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kottke.org posts about Sam Anderson

A visit to an American factory that’s been producing pencils since 1889

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2018

Pencil Factory

Pencil Factory

Pencil Factory

What a marvelous little photo essay by Christopher Payne and Sam Anderson about General Pencil, one of the last remaining pencil factories in America.

Other parts of the factory are eruptions of color. Red pencils wait, in orderly grids, to be dipped into bright blue paint. A worker named Maria matches the color of her shirt and nail polish to the shade of the pastel cores being manufactured each week. One of the company’s signature products, white pastels, have to be made in a dedicated machine, separated from every other color. At the tipping machine, a whirlpool of pink erasers twists, supervised patiently by a woman wearing a bindi.

You can see many more of Payne’s photos of General Pencil on his website. Here’s Maria, her shirt and nails red to match the color of the pastel cores. There are also a couple of videos of the General Pencil factory:

And this older one that shows much more of the pencil-making process. Neither video includes a shot of the belt sander sharpening system…you can see that in action here.

See also I, Pencil, which details the construction of the humble pencil as a triumph of the free market, a history of pencil lead and how pencils are made, and how crayons are made, with videos from both Mister Rogers and Sesame Street. Oh, and you can buy some of General Pencil’s #2 Cedar Pointes right here.

Might as well face it, you’re addicted to games

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2012

Judging from the sheer number of you who sent in this link, it might be the kottke.orgest link in the history of the internet. In it, Sam Anderson goes long for the NY Times Magazine on casual games (like Angry Birds, Tetris, Bejeweled, etc.).

In 2009, 25 years after the invention of Tetris, a nearly bankrupt Finnish company called Rovio hit upon a similarly perfect fusion of game and device: Angry Birds. The game involves launching peevish birds at green pigs hiding inside flimsy structures. Its basic mechanism - using your index finger to pull back a slingshot, over and over and over and over and over and over and over - was the perfect use of the new technology of the touch screen: simple enough to lure a suddenly immense new market of casual gamers, satisfying enough to hook them.

Within months, Angry Birds became the most popular game on the iPhone, then spread across every other available platform. Today it has been downloaded, in its various forms, more than 700 million times. It has also inspired a disturbingly robust merchandising empire: films, T-shirts, novelty slippers, even plans for Angry Birds “activity parks” featuring play equipment for kids. For months, a sign outside my local auto-repair shop promised, “Free Angry Birds pen with service.” The game’s latest iteration, Angry Birds Space, appeared a couple weeks ago with a promotional push from Wal-Mart, T-Mobile, National Geographic Books, MTV and NASA. (There was an announcement on the International Space Station.) Angry Birds, it seems, is our Tetris: the string of digital prayer beads that our entire culture can twiddle in moments of rapture or anxiety - economic, political or existential.

But the real lily gilder here is that you can play Asteroids right on the article page…you can shoot almost everything off the page aside from the article itself — ads, comments, navigation, etc. This in-article game is based on this JavaScript hack that will let you play Asteroids on any old web page. Pretty cool. (thx, everyone)

Chatroulette

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2010

I spent about 30 minutes on Friday night on Chatroulette (very NSFW). You push the start button and you’re instantly in a video chat with some random person. During my session, the average “chat” lasted about 5 seconds and I observed several people drinking malt liquor, two girls making out, many many guys who disconnected as soon as they saw I wasn’t female, several girls who disconnected after seeing my face (but not before I caught the looks of disgust on theirs), 3 couples having sex, and 11 erect penises. In a Malkovichian moment, I was even connected to myself once…and then the other me quickly disconnected. In short, Chatroulette is pretty much the best site going on the internet right now.

Sam Anderson has a nice article in New York magazine about Chatroulette.

Vollmann = Robert Caro raised by feral raccoons (and more!)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2009

Sam Anderson wins the 2009 award for the best paragraph of a book review with his opening to a review of William T. Vollmann’s 1300-page book, Imperial.

I was sitting on the train one day chipping away at William T. Vollmann’s latest slab of obsessional nonfiction when my friend Tsia, who incidentally is not an underage Thai street whore, offered to save me time with a blurby one-sentence review based entirely on the book’s cover and my synopsis of its first 50 pages. “Just write that it’s like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker,” she said, “but with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.” This struck me as good advice, and I was all set to take it, but as I worked my way through the book’s final 1,250 pages, I found I had to modify it, slightly, to read as follows: Imperial is like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, if Robert Caro had been raised in an abandoned grain silo by a band of feral raccoons, and if Mike Davis were the communications director of a heavily armed libertarian survivalist cult, and if the two of them had somehow managed to stitch John McPhee’s cortex onto the brain of a Gila monster, which they then sent to the Mexican border to conduct ten years of immersive research, and also if they wrote the entire manuscript on dried banana leaves with a toucan beak dipped in hobo blood, and then the book was line-edited during a 36-hour peyote seance by the ghosts of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis, with 200 pages of endnotes faxed over by Henry David Thoreau’s great-great-great-great grandson from a concrete bunker under a toxic pond behind a maquiladora, and if at the last minute Herman Melville threw up all over the manuscript, rendering it illegible, so it had to be re-created from memory by a community-theater actor doing his best impression of Jack Kerouac. With photographs by Dorothea Lange. (Viking has my full blessing to use that as a blurb.)

Wow. And if you gave me a thousand chances to draw Vollmann’s portrait, I wouldn’t have come up with anything close to reality. (via more intelligent life)