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Max Richter’s Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

This is lovely: composer Max Richter, accompanied by a string quintet, plays a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR.

Half way through this performance of Max Richter’s achingly beautiful On The Nature Of Daylight, I looked around our NPR Music office and saw trembling chins and tearful eyes. Rarely have I seen so many Tiny Desk audience members moved in this way. There’s something about Max Richter’s music that triggers deep emotions.

Richter is one of my favorite composers, so this was really fun to watch.

Was Leonardo DiCaprio Actually a Star Before Titanic? What an odd question. The answer is obviously yes – and Titanic made him go supernova.

McDonald's is selling scented candles that smell like their food: "Sesame Seed Bun", "Cheese", and "100% Fresh Beef" ("This smells like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.").

Four Counter-Narratives for Graphic Design History

Being a Hollywood assistant sounds terrible. "I don’t understand how a man can treat a person who has access to all of his bank accounts, emails, and Viagra prescriptions so poorly."

Oh no they're making a third season of Westworld? Spoiler alert: this show isn't going anywhere and we're going to be disappointed in the end.

Surprisingly frank interview with Ben Affleck about his divorce and alcoholism. "Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing."

We worry about the effect of deepfake videos on politics & journalism, but 96% of the total deepfake videos online involve the sexual exploitation & abuse of women (e.g. "face-swap" videos & photos in which clothes are digitally removed).

Larry Tesler, inventor of cut & paste, passed away this week at the age of 74.

Corporate Buzzwords Are How Workers Pretend to Be Adults

Using a "nanocarpentry" technique borrowed from material science, tiny grains of Moon dust can be extensively analyzed to "find things you wouldn't find otherwise and only use up a small bit of the sample".

There's no quick links archive yet. If you'd like to see 'em all, follow @kottke on Twitter.

I’d Like to Deprive the World of Water (to Make More Coca-Cola)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

For her video “The Real Thing”, filmmaker Julianna Villarosa used footage of Coca-Cola’s famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial ruined by pouring Coke on VHS and film copies to draw attention to the company’s water privatization practices in Chiapas, Mexico, where there’s a water shortage on. From the video:

The Chiapas Highlands, one of Mexico’s wettest regions, has a water shortage. Many drink Coca-Cola, which is bottled nearby and often easier to find than clean water. On average, residents drink more than half a gallon of soda per day. Indigenous Tzotzil use Coca-Cola in religious ceremonies and medicinal treatments. Diabetes has become the second-leading cause of death in Chiapas. The local Coca-Cola plant extracts more than 300,000 gallons of water per day.

Simple, direct, and brilliant activist art — Villarosa uses the company’s literally corrosive product to physically destroy their feel-good advertising to draw attention to the real harm this US company is doing to people & ecosystems around the world. Here’s more on the Chiapas region and the residents’ reliance on Coke:

Coca-Cola’s penetration of the market in Los Altos has also been aided by a strategy of charging less in remote rural areas where a Coke in a returnable glass bottle is often scarcely more expensive than bottled water. As in most of Mexico, clean drinking water is not generally available even to those who can count on running water in their homes, which means many turn to soft drinks for basic hydration.

The irony of this is clear in an area known for its constant downpours and abundant springs, such as the one that attracted the Coca-Cola bottling company. Local activists say the company has so overexploited the spring that the city of San Cristóbal is now facing water shortages.

The activists allege this has been possible in part because Coca-Cola has friends in high political places. Between 2000 and 2006 the country’s president was Vicente Fox, a former head of Coca-Cola Mexico.

It all adds up to a perfect storm of sugar-related health issues in Los Altos. María del Socorro Sánchez, who is in charge of nutrition at the main hospital in San Juan Chamula, says only about one in 10 of the indigenous patients with diabetes accept there is any need to cut out sugar-packed drinks. “They just don’t believe that it is bad for them,” she said.

(via the morning news)

Corn with a Pearl Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

Corn with a Pearl Earring

From artist Nanan Kang, Corn with a Pearl Earring. I have a bit of a thing for riffs on Vermeer’s masterpiece. See also Girl with a Pearl Earring and Point-and-Shoot Camera, The Girl with the Grande Iced Latte, Rihanna with a Pearl Earring, Girl with a Pearl Earring at the beach, and a Lego version of the painting. (via colossal)

A DJ Mixes Songs That Sound The Same

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

From DJ Mike 2600, a YouTube series called Songs That Sound The Same.

My hit series of DJ videos exploring pairs of songs that aren’t direct covers or rip-offs, but have similar melodies, riffs, or chord progressions and just fit together nicely.

Each video is about a minute long and features him playfully mixing two or more songs together that sound very similar. Here’s one of the early episodes, featuring Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly & the Family Stone and Misunderstanding by Genesis:

T.I.’s Whatever You Like and Zombie by The Cranberries:

Whomst among us wouldn’t go nuts if the DJ laid this down at the club — M83’s Midnight City & Rihanna’s Diamonds:

And this one made me LOL — Draggin’ the Line by Tommy James mixes really well with the Baby Back Ribs song from the Chili’s commercial:

What a great combination of creativity and craft. Watching stuff like this always makes this non-musical person want to make some music. (via @hoodinternet)

FRONTLINE - Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From PBS’s FRONTLINE comes Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos, a feature-length documentary investigation into Amazon and its founder.

Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, he has built a business that is without precedent in the history of American capitalism. His power to shape everything from the future of work to the future of commerce to the future of technology is unrivaled. As politicians and regulators around the world start to consider the global impact of Amazon — and how to rein in Bezos’ power — FRONTLINE investigates how he executed a plan to build one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world.

One of the 10 key takeaways from the film is how deliberately Amazon attacked the publishing industry:

“Amazon took over a large market share of the publishing industry very, very fast,” James Marcus, a former senior Amazon.com editor, tells FRONTLINE — a situation that he says prompted publishers to realize, “‘Oh, wait a minute, they’re our partner, but they now have the beginnings of a boot on our windpipe’.” Inside the company, the team had launched a strategy that some called “the Gazelle Project,” because they’d heard Bezos wanted them to pursue publishers the way a cheetah pursues a sickly gazelle. “Well, you don’t go after the strongest,” Randy Miller, who ran the European book team, says of the strategy. “He’s like, ‘The cheetah. The cheetah looks for the weak, looks for the sick, looks for the small.’” That way, by the time it comes to take on the publishers at the top, “the noise has gotten back to them. They’re going to know this is coming, and chances are you may be able to settle that without a full-on war.”

Here’s a trailer but the whole thing is available online, embedded above and on YouTube.

How Miles Davis Made “Kind of Blue”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

From the feature-length documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool that’s debuting on PBS’s American Masters next week, this is a short clip about how Miles’ masterpiece, Kind of Blue, came together in the studio.

Miles Davis didn’t provide sheet music for his musicians during the recording of his iconic album “Kind of Blue.” He said that “I didn’t write out the music for ‘Kind of Blue.’ But brought in sketches ‘cause I wanted a lot of spontaneity in the playing.”

Here’s the trailer and a couple of other clips from the film. (via @tedgioia)

We Interrupt This Brain Surgery to Bring You a Violin Solo…

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

This is the most metal shit ever: the doctors removing violinist Dagmar Turner’s brain tumor woke her up during the procedure to play the violin to make sure that she didn’t lose any parts of her brain vital to her playing.

After explaining concerns she had over losing the ability to play the violin, Prof Ashkan and the neurosurgical team at King’s devised a plan. Prior to Dagmar’s operation they spent two hours carefully mapping her brain to identify areas that were active when she played the violin and those responsible for controlling language and movement. They also discussed with Dagmar the idea of waking her mid-procedure so she could play. This would ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled Dagmar’s delicate hand movements specifically when playing the instrument. With her agreement, a team of surgeons, anaesthetists and therapists went on to meticulously plan the procedure.

During the operation Prof Ashkan and the team performed a craniotomy (an opening in the skull) and Dagmar was brought round from the anaesthetic. She played violin while her tumour was removed, while closely monitored by the anaesthetists and a therapist.

The Pittsburgh Parking Chair

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

In this video, Dean Bog takes an entertaining look at “Pittsburgh’s weirdest tradition”, where residents place a chair on the street in front of their house to claim a parking spot and keep others from parking in it. The maneuver is technically illegal, but:

We don’t need official signs, we don’t need to get the cops involved, we can just understand that if you’re placing a chair in a spot, you’re asking everyone to respect it as your own.

Bostonites do this during the winter with cones and sometimes chairs — the logic is: if you did all the hard work of shoveling out a spot, why should someone else get to park there?

Bog is also doing this series of videos where he reviews the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. (thx, james)

How to Make a Kurzgesagt Video (in Just 1200 Hours)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

In this video, Kurzgesagt shares their process of making their unique brand of explainer video.

They estimate it takes about 1200 hours of time for each video. I love Kurzgesagt’s videos and am happy to support them on Patreon.

A 1929 Interview with a 103-Year-Old Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

The Great Span was Alger Hiss’s term for the personal links of living humans across large periods of time. For instance, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. shook hands with both John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy, linking the Revolutionary War with the Vietnam War. This interview with 103-year-old Galusha Cole filmed in 1929 is another instance of this phenomenon:

This was part of a series of interviews with the elderly on the cusp of the Great Depression. Cole was born in 18261 during the administration of John Quincy Adams, was alive at the same time as Ludwig van Beethoven, and lived just long enough to be captured in voice and picture on film.

  1. Although this page on Find a Grave claims that Cole was actually only 92 at the time of the interview. Which would be interesting vis a vis his proclamation that he doesn’t have any vices.

The New York Public Library’s List of “125 Books We Love”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

NYPL 125 Books

To celebrate their 125th anniversary, the New York Public Library has created a list of 125 Books We Love, books published in the past 125 years “that made us fall in love with reading”. First on the list (alphabetically) is 1984, which was the first adult book I fell in love with. Other personal favorites on the list include The Warmth of Other Suns, The Devil in the White City, Cleopatra: A Life, Wolf Hall, My Brilliant Friend, and The Remains of the Day.

You can check out the entire list or read about how the books were selected. (via open culture)

The Dance by FriendsWithYou

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

FriendsWithYou Dance

The latest exhibition by art duo FriendsWithYou is currently on view at Dallas Contemporary and includes a piece called The Dance that features two fuzzy orb-ish heads that slowly bobble around the room.

An interactive and communal experience, the exhibition actively incorporates audiences: two moving orbs serve as ambassadors as they meander along in a spiritual, cleansing, and comforting ritual set to a custom soundtrack in celebration of the beauty and power of togetherness.

You can see The Dance in motion on FriendsWithYou’s Instagram here and here. Natalie Gempel wrote about what it was like to pilot one of the orbs.

Submerged in my pink bubble, I spin, wobble, and drift aimlessly. Between the darkness and the humming of the air compressor, it’s almost like being in a sensory deprivation tank. I’m brought out of my haze when Carolina Alvares-Mathies, the Contemporary’s new Deputy Director, comes to check on me. It’s been cool, but I’m ready to exit.

The zipper opens and I stumble out. I don’t remember being born, but I assume it’s a similarly jarring feeling. Everything is too bright and I’m a little queasy. Still, I reentered the real world with the information I needed: It was weird in there, but I did have fun.

(thx, jenni)

Deepfake Video of Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in Back to the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

This deepfake video of Back to the Future that features Robert Downey Jr. & Tom Holland as Doc Brown & Marty McFly is so convincing that I almost want to see an actual remake with those actors. (Almost.)

They really should have deepfaked Zendaya into the video as Lorraine for the cherry on top. Here’s an earlier effort with Holland as Marty that’s not as good.

The Swim that Kicked Off China’s Cultural Revolution

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2020

Mao Zedong Swim

In 1966, Chinese leader Mao Zedong had a PR problem. His Great Leap Forward policy had resulted in tens of millions of deaths from famine, his health was rumored to be failing, and he was afraid, following the recent de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, that his legacy was not secure. So he went for a swim.

Mao wanted to leave behind a powerful Communist legacy, like Marx and Lenin before him. And in order to do so, he needed to connect with the younger generation before he died. So after announcing his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, he swam across the Yangtze River. Mao had done the same swim 10 years earlier to prove his vitality, and he hoped it would work again.

His “Cultural Revolution” was a call to hunt down and eliminate his enemies, and reeducate China’s youth with the principles Maoism. Led by the fanatical Red Guards, the Cultural Revolution was a devastating 10-year period in Chinese history that didn’t end until Mao died in 1976.

You can read and watch more about the Cultural Revolution.