, 2023

a list of the book Barack Obama is reading this summer, reproduced in full below

It’s always fun to see what the former President is planning on reading over the summer. Here’s his full list:

I’ve read The Wager (so good!) and have been wanting to dig into Matthew Desmond’s book but most of the rest of these are new to me.

Right now, I’m reading Hugh Howey’s Wool (after inhaling the first season of Silo) and American Prometheus (after seeing Oppenheimer last night) — I’m sensing a pattern here…

I saw Oppenheimer last night (great!) and the first thing I did when I got home was to order the book on which it’s based, the Pulitzer-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Your Favorite Addictive Flash Games, Back From the Dead

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 20, 2023

Long-time readers will recall that I used to link to Flash games pretty regularly. They were typically easy to play and hard to put down — I collected them under the addictive Flash games tag. The collective time and energy spent by kottke.org readers playing these games over the years is, well, I don’t even want to take a guess. So, it is with regret for the rest of your workday that I pass along this site that contains playable versions of tens of thousands of Flash games, including many of the ones I’ve collected. Here are several that you might remember:

Good luck with all that…I only escaped after an hour of poking around. 😬 (via waxy)

Watch 1969’s Apollo 11 Moon Landing “Live!”

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 20, 2023

Apollo 11 TV Coverage

54 years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon and went for a little walk. For the 15th year in a row, you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk on a small B&W television, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser today, July 20th, and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT):

4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts
4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon

4:20:15 pm - 10:51:26 pm: Break in coverage

10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts
10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon
11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew
12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21)

Set an alarm on your phone or calendar! Also, this works best on an actual computer but I think it functions ok on phones and tablets if necessary.

Back in 2018, I wrote a bit about what to look out for when you’re watching the landing:

The radio voices you hear are mostly Mission Control in Houston (specifically Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke, who acted as the spacecraft communicator for this mission) and Buzz Aldrin, whose job during the landing was to keep an eye on the LM’s altitude and speed — you can hear him calling it out, “3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.” Armstrong doesn’t say a whole lot…he’s busy flying and furiously searching for a suitable landing site. But it’s Armstrong that says after they land, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”. Note the change in call sign from “Eagle” to “Tranquility Base”. :)

Two things to listen for on the broadcast: the 1201/1202 program alarms I mentioned above and two quick callouts by Charlie Duke about the remaining fuel towards the end: “60 seconds” and “30 seconds”. Armstrong is taking all this information in through his earpiece — the 1202s, the altitude and speed from Aldrin, and the remaining fuel — and using it to figure out where to land.

Iridescent Hot Water Colors

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 20, 2023

After my post about Soap Bubble Worlds yesterday, several people sent me this video of the rainbow colors that can be seen on the surface of and in the steam above a swirling cup of hot water. I was expecting a straight-forward visual display accompanied by some relaxing music (and that version does exist) but it also includes a fascinating explanation of where all these colors and swirls come from.

Scientific investigations into beautiful phenomena always makes me think of physicist Richard Feynman’s thoughts on beauty:

I have a friend who is an artist, and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “Look how beautiful it is” and I’ll agree. And he says, “you see, as an artist I can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.” And I think that he’s kind of nutty.

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people, and to me too, I believe - although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, but I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions, which also have a beauty. I mean, it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter, there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions. The inner structure, also the processes, the fact that the colors and the flower are evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting. It means that insects can see the color.

It adds a question: Is this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms that… why is it aesthetic… all kinds of interesting questions which the science, knowledge, only adds to the excitement, and mystery, and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

(thx, everyone)

It’s Summer Vacation. Does the Media Know Where Clarence Thomas Is? “As corruption scandals ooze from the muck of the Supreme Court, it’s time for the media to up their reporting game.”
Big Ben is a collection of 86,400 word search puzzles, one for each second of the day.
via waxy.org
Legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick has died at the age of 59.
“Art is for everyone — or is it? In New York City, ticket prices for some museums and institutions are raising eyebrows.” Single-day tickets at the Whitney and the Met are $30; and others like MoMA and the Guggenheim aren’t far behind.

Soap Bubble Worlds

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 19, 2023

the swirling rainbow surface of a soap bubble from close-up looks like a small planet

the swirling rainbow surface of a soap bubble from close-up looks like a small planet

Marveling at these macro images of soap bubbles by photographer Dave Bowman — he calls this series Other Worlds.

See also Are These Photographs of Moons or Pancakes? and frying pans that look like a Jovian moon.

The 2023 SCOTUS Awards. “As this court has repeatedly shown, there’s no limit to its ability to astonish the nation by going beyond our ordinary fears.”

Ephemeral Pebble Mosaics

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 19, 2023

portrait of a man's face made out of pebbles

representation of Michaelangelo's David made out of pebbles

portrait of a woman's face made out of pebbles

British land artist Justin Bateman makes these incredible portraits of people and objects using small stones and pebbles he finds in locations around his home in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Each portrait is documented and then left to atrophy, either by rain, wind, or human/animal intervention.

See also these stone alphabets by Clotilde Olyff. Prints are available. (via my modern met)

Sweden Sans is the national typeface of Sweden and is available to download (not sure about the usage rights tho).
via news.ycombinator.com
From rapid cooling body bags to ‘prescriptions’ for AC, doctors prepare for a future of extreme heat. As extreme temperatures become more common, our health care systems need to treat it like the public health emergency it is.
Interesting analysis of why Facebook would want to support the ActivityPub with Threads: they can keep control over their users’ identities and data while allowing interaction with other instances.
A team-by-team preview of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which starts tomorrow. Several teams, including USA, France, England, and Germany, all have realistic chances of winning it all.

Amazing Commercial Featuring the French National Football Team

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 19, 2023

This advertisement from Orange, the French telecom company, about the French national football team is one of the best commercials I’ve seen recently. I don’t want to tell you too much about it because the impact of it comes from watching it, so just watch it and you’ll see. And afterwards, you can read more about the ad here.

What I learned from taking a train across the US. “Will the United States ever catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to train travel, or are Americans stuck with an underfunded, inefficient rail network forever?”
This little app helps you construct a workout routine; you pick your equipment, what muscles you’d like to target, and it selects exercises for you from MuscleWiki. I wish it had an “all-body” setting.

The Wordy Collages of Toon Joosen

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2023

two men appear to be cleaning the words off of a book page

words from a book page appear to falling on two kids holding an umbrella

a child fishes words off of the page of a book with a net

Among the many creative collages by Dutch art director Toon Joosen is this series of images of people interacting with the pages of books in fun ways. You can check them out on his Instagram or purchase some of them as prints on his Etsy shop.

Wes Anderson Talks Up Some of His Favorite Movies in a Parisian Video Store

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2023

When you think of directors that have influenced Wes Anderson, you typically think of Truffaut, Godard, Scorcese, and Ashby. But as you’ll see in this video of Anderson pulling out some recommended films from this Paris video store, his taste in movies is broad. There’s Drunken Angel (Kurosawa), A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan), Vagabond (Varda), Birth (Glazer), Bridge of Spies (Spielberg), and Witness (Weir).

Of Spielberg, Anderson says:

If you make movies, if you direct movies, this is somebody who can help you. You looked at his movies for solutions. He usually found a way to do it right. He’s one of my favorites.

(via open culture)

The Businessmen Broke Hollywood. “Under pressure to deliver to Wall Street, too many CEOs have lost the plot of their own movie.”
Finding the restaurant with the highest number of brothers. “Maybe there is no upper limit to restaurant brothers. Maybe it’s infinite. Maybe we aren’t meant to know.”
20 ways to fancy up your food on a budget, including using parmesan rinds for extra umami, retain and use fats, lemon zest (acid!), and chili sauce (or chili oil). My addition (from Kenji): white miso paste for an umami punch.
via digg.com
Could an Industrial Civilization Have Predated Humans on Earth? “Geological processes such as tectonic plate subduction and glaciation could easily erase evidence of ancient urbanization.” But global carbon signatures on the other hand…

Geohydrotypography

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 18, 2023

If you covered the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with twelve-point printed text, with the lines wrapping at the coasts, the expansion of the ocean basin due to tectonics would increase your word count by about 100 words per second.

This, from XKCD, hits my science and design interests right in the sweet spot.

If you covered the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with twelve-point printed text, with the lines wrapping at the coasts, the expansion of the ocean basin due to tectonics would increase your word count by about 100 words per second.

This reminds me of Ben Terrett’s calculation of how many helveticas from here to the Moon and my subsequent calculations about the point size of the Earth and the Moon (50.2 billion and 13.7 billion, respectively).

Classic children’s books, rewritten for conservatives, including Blue Lives Matter for Sal, The Taking Tree, The Snowy Day Is a Clear Indicator that Climate Change Is a Hoax, and The Boxcar Children Are Ruining San Francisco.

The Final Plunge of the Titanic in Movies & TV

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2023

This is a supercut of the final moments of the Titanic as represented in various films and TV shows, from 1912’s La Hantise to a 2012 British TV series written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes. It also doubles as a demonstration of the increasing capabilities and aspirations of filmmakers and their special effects teams throughout the years, although in terms of budget and effort, James Cameron’s effort in 1997 marks the high point.

A fun little web app by Deepak Gulati that allows you to create different patterns from a collection of 19th century ornamental tile illustrations.

Explore the Graphic Design Treasures of the Internet Archive

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2023

cover of an Olivetti brochure with colorful curved arrows

page of a brochure for the original Apple Macintosh computer

old theater poster for upcoming performances at the Belfast Theater

a page from a book called The Vignelli Canon

several pages from an Olivetti brochure

a spread from Emigre magazine

archives.design is a labor of love site run by Valery Marier where she collects graphic design related materials that are available to freely borrow, stream, or download from the Internet Archive. I’ve only scratched the surface in poking around, but so far I’ve found Olivetti brochures, a collection of theater programs from the 19th and early 20th centuries, several Apple things, The Vignelli Canon, a specimen book of wood type from the 1880s, and many issues of Emigre. What a resource!

I Decided To Become A Slave So One Day My Descendants Could Steal College Admissions Spots. “It was a tough decision, but boy, did it pay off big-time!”
Fudge is a Tetris-inspired game where you take pieces away from a stack instead of adding to one. My low score is 2.
via @jenni
Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025. They’re in the open now with their plans to turn the US into a conservative autocracy.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie Influences

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 17, 2023

Greta Gerwig takes us on a whirlwind tour through 33 films that influenced the Barbie movie, visually, thematically, and in terms of plot/content. The influences include The Wizard of Oz, Rear Window, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Singin’ in the Rain, The Godfather, Oklahoma!, 2001, and Saturday Night Fever.

Then, Saturday Night Fever, I always had a sense of wanting this to be a movie with an amazing soundtrack. Saturday Night Fever obviously has this incredible soundtrack by the Bee Gees. There’s a documentary about the Bee Gees, and I’d seen it and was so touched by the Bee Gees, and I thought Barbie seemed so disco to me in her heart, because Barbie’s sort of — and I will say this as a lover of Barbie and disco — a little bit dorky in the best way. Saturday Night Fever was a movie that was driven by music, but not a musical. I guess we’re half of a musical.

Tomorrow morning (July 17) at 9am ET, a new web-only series by Steven Soderbergh called Command-Z premieres in which Michael Cera leads a team using a wormhole in a washing machine to alter the present by traveling back in time.
An earthquake survival kit distributed to Apple employees in 1986.
via archives.design

Managing Our Climate Emotions

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2023

Jia Tolentino writing for the New Yorker on What to Do with Climate Emotions:

Climate anxiety differs from many forms of anxiety a person might discuss in therapy — anxiety about crowds, or public speaking, or insufficiently washing one’s hands — because the goal is not to resolve the intrusive feeling and put it away. “It’s not a keep-calm-and-carry-on approach,” Davenport told me. When it comes to climate change, the brain’s desire to resolve anxiety and distress often leads either to denial or fatalism: some people convince themselves that climate change is not a big deal, or that someone else will take care of it; others conclude that all is lost and there’s nothing to be done. Davenport pushes her clients to aim for a middle ground of sustainable distress. We must, she says, become more comfortable in uncertainty, and remain present and active in the midst of fear and grief. Her clients usually struggle with this task in one of two ways, she said: they tend to be activists who can’t acknowledge their feelings or people so aware of their feelings that they fail to act.

Fun promo for a Doctor Who Blu-ray collection featuring a reunion between Tegan and Nyssa. So good to see them again!
via @charliejane
A federal judge on the persistent ethical failures of the Supreme Court justices. “You don’t just stay inside the lines; you stay well inside the lines. This is not a matter of politics or judicial philosophy. It is ethics in the trenches.”
Jewelry carved from now-extinct giant sloths has been found in Brazil, which indicates humans were living in the Americas 25,000-27,000 years ago, much longer ago than once thought.
I’ve posted before about Florian T M Zeisig’s album of looping Enya samples (it’s in my regular listening rotation while I’m working) and he’s just released a second volume of new songs that are equally engaging.

Instruction Manuals for 6000+ Lego Sets, Courtesy of the Internet Archive

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 14, 2023

cover of the instruction manual for making a Lego typewriter

sample page of the instructions for making a Lego fort

cover of the instruction manual for making a Lego Millennium Falcon

The Internet Archive is an international treasure, a trove of human creative output spanning decades and even centuries — a modern library of Alexandria. Among the collection is more than 6000 downloadable PDFs of Lego instruction manuals for projects ranging from old school sets like Fort Legoredo to big Star Wars sets like the Millennium Falcon to sets geared towards adults like the typewriter.

You can also look for instruction sets on Lego’s website as well as at Rebrickable, Brick Instructions, and at Brickset. (via open culture)

Project E Ink is selling “a $2500 e ink art piece that displays daily newspapers on your wall”.

Why Do American Diners Look That Way?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 13, 2023

In this video from Architectural Digest, architect Michael Wyetzner runs us through why American diners look the way they do. Early diners took their cues from trains:

So let’s take a look at a typical American diner. So the outside has a shape that’s reminiscent of a train. In fact, that’s how diners got their name. They’re named after the dining car on a train.

Many of the design elements in a diner are based on the necessities of dining on a train in a railroad car, like booth seating and counter seating, and an open kitchen.

So I like these two photos because they show all the elements that go into the classic American diner. On the exterior, you have that stainless steel smooth curvature, you’ve got that Art Deco typography. And then on the interior you have the checkered floor, you have the booths, you have the globes, and you have the jukebox.

In the early part of the 20th century, trains were the dominant form of travel. If you look at some of the earliest diners, they were in fact, actual train cars that were placed permanently on the ground.

Later, cars and space travel provided inspiration in the diner’s evolution.

Watching this video of a complex set-change for a play at the National Theatre in London reinforces the extent to which the crews of plays/movies/concerts/etc. are engaged in a high-level, precisely choreographed performance as much as the actors are.
Uh, the world’s first salmon ATM? Located in Singapore, the machine “dispenses 200-gram fillets of frozen salmon from the fjords of Norway”.
What a landmark new study on homelessness tells us. “Lacking housing serves as a meaningful barrier to health care and income benefits, and is a key driver of discrimination in one’s daily life.”
Daniel Kaluuya’s Barney Movie Is an ‘A24-Type’ Film That’s ‘Surrealistic’ and for Adults, Says Mattel Exec: ‘Not That It’s R-Rated’. What an absolutely chaotic headline.
A Third of North America’s Birds Have Vanished. The bird population in North America has decreased by 3 billion birds in the past 50 years, “an absolutely profound change in the natural system”.

Barbenheimer

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 13, 2023

mashup movie poster for Barbenheimer (Barbie + Oppenheimer)

Barbenheimer poster by Sean Longmore. Perfect, 10/10, no notes.

The whitest paint ever just dropped. “The paint’s properties are almost superheroic:” it reflects 98% of sunlight, reduces building surface temperatures by 8°F (up to 19°F at night), and decreases air-conditioning needs by up to 40%.
Though rare, throwing a perfect game isn’t the rarest single-game event in baseball. That honor goes to hitting two grand slams in a single inning, which has only been done once in more than 235,000 games.
Bill McKibben: To Save the Planet, Should We Really Be Moving Slower? This is a good read on a difficult challenge facing humanity.

Phyllis Diller Crashes All-Male Roast at the Friar’s Club Dressed as a Man (1983)

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 12, 2023

Phyllis Diller dressed as a man to sneak into the Friar's Club

The Friar’s Club was founded in 1904 and, like other private social clubs of the era, their membership was male-only. Women could visit as guests but only after 4pm and the club didn’t admit its first woman as a member until Liza Minnelli in 1987.

One of the club’s biggest traditions was its closed-door luncheon roasts of celebrities, which over the years included roasts of Humphrey Bogart, Johnny Carson, Milton Berle, Redd Foxx, and Bruce Willis.1 A few women were roasted before 1987 (Lucille Ball, Martha Raye, Barbra Streisand) but they were not allowed as guests. They even sent the waiters out of the room for the roasts.

In 1983, after months of planning, Phyllis Diller dressed up as a man (named Phillip Downey) and attended the roast of Sid Caesar (she’s on the left in the photo above with her co-conspirator, Howard Rosen). Here are a pair of videos of Diller talking about her infiltration. To be fair, the Friar’s Club didn’t seem that mad at her because they roasted her just two years later.

  1. In 2004, the club roasted Donald Trump (roastmaster was Regis Philbin) and the next year Trump served as roastmaster for Don King. What a weird time/place/thing.

The impossible paradox of car ownership. “Cars are harmful to the environment, expensive, and loaded with negative externalities. But the individual benefits to low-income people are too great to ignore.”
What if The Bear, but starring Lionel Messi??

We Asked 100 People to Scream as Loud as They Can

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 12, 2023

This is great: The Cut asked 100 people to scream as loud as they could in front of a camera. For some, it was cathartic while others found it uncomfortable. Some folks didn’t know how to scream which I don’t entirely understand?

This video reminded me a lot of Ten Meter Tower, one of my all-time favorite short documentaries, in which dozens of people are filmed jumping from a 10-meter diving platform for the first time. Both videos deal with inner vs. outer selves and people’s comfort with expressing vulnerability. (via colossal)

The Icelandic word “ísbíltúr” roughly translates as “ice cream road trip”. You load up the fam, go get ice cream, and eat it while you drive around.
via presentandcorrect.com
The Great British Bake Off: Depression Meals Week. “For their signature challenge, the bakers were asked to prepare something, anything, with bread. Because, for the love of god, they need to eat today.”
Elstob is a variable font for medievalists that based on types used by the Oxford University Press in the 17th and 18th centuries. Try the specimens page to play around with features like ligatures and the long s.
Lawyers with Supreme Court business paid Clarence Thomas aide via Venmo. Suuuuper ethical. Is there anything that Thomas actually pays for himself? “So long as Papa gets some sugar” indeed.

How to Make the Potato Chip Omelette from The Bear

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 12, 2023

If you were left hungry by the food in season two of The Bear, Binging With Babish has got you covered. In this video, he recreates the potato chip omelette that Sydney makes in the second-to-last episode of the season. And then, he makes an adjacent dish, José Andrés’s tortilla española with potato chips. Just to contrast, here’s Andrés making it:

Double yum. See also How to Make Perfect Soft-Scrambled Eggs, Hey, Let’s Watch Jacques Pépin Fry Eggs (and make omelettes), and 59 Ways to Cook Your Eggs.

The Hollywood studios are gonna let the writer’s strike drag on “until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses”. What a bunch of cartoonishly evil rich fucks.

It’s Random Midsummer Shopping Day!

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2023

four items that are on sale at Amazon for Prime Day: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, a KitchenAid mixer, an air purifier, and an indoor hydroponic garden

For the last few years, Amazon has spent a couple of summer days putting a bunch of their most popular items on sale for their Prime members. This year, Prime Day runs from July 11-12 and includes a number of things that I can personally recommend (or are currently coveting). Keep in mind that you need to be an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of these deals: here’s where you sign up for Prime if you’re interested (there’s a free 30-day trial).

Ok first, there are a bunch of deals on Apple products, including the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro (20% off) that I am a big fan of. (That’s actually not a Prime-only deal, but it’s $50 cheaper than Apple sells them for.) The AirPods Max are $100 off, the 2nd-gen AirPods are just $90 (30% off), and the 3rd-gen AirPods are $30 off.

The latest Apple Watch (Series 8) is a whopping 30% off ($280) for the 41mm and 28% off for the 45mm ($309)…much less than what Apple sells them for. I really like my Series 7 (especially for the exercise stuff) and this is a very tempting upgrade.

The 13” M1 Macbook Air is on sale for for $750…that’s 25% off the list price. This is the exact computer I’m using right now and I love it. Still feels super quick and powerful, even a few years after it was released.

Moving on from Apple to Play-Doh. You heard me! 24 cans of Play-Doh for $14.49, who can resist? That smell still takes me right back to when I was a kid…

With Covid and wildfires, air purifiers are becoming more of a necessity for homes around the country. Here are a pair of well-regarded purifiers that are on sale: the Levoit Vital 200S is $30 off ($160) and the Winix 5500-2, which is 53% off ($117).

One of Prime Day’s biggest deals for readers is the Kindle (just $65, down from $100) and the Kindle Paperwhite ($90, 36% off). The Paperwhite is the one I use to read all my books these days.

Speaking of reading, check out these books that are on sale: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton ($6), One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez ($10), The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu ($7.41), and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler ($8.14) (I just finished reading this!).

I have too many plants to take care of these days, but this hydroponic indoor garden (70% off!) sure is tempting. (I am almost positive your weed plant needs more light than this? And actual soil? But do some research…maybe it’ll work? 🤪)

One my family’s recent favorite board games, Splendor, is 47% off ($23.74). And while I was looking at that, I noticed that Splendor Duel is also on sale for almost 20% off…I’m not sure what the difference is, but I’m tempted to give that a try.

KitchenAid’s smaller 3.5 Qt. Stand Mixer, which is lighter and takes up less counter space in smaller kitchens, is on sale for $260 (32% off).

Ok that’s all I’ve got, but if you don’t see anything here that interests you, your best bet is to head over to Amazon’s Prime Day page and start digging around. I know there’s a bunch more deals on things like kitchen items, TVs, fashion, tech products, and beauty products. Good luck!

When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

Drone Footage of a New Icelandic Volcano Erupting

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2023

A new eruption started yesterday in the general area of Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano and drone pilot Isak Finnbogason was there to capture some footage. The shot of the lava flow beginning at the 1:00 mark is absolutely stunning.

This short video is an excerpt from a longer livestream Finnbogason did — here’s another short excerpt that shows just how large the eruption is and how close some people are getting to it:

He’s starting another livestream of the eruption in just a few minutes here (at 2:30pm ET) if you’d like to follow along.

The Secret to Delicious Food: Simultaneously Too Much and Too Little Salt

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2023

There’s a small moment in second-to-last episode of the season two of The Bear (extremely mild spoilers) that I liked even though you blink and you’ll miss it. One of the new chefs is tentatively salting some steaks and Sydney says “I need you to salt that like a sidewalk”. Cut to Carmy, who walks up muttering “Where’d you grow up, Arizona?”, takes the salt, and absolutely just drenches the steaks in salt. And I was like, yeah, that’s how you salt a steak!

Several years ago, I started noticing in various cooking videos how much salt chefs put in & on food, particularly meat. I already knew that ample salting was important to the flavor, but I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t going far enough. I was being timid with my salting, afraid of oversalting and ruining dinner. Around this time, I read a Wired piece by chef David Chang about his Unified Theory of Deliciousness and I’ve been following his recommendation about salting food ever since:

My first breakthrough on this idea was with salt. It’s the most basic ingredient, but it can also be hellishly complex. A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that’s wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.

This is the way. You’ll screw it up sometimes and go overboard, but if you can consistently get right up to that edge, your food will taste the best it possibly can. This works particularly well with steaks and burgers…my burger went from “pretty good” to “holy shit” solely on the application of the proper amount of salt.

The Flooding in Vermont

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 11, 2023

Hey folks. I’m sure you’ve read about the heavy rains and the flooding in the Northeast, particularly in New York and Vermont. My town here in central VT did not flood last night (though some area fields may have) and appears to be out of danger but other places around me were not so lucky.

In particular, I’m stunned by the several feet of water that are currently covering Montpelier, the capital of Vermont and a place that I know pretty well. This is a video from late last night and early this morning of someone paddling around downtown Montpelier, surveying the flooding and interviewing locals:

The water is not rushing, just standing, and there is almost no one around — there’s an eerie quiet that’s punctuated by the sounds of alarms going off all around. And there’s just so much water. Here’s a drone view of Montpelier (photo) from this morning:

And the threat isn’t over yet. A nearby dam is close to capacity and if they need to release the water, it could quickly dump much more water into the city (UPDATE: the threat to the dam has thankfully subsided for now):

“This has never happened since the dam was built so there is no precedent for potential damage,” City Manager William Fraser wrote in a statement posted to Montpelier’s Facebook page at 3:53 a.m. “There would be a large amount of water coming into Montpelier which would drastically add to the existing flood damage.”

People who live along the north branch and in downtown Montpelier are at greatest risk, he said. The dam, located on the border of Middlesex and Montpelier, is located about three miles north of the city center.

With “few evacuation options remaining,” Fraser wrote, “People in at risk areas may wish to go to upper floors in their houses.”

I’ve walked those streets a lot. Been to many of those shops. Eaten in those restaurants. Watched dozens of films in those movie theaters. I cannot believe how much water there is. So many people are going to be displaced from their homes for weeks and months. Businesses will be closed for weeks? Months? Some may never reopen. I’m not sure what else to say here.

Other places near here flooded too: Richmond, Waterbury, Moretown, Middlesex. The freeway is closed in some areas and motorists were left stranded. Officials had to evacuate the State Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury.

Towns further south in Vermont got hit too: Londonderry, Weston, Shrewsbury.

One of the things I’ve been doing this morning is trying to figure out why some places (Montpelier) got hit hard while other low-lying areas less than 15-20 miles away didn’t. And I’ve come to the conclusion that water does not give a fuck. Not about logic or human life or property. It just flows where it wants. There’s more rain over here than there is over there — because a butterfly’s wing flapped halfway across the world.

Climate disasters, fueled by large-scale, human-driven changes in the global climate, are becoming more frequent. In the past few weeks in Vermont, we’ve had wildfire smoke from Canada forcing people to stay inside, a heat wave, and now this flooding. And Vermont is a place that is supposedly safer for climate refugees to go. But that’s the thing about a global climate crisis: it’s going to affect absolutely everyone absolutely everywhere.

Oh, I’d forgotten they were doing a Willy Wonka prequel with Timothée Chalamet in the title role; here’s the trailer. Color me skeptical…although it’s written and directed by Paul King, who did the wonderful Paddington films.
A report on one of “nature’s oldest wars”, bats versus moths: “a battle featuring echolocation, chemical defense, sonar jamming, stealth pursuit, and acoustic illusions”. Acoustic camouflage! Sonar jamming!

Revisiting the Long Boom

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2023

In 1997, Wired magazine published an article called The Long Boom: A History of the Future, 1980–2020 (archived). The subtitle reads: “We’re facing 25 years of prosperity, freedom, and a better environment for the whole world. You got a problem with that?” As you might expect, the piece makes interesting reading here in the actual future, particularly the sidebar of “10 Scenario Spoilers”:

The long boom is a scenario, one possible future. It’s built upon the convergence of many big forces and even more little pieces falling into place — all of them with a positive twist. The future of course, could turn out to be very different — particularly if a few of those big pieces go haywire. Here are 10 things that could cut short the long boom.

1. Tensions between China and the US escalate into a new Cold War — bordering on a hot one.

2. New technologies turn out to be a bust. They simply don’t bring the expected productivity increases or the big economic boosts.

3. Russia devolves into a kleptocracy run by a mafia or retreats into quasicommunist nationalism that threatens Europe.

4. Europe’s integration process grinds to a halt. Eastern and western Europe can’t finesse a reunification, and even the European Union process breaks down.

5. Major ecological crisis causes a global climate change that, among other things, disrupts the food supply — causing big price increases everywhere and sporadic famines.

6. Major rise in crime and terrorism forces the world to pull back in fear. People who constantly feel they could be blown up or ripped off are not in the mood to reach out and open up.

7. The cumulative escalation in pollution causes a dramatic increase in cancer, which overwhelms the ill-prepared health system.

8. Energy prices go through the roof. Convulsions in the Middle East disrupt the oil supply, and the alternative energy sources fail to materialize.

9. An uncontrollable plague — a modern-day influenza epidemic or its equivalent — takes off like wildfire, killing upward of 200 million people.

10. A social and cultural backlash stops progress dead in its tracks. Human beings need to choose to move forward. They just may not …

Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10: check, check, check, check, check, check, check. And a couple of the others rhyme. Take #2: technology did increase production and the economy, but in the United States, this mostly just increased the wealth of a few and did not “trickle down” to the rest.

Can Modern-Day Italians Understand Latin? A Youtuber Puts It to the Test on the Streets of Rome. “As the conversation continues…it becomes clear that they can indeed figure out what he wants to know.”
Gatorade Cocktails Are Good. “Whenever I get a bit exhausted by the highbrow brinksmanship of my industry, drinks like these are a refreshing reminder that cocktails should be fun.”
I binged the first four episodes of Silo last night, the quickest I’ve watched a new show in years. Station Eleven + Snowpiercer + Severance vibes. Here’s the trailer if you want to check it out. Based on Hugh Howey’s book series.
The Anti-Defamation League: Antisemitism, False Information and Hate Speech Find a Home on Substack. “From raising unfounded suspicions about mass shootings & elections to spreading hate speech against Jews, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community…”

The Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Napoleon

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2023

Well, this looks good: Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby star as Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming film about the French dictator. The film will be out in theaters on November 22 and on Apple+ sometime after that.

“Check a bag, you glamorous beast.” I used to be solidly on team carry-on, but more recently I am checking a bag when travelling, especially if there’s a layover. Not having to shlep anything bigger than a small backpack around feels luxurious.

The Ambient Sounds of Japan’s Jazz Kissas (Listening Cafes)

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2023

Craig Mod recently finished a 16-day tour of jazz kissas in northern Japan. Jazz kissas are bar/cafes where one goes to listen to jazz, mostly on records and not live. Mod loosely defies them thusly:

Mostly defined as: Mid-20th century “listening cafes” for jazz music. But there is a lot of variance in this definition. Lots are coffee-focused cafes, fitting into the broader “kissaten” universe. But some are more bar-like, and some even jazz clubs (but for the most part, live music is rare). You can tie yourself in knots splitting hairs over this stuff. Though they’re traditionally known as “jazz kissa” — the shortened version of “kissaten” (fear not: even if you call them “jazz kissaten” you won’t suddenly turn into a pillar of salt). Some are seventy years old. Some forty. Some are five years old. The important defining element is simply: A presiding and effusive ever-abiding love for jazz, jazz, and more jazz.

At each stop, he recorded the ambient sounds of each kissa so that you can experience a little bit of the atmosphere at these places — here’s the full playlist. The recordings were done with a pair of microphones so that the audio is in stereo. This sounds great with a good pair of headphones!

50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to AI Dungeon. There are 50 chapters, covering one text game from each year since 1971. Zork. Adventure. Dwarf Fortress. LambdaMOO. Universal Paperclips.
Useful word for our time: polycrisis. “the interplay between the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy, cost-of-living and climate crises […] where disparate crises interact such that the overall impact far exceeds the sum of each part.”
via thegoldenhour.substack.com

Seven Rules For Internet CEOs To Avoid Enshittification

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 10, 2023

In a piece from January, Cory Doctorow outlined the enshittification lifecycle of online platforms:

Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.

Taking note of various platforms lighting themselves on fire recently, Mike Masnick offers a list of rules for the leadership of these platforms to follow to avoid turning into dumpster fires. Here’s rule #3:

Create more value than you capture. This one is not mine, but Tim O’Reilly’s, and it’s one that constantly sticks with me. As you’re developing a business model, the best way to make sure that you’re serving your users best, and not enshittifying everything, is to constantly make sure that you’re only capturing some of the value you’re creating, and are instead putting much more out into the world, especially for your community. Your investors will push you to capture more and more of that value, but again, when you start chasing that, you’re also spiraling down the enshittification curve.

IMO, some of what is going on with Twitter & Reddit is not enshittification per se, but more of a pushback against the power of their users. (I always think of Tron in instances like these. “I fight for the users!”) I think these CEOs know on some level that they’re making their product worse, but bringing their user bases to heel is worth the short-term headaches.

Subwaydle is a Wordle-like game where you try to guess the NYC subway transfers to use to get to your destination (e.g. “travel from Saratoga Av to 42 St–Port Authority Bus Terminal using 2 transfers”).

The Prescience of Octavia Butler

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2023

I just finished reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (so good!) and while doing a little customary post-read research on it, I discovered that Butler wrote a sequel in 1998 called Parable of the Talents and, uh… (from Wikipedia):

The novel is set against the backdrop of a dystopian United States that has come under the grip of a Christian fundamentalist denomination called “Christian America” led by President Andrew Steele Jarret. Seeking to restore American power and prestige, and using the slogan “Make America Great Again”, Jarret embarks on a crusade to cleanse America of non-Christian faiths. Slavery has resurfaced with advanced “shock collars” being used to control slaves. Virtual reality headsets known as “Dreamasks” are also popular since they enable wearers to escape their harsh reality.

Well, our present reality certainly checks a remarkable number of those boxes, including an absolute bullseye on “Make America Great Again”.

The Rich Are Crazier Than You and Me. “I suspect that famous, wealthy men may be especially frustrated by their inability to control events, or even stop people from ridiculing them on the internet.”

Duck & Cover: Ukrainian Book Fair Poster

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 07, 2023

poster for a Ukrainian book fair that shows people using a book to protect themselves from Russian bombs and troops

This is a poster for the 2023 International Book Arsenal Festival which recently took place in Kyiv, Ukraine. The poster was designed by Art Studio Agrafka from an illustration they originally did for the cover of Linkiesta Magazine.

A book festival. During a war. In a city under martial law. While schools and legislatures here in the US ban books about Black and LGBTQ+ experiences based on bad faith complaints of tiny fundamentalist parent groups. Tell me, who’s doing democracy better right now? (via @gray)

The Man Who Broke Bowling. “Jason Belmonte’s two-handed technique made him an outcast. Then it made him the greatest — and changed the sport forever.”
A report on the D3 ultramarathon, a 24-hour-long race that takes place on a 400-meter high school track in Pennsylvania. “The thing about lying down is that it’s not very helpful in moving forward…”

An Incredible Stop-Motion Animation of a Samurai Fight

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 06, 2023

Not going to bury the lede here: this is a straight-up masterpiece and maybe the best thing I’ve seen all week. Hidari is a stop-motion animation of an inventive fight sequence between a lone warrior/craftsman and a boss & his minions. The vibe of the animation is at once halting and buttery smooth, a combination that’s wonderfully expressive. Directed by Masashi Kawamura, the plan is to turn this into a feature-length film:

This is a pilot version of the stop-motion samurai film that tells the story of “Jingoro Hidari,” a legendary Edo-era craftsman. All the characters are made by wood and animated frame by frame, just like how Jingoro’s wooden sculptures came to life in his many anecdotes. We hope you enjoy this film, which mixes dynamic actions as seen in Japanimation, and the rich analog expressions of stop-motion animation.

Our intention is to use this pilot film as a starting point to create a full length feature film. We have started activities to raise the necessary partners and funding to achieve this goal.

Take my money! (P.S. Turn on subtitles if you don’t speak Japanese. Oh, and here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how they did the animation.)

Why Does the U.S. Copyright Office Require Libraries to Lie to Users about Their Fair Use Rights? “The copyright notice that libraries are required by law to provide you {when photocopying documents} is false and misleading.”
Heat Pumps — The Well-Tempered Future of A/Cs. “If air conditioning is going to be climate-friendlier, it needs to be smart, talk to the grid, use better refrigerant, and be a heat pump.”
Keyword is a new online game from the Washington Post that’s kind of a cross between Wordle and (maybe) Scrabble or a crossword.

Patricia Lockwood on David Foster Wallace

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 06, 2023

“it’s what everyone wants in the year 2023: 8000 words on david foster wallace” ⬅️ That’s how Patricia Lockwood shared her piece about the complicated legacy of David Foster Wallace on Bluesky. Turns out, it is what we want; this piece is brilliant. But it’s also unexplainable, so I’ll just post these three snippets and let you work out whether you want to read the rest of it or not.

As I read, I thought Wallace must have been taken by something very simple, the smallest sensual fact: that as an IRS worker you are issued a new social security number, in essence a new identity, a chance to start over. The old number, the old life, ‘simply disappeared, from an identification standpoint’. A whole novel could take flesh from that fact, one about the idea of bureaucratic identity as opposed to individual identity: memories, mothers, sideburn phases, the way we see ourselves. That we are, at our core, a person; in the bed of our family, a name; and out in the world, a number. Of course, as so often with Wallace, on actual investigation this turns out not to be true. The fact withdraws itself, and only the epiphany remains.

—-

Infinite Jest — man, I don’t know. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had the rhetorical move not so often been ‘and then this little kid had a claw.’ It’s like watching someone undergo the latest possible puberty. It genuinely reads like he has not had sex. You feel not only that he shouldn’t be allowed to take drugs, but that he shouldn’t be allowed to drink Diet Pepsi. The highlights remain highlights: the weed addict Ken Erdedy pacing back and forth while reciting ‘where was the woman who said she’d come,’ the game of Eschaton, the passages where Mario is almost the protagonist, the beatified ex-thug Don Gately being slowly swept out to sea over the course of a hundred pages. Every so often Wallace offers you a set piece that’s as fully articulated as a Body Worlds exhibit — laminated muscles pinwheeling through the air, beads of plasticine sweat flying — or pauses the action to deliver a weather bulletin that approaches the sublime. The rest is Don DeLillo played at chipmunk speed. You feel it in your hands: too heavy and too light, too much and not enough. In the end, it is a book about the infiltration of our attention that was also at the mercy of itself, helpless not to watch itself, hopelessly entertained.

—-

Time will tell who is an inventor and who is a tech disruptor. There was ambient pressure, for a while, to say that Wallace created a new kind of fiction. I’m not sure that’s true — the new style is always the last gasp of an old teacher, and Infinite Jest in particular is like a house party to which he’s invited all of his professors. Thomas Pynchon is in the kitchen, opening a can of expired tuna with his teeth. William Gaddis is in the den, reading ticker-tape off a version of C-Span that watches the senators go to the bathroom. Don DeLillo is three houses down, having sex with his wife. I’m not going to begrudge him a wish that the world was full of these wonderful windy oddballs, who were all entrusted with the same task: to encompass, reflect, refract. But David, some of these guys had the competitive advantage of having been personally experimented on by the US military. You’re not going to catch them. Calm down.

Lockwood wrote a book called No One Is Talking About This; I read it last year and excerpted some of my favorite quotes from it.

No, this guy is not an asshole for carving his name in the wall of the Colosseum for not knowing the building was 2000 years old. He’s an asshole because he carved his name in a wall that doesn’t belong to him.

An Incredibly Tidy Little Park For All Ages

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 06, 2023

Yesterday I posted about the 2023 Drone Photo Awards and one of my favorite shots was of a playground/park in Poland. My curious pal Neven tracked down more information about the park and, well, it’s so cool and cute!

overhead view of a colorful and tidy park in Poland

overhead view of a colorful and tidy park in Poland

overhead view of a colorful and tidy park in Poland

Here’s part of the description from the park’s creators, SLAS Architects:

“Activity zone” is a multifunctional public space which is the first phase of regeneration and integration of the University of Silesia campus with the urban tissue of Chorzów City.

The site is located in the place of the demolished military building with a number of old existing trees. “Activity zone” is designed as concrete platform strongly perforated and filled with a diverse programme that includes: students leisure zone, children’s play devices, fitness, individually designed elements of street furniture and greenery including all existing trees. Some parts of the garden are possible to develop by local seniors. The platform connects the diverse program, intensifies the use of the place and becomes itself an element of play. Variety of attractions enhance interactions between users of all age groups and integrates academic community with local inhabitants and the surrounding nature.

My only complaint: it’s maybe a little too small? But otherwise: top marks.

Scrounging is a new cookbook from A24 featuring “last-ditch” recipes from movies like The Breakfast Club’s Pixy Stix sandwich, The Martian’s baked potato with Vicodin, and omelettes from Big Night, Tampopo, and Phantom Thread.

The Full Trailer for Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 06, 2023

Oh boy. I thought the teaser trailer was good, but the full trailer for Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon just dropped and I am. So. Excited. To. SEE. THIS!

At the turn of the 20th century, oil brought a fortune to the Osage Nation, who became some of the richest people in the world overnight. The wealth of these Native Americans immediately attracted white interlopers, who manipulated, extorted, and stole as much Osage money as they could before resorting to murder.

Once again, it’s based on David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which I highly recommend. Grann + Scorsese appears to be a potent combination — the latter is already signed on to adapt Grann’s latest bestseller, The Wager.

So, Trump posted Obama’s home address and one of his supporters drove over there with guns to get a “good angle on a shot”. Textbook stochastic terrorism — Trump basically put out a hit on a former President and no consequences once again.
Really interesting piece on Pat Summitt & feminism. “Sports are not just about sports. They encompass a battleground for determining how gender manifests in the world, how women and girls can use their bodies, and who can access self-determination.”
Wow, after 10 years of making weekly videos on YouTube (weekly? how?!), Tom Scott is stopping his channel at the end of this year to take a break. 👏
Threads, Facebook’s Twitter killer, is live. You can follow me over there I guess?

The Winners of the 2023 Drone Photo Awards

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 05, 2023

aerial photo of a very tidy Polish playground

aerial photo of a surfer and crashing waves

aerial photo of a colorful abstract landscape

aerial photo of a border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

I am a sucker for aerial photography, so I had a lot of fun looking through all the winners and runners-up of the 2023 Drone Photo Awards. As usual, I picked out a few favorites and included them above. From top to bottom, photos by: Sebastian Piórek (a very tidy Polish playground), Brad Weiner (surfer), Gheorghe Popa (amazing abstract shot), and Matias Delacroix (a border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

Begin Transmission is a new book about the trans allegories of The Matrix. “No other mass media franchise speaks as truly, deeply, and honestly to the trans experience.”
Incredible analysis by The Pudding about just how little airplay women artists get on country radio stations in the US. In one 24-hour period, “you’d likely only hear 3 back-to-back songs by women, compared to 245 from men”.

“I Created Clippy”

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 05, 2023

Illustrator Kevan Atteberry created the Clippy character that was introduced in Microsoft Office 97. There was a ton of backlash when the character was introduced, but as time has passed, many people have begun to think fondly of him.

He’s a guy that just wants to help, and he’s a little bit too helpful sometimes. And there’s something fun and vulnerable about that.

Vote now in the Tiny Awards, which seek to honor the website that “best embodies the idea of a small, playful and heartfelt web”.
“Liberals have lost the Supreme Court for a generation. Their only hope is to seize state courts and launch a counterrevolution.
Monday July 3, 2023 was the hottest day on Earth since record-keeping began in the late 19th century. It seems as though 1.5°C is inevitable now.
It’s easy to be cynical about such things, but I found Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray’s separation announcement to be sincere and genuine and perhaps even a little bit brave and sweet.

Stunning Photo of an Aurora Over an Icelandic Waterfall

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 05, 2023

the aurora borealis in the sky over an Icelandic waterfall

Astrophotographer Cari Letelier caught this amazing shot of the aurora borealis over the Goðafoss waterfall in Iceland. We live in a truly magical world — if science fiction authors made something like this up, you wouldn’t believe it’d ever be real. You can check out more of Letelier’s astrophotography on Instagram or on her website.

I found this via the Astronomy Picture of the Day site, a gem of the old school web that’s been sharing astronomy photos since 1995.

Machine learning models trained on accelerometry data (e.g. from smartwatches) can identify Parkinson’s disease “years before clinical diagnosis”.
Astronomers have watched the distant universe running in slow motion, marking the first time that the weird effect predicted by Einstein more than a century ago has been observed.” Einstein: still (almost) undefeated.
Can Everyone Take a Sabbatical? “Sabbaticals also provide…a ‘check against total burnout.’” Feeling very grateful for the support of my readers in taking a sabbatical last year.

Wes Anderson’s Imperfect Moments

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 03, 2023

Precise. Symmetric. Stylized. Controlled (often bright) color palette. Slow-motion. Lateral tracking. These are all hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s films. But as this short video from Luís Azevedo shows, there are plenty of imperfect moments in his movies as well. Anderson is a canny filmmaker and it’s the contrast between the controlled worlds he constructs and these more frenetic, off-kilter, imperfect moments that gives them their weight and impact.

Will AI Change Our Memories?

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 03, 2023

Photographs have always been an imperfect reproduction of real life — see the story of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother or Ansel Adams’ extensive dark room work — but the seemingly boundless alterations offered by current & future AI editing tools will allow almost anyone to turn their photos (or should I say “photos”) into whatever they wish. In this video, Evan Puschak briefly explores what AI-altered photos might do to our memories.

I was surprised he didn’t mention the theory that when a past experience is remembered, that memory is altered in the human brain — that is, “very act of remembering can change our memories”. I think I first heard about this on Radiolab more than 16 years ago. So maybe looking at photos extensively altered by AI could extensively alter those same memories in our brains, actually making us unable to recall anything even remotely close to what “really” happened. Fun!

But also, one could imagine this as a powerful way to treat PTSD, etc. Or to brainwash someone! Or an entire populace… Here’s Hannah Arendt on constantly being lied to:

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

As I said in response to this quote in a post about deepfakes:

This is the incredible and interesting and dangerous thing about the combination of our current technology, the internet, and mass media: “a lying government” is no longer necessary — we’re doing it to ourselves and anyone with sufficient motivation will be able to take advantage of people without the capacity to think and judge.

P.S. I lol’d too hard at his deadpan description of “the late Thanos”. RIP, big fella.

Want to Run a World-Record Time? Follow the Green Lights. Wavelights are a pacemaking technology that are helping runners achieve faster times. But is it cheating? (This is like racing Mario Kart ghosts!)
A list of 30 roadtrips you can take this summer on all seven continents: safaris in Uganda, travelling the east coast of Taiwan, an epic Patagonia trip, coast-to-coast US roadtrip, driving Adelaide to Melbourne, etc.

Street Photographer Captures Perfectly Timed Scenes

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 03, 2023

photo of a mural with an angel that looks like it's picking something out of a garbage bin the foreground

a truck with two dolphins on the back is parked next to the ocean in such a way where it looks like the dolphins are leaping out of the actual water

a woman walks in front of an advertisement where it appears a person is taking something from her cart

a rainbow appears to emanate from a photographer's camera

Greek photographer Anthimos Ntagkas stalks the streets in search of visual coincidences to capture and put on his Instagram account. My Modern Met talked to Ntagkas about his process:

Nowadays, I don’t choose the place, but I make every location work for me. I combine people with elements everywhere I stand. Luckily the themes in this type of photography are endless, and I never lose interest.

See also Eric Kogan’s photography, which has a similar vibe.

I was Russell Crowe’s stooge. From 2006, a great read by a journalist who was recruited as a shill and then discarded by Russell Crowe. “I had been quite the sucker. It was the only truth that made sense.”
via jodiettenberg.substack.com
Air quality has become a huge issue recently: Covid, wildfires, gas stoves, longer allergy season. “If the pandemic was whispering to us about air quality, the wildfires are screaming to us about it.”
via erictopol.substack.com
Now this is how you do special effects. Absolutely seamless.

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