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kottke.org posts about video

Jimi Hendrix Goes Acoustic

A true master of the electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix missed the era of MTV Unplugged by almost 20 years and video & audio clips of him playing an acoustic guitar can be difficult to find. Open Culture recently collected a pair of videos of Hendrix unplugged.

While Hendrix did more than anyone before him to turn guitar amps into instruments with his squalls of electric feedback and distorted wah-wah squeals, when you strip his playing down to basics, he’s still pretty much as good as it gets.

A YouTube commenter said:

Jimi could make an acoustic sound like an electric, and an electric like something else.

P.S. Here are several clips of another otherworldly musician playing an acoustic guitar…his name is Prince (and he is funky).

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Gene Kelly Doesn’t Want to Perform Singin’ in the Rain on the Muppet Show

The legendary dancer, actor, and singer Gene Kelly appeared on The Muppet Show in season five, in what turned out to be the last episode of the show ever filmed. The episode’s gag involved Kelly being under the impression he was turning up to watch the show and not perform. Kermit tricks him into it, but in the final act, Kelly refuses to do his most famous song, Singin’ in the Rain. Until…

As Jonathan Hoefler said about this bit on Threads:

For all the satire and irony and anxiety that shaped Gen X, we were so lucky to grow up with the gentleness, wit, kindness, and respect of Jim Henson, the Children’s Television Workshop, and public television generally. How lovely is this?

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Ayo Edebiri Browses the Criterion Collection

As if we needed more reasons to love her, Ayo Edebiri is a total film dork. First, there’s the account on Letterboxd — her review of Empire Strikes Back: “this movie is great but I was really shocked by how ugly Yoda was sorry if that pisses anybody off but I had only seen baby Yoda and adult Yoda is fucking busted”. And recently, she totally nerded out in the Criterion Collection closet.

The actor shares her love for sexy and stylish heist movies like Charade and Thief; praises the work of Juzo Itami (whom she calls “the G.O.A.T.”) and his wife, Nobuko Miyamoto; and talks about the African American surrealist imagery in To Sleep with Anger.

So infectiously joyful! As one of the YT commenters said:

Between the prepared list on her phone and the Radiohead t-shirt I feel like this was the closest the comments section has been to having one of us in the closet

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The Teasingest Teaser Trailer for Severance Season Two

Well, the teaser trailer answers almost no questions about the second season of Severance, so job well done with the teasing there lads. Here’s one thing though: the season starts on January 17, 2025 on Apple TV+. Oh, and this:

In season two, Mark and his friends learn the dire consequences of trifling with the severance barrier, leading them further down a path of woe.

Season 2 reunites its ensemble cast of stars including Emmy Award nominee Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman, Zach Cherry, Jen Tullock, Michael Chernus, Dichen Lachman, Emmy Award winner John Turturro, Academy Award winner Christopher Walken and Academy and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette, and welcomes new series regular Sarah Bock.

✅ Teased
✅ Interest piqued
✅ New event created in my calendar for Jan 17
✅ And a stick of butter

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The Science Behind the Emotions in Inside Out 2

For National Geographic, Tony Hale (who played Fear in Inside Out 2) talks to psychologist and author Dr. Lisa Damour about Pixar’s new film, her role as a consultant for the filmmakers, and what science says about the emotions in the movie. From The Kid Should See This:

By blending Pixar’s storytelling with scientific expertise, the Inside Out films and this discussion help make the complex topic of emotional development approachable and more familiar. They offer viewers of all ages vocabulary to better understand and express their feelings, while normalizing the intricate emotional experiences we encounter throughout life.

I have heard a lot of good things about Damour’s books from other parents, particularly Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents.

Vox also has a really interesting article on the science of the emotions of Inside Out 2, with quotes from Damour and emotion scientist Dacher Keltner.

One of the things that happens when people become teenagers is that their brain becomes more sophisticated, and it allows for self-conscious emotions. Before age 13, kids are concrete in their thinking. They can’t always see things from another perspective. Then around 13 or 14, the ability to picture oneself on the outside, to imagine different scenarios, arrives as a result of brain development.

With that arrival comes the ability to be embarrassed and to imagine what other people think of you. Or to have envy, to want something somebody else has and to want to know why you don’t have it. Ennui is so funny and wonderful and really maps onto the natural disdain and over-it-ness teenagers can have for everything. Then, of course, anxiety is a major player in this movie. What anxiety requires is the ability to imagine and anticipate. Fear is our response to the threat right in front of us, whereas anxiety is picturing things that might happen.

See also The Making of “Inside Out 2” episode of Damour’s podcast.

As the parent of two teens and also as someone who perhaps remembers a little too much what it felt like to be a teenager, I found Inside Out 2’s portrayal of the emotions (and how to manage them) to be really convincing. (via the kid should see this)

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Gladiator II

Ok, this trailer for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator II really got me wound up. Denzel Washington, Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal, Connie Nielsen — I am here for all of it. November 22 can’t come soon enough (for several reasons…)

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The Avengers Assemble for Lakota Dub

Members of the original cast of The Avengers (Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo) reunited to dub the movie in the Lakota language.

Mark Ruffalo and members of the initiative sit down with us to share the story of this amazing reunion and its very special cause. From the recording studio to the big screen, we explore this important cinematic milestone and celebrate the release that took over 15 months, 62 Lakota-Dakota language speakers, and the original Avengers team to come together and Assemble!

More details from the Lakota Times:

On June 14th, 2024, Disney plus will release the Avengers film that will be dubbed in Lakota. Cyril “Chuck” Archambault, Ray Taken Alive, Dallas Nelson, Lawrence Archambault along with the Lakota Reclamation Project, Grey Willow Studios, students from McLaughlin school, elders from the Standing Rock community and many others have all worked very hard together to complete this project.

A couple of years ago, Ray and Chuck talked about the idea of dubbing the Avengers movie. From there, Chuck spoke with Mark Ruffalo about the idea and Ruffalo said he will get back to them about it. Several months later, a meeting was set up with Marvel and Disney to discuss this idea. Not only did they approve of the project, but Marvel and Deluxe studios helped them through it.

From there, they were able to receive a grant to help with funding, within the budgets they made sure that the Elders would be the highest paid in the project.

Here’s the poster for the Lakota dub, which is now streaming on Disney+ (change the language option to Lakota).

See also Why Star Wars Was Dubbed Into the Navajo Language.

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The Terrifying Project 2025

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on Project 2025, the extremist conservative plan for America if Trump wins the 2024 election — a wish-list to continue their fascist takeover of America.

One key goal of Project 2025 is to purge all government agencies of anyone more loyal to the constitution than to Trump — a process Trump himself started in October 2020 when he thought he would remain in office.

Trump has promised to give rightwing evangelical Christians what they want. Accordingly, Project 2025 calls for withdrawing the abortion pill mifepristone from the market, expelling trans service members from the military, banning life-saving gender affirming care for young people, ending all diversity programs, and using “school choice” to gut public education.

Project 2025 also calls for eliminating “woke propaganda” from all laws and federal regulations — including the terms “sexual orientation”, “diversity, equity, and inclusion”, “gender equality”, and “reproductive rights”.

Other items in the Project 2025 blueprint are precisely what Trump has called for on the campaign trail, including mass arrests and deportations of undocumented people in the United States, ending many worker protections, dropping prosecutions of far-right militias like the Proud Boys, and giving additional tax cuts to big corporations and the rich.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that climate change is a “hoax”. Project 2025 calls for expanding oil drilling in the United States, shrinking the geographic footprint of national monuments, terminating clean energy incentives, and ending fossil fuel regulations.

Trump has said he’d seek vengeance against those who have prosecuted him for his illegal acts. Project 2025 calls for the prosecution of district attorneys Trump doesn’t like, and the takeover of law enforcement in blue cities and states.

The 900-page document was prepared by Heritage Foundation, whose president stated recently on a right-wing podcast that “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be”. (This is the same logic used by abusers: “Why did you make me do that to you?”)

[The Wikipedia article about Project 2025 seems like a pretty good summary with lots of direct quotes and citations.]

This all sounds sort of alarmist until you actually read what’s written in the document, like this passage on abortions:

Because liberal states have now become sanctuaries for abortion tourism, HHS should use every available tool, including the cutting of funds, to ensure that every state reports exactly how many abortions take place within its borders, at what gestational age of the child, for what reason, the mother’s state of residence, and by what method.

It’s like that old bit of advice: “When people show you who they are, believe them”. Conservatives are literally telling us their plans for exacting a fascist regime under Trump…we should believe them.

More on Project 2025 from John Oliver:

The consequences of Schedule F could be catastrophic for the government. As Jacqueline Simon, the policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, put it: “There will be a massive exodus of competence.”

“When you fire everyone who knows what they’re doing and only hire people who will say yes to the rich guy in charge, that’s not a recipe for good government,” Oliver added. “It’s a recipe for the Titan submersible.”

With a civil service full of loyalty appointees, Trump wouldn’t need Congress to pass a national ban on abortion drugs, for example, when his head of the Food and Drug Administration could just rule them “unsafe” — a plan specifically outlined in Project 2025.

Education Week simply states one of Project 2025’s goals: “The U.S. Department of Education would be eliminated.”

Politico: Trump allies prepare to infuse ‘Christian nationalism’ in second administration:

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 offers more visibility into what policy agenda a future Trump administration might pursue. It says policies that support LGBTQ+ rights, subsidize “single-motherhood” and penalize marriage should be repealed because subjective notions of “gender identity” threaten “Americans’ fundamental liberties.”

It also proposes increasing surveillance of abortion and maternal mortality reporting in the states, compelling the Food and Drug Administration to revoke approval of “chemical abortion drugs” and protecting “religious and moral” objections for employers who decline contraception coverage for employees. One of the groups that partners with Project 2025, Turning Point USA, is among conservative influencers that health professionals have criticized for targeting young women with misleading health concerns about hormonal birth control. Another priority is defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care to low-income women.

The Guardian: US hard-right policy group condemned for ‘dehumanising’ anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric:

Purveyors of pornography, Roberts writes, “are child predators and misogynistic exploiters of women. Their product is as addictive as any illicit drug and as psychologically destructive as any crime. Pornography should be outlawed. The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders. And telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread should be shuttered.”

And I found these two pieces helpful in explaining the plan: Project 2025: A wish list for a Trump presidency, explained (BBC) and Project 2025, the policy substance behind Trump’s showmanship, reveals a radical plan to reshape the world (The Conversation).


“I Shrink 10x Every 21s Until I’m an Atom”

In this video, Epic Spaceman takes us on a journey to the micro universe, shrinking himself by 10 times every 20 seconds or so until he’s the size of an atom, a journey that only took 10 steps. At each stage, he compares his size with a familiar object — quarter, blood cell, DNA helix — to keep us oriented.

It’s worth sticking around until the end of the video for an explanation of how exponential scales are always used to represent things like this and what it would look like if we used a linear scale instead. There is an unbelievable amount of empty space in matter.

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15 Years of Plant Time Lapse Videos

This is a compilation of dozens of time lapses of plant growth, from seed to fruit in many cases. The plants featured include strawberry, avocado, tobacco, ginger, oak tree, cauliflower, potato, kiwi, and several types of mushroom (not a plant). The climbers (kiwi, peas) are so cool — their vines whipping around trying to find purchase. The thai basil was one of my favorites…watching all the delicate little flowers popping out in sequence up the branches is really lovely.

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The White Death

John Green recently teamed up with Kurzgesagt for a video on one of the world’s deadliest diseases: tuberculosis.

The white death has haunted humanity like no other disease following us for thousands, maybe millions of years. In the last 200 years it killed a billion people — way more than all wars and natural disasters combined. Even today it’s the infectious disease with the highest kill count.

The maddening bit is that tuberculosis is curable…it’s just that the cure is not equally distributed around the world.

4,000 people died of tuberculosis yesterday, and we simply don’t have to accept a world where so many of us still die of a disease we know how to cure. The White Death has been with us for millions of years. It is time to continue our journey without it.

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New Order’s Iconic Blue Monday Played on Vintage Casio Instruments

First of all, I didn’t know Casio made some any different kinds of electronic instruments back in the day — he used more than 15 of them to record this. I laughed out loud when the guitar part came in.

What you see me playing in the video are the actual instruments I used to make this multi-track recording. I layered different keyboards for most parts. I didn’t do anything to significantly change the sound of the instruments. I only used basic effects, such as equalization, reverb, delay, chorus, compression, etc.

And also, this is just fun…Blue Monday is an all-time favorite song of mine; here’s the original:

(via @johnnydecimal)

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Former Tennessee Abortion Clinic Workers & Volunteers Speak Out Against the State’s Abortion Ban

Contractions is a powerful short film by Lynne Sachs about a former abortion clinic in Tennessee, a state where abortion is almost completely banned.

If I can’t make the same medical decisions about my body with autonomy, I’m a second-class citizen. And you basically, as a physician, had to start counseling your patients from a legal perspective and not a medical perspective.

In the film, we hear from an anonymous woman who is a volunteer driver for patients; she drives them nine hours RT to get abortion care in Illinois:

I had on patient, a young woman of color, and she said to me, “You know, this is really crazy. I kind of feel like I’m on the new Underground Railroad.”

This makes me so fucking angry. If you’d like, you can join me in rage-donating to CHOICES Center for Reproductive Health (the clinic featured in the film, now located in Illinois), ARC Southeast (providing practical support for Southerns seeking abortions), and Midwest Access Coalition (a practical abortion fund that helps people traveling to, from, and within the Midwest to access a safe, legal abortion).


Oreo Kintsugi

Kintsugi Oreo

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of mending broken pottery repair with visible “scars”. A creative agency working for Oreos came up with the clever idea of selling tubes of Oreo frosting so that people could repair their broken Oreos in the same way.

Oreo’s ‘Kintsugi’ marketing campaign addresses the common issue of broken cookies by drawing inspiration from the ancient Japanese art. Kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” is the practice of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This technique not only restores the item but also adds beauty and value to the breakage.

Consumers often find broken Oreo cookies to be a disappointment, viewing them as imperfect and less enjoyable. However, the philosophy of Kintsugi teaches that there is beauty in imperfections and that items can become more valuable when repaired thoughtfully.

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Reggie Jackson’s Brutal Honesty About Playing Baseball in Alabama in the 60s

As part of the effort to incorporate the Negro Leagues into MLB history, MLB held a pair of games at Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field, “the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and former home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues”. During the pregame show Fox Sports invited Reggie Jackson, who played on a minor league team at the ballpark, to offer his perspective on the event. (Content note: Jackson says the n-word twice during his remarks.)

About halfway through this clip (the 4:35 mark), Alex Rodriguez asks him a softball question designed to elicit some fond memories about baseball and some gauzy reflections on the impact of the Negro Leagues:

How emotional is it for you to come back to a [place] that you played with one of the greatest teams around?

Jackson, as he did so many times during his career, knocked it out of the park with the brutal truth about what it was like to play baseball in the South as a Black man in the 60s (transcript):

Coming back here is not easy. The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled. Fortunately, I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it. But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. People said to me today, I spoke and they said, ‘Do you think you’re a better person, do you think you won when you played here and conquered?’ I said ‘You know, I would never want to do it again.’

“I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, ‘The n***** can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘The n***** can’t stay here.’ We went to [Oakland Athletics owner] Charlie Finley’s country club for a welcome home dinner and they pointed me out with the n-word, ‘He can’t come in here.’ Finley marched the whole team out. Finally, they let me in there. He said ‘We’re going to go the diner and eat hamburgers. We’ll go where we’re wanted.’”

“Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnny McNamara that, if I couldn’t eat in the place, nobody would eat. We’d get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay in a hotel, they’d drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay. Joe and Sharon Rudi, I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn our apartment complex down unless I got out.

The year I came here, Bull Connor was the sheriff the year before, and they took minor league baseball out of here because in 1963, the Klan murdered four Black girls - children 11, 12, 14 years old - at a church here and never got indicted. The Klan, Life Magazine did a story on them like they were being honored.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At the same time, had it not been for my white friends, had it not been for a white manager, and Rudi, Fingers and Duncan, and Lee Meyers, I would never have made it. I was too physically violent. I was ready to physically fight some - I would have got killed here because I would have beat someone’s ass and you would have saw me in an oak tree somewhere.”

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80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory

In this video, pianist David Bennett plays 80 of the best piano intros from the past 120 years, back-to-back and all from memory. This was lovely to listen to while I was eating my lunch.

Some of the intros I particularly enjoyed were Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, Let It Be by The Beatles, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Children by Robert Miles, Clocks by Coldplay, A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, and Breathe Me by Sia. a song I still cannot listen to without tearing up because of the series finale of Six Feet Under.

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A Few Lessons from Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech

Two weeks ago, Roger Federer gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth. After asserting that he’d graduated (and not retired) from professional tennis, Federer shared what he learned from his years on the pro circuit. Some excerpts from the transcript:

“Effortless”… is a myth.

I mean it.

I say that as someone who has heard that word a lot. “Effortless.”

People would say my play was effortless. Most of the time, they meant it as a compliment… But it used to frustrate me when they would say, “He barely broke a sweat!”

Or “Is he even trying?”

The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy.

I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool.

The wakeup call came early in my career, when an opponent at the Italian Open publicly questioned my mental discipline. He said, “Roger will be the favorite for the first two hours, and then I’ll be the favorite after that.”

I was puzzled at first. But eventually, I realized what he was trying to say. Everybody can play well the first two hours. You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re clear… and after two hours, your legs get wobbly, your mind starts wandering, and your discipline starts to fade.

It made me understand… I have so much work ahead of me, and I’m ready to go on this journey now. I get it.

On talent:

Yes, talent matters. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it doesn’t.

But talent has a broad definition.

Most of the time, it’s not about having a gift. It’s about having grit.

In tennis, a great forehand with sick racquet head speed can be called a talent.

But in tennis… like in life… discipline is also a talent. And so is patience.

Trusting yourself is a talent. Embracing the process, loving the process, is a talent.

Managing your life, managing yourself… these can be talents, too.

Some people are born with them. Everybody has to work at them.

On “it’s only a point”:

In tennis, perfection is impossible… In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches… Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches?

Only 54%.

In other words, even top-ranked tennis players win barely more than half of the points they play.

When you lose every second point, on average, you learn not to dwell on every shot.

You teach yourself to think: OK, I double-faulted. It’s only a point.

OK, I came to the net and I got passed again. It’s only a point.

Even a great shot, an overhead backhand smash that ends up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays: that, too, is just a point.

Here’s why I am telling you this.

When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world.

But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you… This mindset is really crucial, because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… with intensity, clarity and focus.

The truth is, whatever game you play in life… sometimes you’re going to lose. A point, a match, a season, a job… it’s a roller coaster, with many ups and downs.

And it’s natural, when you’re down, to doubt yourself. To feel sorry for yourself.

And by the way, your opponents have self-doubt, too. Don’t ever forget that.

But negative energy is wasted energy.

And “life is bigger than the court”:

I worked a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot of miles in that small space… But the world is a whole lot bigger than that… Even when I was just starting out, I knew that tennis could show me the world… but tennis could never be the world.

I knew that if I was lucky, maybe I could play competitively until my late 30s. Maybe even… 41!

But even when I was in the top five… it was important to me to have a life… a rewarding life, full of travel, culture, friendships, and especially family… I never abandoned my roots, and I never forgot where I came from… but I also never lost my appetite to see this very big world.

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Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl

Wallace & Gromit are returning for a feature-length film later this year — and so is Feathers McGraw, the scofflaw penguin that made off with the wrong trousers in, um, The Wrong Trousers. Here’s the premise of Vengeance Most Fowl:

In this next installment, Gromit’s concern that Wallace is becoming too dependent on his inventions proves justified, when Wallace invents a “smart” gnome that seems to develop a mind of its own. When it emerges that a vengeful figure from the past might be masterminding things, it falls to Gromit to battle sinister forces and save his master … or Wallace may never be able to invent again!

Timely! Vengeance Most Fowl will debut on BBC in the UK in late December and at some later date on Netflix in the US and elsewhere.

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How Tennis Balls Became Yellow, Feat. David Attenborough

Somehow, I didn’t know that until quite recently, tennis balls were white instead of yellow (Wimbledon used white balls until 1985). Here’s a British Pathé film from 1961 that shows how tennis balls were made, along with Wimbledon ball boy training:

I also didn’t know that many people think tennis balls are green when they are actually a color called “optic yellow”. Oh and that David Attenborough had a hand in the switch from white to yellow.

The change in color happened due to the demands of television transmissions. In 1972 television was already in color all over the world (although in Spain it was not generalized until five or six years later). At the end of the 1960s, the person in charge of the BBC broadcasts (which, of course, was in charge of Wimbledon) was the renowned documentary filmmaker David Attenborough. And he noticed that the visibility of the traditional white ball was not perfect, especially if it approached the lines of the rectangle of play.

In that year of 1972, tennis was in full growth: the professional and amateur circuits had unified and women’s professional tennis was also growing. Tennis was becoming a great world spectacle and in this context television was fundamental. The International Tennis Federation, in charge of the rules, commissioned a study which showed that the yellow ball was more visible and therefore easier for viewers to follow. The courts, moreover, began to be multicolored once the use of synthetic materials in official tournaments was approved.

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Are You an NPC? (Or Do You Have Free Will?)

Kurzgesagt attempts to answer the question (from the perspective of physics): Do we have free will? Here’s the deterministic perspective (from the show notes):

Now imagine that if right after the Big Bang, a supersmart supercomputer looked at every single particle in the universe and noted all their properties. Just by applying the deterministic laws of physics, it should be able to predict what all the particles in existence would be doing until the end of time.

But if you are made of particles and it’s technically possible to calculate what particles will do forever, then you never decided anything. Your past, present and future were already predetermined and decided at the Big Bang. This would mean there is a kind of fate and you are not free to decide anything.

You may feel like you make decisions, but you are on autopilot. The motions of the particles that make up your brain cells that made you watch this video were decided 14 billion years ago. You are just in the room when it happens. You are only witnessing how the universe inside you unfolds in real time.

And the other side of the argument (in favor of free will):

We know that we can reduce everything that exists to its basic particles and the laws that guide them. While this makes physics feel like the only scientific discipline that actually matters, there is a problem: You can’t explain everything in our universe only from particles.

One key fact about reality that we can’t explain by looking just at electrons and quantum stuff is emergence. Emergence is when many small things together create new fundamental traits that didn’t exist before.

Emergence occurs at all levels of reality, and reality seems to be organized in layers: atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, you, society. Put many things in one layer together and they’ll create the next layer up. Every time they do, entirely new properties emerge.

Having thought about this for all of 20 minutes (or, practically all of my life), the emergence argument against determinism makes a lot of sense to me. Then again, James Gleick’s Chaos and Steven Johnson’s Emergence both made a huge impression on me when I read it more than 20 years ago.

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What’s the Rarest Move in Chess?

YouTuber Paralogical downloaded data from over 5 billion chess games to find the rarest move in chess. Slight spoiler: there are many possible moves that weren’t played in any of the games analyzed. The data and analysis programs used are available on Github:

This is a lil’ code to analyze chess .pgn files, with the goal of finding the “rarest” move in chess.

That is, the rarest move notation (standard algebraic notation) given a large number of input games (e.g. every rated game from lichess) in pgn format.

However, since there are many moves that never happen, this is moreso counting and categorizing moves of various types rather than finding one specific rare move.

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Chaka Khan’s Tiny Desk Concert

NPR recently welcomed Chaka Khan into the office for a Tiny Desk Concert.

When the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka Khan, began to sing her hit “Sweet Thing” at the Tiny Desk, she seemed surprised at how the audience enthusiastically joined in. It’s just one example of how ingrained her work is in the fabric of music history. Since she emerged in the 1970s with the funk band Rufus, Khan has crafted a legacy that includes 22 albums, 10 Grammys, forays into jazz and theater and collaborations with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Quincy Jones. Her 50 years in the music industry recently culminated in a long overdue 2023 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This was great right from the jump…one of my favorite Tiny Desks for sure.

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The Cookie Monster Alphabet

In case you or someone you know needs a little levity or pick-me-up today, might I suggest what might be the cutest thing that’s ever aired on television: a little girl named Joey and Kermit the Frog saying the alphabet.

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AI Can Ruin Movies Now, Too

YouTuber Nerrel takes James Cameron to task for releasing 4K remasters of Aliens and True Lies that have been, well, ruined by using AI to clean them up.

The best 4k releases tend to follow a pretty simple template: clean and scan the negative, repair any obvious signs of damage, and restore the colors to match the original grading, with as little meddling beyond that as possible. The process should not be about modernizing the style or forcing film to look like digital video. 35mm film was capable of incredible picture quality, and 4k is the first home format capable of delivering most of that detail — that should be enough. A well done 4k is like having a pristine copy of the original negative to watch in your own home, with the full data from that celluloid — grain and detail alike — digitally preserved forever. And that’s the problem with deep learning algorithms — they can’t preserve details. They make their best guess about what an object is supposed to be, then pull new details out of their digital assholes and smear them across the screen.

If Hollywood and one of its best directors don’t care enough about their movies to do them right, how are they supposed to convince us to care about their movies?

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Every Kind of Bridge Explained in 15 Minutes

From Practical Engineering, this is a video explaining every type of bridge in just 15 minutes…or at least attempts to.

Without listing every bridge, there’s no true way to list every type of bridge. There’s too much nuance, creativity, and mixing and matching designs. But that’s part of the joy of paying attention to bridges. Once you understand the basics, you can start to puzzle out the more interesting details.

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The Trailer for Black Barbie

The first Black Barbie doll was created and sold in 1980. Black Barbie, a documentary streaming on Netflix later this month, tells the story of how the doll came to be and the impact it had on a generation of young people who were able to see themselves in a doll with the same color skin, perhaps for the first time.

The trailer opens with this line: “If you’ve gone your whole life and you’ve never seen anything made in your own image, there is damage done.” Which is then echoed later in the trailer when a little girl is describing her Barbie: “Really pretty, and has lochs, just like me”.

Shonda Rhimes produced the film and was recently on the Today show talking about the importance of representation. And here’s a tour of Sonya Larson’s collection of 1000+ Black Barbie dolls.

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Brats, a Documentary Film About the 80s Hollywood Brat Pack

I was a little too young (and culturally sheltered — like I’d never heard of New York magazine) in 1985 to really understand what the heck the Brat Pack was (not to mention what the name was referencing), but as a child of the 80s, I obviously grew up watching movies and TV shows that featured these actors. According to Wikipedia (which is a good read if you’re unfamiliar with the whole thing), here are some of the actors that were in the Brat Pack (or Brat Pack-adjacent): Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, James Spader, Robert Downey Jr., John Cusack, and Matthew Broderick.

The Brat Pack moniker was coined in a 1985 New York magazine article and it stuck. And according to some of the members, it ruined lives, careers, and friendships. Now one of the group members, Andrew McCarthy, has directed a documentary about the group: Brats. From Deadline:

Brats looks at the iconic films of the 1980s that shaped a generation and the narrative that took hold when their young stars were branded the “Brat Pack.” McCarthy reunites with his fellow Brat Packers — friends, colleagues and former foes, including Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Jon Cryer, Lea Thompson and Timothy Hutton, many of whom he had not seen for over 30 years — to answer the question: What did it mean to be part of the Brat Pack? The actor-filmmaker also sits down for a first-time conversation with writer David Blum, who fatefully coined the term Brat Pack in a 1985 New York Magazine cover story.

That trailer definitely hooked me in. Brats will be available on Hulu on June 13.

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