homeaboutarchives + tagsshopmembership!
aboutarchivesshopmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

Wonder Woman 1984

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2019

This, my friends, is the trailer for Wonder Woman 1984. Ok, let’s see what we have here. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, the only DC Comics movie superhero worth a damn since Nolan’s Batmans. 1984, one of the best years ever for movies and pop culture. A remix of Blue Monday by New Order, still the best-selling 12” single of all time. Patty Jenkins is directing and came up with the story this time (instead of having to deal with Zack Snyder’s nonsense). YES PLEASE.

Renderings of Our Dystopian Pop Culture Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2019

For more than 11 years for a series he calls Everydays, Mike Winkelmann (aka Beeple) has been making a daily picture. As you might expect from the breakneck pace, some of them aren’t that interesting (there’s a lot of juvenile stuff here tbh), but my favorite ones are the Black Mirror-ish with decayed or repurposed pop cultural references.

Beeple

Beeple

Beeple

Beeple

You can view more of Winkelmann’s work on Behance, Tumblr, and his website. (via dense discovery)

Radiohead’s Entire Discography Now Available on YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2019

Radiohead have uploaded all of their albums to YouTube where they are available for all of your streaming needs.

The move comes after Billboard announced that album charts will reflect YouTube views.

Over at Open Culture, Josh Jones notes that the band has always been willing to experiment with technology and distribution, as with the pay-what-you-want release of In Rainbows:

As Yorke had predicted, Napster encouraged “enthusiasm for music in a way that the music industry has long forgotten to do.” The industry began to collapse. File sharing may have been utopian for listeners, but it was potentially ruinous for artists. 2007’s In Rainbows showed a way forward.

Released on a pay-what-you-want model, with a “digital tip jar,” the release was met with bemusement and contempt. (The Manic Street Preacher’s Nicky Wire wrote that it “demeans music.”) Two years later, the jury was still out on the “Radiohead experiment.”

(via open culture)

Almost Famous: “I Was in The Black Eyed Peas. Then I Quit.”

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2019

Actress and singer/songwriter Kim Hill became a member of the Black Eyed Peas in the mid-90s, appearing with the group on Soul Train and singing on their first two albums. After feeling pressure from management to sexualize her appearance and from the other members of the band to broaden their appeal, Hill quit the group and was eventually replaced by Fergie. In this video by Ben Proudfoot, she talks about that decision:

Yeah, they got rid of the black girl that they never made a part of the band and they got the white girl, they made her a part and they blew up and it’s like, no! That’s not how it happened.

I really really liked this video. Hill has such a great expressive face and a generous soul and Proudfoot makes the most of it by getting in close and just letting her talk.

A Solar Eclipse from the Edge of Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2019

For a BBC series called Earth from Space, the team at Sent Into Space attached a VR camera to a balloon and sent it up to an altitude of about 20 miles — high enough to see the blackness of space and Earth’s curvature — to take a 360° video of the total solar eclipse that occurred in August 2017. The video above is a hyperlapse of the event while this one from the BBC is slower, annotated, and in full 360° VR.

See also Patrick Cullis’ epic adventure in trying to snap a photo of the total solar eclipse from the edge of space. (via @alexkorn)

The Colorful Ceilings of Mumbai’s Taxis

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2019

Mumbai Taxi Ceilings

Mumbai Taxi Ceilings

Since April 2017, Rachel Lopez has been taking photos of the ceilings of Mumbai taxis, many of which are decorated with colorful vinyl overlays. As Lopez says in a piece she wrote for PRI, “it’s more fun than the cold, gray inside of an Uber”. (via @themexican)

Logos of Video Game Consoles from 1976 to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2019

Video Game Console Logos

Reagan Ray has collected the logos of video game consoles from 1976 to the present. He ignores the first generation of consoles because there would have been too many to include. (Historical interlude: I didn’t know gaming consoles were broken down into generations. Apparently we’re in the 8th generation now — Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.)

See also Ray’s collections of classic airline logos, record label logos, 80s action figure logos, American car logos, etc..

Thanksgiving Dinner Served on the L Train

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 26, 2019

File this under “I Love NYC”. On Sunday night, riders on a Brooklyn-bound L train were treated to a full Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of some of their fellow straphangers. For more than 20 minutes, a group of riders dined and passed out plates of turkey, collards, stuffing, squash, and mashed potatoes to other folks in the car. Here’s a 21-minute chunk of the action:

They started the meal with a prayer and everything. An onlooker said of the event:

It was a 7 PM Sunday L from union square and was not crowded at all. They said it was an inclusive gesture to emphasize no one should go without food on Thanksgiving. They were loud but not rowdy or a nuisance. They even handed out plates to everyone in the car — I got one and the turkey was a solid 7/10 and collard 8.5/10. I’m glad I got to experience something like this. Makes a great story!

There were even MTA employees amongst us but no one objected.

Here’s a shorter video with some of the highlights:

(thx, johana)

How Humans Domesticated Cats (Twice)

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2019

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like cats are particularly domesticated, but as this PBS video explains, humans have actually domesticated cats two separate times, once in southwest Asia ~10,000 years ago and in Egypt ~3500 years ago. They were probably tamed by being around human settlements for the source of food. This is the commensal pathway to domestication, one of the three major pathways followed by most domesticated animals.

The commensal pathway was traveled by vertebrates that fed on refuse around human habitats or by animals that preyed on other animals drawn to human camps. Those animals established a commensal relationship with humans in which the animals benefited but the humans received no harm but little benefit. Those animals that were most capable of taking advantage of the resources associated with human camps would have been the tamer, less aggressive individuals with shorter fight or flight distances. Later, these animals developed closer social or economic bonds with humans that led to a domestic relationship.

Dogs were probably domesticated through this pathway as well — see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s explanation from Cosmos of how wolves evolved into dogs.

And I love any post about cats because it’s an excuse to revisit one of my favorite short talks ever, in which Kevin Slavin suggests that cats have had a hand in domesticating humans for the purpose of sharing funny cat videos online, thus spreading pro-cat propaganda across the globe.

The Typologies of New York City

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2019

Using almost 1300 photos from Instagram of iconic/stereotypical shots of NYC, Sam Morrison spent 200 hours creating what he calls a crowdsourced hyperlapse video of the city. I love it. Reminds me a little of the old Microsoft application Photosynth, which could stitch together hundreds of online photos of, say, the Eiffel Tower or Golden Gate Bridge into a composite 3D image. (via a newly resurgent waxy.org)

Encyclopedia Brown and the Problem with the Mona Lisa

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2019

Ok, this post doesn’t have anything to do with boy detective Encyclopedia Brown…I just needed him for the title. In the NY Times, art critic Jason Farago argues that in order to improve the visitor experience at the Louvre, the Mona Lisa and her smile have got to go.

Yet the Louvre is being held hostage by the Kim Kardashian of 16th-century Italian portraiture: the handsome but only moderately interesting Lisa Gherardini, better known (after her husband) as La Gioconda, whose renown so eclipses her importance that no one can even remember how she got famous in the first place.

Some 80 percent of visitors, according to the Louvre’s research, are here for the Mona Lisa — and most of them leave unhappy. Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out.

Enough!

I visited the Louvre back in 2017 and the Mona-driven crowds were very distracting. I wrote a short review for my media diet:

The best-known works are underwhelming and the rest of this massive museum is overwhelming. The massive crowds, constant photo-taking, and selfies make it difficult to actually look at the art. Should have skipped it.

The Louvre is actually not a good place to look at art and if moving the Mona Lisa to a dedicated gallery elsewhere can help solve that problem, they should do it. (via @fimoculous)

A Playlist of Anthony Bourdain’s Favorite Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2019

Working from a variety of interviews and articles about the chef, writer, and TV star, the crew at Far Out magazine compiled a playlist of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite songs.

It’s well-known that Bourdain was a champion of New York’s punk movement, he was often cited as saying that both chefs and musicians worked in similar undulating patterns. They were nightwalkers, the working men of the dark streets of New York’s bubbling underbelly. It was a theory that Bourdain took with him wherever he went. Whether he was reviewing a restaurant, often commenting on the music being played in the dining room as much as the food, or speaking with the numerous musicians and icons that littered his show ‘Parts Unknown’, Bourdain was always a muso.

For the PBS show he produced, The Mind of a Chef, Bourdain shared a 25-song playlist called Anthony Bourdain’s Music to Cook By.

Musicians on these playlists include The Velvet Underground, Pretenders, Beastie Boys, and Bob Dylan. (thx, amy)

Update: Here are all the songs from both playlists in one Apple Music playlist. (thx, @billweye)

The Hippie Aesthetic of the 60s Is “Art Nouveau on Acid”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2019

I had somehow never registered this before, but it was (ridiculously) obvious once it was pointed out to me in this video: the psychedelic design of music posters in the 60s were inspired in part by the Art Nouveau movement of the late 1800s. For instance, here’s an absinthe advertisement from the 1890s and a 1966 Pink Floyd poster.

60s Posters Art Nouveau

“You can draw a straight line between Art Nouveau and psychedelic rock posters,” Martin Hohn, president of the Rock Poster Society, says. “Mucha, Jules Chéret, Aubrey Beardsley. Borrow from everything. The world is your palette. It was all meant to be populist art. It was always meant to be disposable.” He later adds: “What the artists were saying graphically was the same thing the rock bands were saying musically.”

Woven City, Toyota’s Prototype City of the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2020

In early 2021, Toyota plans to break ground on a prototype city of the future located at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Around 2000 people will populate Woven City at first, which will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The masterplan of the city includes the designations for street usage into three types: for faster vehicles only, for a mix of lower speed, personal mobility and pedestrians, and for a park-like promenade for pedestrians only. These three street types weave together to form an organic grid pattern to help accelerate the testing of autonomy.

The city is planned to be fully sustainable, with buildings made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint, using traditional Japanese wood joinery, combined with robotic production methods. The rooftops will be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power in addition to power generated by hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota plans to weave in the outdoors throughout the city, with native vegetation and hydroponics.

Residences will be equipped with the latest in human support technologies, such as in-home robotics to assist with daily living. The homes will use sensor-based AI to check occupants’ health, take care of basic needs and enhance daily life, creating an opportunity to deploy connected technology with integrity and trust, securely and positively.

The press release and video above are the best sources of info about the city, but there’s also a website with not a lot of info and some weirdly fuzzy low-res icons that I hope are not indicative of the level of effort and polish being put into this effort. Those icons definitely didn’t go through the Toyota Production System.

Noah Takes a Photo of Himself Every Day for 20 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2020

On January 11, 2000, when he was 19 years old, photographer Noah Kalina took a photo of himself — and just never stopped doing that. Although he’s missed a few days here and there, he’s kept up his daily habit for 20 years. The video above shows all 20 years of his daily photos.

Six years into the project in 2006, Kalina uploaded a video of his progress to Vimeo and then YouTube and it went viral, changing the trajectory of his career and life. The project has exhibited in art galleries around the world and The Simpsons even did a parody of it.

As someone who has done one thing near-daily for 20+ years, I feel a great kinship towards this project. I’ll see you in 2040, Noah.

Update: Kalina did an interview about the project with Van Schneider:

I can basically look at any shot in this project and know exactly where I was. Certain photos provide details and I can recall who I was with or what I was up to. It’s the perfect diary for me since I’ve never really enjoyed writing.

Beautiful News Daily

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 27, 2019

Beautiful News

Beautiful News

Beautiful News

Each day since the beginning of October, the team of designers, technologists, and researchers at Beautiful News Daily (a project by Information Is Beautiful) have been posting infographics and data visualizations that share some good news about the world. The site’s tagline is “unseen trends, uplifting stats, creative solutions”.

The bad news we see everyday on news websites, newspaper front pages, and magazine covers is important (or can be, if it’s not designed to keep people frightened and hooked on the news), but the good news is just as significant (or can be, if it doesn’t cause you to forget the world’s true suffering and turmoil).

You can keep up with Beautiful News via their website, their weekly newsletter, or Twitter & Instagram. (via moss & fog)

Spotlight and the Difficulty of Dramatizing Good Journalism

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2019

For the lastest episode of Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak reviews the history of movies about journalism and shows how the makers of Spotlight (and also All the President’s Men) show the often repetitive and tedious work required to do good journalism

I loved Spotlight (and All the President’s Men and The Post), but I hadn’t realized until just now how many of my favorite movies and TV shows of the last few years are basically adult versions of Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?

Speaking of, watching this video I couldn’t help but think that David Simon1 faced a similar challenge in depicting effective police work in The Wire. Listening to wiretapped conversations, sitting on rooftops waiting for drug dealers to use payphones, and watching container ships unloading are not the most interesting thing in the world to watch. But through careful editing, some onscreen exposition by Lester Freamon, and major consequences, Simon made pedestrian policing engaging and interesting, the heart of the show.

  1. Puschak shared a quote from Simon near the end of the video and Spotlight director Tom McCarthy played the dishonest reporter Scott Templeton in season five of The Wire.

136 Mindblowing & Groundbreaking Internet Videos

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2019

Joe Sabia is a VP for Conde Nast Entertainment and he and his team have been the creative force behind some of the most interesting video series of recent years, including Vogue’s 73 Questions (Sabia is the questioner), the Billie Eilish time capsule interviews, Wired’s Autocomplete Interviews, and Gourmet Makes.

Recently Sabia shared a list of 136 internet videos which he says “left some sort of impression on me since the dawn of the internet video explosion (which I’ll define as 2006)”. So the collection is personal, but it’s also an expert’s record of creative people & orgs playing around with the internet video form, breaking new ground, or contributing significantly to culture.

I’ve spent my entire career inside internet video. If I didn’t mess around with it in college, I’d be a law school drop out. Back then, so much of YouTube began as a bunch of weird hobbyists making things we were curious about. Meeting people who saw the same popular videos you did felt like meeting someone who genuinely shared a bit of your identity. It was special. It was authentic. It was unusual. Everywhere you looked was some sort of bizarre concept that may have existed in weird avant garde museum galleries decades before, or from DVD curations like Wholphin — and most certainly never in shareable form on your computer.

I’ve posted a lot of these videos over the years, which is not surprising — while I’m not a video creator, Sabia and I are often on the lookout for stuff that is new or creative in some way. Fair warning: this list could occupy your attention for hours. HOURS. Here are a few videos I pulled out:

If this were my list, I would have included Primitive Technology. Even though it’s such a simple premise, I’d never seen anything like it before: a long-ish silent how-to video that felt tight and never boring.

Highlights from Circe by Madeline Miller

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2019

I’ve been enjoying sharing the highlighted passages from the Kindle books I’ve read lately. Going over your notes is a good way to solidify a book’s themes, ideas, and plot threads in your mind, especially for someone like me who tends to forget a lot of the earlier bits of what I’m reading. So I thought I’d go back through some previous reads in the same fashion, sharing some of the best bits of favorite books and refreshing my memory.

First up is Madeline Miller’s Circe, which was recommended to me by my friend Alaina. In the NY Times, Alexandra Alter called Circe “a bold and subversive retelling of the goddess’s story that manages to be both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right”.

I’m starting here because I recently finished her debut novel, The Song of Achilles (the highlights from which I will share soon). I loved both books — Miller’s prose is somehow both spare and chock full of lyrical analogies and clever turns of phrase. Many of passages below highlight those qualities in her writing.

Page 3:

My mother did not argue further. Like everyone, she knew the stories of Helios’ temper when he was crossed. However gold he shines, do not forget his fire.

Page 14:

You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.

Page 37 (I am already bracing myself for the “you don’t understand…” of my kids’ teen years):

That is one thing gods and mortals share. When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.

Page 48:

All I knew was that I hated her. For I was like any dull ass who has ever loved someone who loved another. I thought: if only she were gone, it would change everything.

Page 66 (on useful fictions):

“Yes,” he said. “That is how it works, Circe. I tell Father that my sorcery was an accident, he pretends to believe me, and Zeus pretends to believe him, and so the world is balanced. It is your own fault for confessing. Why you did that, I will never understand.”

Page 67:

All those years I had spent with them were like a stone tossed in a pool. Already, the ripples were gone.

Page 85:

You can teach a viper to eat from your hands, but you cannot take away how much it likes to bite.

Page 90:

He stood up — I will not say gracefully, for he was too solidly built for that — but easily, like a door swinging on a well-fitted hinge.

Page 129:

I had not thought him so bold. But of course he was. Artist, creator, inventor, the greatest the world had known. Timidity creates nothing.

Page 129 (Reminds me of the quote “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.”):

I yearned for his hands, for all of him, mortal though he was, distant and dying though he would always be.

Page 132:

In a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.

Page 138 (a metaphor for inequality in America):

Every moment mortals died, by shipwreck and sword, by wild beasts and wild men, by illness, neglect, and age. It was their fate, as Prometheus had told me, the story that they all shared. No matter how vivid they were in life, no matter how brilliant, no matter the wonders they made, they came to dust and smoke. Meanwhile every petty and useless god would go on sucking down the bright air until the stars went dark.

Page 186:

And Odysseus, I thought. The spiral shell. Always another curve out of sight.

Page 186:

But there is a hand that must gather all those pieces and make them whole. A mind to guide the purpose, and not flinch from war’s necessities.”

“And that is your part,” I said. “Which means you are like Daedalus after all. Only instead of wood, you work in men.”

The look he gave me. Like purest, unmixed wine. “After Achilles died, Agamemnon named me Best of the Greeks. Other men fought bravely, but they flinched from war’s true nature. Only I had the stomach to see what must be done.”

His chest was bare and hatched with scars. I tapped it lightly, as if sounding what lay within. “Such as?”

“You promise mercy to spies so they will spill their story, then you kill them after. You beat men who mutiny. You coax heroes from their sulks. You keep spirits high at any cost. When the great hero Philoctetes was crippled with a festering wound, the men lost their courage over it. So I left him behind on an island and claimed he had asked to be left. Ajax and Agamemnon would have battered at Troy’s locked gates until they died, but it was I who thought of the trick of the giant horse, and I spun the story that convinced the Trojans to pull it inside. I crouched in the wooden belly with my picked men, and if any shook with terror and strain, I put my knife to his throat. When the Trojans finally slept, we tore through them like foxes among soft-feathered chicks.”

Page 190:

It was a trick of his, to set a sentence out like a plate on a table and see what you would put on it.

Page 191:

Sometimes, I would see him watching me. An intentness would come over his face, and he would begin to ask me his casual, sideways questions. About the island, about my father, the loom, my history, witchcraft. I had come to know that look well: it was the same he wore when he spotted a crab with a triple claw, or wondered over the trick tides of Aiaia’s east bay. The world was made of mysteries, and I was only another riddle among the millions. I did not answer him, and though he pretended frustration, I began to see that it pleased him in some strange way. A door that did not open at his knock was a novelty in its own right, and a kind of relief as well. All the world confessed to him. He confessed to me.

Page 194:

I held off as long as I could, but in the end she was the scab that I must pick.

Page 208:

Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.

Page 214 (there’s a relief in knowing, no matter how dire the details):

My madness in those days rose from a new certainty: that at last, I had met the thing the gods could use against me.

Page 217:

Do not listen to your enemy, Odysseus had once told me. Look at them. It will tell you everything.

Page 220 (reason != wisdom):

I looked into that shining gray gaze, her eyes like two hanging jewels, twisting to catch the light. She was smiling, her hand open towards me, as if ready to receive mine. When she had spoken of children, she had nearly crooned, as if to lull her own babe. But Athena had no babe, and she never would. Her only love was reason. And that has never been the same as wisdom.

Page 243 (endurance is also a virtue of mine…and a detriment):

But endurance had always been my virtue and I kept on.

Page 271 (I still remember reading this passage for the first time. It devastated me and I had to put the book down for awhile. Like much else in life, parenting is a struggle with yourself.):

Two children he had had, and he had not seen either clearly. But perhaps no parent can truly see their child. When we look we see only the mirror of our own faults.

Page 274:

I looked at her, as vivid in my doorway as the moon in the autumn sky. Her eyes held mine, gray and steady. It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.

Page 279:

Once we were his again, he wanted something else. What is that if not a bad life? Luring others to you, then turning from them?

Page 286 (on the responsibility of perfection):

I remembered what Odysseus had said about her once. That she never went astray, never made an error. I had been jealous then. Now I thought: what a burden. What an ugly weight upon your back.

Page 294 (Telemachus is the main speaker here):

“That is how things go. You fix them, and they go awry, and then you fix them again.”

“You have a patient temper.”

“My father called it dullness. Shearing, cleaning out the hearths, pitting olives. He wanted to know how to do such things for curiosity’s sake, but he did not want to actually have to do them.”

It was true. Odysseus’ favorite task was the sort that only had to be performed once: raiding a town, defeating a monster, finding a way inside an impenetrable city.

Page 313:

But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.

The Artistic Ecosystems of Yellena James

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2019

I ran across the work of Yellena James on Instagram the other day and my inner emoji face went all heart-eyes. I love her delicate organic imagery inspired by flowers, coral, and other natural forms.

Yellena James

Yellena James

James has a lot of irons in the fire: she sells prints of her work on Etsy (scarves too!), works with a number of brands on design projects, published a book on learning how to draw using nature as a guide, regularly exhibits her art in galleries & shows, and does painting tutorials for the likes of Adobe.

Get Prints of Eleanor Lutz’s Genius Infographics

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2019

I’ve featured the maps and science infographics of Eleanor Lutz for years here. You might be interested to learn, as I did the other day, that you can get posters and prints (and iPhone cases and tshirts) of a bunch of her work at Red Bubble. Like this map of the geology of Mars or the butterflies of North America.

Atlas Of Space

Butterflies Lutz

These are definitely going on my holiday gift guide.

Ornitographies, Time-Merged Images of the Paths of Birds Through the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 27, 2019

For his Ornitographies project, Xavi Bou takes photographs of birds and stitches them together into single images so that you can see their flight paths through the sky.

Xavi Bou Ornitographies

Xavi Bou Ornitographies

Xavi Bou Ornitographies

My guest editor Patrick briefly shared one of Bou’s images on his exit post a couple of weeks ago, but I thought they were worth another look.

The Time-Traveling Cinematography of The Irishman

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 12, 2019

Here’s a short clip of cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto talking about his work on The Irishman.

The movie takes place over several decades and Prieto worked with director Martin Scorsese to build a distinct look for each period based on different photo processing techniques: Kodachrome for the 50s, Ektachrome for the 60s & early 70s, and neutral for the film’s present-day:

Irishman Cinematography

Irishman Cinematography

Irishman Cinematography

Prieto also talks a little bit about the three camera system needed to “youthify” the actors. (You Honor, I would like to state for the record that Jennifer Lopez did not require fancy cameras or de-aging CGI to make her look 20 years younger in Hustlers. I rest my case.)

Javascript Library for Creating XKCD-Style Charts

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2019

Tim Qian has created a Javascript library called chart.xkcd for making charts that look hand-drawn in the style of XKCD.

Xkcd Chart

It’s easy to get started with chart.xkcd. All that’s required is the script included in your page along with a single <svg> node to render the chart.

You can use it to make line charts, XY charts, bar charts, radar charts, and pie/doughnut charts. I am definitely going to be using this in the future.

Speaking of XKCD, Randall Munroe has a new NY Times column called Good Question where he answers odd science questions (a la What If?). The first installment: If I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like?

Moon dust may not burn you, but it’s no picnic. Like Earth sand, moon dust is effectively made of tiny glass shards, but the sharp edges have not been worn down by erosion. As a result, it can be pretty unhealthy.

(via sidebar)

The 100 Best Books Written By African American Women

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

The editors of ZORA, a publication for women of color, have published a list of the 100 greatest books written by African American women: The ZORA Canon.

To our knowledge, however, no one has ever compiled a comprehensive list specifically featuring the finest literary works produced by African American women authors. We decided to undertake that effort both to honor that still underappreciated group of writers and to provide ZORA readers — you — with a handy reference guide to their work.

Here are a sampling of the books on the list — click through to peruse them all.

Our Nig by Harriet E. Wilson. “The first novel written by an African American woman, Our Nig focuses on the fictional character Frado and her servant-girl life in New England during antebellum slavery.”

The Red Record by Ida B. Wells. “This tome by the groundbreaking writer, Mathis says, is ‘an exhaustively researched publication about lynchings in the U.S. after the abolition of slavery.’”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. “This groundbreaking novel by the Harlem Renaissance novelist and anthropologist focuses on the emerging autonomy and maturation of Janie Crawford as she endures multiple marriages, poverty, and various other associative trials to reach a state of clarity.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. “The first of a multivolume series, this much-loved autobiographical tale recounts Maya Angelou’s early life…”

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. “As he grows up, Milkman Dead strives to take flight as he sets out on a pilgrimage to reclaim his family history…”

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. “The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist traces the lives of three people — a sharecropper’s wife, an agricultural worker, and a doctor — who embark upon one of the greatest movements of African Americans within American history: the Great Migration.”

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. “This series of poems chronicles Woodson’s experiences in South Carolina and New York in the 1960s and ’70s under Jim Crow and with the civil rights movement.”

I have read several of the more recent books on this list but not enough.

Spinning Tethers for Space Propulsion

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2019

I love rocket launches. They are loud, carry cool things into space, and last a surprisingly long time considering how fast the rocket is already traveling when it clears the tower. But I think we’re going to look back on this era of space travel and marvel that launches & rockets were our only means of getting things into and around space (planetary gravity assists notwithstanding). We’re already moving in that direction; the initial tests of a space sail inspired by Carl Sagan have been promising. Another space propulsion idea is to use spinning space tethers to whip smaller, slower space vehicles from relatively low altitudes to higher orbits or even to the Moon, Mars, or beyond. This video from Kurzgesagt explains how these tethers work and what we could do with them.

I believe Neal Stephenson wrote about space tethers (or something very similar) in Seveneves.

A 12-Hour Lawnmower Race, the Greatest Show on Turf

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2019

Each year, the British Lawn Mower Racing Association holds a 12-hour lawn mower race in which teams of three drivers compete for a half a day of non-stop racing around a track at speeds up to 50 mph.

As usual, the teams will line up in a traditional Le Mans grid formation with the drivers running to their machines at the start.

The teams of three drivers (male and female) compete throughout the night at speeds approaching 50 mph — and without any form of suspension other than a padded seat, this is no stroll in the park! The pace remains unrelenting for the full 12 hours and it’s not unknown for the first three mowers to be on the same lap when the chequered flag drops. This is a true test of human endurance and mechanical reliability.

The video above follows one of the teams competing in this year’s race to see what the sport is all about. (I didn’t know where to drop a “Deere v Cub Cadet” joke in, so I’ll just leave it here.)

Parasite’s Perfect Montage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2020

From Evan Puschak, this is an analysis of a tightly edited five-minute montage in the middle of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in which a family of schemers removes the last obstacle in their way of a luxurious life of service.

(This next bit is way off topic…I am not even going to try and connect it to the movie or Puschak’s thoughts on editing.) In looking for an appropriate quote from the video, I went searching in YouTube’s automatically generated transcript of the video and instead discovered whatever fancy AI program they’ve employed for transcription had some problems with the Korean language spoken in the video:

well the Kogi’s held on crew could to work a contra cut under something crazy kangaroo hot lava could carry yours a tiny car would cause a huge bang engines in his element saw cars motherfuckers Christian wear boxers and couvent a easy call it to Minaj Monica City on criminals chief juniper gun and a car don’t belong back in case come on Joey tell him to cool on the cloud Coronas our tornado man hold it up on watch from Atlanta

Also, peaches are a thing now in movies!

The 2019 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2019

Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve done for the past several years, I’ve combed through many of the best online gift guides to highlight some of the best holiday gifts out there. It’s a curated meta-guide for your holiday giving. Here we go!

First thing’s first: charitable giving should be top-of-mind every holiday season. Giving locally is key. I support our area food shelf year-round, with an extra gift for Thanksgiving and the December holiday; giving money instead of food is best. The kids and I also support Toys for Tots by heading to the local toy store to get some things — they like it because they get to pick out toys and games (they’re thoughtful about deciding which ones would be best). For national/international giving, do your research. GiveWell recently listed their top charities for 2019 and Vox has more tips here. Read up on big charities like Red Cross and Salvation Army…they are often not great places to give to. GiveDirectly sends money to people living in extreme poverty around the world.

If you’re anything like me, you never know what presents to get kids for their birthdays or holidays, even if they’re your own. That’s why I rely heavily on the gift guide from The Kid Should See This. On their list this year is Parks, a board game that takes players on a journey through US National Parks, The Dictionary of Difficult Words, this kit for building your own yarn giraffes, and Kano’s Harry Potter Coding Kit (which I also highlighted last year and still looks cool as hell). See also the 2019 Engineering Gift Guide from Purdue University.

The Accidental Shop is a collection of products I’ve previously linked to here on kottke.org. Some recently items I’d particularly recommend are The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland, the second volume of Jeff Bridges’ panoramic photographs that he takes on the sets of his films, this professional yo-yo, and Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, a cooperative deck building game that my kids and I love.

For this year’s guide, I made an extra effort to include products and services from kottke.org’s readership — you’ll see them sprinkled throughout. Let’s start with 20x200. Their motto is “Art for Everyone” and they’ve been populating the walls of homes worldwide since 2007. I’ve bought several things from them and even contributed to their blog earlier this year. 20x200 has prints of Hilma af Klint’s work as well as one-of-a-kind artworks by Yen Ha (who is also a reader).

The Wirecutter is still the first place I go when I need to read up on everything from kitchen essentials to headphones to board games, so their gift guide is always worth a close look. This year I found a high quality but inexpensive jump rope, a wooden alarm clock, the Nintendo Switch w/ Mario Kart 8 (which I am still coveting/resisting), the Raspberry Pi 4, and Sushi Go Party (the kids and I love this game).

I bought my daughter a pair of these antique stork embroidery scissors for her birthday and they look incredible in person. A true hand-crafted piece of art.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Robin Sloan and his partner Kathryn Tomajan operate Fat Gold, an olive oil subscription service. Sloan wrote a gift guide this year, in which he recommends buying some sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour, located right here in VT.

A pair of gift guides for buying products from Native American artists & entrepreneurs: Beyond Buckskin’s 2019 BUY NATIVE Holiday Gift Guide and PowWows.com’s 2019 Native American Holiday Gift Guide. Check out these socks from Eighth Generation and handmade moccasins by Jamie Gentry of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.

If you’re giving books this year, check out The Best Books of 2019. Almost every best-of list this year included The Topeka School by Ben Lerner, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.

Last year’s gift guide is full of great items, including a fire log that smells like Kentucky Fried Chicken when you burn it, A Die Hard Christmas (a Die Hard holiday picture book), and the AWB OneSky Reflector Telescope (a great beginner telescope).

It would not be a kottke.org holiday gift guide if I didn’t highlight this 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant. Someday someone is going to buy one of these — perhaps with a big novelty bow to surprise their loved one(s) on Xmas morning — and it’s going to make me so happy.

For your techie/futurist peeps, check out Wired’s Wish List 2019, which includes the Leica Q2 digital camera that I absolutely cannot afford but would absolutely love to own someday.

Earlier this year I bought a Thermapen Mk4 instant-read thermometer and OMG why didn’t I get this sooner? It’s made grilling and doing the Thanksgiving turkey so much easier.

Food-related gift guides from Chowhound, Serious Eats, Kitchn, and Food52. I have heard great things about Fuchsia Dunlop’s The Food of Sichuan and would happily try some of this barrel-aged soy sauce.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019

If you’re shopping for me this year, you should totally get me a gift certificate for an ultralight flight with birds (more info on these flights here).

More products from kottke.org readers: a 3-pack of notebooks from Field Notes, prints of illustrations of NYC storefronts & restaurants by Kelli Ercolano, gear from Advencher Supply Co (founded by Dribbble cofounder Dan Cederholm), Journey to the End of the Night by Erin Przekop, and Wondermade marshmallows.

My friend Bryan designed this Global Architect Card for architecture tourists that says “I am an architect. I am here to see this significant building.” in 14 different languages.

I love the idea of Slate’s list of Highly Unusual but Incredibly Useful Gifts Your Family Will Love, including this cool LED flashlight that fastens onto the end of a 9V battery and a rubber stamp with your face on it.

Jan Chipchase is a very occasional reader, if only because he’s so damn busy doing cool shit all over the world. His latest project is Hamidashimono, a kit for whittling your own izakaya-grade chopsticks. His company also has a line of field equipment called SDR Traveller. The D3 Traveller duffel bag was a total splurge for me, but I *love* travelling with that bag.

From Jada Pinkett Smith’s gift guide filled with products created by women and people of color, Homegirl Boxes inspired by women like Octavia Butler and Shirley Chisholm. See also this gift list inspired by African American artists, which includes a Jean-Michel Basquiat version of Uno (yes, the card game).

Check out Delph Miniatures, a tiny UK company that makes 1/12th scale miniatures of everyday things like washing machines, ironing boards, and mobility scooters. Here’s a charming video about their work.

Yet more products produced by kottke.org readers: I have one of these Currency Blankets from Hiller Dry Goods and I love it. Five Two wooden spoons from Food52. The Aviary: Holiday Cocktails. The 2020 Astrologicalendar (a wall calendar based on the signs of the zodiac). Fitz (custom 3D-printed eyeglasses…the company was inspired in part by a kottke.org post about DIY orthodontics). Am I Overthinking This? by Michelle Rial. This Book Is a Planetarium by Kelli Anderson. You Think You Know Me. Gracie’s Ice Cream.

Marie Kondo, the woman who has helped people get rid of all sorts of stuff with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, now has an online shop to help you welcome new stuff into your home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And more gift guides: Cup of Jo, Black Enterprise, the NY Times, Dribbble, Tools & Toys.

Ok, that’s quite enough to get you started. I’ve got more recommendations that I’ll add in the next few days. If you’re interested, you can also check out my past gift guides from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Update: My friend Jodi Ettenberg is unable to travel the world right now but she put her unquenchable curiosity to use in compiling her guide to Unique Art and Jewelry Gifts for 2019, which includes illustrated bird shenanigans from Birdstrips.

Another selection of products made or sold by kottke.org readers: Kevin Kelly’s Four Favorite Tools. t-shirts, tote bags, and prints of Legal Nomads’ food maps. The best temporary tattoos out there by Tattly. A Dem Women of the House wall calendar by Anneliese Dehner. 33 Books Co. sells tools, guides, and supplies for tasting foods like cheese, wine, coffee, beer, and whiskey. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Crane City Music sells hip-hop records with a focus on “voices underrepresented in mainstream hip-hop” (use code “KOTTKE” for 20% off thru Dec 31).

One of my favorite infographic designers, Eleanor Lutz, has an online shop selling prints, posters, and tote bags of a bunch of her stuff.

The happy mutants at Boing Boing compiled this list of 100 Wonderful Things Worth Buying, including an “insert coin” keychain, the Sega Genesis Mini (it comes with 42 games), and Nancy: A Comic Collection by Olivia Jaimes, who has revitalized the decades-old comic strip character.

The Cool Tools 2019 Holiday Gift Guide features these two-sided magnetic measuring spoons and these WiFi smart plugs.

Update: A few late but great additions. The Ooni 3 is a highly rated wood-fired portable pizza oven and with Storyworth you can “get weekly stories from a loved one, bound in a beautiful keepsake book”. Both made by kottke.org readers. And the folks at Article Group produced this fantastic games guide: 20 Games Every Creative Thinker Should Play — I pulled a couple of things directly off of here for holiday purchases.

When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

What Can Americans Learn from Germany’s Reckoning with the Holocaust?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2019

For The New Republic, Heather Souvaine Horn reviews Susan Neiman’s book, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, about the successes and failures of Germany in coming to terms with the Holocaust and what the United States can learn from them in dealing with our history of slavery and genocide.

She sees the murder of nine black Charleston churchgoers in 2015, and the events of the following years, as prime examples of conservative backlash in white communities: “The 2016 election resulted, in large part,” Neiman writes, “from America’s failure to confront its own history.” Her book, Learning From the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, offers a possible answer to one of the questions The New York Times’ 1619 Project, published in the same month and focusing on slavery’s centrality to the American nation, has prompted: What now? It is a book about how Americans could better confront their racist past, by looking at the way Germany has come to terms with Holocaust guilt.

After a trip to Berlin last year, I wrote about what I observed of the German remembrance of the Holocaust and its relevance to America:

With overt anti-Semitism growing in the US (as well as other things like the current administration’s policies on immigration and jailing of children in concentration camps), it’s instructive to compare the German remembrance of the Holocaust to America’s relative lack of public introspection & remembrance about its dark history.

In particular, as a nation the US has never properly come to terms with the horrors it inflicted on African Americans and Native Americans. We build monuments to Confederate soldiers but very few to the millions enslaved and murdered. Our country committed genocide against native peoples, herded them onto reservations like cattle, and we’re still denying them the right to vote.

You might think the Civil War & the oppression of African Americans is too far in the past for the US to truly reckon with it, but Neiman argues that we should be looking much closer to the present day:

But this, Neiman holds, is the wrong timeline to be looking at: Americans are only now in the early stages of their reckoning, for the simple fact that the Civil War did not really end in 1865. Due to Reconstruction, due to Jim Crow, and as evidenced by the appalling violence and state-federal standoffs of the 1960s, the appropriate point to mark the South’s “zero hour,” she believes, is not 1865 but 1964, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. According to this timeline, Americans are a bit behind the Germans, but not by much — “about the place where Germany was when the Wehrmacht Exhibit provoked the kind of backlash that the removal of Confederate monuments provoked in New Orleans.”

Plus, systemic discrimination continues to this day, as does the US government’s poor treatment of indigenous communities. There is plenty of reckoning to go around and no time like the present to begin.

World Underwater

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

World Underwater

Inspired by a trip to Venice, the world’s most prominent example of what life could be like in many of our coastal cities in the years to come, Hayden Williams made a series of 3D rendered images showing what our world might look like underwater. (via the morning news)

Shampoo Packaged in “Bottles” Made of Soap

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 18, 2019

Product designer Jonna Breitenhuber has come up with an interesting way to get rid of plastic shampoo and body wash containers: by packaging the liquids in bottles made of slow-dissolving soap.

Soapbottle

Soapbottle

Soapbottle is a packaging made from soap. As the content within is being used, the soap packaging very gradually dissolves. When finished, remnants can be used again, as hand soap or processed into detergents. Soap is made of natural ingredients and is biodegradable: waste can be completely avoided.

You can see Soapbottle in action here:

I love that you open the bottle by cutting the corner off with a knife. See also Biodegradable Food Containers Inspired by Egg Shells & Orange Peels. (via moss & fog)

SNL’s Honest Kids Clothing Ad

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 24, 2019

This Saturday Night Live mock TV commercial for a Macy’s holiday sale cuts right to the truth about buying clothes for kids that aren’t right for them or their parents.

Some of their deals include “40% off cozy corduroys that’ll pinch his little nuts”, “kids jackets that are so big & thick they won’t fit in their carseat anymore”, and “everyday savings on mittens they’ll lose, shirts with the wrong Frozen princess, sweaters that make them hot”.

How Do You Move a Star? Stellar Engines!

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2019

In this episode of Kurzgesagt, they’re talking about building engines powerful enough to move entire stars, dragging their solar systems along with them.

At some point we could encounter a star going supernova. Or a massive object passing by and showering earth with asteroids.

If something like this were to happen we would likely know thousands, if not millions of years in advance. But we still couldn’t do much about it.

Unless… we move our whole solar system out of the way.

Kurzgesagt did something interesting for this one. Instead of relying on already available sources, they commissioned physicist Matthew Caplan to write a paper about a novel stellar engine design, a massive contraption that could theoretically move the solar system a distance of 50 light years over 1 million years.

Stellar engines, megastructures used to control the motion of a star system, may be constructible by technologically advanced civilizations and used to avoid dangerous astrophysical events or transport a star system into proximity with another for colonization.

Is this the first scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal commissioned by a YouTube channel? The 2019 media landscape is wild.

Fleabag: The Scriptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 26, 2019

I am sorry this is too late to make my holiday gift guide, but I just found out it existed: Fleabag: The Scriptures consists of the scripts for both seasons of Fleabag, the original stage directions for the play, and commentary from Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Fleabag Scriptures

Her coat falls open. She only has her bra on underneath. She pulls out the little sculpture of the woman with no arms. It sits on her lap. Two women. One real. One not. Both with their innate femininity out.

The book has been out since November. How am I just finding out about this now?!

The Art of the Travelling Salesman Problem

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2019

TSP Portraits

TSP Portraits

All art is bounded by one constraint or another. Mathematician Robert Bosch makes what he calls “optimization art”, which is best embodied by these images produced as solutions to the travelling salesman problem. Each image is made up of a continuous line that is the shortest possible route through a series of points without revisiting any single point, much like the optimal route of a travelling salesperson visiting cities. The rendition of a van Gogh self-portrait uses a solution for 120,000 “cities” while the single line forming the Girl with the Pearl Earring visits 200,000 cities.

I would love to see an Observable notebook where you could upload any photo to make images like these. (via @Ianmurren)

A Map of the 637 Languages Spoken in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2019

NYC Language Map

The Endangered Language Alliance has produced a map of the 637 languages and dialects spoken by the residents of NYC (past and present).

It represents ELA’s ongoing effort to draw on all available sources, including thousands of interviews and discussions, to tell the continuing story of the city’s many languages and cultures. The patterns it reveals — the clustering of West African languages in Harlem and the Bronx, a microcosm of the former Soviet Union in south Brooklyn, the multifaceted Asian-language diversity of Queens, to name a few — only hint at the linguistic complexity of a city where a single building or block can host speakers of dozens of languages from across the globe.

The online map embedded in the page works ok, but a $50 donation to the organization will get you a 24″ x 36″ print for your wall.

According to a Gothamist post about the map, the size and diversity of the city sometimes means that a significant chunk of a language’s worldwide speakers live in NYC:

Seke is a language spoken in just a handful of towns in Nepal-worldwide, there are fewer than 700 people who speak it. More than 100 of those people live in Brooklyn and Queens, according to the Endangered Language Alliance, a group that seeks to document and preserve smaller, minority, and Indigenous languages across New York City.

(via gothamist)

A Map of Mormon Geological Theology

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

Boston Rare Maps recently sold a nine-foot-high cloth map from 1899 that shows a geographic interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

Mormon Map Banner

The map was an official production of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS (known since 2001 as the Community of Christ), is a reformist branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, established in 1860.

You can read more about the proposed setting of the Book of Mormon on Wikipedia and its adherents’ belief that the indigenous peoples of the Americas are descended from Israelites.

The Book of Mormon is based on the premise that two families of Israelites escaped from Israel shortly before the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and that they constructed a ship, sailed across the ocean, and arrived in the New World as founders of Native American tribes and eventually the Polynesians. Adherents believe the two founding tribes were called Nephites and Lamanites, that the Nephites were white and practiced Christianity, and that the Lamanites were rebellious and received dark skin from God as a mark to separate the two tribes. Eventually the Lamanites wiped out the Nephites around 400 AD, leaving only dark skinned Native Americans. The descent of Native Americans from Israel is a key part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s foundational beliefs.

(via @john_overholt)

The Legacy of Philip Glass

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2019

Philip Glass Whitney

From the NY Times, Philip Glass Is Too Busy to Care About Legacy.

“I’m pragmatic,” Mr. Glass said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in 10 years. We don’t even get to know what’s going to happen after someone dies. We need to wait until everyone who knew them is dead, too.”

If that’s true, it won’t be until nearly 2100 when a full measure of Mr. Glass’s footprint will be possible. But some weighing can start now. The most instantly recognizable voice in contemporary music, he opened a new chapter in operatic history, pushing the bounds of duration and abstraction. At a time when the most lauded composers disdained overproduction, Mr. Glass wrote unashamedly for everyone and everything — and all stubbornly in the distinctive style he created, establishing a model for serious artists moving from the opera house to the concert hall to the film studio, garnering both Met commissions and Academy Award nominations.

But if the question is whether, a century from now, his operas will get new productions, his symphonies will circulate more frequently, or pianists will take on his études, Mr. Glass couldn’t care less.

“I won’t be around for all that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Austin Kleon expanded on this piece with some thoughts about lineage vs legacy.

I like this idea of thinking about lineage vs. legacy, because it means you can sort of reframe any worrying about immortality and how you’re going to project yourself into the future, and think more about what you’re taking from the past and what you’re adding to it that creates a more interesting and helpful present.

How to Get a World-Famous Actor for Your Short Film Project

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2019

Colin Levy recently finished a sci-fi short that he’s been working on for several years called Skywatch. And spoiler alert: Jude Law is in it for a few seconds. As Levy admits, he had a barebones budget and didn’t have big Hollywood connections, so how did that happen? How do you convince an Oscar nominated actor to be in your no-name low-budget film project? Like so:

That’s pretty cool. Check out the finished product:

What’s interesting is that the explainer video has 250,000 more views than the short film.

Lin-Manuel Miranda on The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2019

In The Role of the Artist in the Age of Trump, playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda reflects on how truth inherent in art means that “all art is political”.

At the end of the day, our job as artists is to tell the truth as we see it. If telling the truth is an inherently political act, so be it. Times may change and politics may change, but if we do our best to tell the truth as specifically as possible, time will reveal those truths and reverberate beyond the era in which we created them. We keep revisiting Shakespeare’s Macbeth because ruthless political ambition does not belong to any particular era. We keep listening to Public Enemy because systemic racism continues to rain tragedy on communities of color. We read Orwell’s 1984 and shiver at its diagnosis of doublethink, which we see coming out of the White House at this moment.

In a 1969 piece, Kurt Vonnegut asserted that art is an early warning system for society:

I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.

While not specifically about art, here’s a bit of what I wrote in a January 2017 post, How to Productive in Terrible Times.

I’ve always had difficulty believing that the work I do here is in some way important to the world and since the election, that feeling has blossomed into a profound guilt-ridden anxiety monster. I mean, who in the actual fuck cares about the new Blade Runner movie or how stamps are designed (or Jesus, the blurry ham) when our government is poised for a turn towards corruption and authoritarianism?

I have come up with some reasons why my work here does matter, at least to me, but I’m not sure they’re good ones. In the meantime, I’m pressing on because my family and I rely on my efforts here and because I hope that in some small way my work, as Webb writes, “is capable of enabling righteous acts”.

(via laura olin)

Pachelbel’s Canon Played by Train Horns

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2019

This video of the familiar tune of Pachelbel’s Canon being played by different clips of train horns all edited together is both funny and charming. If you need a little pick-me-up right now, this should do the trick. Watch for the celebrity cameo around the 1:00 mark. (via the kid should see this)

A Fresh Look for The Atlantic

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 13, 2019

The Atlantic launched a new visual identity the other day, complete with a new logo, custom typeface, updated website, and iOS app. Here’s the first cover carrying the new look:

Atlantic Redesign

The effort was led by Peter Mendelsund and his senior art director Oliver Munday. You can hear the pair talk a bit about their process here:

And more from Mendelsund in this conversation with editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg:

My favorite kind of design is a kind of time-released design, where you look at something and you have an immediate impression of it, and then you, upon further reflection, find something in the design that adds to or subverts that first impression.

Really nice work and methodology behind it. Hearing designers talk about how they approach their work always makes me miss practicing design on a daily basis, a former vocation of mine that seems very very far away these days.

The “Harbinger Customers” Who Buy Unpopular Products & Back Losing Politicians

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2019

Colgate Foods

This paper, about the curious phenomenon of “harbinger customers” and “harbinger zip codes”, is really interesting. These harbinger customers tend to buy unpopular products like Crystal Pepsi or Colgate Kitchen Entrees and support losing political candidates.

First, the findings document the existence of “harbinger zip codes.” If households in these zip codes adopt a new product, this is a signal that the new product will fail. Second, a series of comparisons reveal that households in harbinger zip codes make other decisions that differ from other households. The first comparison identifies harbinger zip codes using purchases from one retailer and then evaluates purchases at a different retailer. Households in harbinger zip codes purchase products from the second retailer that other households are less likely to purchase. The analysis next compares donations to congressional election candidates; households in harbinger zip codes donate to different candidates than households in neighboring zip codes, and they donate to candidates who are less likely to win. House prices in harbinger zip codes also increase at slower rates than in neighboring zip codes.

It’s fascinating that these people’s preferences persist across all sorts of categories — it’s like they’re generally out of sync with the rest of society.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the harbinger customer effect is that the signal extends across CPG categories. Customers who purchase new oral care products that flop also tend to purchase new haircare products that flop. Anderson et al. (2015) interpret their findings as evidence that customers who have unusual preferences in one product category also tend to have unusual preferences in other categories. In other words, the customers who liked Diet Crystal Pepsi also tended to like Colgate Kitchen Entrees (which also flopped).

(via bb)

Fantastic Fungi

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2019

That’s the trailer for Fantastic Fungi, a feature-length documentary about the worldwide network of mushrooms & mycelium that thrives beneath our feet. Here’s a description of what the film covers, from its companion book:

Fantastic Fungi is at the forefront of a mycological revolution that is quickly going mainstream. In this book, learn about the incredible communication network of mycelium under our feet, which has the proven ability to restore the planet’s ecosystems, repair our health, and resurrect our symbiotic relationship with nature. Fantastic Fungi aspires to educate and inspire the reader in three critical areas: First, the text showcases research that reveals mushrooms as a viable alternative to Western pharmacology. Second, it explores studies pointing to mycelium as a solution to our gravest environmental challenges. And, finally, it details fungi’s marvelous proven ability to shift consciousness.

In a review for RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm called the film “one of the year’s most mind-blowing, soul-cleansing and yes, immensely entertaining triumphs”. (via colossal)

My Recent Media Diet, The Late 2010s Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2019

Every month or two for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since late October.

Uncut Gems. Watching this movie replicates very closely what it feels like to live in NYC (and not in a good way). This movie contains one of my favorite scenes of the year and Sandler is a genius. (A)

Seduce And Destroy with Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie & Paul Thomas Anderson (A24 Podcast). The best bits of this were fascinating but some of it was too inside baseball. Listen to this after seeing Uncut Gems. (B+)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The Iliad as a romance novel (of sorts). Loved it. (A)

Hustlers. Jennifer Lopez did not require fancy cameras or the de-aging CGI of The Irishman to make her look 20 years younger. (B+)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Such a great alchemy of subjects — kind of a miracle how it all works together. (A-)

Jesus Is King. Boring. Christian hip hop isn’t any better than Christian rock. Born again Kanye? I miss the old Kanye… (C-)

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Wonderfully creative. A couple of really disturbing parts though for kids. (A-)

The Dark Crystal. Watched this after Age of Resistance and it holds up really well. (B+)

Tunes 2011-2019. Gets better with every listen. (A-)

The Laundromat. Soderbergh and Streep? This should have been better. (B)

The Fifth Season by N.K Jemison. Liked this but it didn’t make me want to immediately start the next book in the series. (B+)

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. Lots to chew on in this one but I ultimately didn’t finish it. But that’s more on me than Harari. (B+)

David Whyte: The Conversational Nature of Reality (On Being). “Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.” Whyte sounds like a fascinating person. (A-)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Re-watched the entire series over the past several months. Strong in the middle seasons but not a great ending. (B+)

The OJ Simpson Trial (You’re Wrong About…). Excellent multi-part reexamination of the OJ trial centered on the women, principally Nicole Brown Simpson but also Marcia Clark and Paula Barbieri. It took me awhile to get used to the sometimes-too-casual banter about distressing subject matter, but their knowledge and discussion of the subject matter won me over. (A-)

Ad Astra. The filmmakers couldn’t find a way to do this movie without the voiceover? Just let Pitt act…everything he says is obvious from his face. Beautiful though. (B+)

Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Engaging account of the sinking of the Lusitania, which eventually & circuitously led to the entry of the United States into World War I. (A-)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve read with my kids. (B-)

The Devil Next Door. Interesting story but I wanted more from this re: the nature of truth & evil. (B)

The Lighthouse. Sunshine x Fight Club. (A-)

Ford v Ferrari. Driving home from the theater, it took every ounce of self-control not to put the pedal on the floor and see if my car can do 120 on a Vermont county road. (A-)

The Crown (season 3). I didn’t like this quite much as the first two seasons, but I did like the overt and not-so-overt references to Brexit. There was a low-stakes-ness to this season which fits with other exported British media (Downton, British Baking Show) and the country’s rapidly dwindling status as a world power. (B+)

Menu Mind Control (Gastropod). Really interesting discussion of how menus are constructed to balance the needs of the restaurant and the desires of the diner. Buckle up though…Gastropod is one of the densest podcasts out there. (A-)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. A surprisingly trippy adaptation of one of my favorite magazine articles on Fred Rogers. Hanks is great as usual. (B+)

Coco. Another Pixar gem. (A-)

A Table for Two, Please? (Talk Money). From a new podcast by my pal Mesh — the first episode is about the business side of opening and running restaurants. (B+)

Knives Out. From the hype this got, I was expecting a bit more than a good murder mystery but it was just a good murder mystery. (B+)

Marriage Story. Great performances all around, but Jesus why did I watch this? It captures very well the feeling and experience of divorce. Total PTSD trigger though. (D/A-)

Galatea. Engaging short story by Madeline Miller. (B+)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. Impossible at this point for anyone to objectively review the ninth movie in a series which in some ways has defined culture of the last 40 years. I loved it, even the hokey parts. (A)

High Life. Not even sure what to say about this one. (B-)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2019

Splendid Vile

For me, Erik Larson is one of the best nonfiction storytellers around. I loved both The Devil in the White City (about the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893) and In the Garden of Beasts. So when his new book, The Splendid and the Vile, comes out in February, I’m gonna hop on it right away. As the subtitle says, the book is about Winston Churchill and Britain during the the Blitz.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London.

Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports — some released only recently — Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

(via Maria Konnikova, who is doing an event w/ Larson in February at Greenlight Books in Brooklyn)

A Machine Dreams Up New Insect Species

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2020

Using a book of insect illustrations from the 1890s, Bernat Cuni used a variety of machine learning tools to generate a bunch of realistic-looking beetles that don’t actually exist in nature.

Prints are available.

Impossible Foods Announces Their New Impossible Pork Product

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

Impossible Foods is expanding from faux beef to faux pork. Impossible Pork is their newest product made entirely from plants that is engineered to look and taste as close to the real thing as possible.

From the press release:

Impossible Pork is delicious in any ground meat dish, including spring rolls, stuffed vegetables, dumplings, wontons or sausage links. Like ground meat from pigs, Impossible Pork is characterized by its mild savory flavor, adding delicate depth and umami richness without being gamey or overpowering.

Although they don’t specifically connect the dots, Impossible Pork seems to be the base for another new product of theirs: Impossible Sausage, which is debuting in breakfast sandwiches at Burger King later this month. (I mean, you can’t make sausage without pork, right?!)

In a review of Impossible Pork for The Verge, long-time vegetarian Elizabeth Lopatto says it’s mostly a success, calling it “a savory base of protein for a lot of foods that traditionally call for pork”.

Colorful & Meticulous Hand-Drawn Travel Notebooks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2020

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Jose Naranja

Good God, these hand-drawn & painted notebooks by José Naranja documenting his travels are fantastic! From Colossal:

Formerly an aeronautic engineer, Naranja now archives his thoughts while visiting foreign countries by hand-crafting journals replete with items like collected stamps, an illustration of the periodic table, and a study of fountain pens. Each mixed-media page centers on a theme, such as the culture surrounding eating a bowl of ramen or the flamingos found in a zoo.

Whenever I see something like this, it makes me want to learn how to draw/paint better than my current 4th grade level.1 I spent about 45 minutes poring over his work just now. So creative & exacting…look at that handwriting! And check out the tiny box of watercolors he carries with him.

You can keep up with Naranja’s latest adventures on his blog or on Instagram. If you’d like to buy some of his art — including a bound copy of some of his notebooks — there’s a small shop. (via colossal, which is also endlessly creative & meticulous)

  1. Ok, let’s be honest: 1st grade level. Most people might find it difficult to fake kids’ drawings but not me!

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a Giant of Physics

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2019

Prompted by this Facebook post, I have been reading about astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who should be more widely known than she is. From a piece last year in Cosmos:

Cecilia Payne, born on May 10, 1900, in Wendover, England, began her scientific career in 1919 with a scholarship to Cambridge University, where she studied physics. But in 1923 she received a fellowship to move to the United States and study astronomy at Harvard. Her 1925 thesis, Stellar Atmospheres, was described at the time by renowned Russian-American astronomer Otto Struve as “the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy”.

In the January, 2015, Richard Williams of the American Physical Society, wrote: “By calculating the abundance of chemical elements from stellar spectra, her work began a revolution in astrophysics.”

Even though she completed her studies at Cambridge, she was not awarded a degree because the university did not give degrees to women. That’s when she decided to move to the US, where Harvard offered greater educational opportunities and a “collection of several hundred thousand glass photographs of the night sky” that Payne-Gaposchkin was uniquely qualified to analyze.

Miss Payne applied the new theories of atomic structure and quantum physics to her analysis of stellar spectra. No one at the Harvard Observatory had yet attempted such an investigation, as no one there possessed the necessary background. She, in contrast, had learned the complex architecture of the “Bohr atom” directly from Niels Bohr, winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize in physics. She had also followed the work of Indian physicist Meg Nad Saha of Calcutta, the first person to link the atom to the stars. Saha maintained that the line patterns in stellar spectra differed according to the temperatures of the stars. The hotter the star, the more readily the electrons of its atoms leaped to higher orbits. With sufficient heat, the outermost electrons broke free, leaving behind positively charged ions with altered spectral signatures.

Building on Saha’s base, with insights gained from a couple of her professors in England, Miss Payne selected specific spectral lines to examine. Then she estimated their intensities in hundreds of stellar spectra. Element by element she gauged, plotted, and calculated her way through the plates to take the temperatures of the stars.

Her groundbreaking work on spectra, laid out in her Ph.D thesis published when she was just 25, puts Payne-Gaposchkin in the same league as some other physics heavy hitters.

Her discovery of the true cosmic abundance of the elements profoundly changed what we know about the universe. The giants — Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein — each in his turn, brought a new view of the universe. Payne’s discovery of the cosmic abundance of the elements did no less.

Snowbrawl

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2019

Snowbrawl is a fun short film of a children’s snowball fight shot as if it were a John Wick or Mission Impossible action sequence. David Leitch, the uncredited co-director of John Wick and director of Deadpool 2, shot the whole thing for Apple on an iPhone 11 Pro.

White Space: Sketching the Military Court at Guantánamo Bay

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2020

MacNaughton Gitmo

Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton spent a week at Guantánamo Bay sketching the proceedings at the 9/11 military court for this NY Times piece. In a behind-the-scenes piece, MacNaughton describes how she made the drawings, including the creative challenge posed by the restrictions and censorship enforced by US military officials.

Of the 30-something drawings I presented, Mr. Lavender shook his head at only two. The first contained some classified items in the courtroom. That made sense. The second was a handwritten list of everything that I was not allowed to draw, which I’d made to use as a reminder while working. I wanted to keep it. He refused.

I argued that the information it contained had been disclosed elsewhere. But Mr. Lavender and his supervisor came to the conclusion that my handwritten list was indeed a drawing, technically containing things I couldn’t draw. My “No” list was a no-go.

That’s Guantánamo.

Every drawing she made needed a signed approval sticker from the court’s censor, and in this piece and on Instagram, MacNaughton didn’t photoshop the sticker out, reinforcing that the censorship is a vital part of the story she’s trying to tell. Even the paper towel she used to clean her paint brushes needed a sticker:

MacNaughton Gitmo

The Most Popular TV Shows 1986-2019

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2019

If you grew up watching TV (and who didn’t?), this bar chart race animation of the 10 most popular primetime TV shows from 1986-2019 is fascinating.

Ranking is based on the following factors: prime-time first 24 hours audience reports, one week of reported statistics for downloaded copies (pirated), one week of streaming services viewership. Numbers are worldwide with significant bias towards US market up until 2002, afterwards it’s balanced by p2p distribution across the globe.

I’d forgotten what a huge hit ER was in the mid-90s. And note that The Simpsons never cracked the top 10. Ah, I didn’t notice that they snuck in briefly during 1996 — thx @ChasingDom. (via waxy)

Primitive Technology, the Book!

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2019

We haven’t checked in on the Primitive Technology guy in awhile and — whoa, he has umasked himself! After more than four years of anonymity, the man building all of the tools, huts, weapons, and other Stone Age technologies in the wilds of Australia has revealed himself as John Plant. And in this video compilation from October, he announces that he has a book out: Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild. Looks like a step-by-step guide to building all the things in his videos, accompanied by illustrations and photos:

Primitive Technology Book

Primitive Technology Book

This is an instant purchase for me, if only to support what he’s been doing for the past 4+ years. Plant says:

This video compilation, as well as the book, outlines all the skills and achievements I’ve attained in this time period using research, hard work and trial and error. Writing this book is something I wanted to do even before making videos and launching this channel. I wanted to offer something tangible that benefited those who had the same keen interest in primitive technology as I do. With that, I thank each and every one of you for your continued support throughout the years, and I really hope you enjoy the book.

And for good measure, here’s his latest video from a few days ago, which shows him building a kiln for firing bricks:

(via the kid should see this)

Microscopic Photography of Tiny Plant Structures

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2019

Rob Kesseler

Rob Kesseler

Artist Rob Kesseler is a master of the microphotography of plants and their intricately small parts (like pollen, cells, and seeds). At Colossal, Kessler says a childhood gift of a microscope set him on his way.

“What the microscope gave me was an unprecedented view of nature, a second vision,” he writes, “and awareness that there existed another world of forms, colours and patterns beyond what I could normally see.” The artist says his use of color is inspired by the time he spends researching and observing, and that just like nature, he employs it to attract attention.

Check out much more of Kesseler’s work on his website. (via colossal)

Every Kind of Thing in Space

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2019

This 12-minute animated video is a tour of all of the different kinds of things “out there” in the universe (as opposed to matter and structures smaller than, say, a human being).

This video explores all of the things in the Universe from our Earth and local Solar System, out to the Milky Way Galaxy and looks at all of the different kinds of stars from Brown Dwarfs to Red Supergiant Stars. Then to the things they explode into like white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. Then we look at all the other kinds of galaxy in the universe, blazars, quasars and out to the cosmic microwave background and the big bang. It covers most of the different things that we know about in the Universe.

A poster of the final drawing is available here.

Come and See

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 19, 2019

Elem Kilmov’s 1985 Soviet anti-war film Come and See is getting a 2K restoration and theatrical re-release in 2020. In a 4/4 star review of Come and See, Roger Ebert called it “one of the most devastating films ever about anything”:

It’s said that you can’t make an effective anti-war film because war by its nature is exciting, and the end of the film belongs to the survivors. No one would ever make the mistake of saying that about Elem Klimov’s “Come and See.” This 1985 film from Russia is one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead.

Director Steven Soderbergh called it “one of the best things I’ve ever seen”.

Going to the Movies with Jackie Kennedy

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2019

Carly Simon’s recent piece in the New Yorker about going to the movies with Jackie Kennedy (an excerpt of her book Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie) was unexpectedly moving. And funny. And thoughtful. Trying to avoid seeing anything related to Oliver Stone’s JFK — “scarier, even, would be a two-minute trailer for ‘JFK’ inserted before the feature-length film we’d gone to see” — the two opted instead for Warren Beatty’s mobster flick, Bugsy.

Every time a shot sounded on the screen — and the film was plenty violent — she reacted physically, dramatically, her body mimicking the victim’s.

How do you deal with trauma like that when society keeps reminding you of it, not only generally (with gunshots in movies) but specifically, with blockbuster conspiracy movies that depict in detail the exact moment when your life was torn apart? And how can you be a good friend to someone who suffered from PTSD (and perhaps never recovered)? How do you assure her that you’re a safe harbor for her thoughts and feelings, that you’ll help insulate her without isolating her?

P.S. Somehow, in everything I’ve read/seen about the Kennedys over the years, I’d never heard that Jackie had given birth to a premature baby boy named Patrick in August of 1963. The baby died 39 hours after his birth. Her husband was assassinated just 105 days later. I… Jesus.

Visualizing How Big the Universe & Atoms Are

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2020

In this video, the visual effects artists at Corridor Crew help us visualize just how small atoms are and how large the universe is. For instance, if you imagine an atom being the size of a tennis ball, blood cells would be as large as a small town and a penny would be almost precisely the diameter of the Earth. This is like a deconstructed & remixed Powers of Ten. (via digg)