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The Freedom to Be: Black Surfers in the Rockaways

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2021

This short documentary takes a look at the Black surfing community in the Rockaways. These surfers are members of the Black Surfing Association (East Coast branch), which Surfer magazine profiled last summer:

“When you talk to kids here at Rockaway, they think of a surfer as John John Florence — blonde,” says Harris. “When I say, ‘Hey, I’m a surfer,’ they’re shocked. We’re trying to reach every kid, but we’re really trying to reach the kids that wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity.

We just want to keep kids busy and active, and spread the message and spread the stoke of surfing, and go into schools and talk to kids about water safety.”

“There’s no racism out there”, says Harris of the ocean. “When you come out of that water, of course you go back to your life. But you lose yourself when you get into the waves.”

Summer of Soul

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2021

Stevie Wonder. Mahalia Jackson. Nina Simone. Gladys Knight & the Pips. B.B. King. Sly and the Family Stone. Over six weeks in the summer of 1969, all of these legendary artists (and more!) performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival in NYC, drawing an estimated 300,000 people. The festival was filmed and broadcast on a local TV station, but the footage was never commercially released and so unlike that other 1969 festival, this event largely slipped from public memory.

Now, the Harlem Cultural Festival finally gets its due in the form of Summer of Soul, a forthcoming documentary directed by Questlove that uses that old footage to great effect. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this movie — it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Summer of Soul is out in theaters and on Hulu July 2.

Believe

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2021

The second season of Ted Lasso starts on July 23rd and this new trailer has me all fired up. The first season was a very welcome diversion during the height of the pandemic and was an almost magical unicorn of a TV thing.

100 3D Artists Interpret the Same Scene of a Walking Person

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2021

Clinton Jones challenged his community of 3D artists to interpret a simple animation of a person walking with a heavy load. 2400 people participated and Jones collected the 100 renders for this video. What a fantastic illustration of the power of constraints and the abundance of human creativity. Ok, much of the imagery is borrowed from Star Wars and other sci-fi universes, but the stuff that isn’t is delightful. Even with no explicit narrative connection between the scenes, somehow this all seems like part of one big journey. One of the simplest stories we tell is someone moving from one place to another and it doesn’t need to be The Odyssey, Fury Road, or Thelma & Louise to be compelling.

You can also watch a video featuring all 2400 entries (it’s 2h 45m long) and a montage from a previous challenge featuring 125 artists.

See also Transfiguration: An Ever-Evolving Walking Figure. (via waxy)

What It’s Like to Be a Transgender Dad

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2021

In a TEDx Talk from 2017, LB Hannahs talks about their experience as a transgender dad, comfort vs authenticity, and the collision of theoretical gender roles & identities with the practicalities of parenthood.

Now, for most people, what their child will call them is not something that they give much thought to outside of culturally specific words or variations on a gendered theme like “mama,” “mommy,” or “daddy,” “papa.” But for me, the possibility is what this child, who will grow to be a teenager and then a real-life adult, will call me for the rest of our lives, was both extremely scary and exciting. And I spent nine months wrestling with the reality that being called “mama” or something like it didn’t feel like me at all. And no matter how many times or versions of “mom” I tried, it always felt forced and deeply uncomfortable. I knew being called “mom” or “mommy” would be easier to digest for most people. The idea of having two moms is not super novel, especially where we live.

So I tried other words. And when I played around with “daddy,” it felt better. Better, but not perfect. It felt like a pair of shoes that you really liked but you needed to wear and break in. And I knew the idea of being a female-born person being called “daddy” was going to be a harder road with a lot more uncomfortable moments. But, before I knew it, the time had come and Elliot came screaming into the world, like most babies do, and my new identity as a parent began. I decided on becoming a daddy, and our new family faced the world.

(thx, megan)

Guest Vocalist Dave Chappelle Sings Creep at Foo Fighters’ MSG Show

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2021

Well this is peak…something: last night surprise guest Dave Chappelle led fans in a singalong of Radiohead’s Creep at the Foo Fighters’ Madison Square Garden show (which you had to be vaccinated to get in to). Not much more to say about it — you’re either going to watch it or not based on that info. Nature is healing?!

The Best Commercial About a Rock Quarry You’ll See Today

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2021

This advertisement from Vermont granite company Rock of Ages, featuring views of their majestic quarry accompanied by soaring opera, is way better than any commercial for a local quarry has any right to be.

See also The Quarryman’s Symphony, an all-time favorite post of mine about the hand signals used by a quarry boss guiding his marble harvesting crews. (via @AndrewLiptak)

Great White Sharks Closely Observed from Above

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2021

Carlos Gauna has been recording great white sharks and other sea life with a drone off the coast of California, capturing behaviors that many of us rarely see. This video includes infrared footage, so we can observe what sharks get up to in the dark. (via digg)

Patrick Stewart Does Hamlet on Sesame Street

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 16, 2021

Patrick Stewart, displaying the Shakespearian acting chops that landed him the role of Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, appeared on Sesame Street in 1996, performing a parody of Hamlet’s soliloquy with the letter “B”. Stewart never doesn’t give it his all when acting.

The Rashomon Effect

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2021

In Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, the story of the murder of a samurai is told from several different viewpoints and each account of the event is different and even contradictory. In real life as in cinema, the Rashomon Effect describes how events can be recalled in contradictory ways by well-meaning but ultimately subjective witnesses. In this short TED-Ed video, the Rashomon Effect and its implications are explained and explored. (via open culture)

A Minute by Minute Account of the Day the Dinosaurs Died

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2021

Perhaps the most consequential day in the Earth’s recent history was when a massive asteroid struck the planet 66 million years ago. It resulted in earthquakes, tsunamis, fireballs raining from the sky, volcanoes, atmospheric heat shocks, wildfires, global winter, and the extinction of 75% of all species on Earth, including the dinosaurs. This video by Kurzgesagt leads us through what happened that day, minute by minute.

This video reminded me of Peter Brannen’s eye-popping description of this event from his book The Ends of the World:

“The meteorite itself was so massive that it didn’t notice any atmosphere whatsoever,” said Rebolledo. “It was traveling 20 to 40 kilometers per second, 10 kilometers — probably 14 kilometers — wide, pushing the atmosphere and building such incredible pressure that the ocean in front of it just went away.”

These numbers are precise without usefully conveying the scale of the calamity. What they mean is that a rock larger than Mount Everest hit planet Earth traveling twenty times faster than a bullet. This is so fast that it would have traversed the distance from the cruising altitude of a 747 to the ground in 0.3 seconds. The asteroid itself was so large that, even at the moment of impact, the top of it might have still towered more than a mile above the cruising altitude of a 747. In its nearly instantaneous descent, it compressed the air below it so violently that it briefly became several times hotter than the surface of the sun.

“The pressure of the atmosphere in front of the asteroid started excavating the crater before it even got there,” Rebolledo said. “Then when the meteorite touched ground zero, it was totally intact. It was so massive that the atmosphere didn’t even make a scratch on it.”

Unlike the typical Hollywood CGI depictions of asteroid impacts, where an extraterrestrial charcoal briquette gently smolders across the sky, in the Yucatan it would have been a pleasant day one second and the world was already over by the next. As the asteroid collided with the earth, in the sky above it where there should have been air, the rock had punched a hole of outer space vacuum in the atmosphere. As the heavens rushed in to close this hole, enormous volumes of earth were expelled into orbit and beyond — all within a second or two of impact.

“So there’s probably little bits of dinosaur bone up on the moon,” I asked.

“Yeah, probably.”

Bone Music: Forbidden Soviet Records Made From Used X-Ray Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2021

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

a Soviet record made from a used x-ray film

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union controlled the music recording industry and even restricted the types of music that were allowed to be played & listened to. Or they tried to anyway. Enterprising Soviet bootleggers took used x-ray films, many of them still containing images of bones and skulls, and recorded forbidden music on them, including jazz and rock & roll from the West. They called it ribs, bones, bone music, or jazz on ribs. From a 2017 article in Vice:

X-rays proved to be an suitable medium. They were cheaply and easily (albeit illegally) acquired from local hospitals that were required to throw out the flammable sheets. They took the groove relatively well, though nowhere near as well as vinyl — some X-ray discs apparently sound like listening to music through sand — and they were easy to fold into a shirt sleeve of pocket for a quick transaction. The X-rays were also stunningly beautiful.

And from an NPR article on Soviet samizdat:

Before the availability of the tape recorder and during the 1950s, when vinyl was scarce, ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film salvaged from hospital waste bins and archives.

“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.”

“They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole,” says author Anya von Bremzen. “You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan - forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

To learn more about bone music, you can check out Stephen Coates’ book X-Ray Audio, The X-Ray Audio Project (which includes digital recordings made from some of the bone recordshere’s Lullaby of Birdland by Ella Fitzgerald), and this short documentary:

Soothing Shutter Sounds of 18 Cameras

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2021

Photographer Sails Chong recorded something we don’t hear much of these days: the sounds of camera shutters. Accompanied by a song by Arcade Fire from the Her soundtrack, Chong presents the shutter sounds of 18 different cameras, from 35mm all the way up to large format cameras. Interestingly, the lineup does not include the iconic Leica shutter sound — “a photograph sounds like a kiss”. (thx, david)

Yo-Yo Ma Answers Questions About the Cello

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 11, 2021

As part of the Tech Support series, Wired had Yo-Yo Ma answer some questions about the cello and music sent in by Twitter users. What I like about this is that no critic or professional interviewer would ask these questions (they are “bad” interview questions) and yet Ma answers them all generously and thoughtfully. It reminds me a little bit of when Vogue trained an AI program to interview Billie Eilish:

What I really loved hearing Billie say was that human interviewers often ask the same questions over and over, and she appreciated that the AI questions don’t have an agenda in the same way, they’re not trying to get anything from her.

Perhaps with interesting subjects who are game, having “good” interview questions maybe isn’t that important, particularly if they are repeated queried about the same topics in every interview.

Give Yourself Permission to be Creative

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2021

At TED2020, Ethan Hawke gave a remote talk about the benefits of being creative. As someone who often struggles to find meaning in whatever it is I do here, this bit was especially good to hear:

Do you think human creativity matters? Well, hmm. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right? They have a life to live, and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsberg’s poems or anybody’s poems, until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don’t love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you’re desperate for making sense out of this life, and, “Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?”

Or the inverse — something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can’t even see straight. You know, you’re dizzy. “Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?” And that’s when art’s not a luxury, it’s actually sustenance. We need it.

(via swissmiss)

Transformation of a Bonsai Tree Over 12 Months

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2021

Ever since I learned about bonsai trees as a kid, I’ve been fascinated with them. In my 20s, my girlfriend bought me a juniper bonsai for my birthday. I was really excited to see what I could do with it, but it was dead in a month and a half, forever dimming my enthusiasm for ever practicing bonsai myself. But I still love observing the process and seeing the results, so I’ve enjoyed watching Bucky Barnes’1Bonsai Releaf videos. His latest video (above) documents the year-long transformation of a Japanese larch tree he purchased for £30 into something that looks like it’s been majestically clinging to a windswept cliff for hundreds of years.

Observation, healing, experimentation, growth, making irreversible choices — so many lovely little themes, lessons, and moments in this video. At one point, well into the process, he clips off most of a long branch and I exclaimed “Oh my God!” out loud. I guess I still need to work on letting go of attachments.

  1. No, not that one.

Nikola Jokic, Unlikely NBA MVP

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2021

To the casual basketball fan, Nikola Jokic seems like an unlikely pick for NBA MVP. Outwardly, his game resembles middle-aged-guy-at-the-rec-center — “god-tier old man game” is how Gene Demby put it — but this video makes a good case that Jokic is “revolutionizing the center position”, “the best offensive passing big man ever”, and possibly even “the best offensive center in NBA history”.

Simone Biles, Mesmerizing in Slow Motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2021

Gymnast Simone Biles won her 7th US Gymnastics Championship this past weekend, further cementing her status as the world’s best gymnast and one of the most dominant athletes of all time in any sport. In her floor exercise routine on the first day of the competition, Biles absolutely nailed a triple double — that’s three twists while doing two backflips. Timothy Burke took the footage and slowed it down so that we can see exactly what’s going on in the air. And, Jesus, I was NOT prepared for what I saw. The two handsprings that set up the final move are beautiful slowed down, leisurely even. But then Biles launches herself impossibly high into the air — like absurdly and spectacularly high — and starts twisting and flipping at a speed that seems fast even for slow motion. And the landing — it’s like she was standing there all along, waiting for the rest of her spirit to join her. Watching the routine at regular speed makes you appreciate the move even more.

In reaction to this move, NBA head coach Stan Van Gundy, who has seen his fair share of elite athletes doing amazing things over the years, exclaimed: “How is that even humanly possible?” As if to preemptively answer him and everyone else watching, the sparkly leotard that Biles wore during her routine had a picture of a goat sown into it because she is the GOAT.

Simone Biles wearing a leotard with a picture of a goat sown into it

See also Who Could Jump Higher on a Trampoline, LeBron James or Simone Biles? (via the kid should see this)

Update: Physicist David Young analyzes Biles’ triple-double:

Assuming her rotation rates around each axis remain constant, to get three full flips in would require an extra 0.65 seconds, which requires a launch speed of 22.6 miles per hour, all other things being equal. This is not possible, even if we assume her max launch speed is 18 miles per hour, which is apparently her top sprinting speed.

However, if she could do three full flips, she would also be able to get in one-and-a-half more twists at her current rotation rate! What would this even be called?! What might be more likely would be to try to gain an extra half twist so that she would take off facing left and land facing right, still only completing two full flips.

(thx, donny)

Bo Burnham Welcomes You to the Internet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

I have been hearing nothing but good things, and lots of them, about comedian Bo Burnham’s new show on Netflix called Inside. Burnham did the entire thing by himself in his house during the pandemic — writing, music, cinematography, editing, etc. In this clip from the show, Burnham performs a song called “Welcome to the Internet”. (via waxy)

Who Are You, Charlie Brown?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

Who Are You, Charlie Brown? is a forthcoming feature-length documentary about the Peanuts comic strip and its creator, Charles Schulz.

Honoring the “everyman” creator, Charles “Sparky” Schulz, “Who Are You, Charlie Brown?” celebrates the significance and global multi-generational popularity of the comic strip and its timeless artistry and design to profile the man whose simple characters would touch the lives of millions through the decades and become beloved cultural icons. Featuring interviews with Jean Schulz, the widow of Charles Schulz, along with Drew Barrymore, Al Roker, Kevin Smith, Billie Jean King, Paul Feig, Ira Glass, Noah Schnapp, Miya Cech, Keith L. Williams, Chip Kidd, Lynn Johnston, Robb Armstrong and more, the documentary interweaves a new animated story that follows Charlie Brown on a quest to discover himself.

Narrated by Lupita Nyong’o, the film premieres on Apple TV+ on June 25.

The Mistake Waltz

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2021

This is a 3-minute clip of The Concert (or The Perils of Everybody) by choreographer Jerome Robbins, in which the dancers are intentionally, and comically, out of sync. You can see why it’s colloquially called the Mistake Waltz. Open Culture’s Ayun Halliday has collected several more of these performances in this post.

It must be incredibly hard for dancers to execute this piece, to deliberately perform out of step with the music and their fellow performers after a lifetime of practice & performance designed to drill the opposite instinct to them. Bravo!

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2021

Filmmaker Morgan Neville (who did the Fred Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) has directed a documentary about Anthony Bourdain called Roadrunner that opens in theaters on July 16.

It’s not where you go. It’s what you leave behind… Chef, writer, adventurer, provocateur: Anthony Bourdain lived his life unabashedly. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon. From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), this unflinching look at Bourdain reverberates with his presence, in his own voice and in the way he indelibly impacted the world around him.

This trailer makes me want to buy a movie ticket — and about 10 plane tickets. So looking forward to this. I need more unabashed living in my life.

Velox, the Amphibious Robot

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2021

A Brooklyn company called Pliant Energy Systems has developed a prototype of an amphibious robot that can swim, skate, slither, and crawl through water and over all different kinds of terrain. The secret is an undulating propulsion system that can modified on the fly to adapt to different conditions.

Velox can use several modes of locomotion found in the animal kingdom using just one pair of “fins”. These fins are best described as four-dimensional objects with a hyperbolic geometry that allows the robot to swim like a ray, crawl like a millipede, jet like a squid, and slide like a snake.

A craft equipped with this system has unprecedented freedom to travel through a range of environments in a single mission. As an underwater vehicle, the robot’s ability to instantly reverse direction and do quick turns make it ideal for task such as coral reef inspection or dragon fish hunting where a craft must rapidly maneuver to look around and between objects.

(thx, dunstan)

QAmom

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2021

Sean Donnelly’s mother got sucked into the world of QAnon conspiracy theories, so he made a little video about it, including documenting some bets he made with her about whether or not Biden would still be in office 3 months after the inauguration or if Tom Hanks & Oprah would soon be arrested for pedophilia. Remember when Baby Boomers were all concerned that the internet was going to be harmful for their Gen X and Millennial children and grandchildren? And now all these Boomers are getting brainwashed by Facebook and Fox News? Good stuff. :|

See also QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking, What Can You Do About QAnon?, Sacha Baron Cohen Says Tech Companies Built the “Greatest Propaganda Machine in History”, Living in a Conspiracy Nation, In Search of a Flat Earth, and My Dad, the Facebook Addict. (via waxy)

Footsteps: How Movie Sounds Are Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2021

As I’ve said before many times, I will never stop being fascinated by the work of Foley artists, the folks who make the sounds you hear in movies and TV shows. In this short film, we meet three Foley artists who work at Footsteps Studios, a custom designed facility in rural Ontario that includes a massive warehouse of props that can make any sound you can dream of. This video is full of lovely little moments and details — recommended.

Jumping from 25,000 Feet Without a Parachute and Landing Safely

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2021

WHAAAAAAATTT the hell did I just watch? In 2016, Luke Aikins became the first person to intentionally jump and land without the aid of a parachute or wingsuit — check out the video above to see how he does it. At one point, his heart rate is displayed on the screen and I’m certain that mine was in the same ballpark just before he landed. I recommend you also watch a video of the jump narrated by Aikins as he talks through what’s happening before, during, and after the jump.

See also Gary Connery’s 2012 jump — he fell 2400 feet from a helicopter and landed on a huge pile of cardboard boxes with the aid of a wingsuit, which slowed his vertical velocity to about 15 mph.

FYI: The jump height of 25,000 feet seems impressive (and it’s probably trickier hitting the target from higher up) but in terms of speed, about 1500 feet is sufficient for a freefalling human in the spread-eagle position to reach their maximum (terminal) velocity of ~120 mph. Anything over 1500 feet, about half the height of El Capitan’s granite face, doesn’t add any additional speed. (via @mikeindustries)

Juggling from Above

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2021

Juggling, from the usual angle, looks like a very hectic endeavor — balls and clubs and hands flying everywhere. But if you get an overhead view, as in this video from Taylor Glenn, you can see that often there’s very little movement in two of the three dimensions. The mastery of these small movements combined with the sweeping up-and-down motions creates a compelling illusion for ground-based viewers. The power of a different perspective. (via the kid should see this)

Four Laps: a Looping Video About Looping Videos

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2021

For a talk at the Ignite conference, Marcin Wichary created a looping video about looping videos — you know, when the action in a video loops back over previous scenes, adding new layers of interaction as time goes on. (Think Marty McFly revisiting scenes from Back to the Future in Back to the Future 2.) Most impressively: he did it all live — and here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how.

See also Tango, an Inventive Time-Looping Animated Film.

Was the Microwave Invented to Thaw Out Frozen Hamsters?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2021

We all know that the microwave oven was invented by Raytheon’s Percy Spencer in 1945. What this video presupposes is, maybe it was invented to thaw out frozen hamsters? And somehow James Lovelock, who formulated the Gaia hypothesis, is involved? (via @fourfoldway)

Cate Blanchett in The Four Temperaments

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2021

I didn’t wake up this morning knowing I needed to hear Cate Blanchett saying “I love you” over and over again while looking right at me, but now that it’s happened I could not have imagined it going any other way. (She also says “I don’t love you” several times but we’re going to ignore that.)