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kottke.org posts about video

TV & Movie Spy Scene Breakdowns from the Former CIA Chief of Disguise

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

For Wired’s series Technique Critique, former CIA Chief of Disguise Jonna Mendez looks at several TV shows and movies to rate how good their spy scenes are.

Mendez gives high marks to characters from Alias and The Americans for effective use of disguises and low marks to The Bourne Identity and Homeland. In relation to Philip’s disguises on The Americans, she discusses the concept of the little gray man, the CIA’s goal for its agents to look like harmless middle-aged men, something she also mentioned in this Washington Post piece:

Rhys makes the case, however, for disappearing under nothing more than a knit cap and a pair of glasses, a scruffy mustache and a messy wig. He becomes the consummate little gray man, invisible, the one nobody can remember was even on the elevator.

Mendez also talks about the three cover identities that CIA agents were not allowed to use: clergy, media figures, and Peace Corps volunteer. She previously did this video with Wired about how the CIA used disguises.

Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

This wonderful site presents animations of 507 mechanical movements first published in a book by Henry T. Brown in 1868, the full title of which is:

Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: Embracing All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing, Presses, Horology, and Miscellaneous Machinery; and Including Many Movements Never Before Published and Several of Which Have Only Recently Come Into Use

The site is a work-in-progress…not all of the movements have been animated yet. This short video shows movement #123:

You can buy a paperback version of the original book or browse/download the entire thing at the Internet Archive.

See also this great explanation of differential gears and especially Ralph Steiner’s 1930 short film Mechanical Principles, in which we see many of the mechanisms from Brown’s book actually working:

Warning: if you start Steiner’s film, you’ll probably end up watching the whole thing…it’s mesmerizing, particularly when the gears come in around ~2:30.

Philip Glass on Soul Train

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2019

It turns out that the fourth track off of Philip Glass’ soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi matches up pretty well to the dancers in this clip from Soul Train.

I don’t know whether to like this or hate it. Actually, I think I love it. See also Soul Train dancers backed by Daft Punk. (via @tedgioia)

The Trailer for the Downton Abbey Movie

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2019

The Downton Abbey movie is nearly upon us (it’s out in Sept) and the first full-length trailer is here. The action picks up a couple of years after the TV show ended and concerns the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the estate. I’ve embedded the UK trailer above — it’s better than the American trailer even though it gives away a bit more of the plot. Plus, in the UK version you get to see the deployment of Carson in the Battle of the Head Butlers. Carson’s glance of disdained indifference toward the royal butler might be the most spine-tingling battle moment since Aragon uttered “for Frodo” and charged headlong into the hordes of Mordor.

Update: Some real talk from Robert Bennett about the escapist fantasy of Downton Abbey:

really the point of the entire show was to let middle american viewers dabble in the lavish lives and costumes of the edwardian .001% without feeling bad about what made that lifestyle possible

anything that threatened that “safari in the aristocracy” aspect — be it the realism of class warfare, or the actual, historical evolutions of the era that would have upended everything that happened — was quickly neutered and turned into quaint fluff.

Still excited for the movie though. Butler Battle 2019!!

Extreme Babysitting from Danny MacAskill

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Remember trials rider Danny MacAskill, who I’ve been covering on kottke.org for over ten years somehow?! In his newest video, he turns babysitting a friend’s young daughter into a death-defying cycling adventure…an oddly tender death-defying cycling adventure somehow.

Stay tuned after the main action for a short making-of feature (no children were harmed, etc. etc.) in which we see Daisy riding a bike of her own!

My Dad, the Facebook Addict

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2019

Meet Vincent LeVine. He’s the subject of “My Dad, the Facebook Addict”, a short documentary by his son Dylan. He started off using Facebook normally, keeping up with the news and chatting with friends, but evolved into a fierce meme warrior stocked with a “nuclear arsenal” of memes at the ready to destroy anyone who wants to come at him.

I can have a meme war with anybody and destroy them. And I’ve done it! People actually bail at the end and go, “Who is this guy? He’s got like every meme ever produced on the internet! He can knock us out with his memes!” And I do, I have tons of memes, I just keep memeing them to death until they just surrender because they just can’t do it anymore. They don’t have the memes that I have.

Vincent is very entertaining and it was difficult to not just quote all of his lines in the video. You can check out his Facebook account for yourself or watch his technique for hygienically blowing out birthday cake candles.

Folding a Piece of Paper More than Seven Times

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2019

If you could somehow fold a piece of paper in half 103 times, the paper would be as thick as the observable universe.

Such is the power (*cough*) of exponential growth, but of course you’d never get anywhere close to that many folds. The theoretical limit for folding paper was long thought to be seven or eight folds. You can see why watching this hydraulic press attempt the 7th fold…the paper basically turns to dust.

But in 2002, high school student Britney Gallivan proved that you could fold a piece of paper 12 times. Here’s Gallivan explaining the math involved and where the limits come in when folding:

(thx, porter)

Why Do Birds Fly in a V-Formation?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

Many species of migratory birds, like the Canada goose in North America, fly in a v-formation. Scientists have long suspected that there was some energy-saving advantage to flying in formation and a 2014 study provides evidence to that effect.

By comparing the birds’ flight data to computer simulations, Portugal found that the ibises are apparently drafting — catching an uprush of air from the wingtip of the bird ahead. “Furthermore, when they’re in that position, they time wing beats perfectly,” he says. “So they don’t just sit there passively hoping to get some of the good air from the bird in front.”

They actually flap along the perfect sweet spot. Portugal thinks there’s a very good reason why the ibises do this. Previous studies have shown that flying is hard work.

“When we get exercising, our heart rate gets up to around 180 beats per minute on a good day,” Portugal says. “When birds are flying, it goes up to 400 beats per minute.”

You can read the paper published by the researchers in Nature. (via the kid should see this)

MIT Robot Solves Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 Seconds

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2019

A robot built by a pair of engineering students at MIT can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 0.38 seconds (which happens to be 19 minutes and 59.22 seconds shorter than my fastest time):

0.38 seconds is over in an almost literal flash, so the video helpfully shows this feat at 0.25x speed and 0.03x speed. I bet when they were testing this, they witness some spectacular cube explosions. (via @tedgioia)

Nichelle Nichols’ 1977 NASA Recruitment Film for Space Shuttle Astronauts

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

In this NASA promotional film from 1977, Star Trek star Nichelle Nichols takes a tour of the Johnson Space Center with Apollo 12 astronaut Al Bean and urges viewers, especially women and people of color, to sign up to be astronauts on NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

As one of the first black women to play a lead role on television, Nichols was a role model for women and people of color, particularly those interested in science, space, and engineering. When she was she thinking of quitting Star Trek, Nichols met Martin Luther King Jr. at a NAACP fundraiser and he talked her into staying on the show. She recalled King telling her:

Do you not understand what God has given you? … You have the first important non-traditional role, non-stereotypical role. … You cannot abdicate your position. You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.

So when NASA came calling, Nichols used her position well:

She relayed her response to NASA with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, “I am going to bring you so many qualified women and minority astronaut applicants for this position that if you don’t choose one… everybody in the newspapers across the country will know about it.”

Nichols credited Star Trek with the success of her recruiting efforts. “Suddenly the people who were responding were the bigger Trekkers you ever saw. They truly believed what I said… it was a very successful endeavor. It changed the face of the astronaut corp forever.”

Among the recruits drawn to NASA by Nichols’ efforts were Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, Ronald McNair & Judith Resnick, who both died in the Challenger accident, Guion Bluford, the first African-American in space, and Mae Jemison, who was the first black woman in space. The diversity of the latest batch of NASA astronauts-in-training is a testament to Nichols’ and NASA’s joint efforts as well. (via open culture)

The Motorbikes of Taiwan

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

From Hiroshi Kondo, a mesmerizing short film called Multiverse of the motorbike-jammed streets of Taiwan. Right around the 50 second mark, Kondo starts to use a clever time lapse technique to highlight individuality within the bustling mass of traffic. It’s a really cool effect and reminded me of this clip art animation by Oliver Laric. (via colossal)

Trailer for Season 5 of Black Mirror

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

Black Mirror is back for a fifth season on Netflix starting June 5. The season will consist only of three episodes and will star, among others, Miley Cyrus, Topher Grace, Andrew Scott, and Anthony Mackie. Here’s the trailer:

I have to admit that I haven’t watched all of season 4 yet…or Bandersnatch. Living in an episode of Black Mirror isn’t exactly conducive to wanting to watch Black Mirror.

Bill Nye to Climate Change Naysayers: “Grow the Fuck Up”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2019

In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the Green New Deal and carbon pricing. Oliver invited beloved children’s science educator Bill Nye to help him explain a few things and Nye delivered a short but passionate speech about what’s at stake in the political battle over climate change:

I’ve got an experiment for you. Safety glasses on. By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is: the planet’s on fucking fire!

There are a lot of things we could do to put it out. Are any of them free? No, of course not. Nothing’s free you idiots! Grow the fuck up, you’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now and this is an actual crisis, got it? Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.

The entire segment is worth watching (particularly if you haven’t been keeping up on what the Green New Deal actually is) but Nye’s closing remarks are at ~18:30 for the impatient.

Crafting Eight Large Rafters for a Church Spire Using Medieval Tools & Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

In the spire of a Swedish church built around the end of the 12th century, eight large rafters (that are in spectacularly good shape considering they’re 800 years old) appear to be fashioned from the same tree using a technique that had not been documented before. So, using only medieval woodworking tools and techniques, a team set out to prove that those rafters could have been made in that way.

The woodworkers’ search for a proper tree to use (starting at ~2:55) brings to mind the recent kerfuffle over the replacement beams for the Notre Dame.

Finding a suitable tree for this experiment is not necessarily easy. Where do you find a tall, straight, even pine tree with no branches for at least 13 meters off the ground?

They eventually found a 195-year-old tree with 11 meters of no branches.

The pace of this video is so leisurely that it feels almost meditative at times, watching this massive log slowly yield to the woodworkers’ effort and ingenuity. Recommended if you’re feeling stressed about the pace of the world.

See also How Tree Trunks Are Cut to Produce Lumber with Different Shapes, Grains, and Uses and Watch As a Master Woodworker Turns a Giant Log into an Elegant Dugout Canoe. (via bb)

On the Safety of Vaccines and the Low Risk of Side Effects

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

The development of vaccines against infectious diseases is among the greatest of human accomplishments and has saved ten of millions of people from dying. And yet some are still hung up on their side effects (and also the widely disproved and debunked fraudulent claim that vaccines cause autism). In this video, Kurzgesagt looks at how vaccines work and compares the impact of their side effects (minuscule) to the potential effect of the diseases they protect against (children dying).

The extensive list of sources they used for the video can be found here.

The title of this video is “The Side Effects of Vaccines - How High is the Risk?”, which seems like it’s maximized for clicks and to spread amongst anti-vaxxers on social media. I wish it had a more accurate title — something like “The Absurdly Low Risk of Vaccine Side Effects” or maybe “Vaccines. And Now My Kids Don’t Die.” — but perhaps positioning it this way is a good strategy to get folks who may not be quite so radicalized to watch it.

Running From COPS

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2019

Running From COPS is a new podcast that examines the cultural influence of the long-running TV show COPS. Vox did a short video on the main themes of the show:

From a Fast Company article about the podcast and its creator, Dan Taberski:

The problem is that Cops is more reality show than documentary, and Taberski, a veteran reality show producer, knows there’s a huge disparity between reality show “reality” and documentary reality. In the course of their investigation, the Running from Cops team discovered that the police had final cut approval for the series. “When you start to look at the contractual relationship between producers and police-and we got our hands on a few of those contracts between Cops and the police departments — I think people will be really surprised how much the police are controlling their own message on the show,” Taberski says. Watching the show in that light, he adds, “It just shows how dicey it is to be using reality-show storytelling techniques for something so real and important as policing, and how your biases can creep in even unintentionally.”

Taberski and the producers also found that while prostitution, drugs, and violence make up 58% of crime depicted on Cops, according to the FBI, those three categories only account for barely 17% of crime IRL.

The first four episodes are available now on your favorite podcasting platform. I binged them over the past week and they’re worth a listen.

Identical Twins Who Look Nothing Alike

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2019

Adam and Neil Pearson are identical twins who have neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that affected the two of them quite differently.

“I was always aware that I had the same condition as him, but also fully aware that he had the facial disfigurement and I didn’t,” Neil says in the film. Adam suffers from benign tumors that began forming on his face when the Pearsons were boys. They grew progressively worse over time. In school, he endured much bullying-“one of the worst things a human can do to another human,” as he describes it in the film. As an adult, Adam explains that he can never go anywhere without being gaped at. Neil, meanwhile, appears physically unscathed but experiences neurological problems that severely impair his memory.

(via @luvmyptcruiser)

The DIY Astronaut

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2019

Ever since he was a kid, Cameron Smith has wanted to go into space. This desire persisted into adulthood, and the Portland State archaeology professor has spent the past several years constructing a series of homemade pressurized spacesuits to achieve that dream. In this video, Smith talks about his quest and we witness his preparations for testing a spacesuit he built for under $1000 by taking it up in a balloon to a height of 63,000 feet.

You can read more about Smith and his project in the Journal of Critical Space Studies.

Smith’s journey to the upper atmosphere calls to mind the devil-may-care mindset typical of the early days of space exploration, when air force pilots on both sides of the Iron Curtain risked their neck to advance human spaceflight and secure military advantage in orbit. These pilots were the first humans to test experimental new pressure suits that were meant to sustain life in the upper atmosphere and beyond, and there was little assurance that they would ever return from these crucial tests alive.

And yes, you can totally buy old Russian and Soviet spacesuits on eBay.

“I, Pastafari”, a Documentary Film About the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

In 2005, Bobby Henderson wrote an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education about their decision to allow teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classrooms. In it, he introduced the world to the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster quickly became an internet meme and, shortly thereafter, an actual religion. *nudge nudge wink wink*

Touched Noodly Appendage

I, Pastafari is a feature-length documentary about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its adherents, the Pastafarians.

I, Pastafari is a story about a few brave Pastafarians, evangelizing the message of the FSM, while fighting against intolerant skeptics, for the freedom to access religious privileges in law granted to other “real” religions. In a time of flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, fake news, and alternative facts, the Pastafarians may be the savior the world has been waiting for. R’Amen.

I have a bad feeling that what started out as a satirical criticism of religion will be an actual religion in the future whose adherents won’t see the irony in or damage done by that shift. That’ll be fun.

An Animated Version of The Giving Tree Narrated by Shel Silverstein

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2019

From 1973, this is an animated short film version of the classic children’s book The Giving Tree, narrated by author Shel Silverstein. As Wikipedia notes, there are conflicting ideas about the book’s meaning:

This book has been described as “one of the most divisive books in children’s literature”; the controversy stems from whether the relationship between the main characters (a boy and the titular tree) should be interpreted as positive (i.e., the tree gives the boy selfless love) or negative (i.e., the boy and the tree have an abusive relationship).

Silverstein’s narration does little to resolve the complexity of the story, although as someone who has never read The Giving Tree1, I was left feeling not so great about the relationship depicted in the story. (via open culture)

  1. I know! Silverstein was not part of my childhood — perhaps his stuff was too weird for my parents? — so I’ve only gotten to know his work through Where the Sidewalk Ends, which I’ve read to my kids.

The Beautiful Emergent Architecture of Crystals

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2019

Arctic is a new video from the Beauty of Science crew (previously featured here) that reveals the beauty of crystal formation.

There’s a kinship between how crystals form and how towns & cities develop (as in these generated medieval town maps or Manhattan below 14th Street) or how flowing water interacts with earth:

Crystals Cities

Crystals Rivers

Crystal, towns, and rivers all act according to similar principles governing the formation of things from points and edges. What a world. (via colossal)

Talking Chewbacca: “Where the Hell Have You Been?”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

This is neat: Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca speaking English to Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in a scene from Empire Strikes Back:

Mayhew’s dialogue provided context for Ford to play off of. Chewbacca’s more familiar voice was dubbed over the on-set dialogue in post production — listen to Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt describe how he created Chewie’s voice in this video at ~26:18. Mayhew passed away last week at the age of 74.

See also David Prowse’s on-set dialogue as Darth Vader, or as the other cast members called him, Darth Farmer (at 6:05 in the video). (via laughing squid)

Here Grows New York City, a Time Lapse of NYC’s Street Grid from 1609 to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

Using geological surveys, geo-referenced road network data, and historic maps drawn the from the collections of the Library of Congress and New York Public Library, Miles Zhang made this time lapse video of the development of the street grid of NYC from 1609 (when Henry Hudson first explored the area for the Dutch) to the present day.

The resulting short film presents a series of “cartographic snapshots” of the built-up area at intervals of every 20-30 years in the city’s history. This process highlights the organic spurts of growth and movement that typify New York’s and most cities’ development through time. The result is an abstract representation of urbanism.

Zhang has written up his research methodology for the video as well as some observations and analysis of the data.

For almost the first half of Manhattan’s history, walking was the primary means of transport. This preference was manifested in the shorter distances between residential, industrial, shipping, and commercial areas — and more frequently their overlap. With street systems, the reliance on the foot is manifested in narrower streets widths not designed to accommodate greater width from carriages, trolleys, and later cars. In fact, the average width of secondary arterial streets increased from 30 feet for streets opened between 1624-1664, to 45 feet for streets opened 1664-1811, and then a uniform width of 60 feet for any cross street opened after 1811. Later widenings increased many of these smaller and pre-1811 streets to width between 100 and 130 feet. In other words, moving from the older networks in the south to newer networks in the north, the width of streets and size of blocks generally increases. These new widths might be influenced by growing population size from only 25,000 in the 1770s, to 64,000 by 1811, and 247,000 by 1834, thereby requiring wider streets for expanding population and higher buildings.

These gradual changes in planning reflected increasing reliance on carriages and horse-drawn trolleys instead of walking. Each mode of transport required a different minimum street width and was associated with different speeds.

(via @john_overholt)

Meeting Gorbachev

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2019

Werner Herzog’s latest film is called Meeting Gorbachev, in which he sits down with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for a series of interviews about his life, political career, and his role in ending the Cold War. From a review in the NY Times:

The two men appear to like each other immensely — in narration, Herzog calls Gorbachev “one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century” — but Gorbachev can be a cool customer. He sometimes seems guarded in his assessment of what he might have done differently. He says he believes the Soviet Union should have given its republics more rights instead of dissolving entirely. As for Boris Yeltsin, who became the first president of a post-Soviet Russia, he says, “I should have sent him off somewhere.”

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists interviewed Herzog about the film.1

It’s not easy to speak of what I tried to accomplish. I think as a natural concomitant you get the feeling that there should be better times between the West and Russia. The demonization of Russia is a great mistake of the Western media and Western politics, and we should try and seek a climate that was created by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the most improbable characters you could ever put together in one room.

Meeting Gorbachev is out in US theaters now, but just barely. Probably best to catch this streaming in a month or two.

  1. I love the in situ audio clips in this piece. I’ve only seen this technique used a few times…more sites should do this.

Diego Maradona

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2019

Asif Kapadia, the director of Senna and Amy, has directed a documentary film about footballer Diego Maradona, one of the best to ever lace up the cleats.

Having never won a major tournament, ailing football giant SSC Napoli had criminally underachieved. Their fanatical support was unequalled in both passion and size. None was more feared. But how they ached for success…

On 5th July 1984, Diego Maradona arrived in Naples for a world-record fee and for seven years all hell broke loose. The world’s most celebrated football genius and the most dysfunctional city in Europe were a perfect match for each other.

Maradona was blessed on the field but cursed off it; the charismatic Argentine, quickly led Naples to their first-ever title. It was the stuff of dreams.

But there was a price… Diego could do as he pleased whilst performing miracles on the pitch, but when the magic faded he became almost a prisoner of the city.

The film will debut at Cannes and HBO just bought the TV and streaming rights. Senna is one of my all-time favorite documentaries, so I’m excited for this one.

Update: I’ve embedded the full trailer above and moved the teaser down here:

Tactical Driving Looks Fun (But Don’t Try This at Home)

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

Wyatt Knox is a former rally car driver and driving instructor at Team O’Neil Rally School and in this video, he shows us some of the tactical driving techniques that would be in the repetoire of law enforcement or special operations personnel, including running cars off the road, backing up at high speed, and doing a j-turn. (What’s a j-turn? It’s that cool thing they do in the movies where a car in reverse does a 180 and continues driving forwards in the same direction. It was a signature move of Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files.)

All that driving looked fun and this rally school happens to be only 80 miles away from where I live, so I went to their site to look at some classes. Their rally and drift schools are $1400/day (which seems totally fair because it includes car rental, tires, safety equipment, and insurance) but sadly that is not in my price range.

17-year-old Chance the Rapper Performing at a Public Library

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

One of the places where Chance the Rapper got his start was at YOUmedia, a youth center at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. In this video, a 17-year-old Chance performs “Nostalgia”, a song that later appeared on his first mixtape. In this 2013 interview, Chance explained how performances like that helped him as an artist:

Another big launch pad for me was YOUmedia. YOUmedia is a sick ass spot. It’s downtown [Chicago] and it’s a youth center, but it’s a part of Harold Washington Library. The entire first floor, if you go to Harold Washington Library, there’s a sick-ass fucking student center, but it’s city funded. The majority of the dope, young artists that are in Chicago came out of that bitch. I came out of there, Vic Mensa, Nico from Kids These Days. So a lot of different people came out of there. You can learn music theory there, they have production software classes, you can take engineering classes, DJ classes.

“The big thing was the open mic. They used to have this open mic there every Wednesday that we would all go to, and it was from 5 to 7 every Wednesday. It would literally be 200 people in there and it was me performing. This was last year, when I was making #10Day. 200 people would come out to see us perform, 200 kids. The list would be super-fucking full, 30 kids trying to perform different poetry pieces, people coming up there footworking and breakdancing, doing standup, singing and rapping, just doing crazy shit.

“It was a really ill thing because it was smack in the center of downtown, so anybody from any school could come there because every train comes to the loop [downtown]. I met damn near all the producers on #10Day through this library. It was the spot. I’m too old now. I don’t go there anymore, but I used to literally go there until after I turned 18, for a minute.”

See also The Notorious B.I.G. freestyling on a corner in Bed-Stuy at 17, 17-year-old LL Cool J playing a Maine gymnasium, and the Beastie Boys rapping “Cookie Puss” in 1983 (when Ad-Rock was only 17).

Shuudan Koudou Is the Japanese Art of Synchronized Precision Walking

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2019

For more than 50 years, students at the Nippon Sport Science University in Japan have practiced shuudan koudou, which translates as “collective action”. You can see them in action in these pair of videos:

If you want the really good stuff, skip to ~1:35 in the first video to watch two columns of quick-walking students march backwards through each other. Whoa.

David Attenborough on How to Save Our Planet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

In this short video essay, David Attenborough succinctly describes the main problem of the anthropocene (that modern humans are not living sustainably as they once could as hunter gatherers), explains the effect we’ve had on the planet, and then suggests how we can fix things (italics mine):

The plan for our planet is remarkably simple. Reduce our impact by making sure that everything we do, we can do forever.

Sustainability is such a buzzword these days that I have long since stopped thinking about what it actually means; Attenborough nails it with “making sure that everything we do, we can do forever”. The Earth seems infinite in scope but not with 7, 8, or 9 billion humans hungry for food, thirsty for water, and lusty for status & entertainment.

The simple plan Attenborough describes has four parts:

1. Phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewables.
2. Upgrading to efficient food production and reducing our consumption of meat.
3. Proper worldwide ocean management.
4. Rewilding the world.

As he allows, it’s a bit more complicated than that — check out Paul Hawken’s list for a more detailed list of things we can do to fight climate change.

Grace Hopper Explains a Nanosecond

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2019

In this short clip from 1983, legendary computer scientist Grace Hopper uses a short length of wire to explain what a nanosecond is.

Now what I wanted when I asked for a nanosecond was: I wanted a piece of wire which would represent the maximum

distance that electricity could travel in a billionth of a second. Now of course it wouldn’t really be through wire — it’d be out in space, the velocity of light. So if we start with a velocity of light and use your friendly computer, you’ll discover that a nanosecond is 11.8 inches long, the maximum limiting distance that electricity can travel in a billionth of a second.

You can watch the entirety of a similar lecture Hopper gave at MIT in 1985, in which she “practically invents computer science at the chalkboard”. (via tmn)