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kottke.org posts about video

How to Become Freakishly Good at the Yo-Yo

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2019

You may not be particularly into the yo-yo, but any expert’s explanation of their particular skill or craft is fascinating. In this video for Wired, world yo-yo champion Gentry Stein explains the sport, shares some basic moves, and shows off his most difficult tricks. I used to yo-yo a bit — nothing like what Stein does in that video though — and watching him makes me want to buy one of these professional yo-yos and practice up.

A Short Film of Spinning Tops by Charles & Ray Eames

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2019

Tops is a short film from 1969 by legendary designers/filmmakers Charles & Ray Eames that showcases spinning toys from all over the world. The music is by composer Elmer Bernstein, who scored films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Ghostbusters. I don’t know about you, but I began to feel a little dizzy about halfway through watching this. (via design observer)

How Pencils Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2019

Even on my busiest day, I will drop everything to watch a video of pencils being made. (I am a particular sucker for sharpening pencils by belt sander.) Blame Mister Rogers and Sesame Street probably, even though they focused on crayons. Here’s a look at how Faber-Castell makes their pencils.

For a more comprehensive and less slickly produced look at how pencils are made, check out this tour of the Derwent Pencil Factory, which opened a new, more efficient facility a few years back but is still located quite near where the first graphite pencil was invented.

A detail that jumped out at me from this video is that Derwent pencils are tested for color and consistency against a group of over 1000 standard pencils, some of which date back to 1937 and are nothing more than tiny nubs now.

In going back through the archive, I realized that pencils are a bit of a thing on the site. And so, a new tag is born: check out all the kottke.org posts about pencils. (thx, jamie)

Wes Anderson Explains How He Makes Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

For their series The Director’s Chair, Studio Binder pulls together interviews with notable filmmakers to shine some light on how they make their films. In the latest installment, Wes Anderson explains how he writes and directs his uniquely stylistic movies.

The video covers five main points about his approach:

1. Pull from your past.
2. Build a world.
3. Focus on precision & symmetry.
4. Find your spark.
5. Just go shoot.

(#5 is a bit of a head-scratcher. Anderson is pretty much the opposite of a “just go shoot” filmmaker. But I suppose he did have to start somewhere…)

The Four Notes of Death

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

When something dark and ominous happens onscreen, there’s a good chance that the action is accompanied by a four-note snippet from the dies irae, a 13th-century Gregorian chant used at funerals. It shows up in The Lion King, The Good Place, Lord of the Rings, and It’s a Wonderful Life. This Vox video explores how this “shorthand for something grim” went from chant to Hollywood.

Think back to some of the most dramatic scenes in film history — from The Lion King, The Shining, It’s a Wonderful Life. Besides being sad or scary, they have something else in common: the dies irae. “Dies irae” translates from Latin to “Day of Wrath” — it’s a 13th-century Gregorian chant describing the day Catholics believe God will judge the living and the dead and send them to heaven or hell. And it was sung during one specific mass: funerals.

Alex Ludwig from the Berklee School of Music made a supercut of over 30 films that use dies irae.

A Visit to the Most Solitary Place on Earth, the Deep Sea

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

For their latest video, Kurzgesagt takes a typically informative journey from the surface of the ocean all the way down to the deepest spot on Earth, Challenger Deep.

In the segment about marine snow — decaying matter and feces that falls from the resource-rich sliver of ocean near the surface to provide the thin sustenance for the entire rest of the ocean — I couldn’t help but think about trickle-down economics.

Yosemite’s Rainbow Waterfall

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2019

The light and the wind happened to be just right for Greg Harlow to catch this rainbow emanating from upper portion of Yosemite Falls. Beautiful. The 21-second time lapse version of the video makes the falls look like a rainbow flame:

It’s astounding enough that perfect curves of color appear in the sky after rainstorms, but could you imagine seeing a waterfall rainbow like this happen in real life? My head would have exploded. (via the kid should see this)

An Octopus that “Billows Like a Circus Tent”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2019

A team of researchers exploring about a mile beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean ran across this graceful octopus that put on a show for them.

Dancing at a depth of around 1,600 meters (5,250 feet), this elegant octopus measures an estimated 20 centimeters (8 inches) across and entertained our watch team for more than five minutes.

“It’s really putting on a show for us,” said a researcher as the cephalopod made its way toward Hercules’ camera, expanding its billowing arms like a circus tent blowing in the wind. Experts believe the octopus belongs to Cirroteuthidae, a family of cirrate octopuses, but the exact species is unknown.

A Forest Grows on an Austrian Soccer Pitch

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2019

For Forest 01

For Forest — The Unending Attraction of Nature is an art installation from Klaus Littmann that features a forest made up of 300 trees in the middle of a soccer stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria.

Using 300 trees, some of which weigh up to six tonnes, landscape architect Enzo Enea will cover the entire playing field with a mixed forest characteristic of Central Europe.

From the grandstands, visitors can admire the spectacle of the trees day and night (from 10am until 10pm). Admission is free. A sight that is as unfamiliar as it is fascinating and bound to stir up a range of emotions and reactions! Depending on the time of day (or night), the trees will constitute a constantly changing landscape that is shaped by the weather as well as the autumnal turning of the leaves. The installation is a clever play on our emotions when faced with what should be a familiar sight, placed in an entirely different context. With this monumental work of art, Littmann challenges our perception of nature and sharpens our awareness of the future relation between nature and humankind.

The project also sees itself as a warning: One day, we might have to admire the remnants of nature in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals.

Littmann modeled the project on a 1970 drawing by Max Peintner.

For Forest 02

I didn’t think much of this project from just the photos, but this short video really highlights the darkly comedic experience of having to go to a soccer stadium to look at nature — not to experience nature, but to sit in a moulded plastic seat a few hundred feet away from nature to look and cheer but not to touch or walk around in.

I would love to see this in person. For Forest is on view until late October.

Treasures in the Trash

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2019

Treasures in the Trash is a short film by Nicolas Heller about former NYC sanitation worker Nelson Molina, who started (and still maintains) an unofficial museum of more than 45,000 objects that people have thrown out over the last few decades.

The History of Europe, Every Year from 400 BCE to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2019

This video is an animated history of the shifting borders of Europe from 400 BCE to the present. This is a very nation-centric view of European history (and I would mute the music and use your own soundtrack), but it’s still worth a look.

“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2019

Filmmaker Charlie Tyrell’s father passed away when Charlie was in film school. Feeling like he never really knew his father all that well, he went through his stuff after he died, looking for clues as to who he really was. His tools, his police uniform, his cancer diagnosis. Charlie made a short film about his dad: My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes.

We hold onto our loved ones when they pass. Objects can become talismans, and memories become mythic. Some objects become sacred for no reason and are just as impenetrable as the people who left them. I came to a conclusion during my process: You can’t take it with you, but you can pass it on.

The tapes mentioned in the title don’t feature all that much in the film; it’s actually about family secrets, breaking a generational cycle of abuse, and parenting. In talking about her husband’s difficulty connecting with his children, Charlie’s mom says: “you bring what you know to parenting”. As someone who often struggles as a parent, that line hit me hard. From a post I wrote a few years ago:

I worry about my children, about my relationships with them. I worry about being a good parent, about being a good parenting partner with their mom. How much of me do I really want to impart to them? I want them to be better than me, but I can’t tell them or show them how to do that because I’m me. I took my best shot at being better and me is all I came up with. What if I’m just giving them the bad parts, without even realizing it?

And from Madeline Miller’s Circe:

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

The Surprising Grace & Power of a Slow Motion Pigeon Take-off

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 09, 2019

In this slow motion video clip from a BBC program called Secrets of Bones, you can see how a pigeon takes off so quickly. Pigeons can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 2 seconds, straight up from the ground. A look at its skeleton reveals short, thick bones, an absolute necessity for an animal generating that much power in such a short time. (via the kid should see this, back from its summer hiatus)

The Comet

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2019

Director Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl used millions of photos (that’s right, millions!) taken by the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to make this short video that makes the mission feel like sci-fi a la Alien or District 9.

How Much Better Does an Expensive Piano Sound Than a Cheap One?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2019

YouTuber Lord Vinheteiro recently played the same pair of tunes on six different pianos, ranging from a $499 used upright to a $112,000 Steinway to a $2.5 million Steinway grand piano that’s tacky af. Which one sounds the best?

I’m not sure that you get the full effect and nuance of the super luxe pianos after the audio has passed through YouTube’s audio compression and whatever phone or computer speaker or headphones you’ve got going, but the more expensive pianos sound better than the lower-end ones for sure. I would have appreciated a medley at the end that repeatedly cycled through all six of the recordings to better hear the differences.

Why Is Picasso’s Guernica So Shocking?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2019

Guernica is one of Pablo Picasso’s greatest masterpieces, and, like a lot of his other work, can be difficult to decipher. The painting is obviously anti-war, anti-fascist, and pro-Spain, but beyond that, art scholars have been puzzling over details for decades. In this TED-Ed video, Iseult Gillespie offers a short tour of the painting and its history. You might find this piece (and the list of works cited at the bottom) useful as well.

However, Picasso declared the inspiration for the painting was the aftermath of the 1937 attack of the Spanish town Guernica. On market day April 26, 1937, the citizens of Guernica gathered for their customary shopping and socializing; unfortunately, German war planes descended upon the town. The Nazis bombed Guernica and killed 1600 people; fires burned for three days and destroyed the town. Picasso captured the “la douleur et la mort” or “pain and death” of the aftermath. Yet, Picasso maintained his place that he did not assign meaning to the individual images. Nonetheless, this large-scale monochromatic painting encourages the inner critic to react, deconstruct, and create their own dialogue.

This account of the bombing shows how bloodthirsty and ruthless the Nazis were in 1937.

Besides celebrating the Führer’s birthday, the attack on Guernica served as a tactical military and aeronautical experiment to test the Luftwaffe’s ability to annihilate an entire city and crush the morale of its people. The Condor Legion’s chief of staff, Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen, painstakingly devised the operation to maximize human casualties, and above all deaths. A brief initial bombing at 4:30 PM drove much of the population into air-raid shelters. When Guernica’s citizens emerged from these shelters to rescue the wounded, a second, longer wave of bombing began, trapping them in the town center from which there was no escape. Low-flying planes strafed the streets with machine-gun fire. Those who had managed to survive were incinerated by the flames or asphyxiated by the lack of oxygen. Three hours of coordinated air strikes leveled the city and killed over 1,500 civilians. In his war diary, Richthofen described the operation as “absolutely fabulous!…a complete technical success.” The Führer was so thrilled that, two years later, he ordered Richthofen to employ the same bombing techniques, on an infinitely greater scale, to lay waste to Warsaw, thereby setting off World War II.

With that sort of casual brutality, it’s no wonder Picasso was still livid about it years later:

In occupied Paris, a Gestapo officer who had barged his way into Picasso’s apartment pointed at a photo of the mural, Guernica, asking: “Did you do that?” “No,” Picasso replied, “you did”, his wit fizzing with the anger that animates the piece.

(via open culture)

The Egg by Andy Weir

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2019

Kurzgesagt are known for their animated explainers about science and society. For their latest video, they’ve applied their signature style to a metaphysical short story by Andy Weir (author of The Martian). It’s called The Egg — you can read it here.

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

Bolas de Fuego, the Annual Fireball Street Fight in El Salvador

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2019

Every year on Aug 31, the residents of Nejapa, El Salvador throw flaming kerosene-soaked balls at each other in the streets surrounded by thousands of onlookers, with little apparent concern for the safety of the participants or onlookers. Just check out this madness:

The event is called Bolas de Fuego and it started almost 100 years ago as a religious commemoration of a 1658 volcanic eruption.

Residents in the town of Nejapa in El Salvador have been commemorating a volcanic eruption in 1658 which destroyed the town, by hurling fireballs at each other.

The annual event has been a tradition since 1922 and the fireballs are said to represent the local Christian saint, Jeronimo, fighting the devil inside the volcano with his own balls of fire.

I found out about Bolas de Fuego from travel writer Amelia Rayno, who went to this year’s festival. In her photo and videos from that night, you can see the gloves that the participants wear and get a sense of just how close the onlookers are and how fast & furious those fireballs are getting thrown around. Jiminy.

Errol Morris & Bob Odenkirk Team Up for Climate Change Spots

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2019

In partnership with the Institute for the Future, Errol Morris has produced a series of 30-second spots about climate change that star Bob Odenkirk as Admiral Horatio Horntower.

Here’s what Morris had to say about the ads:

I have never had any trouble believing in climate change, global warming, or whatever you want to call it. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Galileo famously replied to Archbishop Piccolomini (or some other Vatican prelate), “And yet it moves.” Today we could just as well say, “And yet it changes.” But what to do about it? Logic rarely convinces anybody of anything. Climate change has become yet another vehicle for political polarization. If Al Gore said the Earth was round there would be political opposition insisting that the Earth was flat. It’s all so preposterous, so contemptible.

I’ve created nineteen thirty-second spots that profile a character I created: Admiral Horatio Horntower. He’s an admiral of a fleet of one and perhaps the last man on Earth. Hopefully it captures the absurdity and the desperation of our current situation. No pie graphs, no PowerPoint — just a blithering idiot played by one of my favorite actors, Bob Odenkirk.

You can watch all nine of the current spots here.

Supercuts of the Stylistic Cues of Master Filmmakers

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 30, 2019

Video essayist Jacob T. Swinney makes makes these great little supercuts of the stylistic habits of filmmakers. His two latest ones are of Barry Jenkins’ close-ups and Christopher Nolan’s wide shots.

Barry Jenkins may be the modern master of the close-up shot. Jenkins’s close-ups are reminiscent of those crafted by the late, great Jonathan Demme — shallow focus with the character looking directly into the camera’s lens. Take it from close-up aficionado, Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson once told Jenkins, “I’m very jealous of your close-ups. There’s a long line of people who have really tried to do Jonathan Demme close-ups and I try all the time, but I have to say, you got it right better than anybody.” In Jenkins’s last two features, MOONLIGHT and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, the close-ups seem to transcend the narrative of the films. Time seems to stand still as we gaze into the eyes of the characters. They are intimate and profound, and they are simply pure cinema.

For a man whose films cover everything from masked vigilantes, to dream heists, to interdimensional travel, Christopher Nolan is a rather personal and intimate filmmaker. This is expressed in the way that he tends to position his camera. Nolan prefers to keep his camera close to his characters, often hugging their bodies in warm medium shots or close ups. So when Nolan chooses to back off and take a step back from his characters, we are going to feel it. Nolan’s wide shots are obviously beautiful, but what they convey extends far beyond a stunning visual. They convey magnitude and significance, isolation and disorientation.

Swinney has also done supercuts of David Fincher’s wide shots, the sound design of Jurassic Park, the use of shallow focus by Denis Villeneuve, P.T. Anderson’s reflective silence, and Darren Aronofsky’s extreme closeups. May I suggest some women filmmakers for the next round of videos though? Lynne Ramsay and Ava DuVernay for starters…

Endlings and the Death of Species

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2019

An endling is the last known member of a species and once it dies, the species becomes extinct. George was a tree snail that died in early 2019, the last member of the now-extinct Achatinella apexfulva species. He was 14.

Few people would mourn a snail, but Sischo and his team had spent years caring for George. He was a daily constant, a familiar friend. He was also the last known snail of his kind, the final Achatinella apexfulva. It is said that everyone dies alone, but that was doubly true for George-alone at the end both in his cage and in the world.

When the last of a species disappears, it usually does so unnoticed, somewhere in the wild. Only later, when repeated searches come up empty, will researchers reluctantly acknowledge that the species must be extinct. But in rare cases like George’s, when people are caring for an animal’s last known representative, extinction-an often abstract concept-becomes painfully concrete. It happens on their watch, in real time. It leaves behind a body. When Sischo rang in the new year, Achatinella apexfulva existed. A day later, it did not. “It is happening right in front of our eyes,” he said.

There’s a part early on in the video where Sischo is showing the snails in his team’s care and he casually points to a small chamber and says “here is the entire world’s population of this snail species” — I found that incredibly sad and had to stop the video for awhile to regroup. (Oh and the cardboard boxes labeled “snail morgue”.)

George was unique and we’re trying to avoid another George. But we have 100 species that will be gone within the next 5 to 10 years without intervention.

SpaceX Starhopper Rocket Test

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2019

SpaceX took its Starhopper rocket out for a little test run in Texas the other day, taking off and then landing about 300 feet away after reaching a height of about 500 feet. Spacehopper is a prototype of the company’s Starship spacecraft & rocket, which they plan to fly to and land on the Moon and Mars.

I’ve written about the wonder of SpaceX’s reusable rockets before, but the Starhopper test in particular seems like some deeply sci-fi shit, like what society imagined future space travel would look like. The ship looks and moves like something straight out of a late 60s Dr. Who serial.

VFX Breakdown of Ctrl Shift Face’s Ultra-Realistic Deepfakes

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2019

Ctrl Shift Face created the popular deepfake videos of Bill Hader impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hader doing Tom Cruise, and Jim Carrey in The Shining. For their latest video, they edited Freddie Mercury’s face onto Rami Malek1 acting in a scene from Mr. Robot:

And for the first time, they shared a short visual effects breakdown of how these deepfakes are made:

Mercury/Malek says in the scene: “Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality.” Ctrl Shift Face is making it difficult to believe these deepfakes aren’t real.

  1. I had dinner next to Malek at the bar in a restaurant in the West Village a few months ago, pre-Oscar. I didn’t notice who it was when he sat down but as soon as he opened his mouth, I knew it was him — that unmistakable voice. Several people came by to say hello, buy him drinks, etc. and he and his friends were super gracious to everyone, staff included. I’ve added him to my list of actors who are actually nice alongside Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves.

Unearthly Iceland

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2019

If you need to convince yourself to go to Iceland, this short film by Vadim Sherbakov should do the trick for you. Just stunningly beautiful landscape masterfully shot.

Islandia — is a Latin name for Iceland and relative to the old language since this film portraits primordial and rough nature of Iceland. For the short duration of the film, you will be transported to a place that easily could be a million years ago. From unbelievable landscapes and vast valleys to painting-like terrain and majestic waterfalls and lakes - this film shows the unparalleled beauty of Iceland and its unearthly glory.

Watching the film, I wondered what Iceland would have looked like back when it had trees — probably even more amazing. (via colossal)

Mario Kart Tour for iOS

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2019

I don’t talk about it much on the site for some reason, but Mario Kart is one of my all-time favorite video games. So I am very excited that Mario Kart Tour is coming out on iOS on September 25 (just in time for my b-day). You can pre-order it here — the game is free with in-app purchases to unlock more gameplay (just like Super Mario Run). Here’s a short trailer that shows how the gameplay works:

A Tiny Sea Ecosystem in a Jar

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2019

I don’t know about you, but I found it extremely difficult to not watch something called “A Year Ago I Put Saltwater in a Jar, This Happened”.

Last year, this YouTuber put some seawater, sand, and a few small plants in a large jar and sealed it up and over the course of the next year, a number of surprising things occurred in this closed ecosystem.

The ecosphere has housed crabs, starfish and a lot more and is currently still housing a lot of crustaceans, paramecium, worms, other invertebrates and even spionid worms.

So cool — there are allll sorts of things in ordinary seawater and sand. See also The Solitary Garden.

Mister Rogers Cuts a Record

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2019

From a 1972 episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mister Rogers demonstrates how to make a record using a machine called a record cutter (also referred to as a “record lathe”). Says Rogers, apparently living his best life: “When I was a little boy, I thought the greatest thing in the world would be to be able to make records.” (via open culture)

Metallica’s Enter Sandman, Covered in 20 Different Musical Styles

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2019

Listen in as Anthony Vincent covered Metallica’s classic Enter Sandman in 20 different musical styles, ranging from yodeling to The Eurythmics to Hans Zimmer to Lil Uzi Vert to John Denver.

Playful BMX Video Full of Rube Goldberg-esque Street Tricks

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 22, 2019

In this fun BMX video, Tate Roskelley uses all sorts of props — car tires, milk crates, trees, tennis balls — to perform all kinds of street tricks and stunts. Watch until the end…his last maneuver is probably the best. (thx, matt)

The King of Fish and Chips

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 22, 2019

In the 1960s, Haddon Salt built up a small empire of fish & chips shops in North America — they eventually had more than 500 stores. That attracted the attention of Kentucky Fried Chicken, then flush with cash after their IPO. And then…

An initial Google search revealed that this shop was the last gasp of a once-sprawling fish-and-chips empire with hundreds of locations that started with an immigrant’s secret family recipe, flourished into an eight-figure deal with Colonel Sanders and ended in collapse.

It took several years and the research help of friends to track down Mr. Salt. We found him in a remote retirement community in Southern California’s desert. The rest you can see in the film before you.

For every icon there are those who were almost famous. And perhaps they, even more than their conqueror, have the lessons we need to hear.

See also when Colonel Sanders badmouthing KFC: For the Colonel, It Was Finger-Lickin’ Bad.