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Shel Silverstein’s “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2020

The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a famously divisive children’s book because the story can be interpreted as an abusive relationship between a greedy boy and a tree he takes advantage of. Playing off of that interpretation, Topher Payne rewrote the ending of the book so that the tree is still generous, but only up to a point: The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries.

“And while we’re on the subject,” the tree said, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. “I recognize friendships evolve over time, and we may not see each other as often because you don’t have time for your tree friends. But we used to be real tight. Now it feels like I only see you when you need something. How do you think that makes me feel?”

The Boy took a long breath. He felt a sour rumble in his stomach. Because he realized he hadn’t considered his friend’s feelings. “I bet it makes you feel bad,” said the Boy.

(via waxy)

Fantastical Overclocked Urban Scenes by Cássio Vasconcellos

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2020

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

For his Collectives series, Cássio Vasconcellos takes crowded urban scenes and stitches them together to form fantastical patterns of human activity that look abstract from far away but detailed close up. These are great onscreen, but I’d love to see them in person someday. I could imagine looking at the highways one for hours, zooming in and out on all the details.

See also Sporting Events Compressed into Single Composite Photos. (via print)

And Now a Message from Mask Spokesman Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2020

The Auralnauts, who have rejiggered the dialogue and sounds from your favorite movies with hilarious results (most notably Star Wars), have reimagined Bane from The Dark Knight Rises as a coronavirus mask advocate for their latest video.

Do I look like I live in fear of anything?! I’m wearing this mask for you, the people of Gotham, who, I can’t help but notice, are not social distancing!

A Keen Analysis of the Influences on Inception

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2020

Ten years on from the release of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Andrew Saladino of The Royal Ocean Film Society smartly traces the key influences of the film, rejecting the simplistic notion that Inception is just a rip-off of Paprika or The Matrix. Instead, he delves into long-standing themes in science fiction and other genres that Nolan is able to synthesize into something new. (Remember, everything is a remix.)

Also, kudos to Saladino to getting through an entire video on the ideas that influenced Inception without making an inception joke or reference, e.g. “Dark City incepted Nolan into including malleable architecture”. Clearly I could not have resisted.

TV Intros Recreated Using Only Stock Footage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2020

Matthew Highton is recreating the opening credit sequences of TV shows using only stock video footage. Here’s the intro to Friends and (my favorite) the Duck Tales intro:

He’s also done Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Happy Days, The Young Ones, and the OC. Check out the entire playlist on YouTube or his thread on Twitter.

Daft Trump - Harder, Woman, Faster, Camera

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2020

Donald Trump’s idiotic brag about how well he did on a cognitive test (“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”) set to Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

You just have to laugh because if you actually stop to think about how much harm this man has done and will continue to do in his remaining time in office, the incandescent rage might make you pass out.

Bardcore: Medieval-Style Covers of Pop Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2020

With time to burn during ye olde pandemic, practitioners of a musical genre called bardcore have been taking pop songs and medieval-izing their lyrics and tunes. The three examples embedded above are Radiohead’s Creep, Jolene by Dolly Parton, and Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. Here’s how Creep starts off:

When thou wert here before
I could not look thee in the eye
Thou art like an angel
Thy skin makes me cry
Thou float’st like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
Thou’rt so very special
But I am a creep
I am a weirdo
What in hell am I doing here?
I do not belong here

Here’s a playlist full of bardcore favorites.

Wikipedia and most of the news articles about bardcore date the genre to April 2020, but I found a cover of System of a Down’s Toxicity from 2017 and a medieval cover of Metallica’s One from 2014 by Belarusian band Stary Olsa, which released a whole album of medieval covers of classic rock hits in 2016.

Famous Artworks Mask Up for Coronavirus Prevention

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

Blais Masks Art

On an Instagram account called Plague History, artist Genevieve Blais has been modifying the subjects of artworks to give them face masks. You know I couldn’t resist including her rendition of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

See also Iconic Art & Design Reimagined for the Social Distancing Era, Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic, and Jesus Christ, Just Wear a Face Mask! (via moss & fog)

Hamilton, But Sung By The Muppets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

This is a fan-made rendition of act 1 of the hit musical Hamilton sung by The Muppets.

The impressions of the Muppets aren’t bad and the “casting” is about what you’d expect:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle

I don’t know if listening to this all the way through is wise, but you should listen at least until Kermit/Hamilton makes his entrance at ~1:18. Oh, and skip ahead to 17:09 to hear The Swedish Chef do Samuel Seabury and to 19:01 to hear You’ll Be Back performed by Animal. (via open culture)

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

This is delightful. Over the past few months of pandemic lockdown, the residents and staff of the Sydmar Lodge Care Home in Edgware, England have passed the time by recreating famous album covers.

A Portrait of a Direct Descendent of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Jefferson Grandson

For his Descendents series, Drew Gardner takes photographs of people done up to look like their famous ancestors. The Smithsonian Magazine recently featured Gardner’s photo of Shannon LaNier recreating a portrait of his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson. Here’s the description of Jefferson’s portrait on the White House website:

The portrait of Jefferson was completed in Philadelphia before mid-May 1800 when he left that capital for Monticello. The face has the glow of health, a warm complexion. The sitter here looks directly at us and does so with candor, as our equal. The splendid eyes and mouth convey reason and tolerance.

At odds with that glowing description is LaNier’s very existence; he’s here today because Thomas Jefferson raped his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Sally Hemings. Says LaNier of Jefferson:

He was a brilliant man who preached equality, but he didn’t practice it. He owned people. And now I’m here because of it.

Check out this video for a look at how the portrait was made and more of LaNier’s thoughts about it. (via open culture)

Making Music in Excel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2020

Dylan Tallchief created a complete digital music studio app in Excel and in this video, he demonstrates how he used his spreadsheet program to recreate a-ha’s Take On Me. You can listen to the whole song here:

If you’d like to make your own songs in Excel, you can download the spreadsheets on Google Drive or the individual modules and objects on Github.

See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist and Super Mario Bros Recreated in Excel. (via @pomeranian99)

Twist, Spin, Tuck, Jump

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2020

In the second video in his Concatenation series (check out the first one), Donato Sansone edited a bunch of footage of Olympic divers, gymnasts, and track & field athletes together to make a single twisting, jumping, tucking, spinning routine that’s both seamless and completely disorienting. (via colossal)

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!

Update: Hodgin wrote about the Meander project on his website and included several more gorgeous examples of his output.

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, 1988, and 1989

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, & 1989.

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.