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The Brain Eating Amoeba, the Most Overhyped Monster on Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2022

In retrospect, maybe today wasn’t such a good day to watch a video about how incredibly scary brain-eating amoebas are. But, as you might guess from the title, we don’t actually need to worry too much about them.

While the Naegleria fowleri is clearly extremely deadly and the infection truly horrible, there have only been a few hundred cases in the last few decades. You are way more likely to drown in a pool than to get infected.

A reminder that in our current media environment, calibrating personal risk can be challenging.

The Invention of Coca-Cola, Miracle Brain Tonic

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2022

Spurred by a near death experience in the Civil War (after sustaining a saber wound to the chest) and looking for a way to manage the resultant addiction to morphine, pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton invented the drink that would become the globally famous and lucrative fizzy drink, Coca-Cola. I’d heard bits and pieces of this story over the year — it’s part of America’s consumerist mythology and therefore hard to ignore completely — but had never really had the whole thing explained to me. (via open culture)

How Postwar Italy Created The Paparazzi

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2022

From film fan Benito Mussolini and the postwar explosion of Italian filmmaking to a financial rule with big effects and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, Evan Puschak tells the story of how the paparazzi was created.

The history of celebrity paparazzi disrupted the highly manicured image movie stars had enjoyed since the golden age of Hollywood. They brought these gods of our culture down to the messy earth. Interestingly though, this didn’t dampen our obsession with fame, as you might expect. No, it turbo charged it. Something about seeing our celebrities brought low — catching a glimpse of their flaws and pains — it didn’t push the famous off these weird pedestals we put them on. It only intensified our fixation with them.

Natasha Lyonne Revisits Her Breakout Characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2022

Today I discovered that all I want to do is listen to Natasha Lyonne talk about her experiences in showbiz. But instead I got a little more than 7 minutes and that’s just fine:

I’m a few episodes into the second season of Russian Doll right now and it’s so good.

Turn Every Page: A Documentary on Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2022

This looks interesting: a feature-length documentary on the life and work of Robert Caro and his longtime editor Robert Gottlieb, directed by Gottlieb’s daughter Lizzie Gottlieb.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer Robert Caro and legendary editor Robert Gottlieb have been working - and fighting - together for 50 years. At 86, Caro is battling time to finish work on his long-promised fifth and final volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Now 90, Gottlieb continues to edit, write and pursue his myriad and unexpected passions, attempting to “love and be silent” until he and Caro can begin to edit Caro’s final masterwork.

Directed by Gottlieb’s daughter Lizzie Gottlieb, Turn Every Page is an intimate look into artistry, mortality, antagonism, and friendship. Gottlieb chronicles the behind-the-scenes drama of the making of Caro’s The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson volumes. The film is a deep-dive into the power dynamics of creative collaboration, the peculiarities and work habits of two ferocious intellects, and the culmination of a journey that has consumed both of their lives.

No trailer and no release date that I can find, but I will absolutely see this whenever it comes out. See also the New-York Historical Society’s ongoing exhibition, “Turn Every Page”: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive.

Logos You Can See From Space

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2022

satellite image of a solar array in the shape of Mickey Mouse

satellite image of SpaceX headquarters with an X on the roof

satellite image of a Target store with a Target logo on the roof

satellite image of the BMW Museum with a BMW logo on the roof

satellite image of a huge Coca-Cola logo in the Chilean desert

Elissaveta M. Brandon recently wrote about the uptick in companies placing huge logos, often drawn in solar panels, so that they can be seen in satellite imagery. I collected images of a few examples of logos that are viewable from space above: a solar array at Walt Disney World, an X on the roof of the SpaceX HQ, a Target logo on top of a Target store, the BMW Museum, and a huge Coca-Cola logo that’s been in the Chilean desert since 1986 (and is therefore difficult to see on satellite imagery). (via clive thompson)

How an Architect Redesigns NYC Streets

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2022

In this video, using before-and-after satellite imagery, Claire Weisz of WXY, an architecture and urban design firm, explains how her company helped redesign three of NYC’s unruliest intersections: Astor Place, Cooper Union, and Albee Square. Unsurprisingly, the redesigns all involved taking space away from cars and giving it to larger sidewalks and more green space, to benefit people other than drivers.

The Discomfort of Self-Immolation

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2022

In the wake of climate activist Wynn Bruce setting himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court on Earth Day to protest political inaction on climate change, Jay Caspian Kang writes about the difficulty of figuring out how to think about self-immolation.

Self-immolation forces the witnesses, whether in person or through the news, to confront an intensity of conviction that goes well beyond what they may think is possible. In this way, self-immolators like Thich Quang Durc become almost inhuman, even holy. At the same time, the act establishes an entirely personal connection because the real question at hand isn’t really, “Why did he do that?” Rather, the self-immolator is asking you — with all the intimidation and self-righteousness a person can muster — “Why don’t you care even half as much as I do?”

Kevin Kelly: 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2022

On the occasion of his 70th birthday (happy birthday!), Kevin Kelly shares 103 bits of wisdom he wished he had known when he was younger. Here are a few of my favorites:

Cultivate 12 people who love you, because they are worth more than 12 million people who like you.

Anything you say before the word “but” does not count.

When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

Efficiency is highly overrated; Goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.

If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game.

The best way to get a correct answer on the internet is to post an obviously wrong answer and wait for someone to correct you.

Don’t wait for the storm to pass; dance in the rain.

We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade. Miraculous things can be accomplished if you give it ten years. A long game will compound small gains to overcome even big mistakes.

A wise man said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?” At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

To rapidly reveal the true character of a person you just met, move them onto an abysmally slow internet connection. Observe.

Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?” That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those.

If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.

Copying others is a good way to start. Copying yourself is a disappointing way to end.

The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.

Ok that got out of hand…there’s a lot of good stuff on that list! I am definitely in receiving mode these days for wisdom.

How We Do Money in America Is Insane

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

I enjoyed this roast of how we handle money in America by The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng.

He goes after income & sales taxes:

America decided filing taxes should be as quick and painless as getting a root canal at the DMV. You got your 1099s, your Form 1040, your Schedule C, your R2-D2, your Blink-182. You spend days trying to figure out what you owe the government and then the government tells you if are you right because apparently they knew the whole frigging time. It is like the world’s most pointless game show.

Tipping:

Everywhere else, a tip is a show of appreciation, not a GoFundMe for someone who doesn’t earn a living wage. A waiter’s ability to pay rent shouldn’t be dependent on how generous Becky feels after three martinis.

And our currency:

In other countries, every denomination is a different size because it makes it easier to tell them apart, especially if you are blind. But apparently blind people don’t need to use money in America ‘cause look at this shit. Same exact size, all of it. You gotta look over each individual bill to figure out which slaveowner to hand over.

(thx, meg)

Mars Helicopter Spots Perseverance Rover’s Landing Debris

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

wreckage from the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars

wreckage from the landing of NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars

On the 26th flight of Ingenuity, NASA’s helicopter on Mars, it spotted and photographed the wreckage of the Perseverance rover’s landing gear, protective shell, and parachute. From a NY Times article on the photos:

“There’s definitely a sci-fi element to it,” Ian Clark, an engineer who worked on Perseverance’s parachute system, said of photographs released on Wednesday. “It exudes otherworldly, doesn’t it?”

Part of the reason NASA had Ingenuity go take a look is to see how all of that equipment held up during the landing process. Data from the photos will inform future missions.

“Perseverance had the best-documented Mars landing in history, with cameras showing everything from parachute inflation to touchdown,” said JPL’s Ian Clark, former Perseverance systems engineer and now Mars Sample Return ascent phase lead. “But Ingenuity’s images offer a different vantage point. If they either reinforce that our systems worked as we think they worked or provide even one dataset of engineering information we can use for Mars Sample Return planning, it will be amazing. And if not, the pictures are still phenomenal and inspiring.”

In the images of the upright backshell and the debris field that resulted from it impacting the surface at about 78 mph (126 kph), the backshell’s protective coating appears to have remained intact during Mars atmospheric entry. Many of the 80 high-strength suspension lines connecting the backshell to the parachute are visible and also appear intact. Spread out and covered in dust, only about a third of the orange-and-white parachute — at 70.5 feet (21.5 meters) wide, it was the biggest ever deployed on Mars — can be seen, but the canopy shows no signs of damage from the supersonic airflow during inflation. Several weeks of analysis will be needed for a more final verdict.

It is really remarkable, the images we’re seeing from Mars, taken by a robotic helicopter.

Clever Cutout Portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2022

Rudy Willingham holds up paper cutouts of people (and Muppets!) against carefully chosen backgrounds and photographs the results, resulting in these witty portraits.

cutout portrait of Big Bird

cutout portrait of Beyonce

cutout portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

cutout portrait of Prince

You can find more of Willingham’s work across his various social media platforms: website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok.

Octopuses, Seahorses, and the Amazing Biodiversity of the Ocean

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2022

a colorful drawing of several different kinds of octopuses

a colorful drawing of several different kinds of seahorse

Zoe Keller’s Ocean Biodiversity Print Series celebrates the diversity of the animals that live in the sea. Each of the four prints concerns a different sea creature or region of the ocean: the octopus, the jellyfish, the seahorse, and the deep sea. (via dense discovery)

A History of Birth Control

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2022

From Lindsay Holiday, an engaging history of birth control, covering the ineffective and often dangerous methods used in the ancient world, the rhythm method, proto-condoms, actual condoms, Lysol (!!), and of course one of the modern world’s most impactful inventions, the hormonal birth control pill.

Through most of history pregnancy and childbirth were a very dangerous undertaking for women. In medieval Europe 1 in 3 women died in their child-bearing years and 1 in 4 children did not live to see their first birthday. Even when both mother and child survived the ordeal of birth women were not always able to provide for a child. And in most cultures pregnancy outside of wedlock was considered a great sin and often resulted in the shunning of the woman and child while the man often got away scot-free. It is no surprise therefore that women throughout history have been trying a wide variety of methods to prevent conception.

(via open culture)

Earth Clock

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2022

Earth Clock is a digital clock where the digits are satellite photos of geographic and architectural features that look like numbers, complete with a colon in the middle. A few screenshots from this morning…you get the idea:

digital clock with satellite images as digits

digital clock with satellite images as digits

digital clock with satellite images as digits

This sort of thing always reminds me of Christian Marclay’s The Clock. (via @njvack)