Entries for January 2024

How France’s Film Industry Works

The film industry in France works a little differently that the American film industry. In this video, Evan Puschak explains how France treats filmmaking as a public good to be invested in at all levels.

One of the most interesting things is that the government gives grants to filmmakers that are specifically untethered to box office success in order “to support an independent cinema that is bold in terms of market standards and that cannot find its financial balance without public assistance”. Filmmakers who have made their early work with this public assistance include Agnes Varda, Celine Sciamma, and Claire Denis.

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Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones never met in real life until they filmed an episode of The Big Bang Theory in 2013. “Carrie’s first words to him? ‘Dad!’”

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Big mountain skier Julian Carr shares what he was thinking about before hitting a 175-foot cliff. “I am calm, I am confident. The earth & the galaxy feel in alignment with me, the zone & my skis.” The photo at the end is *bananas*.

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“The Curious Case of the Contested Basquiats”

For the Atlantic, Bianca Bosker writes about a trove of paintings supposedly by Jean-Michel Basquiat that were discovered in a storage locker, ended up in a museum, and then seized by the FBI as fakes. As the owner of a pretty-convincing-but-probably-fake Basquiat purchased at a Mexico City flea market (that is also painted on cardboard), I read this story with great interest.

Science promises to be a neutral and exacting judge, though in reality forensics aren’t always much help either. Technical analysis can rule out an artwork — pieces from the trove of purported Pollocks with which Mangan was involved were exposed as forgeries after researchers found pigments that postdated the artist’s life — but it can’t rule it in as definitively by the artist in question. Some forgers will submit their handiwork for forensic testing so they can see what flags their pieces as counterfeit, then adjust their methods accordingly. Scientific techniques are also far less useful for contemporary artists like Basquiat, who relied on materials that are still available and for which the margin of error on many tests is wide. When the collector in Norway sent a painting he’d purchased from Barzman to be carbon-dated, the test revealed that the cardboard could be from either the 1950s or the 1990s.

What does it matter if art is authentic?

Our obsession with artworks’ authenticity can in part be traced back to what’s known as the “law of contagion”: Pieces are thought to acquire a special essence when touched by the artist’s hand. Yet the intense distaste for forgeries reveals a dirty secret about our relationship with art, which is that we tend to fixate on genius and authorship more than the aesthetic qualities of the work we claim to value so highly. The writer Arthur Koestler, in an essay on snobbery, goes so far as to argue that when judging a work, who made it should be considered “entirely extraneous to the issue.” What matters more, he argues, is what meets the eye.

When I see art in person or visit historic places, I often think to myself that I am standing where the artist or famous personage once stood — and it makes me feel something. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with magic though.

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A short history of the origin of Comic Sans. Interestingly, the font was designed to be used in aliased form (with jaggy edges).

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The oldest I’ve ever felt is just now when I learned that the Rubik’s Cube is 50 years old. This 50th anniversary cube has “classic boxy edges, slower turning, stickers, gold side, and special anniversary logo, presented in a retro plastic display case”.

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Orion and the Dark

This is the trailer for Orion and the Dark, an animated kids movie written by Charlie Kaufman. Yes, the I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Synecdoche, New York; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman. And it’s getting pretty good reviews so far. The AV Club:

Orion And The Dark may look almost nothing like any Charlie Kaufman film to date, but it bears his personality. While that might be a bit much for the youngest kids, for 11-year-olds like those depicted in this story, it may strike a chord simply by refusing to underestimate their intelligence.

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Emma Yarlett and will be out on Netflix on Feb 2.

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This guide to Gen Z & Gen Alpha slang from Parents magazine is hilarious but also somewhat useful. Any list of subcultural lingo always makes me think of Megan Jasper making up a bunch of grunge slang for the NY Times.

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Excited to see where Iconfactory’s Project Tapestry goes. “Weaving your favorite blogs, social media, and more into a unified and chronological timeline.”

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How did you know it was time [to quit]? “The game tells you when you’re done. I love the game so much and I respect it and it told me when I was done.”

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Jamelle Bouie provides some historical context re: the 14th Amendment. “Both the Constitution and the historical record are clear. Donald Trump is an insurrectionist and Donald Trump has no rightful place among the leadership of the American Republic.”

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ASCII Theater: stream movies in ASCII in your terminal. Now showing: Barbie. No sound but there’s subtitles.

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Did The Future Already Happen?

Kurzgesagt’s latest video on the paradox of time is a bit more of a brain-bender than their usual videos. From the accompanying sources document:

This video summarizes in a narrative format two well-known theories about time: the so-called “block universe” and the “growing block”.

The block universe is an old theory of time which appears to be an unavoidable consequence of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. In philosophical contexts, basically the same idea is known as “eternalism”. Simplified, this theory posits that, although not apparent to our human perception, both the past and the future exist in the same way as the present does, and are therefore as real as the present is: The past still exists and the future exists already. As a consequence, time doesn’t “flow” (even if it looks so to us) and things in the universe don’t “happen” - the universe just “is”, hence the name “block universe”.

But then: “Quantum stuff is ruining everything again.” And so we have the growing block theory:

The Evolving/Growing Block: A relatively new alternative to the classical block universe theory, which asserts that the past may still exist but the present doesn’t yet, and all that in a way that is still compatible with Einstein’s relativity.

And there are still other theories about how time works:

Some scientists think that the idea of “now” only makes sense near you, but not in the universe as a whole. Others think that time itself doesn’t even exist — that the whole concept is an illusion of our human mind. And others think that time does exist, but that it’s not a fundamental feature of the universe. Rather, time may be something that emerges from a deeper level of reality, just like heat emerges from the motion of individual molecules or life emerges from the interactions of lifeless proteins.

Like I said, a brain-bender.

Redesigning Cormac McCarthy’s Brutal ‘Blood Meridian’. To keep his design skills sharp, Bobby Solomon takes a crack at designing a cover for Blood Meridian. I love what he came up with.

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Susannah Breslin: 19 Ways to Make Money as a Writer. “My consulting work as The Fixer is my highest-paid work. Typically my client is a CEO / founder / venture capitalist. They have a problem, and they hire me to fix it.”

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Interviews with five people who have hosted their own living funerals. “I spent 45 minutes hugging people and then I needed space. I’d had the most important people in my life tell me how meaningful I was to them.”

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Letraset Fill Patterns

a grid of letraset patterns

a grid of letraset patterns

I never did any print design — I went straight to digital via a copy of Aldus PhotoStyler that I got who knows where — but these Letraset fill patterns make me feel some kinda way. Especially the dotted patterns. 😍

See also How to Apply Letraset Dry Rub-Down Transfers and Retroset. (via present & correct)

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Oh dear, Japan’s Smart Lander touched down precisely where it meant to, but it’s upside-down. The photo of the flipped lander (taken by a probe released before landing) is sadly hilarious.

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Matt Webb’s AI-powered clock is now on Kickstarter! “It tells the time with a brand new poem every minute, composed by ChatGPT. It’s sometimes profound, and sometimes weird, and occasionally it fibs about what the actual time is to make a rhyme work.”

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An Animated Timelapse of 200 Million Years of Continental Drift, From Pangea to Today

Millions of years ago, the supercontinent of Pangea slowly started to break apart into the continents we all live on today. In this video from the makers of ArcGIS mapping software, you can watch as the reconfiguration of the Earth’s land happens over 200 million years.

Damn, India slammed into Asia like the Kool-aid Man — no wonder the Himalayas are so tall!

Once, the craggy limestone peaks that skim the sky of Everest were on the ocean floor. Scientists believe it all began to change about 200 million years ago — at around the time the Jurassic dinosaurs were beginning to emerge — when the supercontinent of Pangea cracked into pieces. The Indian continent eventually broke free, journeying north across the vast swathe of Tethys Ocean for 150 million years until it smacked into a fellow continent — the one we now know as Asia — around 45 million years ago.

The crushing force of one continent hitting another caused the plate beneath the Tethys Ocean, made of oceanic crust, to slide under the Eurasian plate. This created what is known as a subduction zone. Then the oceanic plate slipped deeper and deeper into the Earth’s mantle, scraping off folds limestone as it did so, until the Indian and Eurasian plates started compressing together. India began sliding under Asia, but because it’s made of tougher stuff than the oceanic plate it didn’t just descend. The surface started to buckle, pushing the crust and crumples of limestone upwards.

And so the Himalayan mountain range began to rise skyward. By around 15-17 million years ago, the summit of Everest had reached about 5,000m (16,404ft) and it continued to grow. The collision between the two continental plates is still happening today. India continues to creep north by 5cm (2in) a year, causing Everest to grow by about 4mm (0.16in) per year (although other parts of the Himalayas are rising at around 10mm per year [0.4in]).

See also Map of Pangaea with Modern-Day Borders, How the Earth’s Continents Will Look 250 Million Years From Now, and Locate Modern Addresses on Earth 240 Million Years Ago. (via open culture)

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From Dorothy Parker’s 1928 review of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner: “And it is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place in ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ at which Tonstant Weader Fwowed up.”

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This is weird: if tiny Girona win La Liga and Man City doesn’t win the Premier League, Man City could get dumped from the Champions League down to the Europa League because of rules around teams w/ the same ownership playing each other.

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What’s Inside This Crater in Madagascar?

The Vox video team spotted a small village in the middle of huge crater in Madagascar. They decided to investigate.

Right in the center of the island nation of Madagascar there’s a strange, almost perfectly circular geological structure. It covers a bigger area than the city of Paris — and at first glance, it looks completely empty. But right in the center of that structure, there’s a single, isolated village: a few dozen houses, some fields of crops, and dirt roads stretching out in every direction.

When we first saw this village on Google Earth, its extreme remoteness fascinated us. Was the village full of people? How did they wind up there?

This video is great for so many reasons. It’s a story about geology, cartography, globalization, the supply chain, infrastructure, and the surveillance state told through the framework of falling down (waaaay down) an online rabbit hole. It reinforces the value of academics and the editing is top shelf.

Though, I wonder if profiling this village on the internet is a good thing to do. This isn’t some YouTube bro helicoptering into the village unannounced — the Vox team worked with locals, received permission, etc. — but these villagers are a minority group who have chosen to live in a remote area with particularly good natural resources…and now their secret is out. And maybe their neighbors (or Mr. Beast) will choose to pay them a visit sometime soon. (via waxy)

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The baseline scene (“cells interlinked”) in Blade Runner 2049 was conceived by Ryan Gosling, who convinced Denis Villeneuve to put it in the movie. The scene combines a Nabokov poem and an actor’s exercise called “dropping in”.

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Keep Your Abortion Private & Secure. A guide to digital security to keep information about your abortion safe from snooping law enforcement, big tech, abusive family, and anti-abortion protestors.

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Looking for a Job? Looking for Employees?

Want to try a thing? I don’t know if running a job board in the comments section of a blog is a good idea, but if you are out there looking for work, post a quick summary of what you do, what you’re looking for, and a link to your resume/portfolio/LinkedIn/contact info and maybe someone here will see it and want to hire you. Likewise, if you or your company/organization has job openings, post a brief description and a link to the opening(s). Full-time, freelance, remote-only, in-person, tech, non-tech, anything goes.

Since comments can only be left by members, if you’re not a member and are looking for work, send me your comment via email and I will post it for you. (If you are on the hiring side, you can afford to expense the membership fee to post a job posting. 😉 But if you’re a non-profit, email away!) Update: This thread is winding down, so I’m closing listings via email.

I don’t know what counts as spammy when I’m literally asking for ppl to post links, etc. but if it happens, I’ll delete spam listings.

Oh, and I’m happy to accept finders fees if your company hires someone from the comments here. Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.

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The recent Sunday NYT crossword puzzle featured the clue “Author who penned the line ‘Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart’”. Answer is supposed to be MILNE but 1000s of internet memes aside, he actually never wrote that.

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What happens when an astronaut in orbit says he’s not coming back? “Hey, if you guys don’t give me a chance to repair my instrument, I’m not going back.”

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Nearly 30% of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, national survey finds. “Gen Z is the queerest adult generation to date.”

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Our ‘Grey Swan’ Climate Crisis: Nonlinear, Predictable, and Unprecedented

Zoë Schlanger writing for the Atlantic: Prepare for a ‘Gray Swan’ Climate.

The way to think about climate change now is through two interlinked concepts. The first is nonlinearity, the idea that change will happen by factors of multiplication, rather than addition. The second is the idea of “gray swan” events, which are both predictable and unprecedented. Together, these two ideas explain how we will face a rush of extremes, all scientifically imaginable but utterly new to human experience.

It’s the nonlinearity that’s always worried me about the climate crisis — and is the main source of my skepticism that it’s “fixable” at this point. Think about another nonlinear grey swan event: the Covid-19 pandemic. When was it possible to stop the whole thing in its tracks? When 10 people were infected? 50? 500? With a disease that spreads linearly, let’s say that stopping the spread when 20 people are infected is twice as hard as when 10 are infected — with nonlinear spread, it’s maybe 4x or 10x or 20x harder. When you reach a number like 20,000 or 100,000 infected over a wide area, it becomes nearly impossible to stop without extraordinary effort.

In thinking about the climate crisis, whatever time, effort, and expense halting global warming (and the myriad knock-on effects) may have required in 1990, let’s say it doubled by 2000. And then it didn’t just double again in the next ten years, it tripled. And then from 2010 to 2020, it quadrupled. An intact glacier in 1990 is waaaaay easier and cheaper to save than one in 2010 that’s 30% melted into the ocean; when it’s 75% melted in 2020, there’s really no way to get that fresh water back out of the ocean and into ice form.

It’s like the compounding interest on your student loans when you’re not making the minimum payments — not only does the amount you owe increase each month, the increase increases. And at a certain point, the balance is actually impossible to pay off at your current resource level.1 It’s hard to say where we are exactly on our climate repayment curve (and what the interest rate is), but we’ve not been making the minimum payments for awhile now and the ocean’s repossessing our glaciers and ice shelves and…

  1. Think also of the story of the inventor of chess asking for a reward of a single rice grain on the first square of a chess board and double the amount on each successive square. After a week, he’s got only 127 grains. After four weeks, he’s got himself several thousand pounds of rice. Another week or two after that, he owns the whole kingdom. (And if the multiplication factor is only 1.2, he still gets the kingdom in fewer than 2 chess boards.)
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This chart showing the near-impossibility of legal immigration to the US is worth a look. “Legal immigration is less like waiting in line and more like winning the lottery: it happens, but it is so rare that it is irrational to expect it in any individual case.”

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AI Spam Is Eating the Internet, Stealing Our Work, and Destroying Discoverability.” Thoughtful 404 Media piece on why they are requiring an email address to read most of their journalism.

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Vintage Space Age Playing Cards (1964)

six of diamonds playing card with GO and NO GO printed on it

jack of clubs playing card with a space monkey eating a banana on it

two of spades playing card with a red hot air balloon on it

joker playing card with a picture of Superman

queen of hearts playing card with Amelia Earhart on it

nine of diamonds playing card with a Earth/Moon diagram on it

The General Dynamics Astronautics Space Cards were printed up in 1964 to celebrate the American space program. This Flickr account has scans of every card in the deck, including both jokers. Each suit corresponds to a different aspect of the program:

These space cards tell a story — the story of America’s man-in-space programs. The hearts deal with the human element, the clubs portray the sciences, the spades show products, and the diamonds depict modern aerospace management without which the other three elements could not be successful…

If you’d like your own factory-sealed deck, you can buy one on eBay for $249. (thx, mark)

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The Coolest Thing in Climate Tech is a Super Hot Rock. “Electricity from renewable energy is converted into heat and then stored in thermally conductive rocks or bricks. That heat is then delivered directly as hot air or steam…”

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A Blind Teacher Using Echolocation to Navigate the World

Echo is a fascinating and poignant short film about Daniel Kish, a blind man who uses echolocation to move about in the world and teaches others how to do the same. Using clicks, he and his students can go on hikes, ride bikes, and skateboard down the sidewalk.

If I click at a surface, it answers back. It’s like asking a question: what are you and where are you? I can get through echolocation a really rich, palpable, satisfying, 3-dimensional, fuzzy geometry.

The filmmakers worked with Kish to record the sound as a person would hear it in real life and make visualizations to help us see what Kish is hearing.

During the early production stages of the filmmakers Ben Wolin and Michael Minahan’s short documentary, “Echo,” they wanted their audience to understand what this skill truly meant. They worked closely with Daniel, a self-described audiophile, to record sound for the documentary through a special microphone that works similarly to a pair of human ears — a tool that Daniel also uses for teaching. “You record the audio like you would hear it,” Minahan told me. Because of this process, the sound design and auditory experience has a vivid, spatial quality that’s rare with a film of this scale. The gears on Daniel’s bike creak and whine with a closeness that makes it feel like we’re riding right next to him, while dogs bark, wind blows, and cars pass in the background. It’s through these rich sounds that we’re immersed in and transported to Daniel’s world.

Make some time for this short film…it’s really great.

See also The Blind Skateboarder.

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What are we supposed to do with this accursed piece of knowledge? “The first release of Internet Explorer (1995) is closer in time to the Apollo 11 moon landing (1969) than now.”

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NASA: The Ingenuity Helicopter’s Mission Comes to an End

the Ingenuity helicopter on the surfce of Mars

NASA has announced that the mission of the Ingenuity helicopter has come to an end on the surface of Mars.

While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing and it is no longer capable of flight.

Originally designed as a technology demonstration to perform up to five experimental test flights over 30 days, the first aircraft on another world operated from the Martian surface for almost three years, performed 72 flights, and flew more than 14 times farther than planned while logging more than two hours of total flight time.

Nice job, little flying rover! Rest well.

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Wow, Jurgen Klopp announces that he’s leaving Liverpool at the end of the season. I don’t follow a particular PL team, but I do really like watching Klopp’s side play.

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I had no idea you could custom install your own fonts on a Kindle.

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Winners of the 12th Annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest

a school of yellow fish look right into the camera

an orange octopus with white spots poses

a snail floats in darkness with delicate tendrils

a red and purple pygmy seahorse

The winners of the 2023 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest have been announced and what a reminder of how cartoonishly colorful and weird it is under the sea. The alien creatures we’ve been looking for in outer space? They’re already right here, just take a swim.

Photos above by Giancarlo Mazarese, Alessandro Raho, Steven Kovacs, and Byron Conroy. (via in focus)

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Polar explorer Ben Saunders has started a new podcast called New Frontiers, featuring interviews with people who have pivoted from successful careers to help tackle the climate crisis.

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From Culture magazine, the best cheeses of 2023. Lots of cheeses on here from Wisconsin and Vermont, including one from a farm literally 1/2 a mile from where I’m typing this.

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Happy 40th Birthday, Macintosh. This site “showcases every Macintosh desktop and portable Apple has ever made with hundreds of the photos” and videos.

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Freight train heists are on the rise in the age of Amazon. “Piracy is an age-old occupation, particularly prevalent in places and times when large gaps have separated the rich and the poor.”

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Massive Ancient Network of Cities Found in the Amazon

lidar image of straight roads and structures built by an ancient Amazonian civilization

lidar image of straight roads and structures built by an ancient Amazonian civilization

lidar image of straight roads and structures built by an ancient Amazonian civilization

Using lidar, a team led by archaeologist Stéphen Rostain has found evidence of a network of cities in the Amazon dating back thousands of years. From the BBC:

Using airborne laser-scanning technology (Lidar), Rostain and his colleagues discovered a long-lost network of cities extending across 300sq km in the Ecuadorean Amazon, complete with plazas, ceremonial sites, drainage canals and roads that were built 2,500 years ago and had remained hidden for thousands of years. They also identified more than 6,000 rectangular earthen platforms believed to be homes and communal buildings in 15 urban centres surrounded by terraced agricultural fields.

The area may have been home to anywhere from 30,000 to hundreds of thousands of people:

“This discovery has proven there was an equivalent of Rome in Amazonia,” Rostain said. “The people living in these societies weren’t semi-nomadic people lost in the rainforest looking for food. They weren’t the small tribes of the Amazon we know today. They were highly specialised people: earthmovers, engineers, farmers, fishermen, priests, chiefs or kings. It was a stratified society, a specialised society, so there is certainly something of Rome.”

You can read more coverage of this in New Scientist, the NY Times, Science, and the Guardian.

I still remember reading Charles Mann’s Earthmovers of the Amazon (which he turned into the excellent 1491) almost 25 years ago and being astounded to learn that civilizations in the Americas were older, larger, and more widespread than I’d been taught.

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A study in Scotland has found that no cases of cervical cancer have been detected in young women who have been fully vaccinated against HPV. “It is possible to make cervical cancer a rare disease.” Amazing news!

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I Miscarried in Texas. My Doctors Put Abortion Law First. “No one should have to fear they may die because of a miscarriage. And yet, for women like me in the United States, in Texas, that fear is very real.” Repressive, punitive, and sickening.

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Therapy Gecko: The Internet’s Unofficial Therapist

During the pandemic, Lyle Drescher started dressing up as a gecko and doing a live call-in show as Lyle the Therapy Gecko. Drescher is obviously not a therapist (more like an advice columnist?) but he does seem like a generous listener, which is a bit of a rarity online. This video is also a meditation about online identity and the unusual sort of performance art that is familiar to anyone who publishes online (even those of us who work in text & links). (via waxy)

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When the Ceiling Gets Lower

Technology analyst & scholar Dan Wang was one of the folks on the walk and talk I did in northern Thailand back in December. In his annual letter for 2023, Wang recapped the walk, using it as a jumping-off point for his wheelhouse topic: China. Most interesting to me were his observations about the trend of Chinese moving abroad, including to Thailand.

Many people still feel ambivalence about moving to Thailand. Not everyone has mustered the courage to tell their Chinese parents where they really are. Mom and dad are under the impression that they’re studying abroad in Europe or something. That sometimes leads to elaborate games to maintain the subterfuge, like drawing curtains to darken the room when they video chat with family, since they’re supposed to be in a totally different time zone; or keeping up with weather conditions in the city they’re supposed to be so that they’re not surprised when parents ask about rain or snow.

There still are some corners in China that are relatively permissive. One of these is Yunnan’s Dali, a city on the northern tip of highland Southeast Asia, where I spent much of 2022. There, one can find the remnants of a drug culture as well as a party scene for an occasional rave. But even Dali is becoming less tenable these days since the central government has cottoned on that the city is a hub for free spirits. The tightening restrictions emanating from Beijing are spreading to every corner of the country. “China feels like a space in which the ceiling keeps getting lower,” one person told me. “To stay means that we have to walk around with our heads lowered and our backs hunched.”

I also recently read this piece about The Chinese Migrants of Chiang Mai by Amy Zhang (via Jodi Ettenberg)

What strikes me is how Thailand’s porousness — the fluidity of entries and exits due to the comparatively lax visa processes compared to other countries — mean that while some can stay and enroll their kids in school here, some may go back to China after a long visit, carrying new ideas and experiences with them home. And in this case, it’s Chinese feminism being discussed in Chiang Mai, while feminist and LGBTQ+ groups are being increasingly suppressed in China itself.

The sentiment in that line quoted by Wang — “China feels like a space in which the ceiling keeps getting lower” — probably feels quite familiar to many here in the United States, particularly women, LGBTQ+ folks, and their families living in states with increasingly draconian laws around bodily autonomy.

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Mom roasts daughter for what she DM’d Lil Wayne. “Come tell your father what you said to Lil Wayne! Tell him everything! Tell him everything!”

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Daft, The Anti-Social Social Network for Minimalists. Posting is done entirely through email subject lines — it supports text, links, and images.

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Rat Selfies

a white rat taking a photo of itself

a brown rat taking a photo of itself

For a photographic experiment based on the Skinner box, Augustin Lignier trained a pair of rats to take photos of themselves, aided by a sugary reward. When the rewards became intermittent, the rats kept snapping away, sometimes even ignoring the sugar.

To Mr. Lignier, the parallel is obvious. “Digital and social media companies use the same concept to keep the attention of the viewer as long as possible,” he said.

Indeed, social media has been described as “a Skinner Box for the modern human,” doling out periodic, unpredictable rewards — a like, a follow, a promising romantic match — that keep us glued to our phones.

Or maybe being able to keep ourselves busy pressing buttons is its own reward. In a 2014 study, scientists concluded that many human volunteers “preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.” Maybe we would rather sit around and push whatever levers are in front of us — even those that might make us feel bad - than sit with ourselves in quiet contemplation.

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Railroad workers have solved the trolley problem. “‘Slip the switch’ by flipping it while the trolley’s front wheels have passed through, but before the back wheels do. This will cause a controlled derailment, bringing the trolley to a safe halt.”

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The NY Times takes a look at current trends in restaurant menus. “Like purses, menus have shrunk. Many restaurants favor a vertical, half-page menu — just the right size for holding in your hands, with no pages to flip through and, often, fewer items…”

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A lovely short story about the iPhone 15. (It’s not actually about an iPhone.) “The difference between learning a person and learning an iPhone is that, eventually, you learn the iPhone. You even forget the learning part.”

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Cooked looks interesting: you add ‘cooked.wiki/’ in front of a recipe URL and it’ll show just the recipe, generate a shopping list, save it for later, etc.

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Intriguing new book: Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are. “…a dazzling tour revealing the intimate role that [the Moon] has played in our biological and cultural evolution”.

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The 20 best acting performances that didn’t even get an Oscar nomination in the 21st century. Includes the likes of Amy Adams, Lupita Nyong’o, Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

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I’m late to it this year, but here’s director Steven Soderbergh’s list of everything he read and watched in 2023. To call him voracious would be an understatement.

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Can you solve the greatest wordplay puzzle ever? It relates to texts using all 100 letters in a Scrabble set exactly, e.g.: “A clown jumps above a trapeze. Arcs over one-eighty degrees. Out into mid-air, Quite unaware. Of his exiting billfold and keys.”

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Ryan Gosling getting an Oscar nom for Barbie while Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie were snubbed… well, it looks like the plot of Barbie II is all set then.

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The colorful mating dance of the Tragopan pheasant. Having seen quite a few bird courtship displays on various Planet Earths, I thought I knew what to expect here, but I. did. not. Wow. Takes a bit to get going but stick with it.

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Tiny Flying Rainbows

a hummingbird hovers in front of the sun, it's wings lit up like rainbows

a hummingbird hovers in front of the sun, it's wings lit up like rainbows

It’s not like we need another reason why hummingbirds are so cool, but if you photograph them backlit by the sun, their wings turn into tiny rainbows. These great photos are by Christian Spencer, who used them in his book Birds: Poetry in the Sky. (via present & correct)

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The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Is a Climate Liability. “Taking a cruise generates ‘about double the amount of total greenhouse gas emissions’ as flying.”

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Wikipedia’s list of cryptids. Includes Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and chupacabras.

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The Strange Energy of 50th Birthdays

In writing about model Kate Moss turning 50, Zoe Williams explores the weird cultural energy around people’s 50th birthdays. I loved this short anecdote + observation:

A friend of mine manages an event place in Scotland, and they’ve banned 50ths. Hen nights, stag dos, 40ths, no problem: but some combination of the manic nihilism that sweeps over people and the middle-aged mal-coordination that crept up on them leads to a wild amount of breakage.

Lol. I turned 50 back in September and I had a lovely and quiet dinner with friends — I may have had two cocktails and a nightcap (!!!) but there was no breakage or manic nihilism. I know a lot of folks who read the site are around my age — have you noticed any 50th birthday craziness in your lives?

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Thing that actually exists: a Doritos nacho cheese-flavored vodka. “The bouquet is brimming with the unmistakable tang of cheese dust. But in the sip, it’s all about cornier elements.”

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I’m Edgar Allan Poe’s Landlord, and He Will Not Be Getting His Security Deposit Back. “Within the past three months alone, the violations of your lease and our community standards have included: Prying up the floorboards in your unit.”

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The Stanley Water Bottle Craze, Explained

Amanda Mull, writing for the Atlantic about the internet’s fad du jour, the Stanley cup (the water bottle, not the hockey trophy):

How did Stanley, which has seen its annual revenue increase from $73 million in 2019 to a projected $750 million in 2023, become so popular, so quickly? Lots of very smart people have tried to reverse engineer an explanation to the Stanley mystery — why this cup, right now, out of all the zillions of insulated drinking vessels available to American shoppers? But the actual story here is more about the nature of trends themselves than about a cup. There is no real reason any of this happened, or at least no reason that will feel satisfying to you. Sometimes a cup is just a cup in the right place at the right time.

But actually, I think this video from Phil Edwards comes pretty close to nailing why these cups are hot right now: it’s got a lot to do with savvy marketing and the CEO Stanley brought in in 2020.

From a Harvard Business Review podcast with Stanley CEO Terence Reilly, who was formerly the CMO of Crocs:

TERENCE REILLY: Well, I didn’t do anything, we had an amazing team at Crocs, similar to Stanley. One day, Toria Roth, who was just fresh off of her internship at Crocs, she walked into my office, the CMO’s office, and she said, “Terence, do you have a minute?” And she showed me a photo of Post Malone wearing Crocs.

ALISON BEARD: And Post Malone is a very popular musician.

TERENCE REILLY: Absolutely. And he wasn’t wearing them with any sort of irony, he just was wearing them. And she said, “This could be something for Crocs.” And so, I reached out to the folks that manage Post Malone, and I said, “Hey, would you be interested in a partnership or a collaboration where Post could create his own Crocs?”

And a few months later, the first celebrity collaboration with Crocs was born. And I think it broke the Crocs website when they went live, we had more people waiting than we could handle. And obviously, that set the stage for multiple artists and brands over the following years to collaborate with Crocs.

I remember when Crocs suddenly (and confusingly) became cool — one summer, all of the campers at my kids’ summer camps were wearing them. The summer before that, well…”those holes are where your dignity leaks out”.

I watched Edwards’ video with my 14-year-old daughter (she saw it on my YouTube homepage and was like, “wait, what’s that?”) and we talked about it afterward. She has a Quencher that she bought a couple of months ago and when I asked her why she got it, she replied that it had been blowing up on TikTok. But, she also said that the Stanley is better than any of her other water bottles because of the straw — she actually uses it more because the straw is easier to drink from and doesn’t require any unscrewing or flip-topping or anything and can be done without actually picking up the cup.

I also told her about how cool teen trends spread when I was a kid growing up in the 80s in an isolated rural area. There was no internet and certainly no TikTok, so we’d end up getting trends months later than other parts of the country, after they were already trending downward. We’d usually hear about them from the TV news…Tom Brokaw or some local anchor on channel 4 telling us about Rubik’s Cubes or valley girls or hacky sacks or parachute pants. She thought that was hilarious: teens hearing from adults about what teens thought was cool. We had it so hard back in the day — our memes delivered by adults, weeks late!

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Looking forward to this one: my pal Nicola Twilley’s book is coming out in late June — Frostbite: How Refrigeration Changed Our Food, Our Planet, and Ourselves. Science + infrastructure? Yes, please.

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Raising Artificial Intelligences Like Children

Over the weekend, I listened to this podcast conversation between the psychologist & philosopher Alison Gopnik and writer Ted Chiang about using children’s learning as a model for developing AI systems. Around the 23-minute mark, Gopnik observes that care relationships (child care, elder care, etc.) are extremely important to people but is nearly invisible in economics. And then Chiang replies:

One of the ways that conventional economics sort of ignores care is that for every employee that you hire, there was an incredible amount of labor that went into that employee. That’s a person! And how do you make a person? Well, for one thing, you need several hundred thousand hours of effort to make a person. And every employee that any company hires is the product of hundreds of thousands of hours of effort. Which, companies… they don’t have to pay for that!

They are reaping the benefits of an incredible amount of labor. And if you imagine, in some weird kind of theoretical sense, if you had to actually pay for the raising of everyone that you would eventually employ, what would that look like?

It’s an interesting conversation throughout — recommended!

Chiang has written some of my favorite things on AI in recent months/years, including this line that’s become one of my guiding principles in thinking about AI: “I tend to think that most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism.”

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Recharge, 2023-2024. “Installation featuring a chair where you can relax and charge your phone. However, your phone will only charge when your eyes are closed.”

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Air Jordan Is Finally Deflating by Ross Andersen. “Perhaps footwear just doesn’t pop like a jersey on the illuminated wall of a plutocrat’s man cave.”

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Free download: a knitting pattern for a sweater depicting the cover of the iconic Penguin Classics version of George Orwell’s 1984. “The pattern includes extra alphabet charts so that you can customise the title and author to your favourite book.”

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Ayo Edebiri (Sydney on The Bear) has an account on Letterboxd and her movie reviews are pretty entertaining.

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This new induction stove seems interesting: it runs on 120V, it has a battery (which charges when energy is cheap), works if the power goes out, and can boil a liter of water in 40 sec., and can send power back to the grid.

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Recommended: this episode of the Scriptnotes podcast in which John August talks with Christopher Nolan and Oppenheimer and screenwriting. I could have listened to this for a couple more hours at least.

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“Show Me Your Favorite Dance Move”

These compilation videos of Ed People asking folks from around the world to teach him how to do their favorite dance moves has been going around social media for awhile. I finally sat down to watch them and they are as wonderful, charming, and happy-making as everyone says they are. (thx, caroline)

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Oooh, Robin Sloan has announced his latest novel: Moonbound. “It is eleven thousand years from now… A lot has happened, and yet a lot is still very familiar.”

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A recent report found that corporate profiteering “accounted for about 53% of inflation” in Q2 & Q3 of 2023 in the US. All this while companies complain about high interest rates, crow about their profit margins, and ppl blame the President & the Fed.

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Which One Wins? LeBron’s Brain or His Body?

Yesterday on her Instagram story, cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky posted a short clip of a lecture in which she posed an intriguing question: if she switched brains with LeBron James, which of them would win in a 1-on-1 game? Some relevant facts: LeBron is 6’8”, 250 pounds, a 4-time NBA champion, 19-time All-Star, 4-time league MVP, and is the all-time NBA points leader. He also possesses a singular basketball mind:

“I can usually remember plays in situations a couple of years back — quite a few years back sometimes,” James says. “I’m able to calibrate them throughout a game to the situation I’m in, to know who has it going on our team, what position to put him in.

“I’m lucky to have a photographic memory,” he will add, “and to have learned how to work with it.”

Boroditsky is 5’3”, 105 pounds, and by her own admission knows nothing about basketball and has “no hops”. So who would win? Boroditsky’s body with LeBron’s brain or LeBron’s body with Boroditsky’s brain? And why?

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Watch live as JAXA’s “Moon Sniper” mission attempts to land on the surface of the Moon.

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Randall Munroe remembers hearing a song once featuring a chorus of women chanting “LOLOLOL”. He found a reference to it in a single Reddit post. Can you help him find it? (And no, it’s not anything obvious, like Rihanna or Kylie Minogue.)

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Numberphile: “A Sudoku Secret to Blow Your Mind”

I am not a sudoku player but I do appreciate the logical nature of the game, so Numberphile’s explanation of a simple pattern hidden in every single sudoku puzzle was pretty satisfying.

But really, it’s just an excuse to revisit this other video about solving “The Miracle Sudoku”:

Every once in a while during my internet travels, I run across something like this video: something impossibly mundane and niche (a ~26-minute video of someone solving a sudoku puzzle) that turns out to be ludicrously entertaining.

Oh and this perfect explanation of cryptocurrency is always worth another look:

imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin

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All the garbage I found on Substack in 1 hour. Josh Drummond very easily found all sorts of monetized anti-vax, anti-science, Nazi, anti-trans, and antisemitic newsletters on Substack. (Yeah, they’re not going to do anything about this…)

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Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

the book cover for Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Long Island Compromise is a forthcoming novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, whose Fleishman Is in Trouble was one of the best things I read last year. Look at that great cover and check out the synopsis:

Long Island Compromise spans the entirety of one family’s history, winding through decades and generations, all the way to the outrageous present, confronting the mainstays of American Jewish life: tradition, the pursuit of success, the terror of history, fear of the future, old wives’ tales, evil eyes, ambition, achievement, boredom, orgies, dybbuks, inheritance, pyramid schemes, right-wing capitalists, beta-blockers, and the mostly unspoken love and shared experience that unite a family forever.

The book comes out on July 9 — impeccable timing because this thing is going to be read on many a beach this summer.

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The nominees for the second annual Stunt Awards have been announced. Categories include “Best Stunt in a Nonaction Film”, “Best Practical Explosion”, and “Best Vehicular Stunt”.

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Google News Is Boosting Garbage AI-Generated Articles. “Google said it doesn’t focus on how an article was produced — by an AI or human — opening the way for more AI-generated articles.”

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The Winners of the Nature Photography Contest

I really like the winning image (by Glenn Ostle) in the 2023 edition of The Nature Photography Contest, the results of which were just recently announced.

a sea lion glances back at the camera before chasing after a huge school of fish

That sea lion has the same energy as Aragorn at the Black Gate of Mordor, just before he whispers “for Frodo” and charges into the horde of orcs assembled before him. “For lunch.”

Anyway! You can check out the rest of the winners and finalists on the website.

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A map of EV charging costs in the US. “Now that the price of gasoline is dipping below $3 per gallon, is it still cheaper to fill up a car on electrons rather than gasoline? The answer is yes — by a lot.”

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The Quiet Death of Ello’s Big Dreams. Andy Baio writes about the failure of a social network with big ideals…until the founders took a bunch of VC money. “You are not a product.”

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Electric Car Owners Confront a Harsh Foe: Cold Weather. The struggle is real: yesterday I drove to visit a friend and thought I had plenty of range to get home but heating the battery for two interim round-town trips totally screwed me.

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The 1944 CIA guide to sabotaging meetings sounds an awful lot like how Congress or large company meetings are run. “Insist on doing everything through ‘channels’. Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.”

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“Black holes can be difficult to study, so researchers have made a powerful quantum vortex in a tank of superfluid helium that acts as a simulation of a black hole.”

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Inspired by an Oppenheimer screening, NY Times congressional correspondent Catie Edmondson chased down how the US government funded the Manhattan Project. “Did Congress approve the money? And if so, how did lawmakers keep it a secret?”

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Gathering Ice for a Hot Mongolian Breakfast

In this video, a pair of YouTubers from Mongolia show us a glimpse of the nomadic lifestyle in their country as they gather ice from the river to make their hearty breakfast, a hot milk tea combined with meat, flatbread, and clotted cream.

The Kid Should See This has more information about the creators and some of the other videos they’ve done.

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The Frozen Colors of Winter

bubbles frozen in ice

bubbles frozen in ice

closeup shot of ice crystals

closeup shot of ice crystals

Jan Erik Waider’s speciality is abstract landscape photography of cold climates. But in this series of projects, he takes a closer view of his subjects: Frozen Colors of Winter, Frozen Air, and Geometry of Ice.

The rest of Waider’s work is well worth a look. Prints of his work are available and you can keep up with his newest stuff on Behance and Instagram. (via present & correct)

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Whistler Blackcomb might not be a ski resort in another few decades. “Climate models suggest that by 2085, half of winter precipitation falling on Whistler Village will come as rain.”

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Flickr Commons celebrated its 16th birthday with 16 stories about some of the lesser-known images in its archive. Flickr Commons is one of the absolute gems of the web.

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The Artifact news app (by the Instagram founders) is shutting down because “the market opportunity isn’t big enough to warrant continued investment”. I’m so tired of devoting time to new VC- & BigCo-funded apps that are just gonna shut down after 12 mo.

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The Last Repair Shop

The Los Angeles school district runs a shop that maintains and repairs the 80,000 musical instruments used by students in the district. Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot made this short documentary about the shop and the people who work there, some of whom have been broken and repaired themselves.

In making “The Last Repair Shop,” my directing partner Ben Proudfoot and I got the chance to tell the tale of four extraordinary master craftspeople who ensure, day in and day out, that L.A.’s schoolchildren have playable instruments in their hands. We were floored and proud to find out that our city, Los Angeles, was home to the last shop of this kind in the country.

Bowers and Proudfoot previously collaborated on A Concerto Is a Conversation, an Oscar-nominated short documentary about Bowers’ grandfather, who was part of the Great Migration.

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Um, Burt’s Bees has teamed up with Hidden Valley Ranch to sell a 4-pack of lip balm with salad & salad dressing flavors: ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, celery, and carrot. Next year: Hidden Valley Beeswax Dressing?

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Huh, Rob Reiner is doing a sequel to This Is Spinal Tap with the original cast, along with Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Garth Brooks.

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What If The Bear, But a Commercial for Coke?

If the vibe of this commercial for the Coca-Cola Company seems familiar, perhaps it’s because Christopher Storer directed it — Storer is the creator of The Bear and wrote & directed Fishes, the intense season two Christmas episode. No homemade Sprite in this video though…they got to use the real stuff! (via matt)

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Carl Zimmer: Why are some mushrooms “magic”? “I like to imagine them sprouting in dark, dying forests littered with the corpses of tyrannosaurs.”

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“When We Return You Won’t Recognise Us”

colorful surrealist impressionist painting of a woman with crazy hair

I do not remember how I stumbled upon this painting by British artist Glenn Brown but I like it quite a lot. You can check out more of his work on his website.

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Cat and Girl comic: “On being listed on the court document of artists whose work was used to train Midjourney with 4,000 of my closest friends and Willem de Kooning”.

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Photo series from In Focus: Lava Flows Into an Icelandic Town. There are some real “the fires of Mt. Doom” vibes in that first photo.

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The Trailer for Adam Sandler’s Spaceman

Adam Sandler in a movie about space… I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I clicked play on the trailer for Spaceman this morning. Was I going to get Waterboy / Billy Madison Adam Sandler or Uncut Gems / Punch-Drunk Love Adam Sandler? Thankfully, it appears to be the latter. Spaceman is directed by Johan Renck (who directed the excellent Chernobyl) and is based on Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 novel Spaceman of Bohemia.

Six months into a solitary research mission to the edge of the solar system, an astronaut, Jakub (Adam Sandler), realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. Desperate to fix things with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), he is helped by a mysterious creature from the beginning of time he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship. Hanus (voiced by Paul Dano) works with Jakub to make sense of what went wrong before it is too late.

Spaceman is out on March 1 on Netflix.

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Watch the Synchronized Dance of a 6-Planet System. A star has been discovered whose planets orbit rhythmically around it — the inner planets at a 3/2 resonance and the outer ones at 4/3 resonance. (Watch the video — the orbiting planets play music.)

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AI can do your homework. Now what? “This presents a major challenge to educators, who now need to rethink their curriculum to either incorporate chatbot use or to attempt to deter it.”

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Emma Stone applies to be on Jeopardy! every year — and not that “Celebrity” horsecrap. “‘I really want to earn my stripes,’ noted the Poor Things star, who says she watches every episode of the syndicated game show.”

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100 Layer Lasagna

This is completely impractical for the home cook but I kinda want to try it anyway? The final step of frying the lasagna core sample in butter and serving it topped with a bunch of pecorino is some next-level deliciousness.

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Perfect Friday Thing: Emoji Kitchen

Ok, if you haven’t seen this before (or even if you have), I need to warn you that Emoji Kitchen is just a little bit addictive. They’re mashup apps for making new emoji like these:

a variety of emojis created from exisitng emojis

Curiously, the eggplant seems to be missing from both kitchens… 🤔

Update: I switched the Emoji Kitchen link to the proper URL at Google. From Jennifer Daniel:

Sadly, the site you link to about emoji kitchen (.dev) is not mine. This developer has taken my artwork without permission 😐 and worse, hosts a repo so others can steal it too

Here’s more from Daniel about the project.

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The Threshold at Which Snow Starts Irreversibly Disappearing. Snowpacks react nonlinearly to climate change. “Which is to say, if we think snow is getting scarce now, we ought to buckle up.”

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“Slow Change Can Be Radical Change”

Rebecca Solnit writing in Literary Hub about the power and necessity of slow change:

I’ve found in my twenty-something years of messing about with Buddhism is that what it has to teach is pretty simple; you could read up on the essentials in a day, probably in an hour, possibly in a quarter of an hour. But the point is to somehow so deeply embed those values, perspectives, and insights in yourself that they become reflexive, your operating equipment, how you assess and react to the world around you. That’s the work of a lifetime — or of many, if you’re inclined to believe in reincarnation.

Most truths are like that, easy to hear or recite, hard to live in the sense that slowness is hard for most of us, requiring commitment, perseverance, and return after you stray. Because the job is not to know; it’s to become. A sociopath knows what kindness is and how to weaponize it; a saint becomes it.

You see things happen “gradually, then suddenly” in all sorts of places, including, as Solnit notes, both the climate and the fight for climate justice.

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Nature Is Amazing: This Species Of Salamander Has Evolved A Sell-By Date From 1992 So Predators Think It’s Expired.

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The Clever Engineering Trick That Allows Simple Rice Cookers to Perfectly Cook Rice

The other day I posted a quick note of appreciation for my trusty rice cooker. I have what you might call a fancy rice cooker — it has all sorts of different settings and “advanced Neuro Fuzzy logic technology” — and it cooks my rice perfectly, every time. I am sure it is an engineering marvel.

But this $20 one-button rice cooker also cooks rice perfectly, every time. And it does so using some very simple and clever engineering involving magnets:

This button thing is made of an alloy that has a Curie temperature just a bit higher than the boiling point of water. This allows it to function as a temperature-dependent kill switch. Thanks to the outer spring, it’s always held firmly in contact with the bottom of the pot, which ensures it and the pot are at nearly equal temperatures. So long as there’s liquid water sitting in that pot, the pot itself cannot get hotter than water’s boiling point.

This means that the button remains magnetic, and the magnet is able to overcome the force of the inner spring, so the device stays in cook mode. But, once the rice has absorbed all of the water (and/or once all the remaining water has boiled away) the energy being added to the pot by the heating element is no longer being absorbed as latent heat.

Now, the pot can quickly start to exceed the boiling point of water. And once it gets past the Curie point of that little sensing button, the magnet is no longer attracted to it, so the spring overcomes the magnet and… *click* the rice cooker switches back to the warming mode.

Science is so cool. (via david)

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How Threads Will Integrate with the Fediverse, some notes by Tom Coates of a closed meeting with Facebook about their federating plans. “My sense after this meeting was that Facebook are seriously interested in integrating Threads with the Fediverse.”

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The Ferris Bueller Finale With Music From Inception

One of the many reasons that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off works so well as a film is that the music kicks ass *and* it meshes so well with the action. In the heyday of MTV, this was no accident — parts of the movie function almost as elaborate music videos. No scene illustrates this more than when Ferris is hurrying across backyards and through homes to beat his parents & sister back to the house. As good as that scene is, I think Todd Vaziri improved it by re-cutting it to music from Inception. So good!

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Platformer, the tech news site, is leaving Substack. “We’ve seen this movie before — and we won’t stick around to watch it play out.” (I’m making exceptions to my no-linking-to-Substack policy for why-we’re-leaving-Substack posts.)

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Bert from Sesame Street and Velma from Scooby Doo posed like Superman

Steve Zissou and Pee-wee Herman posed like Superman

a number of familiar characters posed like Superman

a number of familiar characters posed like Superman

Using an iconic Superman pose, artist Mike Mitchell has translated all sorts of familiar characters onto that pose, including C-3PO, Velma from Scooby Doo, Charlie Brown, Ned Flanders, Pee-wee Herman, Bert from Sesame Street, Steve Zissou, and Spongebob Squarepants. Here’s an animation of all them. (via moss & fog)

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I’m an Ultrarunner. Taylor Swift’s Treadmill Workout Wrecked Me. “I’ve done one-mile repeats. Hill workouts. Track workouts. Long runs with tempo efforts. This is the hardest workout I’ve ever done. I was wrecked.”

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The Science of Snowflakes

In a video for the Royal Society, physicist Brian Cox explains the science of snowflakes, from how they form to where their shape and symmetry comes from. Plus this bombshell: “Snowflakes aren’t actually white.” (via aeon)

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The Stunning Winners of the 2024 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Contest

a photo of some aquatic plants reaching for the sunlight, taken from the bottom of a pond

black and white photo of a bird silhouetted against the sky

dozens of ant shooting acid into the air

spikes of an orange slime mold covered in water droplets

You all know I love a good photography contest and it’s hard to pick favorites, but the Close-up Photographer of the Year competition is always up there for me. The results of this year’s contest are fantastic and it was difficult to pick out just a few of my faves above. From top to bottom: Chris Gug, Csaba Daróczi, René Krekels, Barry Webb. (via colossal)

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All the Types of Science Fiction. Incl. “3. Technology creates problems 😕 (future bad)”; “14. A list of legally non-binding patents disguised as a narrative”; and “42. The Turing Test, but sexy”.

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Techdirt on Substack: “A site that caters to Nazis is not a site that caters to free speech. Because (as we’ve seen time and time again), such sites drive away people who don’t like being on a site associated with Nazis.”

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Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day: It’s time to leave Substack. “If only Substack had invested time and energy into building more products like that instead of making a new right-wing playpen.”

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Anil Dash: “The NYT is now just Facebook. The platform dictates narrative to normies, is totally gamed by the right, and is still so ubiquitous as to be unavoidable even by those who see how broken it is.”

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AI Robot Bests Marble Maze Game

It’s a trip watching how fast CyberRunner can run a marble through this wooden labyrinth maze.

Labyrinth and its many variants generally consist of a box topped with a flat wooden plane that tilts across an x and y axis using external control knobs. Atop the board is a maze featuring numerous gaps. The goal is to move a marble or a metal ball from start to finish without it falling into one of those holes. It can be a… frustrating game, to say the least. But with ample practice and patience, players can generally learn to steady their controls enough to steer their marble through to safety in a relatively short timespan.

CyberRunner, in contrast, reportedly mastered the dexterity required to complete the game in barely 5 hours. Not only that, but researchers claim it can now complete the maze in just under 14.5 seconds — over 6 percent faster than the existing human record.

CyberRunner was capable of solving the maze even faster, but researchers had to stop it from taking shortcuts it found in the maze. (via clive thompson)

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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

I’m still catching up from being blissfully away from the internet in December so apologies to those of you for which this is old news, but Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga looks %$&*#@ good. My expectations for this film couldn’t be any higher — Fury Road was one of my favorite films of the past 10 years. Crucially, the Furiosa production team includes editor Margaret Sixel and several other folks who won awards for Fury Road — that’s a great sign.

See also An Oral History of Mad Max: Fury Road and Max Mad: Fury Road Sped Up 12X Is Still Watchable.

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The Rabbit R1 is an AI-powered gadget that’s like a cross between an Alexa device, a Playdate, a Chumby, and a smart web-scraper.

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Farm-to-Table Prison Food

Vice News visited the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Maine, where incarcerated people eat food that they’ve grown and cooked themselves, augmented by other locally grown and raised food (beef, chicken, etc).

Mark McBride is the culinary director at Mountain View Correctional Facility, a 350-person prison where inmates don’t eat processed chicken fingers and sloppy joes.

“When I started 6 years ago, the majority of the food was processed foods, and I wanted to try to see if we couldn’t replicate more homestyle cooking - scratch cooking - using raw local ingredients. But the truth is, by taking these raw products from farmers and putting the work into breaking this down, we’re actually able to save money. In 2018, our two kitchens saved $142,000 off of their budget.

It’s heartening to see an American prison that takes seriously the well-being and rehabilitation of the people in its care. (via neatorama)

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Public Libraries Reveal the Most Borrowed Books From 2023. If you look at the NYPL lists for children’s books, it’s mostly Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

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Origin, a Film by Ava DuVernay About Isabel Wilkerson

I had forgotten that Ava DuVernay was working on an adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s excellent Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. I think the assumption was that DuVernay was going to make a documentary, but interestingly, she’s adapted it into a biographical drama called Origin instead (trailer above).

Origin chronicles the tragedy and triumph of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates a global phenomenon of epic proportions. Portrayed by Academy Award nominee Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (“King Richard”), Isabel experiences unfathomable personal loss and love as she crosses continents and cultures to craft one of the defining American books of our time. Inspired by the New York Times best-seller “Caste,” ORIGIN explores the mystery of history, the wonders of romance and a fight for the future of us all.

I’m intrigued! Origin is set for a wide release in theaters on Jan 19th.

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Shout out to my trusty rice cooker, which patiently keeps my rice warm for 15 hours after I forget to put it away after dinner. (Seriously, this thing is the best — love a tool that does one thing incredibly well.)

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The Truth About Airplane Safety

Zeynep Tufekci writes about what makes airplane travel so safe, even when things go wrong (as with the Airbus A350 in Japan and the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 incidents).

Both incidents could have been much worse. And that everyone on both airliners walked away is, indeed, a miracle — but not the kind most people think about. They’re miracles of regulation, training, expertise, effort, constant improvement of infrastructure, as well as professionalism and heroism of the crew.

But these brave and professional men and women were standing on the shoulders of giants: competent bureaucrats; forensic investigators dispatched to accident investigations; large binders (nowadays digital) with hundreds and hundreds of pages of meticulously collected details of every aspect of accidents and near misses; constant training and retraining not just of the pilots but the cabin, ground, traffic control and maintenance crews; and a determined ethos that if something has gone wrong, the reason will be identified and fixed.

As Tufekci notes, when the capitalists are left to their own devices, corners are cut in the pursuit of shareholder value:

The Boeing 737 Max line holds other lessons. After two eerily similar back-to-back crashes in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people total, the planes were grounded. At first, some rushed to blame inexperienced pilots or software gone awry. But the world soon learned that the real problem had been corporate greed that had taken too many shortcuts while the regulators hadn’t managed to resist the onslaught.

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First results are in: 2023 temperatures were stunningly warm. “[The EU’s Copernicus Earth-observation program] rates 2023 as being nearly 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures.”

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Tyromancy is a fortune-telling practice that uses cheese to predict the future. “People used cheese to divine all sorts of things: who committed a crime, whether the year would bring a fruitful harvest, and how a child’s life would turn out.”

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Whoa, take a look at the Carice TC2, a tiny Porsche-inspired EV roadster.

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In order for the 2024 indie web revival to work: “We need more tools for it. We need simpler tools for it. And we need to make installing and using them trivially simple.”

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Robotic “moving sidewalk” shoes — what could possibly go wrong? Like an e-bike for your feet? AI-powered roller skates?

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A lovely world weather map.

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Lucasfilm is doing a Mando movie: The Mandalorian & Grogu. It’ll be directed by Jon Favreau and will begin filming this year.

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Massive Military Spending “A Theft From Those Who Hunger”

In 1953, shortly after taking office and Joseph Stalin’s death, President Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors that has come to be known as the Chance for Peace speech.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Some 70 years later, the theft not only continues but has been outsourced around the world and into our communities. (via clayton cubitt)

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You Should Try Running, According to Me, Your Friend Who Won’t Shut Up About Running. “I feel passionately that running is both exercise and a sport. It’s also a way of life. Ask me to explain it sometime. Or don’t. I still will.”

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Footsteps in the Snow

embroidery that looks like footsteps in the snow

detail of an embroidery that looks like footsteps in the snow

Absolutely stunning embroidery piece by Narumi Takada of boot prints and animal tracks1 in freshly fallen snow. Just lovely.

  1. I thought these were dog tracks at first because of the shape but you can’t see the claws so maybe they are cat tracks?
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The 25 Best Films of 2023: A Video Countdown

I always look forward to David Ehrlich’s annual love letter to cinema and his favorite films of the year. So put this thing on the biggest screen you can find, slap on some headphones, and get ready to put a bunch of excellent films on your must-watch list. This year in conjunction with the video, Ehrlich is raising money for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

You can also watch this video on YouTube and past countdowns on his website.

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180 Songs That Turn 40 Years Old in 2024. Total nostalgia bomb — I was 10-11 years old in 1984 and listened to pop music (& watched MTV) constantly. (Also, 40 years ago in 1984 was 1944… 😳)

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The American Dialect Society picks their word of the year for 2023: enshittification. “The term…became popular in 2023 after it was used in a blog post by author Cory Doctorow, who used it to describe how digital platforms can become worse and worse.”

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Wild World is a hand-drawn world map of nature - “here are 1,642 animals roaming its jungles and deserts, swimming its oceans”. The map took three years from start to finish.

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The Verge looks at the symbiotic relationship between Google and the SEO industry, which has resulted in an internet full of sites “optimized for Google first and readers last”.

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Electronic Music of the Future from Jean-Jacques Perrey in 1966

In 1966, electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey was on the game show I’ve Got a Secret and (spoiler!) his secret was he could play a single musical instrument that sounded like a number of other instruments. Perrey’s instrument was called the Ondioline, which was first developed in 1939 and was a forerunner of the modern electronic synthesizer. Perrey was a leading practitioner of the Ondioline:

Thanks to the Ondioline, I could imitate instruments from around the world, such as bagpipes from Scotland, American banjo, Gypsy violin, soprano voice, Indian sitar, and so on. I made a world tour in music and finished it with a gag of whistling a tune. At the end, the whistling was still going on (thanks to the Ondioline), but I was drinking a glass of water. We all laughed.

In the video from the game show, Perrey imitates a bunch of instruments and then plays an original composition with his collaborator Gershon Kingsley, which sounds at once wildly futuristic and laughably dated.

P.S. I first heard of Jean-Jacques Perrey courtesy of his 1970 song E.V.A., which sounds just as modern today as it did when I heard it back in the late 90s remixed by Fatboy Slim.

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Apple announced a release date (Feb 2, preorder on Jan 19) and price ($3500 for 256GB) for the Apple Vision Pro. I am extremely curious about this…I’ve heard nothing but good stuff from those who have tried them.

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The Perils and Pleasures of Bartending in Antarctica. “The freezer was a hole in the wall to the frigid snow and ice outside.”

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Mapping Middle-earth: The lopsided demographics of Tolkien’s universe. “82% of Tolkien’s characters are male. Hobbits come closest to parity, with 30% women, followed by Men…where the imbalance is 87% versus 13%.”

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From The Smallest to the Largest Thing in The Universe

I’ve posted more than a few size comparison videos here over the years — Powers of Ten is the obvious one — but this one from Kurzgesagt is one of the best, showing how big everything in the universe is compared to humans, who seemingly find themselves smack in the middle. This video does an excellent job illustrating the similarity of structures and interdependency across different scales — how blood vessels are like city streets for instance or how very tiny proteins can affect the entire Earth.

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From Ritesh Babu, a review of the comics he loved in 2023. I am not generally a comics/graphic novel reader by habit, but Babu makes everything on this list sound so compelling.

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What’s Your Go-to Comfort Media?

I reckon most of us have certain books, movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and other media that we turn to when we need some comfort. These are things we’ve seen, read, or heard before — often many times — and know exactly what we’re going to get from them.

What we reach for depends on our needs. When I just want something familiar on in the background while I’m doing something else, to provide a vibe and the barest hint of a plot to follow, I often turn on Star Trek: TNG or old episodes of Doctor Who on Pluto TV. A few years ago during a really tough period, I read several of Tom Clancy’s novels (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Red Storm Rising) to keep my brain reliably engaged but also unfettered by challenging prose or the deep emotional lives of the characters. I rewatch Star Wars and Avengers movies for their reliable entertainment, characters I’m invested in, and predictable-but-satisfying outcomes — these are often good plane movies.

When I’m feeling a lot of relational feelings and need a bit of salt to make them feel even more intense (and punishing), I’ll watch season two of Fleabag or Midnight in Paris or even 50 First Dates (which is as close as I get to rom-coms). Radiohead is a great all-arounder for many situations — I’ve leaned on Everything In Its Right Place, True Love Waits, Videotape, and even Burn the Witch at various times in my life. The Great British Bake Off is reliably low stakes, entertaining, and nothing but good vibes.

So how about it? What’s your go-to comfort media?

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For the people out there who really miss their Blackberrys, Clicks is an iPhone case with a keyboard built in.

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From the NY Times’ Melissa Clark, a primer on salt and when to use which kind of salt. “Are fine sea salt and table salt interchangeable? Can you finish a dish that calls for flaky Maldon with coarse sea salt from a grinder instead?”

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An Octopus vs an Underwater Maze

Mark Rober puts an octopus he bought from a pet store through an underwater maze to see if it can solve a bunch of puzzles to reach a motherlode of tasty shrimp at the end. This video paired well with a book I recently read, Ray Nayler’s Mountain in the Sea: “Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and sets off a high-stakes global competition to dominate the future.”

As for the name Rober gives the octopus… Sashimi? Really? Bros gotta bro, I guess. 🙄

A 1-dimensional version of Pac-Man.

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Two years, 400 journalists and 50 climate experts: Here’s what we learnt about how to report on climate change. “To make climate change less abstract, ‘Find your mango.’” (Aka the thing that your audience cares about that’s impacted by climate.)

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When she was 19, Henn Kim stopped speaking for two years. “Growing up, I felt trapped because I couldn’t express my emotions. Now, without words, I felt inspired.”

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Paul Ford: To Own the Future, Read Shakespeare. “The interdisciplinarian is essentially an exile. Someone who respects no borders enjoys no citizenship.”

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What Can I Do About the Climate Emergency?

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility is a climate anthology published last year and edited by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua. They’ve just added a chapter to the book that’s available for free download that contains practical advice on how to involved in combatting the climate crisis: What Can I Do About the Climate Emergency?

The climate movement needs you. In this pamphlet, we outline some of the ways you can join it, and we share examples of how ordinary people have found their role, their power, their impactful projects, and their climate community. There’s a place for you in the crucial work of speeding the transition away from destruction and toward thriving. Figuring out where your skills are useful and what you can stick with is important. Identifying whom to work with and what to work on is crucial. Some of us are good at staying with a legislative issue for a season or a year or a decade. Some of us are good campaigners. Some like protests and are ready to blockade and risk arrest. Some of us are homebound but can make calls and write letters. It all matters.

One of the best and most challenging things about the climate crisis is that there is no one solution. That is, the solution is a mosaic of many changes. The way we get to a world that doesn’t run on fossil fuel and instead centers justice, sustainability, and community is happening in hundreds of thousands of ways — this coal plant shutdown, that methane-gas ban, these electric schoolbuses and bike lanes, that solar rooftop, these offshore turbines, that grasslands protection. These need to be sped up and amplified. National legislation and international treaties matter, but so do the countless small pieces that add up. It’s not just about what we need to stop but also about the rejuvenating work of building the world we want.

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“There should be lots of different, human-scale alternative experiences on the internet that offer up home-cooked, locally-grown, ethically-sourced, code-to-table alternatives to the factory-farmed junk food of the internet. And they should be weird.”

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The Man Who Invented Fifteen Hundred Necktie Knots. “He established or articulated dozens of basic techniques: twisting, swirling, spiralling, tunnelling, snaking, flaring.” Learn how to tie some of them on YouTube.

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Learn How to Dance Like David Byrne (From Byrne Himself)

This is an absolute delight: a pair of videos of David Byrne teaching us how to do a few dance moves. The first video shows more moves; the second one was recorded for “a social distance dance club” during the pandemic:

The dance club was open for 2 weeks in April 2021 and allowed for people to come together to dance however they wanted while masked and a safe distance from each other. It played a variety of music (including a couple of David Byrne and Talking Heads songs), and people who signed up to attend were encouraged to use this video to learn this routine in advance so that everybody could dance in sync for the final song of each hour session.

Ayun Halliday wrote a great post for Open Culture about Byrne’s dancing.

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Rolling Stone picks The 150 Greatest Science Fiction Movies of All Time. So much to argue with re: the rankings (like why Jurassic Park is rated so low), but also so much to put on the watchlist.

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Paul Hollywood & Prue Leith Judge the Best American Snacks

In a video for Bon Appétit, the judges from the Great British Bake Off weigh in on a host of American snacks, from the Snickers bar to Thin Mints to Ruffles potato chips to Combos. I’ll excuse them for eliminating my favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the first round (even though their holiday-themed eggs, trees, and pumpkins are better) because their finalists were correct. Some of their reactions:

  • Cheez-Its: “Tastes like old socks.”
  • Pop-Tarts: “If I was starving, I’d eat that.”
  • Combos: “I don’t think my dog would eat that.”
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How S Group, a cooperative company, became Finland’s dominant retailer. “For one thing, since a co-op has no shareholders, and hence no strict need for profit maximization, it can compete quite ruthlessly on price.”

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Some Wonderful Things from 2023

view of the green rolling hills of Vermont under a mostly sunny sky

As the bulk of 2023 recedes from memory, I wanted to share some of the things from my media diet posts that stood out for me last year. Enjoy.

Succession. I did not think I would enjoy a show about extremely wealthy people acting poorly, but the writing and acting were so fantastic that I could not resist.

25 years of kottke.org. Very proud of what I’ve accomplished here and also genuinely humbled by how many people have made this little site a part of their lives.

Fleishman Is in Trouble. Uncomfortably true to life at times.

Antidepressants + therapy. I was in a bad way last spring and it is not too strong to say that finding the right antidepressant and arriving at some personal truths in therapy changed my life.

The Bear (season two). I don’t always love it (especially when the intensity ramps up) but there’s definitely something special about this show.

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had, by a mile.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Brutal and inspiring.

Crossword puzzles. A few times a week, a friend and I do the NY Times crossword puzzle together over FaceTime. It’s become one of my favorite things.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Am I ever going to shut up about these? Possibly not. The sound quality is better than the first-gen ones and the sound cancelling is just fantastic. I used these on several long flights recently and you basically can’t hear much of anything but your music.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Visually stunning.

The Kottke Hypertext Tee. Might be bad form to put your own merch on a list like this, but I’m just tickled that these exist. Putting an actual physical good out into the world that people connect with is somehow satisfying in a way that digital media is not.

ChatGPT. This very quickly became an indispensable part of my work process.

Downhill mountain biking. I did this a couple years ago and it didn’t click for me. But my son and I went last summer and I loved it…it’s one my favorite things I did all year. Gonna try and get out more in 2024!

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Probably the best TV thing I watched last year. Listening to survivors of The Troubles talking about their experiences was unbelievably compelling.

Au Kouign-Amann. One of my all-time favorite pastries. Looks like a boring cake, tastes like magic.

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. An extremely clear-eyed explanation of how Trumpism fits in with the Republicans’ decades-long project of weakening American democracy.

The Creator. I liked this original sci-fi a lot — more stuff that’s not Star Wars and Marvel pls.

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I will write this up soon, but this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

BLTs. I could not get enough of this simple sandwich at the end of last summer — I was eating like 4-5 a week. When the tomatoes are good, there’s nothing like a BLT.

The little hearts my daughter put on the backs of the envelopes containing her letters from camp. Self explanatory, no notes.

The smoked beef sandwich at Snowdon Deli. The best smoked sandwich I’ve had in Montreal.

The Last of Us. A bit too video game-y in parts but overall great. A couple of the episodes were incredible.

Photo of a Vermont vista taken by me this summer while mountain biking.

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People with Charles Bonnet syndrome have visual hallucinations. This man saw people in 19th century dress in the lobby of his building. “I thought, if I close my eyes and shake my head, they will go away. I didn’t want them to go away.”

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This guy built his own little railcar and rides it on abandoned railroad tracks.

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Jan Chipchase reports on a recent trip to Afghanistan under Taliban 2.0 rule. “Afghanistan consistently shines the harshest light on who you think you are, but the ample reward is that is provides a glimmer of what you might become.”

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1000 Matchsticks Feature in This Epic Stop Motion Animation

Tomohiro Okazaki has perfected a very specific skill: stop-animating matchsticks in more ways than you could possibly imagine. When I last wrote about his work, I said that I wished that the 7.5 minute movie were longer and, well, I got my wish: this new one runs for an hour and 17 minutes. I’ not going to sit here and tell you that I watched the whole thing, but I did watch for longer than I perhaps should have on a day with lots to accomplish. (via colossal)

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It’s weird seeing Roger Ebert, who was such a keen observer of movies, misunderstand Starship Troopers so badly. The satire wasn’t a sly element…it practically beats you over the head.

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13-Year-Old Becomes First to Beat NES Tetris

13-year-old Blue Scuti is now the best Tetris player in the world after becoming the first human player to beat the NES version of the game by playing until reaching the kill screen. The feat took him 38 minutes (as well as who knows how many thousands of hours of practice) and also resulted in a new high score, new level & lines records, and something called a “19 Score world record”. Skip to the 38:00 mark to watch his last few lines and what happens when he wins.

See also: an AI beating Tetris just over 2 years ago and an explanation of the “rolling” technique that Blue Scuti used to beat the game. (via waxy)

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Lovely photography by Zay Yar Lin. Several arresting images in his portfolio.

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Tech Billionaires Need to Stop Trying to Make the Science Fiction They Grew Up on Real. “Tech Company: At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create The Torment Nexus.”

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Regulate: Warren G × Kenny G

I had no idea this existed: back in 2015, rapper Warren G and saxophonist Kenny G came together to perform Warren G’s Regulate. Now, I’m not sure the smooth jazz saxophone improves the song at all, but I love that some mad genius was like, we need to get the two Gs together and then made it happen.

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The Best Podcasts of 2023, According to People Who Make Podcasts. Lots of good stuff here.

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Seriously, I would really like a Lego set of Delia Derbyshire in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

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Motion Extraction

In this video from his YouTube channel “about anything”, Posy demonstrates a video filtering technique called motion extraction. A commenter calls this video “a tutorial, a demonstration, and a work of art”, all rolled into one. It’s really lovely and informative. My jaw actually dropped at the “how can you tell which stones were disturbed on the path” part.

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Translation of a New York Times’ Real Estate Article for Those Living Without a Trust Fund. “He realized he could rip up the floorboards, cabinets, walls, and every historical detail, replacing them with Amazonian timber salvaged from impending wildfires.”

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Cathedral, Mountain, Moon

the Moon rising over a cathedral and a mountain, all three lined up perfectly

Wow, what an incredible shot by Valerio Minato of the triple-alignment of a church, a mountain, and the Moon.

Taken in Piemonte, Italy, the cathedral in the foreground is the Basilica of Superga, the mountain in the middle is Monviso, and, well, you know which moon is in the background. Here, even though the setting Moon was captured in a crescent phase, the exposure was long enough for doubly reflected Earthlight, called the da Vinci glow, to illuminate the entire top of the Moon.

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Wow, look at this recently discovered collection of baseball cards from the 1920s. Includes cards of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb.

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Nothing Can Stop These Trans Footballers from Playing. “We spoke to [three trans & non-binary players] about their love for their teams and the challenges they encountered along the way.”

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Tom Scott Stops Making Weekly Videos After 10 Years

After posting a video (almost always an elaborate, well-produced and well-researched one) to his YouTube channel every week for ten years, Tom Scott is stepping back for a break.

I’ve been throwing stuff at the internet since 1999. And for many, many years, that stuff went almost nowhere. I had occasional bits of success, but could never make any of them last long-term. I remember thinking, so many times during all those years… will any of this stuff I’m making ever work?

Well, this did.

I didn’t know that, back when I was filming the first videos for the series that was then called Things You Might Not Know, I just held out my phone at arm’s length and talked into it for 90 seconds with almost no research! I really don’t like those videos now. But the first of them was published exactly ten years before this one. To the minute. 4pm, January 1st, 2014.

For the first month of that format, I was publishing a video almost every day, and then I settled down: one video a week. Mostly on location, near windswept infrastructure, although there’s computer science and linguistics in there too, and occasional green-screen animated videos. I experimented with other formats on other days, but the rule I set myself was: Monday, 4pm, something interesting.

Incredible. Scott has one of the few Weird Internet Careers that I am truly envious of — it just looks like so much fun getting to do all of that stuff and then telling people all about it.

Congratulations, Tom Scott — I hereby induct you into the Internet Hall of Fame! 👏 👏 👏 👏

P.S. Was the long explanatory walk-n-talk an homage to James Burke’s famous “perfectly timed clip” from Connections? Honest to god, I thought Scott was going to stop at the end of the video, turn, and watch a rocket take off. (via waxy)

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The End of Snow. “‘I’m not sure our grandkids will even know what snow is,’ she said, with a wry ‘I’m kidding, but I’m not’ laugh.”

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Archives · December 2023

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