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kottke.org posts about video

What Do Foreign Media Correspondents Think of the US?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2020

Media correspondents from all over the world spend months and years in the United States, reporting on our current events, politics, and culture. In this illuminating video from the New Yorker, several of them talk about what they think of our country. As outsiders, they’re able to see things that Americans don’t and can talk to people who may not otherwise feel comfortable talking to (what they perceive as) biased or corrupt American media. They’ve also observed an unprecedented level of division and are aware of the disconnect between America’s rhetoric about freedom and the sense that they’re reporting from a failed state.

How the Instagram Influencer Aesthetic Is Being Used to Sell QAnon

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Over the summer, members of the QAnon cult started to take over the “Save the Children” movement on Instagram & Facebook, eventually luring lifestyle influencers into spreading the cult’s message. From the NY Times:

But new research suggests that the biggest jolt to QAnon came from the so-called “Save the Children” movement. It started out as a fund-raising campaign for a legitimate anti-trafficking charity, but was then hijacked by QAnon believers, who used the movement to spread false and exaggerated claims about a global child-trafficking conspiracy led by top Democrats and Hollywood elites. This hijacking began in July, around the same time that Twitter and Facebook began cracking down on QAnon accounts.

What happened is QAnon folks started mass-faving posts about Save the Children and trafficking, so influencers began posting more content related to those topics, using bogus statistics and QAnon talking points. As the video from Vox above explains, child sex trafficking is a legitimate issue but QAnon’s claims about it — and the Instagram-aesthetic memes it has spawned — do not reflect reality. From Michael Hobbes at Huffington Post:

First of all, decades of social science research has found that the vast majority of children are abused by someone they know, usually their parents but sometimes other children or figures of authority they trust. “Stranger danger” kidnappings, on the other hand, are extremely rare — the latest estimate is 115 per year in the entire United States.

Second, the summer-long panic about missing children is almost entirely based on faulty statistics. Though it’s true that more than 400,000 children are reported missing each year, that is not even close to the number who disappear. The vast majority of these reports are misunderstandings or runaways. Roughly 10% are kidnapped by a parent as part of a custody dispute. Over 99% return home, most within a few days.

Trailer for Season Four of The Crown

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

For the fourth season of Netflix’s drama on Queen Elizabeth and the British monarchy, The Crown moves into the 1980s. The first full trailer features two women who largely defined Britain in that decade: Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson) and Lady Diana Spencer, later Princess Diana (played by Emma Corrin). As a fan of the first three seasons of the show and You’re Wrong About’s multi-part series on Princess Diana, I am very much looking forward to this.

The World’s Best Tree Felling Tutorial

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Oh, I already know what you’re thinking. Who cares about how to cut a tree down? Who cares about 8 different ways to cut a tree down? Who cares about watching 45 minutes of 8 different ways to cut a tree down? I hear you. But this tree felling tutorial is actually really informative & entertaining and watching people who are good at their work, are good at explaining their work, and genuinely have a passion for what they do is always worthwhile. The top comments on the video are almost uniformly positive; here’s a representative remark:

I live off-grid in the forest (same mtn range as these guys) and for 30+ years I have been felling trees for fire-prevention, firewood, and home-milled lumber. I have fortunately never had an accident, but after watching this video I realized that was only dumb luck. After carefully studying this video (3 times through), as well as others on this channel, this year I have placed every tree exactly where I wanted (even the leaders) and I’ve done this in a much safer manner than before.

Did you know, for example, the extent to which tree fellers can accurately place a falling tree? I did not and their precision is impressive — I actually cheered when the tree fell during the sizwill cut demo.

Karen O and Willie Nelson Cover Under Pressure

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2020

Under Pressure, the classic tune from David Bowie and Queen, seems like one of those songs you don’t want to mess with — we’re looking at you here, Vanilla Ice. But if someone is going to cover it, it might as well be Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Willie Nelson.

(via open culture)

The Game of the Year: the 3D Virtual Walkthrough of 8800 Blue Lick Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

This week’s fun internet plaything has been the 3D virtual house tour of this three-bedroom house at 8800 Blue Lick Rd. in Louisville, KY. If you take the tour, you’ll quickly see why: from the standpoint of physics, the house doesn’t seem to make any sense. You think you’re in the basement and then head up some stairs to find yourself…still in the basement? It’s all very Inception crossed with the Winchester Mystery House with a side of How Buildings Learn.

So of course people turned it into a game: find the oddly located bathtub. They even started speedrunning it.

Resident internet meme sleuth Andy Baio called the owner of the house and got the scoop on the puzzling residence.

A larger question remained: what’s the deal with this place? Whoever owned it, they were too organized to be hoarders. The home appeared to double as the office and warehouse for an internet reseller business, but who sells a house crammed floor-to-ceiling with retail goods?

Internet sleuths unearthed several news articles from 2014, outlining how police discovered thousands of stolen items being sold online during a raid at the address, the result of a four-year investigation resulting in criminal charges for four family members living and working at the house.

But it didn’t add up. If they were convicted for organized crime, why was there still so much inventory in the house, with products released as recently as last year? Why is it still packed full while they’re trying to sell it? And what’s with the bathtub!?

I had questions, so I picked up the phone.

He also explains why the bathtub is no longer viewable in the 3D walkthrough.

The Earthshot Prize

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

Earlier this month, Prince William (British royal) & David Attenborough (British royalty) announced The Earthshot Prize. Inspired by the moonshot effort of the 1960s, the initiative will award five £1 million (~$1.3 million) prizes each year over the next 10 years for projects that provide global solutions to pressing environmental problems in five different categories: fixing the climate, cleaning the air, protecting & restoring nature, reviving the oceans, and building a waste-free world.

The Earthshot Prize is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ — simple but ambitious goals for our planet which if achieved by 2030 will improve life for us all, for generations to come. Each Earthshot is underpinned by scientifically agreed targets including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally recognised measures to help repair our planet.

Together, they form a unique set of challenges rooted in science, which aim to generate new ways of thinking, as well as new technologies, systems, policies and solutions. By bringing these five critical issues together, The Earthshot Prize recognises the interconnectivity between environmental challenges and the urgent need to tackle them together.

(via moss & fog)

Interviews with Titanic Survivors

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

In 1979 the BBC aired an interview with Frank Prentice, who was an assistant purser on the Titanic who survived the sinking of the ship in 1912. I’m not sure what to expect when I started listening, but I was completely captivated by Prentice’s tale.

More information on the Mrs. Clark from his story is available here.

Mrs Clark left Titanic with Mrs Astor in lifeboat 4. She recalled Mrs Astor insisting that the lifeboat be turned around to rescue more people; the lifeboat eventually pulled around eight crewmen from the water. When the ship eventually founded Mrs Clark recalled the “heartrending moans and cries” of those struggling in the water.

There are many other interviews with Titanic survivors on YouTube, including this 40-minute feature of seven survivors telling their stories and this 1970 British Pathé clip:

(via @daniel_beattie)

Back to the Future: Reimagined

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2020

Back to the Future is 35 years old this year and to celebrate, Universal has cut together eight fan-made animations of action from the film into an abridged version of the beloved movie.

See also a deepfake version of BTTF with Tom Holland as Marty and Robert Downey Jr. as Doc.

Fantastic 3-D Animation of How Medieval Bridges Were Built

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2020

The animation above shows how bridges were built in medieval times, well before the advent of backhoes, cranes, and bulldozers powered by steam and gasoline. I could explain what you’re about to see, but you should just watch the video.

The bridge constructed in the video is the real-life Charles Bridge in Prague, which was built over several decades in the 14th and 15th centuries. From Amusing Planet:

Construction of the Charles Bridge started in 1357, under the auspices of King Charles IV, but it was not completed until the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge has 16 arches and 15 pillars, each shielded by ice guards. It’s 512 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide. The balustrade is decorated with 30 statues and statuaries depicting various saints and patron saints, although these were erected much later, between 1683 and 1714. To preserve these statues, they were replaced with replicas during the 1960s. The originals are at Prague’s National Museum.

Until the middle of the 19th century, the Charles Bridge was the only crossing on river Vltava, which made the bridge an important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas.

When I was younger, I remember watching (and loving) a PBS series on the building techniques used to construct the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, the Colosseum, and Incan buildings. That the internet is now overflowing with engaging history videos like this bridge video is truly wonderful.

Watch a NASA Spacecraft Touch Down On an Asteroid to Collect a Sample

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2020

On Tuesday, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on an asteroid called Bennu for about six seconds in order to collect a mineral sample to bring back to Earth.

The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, called Bennu (formerly 1999 RQ36), and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

The video above is a time lapse sequence of the touch down, sampling, and subsequent take off.

These images were captured over approximately a five-minute period. The imaging sequence begins at about 82 feet (25 meters) above the surface, and runs through the back-away maneuver, with the last image in the sequence taken at approximately 43 feet (13 meters) in altitude — about 35 seconds after backing away. The sequence was created using 82 SamCam images, with 1.25 seconds between frames.

NYC’s New Digital Subway Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2020

NYC Digital Subway Map

New York City has a new digital subway map that reflects the current status of the subway lines. And you can even see the trains moving, right on the map. (Finally!!) Visually, the new map combines the styles of two past maps, each beloved in their own way.1Fast Company explains:

The first map is that by Massimo Vignelli, who simplified the snaking subway system into a clean diagram which traded geographic literality for graphical clarity. This elegant simplification turns the confounding subway into a logical system. But the main Vignelli map was scorned by New Yorkers because it wasn’t an actual map, and it was quickly replaced (though a permutation actually lives on as the MTA’s Weekender diagram, which signals weekend services). Meanwhile, the primary map the MTA uses today was created by Unimark International and Michael Hertz Associates. It’s more geographically accurate, but it actually condenses information that was in the Vignelli map. For example, it combines individual train lines such as the C, D, and E lines into singular trunks.

Here’s a video from filmmaker Gary Huswit that shows how the team came up with the new map:

Zooming the map in and out, you see different levels of detail, just like with Google or Apple Maps. I like it — a good combination of form and function.2

Update: A reader reminded me of designer Eddie Jabbour’s Kick Map of the NYC subway, which effectively melded the styles of the Vignelli and Hertz maps together more than 15 years ago.

Kickmap Nyc Subway

What’s interesting is that the MTA explicitly rejected and criticized the Kick Map but ended up doing something quite similar with the new digital map. I think Jabbour’s effort deserves to be acknowledged here. (thx, nicolas)

  1. I know as a lover of simplicity, beautiful design, and whatnot, I’m supposed to love the Vignelli map, but I never have. The Hertz map fits the utility of the NYC subway so much better.

  1. Although I will say that the website in Chrome absolutely hammered the processor on my computer. It’s probably smoother on mobile?

It’s Reflective Fjord Season

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2020

This image-stabilized video of Tomasz Furmanek kayaking through the fjords of western Norway is almost obscenely beautiful. I want to go to there. (Really dislike the music though…this would have been so much better just with the ambient noise of the boat and paddle slipping through the water. Like this video.)

A World of Calm

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2020

Well, this is interesting. A World of Calm is a new TV series from HBO Max based on a sleep & meditation app called Calm.

A timely antidote for our modern lives, each half-hour episode takes audiences on an immersive visual journey into another world. Building on the record-breaking success of Calm’s Sleep Stories™ — bedtime stories for grown ups with over 250m listens — each relaxing tale is designed to transform how you feel. Transporting the viewer into tranquility through scientifically-engineered narratives, enchanting music and astounding footage, to naturally calm your body and soothe the mind. Each story is brought to life by a different iconic voice.

Narrators include Lucy Liu, Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Zoe Kravitz, Keanu Reeves, and Kate Winslet. Based on the trailer (above) that hits a number of kottke.org pet topics — relaxing videos, soothing sounds, nature documentaries, aerial photography, craftsmanship — I will likely be spending some time with A World of Calm soon, possibly while high?

World’s Fastest Production Car Reaches a Ludicrous 331 MPH on a Public Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2020

The SSC Tuatara has snatched the title of the world’s fastest production car away from its rivals by an absurd margin — and it wasn’t even going as fast as it could have.

After the satellite data from the onboard GPS system had been analyzed-the devices tracked two runs in opposite directions and calculated the average-Webb’s last dash came in at a staggering 331.15 mph. The final verified average was 316.11 miles per hour, handily beating both the Koenigsegg and the Bugatti records and cracking the metric milestone of 500 kilometers per hour just for good measure. In addition, the morning’s effort garnered records for the fastest flying mile on a public road (313.12 mph) and the highest speed achieved on a public road (331.15 mph).

How fast is that? “We were covering one and a half football fields each second.” *insert eyes-bugging-out emoji here* The cockpit video above is incredible. Just watch how smoothly and effortlessly the car accelerates right up to 331.15 mph before the driver lets off the gas — there was clearly plenty left. Indeed, the driver hadn’t even shifted into the car’s final gear.

The Way I See It, a Documentary Film About Former White House Photographer Pete Souza

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2020

Pete Souza was the White House photographer for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Reflecting on his experience and the how the current President comports himself while in office, Souza published two books: Obama: An Intimate Portrait and Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents. Those books form the basis for a documentary directed by Dawn Porter on Souza and his work called The Way I See It.

Based on the New York Times #1 bestseller comes The Way I See It, an unprecedented look behind the scenes of two of the most iconic Presidents in American History, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, as seen through the eyes of renowned photographer Pete Souza. As Official White House Photographer, Souza was an eyewitness to the unique and tremendous responsibilities of being the most powerful person on Earth. The movie reveals how Souza transforms from a respected photojournalist to a searing commentator on the issues we face as a country and a people.

I didn’t know that Trump’s presidency is not really getting recorded photographically as past presidencies have, but I’m not surprised.

The film was shown on MSNBC the other day…I don’t know if they’re rerunning it or what. It’s also out in theaters but with many of those still closed, I assume it’ll be out on streaming at some point soonish? (Update: According to the MSNBC schedule, it looks like it’s re-airing at midnight on Friday.)

How Artisanal French Butter Is Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2020

In Brittany, France, Le Beurre Bordier still makes butter by hand using wooden machines. In this video, we travel to their small factory and meet artisan butter maker (and goofy chap) Jean-Yves Bordier to see how they make what some people call the best butter in the world.

To Jean-Yves, the malaxage is a more romantic way to make butter. At his workshop, everything is churned, kneaded, and shaped by hand.

Bordier is such a character, and it’s genuinely delightful to see how he thinks like an artist about his work. (via colossal)

Short Film Clip of a Snowball Fight from 1897

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2020

This is a short clip from 1897 of a snowball fight filmed by cinema pioneers the Lumière brothers in Lyon, France. This lovely little film has resurfaced recently after a retouched, motion-stabilized, upsampled, and colorized version was posted to Twitter. This doctored version was created using AI-powered software DeOldify. The colorized video does look strikingly modern, but it feels overclocked, overheated. I prefer the original version without all of the guesswork; as I wrote recently, I’ve grow weary of these AI-mediated films.

“Your Civilisation Is Killing Life on Earth”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2020

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani people in Ecuador: This is my message to the western world — your civilisation is killing life on Earth.

My name is Nemonte Nenquimo. I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home. I am writing you this letter because the fires are raging still. Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronavirus, while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love — our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth — and it’s time that you listened to us.

This is a great letter because it contains the force of truth. Nenquimo is a cofounder of the Ceibo Alliance, an indigenous-led organization working to defend indigenous territory and develop “viable solutions-based alternatives to rainforest destruction”, and was honored as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020 (Leonardo DiCaprio penned her bio).

Jackson Bird’s Transition Timeline

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 13, 2020

Jackson Bird, who kottke.org readers may know as the host of Kottke Ride Home, recently made a video showing his lifelong transition from the assignment he was given at birth to “the man I am today”.

Instead of photos, I used thirty years worth of home videos to share my story. I called this my Five Years On Testosterone video, but it could more accurately be called Thirty Years In Transition. This is three decades worth of what it looks like to be a transgender person. From childhood tomboy days to confusion and questioning to denial and finally coming out, starting hormones, changing my name, getting top surgery, and all of the moments in between. Not all of our stories are the same, far from it, but this is one story — my story. The story of how I became the man I am today.

What a great video and fantastic storytelling. Undertaking a journey in public like this cannot be easy; thanks for sharing this with us, Jackson. If you’d like to know more about his story, check out his memoir: Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place.

Darren Aronofsky & His Cast Reunite for the 20th Anniversary of Requiem for a Dream

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2020

To mark the 20th anniversary of the debut of Requiem for a Dream, MoMA organized a virtual reunion of director Darren Aronofsky and the four principle cast members (Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans) to talk about “the film and its impact on cinema and culture”. Would have loved to hear from cinematographer Matthew Libatique and Clint Mansell (who did the fantastic music for the film) as well, but even six-person online panels are a little unwieldy. (via open culture)

Bicycle Ballet

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2020

Watch as artistic cyclist Viola Brand does all sorts of seemingly impossible bike tricks that look like ballet, all while dodging a massive chandelier inside an ornate European castle.

See also bicycle acrobat Lilly Yokoi performing some similar tricks back in 1965.

Paintings by Fire Ants

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2020

Fire Ant Art

Fire Ant Art

Fire Ant Art

Ants use pheromone trails to signal to other ants to follow them to food or other desirable destinations. Inspired by this, entomology graduate student Horace Zeng dropped some of the fire ants he uses in his research into some paint pooled on canvases and watched them disperse, leaving behind these colorful patterns. Here’s a video of the ants doing their thing:

Copaganda: The Biased Portrayal of Police in TV & Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2020

YouTube channel Skip Intro is making a series of videos about copaganda, which Wikipedia defines as “the phenomenon in which news media and other social institutions promote celebratory portrayals of police officers with the intent of swaying public opinion for the benefit of police departments and law enforcement”. The introductory video embedded above introduces the concept and tracks the history of how police have been portrayed on TV in the movies. Two subsequent videos take a closer look at two contemporary police shows: Blue Bloods and Brooklyn Ninety-Nine.

See also Dan Taberski’s excellent podcast Running From COPS, which covers some of the same ground as the video series. (thx, david)

Update: Jacqui Shine wrote about the influence Dragnet had on how many Americans perceived the police: ‘Dragnet’ was straight up LAPD propaganda, on national TV for years.

When we see a cop on TV, we’re seeing the legacy of Dragnet. Everything we think we know about crime and law enforcement — and everything we believe about the police — bears the imprint of the show. It did no less than fashion the idea of modern policing in our cultural imagination. And, as viewers were reminded each week, all of it was true. But what most of us don’t know is that Dragnet was also calculated propaganda: the Los Angeles Police Department did far more than provide technical assistance, essentially co-producing the show.

Dr. Fauci: Earliest We’ll Be “Back to Normal” Is the End of 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2020

A few weeks ago during the Q&A session after his lecture for MIT’s online biology class about the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci shared his expert opinion on when things might return to “normal” in the US. Here was my paraphrased tweet about it:

With a very effective vaccine ready in Nov/Dec, distributed widely, and if lots of people take it (i.e. the best case scenario), the earliest we could return to “normal life” in the world is the end of 2021.

At the New Yorker Festival earlier in the week, Michael Specter asked him about a return to normalcy and Fauci elaborated a bit more on this timeline (starts ~10:22 in the video).

When are we gonna get back to something that closely resembles, or is in fact, normal as we knew it?

We’re already making doses, tens and hundreds of millions of doses to be ready, first at least, in graded numbers at the end of the year in November/December. By the time we get to April, we likely will have doses to be able to vaccinate anybody who needs to be vaccinated. But logistically by the time you get everybody vaccinated, it likely will not be until the third or even the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2021.

So let’s say we get a 70% effective vaccine, which I hope we will get, but only 60% of the people get vaccinated. There are going to be a lot of vulnerable people out there, which means that the vaccine will greatly help us to pull back a bit on the restrictions that we have now to maintain good public health, but it’s not going to eliminate things like mask wearing and avoiding crowds and things like that.

So I think we can approach normality, but I don’t think we’re going to be back to normal until the end of 2021. We may do better than that; I hope so but I don’t think so.

Leaving aside what “normal” might mean and who it actually applies to,1 there’s some good news and bad news in there. The good news is, they’re already producing doses of the vaccine to be ready if and when the phase 3 trials are successful. Ramping up production before the trials conclude isn’t usually done because it’s a waste of money if the trials fail, but these vaccines are so critical to saving lives that they’re spending that money to save time. That’s great news.

The bad news is that we’re not even halfway through the pandemic in the best case scenario. We’re going to be wearing masks in public for at least another year (and probably longer than that). Large gatherings of people (especially indoors) will continue to be problematic — you know: movie theaters, concerts, clubs, bars, restaurants, schools, and churches — and folks staying within small pods of trusted folks will likely be the safest course of action.

A change in national leadership in both the executive branch and Senate could change the outlook for the better. We could get some normalcy back even without a vaccine through measures like a national mask mandate/distribution, a real national testing & tracing effort, taking aerosol transmission seriously, and easing the economic pressure to “open back up” prematurely. We’re never going to do as well as Vietnam or Taiwan, but I’d settle for Greece or Norway.

Update: In an interview posted yesterday, Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Rivers gives her best guess at a return to normalcy:

Topol: When do you think we’ll see pre-COVID life restored?

Rivers: I wish I knew. I’m thinking toward the end of 2021. It’s really hard to say with any certainty. We should all be mentally prepared to have quite a bit ahead of us.

  1. It’s America. If we know anything by now about this country, it’s that access to healthcare and economic opportunity is going to apply unevenly to the people who live here. For instance, it’s likely that Black & brown communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, may face difficulty in getting access to vaccines compared to wealthier, predominantly white communities.

Song 2 by Blur but Nintendo’s Mario Does the “Woo Hoos”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2020

Today’s good, clean, uncomplicated fun is right here in the form of this video - it does what it says on the tin.

See also the melodica version of the “welcome to Jurassic Park” scene. (via laura olin’s newsletter)

Update: I knew there was some similar M83 thing that I’d seen recently and was forgetting about: Midnight City but with Nelson Muntz laughing. (via @dansays)

Werner Herzog’s Entertaining Answer to “How Many Languages Do You Speak?”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2020

This clip of an off-screen interviewer asking film director Werner Herzog how many languages he speaks and then Herzog answering is only slightly more than 90 seconds long, but it’s a masterclass in how to tell an entertaining story. He playfully misdirects at first and then just goes from there.

I do understand French but I refuse to speak it. It’s the last thing I would ever do. You can only get some French out of me with a gun pointed at my head.

See also 24 Pieces of Life Advice from Werner Herzog.

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2020

Now streaming on Netflix, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, a documentary about the 94-year-old broadcaster, naturalist, and international treasure.

In this unique feature documentary, titled David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, the celebrated naturalist reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime and the devastating changes he has seen. Coming to Netflix October 4 2020, the film addresses some of the biggest challenges facing life on our planet, providing a snapshot of global nature loss in a single lifetime. With it comes a powerful message of hope for future generations as Attenborough reveals the solutions to help save our planet from disaster.

In the trailer (embedded above), Attenborough says “I had the most extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.” In saying that, he’s speaking not only as a living legend whose long career in television and science has brought him nearly universal acclaim, but also as someone who can look back and see how recognizably and thoroughly the Earth has changed during his lifetime. The depletion of animal populations, the changing climate, the shifting habitats — he’s witnessed firsthand how much humans have fucked up the planet. We should listen to his testimony and suggestions for fixing what he calls “our greatest mistake”. I hope it’s not too late.

Ella Fitzgerald, The Lost Berlin Tapes

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2020

In 1962, Ella Fitzgerald performed a show in Berlin, just two years after the famous performance that earned the jazz great two Grammys for masterfully butchering the lyrics to Mack the Knife. The recording for the ‘62 Berlin show was presumed lost until it was recently rediscovered in the archive of a record executive.

Early this year, Mr. Field and Ken Druker, a vice president at Verve — which survives today under the auspices of Universal Music Group — were digging through a rediscovered trove of live recordings that Granz had stashed away decades ago. They came across an apparently untouched reel-to-reel, with yellowed Scotch tape still holding the box shut, featuring a concert Fitzgerald had given in Berlin two years after that first famous outing.

Upon inspection, they found that recordings had been made in both mono and stereo — a rare stroke of luck. They listened, and the quality was excellent. Using a new engineering software that allowed him to more precisely isolate the instruments and Fitzgerald’s voice, Mr. Field filled out the low end and brought her singing to the front.

The result of their discovery is The Lost Berlin Tapes, now available in stores and various streaming plaforms. Here’s Fitzgerald singing Mack the Knife from that performance:

And the whole album on Spotify:

(via @tedgioia)

Totally Under Control

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 02, 2020

In secrecy over the past several months, filmmaker Alex Gibney has been making a documentary film about the US government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic called Totally Under Control. He and co-directors Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger interviewed “countless scientists, medical professionals, and government officials on the inside” to produce the film.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, directing with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, interrogates this question and its devastating implications in Totally Under Control. With damning testimony from public health officials and hard investigative reporting, Gibney exposes a system-wide collapse caused by a profound dereliction of Presidential leadership.

Gibney previously directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Going Clear, and Zero Days (all excellent documentaries). The film comes out in theaters on October 13 and on Hulu on October 20.