Quick Links for May 2023

According to this analysis of excess deaths by The Economist, roughly 3 million people globally per year are still dying because of Covid-19. "At current rates, it would kill more people in the next eight years than in the past three."
From journalist & author Melissa Gira Grant, a list of recommended media about American fascism.
The Santa Clara Principles outlines standards regarding transparency and accountability in content moderation for social media platforms.
"A beluga whale long believed to be a Russian spy..." Excuse me, what?!
Seeing Beyond the Beauty of a Vermeer. Teju Cole visits the unprecedented Rijksmuseum exhibition and finds the trouble in Vermeer's paintings. What a great read.
What Happened When I Stopped Drinking. "I put down the bottle and picked up everything else."
How the U.S. Almost Became a Nation of Hippo Ranchers. "In 1910, a failed House bill sought to increase the availability of low-cost meat by importing hippopotamuses that would be killed to make 'lake cow bacon.'"
You can buy a 4-inch cube of tungsten online for only $4000. Tungsten is one of the densest metals so this small cube (about the size of a pint of ice cream) weighs a whopping 41.6 pounds.
Wow, this report about the toxic work environment of Lost is tough to read. "I can only describe it as hazing. It was very much middle school and relentlessly cruel. And I've never heard that much racist commentary in one room in my career."
Great CJR feature on news cooperative Defector. "This is our little business — we just need to have these margins, pay our employees, and that's it."
Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee interviews Star Trek's William Shatner in this clip from the early 90s. Crazy crossover! Pertwee offhandedly mentions that Steven Spielberg was interested in doing a Doctor Who reboot?!
Scientists have been able to induce hibernation in mice and rats using ultrasonic pulses. If it works in humans, we may be able to trigger suspended animation for space travel or medical intervention.
The Ancient 'Wonder Material' Sucking CO2 Out of the Atmosphere. "Though public awareness is low, some scientists believe "biochar" is quietly becoming the world's first major carbon removal success story." via @david
I like the Tom Wambsgans triple play theory of how Succession is going to end. (And remember, the first episode of the series featured....a softball game.)
Finally, they've ported Tetris to a Chicken McNugget. The plastic nugget handheld is available at Chinese McDonald's restaurants for around $4.25.
The Tesla Model Y is now the best-selling car in the world, beating out the Toyota Corolla. The over-reliance on cars is still a big issue, but an EV topping the best-seller list right now is a small bit of good news re: the climate crisis.
A Day in the Life of a Woke Third-Grade Teacher, as Imagined by a Far-Right Politician. "I pull into the parking lot and say hello to the drag queen we recently hired as the school librarian."
From Slashfilm, a list of the Top 100 Movies Of All Time. More accurate to call this a list of favorite movies rather than the best ones...lots of crowd-pleasing comedies on here.
Target Removes All Towels From Stores After Soaking-Wet Lunatic Objects To Dryness. "The towels were never meant to force a bone-dry lifestyle on any sopping maniac..."
Tina Turner Brought Rock & Roll Back Home To Black Women. "Black women could be rock stars because Tina Turner said so. Black women could be country singers."
The Collectors Who Save Video-Game History from Oblivion. "The oldest video games are now about seventy years old, and their stories are disappearing."
Henry Kissinger turns 100 this week and he's still a war criminal. "Whatever his accomplishments, his legacy includes an enormous pile of corpses. This is a birthday that warrants no celebration."
Andy Warhol's early embrace of the Amiga computer for digital art creation hints at how he might have felt about generative AI tools.
Great step-by-step guide for would-be book banners: What do I do if I don't like a book at the library?
Turns out that Pedro Pascal doesn't spend that much time in his Mandalorian suit on shoots — he's got two stand-ins who wear it most of the time and Pascal does voiceovers.
"American cheese is not a quality product. In fact, its lack of quality is often the point, a grand embrace of the lowbrow and cheap that is the cornerstone of so much comfort food." (I love American cheese.)
Cool Pac-Man arcade cabinet set coming soon from Lego. There's a crank on the side that simulates Pac-Man chasing the ghosts.
A Paralyzed Man Can Walk Naturally Again With Brain and Spine Implants. "The brain-spine interface...took advantage of an AI thought decoder to read Mr. Oskam's intentions...and match them to muscle movements."
Tina Turner has died at the age of 83. "With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model." Simply the best.
Wendy's is testing a scheme to deliver takeout food to people's cars using what sounds like a robotic dumbwaiter or pneumatic tube system. via polymath.net
How Should We Feel about Barnes and Noble Now? "They are putting on the costume and language of a pretty neighborhood independent bookstore, but their inner mechanics are still all big-box chain corporation."
A subway-style map of the routes of European sleeper train routes. Someday... via @marcprecipice
Quantifying the human cost of global warming: because of climate change, over 600 million people currently live outside the "human climate niche". That could rise to more than 1/3 of the total global population by the end of the century.
France has banned short-haul flights to destinations where the same journey can be made by train in under 2.5 hours.
This has been apparent for months now: Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network. "Twitter has evolved into a platform that is indistinguishable from the wastelands of alternative social-media sites such as Truth Social and Parler."
I had no idea this existed: Informed Delivery is a free service from the USPS that lets you see photos of your mail & packages before they arrive. There's even a daily email digest option. via @ironicsans
You Cannot Hear These 13 Women's Stories and Believe the Anti-Abortion Narrative. "It's increasingly clear that it's not safe to be pregnant in states with total abortion bans."
The 2023 finalists for the Apple Design Awards, honoring "excellence in innovation, ingenuity, and technical achievement in app and game design".
I Get No Mail and It's Glorious. Great list of tips on how to cut down on junk mail.
An important opinion piece written by an SUV: Outdoor Dining Must Not Interfere With NYC's Historic Parking Spots. "Who are they to deny me the pleasure of idling underneath a tall willow in the West Village?"
A rave review of Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon by Shannon Shaw Duty of the Osage News. "The film Scorsese has made is definitely not a simple adaptation of Grann's book, but an adaptation that's magnified."
What It's Like to Have an Abortion Denied by Dobbs. An infuriating & important profile of a Mississippi woman who was forced to give birth and raise a child she wasn't ready for. "I feel like I'm in a prison."
From 1999 to 2020, there were 1.63 million excess deaths among Black Americans (when compared to the death rates of white Americans). Total cumulative potential years lost: 82 million.
The 20 best TV series finales of all time. Several of my favorites are on here, including Six Feet Under, Fleabag, and The Americans. I would have liked to see ST:TNG on here maybe?
Sex Ed Books Don't 'Groom' Kids and Teens. They Protect Them. The author of It’s Perfectly Normal says that a 10-year-old girl read the book and "showed her mom the chapter on sexual abuse and said, 'This is me.'"
Kenny Log-Ins. "Generate a secure password from the lyrics of America's greatest singer songwriter." via @waxy
Indie comics publisher The Nib is shutting down in August after 10 years of publishing.
This is totally silly and I can't look away: a treadmill race between Mario Kart cars and Pixar's Cars cars. See also Solar System Battle Royale and Sports Battle Royale.
A Ukrainian refugee flees Columbus, Ohio and returns to Kyiv (in a literal war zone!) because of shitty public infrastructure and a non-existent social safety net. via @waldoj
Civil rights organizations like the NAACP and advocacy groups for Latino and LGBTQ+ people are issuing travel advisories for Florida, saying the state is "openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals".
Office Workers Don't Hate the Office. They Hate the Commute. "We have to do something about the daily commute, a ritual of American life that’s time-consuming, emotionally taxing, environmentally toxic and expensive."
How 'Succession' Busts One of America's Most Cherished Myths (that we like strivers when what we really respect is money & power). "Power and money are fine if you have them already. It's wanting to acquire them that's the problem."
Ancient Romans Dropped Their Bling Down the Drain, Too. "The colorful intaglios — gems with incised carvings — likely fell out of signet rings worn by wealthy third-century bathers, and ended up trapped in the stone drains."
The Movement to Stop Dollar Stores From Suffocating Black Communities. "They're like an invasive species. They overpower all the resources and make the businesses in those neighborhoods vulnerable."
What can we learn about art from The Simpsons? "The long-running sitcom has such wise lessons on the art world, it ought to be on art school curricula."
In the 70s, the Chicago Sun-Times bought a bar and staffed it with journalists to investigate extortion by city employees. "[Various inspectors] all took envelopes with money in them and they all passed us. And we should never have passed."
The Heated newsletter will no longer refer to "natural gas", instead using "methane gas". "Most people think things that are called 'natural' are good for the environment — and natural gas is objectively not." Language matters!
User Inyerface, a game in which you attempt to get through a deliberately bad user interface as quickly as you can. OMG, this is maddening... via news.ycombinator.com
Latinos Can Be White Supremacists. "Racial identity is not fixed. It's not natural. It's not biological. It's not monolithic. Racial identity is culturally and politically produced. How people respond to it varies enormously."
TikTok and Instagram Reels are driving some chefs to concoct viral food that plays well on video. "The food can’t just sit there. Nothing hooks a viewer more than items that melt and drip and stretch." Oh good, more stunt food.
Birder Peter Kaestner has recorded seeing 9,856 different species of birds on his life list in the eBird app, a world record. He's trying for 10,000, travelling to remote (and sometimes unstable) locales to do so.
Extremely hot days are warming twice as fast as average summer days in North-West Europe. "Last year's heatwave was not a fluke."
There's a 98% chance that global temperatures will soar to record highs in the next five years, due to human-caused warming and El Niño, including a possible spike above the 1.5°C threshold.
Your Slow and Sad Descent Into Bird-Watching. From Big Bird and The Ugly Duckling in your early years to moving upstate in your late 30s, your path was seemingly predetermined...
A list of the best pens you can buy in 2023 in dozens of categories: fountain, gel, left-handed, manga, glitter, highlighter, dry erase, etc.
Please stop using AI to make Wes Anderson parodies. "You can't parody Wes Anderson, because he is already parodying himself."
Depression hits new high among Americans, per survey. "More than a quarter of American adults are depressed, a 10% surge from nearly a decade ago." So many people I know are struggling.
Going Infinite is a new book from Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short) about the rise and fall of the FTX crypto exchange and its CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, now under indictment for fraud and money laundering. Cool cover.
Americans' Largely Positive Views of Childhood Vaccines Hold Steady. But: "Among Republicans, 57% now support requiring children to be vaccinated to attend public schools, down from 79% in 2019."
How Tokyo Became an Anti-Car Paradise. "What Tokyo shows is that it is possible for enormous cities to work rather well without being overloaded by traffic congestion. Actually, Tokyo works better than big cities anywhere else."
Using AI, creatives are imagining alternate world histories like "What if the Mayan empire never fell?", "What if Somalia conquered Europe?", and "What if India ruled Great Britain?"
On Mastodon, Bluesky, and the Fediverse. "Should we stick with an easy system like the ones we know on Twitter and Facebook, where a few media kings rule us all? Or embrace the ambiguity of decentralization in the name of freedom?"
Trans Teen Hatches Nefarious Plot To Undergo Years Of Medical Treatments And Counseling To Win At Swimming. "I don't even want to be a woman — I just want to win at swimming."
Tejal Rao with a keen observation: On 'Succession', if You're Eating, You're Losing. "Their hunger, their appetite, their keenness, it's a squishy surplus of vulnerability."
The Centre Pompidou in Paris will be closed for five years of renovations starting in 2025. Five years!? What, do they only have one person working on it?
A new study links exposure to a common chemical solvent called trichloroethylene to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. "TCE is highly persistent in soil and groundwater..."
Morris Tanenbaum, Inventor of the Silicon Microchip, Dies at 94. "In 1955 he and colleague Ernest Buehler demonstrated the first silicon transistor."
Ian Frisch's mother played competitive poker in her youth, but stopped to raise a family. She took it up again after her husband died in order to provide for her kids. "I love having a nemesis at the table. It gives me purpose."
The winners of the 2023 Nebula Awards for the best speculative fiction released in 2022, including Babel by R.F. Kuang for best novel.
I Will Defend Free Speech to the Death. Or Until an Autocrat Asks Me to Stop. "Let every petty dictator take notice: If you want Twitter to censor its users, just send me an email."
The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse. "We've learned how to fight abuse. It's a solvable problem. We just have to stop repeating the same myths as excuses not to fix things." Important read as we attempt to reorg social media.
A recent study suggests that Saturn's rings are relatively young, no more than 400 million years old (Saturn is 4.5 billion years old). Horseshoe crabs & jellyfish are older.
The media is not equipped to handle the return of Donald Trump. "Bigotry is not merely a different opinion that we should expose ourselves to. It isn't an intellectual exercise or a useful contribution to a range of diverse viewpoints."
The Search for My Kimchi. Food, data science, and the immigrant experience combine in Alvin Chang's attempt to rediscover a childhood favorite that his grandmother made him.
Making Art by Day, Guarding It at the Met by Night. "Over 25 years walking the museum's midnight shift, Greg Kwiatek learned how to look for the hidden subtleties of paintings, which helped inform his own."
The Brooklyn Museum and Hannah Gadsby are collaborating on an exhibition called It's Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby that "reckons with complex questions around misogyny, creativity, the art-historical canon, and 'genius.'"
Andy tracked down and interviewed Bobby Fingers, who came out of seemingly nowhere with these great & gloriously weird videos about "embarrassing moments in the lives of famous men".
Theoretical Puppets, a YouTube channel that features Muppet-style puppets of thinkers like Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Michel Foucault discussing social science and philosophy. So weird.
Play Moderator Mayhem, in which you are tasked with moderating user-generated content. The game's creators hope it will result in better conversations about trust & safety issues.
In the 80s and 90s, many Asian American parents named their daughters after journalist Connie Chung; a group of Connies recently met their namesake. "People saw Connie Chung every night on TV; she was famous, and popular. She'd made it."
How to Survive a Car Crash in 10 Easy Steps. "Your brain can't regenerate the neurons it's lost. Use 'em or lose 'em. You had no idea your brain operated like annual dental benefits."
A reminder that CNN is not bumbling into platforming fascists like Trump because of some unlearned lessons from 2016 — the network's move to the right is on purpose. It's entertainment, not news — like Fox.
A book from 2019 called This Is How You Lose the Time War has rocketed to #3 on Amazon's bestseller list because of a viral tweet by someone named Bigolas Dickolas. via @kathrynyu
J. R. Moehringer on his experiences ghostwriting memoirs with Andre Agassi, Phil Knight, and Prince Harry. "For the thousandth time in my ghostwriting career, I reminded myself: It's not your effing book."
"From the copaganda marketing term 'officer-involved shooting' to the politician fave 'mistakes were made,' exonerative language deflects whose fault it is, absolving anyone of accountability and employing the passive voice to misleading ends."
Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat designed a map in Counter-Strike with a secret room that delivers factual information on the war in Ukraine to Russian players who only hear propaganda on the news.
The list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the US for 2023 includes two Chinatowns, a gas station in Arizona, and Miami's Little Santo Domingo neighborhood.
"Looming behind antibiotic resistance is another bacterial threat – antibiotic tolerance." Some bacteria can lie dormant while antibiotics are present, only to reactivate after they've left the system.
Right-wing gun nut Timothy McVeigh's dreams are coming true. "Today, an often-inchoate movement of people who share many of McVeigh's views is waging what increasingly looks like a low-level insurgency against the rest of us."
Citing an increase in breast cancer among women in their 40s, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends women should start getting regular mammograms at age 40.
Wendy's plans on automating its drive-thru service using an AI chatbot developed by Google. "The application has also been programmed to upsell customers, offering larger sizes, Frosties or daily specials."
The winners of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for books include Beverly Gage's biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Freedom's Dominion: A Saga of White Resistance to Federal Power by Jefferson Cowie, and Hua Hsu's memoir Stay True.
Overinflated: The Journey of a Humble Tire Reveals Why Prices Are Still So High. An "I, Pencil" look at inflation and why prices on some goods (like car tires) remain high.
Americans tend to react in six different ways to the climate crisis: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive. "Overall, Americans are becoming more worried about global warming, more engaged with the issue..."
There was an all-fonts category on Jeopardy the other day — the text of each clue was set in the typeface they were looking for as an answer.
How to Build (and Destroy) a Social Network. "Status means everything to platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But contrary to what Elon Musk thinks, it doesn't come from a blue checkmark."
Casey Johnston lost her AirPods and tried to track down the thief. "The AirPods weren't in the wind, as lost or stolen objects had been my entire life. They were right there. They were close. They were obtainable."
Introducing 'Total Crap', the First Magazine Written Entirely by AI. "We are proud to bring the written word into the future with revolutionary technology that delivers the one thing readers are most passionate about: efficiency."
Masks Work. Distorting Science to Dispute the Evidence Doesn't. "Are randomized trials an appropriate way of evaluating a basic engineered safety system? We don't rely on such trials for seat belts, bike helmets or life jackets."
Last week, a small sailboat in distress was rescued by a massive 18th-century sailing ship. "This moment was very strange, and we wondered if we were dreaming. Where were we? What time period was it?" via @andybaio
The Ultimate Oral History Of BuzzFeed News. I co-worked in the NYC BuzzFeed office for the first few years of this and didn't realize half of these amazing folks even worked there.
An extremely upsetting but must-see 3D visualization of what AR-15 bullets did to the bodies of two children killed in Newtown and Parkland, based on autopsy reports & done with their families' consent. No fucking way these things should be allowed.
How The Legend of Zelda Changed the Game. Great little interactive feature on almost 40 years of Zelda games. "Zelda is the standard unit of measurement in the gaming industry."
Clarence Thomas Promises To Adopt Code Of Ethics For The Right Price. "I admit to seeing the wisdom in developing some kind of ethical framework for the Supreme Court, so long as Papa gets some sugar."
When filmmakers best each other at the box office, it's tradition for the vanquished to publicly congratulate the victor. Spielberg started the practice in 1977 when Star Wars bested Jaws and it continues today.
Your joyful dancing for the day: a group of kids from Kampala, Uganda dancing to Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.
Inside the Delirious Rise of 'Superfake' Handbags. "Can you tell the difference between a $10,000 Chanel bag and a $200 knockoff? Almost nobody can, and it's turning luxury fashion upside down."
A new book from Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier. Sample advice: "If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game."
After more than three years, the WHO has declared "COVID-19 over as a global health emergency".
The trailer for Then Comes The Body, a short documentary about a ballet school outside Lagos, Nigeria, run by Daniel Ajala, who learned ballet on YouTube.
How Finland Virtually Ended Homelessness — and We Can Too. "Instead of abandoning the homeless, they housed them." A decade on, 80% of Finland's (formerly) unhoused are still living in the provided housing, paying their own rent.
Seasonal Allergies Are Coming for Us All. Due to climate change, "allergy seasons are getting longer and more intense because plants are producing more pollen over a longer period".
Lauren Groff's new book, The Vaster Wilds, is now available for preorder. I loved her previous novel Matrix.
On the difference between growth and scalability. One is a natural process that takes time and values diversity & interconnection and the other optimizes for efficiency & profit. "Growth occurs. It is not made."
This company sells Star Wars scented candles — The Death Star candle has notes of smoked amber, cement, tobacco, forged steel, and black myrrh. What, no Hoth candle that smells like tauntaun innards?
America Makes It Too Hard and Dangerous to Get Divorced. "Divorce in the U.S. is governed by an arbitrary constellation of policies that impede the freedom to end a marriage and have a disproportionately harmful impact on women."
Wealthy Couple Taking Real Vacation For First Time In Weeks. "She and her husband would have gone sooner, but they could barely find the time between the hours of work and the dozens of other vacations they had taken this year."
The Internet Isn't Meant To Be So Small. "The internet was supposed to be a place of opportunity, not just for profit but for surprise and connection and delight."
Wii Sports Birdwatching. "Here we imagine what it would be like if Wii Sports had birdwatching as a game." via @tim
Definitely want to try zorbing someday (rolling down a hill in an inflatable ball filled with water).
David Byrne covering Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody at a concert in 2005. via boingboing.net
What All My Best Meals Have Had in Common. A pro food writer: "The most memorable meals of my life have unquestionably been in other people's homes." This has not been my experience...my top 10 are all restaurants.
A man claiming to own a David Hockney painting brings it to Antiques Roadshow to be evaluated. The appraiser: "I now know what an early Hockney looks like." via mymodernmet.com
Thousands of film and television writers belonging to The Writers Guild of America go on strike today. Sticking points include pay levels, staffing & revenue sharing around streaming, and use of AI in the writing process.
Man Going Through Phase Where Life Implodes And Everything That Follows Is On The Decline. "Someday I will look back at this difficult period in my life and wonder how I ever had it so good." 👋
A review of the five best croissants in Paris, filmed during the massive strikes and demonstrations around raising the pension age in France. This is amazing... via themorningnews.org
Eyecandy: a collection of dozens of visual effects and techniques like crash zoom, screen in screen, scale shift, rack focus, infinite zoom, etc. via @ironicsans
From visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger, a new book called America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History that's gotten great reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist.
"We are currently in the midst of a radical reinvention of English. Not perhaps since the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries has the English language shifted faster." via nancyfriedman.typepad.com
The trailer for a Frog and Toad TV series, now streaming on Apple+.
"Scientists have found a way to decode a stream of words in the brain using MRI scans and artificial intelligence. The system reconstructs the gist of what a person hears or imagines..." Wow.
The web's most important decision: CERN putting the WWW into the public domain. "Nobody owned the web, and the web wasn't licensed. It was simply a part of the world, for anybody to use, distribute, or modify."
The trailer for The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, the Hunger Games prequel set 60+ years in the past, based on the book by 2020 book by Suzanne Collins.
Q&A: Chronicling the failures of the U.S. response to Covid. "The Covid war revealed a collective national incompetence in governance."
April 2023 Archives »