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Iran’s Qajar Dynasty, Modernized

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2020

Qajar, Shadi Ghadirian

Qajar, Shadi Ghadirian

For her photo series Qajar, Iranian photographer Shadi Ghadirian styled her subjects and their backgrounds as they would have appeared in portraits taken during Iran’s Qajar Dynasty in the 19th century. But each subject is also posed with a contemporary object like a boombox, bicycle, soda can, or vacuum cleaner. Ghadirian says of her work: “My pictures became a mirror reflecting how I felt: we are stuck between tradition and modernity.”

Knight Rider for 8 Cellos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

This is a video of the Knight Rider theme song arranged for 8 cellos by Samara Ginsberg. You’re either the type of person who can’t wait to click on a link that says “Knight Rider for 8 cellos” or you are not. When I was in college, a friend who DJ’d campus parties used to throw the Knight Rider theme on and people always went nuts for it. Because it BANGS.

Map of Pangaea with Modern-Day Borders

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2020

Pangaea Country Map

Pangaea is a supercontinent that formed on Earth about 335 million years ago and began to break up about 175 million years ago, eventually forming the familiar continents of today. Massimo Pietrobon made a map that shows where our modern country borders would appear on Pangaea. Check out the full-size version here.

See also Locate Modern Addresses on Earth 240 Million Years Ago. (via @owacle)

Dr. Seuss Reimagined for the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2020

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Dr Seuss Covid

Designer Jim Malloy has reimagined the books of Dr. Seuss for the coronavirus age by altering the titles & cover illustrations and changing the author to “Dr. Fauci”. You can check out the results on Instagram and in this Instagram Story. (via print)

Meander Maps for Imaginary Rivers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

I have written previously about cartographer Harold Fisk’s wonderful meander maps of the Mississippi River produced for the Army Corps of Engineers. Borrowing the aesthetic of these maps, interactive artist & engineer Robert Hodgin wrote some software called Meander to generate meander maps for fictional rivers.

From an input curve, the terrain, land plots, side roads, highways, marsh land and mountain peaks are generated and prominent features are named. The map is then weathered and rendered in the style of old US Army Corp of Engineers maps from the 1930s and 40s.

You can check some of the generated maps out on Twitter or on Instagram, including some prototypes and animations (this one is my favorite). Hodgin has promised a full write-up of the project; I’ll link to it when he publishes it.

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post I got an email from a reader about an audiovisual installation called Meandering River that displayed “real-time visuals generated by an algorithm and music composed by an A.I.”

Synchronicity!

The Simpsons Parody of Succession

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

In the “couch gag” preceding The Simpsons episode that aired on May 3, 2020, they did a pitch-perfect parody of the opening title sequence of Succession, complete with the iconic theme song. (via @omcfarlane)

The United States of Voronoi

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2020

US Voronoi map

From Jason Davies, this is a US map where the state borders have been redrawn so that all points closest to a state capital than to any other form a state a la Voronoi diagrams. See also Voronoi maps of world airports and world capitals.

It’s interesting that many of the states’ new shapes are similar to their current ones, suggesting that the placement of the capitals relative to borders was somewhat naturally Voronoi-esque, like how people naturally space themselves in elevators or parks.

Pandemic Creativity: Edible Versions of Famous Artworks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2020

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

In yet another example of how the constraints of the pandemic are fostering creativity, LA-based artist Claire Salvo is creating edible versions of notable artworks and posting the results to Instagram. Says Salvo of her new pursuit:

i make art using a bunch of media, but one sleepless night a few weeks ago, i thought i’d try playing with food. these pieces make me laugh while i’m creating them, and i’m really enjoying the response from everyone watching the process. thanks for all the kind feedback.

i’ve spent nearly 30 years honing my drawing skills, and approximately 1 week pushing banana peels and lentils around a canvas. but i’m learning to #trusttheprocess because #art.

I think the Dali portrait is my favorite, closely followed by the Lichtenstein. And you know I love this: Girl with a Pea Earring.

See also Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic. (via jenni leder)

Radiohead’s Rejected Spectre Theme Song Played Over the Film’s Opening Credits

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2020

My kids have been making their way through the Daniel Craig Bond movies so when I mentioned that our local theater was planning on showing drive-in movies on a screen in the parking lot, my son said, “ooh, maybe they’ll show the new Bond movie”.1 Then they began to speculate who would be singing the theme song in the new movie, and I piped in: it’s Billie Eilish and they’ve already released the song.

So we listened to it and, since they had just watched Spectre, I also played Radiohead’s rejected theme song, which I obviously prefer to Sam Smith’s bland Oscar-winning song. This morning, while trying to figure out who sang the official one, I ran across the video of Radiohead’s version played over the opening credits (embedded above). Gah, so much better. What a missed opportunity.

P.S. Funny story from my research: not only was Smith unaware that Radiohead had been asked to do the theme song before them, they were also apparently unaware of who Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke even was.

  1. We’ll have to wait until at least November for that, although I suspect that as the summer goes on and people don’t go back to movie theaters even if they reopen, the studios will have to start releasing films straight to digital/Blu-ray. The can’t delay everything for a year or two.

The Songs of 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

You might remember last year1 when the Hood Internet released a series of videos mashing up the top songs of 1979-1983. Over the next few weeks, they’re going to finish up the 80s. The video from 1984 is up first:

As previously noted, 1984 was perhaps mass pop culture’s high tide, a great year for music, and the most 80s year of the 1980s.

Update: Here are the videos for 1985, 1986, 1987, & 1988. I’ll share the rest of them as they post.

Update: Steve Reidell and Aaron Brink of The Hood Internet talk about how they do these year-by-year mixes.

Oftentimes we’ll have an idea of where we want to start and where we want to end, and the work is figuring out how to get from one place to another. We’re changing song speeds and tempos to match and pulling in individual instrumental or vocal tracks if we can find them. Sometimes the thing that matches is a musical similarity and sometimes it’s lyrical. In the 1981 video, there’s a section where we string together Rick Springfield singing “Jessie’s Girl” and Rick James singing “Superfreak” and made it sound kind of like a duet about the same girl. Dropping that on top of Vangelis’ theme to Chariots Of Fire just ups the intensity and the absurdity of it all.

  1. I know, I probably lost a bunch of you at “remember last year”. But I’m pressing on regardless.

Lunar Landing Recreated from Archival NASA Photos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

Using thousands of original photographs taken by astronauts during the Apollo missions, motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl worked for 18 months to create this animated short film depicting a flight to the Moon, culminating in a landing and the exploration of the surface. (via moss & fog)

Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

With art museums closed and people quarantined at home, some folks have taken to recreating famous artworks using stuff laying around the house. Some of the best recreations are from the Covid Classic Instagram account.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine is pretty good too.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Museums like Rijksmuseum and the Getty have also been getting into the act, challenging people to send in their creations.

Covid Art Recreations

Audio Deepfakes Result in Some Pretty Convincing Mashup Performances

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Have you ever wanted to hear Jay Z rap the “To Be, Or Not To Be” soliloquy from Hamlet? You are in luck:

What about Bob Dylan singing Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”? Here you go:

Bill Clinton reciting “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot? Yep:

And I know you’re always wanted to hear six US Presidents rap NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police”. Voila:

This version with the backing track is even better. These audio deepfakes were created using AI:

The voices in this video were entirely computer-generated using a text-to-speech model trained on the speech patterns of Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump.

The program listens to a bunch of speech spoken by someone and then, in theory, you can provide any text you want and the virtual Obama or Jay Z can speak it. Some of these are more convincing than others — with a bit of manual tinkering, I bet you could clean these up enough to make them convincing.

Two of the videos featuring Jay Z’s synthesized voice were forced offline by a copyright claim from his record company but were reinstated. As Andy Baio notes, these deepfakes are legally interesting:

With these takedowns, Roc Nation is making two claims:

1. These videos are an infringing use of Jay-Z’s copyright.
2. The videos “unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice.”

But are either of these true? With a technology this new, we’re in untested legal waters.

The Vocal Synthesis audio clips were created by training a model with a large corpus of audio samples and text transcriptions. In this case, he fed Jay-Z songs and lyrics into Tacotron 2, a neural network architecture developed by Google.

It seems reasonable to assume that a model and audio generated from copyrighted audio recordings would be considered derivative works.

But is it copyright infringement? Like virtually everything in the world of copyright, it depends-on how it was used, and for what purpose.

Celebrity impressions by people are allowed, why not ones by machines? It’ll be interesting to see where this goes as the tech gets better.

Social Distancing As Demonstrated in Wes Anderson Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

Characters in Wes Anderson’s films are often misfits, outcasts, or are estranged from one another for various reasons. That apartness is often depicted cinematically using physical distance between individuals onscreen, with the aesthetic side effect of using all of that gorgeous 1.85:1 or even 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Luis Azevedo made a short supercut of moments in Anderson’s movies where the characters are practicing good social distancing techniques.

Blade Runner - The Lost Cut

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2020

Of the various cuts of Blade Runner done over the years, Blade Runner - The Lost Cut is perhaps the oddest. Billed by creator Leon Chase as “a radical re-envisioning of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic”, this cut boldly includes footage from other films like The French Connection, Star Wars, The Jerk, and The Blues Brothers. A few of the films whose footage was used, including the Coen brothers’ Fargo, were released well after Blade Runner came out.

Daring! But does this cut go too far? Or not too far enough?

Ella Fitzgerald Masterfully Butchers “Mack the Knife”

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

If you listen to more than 20 seconds of any song by Ella Fitzgerald, you can instinctively tell how amazing a singer she was. But taking a closer look reveals just how special. In this episode of NPR’s Jazz Night in America, they took a look at Fitzgerald’s 1960 performance of Mack the Knife (where she forgot half the words and improvised the rest) and her talent for referencing other songs while improvising, creating live “mix tapes” of popular songs using just her voice.

By 1960, Fitzgerald had become a global sensation. That February she gave an unforgettable performance in West Berlin for an audience of thousands. On the set list was “Mack The Knife,” a huge hit first made popular by Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong. Fitzgerald sang the song flawlessly until about halfway through, when she forgot the lyrics. But she didn’t stumble — instead, she playfully freestyled her way to the end with nonsense syllables and improvised words — the singular jazz style called scatting. This unforgettable and Grammy Award-winning performance demonstrated her masterful grace under pressure.

You can listen to her Grammy-winning version of Mack the Knife on Spotify:

I love how confidently she sings “Oh, what’s the next chorus…” — Fitzgerald belts it out like those are the right lyrics. Her self-assurance sells it. (via the kid should see this)

Where’s Waldo? in the Social Distancing Age

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

Where's Waldo Pandemic

Finding Waldo is a lot easier when no one can go outside. On his Instagram, art director Pedro Mezzini reimagined Where’s Waldo for the age of social distancing. He’s even wearing a mask! See also Clay Bennett’s version.

A Buddhist Monk Covers Queen, The Beatles, and The Ramones

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

Using traditional instruments, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Kossan performs delightfully earnest covers of rock songs. So far, he’s done Queen’s We Will Rock You, Yellow Submarine by the Beatles — both embedded above — Teenage Lobotomy by the Ramones, and a song by Japanese punk bank The Blue Hearts. The Queen one is my favorite, I think. (via open culture)

Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks Rapped Over Dr. Dre’s Beats

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

As someone who a) thinks Dr. Dre was an amazing producer, and b) read Dr. Seuss’s Fox in Socks to his children roughly 1 million times (enough to be able to, eventually, get through the entire book at a comically high rate of speed w/o any tongue twisting slip-ups), I thought Wes Tank’s video of himself rapping Fox in Socks over Dre’s beats was really fun and surprisingly well done.

Tank has also done Green Eggs and Ham (over the beats from Forgot About Dre) and The Lorax. (thx, andrew)

A Lego Justin Trudeau Talks to Children About the Covid-19 Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

During a press conference last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent a couple of minutes talking directly to the nation’s children, acknowledging their hardships and role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Tyler Walsh and his two sons spent a week making this Lego stop motion animation of Trudeau’s address, something that kids might be more likely to watch.

In an interview with the CBC, Walsh described their process:

“[It took] a fair amount of time and hundreds and hundreds of photos,” he said.

Each working to their strengths, Walsh said the kids were primarily in charge of piecing together the Lego elements — such as a podium, as well as hair and a bearded head for Trudeau — to bring the set to life.

“I would have questions for them like, ‘I need a sad kid. Do we have any sad kid Lego heads?’”

Trudeau himself responded to the Lego version of his address:

This is really great, Tyler. I think my kids — and a whole lot of others — will get a kick out of this, all while hearing how they can help out too. Thanks for helping spread that message.

(via @auntmaureen)

A Pandemic Strikes Business Town

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

I featured Business Town, an ultra-capitalist spoof of Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town, on this site a few years ago. Their last few entries have focused on the pandemic and they are devastatingly spot on.

Business Town Pandemic

Business Town Pandemic

(via waxy)

Tracing Starling Murmurations Through the Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

Back in November, Patrick Tanguay and I posted about Xavi Bou’s Ornitographies project, photographs of the paths traced by birds in the sky. Now Bou has released a video extension of the project, which shows the paths of starlings wheeling & swerving through the sky in huge groups called murmurations. Soothing soundtrack by Kristina Dutton. (via dunstan orchard)

Concatenation

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

Concatenation is a Rube Goldberg-esque video montage made up of cleverly arranged stock video footage. This is one of those things where I’m like, “ugh this is so good, why didn’t I think of this?” See also this clipart animation:

(via waxy)

Update: The music video for Cassius’ Go Up uses a similar technique of juxtaposing stock videos. (via @endquote)

Iconic Art & Design Reimagined for the Social Distancing Era

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

While it predates the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying social distancing by several years, José Manuel Ballester’s Concealed Spaces project reimagines iconic works of art without the people in them (like what’s happening to our public spaces right now). No one showed up for Leonardo’s Last Supper:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights is perhaps just as delightful without people:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

And Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus has been rescheduled:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Ben Greenman, Andy Baio, and Paco Conde & Roberto Fernandez have some suggestions for new album covers:

Corona Art Design Reimagined
Corona Art Design Reimagined
Corona Art Design Reimagined

Designer Jure Tovrljan redesigned some company logos for these coronavirus times.

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Coca-Cola even modified their own logo on a Times Square billboard to put some distance between the letters.

Corona Art Design Reimagined

(via colossal & fast company)

Update: Some emoji designed specifically for COVID-19. The Earth with the pause button is my favorite. (via sidebar)

The Girl with a Schmeared Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2020

Girl with the Schmeared Earring

From Joseph Lee, a super abstract rendition of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Another one for my collection of GPE remixes.

Previously from kottke.org on Joseph Lee’s work: Ultra-Impressionistic Portraits Made with Just a Few Thick Strokes of Paint.

No Frills Branding

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2020

No Frills Branding

No Frills Branding

No Frills Branding

Designer Kunel Gaur, head of a creative agency called Animal, has redesigned the packaging for several familiar brands using minimal black & white graphics and unadorned typography. The designs don’t seem to be collected in one place, so you’ll have to poke around his Instagram to find them.

That LV bag actually looks like something Virgil Abloh would design — it would sell like hotcakes. Dye it millennial pink and you’ve got a freaking worldwide sensation. Fashion design is so easy!! (via moss & fog)

New York Apartment For Sale, Only $43.9 Billion

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2020

New York Apartment

For New York Apartment, an art project commissioned by The Whitney, artists Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain compiled actual NYC real estate listings into a listing for one mega apartment for sale.

Compiled from actual online real estate listings, the artwork collapses the high and low ends of the market, architectural periods and styles, and neighborhoods and affordability into a single space that cumulatively creates a portrait of New York’s living spaces and the real estate market. Like a standard real estate ad, the listing shows the price, number of bed- and bathrooms, and square footage, all of which are updated weekly based on the city’s aggregated real estate listings.

Take some time to explore the project — take the 3D virtual tour, scroll through all of the bathrooms & closets, peruse the apartment features, and take the video tour:

Do you crave brilliant sunshine and the peace Zen behind closed doors at home, and the bustle and excitement of the big city at your doorstep?

Do you dream of a Manhattan life?

Do you dream of Brooklyn living with Manhattan in reach?

Do you have a thing for top floor apartments?

Do you have vision?

Do you like light?

Do you love to cook?

Do you love to entertain?

Do you need lots of closet space?

Do you own or plan to buy a car?

Do you prefer simple shaker style wood cabinets with solid surface counters or custom lacquer cabinets paired with a travertine marble?

Do you want a home just steps to the beach?

Do you want Katz Deli, Russ and Daughters or maybe some Economy Candy?

Contact information for all of the brokers is listed on the site in case you’re interested.

Fossilized Skulls of Cartoon Characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

Cartoon Fossils

Cartoon Fossils

For his Cartoon Fossils series, Filip Hodas used 3D modelling software to create fossilized skulls of cartoon characters like Scrooge McDuck, Tweetie Bird, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy.

These remind me of Michael Paulus’s Character Studies, drawings of the skeletons of the likes of Lucy from Peanuts, Betty Boop, Marvin the Martian, and Pikachu. I have his Hello Kitty drawing hanging in my living room, purchased after Leslie Harpold pointed me towards his work back in the day. (via colossal)

Remaking the Spider-Verse Trailer with Traditional Animation Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

Animator Pinot Ichwandardi, designer/illustrator Dita Ichwandardi, and their three young children decided to remake some of the iconic scenes from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse trailer using traditional animation techniques. You can see some of the process and the impressive results in the video above. They drew the scenes by hand, built their own multiplane camera setup (a la Disney), and constructed a camera rig using Lego. You can read more about their process in these two Twitter threads: one, two.

After they were done, Sony Animation invited the family to visit their California campus to meet some of the team that worked on the movie, including producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

See also How Animators Created Spider-Verse.

Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million High-Res Images Into the Public Domain

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2020

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

The Smithsonian Institution has released a massive trove of images and 3D models from their collections into the public domain, allowing the public to use the images however they see fit. From Smithsonian Magazine:

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose — be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

Part of the release is research data sets, 3D models of airplanes, chairs, and fossils, and developer tools like an API and GitHub repository. Here’s the Smithsonian’s official press release and a FAQ about the Open Access collection.

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

The images above are (from top to bottom): photograph of Frederick Douglass, 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module, inverted Curtiss Jenny stamp, 3D model & photographs of a tin of Madame C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, 3D model of a mammoth skeleton, carte-de-visite portrait of Harriet Tubman, 3D model of the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer, a placard carried in the 1968 Memphis march.