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Entries for March 2024

Ryan Williams Mindbreaking BMX Free Willy

Ryan Williams is an Australian scooter and BMX rider who does wild tricks that make me nervous. In 2013 he perfected a back flip with a nothing front scooter flip, which means he does a backflip while his scooter does a front flip, and then he spent about 10 years trying to get it done on a bike. Travis Pastrana dubbed it the Free Willy. Below is an example of a slightly different trick where he does a front flip instead of a backflip, except this one is easy because he can kind of see where the bike is. Easy. This one’s the easy one.

Here’s a behind the scenes of what it took him to figure out the Free Willy. At 1:40 you can see the first time he does it successfully on a scooter, and about 6:35 is when he gets it on the bike. Incredible stuff.

Williams won a gold with this trick at the 2023 X Games, obviously.

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Y’all Like Books?

I love books a bunch, mostly contemporary fiction and sometimes non-fiction, and I thought it would be fun if we had a comments thread about books you like or don’t like or want to read? Maybe you’ll get a suggestion for something you’d like to read.

Here are some books I’ve loved the last few years:

  • Harlem Shuffle and Crooks Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

  • Heaven and Earth Grocery and Deacon King Kong and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

  • Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Sellout by Dan Ozzi

  • Gone to the Wolves by John Wray

This year I’ve really liked:

  • North Woods by Daniel Mason

  • Wellness by Nathan Hill

  • Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (I actually can’t decide if I liked this or if I just want to talk to people about it. I hated all the characters.)

  • The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue

  • Running the Light by Sam Tallent

Favorites of all time!!

  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt and

  • Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. (The long awaited TV adaptation of GiM with Ewan McGregor starts today on Showtime.)

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Also, what do you think about a book club? Let’s do a bookclub, right? I’m not really sure how it would work except for probably we’d all read the same book at around the same time and then probably we’d all gather somewhere on this website and talk about the book, probably in a comments thread, though it remains to be seen. Comment down below if y’all are interested and Jason’s gonna come back from vacation and I’ll say, “Surprise, buddy, now youse got a book club!” and then we’ll go from there.
(And by “there” I mean we’ll figure out a book and time and method for discussion and then we’ll tell you about it.)

What have you been reading?

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Tobey Maguire’s Non-CGI Tray Catch Scene in Spider-Man

Peter Parker’s iconic tray catch scene from 2002’s Spider-Man took 156 takes, but it was done without CGI, which is nice.

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But even when Black punks struggle to find their place within both the punk and Black communities, their determination to juggle a juxtaposition of identities and loyalties only makes them all that more punk.” Marc Bayard reviews Black Punk Now

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Chilito candy

This article about the pandemic-fueled of homemade rise of chilito candy sold by social media has been in my tab attic since 2021 just waiting around to be shared because I’m a sucker for the journalistic arts applied to candy. I introduced my kids to Tajín-coated peach gummies after a trip to Oakland in 2018, and my two year called them Fire Cheerios because all round foods were Cheerios then. Tajín is also good on mango ice cream, or anything really.

Mexican chilito candies, or dulces enchilados, have been making the mouths of Texans pucker for at least as long as we’ve been hitting piñatas. A colloquial catchall for a variety of sweets, chilito refers to the spice of chamoy, a traditional Mexican paste made from pickled fruits and spices. Chilito can come as a condiment, like on fruit bowls or elote; with the addition of powdered sugar, it can be thick and sticky, perfect for coating hard candy. Dulceros, or candymakers, also control the degree of spice—from a pleasant pop on the tastebuds to a fiery shock—by manipulating the amount and types of chiles in the chamoy. It’s as acidic as it is addictive, and a favorite amongst Tejano snackers. “Customers go crazy for it,” says Rick Samame, one of the owners of Alamo Candy Company in San Antonio, the largest purveyor of all things chilito in the state.


Take the chilito Gusher, a prime example of Mexican American confectionary fusion. Officially branded as Fruit Gushers, the Betty Crocker–owned snack has been synonymous with American childhood since the famous ’90s commercials that featured teens’ heads turning into various fruits after popping Gushers in their mouths. One could imagine a similar commercial for chilito Gushers, except the teens’ watermelon- and raspberry-shaped heads would now also be on fire. The soft, chewy candies filled with sugary fruit juice are addictive enough, but with the added heat and texture of the spiced chamoy and chili powder, they’re transformed into something entirely new, something that is both Mexican and American.

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Heinz is helping out ketchup-loving Chicagoans by putting up small billboards that dispense the condiment outside famous local restaurants that refuse to serve ketchup.

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Tiger Tail and Tigers Blood

Tiger Tail ice cream is an orange ice cream with black licorice swirls generally only found in Canada (until this summer when you can get it in Somerville after I make it even though I’m not very good at swirling).

A ribbon of black licorice swirled into an orange-flavored ice cream base gives this tiger its stripes. The old-school flavor sold well in soda parlors from the 1950s to the 1970s, and many Canadians now consider it a childhood classic. As curious as it may seem, kids (and nostalgic adults) are among the biggest fans of the citrus and black licorice combination.

Tigers Blood sorbet is a sorbet with strawberry, coconut, and watermelon, and maybe we’ll make that one, too.

Depending on who you ask, Tiger’s Blood could have originated as early as the 1940s or as late as the 1990s and was invented anywhere from Hawaii to Texas. Regardless of what the true story is, it’s safe to say that its creation was a success as it remains incredibly popular across the country.

Tigers Blood is also the name of the new album by Waxahatchee.

On Tigers Blood, no bond is linear or static. Some of these songs sound ready to run, bursting from the traps; others take their ease with intoxicating beauty. Love boomerangs and comes back. Sisters have an unexpected showdown about their respective heady and cautious approaches to life.

See how it’s all come together now?

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These Snails Are Metal As Hell


The scaly-foot snail or sea pangolin developed overlapping scales of iron on its foot to survive the high temperatures blasted out by the hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean it lives near. It also has a huge snail heart because “to accommodate the oxygen needs of symbiotic bacteria that live in their bodies and provide most of their nutrition.”

Longtime Kottke readers will remember my friend Chris Piascik who drew this metal snail after I told him about the other metal snail. Chris has an excellent YouTube channel where he talks about stuff I can’t really understand in an engaging and delightful way. In 2018, Chris and I spent about 6 months working together and putting out a kids’ book and he was mad at me every single day.


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A pre-colonoscopy diet that includes solid foods is safe and effective, and there are abundant data to prove it…Those who were allowed to have solid food…were actually less likely to cancel their appointments.”

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Those who cared too much about the integrity of the planes and not enough about the stock price were “phenomenally talented assholes,” and he encouraged his deputies to ostracize them into leaving the company.”

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Tyshawn Jones The General

Ooops, guess we’re doing two tonight. Goodness. Compare this to the video from last night. Tyshawn Jones is just getting so much speed up for these tricks. It’s like a different sport. Both so great to watch.

Saw a quote from Tyshawn Jones where he said he grew up watching this Andrew Reynolds - Baker 3 video and you can see the similarities in the size/speed of the tricks. (Frontside flips at :30 and 4:45ish, hooo boy.)

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Urban Freeride Fabio Wibmer

Well, Fabio Wibmer is very, very fast on his bicycle. Just about the first trick in here is Fabio successfully jumping the Lyon 25 Stair we learned about earlier this week. And, uh, he does something we didn’t see in that other video because if you make it to the end of the video, you’ll see he starts from the set of stairs going down to the Lyon 25 instead of starting on the flat like everyone else. Sheesh.

I also like how he takes the corner/curb at :50 and the stairs at 3:20 and the stairs at 5:15. Sheesh.

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Their wish for all the Beyoncé uproar? Those folks will finally recognize that Black women and girls reign supreme at the rodeo. Carter added that most people questioned why Bey, a Houston native, hadn’t entered the country music scene sooner.”

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How Do You Rhyme in Sign Language?

A conversation at dinner with the kids left me wanting to know how to rhyme in sign language and when I found out, it feels like it should have been obvious.

In phonology (the study of the smallest units of language), the parts of a signed word are: handshape, location, palm orientation, movement, and non-manual signal. They are called parameters. Each parameter has a number of primes. In sign language specifically ASL, the same parameter in two or more words (signs) are repeated. The parts may be the same handshape, movement, and/or location, or combined, but the handshape rhyme is the most commonly used.

This explanation of how to rhyme diddle and fiddle in ASL is illustrative.

And here’s an example of ASL poetry where you can clearly see the rhymes and music of the words in her poem. The poet, Christine Marshall, didn’t caption the poem and suggested viewers suggest a translation in the comments. The pinned translation is below.

“Deaf Heart by Christine Marshall
A heartbeat pounds, within me strong
A beat consistent, as a song
But singing yet, does not appease
The world around me, just a tease
They talk, they chat, they have a spat
Without a sound, imagine that!
My heartbeat now, the only tone
I sit, I stare, I’m all alone
The beat it fades, a somber dirge
Then a shocking, shaking surge
My eyes are struck, my senses peaked
I’ve never seen a sight so sweet
A language without metronome
A language I can call my own
These people my experiences share
My whole life passing, unaware
All this time in quiet space
All alone and out of place
Now my heart is torn in two
“Who am I?”, or “I AM WHO?”
I know my heart has made it clear
My reservations disappear
I give myself to their embrace
To ASL my saving grace
My heart beats on and on in me
My heart is Deaf, and now I see”

See also, Jason’s post about ASL ‘Lose Yourself’, ASL Hamilton, and translating music.

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“According to Mr Peryer, it is not uncommon for geese to be bisexual, though he adds that the duo were the only pair in the Waikanae Estuary…It is also not unheard of for geese to mate with swans, with the offspring…known as a swoose.”

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‘I Will Always Love You’ at 50

Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ was released 50 years ago a couple weeks ago and it’s a very good song. We all know Parton famously wrote IWALY and Jolene on the same day, which, like, one time I made 4 batches of ice cream and packed them all into pints and cleaned the machine all in an hour and forty five minutes and that’s kind of the same thing if you squint. She wrote the song to let Porter Wagoner know she was leaving his show and striking out on her own and that makes me mad because imagine working with someone so annoying you have to write one of the best songs ever written to get out of it.

The year after it was released, Elvis was going to record it, but Tom Parker, his manager, insisted on half the publishing rights and Dolly said no, like a G. The whole germ for this post, my entire reason for being at this moment, was seeing that fact about Elvis and knowing Dolly teases IWALY not once, not twice, but, well, OK, only twice, on her duets album. It’s on Wrecking Ball, and she teases it AND sings about the whole episode on I Dreamed About Elvis. Priscilla Presley told Dolly Elvis loved the song so much and sang it to her on the day of their divorce. I do wish we could hear an Elvis recording of IWALY.

Dolly rerecorded the song for Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, but when Whitney covered IWALY, Dolly called it “One of the biggest thrills and one of the most overwhelming feelings I’ve ever had about anything in my life,” but that almost didn’t happen, too, twice, because they were going to do ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’ before that song got featured in Steel Magnolias (starring Dolly, wtf) and then Whitney was set to cover the Linda Ronstadt version which leaves off a verse at the end, but Dolly interceded at the last moment to set them straight.

Finally, my bar in Cambridge has a Dolly Parton-themed bathroom which has 5 stars on google maps and was written up in the New York Times.

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Phil and Phyllis Punxsutawney Had Babies

Punxsutawney Phil and his mate Phyllis have had babies and both of the articles I read about this deeply weirded me out. Listen, I get it, you don’t get to be President of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle by being normal about groundhogs, but it feels a little culty to me.

To wit:
“[Dunkel] has a special cane that lets him speak “Groundhogease”.”

“He added that Phil’s children will not inherit his seer of seers or prognosticator abilities because, simply, there’s only one Phil.” Bro, what? Why wouldn’t the children inherit the mirth?

“[Phil] receives a special elixir to extend his life.” (Dunkel is at least better than the previous president who said in 2020 Phil was 134 years old, able to live forever because of the elixir, while Dunkel smartly refused to age the groundhog. (wood)Chuck Everlasting imo.)

The article says groundhogs don’t mate in captivity, but I can’t find proof of that one way or another. That said, this is the first time in the 138 year history of the PGC the groundhogs have mated. Finally, the Inner Circle is, of course, all men, though the Executive Director of the PGC is a woman and appears to have honorary membership on this honorary council.

Because I like using blog posts as opportunities for learning new stuff I said to myself while I was writing this post, “I bet people would find it helpful if I told them what the difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck is,” because it seems like the kind of thing people would want to know and I always thought they were the same thing, but I’m also the dumb bitch who just found out last night whales used to walk around land and evolved from land mammals so I googled it, and yeah, no, woodchucks and groundhogs are the same thing. I was right about that one.

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.


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When Whales Could Walk… Excuse Me?

At the beginning of this documentary, the narrator says something about “how did whales end up in the ocean,” and to be honest that fucked me up because whales make sense to me if I think of them as something that’s always been in the ocean, and if I have to reorient my mind around the fact that maybe they used to not be in the ocean, I’ve got to re-think a lot of things. On the other hand, the documentary is called When Whales Could Walk, so that’s on me. I should have seen that coming. I did that to myself. And now I’m doing it to you.

This fossil graveyard, millions of years old, is known as the “Valley of the Whales.” Now, paleontologists have unearthed a whole new species of ancient whale dating to 43 million years ago, and this predator wasn’t just able to swim – it also had four legs and could walk.


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Goat farmers traveling from MN to CA got stuck in traffic in UT and goats must be milked every 12 hours, so when traffic cleared they stopped at Tractor Supply where the community learned to milk goats and sent the farmers home with freshly milked goats.

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Ms. Sharr proposed that Olga move into their Cambridge home temporarily so the system could get to know her better. They would support her, they said… She was floored by their generosity. “There really are people who are angels,” she said.”

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Gou Miyagi Skates Very Mellow

I like the skate videos where the skaters show how high or fast or far they can go and the control they have over their bodies while flying through the air, but I also like the videos where the skaters put their feet on the ground sometimes and use the board as more than something to ride on, as a prop. Gou Miyagi does a lot of tricks like that, riding up to a set of steps, running up the rail, sliding down on his butt, and landing on the board, and skating off, things of that nature. It all looks very nice.

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Road Snacks #1

Because I don’t hardly blog anymore, I turned the email newsletter for my ice cream shop into kind of a blog where sure I talk about ice cream a good amount, but I also tell stories about when I was a tour manager for a band, document how terribly hostile Intuit is towards their business customer base, and share internet ephemera my customers might not have seen. It’s been feeling a little stale lately, because after three years I think I finally told all my tour stories so I wanted to do something new.

The new thing is Road Snacks, a semi-regular feature where an ice cream shop interviews a touring musician asking questions about the food situation on tour. I think it’s changed a lot and probably not too much since I was doing it. The first interview ran today featuring Cary Ann Hearst from the Charleston band Shovels & Rope, who is great. Click through to read the whole thing. If you’d like to sign up for the newsletter, you can do that here, and we’ll see if it’s interesting even if you don’t live in Boston.

How has eating on tour changed for you since you first started touring?

Eating definitely changes! We used to just eat pizza everyday after the show, but that will kill you eventually so we changed! Everyone watching their water and their fiber intake. It’s wild - we pop vitamins now. But in Indy the other night a man made us pizza in his shop after the show. Sam’s Square Pies?! The best pizza I have ever had. Detroit Style. We literally wrapped and froze individual pieces so that we wouldn’t waste a slice of the 30lbs of pie - thanks Jeff!

It’s 12:30am and you’re at the gas station before a five hour drive to the next city. What snacky treat(s) are you grabbing and why?

My trash snacks from the gas station are an Arizona Green Tea in a can, pork rinds, a bag of lemon heads and pack of bubble gum. We get a gallon of water and fill our canteens. I need a mix of sweet and savory - and since we only get the opportunity to indulge those trashy snack instincts every once in a while I indulge and then remember not to do that once my blood sugar crashes.

Jason doesn’t know it yet, but I’m probably gonna ask if I can run the interviews here, too.

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What Did You Learn How To Do This Year?

Hey, real quick, what’s something you always wanted to do, but only just started to learn how to do in the last year? I always wanted to learn how to play guitar and last year my son and I started taking guitar lessons together and now I can sort of play guitar a little.

If you’re trying to convince yourself to learn something you should just do it because you might still be shitty at whatever you’re learning 6 months from now, but you’ll be much better than you’d be if you didn’t start until 6 months from now. I think I saw someone say this more eloquently (obviously), but when I tried to find it, all I could find was someone saying imagine if you started 6 months ago, which I think is a recipe for making yourself feel bad, and I bet you don’t need any help doing that, do you?

So, what’d you learn how to do this year or if you haven’t learned anything new yet, what are you going to start learning how to do this year?

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Dancing on My Own

This 2013 Kings of Leon cover of Robyn’s Dancing on My Own inspired Callum Scott to sing Dancing on My Own for his audition for Britain’s Got Talent, which eventually lead to Scott’s version of the song hitting #2 on the UK charts in 2016 and becoming the #1 download in the UK that summer. The original version topped out at 8.

Here’s the original.

Here’s a country version.

Here’s a punk cover validating my theory stating pop songs usually sound good as punk songs.

Anyway, I was thinking about this because a few years ago I made a playlist for the kids of all the covers of Dancing on My Own I could find and there were 56 back then. Today I added all the ones which were added to Apple Music in the last few years and now there are 91 total on the list, though 2 or 3 are remixes.

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Big Bite Hot Dog Sparkling Water from 7-Eleven

I get furious every spring there isn’t an iced tea soda because I just want to try it once even though I know it would probably be terrible and we have chocolate milk soda and I can’t get iced tea soda? It’s madness is what it is.

The lack of iced tea soda is only an aside to the main news of this post, offered as preamble, because you can’t really just jump into something like hot dog seltzer water without some sort of sweetener, some sort of softening the ground ahead of the news, an amuse bouche if you will.

I’m pretty angry about this because it’s probably an April Fools joke announced early and corporations fucking lie all the time, but the least they could do is not pre-announce an April Fools joke. Now that April Fools has been coopted by try-hard brands, uh, trying too hard, a really good and cool thing for a brand to do would be to announce something what seems like a joke on April Fools and then actually deliver. No more phony bologna. If the Big Bite Hot Dog Sparkling Water is not a figment of commercial japery, if it is not a form of incorporated jackassery, if it actually exists on April 2nd, I’ll eat my hat drink one.


The Big Bite Hot Dog Sparkling Water promises to encapsulate the essence of the iconic 7-Eleven hot dog experience, complete with the flavors of ketchup and mustard. This innovative beverage aims to transform the traditional pairing of hot dogs and sodas, allowing consumers to enjoy the essence of their favorite snack in a refreshing bubbly form.


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“The suspect…told his probation officer about his activity. The probation officer tipped off the SPCA after attending a training module called “Recognizing Animal Cruelty” and realizing…spray-painting squirrels qualified as animal cruelty.”

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Here’s a cat holding on for dear life to a pint of ice cream and it’s illustrative of a quirk of cats where you can’t tell if the cat really loves the pint or is furious at it. Peep the bloody hand at the end. Pints only do this when they’re in distress.

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Brutal Lyon 25 Stair, Destroyer of Action Sport Dreams

I love Australian pro skater Ricky Glaser’s narration of all the videos he could find of people attempting to jump a famous set of 25 stairs in Lyon. Aaron “Jaws” Homoki (no relation), was the first to do it despite injuring himself on the stairs previously. At 6:15 the scooter carnage starts, “Like is he alive after that?” We can also appreciate Glaser’s criticism of the camera work at about 9:50. This is truly a masterpiece.

By the way, you may have heard of Ricky Glaser, as he is the world record holder for most kick flips in a minute, 36, which is just about 3 per second if my math is right.

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Paris Waiters Race Run for the First Time in 13 Years

There was a race in Paris where waiters from all the restaurants and cafes and hotels rush through the streets carrying trays with water, croissants, and empty cups of coffee. The race started around 1914, but then it stopped for the last 13 years and now they’re doing it again because of the Olympics next this year. The runners can switch hands, but they can’t carry the tray with two hands, and if their glass has less than 10cm of water when they finish, they get 30 seconds added to their finish time. Congratulations to this year’s winners, Pauline Van Wymeersch and Samy Lamrous. At the end of the race the guy said, “You’re finished!” And the winners said, “No, we’re French.”

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You can make friends with crows, and this thread from Carl T Bergstrom will tell you how. I want crow friends, but we’ve only got robins and sparrows. “It’s so much fun to have bird friends who recognize you.”

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Musical Clock Museum in Utrecht

Jason’s only got one rule for guest editors and it’s, “If you’re going to post about Utrecht once, you have to post about Utrecht three times,” which is a bad rule imo and problematic for me because I don’t know anything about Utrecht except they got bones full of drugs there and a doorbell for fish.

Luckily, I am American and did the American thing of texting the only Dutch person I know when I saw the fish doorbell was opening up for the year, because obviously everyone from the Netherlands will already know about the fish doorbell. He didn’t know about the fish doorbell, but he did used to be an intern at the Musical Clock Museum in Utrecht, which is a museum focusing on self-playing instruments and musical clocks. The Museum Speelklok appears to contain the second largest such collection in the world behind the Musical Museum in Brentford, which has them beat on self-playing instruments, though it’s not clear how many musical clocks they’ve got at MM. Regardless, the Utrecht Musical Clock Museum appears delightful and you should visit after visiting the fish doorbell.

Thanks to Logan and Marc in the comments for pointing me to Wintergatan. The marble machine in the video below is exhibited at Museum Speelklok.

(Jason previously wrote about Martin Molin’s Wintergatan projects in 2020, which were inspired by Martin’s visit to Museum Speelklok in 2016.)

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Fish Doorbell in Utrecht

Fish in the Netherlands travel upstream to spawn in the spring, but unfortunately for the fish in Utrecht, the boat lock on the river through the city is closed in the spring. Ecologists put a camera on the bottom of the lock, and viewers around the world can watch a livestream of the camera and, when they see a fish, press a doorbell to open the lock allowing the fish the opportunity to continue swimming upstream to their destiny.

This is a YouTube livestream of the doorbell camera, which is what gets shown to viewers on days like today when more than 900 people are watching the camera, but fear not because they post a weekly highlight reel.

You probably missed the pike and ide, but perch, common roach, and freshwater bream should be swimming by around now.

PS the domain is, which translates into English as Fish Doorbell, and I think Dutch is a very charming language.


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Old Bone Full of Old Drugs Found in Utrecht

Researchers from the Freie Universität Berlin working in the Netherlands recently found a little bone container full of drugs in a pile of 86,000 other bones they had found outside a farm in what is now the Dutch city of Utrecht. Initially the researchers missed the find because they weren’t looking for a first century C.E. bone full of drugs in a bone stack (that’s a needle in a haystack joke I was afraid you wouldn’t get, so I’m just pointing it out, but if you did get it, I’m sorry for not trusting you as a reader.).

The bone container, discovered when a birch pitch plug was dislodged, was full of black hebane seeds which back in the olden olden olden days was used for “relieving pain and helping with difficult pregnancies. Yet ingesting too much, one Roman author wrote, could lead to “alienation of [the] mind or madness”.”

Ancient Roman authors were clearly familiar with the plant. Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, and others wrote about black henbane, along with its closely related but less potent relatives, white and yellow henbane. These plants—in the form of ointments, potions, or burning smoke—were prescribed for everything from earaches and toothaches to flatulence and “pains of the womb.” Ancient scholars also warned against taking too much because of the potential for hallucinogenic effects; Pliny counseled physicians to avoid it entirely.


This quotation submitted without comment: “When you think about how much was in there, your imagination really goes wild.”

This video submitted without comment, as well:

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Ilia Malinin Is Good As Hell At Ice Skating

Ilia Malinin is 19 and just won the world championship title of international ice skating or something by being an absolute wizard on ice skates. I’ve only been on ice skates 6 or 7 times in my life and I’m getting better, but I’m still kinda wobbly, so don’t take my word for it. Just watch him do all sorts of triple cows lutz axles better than anyone’s ever done it. My favorite part is when he does the two twisty jumps in a row, which he does at least 3 different times. Imagine being half this good at anything, let alone something as difficult as jumping in circles WITH RAZOR BLADES SCREWED TO YOUR DOC MARTENS.

Malinin landed a quadruple Axel, quad Lutz, quad loop, quad Salchow, another quad Lutz and a quad toe loop, then finished his four-minute skate with a a triple Lutz-triple Axel finale.

I don’t live too far from Salem, and they still put people on trial for this kind of sorcery there.

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Brandon Semenuk Flipping His Bicycle Off the Side of a Mountain

The thing about going out into the badlands of Alberta and riding your bicycle off the side of the mountain and doing flips where you kick your legs out and such, is the flips isn’t really the hardest part here. The hard part is making it look as great and stylish as Brandon Semenuk does here in Afterlife.

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The Marlins will energize their stadium this year by telling fans to bring their instruments. The notice forbids pots and pans, but doesn’t say shit about keytars. The team only wants instrument playing during certain moments, to which I say good luck.

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NPR Tiny Desk Concert 2024 Submission of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra is “a collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire.” They recently submitted to be on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts with Selectric Funeral, their first piece to feature an electric typewriter.

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Writer Adam Sharp has made a list of how you’d say couch potato in 8 other languages including divine hag of the ashes (Irish), slipper guy (Italian), and armchair fungus (Flemish). Collect all 8!

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How Would You Turn This Dial To Make The Freezer Colder

Imagine you own an ice cream shop and the thermostat on your dipping cabinet, which is the freezer ice cream is dipped (scooped) out of, is set to 4, which is too warm, and you want to make the freezer colder. Are you setting this dial to 3 or to 5 to make the freezer colder? I asked the Gracie’s followers on Instagram earlier this year and there was lots of discussion. Comment below with your answer unless you already follow Gracie’s on Instagram, in which case, zip it, buster.


Update: 7 is colder. Sorry for dragging this out so long, I’m still mad at 2006 Jason for not telling me if a plane can take off on a conveyor belt. I also forgot to tell you how the design of the thermostat for another of our freezers is even worse than the one above. It’s just a slot you turn with a Phillips screwdriver and have to guess if you’re turning it the right way. (The trick I use is to turn it when the condenser is blowing, and the direction that turns it off is “warmer.”)


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Bears in a Boat

A bear enclosure at Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire flooded so the zookeepers gave the bears a swan boat to entertain them because as everyone knows, black bears are often mollified by large watercraft shaped like other animals, though you never want to give them a boat shaped like a vole for obvious reasons. The bears are called Harvard, Maple, Colorado, and Aspen, and I might be losing my mind because I stg there are 5 bears in this picture? Deputy Head of Carnivores, Tommy Babbington mused the bears were “immediately intrigued” by the boat, though admittedly I only quoted him here so I could use the phrase Deputy Head of Carnivores, Tommy Babbington, which is about the most best combination of job title and name I’ve ever heard.

But for real, how many bears do you see?


(via Present & Correct)

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We’ve Only Been Roasting Veggies Since the 80s

According to this 2014 article in Slate, roasting vegetables is a cooking technique popularized only in the 80s/90s.

The concept of roasting as a general vegetable technique seems to have originated in a famous Italian restaurant: Johanne Killeen and George Germon’s Al Forno, which opened in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1980. Forno means oven in Italian, and the critically acclaimed chefs made ample use of that apparatus.

This is a fact, which makes me feel old because I lived through it and makes me feel young because I lived through it. Old because I can remember a time before roasting vegetables was how anyone who is anyone prepared them, and young because what other cooking techniques are we going to invent during my lifetime? It’s a little like watching cities develop. For example, I used to work down in Fort Point in Boston and there were a ton of parking lots and then the guy who owned the parking lots sold them, bought the Los Angeles Baseball Dodgers and those parking lots have become a huge and glitzy neighborhood (?) with condos and offices and commerce

As another aside, there’s a 1993 NYT article quoted in the Slate piece and I’m quoting the first three sentences here for reasons I will expound upon afterward.

Roasting wafts through the senses. In culinary terms it is freighted with mouthwatering aroma, comforting warmth, a crisping sizzle and anticipated succulence. And lately it is more appreciated than ever.

Anyway, the use of “freighted” just reminded me of the Emily Dickinson quotation, “The freight should be proportioned to the groove” from the poem That Love is all there is. It’s a delightful poem and you can read it in about 3 seconds and think about it for the rest of your life.

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Jalapeños are less spicy now because big pepper product producers procure alternate heat for their products anyway and farmers generally produce what the big pepper product producers want. (At least Brussels sprouts taste better, too.)

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Hello, Everyone, Let’s Have A Week

I am excited to be back editing this week for the first time in one thousand years, and I am also scared because what if I don’t remember how to write on the internet? Everything has changed from how it used to be and also has it really? As long as they still make skateboarding videos, we’ll be OK I’m sure.

As Jason mentioned, I own an ice cream shop called Gracie’s and an ice cream shop that is also a bar called Earnest Drinks, and you should come to them. A few years ago, I put out a kids’ book called Salty Avocado with Chris, I’m hoping to put out another kids’ book this year, and like Jason said, I’m almost done with a novel I hope you get to read sometime.

This week we’re gonna have some videos of people doing stuff and also other internet about food and animals, we’re gonna say mean things about Intuit, we’re gonna quote Eli Cash, and maybe we’ll do something about ice cream if y’all want to because it’s something about which I know a good amount. If you see any typos, no you didn’t. The last time I edited for a week, there were lots of websites still, and now it feels like there are hardly any, so if you see any good links, please send them over on Blue Sky.

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Welcome Aaron Cohen Back to the Site

a group of people posing 'Hard Style' for a photo

Hey, Jason here. I’m off this week (Mar 25-29) to spend some time with family (and Edith is working on Drawing Media), so my friend and ice cream impresario Aaron Cohen will be taking over the site again (he previously guest edited a couple of times in the ’10s). He owns and operates Gracie’s Ice Cream & Earnest Drinks and I hear he’s working on a novel.

As an ice cream man, Aaron keeps things fun — he takes Hard Style photos with patrons (he’s the one in hat above), makes ice cream tribute flavors for Carly Rae Jepsen (Call Me PB and Carlymel Rae Jepsen), writes a linky newsletter for the shops, and has cool merch.

Welcome back, Aaron!

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An FTC report says large grocery chains “used rising costs as an opportunity to further hike prices” and “pressured suppliers to favor them over competitors” during pandemic supply chain disruptions, while posting strong profits.

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Hands and Feet, Full of Color

I’m happy to run across the illustrations of Lui Ferreyra again, particularly his drawings of hands and feet.

colored pencil drawing of a hand

colored pencil drawing of a pair of hands grabbing ankles

(via colossal)

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Impressively realistic build of a full-size 3D printed Macintosh 128K. It boots from a floppy and everything.

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Chappell Roan’s Tiny Desk Concert

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about Chappell Roan, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter from Missouri, so I watched her NPR Tiny Desk Concert and loved it.

(Bizarrely, I first heard of her while chasing down info about Sinéad O’Connor: I saw mention that there was a Sinéad-themed Bratz Doll, but it turned out there was just a rendering of Sinéad as a Bratz Doll — no actual physical doll — as part of their Women’s History Month programming. Sinéad was the second female icon to be Bratz-ified; Chappell Roan was the first.)

In an article from earlier this week, Rolling Stone called Roan “the future of pop.” Her musicians are fabulous, too.

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A good read: master tailor Martin Greenfield’s obituary. “Two ripped Nazi shirts helped this Jew build America’s most famous and successful custom-suit company.”

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I Am the New York Times’ Paywall, and If I Let Any Non-Subscribers in, They’ll Kill My Family. “That’s right, just type the password in the box. Nice and easy.”

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1000% agreement from me on this: Don’t Miss This Eclipse. “So, if you can, go see it. The spectacle will be worth it.”

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From bassist Colin Greenwood, How to Disappear — a Portrait of Radiohead (Amazon). “Including 97 behind the scenes photographs of Radiohead, most of which are previously unseen, and a 10,000-word intimate essay by Colin Greenwood on life in Radiohead.”

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Ghanaian Fantasy Coffin Maker Paa Joe

a human-sized coffin shaped like a Sony Walkman

a human-sized coffin shaped like an NYC taxi cab

a human-sized coffin shaped like a bottle of medicine

a human-sized coffin shaped like a lion

Ghanaian sculptor Paa Joe makes coffins (both human-sized and mini sculptures) modeled after real-life objects that were important to the deceased. He just opened his first NYC solo show at Superhouse; from their description of his work:

Paa Joe is a second-generation fantasy coffin maker, contributing to an artistic tradition of great importance around Ghana’s capital, Accra. Known as abeduu adeka, or proverb boxes, these end-of-life vessels illustrate Ghanaian beliefs concerning life and death. Since the 1960s, the artist has meticulously carved and painted figurative coffins, representing various living and inanimate objects symbolizing the deceased (an onion for a farmer, an eagle for a community leader, a sardine for a fisherman, etc.).

You read more about Paa Joe’s work and see more of his pieces at The Guardian:

“People celebrate death in Ghana. At a funeral, we have a passion for the person leaving us - there are a lot of people, and a lot of noise,” says Jacob, 28, who has worked with his father for eight years.

Far from seeing their work as morbid, Jacob says the coffins are celebratory and reflect west African attitudes to death. “It reminds people that life continues after death, that when someone dies they will go on in the afterlife, so it is important that they go in style.”

And at The Future Perfect, Fad, Hypebeast, and on Instagram. (via @presentandcorrect)

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In a study comparing the perceived scents of infants, toddlers, and adolescents: Toddlers Smell Like Flowers, Teens Smell ‘Goatlike’.

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John Green on how tuberculosis, the world’s deadliest disease, is completely curable and the roadblock to helping rid the world of it is money. “The tests are great. If only we could afford them.”

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The teaser trailer for Beetlejuice Beetlejuice. Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O’Hara all return.

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In case anyone is ever in the market for strange and cheerful custom rugs, I enthusiastically recommend Opal Rugs, handmade by the New Mexico-based Alyse Ronayne. (And here’s her website.) We have two, and they are gorgeous!

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Things That Don’t Work. For instance: “Fixing relationship problems by having a baby.” Also: “multivitamins” and “wanting to be liked.”

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On Returning to Childhood Hobbies

I really enjoyed this Cup of Jo essay about the pleasure of coming back to childhood hobbies as an adult:

The student in the session before mine is a hedge-fund guy in his 50s, and we giggle at each other in the doorway between our two lessons, as if we’re seeing through the graying hair and trench coats and wedding rings to greet our promising, 16-year-old selves.

I know I’ve mentioned this here before, but my own life transformed when I got back into what I loved as a kid (drawing!). I picked it up when I stopped drinking, and it’s since become one of the cornerstones of my day.

And then on the other end of the spectrum are the hobbies we discover in mid-life, when there’s less expectation of doing “well” or of turning anything into a career, and those rule, too. It’s never too late!

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The Majesty of Cold Mountain

Okay, the NY Times writer Ruth Graham recently tweeted this, and it’s so wonderful that I’m going to copy part of it word for word — the tweet is a photograph of the following letter to the editor of the New York Times Book Review section (not online):


Way back in 1997, when Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” was released, I was given a copy as a present. When I flipped it over, I was struck by a blurb that seemed excessive, bordering on parody. One Rick Bass said of the novel that it “is so magnificent — in every conceivable aspect, and others perviously unimagined — that it has occurred to me that the shadow of this book, and the joy I received in reading it, will fall over every other book I ever read.” It felt so hyperbolic that it put me off trusting blurbs on dust jackets forever.

So imagine my surprise when I opened the Feb. 4 By the Book feature to see Rick Bass answer the question “What books are on your night stand?” And he replied, “‘Cold Mountain (‘re-re-re-read).”” He has restored my faith in the humble, oft-dismissed blurb in one fell swoop. It was that important to him! Lesson learned.

Christopher Vyce
Cambridge, Mass.

As Ruth put it: “Pure and total delight! A perfect letter!” Here’s Bass’s By the Book interview, by the way. I haven’t read Cold Mountain, but I’m not sure if this makes me want to or not. I’d almost rather leave it as this legendary.

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Sitting here in an old Patagonia fleece, I couldn’t feel aesthetically further from these astonishing emeralds, but they sure are fun to look at.

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Diary Comics, Nov. 30-Dec.2

It’s another Thursday Afternoon With Edith, this time with a ton of journal comics because I feel emboldened by the new “show full post” option (thanks, Jason!), so I can hide things and not clutter up the homepage. These comics pick up from when I was guest-editing this site back in the fall.

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Making Connections

My teen daughter doesn’t care for crosswords or the Spelling Bee, but she does try to play Connections every day. We were working on this one together a few days ago and when I suggested SNAIL GALAXY CYCLONE SUNFLOWER as a group, she said “I was thinking spirals but sunflowers are round”. Which prompted a discussion about the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio (which she’d covered in math class) and a search for videos that explained how the sequence pops up in nature and, specifically, sunflowers.

As beautiful as the sunflower is, isn’t it even lovelier knowing there is a deep mathematical order to it?

That quote reminds me of Richard Feynman’s thoughts on the beauty of nature:

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

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees.

I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Games, language, mathematics, the beauty of flowers, science, time spent together — Connections indeed.

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A nice remembrance of Lisa Lane, perhaps an inspiration for The Queen’s Gambit and the first chess player to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. “Lisa Lane was an icon and a woman far ahead of her time.”

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The sights and sounds of various video game systems being switched on, from the Atari 2600 up to the newest systems. The nostalgia! I hadn’t heard the NES power button sound in 20 years but it was instantly recognizable.

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1600-Person Pub Choir Sings Radiohead’s Creep

Pub Choir is an Australia-based organization that gets large crowds singing popular tunes, in three-part harmony no less.

Everybody can sing. Like, not well, but literally. Why should being average at something stop you from doing it!? It hasn’t yet… Singing is good for you, it’s EASY, and Pub Choir is here to show you how.

With a show that is equal parts music, comedy, and beer, Pub Choir is a euphoric sensation that transforms a crowd of tipsy strangers into a legendary choir.

By the end of the show the YOU will be belting out a popular song in three-part harmony.

In the video above, they get a crowd of 1600 people signing Creep by Radiohead. Beautiful.

You can find more of their performances on their YouTube channel, including Tina Turner’s The Best, Africa by Toto, and Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty.

See also Choir! Choir! Choir! and their performances of Sinéad O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U and David Byrne singing David Bowie’s Heroes. (thx, matthew)

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It seems like there’s going to be a third Downton Abbey movie. The relatively low-budget movies made good money at the box office, so why not?

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A team at NASA is trying to reestablish communication with Voyager 1 after a malfunction left the probe broadcasting jibberish. The problem: debugging the issue from almost 1 light-day away is challenging!

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Welcome to Choppke’s, Your Wich Is My Command

A couple of years ago, frustrated by a takeout Italian sandwich with unevenly distributed fillings, I had a wonderful, life-changing idea: chopped sandwiches. It’s like what you get at those chopped salad places but instead of chopping up all the ingredients and putting them into a bowl, you put them between two slices of bread or in a hoagie roll or whatever. That way, you get all of the elements of the sandwich — cheese, tomato, lettuce, dressing/mayo, onion, whatever — in every single bite. Yum.

Chopwiches already exist — tuna salad, Philly cheesesteaks, chicken salad, egg salad — and they’re amazing because you get all of their deliciousness in every bite. I just wanted to extend that enjoyment to many other types of sandwich: banh mi, BLT, Italian sub, gyro, turkey club, and even the humble ham and cheese. Great idea, right? I wanted to open a chopped sandwich restaurant and change the world.

Then I made a mistake: I told people about my idea. And every single one of them laughed at me. To my face! My friends, my kids, everyone. It was a heartbreaking moment but as an entrepreneur, I knew I had to persist and follow my dream. Like Wayne Gretzky said: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” And I was going to win.

But the whole thing became a joke for awhile and I had to play along, biding my time. My friend Caroline came up with a name: Choppke’s. We brainstormed slogans and things the sandwich artists could say to patrons:

  • Choppke’s. You’ll Love It to Bits.
  • Welcome to Choppke’s, your wich is my command.
  • As you wich. [In response to any customer query.]
  • Welcome to Choppke’s! What can I get chopping for you today?

I asked ChatGPT to come up with a logo; this was my favorite one:

a logo for Choppke's

When (not if!) Choppke’s gets huge, there’s gonna be a corporate jet, so I wanted to see what that was going to look like:

a large jet airplane with a Choppke's logo on it

Caroline got me a custom-made hat for my birthday (actual hat and actual dopey human wearing it, not AI-generated):

Jason wearing a Choppke's hat

Ever so slowly, I was winning her over, despite every fiber of her being telling her that a chopped sandwich restaurant was the stupidest idea she’d ever heard and causing her to question the entire basis of our relationship. And if I could get one person on my side, a person who thought I was an idiot, the rest of the world would surely follow. Ideas + persistence = manifesting your reality.

I think it was the legendary management guru Michael Scott (quoting IBM founder Steve Jobs) who said “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”. Well, my long chopped sandwich skate has finally paid off — the puck is here! According to The Takeout, the chopped sandwich is all the rage on TikTok!

If you enjoy a good chopped salad, the kind where every component (veggies, cheese, protein) is chopped into uniformly forkable bites and then tossed in dressing, you’re halfway to a chopped salad sandwich, sometimes just referred to as a chopped sandwich. It’s simply any version of that same salad, just stuffed into a hinge-cut roll. The shape of the roll is crucial, as it prevents all the fillings from falling out the sides.

Yes, exactly. Wow. I’ve never felt so seen. What’s that smell? No, not a delicious chopped sandwich…it’s the sweet smell of V-I-N-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N.

Nearly any filling is a candidate for a chopped salad sandwich, and that’s the part that appeals most to TikTok users. Beyond the go-to Italian sub, you can create chopped salad sandwiches that contain Vietnamese banh mi ingredients, wedge salads, Caesar salads, whatever your heart desires. And that versatility means it’s a goldmine for social media content.

A goldmine! You’re goddamn right it’s a goldmine! The time is right, the market is PRIMED, Gen Z is on board, it’s now or never. We’re gonna do it, Choppke’s is a go!

Now, just to properly calibrate expectations, I haven’t looked at any commercial real estate nor have I made a single chopped sandwich of any kind at home to test out whether they actually taste better or not because I just know they will. What I do have is the idea (which is amazing, as we’ve agreed), a janky misspelled AI logo, and a dream.

Right now, you’re probably wondering how you can help, how you can climb aboard this rocket ship, how you can secure a place in a better future for us all. Well, I’m happy to announce that you can join the movement for better, tastier sandwiches today by zhuzhing yourself up with an exclusive Choppke’s t-shirt!

a handsomer man than Jason wearing a Choppke's tshirt

All proceeds from shirt sales will be pumped into developing the Choppke’s franchise (or, if that doesn’t work out, buying myself sandwiches from the local deli). Thanks for the support everyone — even though I could have done it without you, I definitely couldn’t have done it without you.

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The Enablers

This is quite a paragraph from Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker review (titled The Forgotten History of Hitler’s Establishment Enablers (subhead: “The Nazi leader didn’t seize power; he was given it.”)) of Timothy Ryback’s new book, Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power:

Ryback details, week by week, day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, how a country with a functional, if flawed, democratic machinery handed absolute power over to someone who could never claim a majority in an actual election and whom the entire conservative political class regarded as a chaotic clown with a violent following. Ryback shows how major players thought they could find some ulterior advantage in managing him. Each was sure that, after the passing of a brief storm cloud, so obviously overloaded that it had to expend itself, they would emerge in possession of power. The corporate bosses thought that, if you looked past the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you had someone who would protect your money. Communist ideologues thought that, if you peered deeply enough into the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you could spy the pattern of a popular revolution. The decent right thought that he was too obviously deranged to remain in power long, and the decent left, tempered by earlier fights against different enemies, thought that, if they forcibly stuck to the rule of law, then the law would somehow by itself entrap a lawless leader. In a now familiar paradox, the rational forces stuck to magical thinking, while the irrational ones were more logical, parsing the brute equations of power. And so the storm never passed. In a way, it still has not.

I got this via Clayton Cubitt, who says “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.”

An inexplicably deep dive into a little-watched sitcom called Til Death. “Since nobody was watching and nothing was at stake, the show’s writers went in some really weird directions just for the hell of it.”

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Celebrity Marathoners


In case anyone saw the news that Lil Nas X ran a half-marathon last weekend and then thought, Hm I wonder if other celebrities have run marathons? (as I did), the answer is: Yes, a lot, and last fall Runners World put together a long list of them, with each of the runners’ times. Shoutout to Bryan Cranston for running a 3:20! 🔥

Elsewhere in marathon news, Romper has a good story about a marathoner recovering from a birth injury. (“I’m losing my mind a little bit.”)

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A dedicated community of gamers is racing to complete every uncleared level in Super Mario Maker before Nintendo shuts down the Wii U servers on April 8. They’ve cleared thousands of levels and are down to 1 particularly thorny level.

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Last year, MacKenzie Scott announced plans to give $250 million to nonprofit organizations through an open call process. Yesterday, she revealed the gifts will actually total $640 million. Scott has given away $17.3 billion in total.

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The Vela Supernova Remnant

an image of the Vela supernova remnant

This stunning 1.3 gigapixel image of the Vela supernova remnant comes to us courtesy of the Dark Energy Camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. From PetaPixel:

The Vela Supernova remnant, located about 800 light-years away from Earth, is the cosmic corpse of a massive star that exploded 11,000 years ago. It is one of the closest supernova remnants to Earth and the perfect subject for the remarkable Dark Energy Camera.

The supernova is a vast cosmic structure about 100 light-years across. For context, one would have to travel around the Earth 200 million times to have traveled a single light-year.

an image of the Vela supernova remnant that shows some of its structure

The full image of the supernova remnant is worth exploring. You can also watch this zoom-in of the image to observe the high level of detail available.

(via colossal)

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It’s one of those days when I’m thinking about the interactive hot springs map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Red = boiling, orange = hot, yellow = warm.

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Back in 2012, some French apiaries were producing blue, green, and brown honey because their bees were visiting a factory that was processing waste from making M&Ms. Unsellable? Genius marketing idea you mean!

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Why Weather Forecasts Have Gotten So Good

You may not have noticed, but weather forecasts — temperature, precipitation, hurricane tracks — have improved greatly over the past few decades.

a graph that shows that weather forecasts have become much more accurate since 1981

Dr. Hannah Ritchie of Our World in Data explains why.

The first big change is that the data has improved. More extensive and higher-resolution observations can be used as inputs into the weather models. This is because we have more and better satellite data, and because land-based stations are covering many more areas around the globe, and at a higher density. The precision of these instruments has improved, too.

These observations are then fed into numerical prediction models to forecast the weather. That brings us to the next two developments. The computers on which these models are run have gotten much faster. Faster speeds are crucial: the Met Office now chunks the world into grids of smaller and smaller squares. While they once modeled the world in 90-kilometer-wide squares, they are now down to a grid of 1.5-kilometer squares. That means many more calculations need to be run to get this high-resolution map. The methods to turn the observations into model outputs have also improved. We’ve gone from very simple visions of the world to methods that can capture the complexity of these systems in detail.

The final crucial factor is how these forecasts are communicated. Not long ago, you could only get daily updates in the daily newspaper. With the rise of radio and TV, you could get a few notices per day. Now, we can get minute-by-minute updates online or on our smartphones.

If you’re in the US, you can see how accurate the weather forecast is in your area by using ForecastAdvisor.

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On the cultural division of local and global fans of Premier League teams. “What happens to a community institution when the market drags it away from the community?”

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Don’t Be the Best. Be the Only.

I’ve been dipping in and out of Kevin Kelly’s Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier for the last few months and keep coming back to one of his tidbits of advice:

Don’t be the best. Be the only.

In a short clip from a longer interview, Kelly explains what he means by this:

You want to be doing something where it’s hard to explain to your mother what it is that you do. So it’s like, “What is it? Well, it’s not quite radio. I don’t know. It’s like talking.” And so that’s where you want to be. You want to be the only. You want to — and that’s a very high bar because it requires a tremendous amount of self-knowledge and awareness to get to that point, to really understand what it is that you do better than anybody else in the world. And for most of us, it takes all our lives to figure that out.

And we also, by the way, need family, friends, colleagues, customers, clients, everyone around us to help us understand what it is that we do better than anybody else because we can’t really get there by yourself. You can’t do thinkism, you can’t figure your way there, you have to try and live it out. And that’s why most people’s remarkable lives are full of detours and dead ends and right turns because it’s a very high bar. But if you can get there — you don’t need a resume, there’s no competition. And it’s easy for you because you’re doing it. You’re not looking over your shoulder, you’re just right there. So don’t aim to be the best. Be the only.

Although it works in many situations, my interpretation of this aphorism is from the point of view of a creative person. There’s a point in your work/career/journey when you reach an escape velocity of sorts from your peers and the world around you. What you offer to others is just different enough that you become your own category of one: nothing but you will do. Not better, different. I don’t know if I’m there yet in my creative trajectory, but it’s been a worthy goal to pursue — it takes you inside yourself (in a healthy way) and away from “comparison is the thief of joy” territory.

Kelly states in the foreword of his book that much of his advice was gleaned from elsewhere so I decided to track down where this one might have come from. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham used a similar phrase in a banner describing the Grateful Dead at a 1991 concert for the band:

They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.

Grateful Dead: not the best, but the only. That sounds about right.

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The trailer for a new Star Wars series called The Acolyte. The series will debut in June on Disney+ and is set 100 years before the events of The Phantom Menace.

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Hans Zimmer and a group of musicians perform the Dune soundtrack live. Amazing to watch singer Loire Cotler do that piercing chant (you know the one).

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Literary Theory for Robots: How Computers Learned to Write. “Something as simple as a spell-checker…represents the culmination of a shared human effort, spanning centuries.” Thumbed through this over the weekend…looks really interesting.

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Dolly Parton’s cast iron cookware. Why not!

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I Put 4 Million Suns in a Black Hole Over New York

Using a scale model of the solar system the size of New York City and some dazzling visual effects, Epic Spaceman explains that black holes are generally smaller than you might think (because they’re so dense) — even the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. But when you consider some of the biggest black holes we’ve discovered…wow.

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I love that Lil Nas X impulsively ran a half-marathon.

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Christopher Nolan tells Stephen Colbert he has “no guilt about being a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise. A tremendous action franchise. I watch those movies all the time. I love them.”

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Waffle House’s Magic Marker System

I thought for sure that I’d previously written about the secret jelly packet & pickle-based system that chefs at the Waffle House use to “store” all of the orders that come in for food during service, but I can’t find it in the archive. But no matter — the Waffle House training video above runs us through their whole system, including a detailed explanation of their Magic Marker System, which involves zero actual Magic Markers and instead is about arranging condiment packets and other items on plates in a code:

Now let’s talk about our breakfast sandwiches. Just like omelettes, these sandwiches have the same four positions: ham, sausage, bacon, and plain. To mark a sandwich, place two pickle slices in the appropriate position. Here you can see I put two pickle slices in the number three position, which tells me this is a bacon sandwich. If I add a slice of cheese to the plate, I know this is a bacon cheese sandwich. To make this a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, I’ll add this right side up mayo packet to the right side of the plate.

Don’t let this mayo pack confuse you - as long as you see two pickles on the plate you know this is a sandwich. When marking a sandwich, this mayo packet and pickles means a sandwich with eggs. If a customer wanted the eggs on their sandwich to be scrambled instead of the standard over well egg, I’d move this mayo pack down to the bottom of the plate to show that the egg is scrambled.

That sounds pretty complicated and they’ve likely faced pressure to change the system over the years, but I bet it works really well in practice and cuts down on errors. I love stuff like this…seeing how different organizations manage their core processes, especially in non-conventional ways. See also Nightclub Hand Signals and The Quarryman’s Symphony. (thx, erik)

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This is a perfect New Yorker Talk of the Town piece: now-divorced celebs holding a joint thrift sale of their stuff. The sale was advertised on Vogue’s website, was sponsored by an energy drink, and one of the sellers was recording the scene for her podcast.

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Stile Antico, “Byrd: Mass for Four Voices - V. Agnus Dei”

Several years ago, I heard a performance from the group above while driving. I made a note of their name on my phone — Stile Antico — and later bought tickets to a concert they were having near where I lived at the time. I invited my boyfriend (also at the time), who made a point of letting me know in not so many words that he wasn’t into the music and didn’t really want to go. I think we were also fighting about something else, to be fair. Anyway, we went to the concert. But it didn’t have the magic that had captivated me on the radio, and I was too aware that my companion wasn’t enjoying himself, so we left at intermission. The group dropped off my radar until recently, but this performance of music by William Byrd, written more than 400 years ago, just blows me away (full album streaming here). I wish I had stayed for the second half of that show. I should have just been like, “You go home and let me enjoy my Renaissance music in peace!”

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“I was fully in the first time, but the second time, even after getting divorced, it was like, OK, I am all in.” These stories about couples remarrying felt very romantic to me!

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Movie Posters Perfected. “A live, cloud-based library of over 3,500 curated movie posters you can stream to your digital display.” Includes a DIY digital display guide.

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The 15 Greatest Documentaries

A thoughtful video essay from The Cinema Cartography about 15 of film’s greatest documentaries, including The Thin Blue Line, Grizzly Man, The Act of Killing, Shoah, Hoop Dreams, and OJ: Made in America (my personal favorite).

I am not sure I agree with their #1 pick? But it’s been a loooong time since I saw it (in the theater when it came out, if you can believe it), so maybe it’s time for another viewing. (via open culture)

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Charlie Jane Anders on why she stopped loving Captain Kirk. “Kirk is obsessed with maintaining his dominance over his crew, in a way that’s very much of its time but also a product of the men who created him.”

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Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote a long piece about how conservative groups have “co-opted both the rhetoric of colorblindness and the legal legacy of Black activism not to advance racial progress, but to stall it. Or worse, reverse it.”

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Drawing Media, an Interview With Jason Kottke


Hi, Edith here. This is the first in an interview series in which I talk to people about their media diets and habits. Jason seemed like a good person to start with as we figure out the format, although honestly his actual Media Diet series is more thorough. Look for the next installment in a few weeks!

So, have you seen or read anything good recently?
I saw Dune Two on opening weekend. And I went by myself, which I like to do. There are no IMAX screens in Vermont, but there’s a theater about 45 minutes from me with a screen called the T-Rex. It’s not quite IMAX, but it’s not bad either.


How was it?
Great. Better than the first one.

And it was definitely a movie that you want to see on the big screen. Like you could feel the bass, and at one particular moment it felt like the whole theater was vibrating.

I’m sure you’ve read Dune. Have you read it many times?
I have not read Dune, ever.

I’m not sure the movie necessarily makes me want to read Dune, either, which is surprising, because usually when I see a movie based on a book, I’ll be like, “Oh I need to read that.” Like when I saw Oppenheimer, later I read the book it’s based on, which is this 600-page biography of Robert Oppenheimer. And it was good, but I think the movie was better.


You mentioned the other day that you haven’t been enjoying, or even reading, many books recently. Is that true?
Pretty much? For the last couple months, I’ve been working a lot, and that means spending a lot of time on a device – my computer, my phone. And generally I don’t want to read after I’ve been working a lot. TV is much more something I turn to. Also video games. Like I play Fortnite, which is something I started doing with my kids, but now I play more than they do, which is weird.

And so you’re playing against other strangers on the Internet?

Are you good?
I don’t think so. But I’ve gotten a lot better.

And I know you play some of the NY Times games too.
I do the crossword almost exclusively with a friend over FaceTime. She shares her screen, and we solve them together.

I wasn’t a crossword puzzle person beforehand – and I kind of hate Scrabble because at a certain level it’s all about strategy and memorization, which is boring to me. I felt similarly about crossword puzzles, but then she and I started doing them, and I was like, “Oh this is actually pretty fun,” and now we do maybe two or three a week.

And I don’t do Wordle, but I do play the Spelling Bee and Connections. And I’ll do the little mini crosswords on my phone. But a lot of that is just procrastinating about getting out of bed in the morning.

So they’re mostly morning experiences for you?
Yes. I will go back to Spelling Bee, though, if I didn’t do well in the morning.

What’s doing well?
I don’t get Genius every day, but I would like to. But sometimes I just don’t have the patience for the particular puzzle, and I’m like, I’m sorry, I don’t want to grind.

And I’m not judging others, but for me, if I’m spending too long on the Spelling Bee, it means I probably need to get up and move my body, or, you know, engage my brain in a different way.


You mentioned that you read Middlemarch last year. How did you squeeze that in? Because that’s a commitment.
Middlemarch was wonderful. I loved it. When you take seven months off work, you can have time to relax, and my reading went crazy. I couldn’t get enough books, because I wasn’t reading anything online. I stopped cold turkey, basically. People would send me links, like, “Here’s an interesting New Yorker article,” and I’m like, nope. Not even news. Not gonna read it. I’m gonna read about Dorothea and Casaubon.


What were other highlights, book-wise, from that time?
Middlemarch was definitely the highlight. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another sabbatical like that. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Right now I’m listening to a good audiobook, though: Blood in the Machine, by Brian Merchant. It’s about the Luddites.


It was painted as an anti-technology movement in the early 19th century, but the book recontextualizes it as a labor movement. Rich factory owners were introducing new technologies, and people were getting laid off. Workers were angry and would go into the factories to smash machines, but they would only smash the ones that were, like, driving people out of work. The machines that actually helped the laborers do their jobs, those were kept.

And he relates it to what’s going on these days with AI and the current anti-tech movement. I’m enjoying it.

How did you hear about it?
I’d seen it on some “best of” lists at the end of 2023, and then Casey Johnston recommended it on Blue Sky. She was like “this book is great,” and so I was like, Okay, that’s good enough for me.

Do you listen to things most of the time while you’re driving?
Maybe half the time. I also use driving time to think. Like if there’s some work thing I need to think over, I’ll put on music without words, and just, you know, spin the wheels.

But when I don’t feel like doing that, I’ll listen to an audiobook or podcast.

What kinds of music do you listen to?
The music thing is embarrassing because I don’t listen to a lot of, like, new music. André 3000’s flute album is maybe the newest thing I’ve listened to recently.

I can’t write when the music has lyrics, so when I’m working I play a lot of classical and soundtracks. Also videos on YouTube. One of my favorites is just basically an ice breaker idling in the Arctic during a storm.


I also listen to a lot of electronic music, at varying levels of, uh, what would be considered good? And when I’m programming or designing, I listen to a lot of upbeat house, club, and techno.

Anything you’ve seen recently that just wasn’t for you?
Rebel Moon on Netflix was bad. Not even “not for me.” Just objectively terrible.

And something you loved?
The Zone of Interest. I saw it a few weeks ago and have thinking about it ever since, especially the sound design.

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Should there be an Oscar for title design? Or movie poster design? An interview with several designers about how the materials they produce increasingly shape moviegoers’ perceptions of films.

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Yesterday the Atlantic published a list of great American novels — 136 of them. I’ve read them all! Just kidding.

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A forthcoming book from urbanist Carlos Moreno: The 15-Minute City: A Solution to Saving Our Time and Our Planet. “…everyday destinations like schools, stores, and offices should only be a short walk or bike ride away from home.”

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From The Pudding, a visual essay about how Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” lists changed from 2003 to 2020. Who the voters were and how we listen to music both affected the rankings.

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The Metaphysically Science-ish Drawings of Daniel Martin Diaz

art by Daniel Martin Diaz

art by Daniel Martin Diaz

art by Daniel Martin Diaz

I have to admit that the illustration style of Daniel Martin Diaz is not completely my cup of tea, but I do like a few of his pieces (like those pictured above). They have an infographic quality that’s quite compelling — and also remind me a bit of Chris Ware, by way of Hilma af Klint and, uh, Edward Gorey maybe?

Anyway, lot of prints of his work are available and you can check out his latest stuff on Instagram.

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Short interview with a seismologist who has debunked a Harvard astrophysicist’s claim that an alien artifact was found on Earth. “One, if you want to do seismic analysis, it’s ideal if you check with a seismologist first. The other is, it’s not aliens.”

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It’s really become a thing for bands to go on tour to play their classic albums from start to finish (e.g. Death Cab, Postal Service). When did this start? I found this 10-year-old Reddit thread which mentioned Weezer, Green Day, and The Pixies. Anyone?

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“Sometimes it’s desperate because I can’t touch someone, my hands don’t move, and no one touches me except in rare occasions, which I cherish.” Extraordinary obituary for lawyer and author Paul Alexander.

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26 Years Ago…

On this day in 1998, 26 freaking years ago, I started writing this blog. I’ve talked at you a lot about the site recently, so I’ll be brief. Last year on this anniversary, I wrote:

My love for the web has ebbed and flowed in the years since, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life, spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence.

And still having fun. Perhaps more fun than ever. Thanks to all of you for being a part of it.

P.S. I hope you’ll forgive me taking advantage of any 26-years!-I-love-this-place! feelings you might have today to ask that if you find value in what I do here, I’d appreciate if you’d support the site by purchasing a membership. And to everyone who has supported the site over the years, thank you so much!

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The deepest points in each of the Earth’s oceans are called The Five Deeps. I didn’t know the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean is a trench off the coast of Puerto Rico.

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On TV: ‘Free to Be… You and Me’

I didn’t know (or had somehow forgotten) that Marlo Thomas’s seminal children’s album Free to Be… You and Me (Spotify, Apple Music) was turned into a TV special that aired in 1974.

The basic concept was to encourage post-1960s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one’s identity. A major thematic message is that anyone — whether a boy or a girl — can achieve anything.

The TV show starred Thomas, Mel Brooks, Harry Belefonte, Dionne Warwick, Carol Channing, Michael Jackson, Dustin Hoffman, and many others. You can watch the whole thing (commercials included) on YouTube:

Times TV critic James Poniewozik wrote about the show for its 50th anniversary.

The opening sketch features Thomas and Mel Brooks as cue-ball-headed puppet babies in a hospital nursery, daffily trying to work out which of them is a boy and which is a girl — the Brooks baby declares himself a girl because he wants to be “a cocktail waitress” — and setting up the bigger themes of the special: What is a boy and what is a girl?

As newborns, they’re indistinguishable, just base line people - eyes, ears, hands, mouth. They haven’t yet been programmed with all the lessons about boy things and girl things, boy colors and girl colors, boy games and girl games. The rest of the special gives its young viewers a decoder ring for those messages, and permission to disregard them.

Take “Parents Are People,” a duet with Thomas and Harry Belafonte, which remains one of the most innocently radical things I’ve ever seen on TV. The lyrics explain that your mom and dad are just “people with children,” who have their own lives and a wide range of careers open to both of them.

Back in 2012, Dan Kois wrote a three-part series on the album.

Mel Brooks’ session was more eventful. Thomas had written to him that the album “would benefit the Ms. Foundation,” and when he came in the morning of his recording, he told her that he thought the material Reiner and Stone had written was funny but that he didn’t know what it had to do with multiple sclerosis. Once set straight about the MS in question, Brooks joined Thomas in the recording booth, where they would both play babies for the album’s first sketch, “Boy Meets Girl.”

“When I directed,” Alda recalls, “I would be meticulous and relentless. I would do a lot of takes. But Mel is not a guy who’s used to doing a lot of takes. He’s not used to taking direction from anybody — you know, he gives direction.” Alda didn’t love the first few takes of “Boy Meets Girl”; in the end it took, Alda remembers, 10 or 15 tries, with Brooks improvising madly all along the way. Rodgers was there that day to record “Ladies First,” and she still remembers standing in the control room laughing harder with each take. “Mel was generous,” Alda allows, “and he let me egg him on.”

We listened to Free to Be… quite a bit in the car when the kids were younger. Nice to see it pop up again.

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Dew Point I is a mesmerizing water sculpture piece by Lily Clark — water droplets seem to appear from nowhere and bead up on a surface made of superhydrophobic ceramic.

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The Most Populous Cities in the World, From 3000 BCE to Today

I’ve always been a little fascinated by the list of the largest cities throughout history, so this animated version from Ollie Bye is right up my alley. While watching, it’s interesting to think about what makes cities grow large at specific times: a mixture of economics, demography, social movements, empire/colonialism, technology, and the like.

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Dawn Baillie: The Art of the Movie Poster

the movie poster for Silence of the Lambs

I love a good movie poster and Dawn Baillie designed one of the best ones ever: the iconic poster for The Silence of the Lambs. Her other work includes posters for Dirty Dancing, Little Miss Sunshine, Zoolander, The Truman Show, and The Royal Tenenbaums. A show of her work opens soon at Poster House in NYC. Some of Baillie’s original posters are for sale at Posteritati.

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From Taschen, The Book of Colour Concepts. Man, I am just a total sucker for palettes and spectrums.

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Chiroptera is a dance performance from artist & photographer JR, choreographer Damien Jalet, Thomas Bangalter (Daft Punk), dancer Amandine Albisson, and 153 “pixel” dancers (you’ll see what I mean).

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Stephen D’Onofrio’s Fruit Art


I recently discovered the “pile of fruit”-themed art of Stephen D’Onofrio. I love it! The strawberries are a preliminary sketch, but they’re what drew me in, and the rest are paintings. He’s represented by Dallas’s Galleri Urbane. I also like his “trees fitting exactly in the canvas” paintings.


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The winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition for 2024. “Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions, as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to the carcasses.”

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On trimming the silence from our lives. “One of the more distressing qualities of humanity, in my mind, is the emphasis we collectively put on efficiency.”

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This is a fun ad for the 2024 AICP Awards about the pitfalls of focus-grouping & corporatizing art, featuring an annoyed van Gogh (“How can a painting fail?”) and an even more annoyed Frida Kahlo. (via noah kalina)

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Warped & Bendy Pen Plots

a black and white box containing a simple night landscape

a black and white sphere that's being pulled apart on one side

I like these small scale pen plotted artworks from Adam Fuhrer. You can see his larger scale work, buy work from his shop, and more of his generative art projects.

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Jim Martini, a short story by Michael Bible. “He wasn’t one of us. He didn’t understand team culture. He didn’t have our warrior mindset.”

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Time Travel Movies, Ranked

For Ars Technica, science writer Jennifer Ouellette and theoretical physicist Sean Carroll review time travel used in 20 popular movies, ranging from The Terminator to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Interstellar. Each movie is rated on scientific accuracy and how entertaining the use of time travel is. Here’s part of their review of Superman (1978).

Our standards are admittedly lax when it comes to the physical mechanism by which cinematic heroes journey through time, but “flying really fast around the Earth so that it reverses the direction of its rotation and sends it back to a previous moment” is such thoroughgoing lunacy that one must almost pause in admiration. Then we return to our senses and ask, “Why does Superman’s flight have any effect on the rotation of the Earth? And what does that rotation have to do with the direction of time? Do I get younger if I start twirling counterclockwise?” No, dear reader, you do not. Indeed, by the rules handed down by Einstein, Superman’s near-speed-of-light journey would actually send him into the future, not into the past.

To its dubious credit, Superman pioneers two different flaws that will frequently recur in movies to come. First, time travel is portrayed as a miraculous cure-all, which is then never used again. Superman essentially goes back in time to save his girlfriend. This is admirable, but aren’t there other, more historically significant global disasters that could be averted by the same strategy? This is a narrative problem, not a scientific or logical one, but it rankles.

Then, of course, there is the flaw that almost always accompanies stories in which the past gets changed by time-travelers: Where did those time-travelers come from? We, the viewers, see a sequence of events that seems to make sense if we don’t think too hard. Lois Lane dies, Superman gets upset, he travels back in time, stops the events that led to Lois dying, and we live happily ever after. But at the end of this sequence, Superman still has the memory of Lois dying the first time around. Yet because he changed history, that event he remembers never happened. Lois certainly doesn’t remember it. How does he?

See also The Various Approaches to Time Travel in Movies & Books.

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A look at the cool new toilets out there.

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Zach Seward on appropriate and inappropriate uses of AI and machine learning in journalism. AI/ML can be powerful tools for journalists do more with vast quantities of data. But shady employers see shoddy AI-written copy as a way to replace humans.

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How Photos Were Transmitted by Wire in the 1930s

I didn’t know what to expect from this 1937 video explanation of how wire photos were transmitted to newspapers, but a double stunt sequence featuring an airplane and a death-defying photographer was not anywhere on my bingo card. This starts kinda slow but it picks up once they get into the completely fascinating explanation of how they sent photographs across the country using ordinary telephone lines. The whole setup was portable and they just hacked into a wire on a telephone pole, asked the operator to clear the line, and sent a photo scan via an analog modem. Ingenious!

The Wikipedia page about wire photos is worth a read — French designers argued that the technology was responsible for an early form of fast fashion.

After World War II at haute couture shows in Paris, Frederick L. Milton would sketch runway designs and transmit his sketches via Bélinographe to his subscribers, who could then copy Parisian fashions. In 1955, four major French couturiers (Lanvin, Dior, Patou, and Jacques Fath) sued Milton for piracy, and the case went to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. Wirephoto enabled a speed of transmission that the French designers argued damaged their businesses.

(via the kid should see this)

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A list of rejected Icelandic female names. (“Edith” is okay, “Jennifer” is not.) Elsewhere: The Mystery of the Icelandic Naming Committee.

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The Neo-Luddite Movement

For the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Brian Merchant’s history of the Luddite movement, Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech. In it, Merchant argues the Luddites were at their core a labor movement against capitalism and compares them to contemporary movements against big tech and media companies. Merchant writes in the Atlantic:

The first Luddites were artisans and cloth workers in England who, at the onset of the Industrial Revolution, protested the way factory owners used machinery to undercut their status and wages. Contrary to popular belief, they did not dislike technology; most were skilled technicians.

At the time, some entrepreneurs had started to deploy automated machines that unskilled workers — many of them children — could use to churn out cheap, low-quality goods. And while the price of garments fell and the industrial economy boomed, hundreds of thousands of working people fell into poverty. When petitioning Parliament and appealing to the industrialists for minimum wages and basic protections failed, many organized under the banner of a Robin Hood-like figure, Ned Ludd, and took up hammers to smash the industrialists’ machines. They became the Luddites.

He goes on to compare their actions to tech publication writers’ strikes, the SAG-AFTRA & WGA strikes, the Authors Guild lawsuit against AI companies, and a group of masked activists “coning” self-driving cars. All this reminds me of Ted Chiang’s quote about AI:

I tend to think that most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism. And I think that this is actually true of most fears of technology, too. Most of our fears or anxieties about technology are best understood as fears or anxiety about how capitalism will use technology against us. And technology and capitalism have been so closely intertwined that it’s hard to distinguish the two.

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I grew up near Menomonie, WI in the freezing cold north, but this year was too warm for the lake ice to form to hold their “when will this old junker car fall through” raffle. They stopped a similar tradition a few years ago in my VT town — too warm.

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Out today from Dr. Lisa Mosconi: The Menopause Brain. It’s a reexamination of menopause and perimenopause through the lens of neuroscience. Mosconi calls it “a scientist’s love letter to womanhood”.

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Jonathan Glazer’s ‘The Zone of Interest won’t let us look away — from the present, from ourselves. “It turns the audience’s gaze on the perpetrators, but it also implicitly asks us to examine our own roles.”

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Wild Ice Skating

an ice skater stands on very clear blue lake ice with mountains in the background

Winter is winding down here in the northern hemisphere (though you wouldn’t know it from the foot of new snow outside my window), but for practitioners of wild ice skating, spring can bring favorable conditions.

But the problem with Nordic skating or any kind of wild skating — which is defined as outdoors and on naturally formed ice, regardless of the style of skate used — is finding good ice. Wild-ice seekers extol late fall and sometimes spring for freezing conditions without snowfall, which degrades ice.

Instagram is full of amazing videos of wild skating. When they lower the water level in an icy reservoir, you can even go downhill skating.

Listen to the ice on this one! It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite videos that I’ve posted to the site: The Wonderful Sounds of Skating on Black Ice. (thx, caroline)

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Kris Bowers & Ben Proudfoot won the Best Documentary Short Oscar for The Last Repair Shop. It’s Proudfoot’s second award…he won two years ago for The Queen of Basketball. Proudfoot has been a Kottke favorite since 2011.

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The Public Art of the NYC Transit System

NYC subway mosaic pattern of beautiful pink and white blossoms

NYC subway mosaic pattern by Nick Cave featuring dancing figures

From The Monacelli Press, Contemporary Art Underground: MTA Arts & Design New York is a forthcoming book about the art projects the MTA has completed in the last decade in the NYC transit system.

Of special interest is the discussion of fabricating and transposing the artist’s rendering or model into mosaic, glass, or metal, the materials that can survive in the transit environment.

Nancy Blum’s piece at the 28th Street station (top, above) is my favorite piece in the entire subway system; I love it so much. (via colossal)

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Haha, Hank Green discovers the automobile industry’s wet putty paint job and, dare I say it, gets a little unhinged about it.

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I’m pleased that The Zone of Interest won the Oscar for Best Sound — the sound design was really remarkable. Listen to the film’s sound designer and mixer talk about how they created the soundscape. “You can shut your eyes, but you can’t shut your ears.”

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“Struggling in front of my classmates wasn’t something I looked forward to.” Fitness writer Danielle Friedman on whether the Presidential Fitness Tests might have backfired for some people.

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Princess Catherine on Instagram

“Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.” Well, I can’t resist the kerfuffle around what’s going on with Princess Catherine. Yesterday she posted a photo of herself with her family that turned out to have been edited, and today she apologized for “any confusion” it might have caused. (Shared presumably in part to dispel rumors about her health and whereabouts, the photo “fans [those rumors] instead,” per the NY Times.)

Last week, Nieman Lab ran a story on how unusual the Palace’s response to gossip surrounding the situation has been. And if you really want to get into the weeds, Nieman Lab’s editor-in-chief Laura Hazard Owen also just linked to a three-minute TikTok video proposing that the original Instagram photo was actually taken last November.

See also Hilary Mantel’s 2013 essay in the London Review of Books: “I wanted to apologise. I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at.”

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I love when my friend Matt Haughey does these nerdy product recommendation posts about the stuff he’s super into. This one is about cycling gear: 3-D printed bike seats and cycling apparel that won’t break the bank.

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The artist Laurie Anderson built a AI chatbot of her late husband Lou Reed. “I’m totally 100%, sadly addicted to this. I still am, after all this time.”

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At the Intersection of Eggs and Omelet

a fake Google Maps screenshot showing an 'eggs' road being scrambled up into an interchange and coming out the other side as an 'omelet' road

Always a good day to highlight the creative work of designer/illustrator Christoph Niemann: a collection of map-based work, including a cheeky metaphorical recipe for an omelet. That intersection isn’t actually that outlandish: see A Bonkers Highway Interchange and Crazy Whirlpool Traffic Interchange in Dubai.

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Real book designer Catherine Casalino designed the real covers for the fake books in American Fiction. Michael Bierut says, “If these covers aren’t convincing, the whole movie falls apart.”

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25 Oscar snubs and unjust losses, including Do The Right Thing losing to Driving Miss Daisy, Crash beating Brokeback Mountain, and 2001 losing Best Picture to Oliver! ((Um, what is Hitchcock doing with his hand??))

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Wes Anderson has finally won an Oscar. Not Best Director though… Best Live Action Short for his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” (which was great).

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Just a short note of appreciation of the opening credits to Halt and Catch Fire (dir: Patrick Clair, music: Trentemøller). Definitely a member of the Unskippable Intros Hall of Fame.

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This is mesmerizing and cool and even soothing: a “vanishing clock” that’s made using a brush dipped in water, special “magic cloth” calligraphy paper that’s used for practicing, and a 3D printer.

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A video review of some of the typefaces on signs around Torontothere are five of these so far. Love how these are done — a neat little production technique.

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I saw this quote the other day and haven’t stopped thinking about it since: “Dystopian fiction is when you take things that happen in real life to marginalized populations and apply them to people with privilege.”

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Today I learned that you can make wine from Mountain Dew. Seeing the Mt Dew label on a wine bottle is breaking my brain a little. “Like most fine wines, these will be sealed with corks and labeled appropriately.”

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A graph with data stretching back to 812 AD of the dates of peak cherry tree blossom in Kyoto, Japan. The Earth’s warming trend is unmistakable — spring has been arriving sooner and sooner since ~1840 and the drop since the ’30s is, ooof.

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John Singer Sargent Portraits

portrait of two women by John Singer Sargent

If a genie granted me the ability to bring one artist back from the dead to create a portrait of myself or a loved one, without thinking too hard about what it might mean for the artist (“you brought me back for what?!”), I’d pick John Singer Sargent. I’m curious about which artists come to mind for others, if anyone wants to chime in.

Above is “Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer,” from 1901, part of the Wertheimer Portraits. I love their hands in this image.

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Illustrated Recommendation: The BityBean Backpack Kid Carrier

A friend texted this morning to ask if I had any recommendations for toddler hiking backpacks (for carrying the toddler in), and I was pleased to offer a concrete answer: the BityBean Baby Carrier. I bought one on a recommendation from parenting writer and economist Emily Oster, and it’s been one of the best kid purchases I’ve made. I carried my toddler in it every day until I got too pregnant with our second child, but I’m psyched to bring it back this year. It’s super minimal and easy to put on, with a weight limit of 40 pounds. There’s a slight learning curve to put the child in unassisted, but we got pretty good at it after a while. Way more fun than wearing the baby on the front! (And it looks like they also sell it at Walmart.)

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Musical Interlude: Tracy Chapman, “Behind the Wall”

A couple weeks ago, music writer Hank Shteamer tweeted a link to Tracy Chapman’s 1988 song “Behind the Wall,” from her self-titled debut album, writing:

“Fast Car,” yes, for all eternity, but can we make some room for “Behind the Wall”? Made a huge impression back then and I’ve still never heard anything else like it. 110 seconds of unaccompanied voice. Spellbinding.

I hadn’t heard it in a while and was grateful for the reminder.

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Very moving article about Trikafta, the “miracle” cystic fibrosis drug, and some of the lives it’s affecting.

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To celebrate its 20th birthday, n+1 un-paywalled its 20 most popular stories. Interesting to see what those are!

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Diary Comics, Nov. 29

It’s time for another Thursday Afternoon With Edith! I’m still sharing these journal comics. Here’s one from the day I started guest-editing here, back in the fall.

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Lol. In another 6 months, the only thing that will be displayed is the view count and you’ll have to tap through to see the tweet and who posted it. So much cleaner that way!

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Cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit Sung in Classical Latin

This is so highbrow that it’s looped back around to being lowbrow: a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit sung in classical Latin.

Sine lúce, angor minus
Oblectáte, nunc híc sumus
Mé sentió aeger, stultus
Oblectáte, nunc híc sumus
Barbarus, albínus, culex et, mea libídó
Hei! Hae, ha ha ha ha!

See also Bardcore: Medieval-Style Covers of Pop Songs. (via open culture)

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Ian Bogost on the puzzle success of the NY Times. “It has brought back a gentler philosophy of game design: that great joy can come from solving little problems on the regular.”

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How the Great Green Wall Is Holding Back the Sahara Desert

The Great Green Wall being built in Africa to halt the southern progress of the Sahara Desert is a favorite public works project of mine — it’s massive, ambitious, long-term, important, and if it works, the effect will repay the cost many times over. This video takes a quick look at some of the work being done on the wall in Senegal.

See also The Circular, Drought-Resistant Gardens of Senegal.

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How real do jobs on TV seem? Opinions from an actual priest about Fleabag’s hot priest (“I liked that he cussed and was funny”), thoughts from a restaurateur on The Bear, and a doctor weighs in on Scrubs.

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It’s that time of year again: the Tournament of Books is underway. In the style of March Madness, ToB is a “month-long battle royale among the year’s best novels”. I helped judge this once…it was hella fun.

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Beer Me, Obi-Wan!

When the Star Wars films aired in Chile, instead of cutting away from the movie for commercial breaks, the TV station “seamlessly” inserted ads for Cerveza Cristal beer. We’re talking Obi-Wan opening a chest to find a lightsaber for Luke and instead it reveals a ice-chest full of beer. Or the Emperor Force-reaching for a lightsaber and a can of beer flies into his hand. And of course the whole thing has turned into a meme.

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Beowulf, translated into Gen Z English. “A smol bean to start with, he would glow up hard later on / As his powers got fire af and his rizz went viral. Legend.” I think this is easier to read in the original Old English…

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100 Years Ago in Photos: 1924

Alan Taylor is an under-appreciated internet curator. He’s been overseeing the photographic vibe over at The Atlantic’s In Focus for what seems like forever, and the quality is as high as ever. His latest post is 100 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1924.

a man being collected by a cow catcher on the front of a car in 1924

Children listen to a battery-powered radio receiver that is set on a table in a swimming pool in Washington, D.C., in July of 1924.

The caption of that first photo reads:

Original caption from December 17, 1924: “Picks him up at 25 miles an hour! If the modern auto or truck hits you don’t worry. Equipped with this device you are simply given a free ride. This man even came from behind another car, was struck but not even scratched. The demonstration was given recently in Washington, D.C.”

Don’t worry! A free ride! What an age.

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A review of basic income experiments around the US. “Supporters say it works because people can spend the money on whatever they need most.” (I got a little heated in a recent argument w/ someone who was arguing “you just can’t give people money”. Yes, you just can!)

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Wooooo! XOXO is coming back for one last conference. I will see you there! *toggle* *toggle* *toggle*

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Membership Pricing

Oh no, a dreaded dose of site news — but I’ll make this quick. One of the changes I quietly made to the site with the recent redesign is enabling members to set their own price on memberships. It’s been 7 and a half years since the membership program launched, and I’ve thought about raising prices over the years just to keep pace with inflation, but it never seemed like the right way to go.

So I’ve put that capability in your hands. Now you can voluntarily raise prices if you’d like — here’s how it works. The price of each membership tier is now a base price that can be added on to (e.g. for the Patron tier, $30 is the minimum but you can increase that to $35 or even $130 if you’d like). For current members, your chosen new price will go into effect on your next renewal date.

If that’s something you’d be interested in doing and are currently a member, you can go to the subscriptions view and click on “change price”. The whole thing takes about 15 seconds (perhaps a bit longer if you need to log in). For new members, you can simply choose the price you want when you enter your payment information during the signup process.

Ok, that wasn’t too bad. Now back to our regularly scheduled links from the internet. 💞

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Is it just me, or has “unhinged” reached peak saturation? It feels like I see it at least three times a day now. What about “out to lunch”?

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A “hypervaccinated” man voluntarily received 217 Covid vaccine shots in a 29-month period. He’s shown no signs of ever having Covid and has suffered no side effects. “The researchers found that his immune system was fully functional.”

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The Most Beautiful Shots in Movie History

From a YouTube channel called The Solomon Society, a pair of videos that some of the most beautiful shots in the history of film. When Denis Villeneuve emphasizes the important of image in film, these are the kinds of shots that he’s talking about.

Oh and in case you want to waste the rest of your day watching beautiful scenes from movies (no judgment here if you did): The Most Beautiful Shots in Film of the 21st Century, The Best Movie Shots of All Time, Some Amazing Shots from the Last Decade of Movies, The Most Beautiful Shots in Animation History, and The Most Beautiful Black and White Shots in Movie History. (via open culture)

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The FDA just approved the first over-the-counter continuous glucose monitor. I was glad to be able to use a friend’s CGM last year when it seemed like I might have gestational diabetes, and I wonder if this will become common for pregnant people.

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Sphere Refuses To Release U2 Despite Band Fulfilling Terms Of Residency. “Yes, you have played your 40 shows, but the laws of man do not apply to the Sphere.”

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What Do the Different Emoji Hearts Mean?


The other day while chatting on Discord, I paused to pick out an emoji to apply to a friend’s comment. I wanted to use a heart to show that I liked the comment, but I’d already used the red heart and wanted to add a little more flair. Usually I just pick a pink one arbitrarily, but in that moment, I was like, WTF do all these little hearts actually mean? Do they have official meanings? Am I using them wrong?

It’s a common question, and the answer seems to essentially be: “No, there are no official meanings,” although according to Emojipedia the hearts do at least have official names: growing heart, beating heart, and revolving hearts (to choose the three that were least obvious to me).


The revolving hearts were the most confusing, in my opinion. Why are they revolving? According to The Pioneer Woman, they mean “falling in love, or deep affection.” That didn’t seem right, so I asked a few friends.

  • “Sending love?” my husband said. “I don’t know.”
  • “Love,” a friend said. “But specifically between you and the person you’re sending it to. It’s like a step up from ❤️.”
  • Another friend said something similar: “Like ❤️,” she wrote, “but 10% more girlie and romantic.”
  • I asked Jason. “I would say there’s a strong feeling of being intertwined,” he said. “Like, I wouldn’t send that to a friend. I don’t think I have ever received that particular emoji from anyone.”
  • “Ok, I’ve never used that particular one,” another friend echoed, “but I always use the two hearts 💕 instead of a red heart, because I think it’s cuter. I have no idea what 💞 means.”

Emojipedia leaves it open-ended in its 💞 emoji-descriptor: “Hearts revolving around one or more other hearts.” (Around even more hearts?) In a 2020 post, Emojipedia also acknowledged that “intrinsically each heart has no more coded meaning than what meets the eye.”

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A woman documented her effort to become the first person to complete a marathon in a Costco store. She refueled periodically with free samples and a signature Costco hot dog.

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What music different birds would listen to. All right, the gull one got me.

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Visual Effects Oscar Nominees Go In-Depth On Their Work

I haven’t watched this yet, but it’s definitely in my queue: a recording of a livestreamed panel of all the visual effects nominees from this year’s Oscars, talking about their work on those films. I got this from Todd Vaziri, a visual effects artist at ILM, who says:

If you’re at all interested in visual effects, you gotta watch this Academy presentation that took place last weekend. It goes in-depth with all five nominees, and shows before/after material that hasn’t been seen publicly.

The meat of the program begins at around 24 minutes when they start showing visual effects reels from the nominated films (The Creator, Godzilla Minus One, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Napoleon), followed by a discussion with the members of the effects teams.

The Academy has several other nominee programs available on YouTube (including animated feature films & documentary feature films) and more to come in the next few days (including best picture and international feature films). What a trove of material for film lovers.

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The first over-the-counter birth control pill will be available in U.S. stores later this month, allowing American women and teens to purchase contraceptive medication as easily as they buy aspirin.”

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Kate Wagner (from McMansion Hell) was sent to an F1 race by Road & Track and the resulting article was published and then, poof, vanished. (Archived here!) “If you wanted to turn someone into a socialist you could [show them] the paddock of a Formula 1 race.”

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Based on your feedback & bug reports, I’ve made some changes to the new site design, including a less-dark dark mode and a light/dark mode toggle (just below the right sidebar menu). More to come!

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Extraordinarily Effective Trompe l’Oeil Paintings of Paper Craft

two deer in a snowy forest

two nordic skiers treking through the forest

Bill Braun is a “trompe l’oeil painter” who creates paintings that look like paper craft, complete with visible paper folds, shadows, and even the “staples” holding the “paper” to the backing. What an incredible illusion. And I always enjoy an artist who is reticent to give an artist statement or explain their work:

I don’t like to give an artist statement because it undoes the premise of my work, trompe l’oeil painting. Literally from the French, trompe l’oeil means “trick the eye”. An artist’s statement might undo the fundamental aim of convincing the viewer, at least for a moment, that what he sees are actual objects and not a painting. The basic rules of trompe l’oeil painting are that objects are rendered in real scale, and totally within a shallow painted space. This type of painting has always been a minor branch of realist painting, but with a very long history. The Athenian painters Xeuxis and Parrhasios in 5th century B.C. (as told by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History) and Roman murals of the 2nd century A.D., 16th century Dutch vanitas painting and the 19th century Philadelphia School painters, Harnett, Peto and Haberle, are examples. Today there are still trompe l’oeil painters around; I am happy to be one of them.

(via tohippo)

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Wow, another amazing interactive explainer from Bartosz Ciechanowski; this one is about airfoils and how airplanes fly.

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Ronan Farrow profiles RuPaul for the New Yorker. “He’s seen the way people connect to the show. That’s the way for him to spread the rebuttal to what’s happening in the world. His way to ward off the enemy.”

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The Paradox of an Infinite Universe

Is the universe finite or infinite? If finite, what shape is it and how does that shape influence its overall size and properties? If it’s infinite, what meaning of “expanding” can be applied to it? I don’t know if this video provides any satisfying answers, but even being able to ponder these questions is thrilling.

Infinity gets much weirder though. As you travel with your spaceship in a straight line, you find new galaxies, stars and planets, new wonders, new weird stuff, probably new aliens and new lifeforms stranger than you could ever imagine. But after a long time, you might find the most special thing in the universe: Yourself. An exact copy of you watching this video right now.

How can that be? Well, everything in existence is made of a finite amount of different particles. And a finite number of different particles can only be combined in a finite number of ways. That number may be so large that it feels like infinity to our brains — but it is not really. If you have finite options to build things, but infinite space that is full of things in all directions forever, then it makes sense that by pure chance, there will likely be repetition.

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How the Dutch Solved Street Design

Adam Yates travelled to Amsterdam to see how the Dutch have transformed the city and made it safer for people to get where they’re going more quickly. The phrase that grabbed me is:

Pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles can all coexist without conflict, but only if they’re all going the same slow speed. This advances the principles of shared streets.

This is related to the Downs-Thomson paradox:

In simple terms, the Downs-Thomson paradox claims that traffic will increase without limit until the option of public transport (or any other form of transport) becomes faster than the equivalent trip by car. It draws the conclusion that people do not care whether they drive, walk, bike, or take the bus to any location — they just want to get from A to B in the fastest and most convenient way possible.

(via @marcprecipice)

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A Mastodon client for the Apple II. Yes, you read that right. It supports 2-factor auth!

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“France on Monday enshrined the right to abortion in its constitution, a world first welcomed by women’s rights groups as historic.” The vote was 780 votes for and 72 against.

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On the Reverse

some stickers and tape on the back of an old painting

some faint overlapping drawings on the back of an old painting

a view of a show at the Prado museum called 'On the Reverse'

Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado recently put on an exhibition called On the Reverse that featured the backs of notable works of art.

This exhibition goes beyond the simple action of turning paintings around. Rather, the Museo del Prado is undertaking a complete reassessment of the backs of works in its collections while also identifying relevant examples in other major museums which reveal how appreciation of works of art is enhanced when we do more than just look at the front. The exhibition addresses issues that have never previously been brought together and in which there is also space for imaginative interpretations: the emergence of the reverse as a pictorial motif in two sub-genres: the self-portrait of the artist behind the canvas and the depiction of the picture back in trompe l’oeil; the poetic reading of the stretcher as a cross; two-sided paintings; the back as a field for experimentation and subjective expression; aesthetic appreciation of the material nature of the works, and the issue of the viewer seen from behind, which makes us aware of the particular spatial relationships that are generated by human interaction with art.

I once went with an artist friend to an art museum where they hung some of the paintings so you could see both sides of them at once, and she was often more interested in seeing the backs, where you could maybe see who owned the painting previously, etc.

Sadly, the show ended on March 3, but Hyperallergic has a good writeup.

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New puzzle game from the NY Times: Strands. It’s a theme-based word search. I like the wrinkle that finding non-theme words earns you hints.

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An amazing analysis of “title drops” (when a movie character says the name of a movie in the movie.) “There’s an average of 10.3 title drops per movie that title drops. If they do it, they really go for it.” (See: Barbie.)

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This essay on arranged marriage makes me wonder who my parents might have chosen for me & how that might’ve worked out.

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How Jane Austen Changed Fiction Forever

Right from the start of her first book, Sense and Sensibility, Austen used an innovative narration technique called free indirect speech:

To understand why Austen’s narration is so distinct, the method and style of narration in which she wrote must be understood. Austen wrote in a little-known and not-often-used method of third-person narration called free indirect speech. Free Indirect Speech (FIS) is a distinct kind of third-person narration which seamlessly slips in and out of a character’s consciousness while still being presented by the third-person narrator.

In the video above, Evan Puschak explains, with examples, what free indirect speech is and why it was so revolutionary & influential when wielded by Austen.

Also, I didn’t know that Twain was such an Austen hater:

She also sparked dislike in such an extreme that Mark Twain once famously wrote that, when reading Pride & Prejudice, he wanted to dig up Austen and beat her with her own shin bone.

Team Austen over here.

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A remembrance of legendary film scholar David Bordwell, who died recently at the age of 76. “Bordwell proved that the best way to be a cinephile is to be open to everything.” His blog (co-authored w/ his wife Kristin Thompson) was excellent.

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Denisovan humans were first discovered in 2010 but DNA gathered since then “offers a picture of remarkable humans”, showing that “from a behavioral perspective, they were much more like modern humans”.

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The Supreme Court Must Be Stopped. “I think of the Supreme Court the way Batman thinks of Superman: an extremely powerful being who is untethered from the laws of physics and therefore must always be considered a threat to free society.”

Vogue: Fashion icon Iris Apfel has died at the age of 102. “I’m a total workaholic, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a cover girl in my nineties.”

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My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Two

book cover for My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book Two by Emil Ferris

Publishers Weekly gave Emil Ferris’s eagerly anticipated graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Book Two a starred review, calling it “a triumph.” Yay! The book is due out May 28, but there’s a (wonderful) excerpt in the New Yorker, where the whole thing is called “well worth the wait.”

I’ll probably reread Book One to prepare, in case anyone wants to join me. I loved this book. (I also drew about it in my newsletter once!)

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What movies have you most enjoyed in the past year? Pretentious Atomic Amadeus? Gently Insightful Immigration Throuple? Extreme Home Makeover: Fascism? Bright-Pink Masterpiece?

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Do The Work: A guide to understanding power and creating change is a forthcoming book from Roxane Gay & Megan Pillow. “Challenge your biases and broaden your understanding of power and how we wield it with this essential guide.”

Reply · 1 Redesigns With 2024 Vibes

a screenshot of the new redesign for 2024

Well. Finally. I’m unbelievably pleased, relieved, and exhausted to launch the long-awaited (by me) redesign of today. Let’s dive right into what has changed and why.

{ Important: If the “logo” on the left/top is not circles and is squares/diamonds instead, you can update your browser to the latest version to see it how I intended. (Will be looking for a fix for this…) }

(Justified and) Ancient. The last time I redesigned the site, a guy named Barack Obama was still President. Since then, I’ve launched the membership program, integrated the Quick Links more fully into the mix, (more recently) opened comments for members, and tweaked about a million different things about how the site works and looks. But it was overdue for a full overhaul to better accommodate all of those incremental changes and, more importantly, to provide a solid design platform for where the site is headed. Also, I was just getting tired of the old design.

Back to the Future. In my post introducing the new comments system, I wrote about the potential for smaller sites like mine to connect people and ideas in a different way:

The timing feels right. Twitter has imploded and social sites/services like Threads, Bluesky, and Mastodon are jockeying to replace it (for various definitions of “replace”). People are re-thinking what they want out of social media on the internet and I believe there’s an opportunity for sites like to provide a different and perhaps even better experience for sharing and discussing information. Shit, maybe I’m wrong but it’s definitely worth a try.

Before Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat came along and centralized social activity & output on the web, blogs (along with online diaries, message boards, and online forums) were social media. Those sites borrowed heavily from blogging — in the early years, there wasn’t much that those sites added in terms of features that blogs hadn’t done first. With the comments and now this redesign, I’m borrowing some shit back from the behemoths.

A social media design language has evolved, intelligible to anyone who’s used Twitter or Facebook in the past decade. Literally billions of people can draw what a social media post looks like on a napkin, show it to someone else from the other side of the world, and they’d say, “oh, that’s a post”. In thinking about how I wanted to look and, more importantly, feel going forward, I wanted more social media energy than blog energy — one could also say “more old school blog energy than contemporary blog energy”. Blogs now either look like Substack/Medium or Snow Fall and I didn’t want to pattern after either of those things. I don’t want to write articles — I want to blog.

Practically speaking, “social media energy” means the design is more compact, the type is smaller,1 the addition of preview cards for Quick Links, and the reply/share/???? buttons at the bottom of each post. But, it also still looks like a personal (old school) blog rather than a full-blown Twitter clone (I hope). I think this emphasis will become clearer as time goes on.

So What’s Different? I mean, you can probably tell for yourself what’s changed, but I’ll direct your eye to a few things. 1. Member login + easy account access for members on the top of every page. has always been very much my site…but now it’s just a little bit more our site. 2. No more top bar (on desktop), so the content starts much higher on the page. 3. Most Quick Links have a preview card (also called an unfurl) that shows the title, a short description, and often an image from the link in question — the same as you’d get if someone sent you a link via text or on WhatsApp. 4. We’ve bid a fond farewell to the Whitney typeface and welcomed Neue Haas Unica into the fold. 5. IMO, the design is cleaner but also more information dense, reflecting the type of blogging I’d like to do more of. 6. Dark mode! There’s no toggle but it’ll follow your OS settings.

Billions and Billions. has (famously?) never had a logo. I’ve never wanted one thing to represent the site — in part because the site itself is all over the place and also because it’s fun to switch things up every once in awhile. Instead, I’ve always gone for a distinctive color or gradient that lets readers know where they are. This time, I’ve opted for a series of circles — a friend calls them “the planets” — but with a twist. There are 32 images, each with 4 different hues and 8 different rotations, that can slot into the 4 available spaces…and no repeats. By my calculations (corrections welcome!), there are over 900 billion different permutations that can be generated, making it extremely unlikely that you’ll ever see the same exact combo twice. Even if, like last time, this design lasts for almost eight years.

Gimme the Goods. The tiny collection of t-shirts has its own page on the site now. The Hypertext Tee based on the previous design will be offered only for another few weeks and then probably be retired forever. To be replaced with…TBD. 😉

Winnowing Down. Last time I redesigned, I went back and modified the template of every page on the site, even stuff from the late 90s and early 00s that no one actually remembers. This time around, I’m focusing only on the core site: blog posts from 1998-present, tag pages, membership, and the few pages you can get to from the right sidebar. The rest of the site, mostly pages deep in the archive that see very little (if any) traffic, are going to stick with the old design, effectively archived, frozen in digital amber. We wish those old pages well in their retirement.

So yeah, that’s kind of it for now. There is so much left to do though! The comments need some lovin’, some social media things need tightening up, the about page could use some tuning, the newsletter needs a visual refresh, a few other small things need doing — and then it’s on to the next project (which I haven’t actually decided on, but there are several options).

I’m happy to hear what you think in the comments, on social media, or via email — feedback, critique, and bug reports are welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have not taken a full day off from the site since late December (including weekends), so I’m going to go collapse into a little puddle and sleep for about a week.

  1. If you’d like the text bigger, you can adjust the size using your browser’s zoom controls (cmd + & cmd -). This is what I do for viewing Instagram on my desktop web browser — 150% is the way to go…the photos are teensy otherwise. (I adjust Daring Fireball and Threads too.) The browser even remembers your settings for a site between visits…you only have to adjust it once.
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Archives · February 2024