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How Prince Won Super Bowl XLI

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2021

The best Super Bowl halftime performance, by a comfortable margin, is Prince’s performance during Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Anil Dash has a great writeup that contextualizes the song choices and what it all meant to Prince.

Prince’s halftime show wasn’t just a fun diversion from a football game; it was a deeply personal statement on race, agency & artistry from an artist determined to cement his long-term legacy. And he did it on his own terms, as always.

Opening with the stomp-stomp-clap of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, Prince went for crowd participation right from the start, with a nod to one of the biggest stadium anthems of all time — and notably, is one of the songs in the set that he never performed any time before or after. Indeed, though his 1992 song “3 Chains O’ Gold” was clearly a pastiche of the then-rejuvenated “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Prince had rarely, if ever, played any Queen covers at all in his thousands of live shows.

But with that arena-rock staple, Prince was signaling that he was going to win over a football crowd. He launched straight into “Let’s Go Crazy” at the top of the set. As one of the best album- and concert-opening songs of all time, this was a perfect choice. Different from any other Super Bowl performer before or since, Prince actually does a call-and-response section in the song, emphasizing that this is live, and connecting him explicitly to a timeless Black music tradition.

You can watch his entire performance here. But if you’ve seen it before and you’re strapped for time, check out the full-on mini-concert Prince performed at a Super Bowl press conference a few days before the game:

Incredible. I move that going forward all “this is more of a comment than a question” comments during conference Q&As are immediately cut off with blistering guitar riffs of Johnny B. Goode. Seconded?

My Recent Media Diet, the Still Isolated Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

Holy shit, do I miss going to the movies. Oh, and going everywhere else. Anyway, every few months for the past couple of years, I’ve shared the movies, books, music, TV, and podcasts I’ve enjoyed (or not) recently. Here’s everything I’ve “consumed” since the beginning of the year. (Don’t sweat the letter grades — they’re so subjective that I don’t even agree with them sometimes.)

Mank. Wanted to hate this, for secret reasons. Didn’t. (B+)

The Royal Tenenbaums. I have seen this movie a half dozen times and it’s still so fresh every time. (A+)

The Painter and the Thief. Best movie I’ve seen in months. (A+)

In & Of Itself. Everyone was raving about this and so I watched it and…I don’t know. It’s a magic show. I can see why people find it interesting, but watching it the night after The Painter and the Thief, it paled in comparison. (B+)

Ava. Jessica Chastain is good in this movie that is otherwise pretty bleh. (C+)

I’m Your Woman. Loved the 70s vibe of this one — not only the in-film setting but it had the feel of a movie made in the 70s as well. (B+)

Idiocracy. Fascinating documentary of the Trump presidency. (A-)

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Sure, Star Wars was the biggest movie in the world but without such a strong sequel, maybe we’re not still talking about these movies more than 40 years later. (A)

Blood Simple. First Coen brothers movie and Frances McDormand’s debut. (A-)

L.L. Bean fleece-lined hoodie. The most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever owned. (A+)

Wonder Woman 1984. This wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said it was, but they should have worked a little harder on making an entertaining movie and less on hitting the audience over the head with a moral lesson. (B+)

Song Exploder (season two). The Dua Lipa and Trent Reznor episodes were the standouts here. (B+)

Ammonite. Great individual performances by Ronan and Winslet. (B+)

The Mandalorian (season two). Enjoyed this way more than season one. The final scene in the last episode… (A-)

MacBook Air M1. A couple of years ago, I bought an iPad Pro intending to use it for work on the go. For folks whose work is mostly email and web browsing, the device seems to work fine but after a solid year of trying to make it work for me, I gave up. Last month, I bought a MacBook Air M1 to replace my 6-year-old iMac, my 9-year-old Air, and the iPad. It’s a remarkable machine — lightning fast with a long-lasting battery. I’ll be much happier traveling with this, whenever it is that we get to travel again. (A)

The Crown (season four). The show has never reached the giddy heights of the first two seasons, but Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher was a fantastic addition to the show. As someone on Twitter said, Anderson played Thatcher perfectly: as a sociopath. (A-)

Sunshine. Rewatch. Afterwards, as one does, I looked the film up on Wikipedia and of course Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs) had written it. (A-)

Florida by Lauren Groff. Excellent and eclectic collection of short stories. (B+)

Phantom Thread. Undoubtably a masterpiece but also something that I personally find it hard to get fully into. (B+)

Emma.. Super-fun period piece starring Anya Taylor-Joy. (A-)

In Our Time, Eclipses. I love any opportunity to hear about eclipses. (A)

Hang Up and Listen: The Last Last Dance. This picks up where The Last Dance left off with the story of Michael Jordan’s second (and much less successful) comeback with the Washington Wizards. (B+)

Soul. A sequel of sorts to Inside Out. The underworld score by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross is fantastic. (A)

Ready Player One. Almost in spite of myself, I like this movie. (B+)

The Hobbit film series. Not as good as the Lord of the Rings movies, but not as bad as commonly thought. (B)

Locked Down. This took a while to get going, but Hathaway and Ejiofor are both really good in this. I’ll tell you though, I really had to be in a certain mood to watch a movie about the first weeks of pandemic lockdown. It will be really interesting to see how much appetite people will have for pandemic-themed movies, TV, books, art, etc. (B+)

Young Frankenstein. Madeline Kahn is only in this movie for like 5 minutes but she so dominates the screen that it feels like much longer. (A-)

Batman Begins. I don’t know why Christopher Nolan wanted to direct a series of superhero movies, but I’m glad he did. (A-)

This American Life, The Empty Chair. There are so many more podcasts now than there were 10 years ago, but This American Life is still consistently among the best and they don’t get enough credit for that. (A-)

Criminal, The Editor. I will listen to anything about people who love encyclopedias. (B+)

The Midnight Sky. I feel like I’ve seen this movie — or a movie very much like it — several times before. (B)

Ocean’s 8. Good fun. And Awkwafina! (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

Black Art: In the Absence of Light

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

Next week, a documentary film directed by Sam Pollard will premiere on HBO: Black Art: In the Absence of Light.

Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today.

Directed by Sam Pollard (Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children) the film shines a light on the extraordinary impact of Driskell’s exhibit on generations of Black artists who have staked a claim on their rightful place within the 21st-Century art world. Interweaving insights and context from scholars and historians, along with interviews from a new generation of working African American curators and artists including Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems, the documentary is a look at the Contributions of Black American artists in today’s contemporary art world.

Just added this to my HBO Max queue — it looks great.

Life Lessons From 100-Year-Olds

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2021

In this video, three English centenarians share what it’s like to live so long, lessons they’ve learned along the way, and regrets they have. I don’t particularly have the desire for long life, but if I do end up living past my life expectancy, I hope it’s with the vitality shown by these folks.

P.S. I could have sworn that I’d linked to this video before (it’s from 2016) but I can’t find it anywhere in the archives. This is similar though: How to Age Gracefully. (via open culture)

Explaining the Icy Mystery of the Dyatlov Pass

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

In 1959, a group of students died while on a hiking trip in the Ural Mountains. The circumstances of the incident and the way in which they died presented a mystery that has remained unsolved in the decades since.

The Dyatlov Pass incident is an intriguing unsolved mystery from the last century. In February 1959, a group of nine experienced Russian mountaineers perished during a difficult expedition in the northern Urals. A snow avalanche hypothesis was proposed, among other theories, but was found to be inconsistent with the evidence of a lower-than-usual slope angle, scarcity of avalanche signs, uncertainties about the trigger mechanism, and abnormal injuries of the victims.

Now, researchers have come up with a plausible explanation of the accident: a low-angle avalanche enabled by unusually slippery snow and high winds. From a piece in Wired about the investigation:

The cross-country skiers had actually pitched camp on a small step in the hillside, scooping away the snow to level it out. When they cut into the snowpack, they sliced through the weak layer, essentially initiating a countdown. “When you create a cut in the slope to install the tent, it’s like when you remove a retaining wall,” says Gaume, a snow physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The slab of denser snow now hung precariously over the camp. “All the ingredients were there,” Gaume adds. “There was a weak layer, there was a slab, and the slope angle was locally steeper than the critical angle.”

Also from the Wired piece: the researchers were inspired by the realistic snow modeling that Disney did for Frozen. (via kottke ride home)

Tadpoles: The Big Little Migration

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

For four years, Maxwel Hohn filmed the movements of millions of tadpoles in a small lake in British Columbia, resulting in an 8-minute short film called Tadpoles: The Big Little Migration. The underwater cinematography in this is absolutely incredible.

People don’t think of tadpoles as being photogenic, but when you take the time to look at their features, they’re actually very cute. They have a permanent smile on their face that you form an instant connection with. Witnessing their journey each day, there’s a strong emotional bond I can’t help but feel.

Hohn’s work here is proof that nature is infinitely fascinating and worthy of attention, even beyond the bounds of nature documentaries about charismatic megafauna. (via the kid should see this)

3:45 PM

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

3:45 PM is CalArts student Alisha Liu’s second-year film about a lovely day in the park interrupted by an existential case of the Sunday scaries. The animation in this is lovely, particularly in the overhead sequences when things get abstract. I think this is my favorite shot:

overhead shot of an animated parking lot

There’s just enough information here to convey to the viewer that these are cars in a parking lot — plus a little bit more, so that individual types of cars are perceptible. This is a really good implementation by Liu of the type of abstraction discussed by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics. (via colossal)

Testing Out a Giant Bell

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2021

If you’re anything like me and all you want to do today is watch some guys hand-ringing a giant bell, here you go. If we click play at the same time, we can watch it together. Ready? 3…2…1…go.

See also The Otherworldly Sounds of a Giant Gong. (via @MachinePix)

Newly Released Footage of a 2007 Daft Punk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2021

As a post-Tr*mp gift to the world, YouTube user Johnny Airbag uploaded a “previously uncirculated” full-length video of a Daft Punk concert in Chicago in 2007. This was from the first night of Lollapalooza and was one of the stops on the duo’s Alive tour, which later resulted in their Alive 2007 album (recorded live in Paris a few weeks before the Chicago show). You can find bootleg recordings of several of their 2007 shows on Soundcloud.

Home Movie: The Princess Bride

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2021

In June and July of 2020, Jason Reitman directed an at-home reenactment of the entirety of The Princess Bride featuring too many notable actors to list here. It ran in 10 installments on doomed streaming platform Quibi — which is why you probably haven’t heard of it — but it is fantastic. Mixed media, multiple actors playing all the roles, Fred Savage and Cary Elwes reprising their roles from the original, the star power & talent, the fact that they got permission to do it — it’s just so weird and good. You can watch the whole thing embedded above.

Ok, ok, here’s just a few of the actors who appear: Adam Sandler (as The Grandfather), Jon Hamm (Westley), Zoe Saldana (Buttercup), Penelope Cruz (Prince Humperdinck), Pedro Pascal (Inigo Montoya), Shaquille O’Neal (Fezzik), Charlize Theron (Fezzik), Andy Serkis (Count Rugen). And Carl Reiner as The Grandfather in his final onscreen role — he died just three days after recording his part.

I know you’re perhaps over the whole quarantine production thing, but this is worth checking out. This movie was done to raise money for José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, so if you enjoyed it, join me in sending them some money to enable their essential work. (via @mathowie)

Werner Herzog on Skateboarding

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2021

Werner Herzog doesn’t know anything about skateboarding. But suspecting the director was a kindred spirit, Ian Michna interviewed Herzog for skate mag Jenkem. My favorite bit is when Michna asks Herzog if he shot a skateboarding video, what music would he choose as a soundtrack:

What comes to mind first and foremost would be Russian Orthodox church choirs, something that creates this kind of strange feeling of space and sacrality — so what you are doing is special, bordering the sacred.

(via @mathowie)

Hey, Let’s Watch Jacques P├ępin Fry Eggs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2021

Fried eggs are something almost everyone, regardless of culinary prowess, can cook. Even so, in the hands of a master chef like Jacques Pépin, even this simple dish can be improved upon. For starters, he uses waaaay more butter in the pan than most people probably do. And there’s water involved? The finished product looks amazing.

After you’re done watching that, you should check out Pépin making scrambled eggs:

And then finally, here’s Pépin making omelettes two ways (country/”American-style” and classic French):

Love that backhand plating technique!

Orbit the Moon in Realtime

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2021

Using images from the Kaguya orbiter, Seán Doran has constructed a 4-hour realtime orbit of the Moon. Feel free to pair with your favorite piece of relaxing music for a meditative viewing experience.

See also another video by Doran: An Incredible Video of What It’s Like to Orbit the Earth for 90 Minutes.

Satellike Imagery

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2021

From photographer and filmmaker Roman De Giuli, Satellike is a fluid abstract video that simulates satellite imagery of river deltas, etc. As De Giuli explains, the effects he uses here are entirely practical, not digital.

What you see in SATELLIKE are very long shots of watery ink in motion on several coats of half dried paint. Drying the paint leads to organic structures which can be brought to life again with water, ink and sour flow release mediums. The results look different from my usual approach, way more realistic and less otherworldly.

The organic nature of fluids in motion is very tough to duplicate digitally with the accuracy to feel, I don’t know, relaxing. I don’t know how you quantify or categorize this feeling/intuition, but watching this video feels very much like watching a river or the ocean flow. You can see more of De Giuli’s fluid work on his website.

Danny MacAskill - The Slabs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2021

Inspired by rock climbers, Danny MacAskill visits the Isle of Skye with his mountain bike to find an impossibly steep route down the Dubh Slabs. He is so far back in the saddle on some of the steepest stuff. I know high-end mountain bike brakes are on hair-triggers, but good God I wonder what MacAskill’s grip strength is… (thx, jeffrey)

Can You Know Brokenness Without Being Broken?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 28, 2021

In this short film by Simon Perkins, Jon Wilson shares his story of how cancer left him with one leg and the perspective he’s gained by skinning up and then skiing down mountains.

Sometimes I forget I’m broken. I cover up my scars and plug my ears. Things go okay for a while, but then I start thinking I’m entitled to some artificial slice of happiness, and before I know it I’m climbing a ladder to nowhere. To get down again, and find my equilibrium, it helps to remember when I was so low. It also helps to remind myself that life is relatively good if I have the luxury to ski up a goddamn mountain.

Many of us are scared to be broken. I’m a high school teacher, and I see it in the kids around me every day. They’re conditioned by black mirrors and social media algorithms designed for “perfect offerings.” We tell them about the ills of brokenness, but not the power and wisdom in it. We talk about post-traumatic stress — not post-traumatic growth. Being broken is a pre-existing condition that is never expunged from our record. And while I would never wish it on anyone, I would never trade in my scars, even if it meant having my leg back.

Stream Hundreds of Hours of “Never-Before-Seen” Interviews in New ‘American Masters’ Archive

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2021

PBS TV series American Masters has been on the air since 1986, profiling prominent American cultural creators. Only a small fraction of the footage for the interviews they do makes it into the episodes, so they’ve created a digital archive of over 1000 hours of footage “from more than 1,000 original, never-before-seen, full, raw interviews”.

For four decades, we’ve asked: who has changed America? We’ve aired hundreds of carefully crafted programs that illuminate the stories of our cultural giants. But just a fraction of the interviews filmed for American Masters appear in the final films; nearly 96% of the footage never gets released. Now, the American Masters digital archive makes this rich catalog of interviews available to the public.

You can access the archive here. Many of them clock in between 20 and 40 minutes in length — like these interviews from Maya Angelou, David Bowie, Nan Goldin, and Betty White — but some are much longer, like Carol Burnett’s 3-hour 39-minute interview, Quincy Jones’ nearly 2-hour interview, and Steven Spielberg’s 1-hour 20-minute interview. What a treasure trove! (via @tedgioia)

Tony Hawk’s Last 720

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2021

Last night, Tony Hawk posted a video of himself doing a 720 at the age of 52 (a full 2 years beyond the Brimley/Cocoon Line).

Hawk says it’ll probably be his last one — he’s getting too old, his spin is slower, etc. In 2016, at the age of 48, Hawk hit his final 900:

There’s a way in which watching Hawk perform these tricks and watching, say, 11-year-old Gui Khury perform the world’s first 1080 is the same: they’re both attempting something they aren’t sure they can do at that moment. But Hawk has both the benefit and hindrance of wisdom to draw upon here. He knows he can do a 720 because he’s done probably hundreds of them before, but he’s also battling his body, self-doubt, and probably the tiny voice in the back of his head saying “why exactly do you need to do this, dumbass?” Hawk probably knows better than anyone that as you get older, the true battle in sports (and life) is not against others or the record book, it’s against yourself.

The 25 Best Films of 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2021

Because the pandemic (mostly) shuttered US movie theaters for the duration of 2020 and studios reduced or redirected their output accordingly, you might be excused for thinking that it was a bad year for film. As David Ehrlich’s masterful video countdown of the 25 best films of 2020 demonstrates, there was plenty of good stuff out there if you knew where to look.

I didn’t end up seeing many of the films on Ehrlich’s list — I’ve been stuck rewatching old favorites and meaningless garbage during the pandemic — but I’m going to make some time for several of these soon. Two documentaries that I was surprised to see omitted: My Octopus Teacher and The Painter and the Thief. The latter is one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages — I can’t imagine that Ms. Americana (for instance) was better. And I’m Thinking of Ending Things? Did not do it for me at all. *shrug* (thx, brandt)

A Playful Ghibli-esque Ad for Travel Oregon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2021

I cannot improve upon the succinct description of this video from Natalie Smillie: “A new Ghibli film?! No — this is an advert for the state of Oregon.” It’s a great ad and certainly takes both content and stylistic cues from Studio Ghibli’s films. The video, along with a previous one, was created for Travel Oregon by creative agency Psyop and animation studio Sun Creature.

Earthrise: A Poem About Climate Change by Amanda Gorman

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2021

At the Biden/Harris inauguration on Wednesday, poet Amanda Gorman, dressed in the yellow of the Sun, realigned the planets with her recitation of a poem called The Hill We Climb. In 2018 for The Climate Reality Project, riffing off of the iconic photo of the Earth rising over the surface of the Moon taken by Apollo 8 astronauts, Gorman wrote a poem called Earthrise about the climate emergency and the action we must take to end it. From the text of the poem:

Where despite disparities
We all care to protect this world,
This riddled blue marble, this little true marvel
To muster the verve and the nerve
To see how we can serve
Our planet. You don’t need to be a politician
To make it your mission to conserve, to protect,
To preserve that one and only home
That is ours,
To use your unique power
To give next generations the planet they deserve.

We are demonstrating, creating, advocating
We heed this inconvenient truth, because we need to be anything but lenient
With the future of our youth.

And while this is a training,
in sustaining the future of our planet,
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now
Now
Now,
Because the reversal of harm,
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial.

So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not.

Watch Gorman’s recitation of it above — you might get some goosebumps. (via eric holthaus)

Max Richter’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2021

Like many of you, I really enjoyed when NPR hosted Max Richter for a Tiny Desk Concert early in 2020, before the unpleasantness. Almost a year later, the composer is back with a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. Recorded in spare black & white last summer, Richter plays six of his typically meditative pieces on a piano. Just set this going in the background and relax into your workday (or weekend, depending on your time zone). Enjoy.

Amanda Gorman: The Hill We Climb

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2021

The rhetorical highlight of the Biden/Harris inauguration was Amanda Gorman reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb — I thought it was fantastic. It begins:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

Here’s a transcript courtesy of CNN. You can read about how Gorman composed the poem in the NY Times:

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman managed to write a few lines a day and was about halfway through the poem on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed into the halls of Congress, some bearing weapons and Confederate flags. She stayed awake late into the night and finished the poem, adding verses about the apocalyptic scene that unfolded at the Capitol that day.

The Times also has a lesson for students about Gorman and her poem. And from NPR:

Gorman is no stranger to having to change her work midstream. Like Biden, who has spoken openly about having stuttered as a child, Gorman grew up with a childhood speech impediment of her own. She had difficulty saying certain letters of the alphabet — the letter R was especially tough — which caused her to have to constantly “self-edit and self-police.”

Her delivery was amazing — powerful and lyrical. Brava!

Update: I included a link to a transcript of the poem above. I also wanted to include this illustration by Samantha Dion Baker because art inspires art.

Amanda Gorman

Update: A book version of Gorman’s inaugural poem will be out in April and is available for preorder.

Biden/Harris Inauguration Livestream for Kids

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2021

Today beginning at 10am ET as part of the official inauguration festivities, Keke Palmer will host a special livestream geared toward kids (embedded above).

The livestream, hosted by award-winning entertainer and advocate Keke Palmer, will feature a special message from Dr. Jill Biden; commentary from historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Erica Armstrong Dunbar; a segment on presidential pets produced by Nickelodeon; excerpts of student voices from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs “We the Young People” programming; trivia questions, including some asked by Doug Emhoff; segments produced by the Library of Congress; and other special features.

This sounds way better than whatever the talking heads on CNN will be going on about. For more information on the inauguration, check out the official site.

What Can You Do About QAnon?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2021

Over the past several months, documentary filmmaker Kirby Ferguson has been making a series of videos about conspiracy theories, including This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, Trump, QAnon and The Return of Magic (which I posted about here), and Constantly Wrong: The Case Against Conspiracy Theories, as well as this analysis of the tactics of infowar. Just before the election, he made a video for the NY Times (embedded above): What Can You Do About QAnon?

In particular, Ferguson singles out humiliation by ridicule as something to avoid when attempting to bring QAnon supporters back to reality. Instead, he suggests staying in contact, sharing relevant information, asking questions, and being patient. But as Open Culture points out: “After the violence of January 6, however, it’s reasonable to ask whether we need something more than coddling and patience.” (via open culture)

This Is a Wake-Up Call

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2021

This video from Matthew Cooke is an excellent and succinct plea for Republicans and Trump supporters to come back to reality.

This is a wake-up call for Republicans. America elected Joe Biden by over 7 million votes, and you’re confused because you didn’t see us flock to his rallies and cheer his smackdowns like we were at a pro wrestling event during a global pandemic. We don’t wear matching hats or have “no more malarkey” flags waving from the backs of our trucks. Do you know why? Because Biden is not our tribal warlord. We believe the job of a U.S. President is to represent more than one interest group. That’s why 81 million of us turned out to stop a narcissistic personality cult that embodies all seven of the deadly sins — most of all pride, which you’ve taken to levels of blasphemy, claiming your political leaders are handpicked by Jesus Christ.

This country is called the United States and we have multiple converging crises that need adult supervision but we are being distracted trying to get control over a critical mass of you who no longer believe in reality.

I don’t know if it will be persuasive to actual Republicans, but it’s a solid attempt.

Scenes from the Second Civil War

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2021

In the hours after the January 6th terror attack on Congress, it seemed as though the early understanding was that a bunch of giddy goofballs — oops! — forced their way into the Capitol Building for funsies and photo ops. The stupid coup. As time passes and more photos & videos are released and reporting is done, the picture emerging is of a violent attack on members of Congress, their staff, and Capitol Police & other law enforcement officers by an armed & savage mob who narrowly missed assaulting, kidnapping, or even murdering members of Congress by mere minutes.

This is an account of the rioters’ siege of the Capitol Building from the perspective of the DC police. The terrorists likened their actions to those in 1776; it certainly was a war-like atmosphere:

“We weren’t battling 50 or 60 rioters in this tunnel,” he said in the first public account from D.C. police officers who fought to protect the Capitol during last week’s siege. “We were battling 15,000 people. It looked like a medieval battle scene.”

Someone in the crowd grabbed Fanone’s helmet, pulled him to the ground and dragged him on his stomach down a set of steps. At around the same time, police said, the crowd pulled a second officer down the stairs. Police said that chaotic and violent scene was captured in a video that would later spread widely on the Internet.

Rioters swarmed, battering the officers with metal pipes peeled from scaffolding and a pole with an American flag attached, police said. Both were struck with stun guns. Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and drifted in and out of consciousness.

All the while, the mob was chanting “U.S.A.” over and over and over again.

“We got one! We got one!” Fanone said he heard rioters shout. “Kill him with his own gun!”

This was a “coordinated assault”:

Looking over the chaotic scene in front of him from the Capitol steps, Glover grew concerned as the battle raged. There were people caught up in the moment, he said, doing things they would not ordinarily do. But many appeared to be on a mission, and they launched what he and the police chief described as a coordinated assault.

“Everything they did was in a military fashion,” Glover said, saying he witnessed rioters apparently using hand signs and waving flags to signal positions, and using what he described as “military formations.” They took high positions and talked over wireless communications.

Authorities would later learn that some former members of the military and off-duty police officers from across the country were in the pro-Trump crowd. Glover called it disturbing that off-duty police “would knowingly and intentionally come to the United States Capitol and engage in this riotous and criminal behavior against their brothers and sisters in uniform, who are upholding their oaths of office.”

Blue Lives Matter…until they have the gall to get in the way of what you feel entitled to:

“The zealotry of these people is absolutely unreal,” said Hodges, who suffered from a severe headache but otherwise emerged unhurt. “There were points where I thought it was possible I could either die or become seriously disfigured.”

Still, Hodges said, he did not want to turn to his gun.

“I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns — we had been seizing guns all day,” he said. “And the only reason I could think of that they weren’t shooting us was they were waiting for us to shoot first. And if it became a firefight between a couple hundred officers and a couple thousand demonstrators, we would have lost.”

Two of the officers interviewed for this story spoke to CNN for this report:

Officer Michael Fanone found himself in the midst of the insurrectionists and then briefly shielded from harm by some of the rioters after shouting “I have kids”. He had this to say to those who protected him: “Thank you. But fuck you for being there.”

The Storm Is Here

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 15, 2021

From Luke Mogelson in The New Yorker, Among the Insurrectionists is an amazing and surreal account of how the January 6th domestic terror assault on Congress1 unfolded. (Note: This piece contains accounts of violence and lots of racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic language.)

The America Firsters and other invaders fanned out in search of lawmakers, breaking into offices and revelling in their own astounding impunity. “Nancy, I’m ho-ome! ” a man taunted, mimicking Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Someone else yelled, “1776 — it’s now or never.” Around this time, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country. … USA demands the truth!” Twenty minutes later, Ashli Babbitt, a thirty-five-year-old woman from California, was fatally shot while climbing through a barricaded door that led to the Speaker’s lobby in the House chamber, where representatives were sheltering. The congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, later said that she’d had a “close encounter” with rioters during which she thought she “was going to die.” Earlier that morning, another representative, Lauren Boebert — a newly elected Republican, from Colorado, who has praised QAnon and promised to wear her Glock in the Capitol — had tweeted, “Today is 1776.”

When Babbitt was shot, I was on the opposite side of the Capitol, where people were growing frustrated by the empty halls and offices.

“Where the fuck are they?”

“Where the fuck is Nancy?”

No one seemed quite sure how to proceed. “While we’re here, we might as well set up a government,” somebody suggested.

Notably, the piece places the insurrection in the proper context alongside Trump’s campaign of misinformation (which began even before his Presidency and has focused heavily on election fraud) and as part of an escalating series of actions by militant fascist groups in DC and around the country.

In the days before January 6th, calls for a “real solution” became progressively louder. Trump, by both amplifying these voices and consolidating his control over the Republican Party, conferred extraordinary influence on the most deranged and hateful elements of the American right. On December 20th, he retweeted a QAnon supporter who used the handle @cjtruth: “It was a rigged election but they were busted. Sting of the Century! Justice is coming!” A few weeks later, a barbarian with a spear was sitting in the Vice-President’s chair.

Cause, effect. Here are more instances, from various times during the past few months:

It was clear that the men outside Harry’s on December 12th had travelled to D.C. to engage in violence, and that they believed the President endorsed their doing so. Trump had made an appearance at the previous rally, waving through the window of his limousine; now I overheard a Proud Boy tell his comrade, “I wanna see Trump drive by and give us one of these.” He flashed an “O.K.” hand sign, which has become a gesture of allegiance among white supremacists. There would be no motorcade this time, but while Fuentes addressed the groypers Trump circled Freedom Plaza in Marine One, the Presidential helicopter.

During the Presidential campaign, Trump’s histrionic exaggerations of the threat posed by Antifa fuelled conservative support for the Proud Boys, allowing them to vastly expand their operations and recruitment. The day after a Presidential debate in which Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” Lauren Witzke, a Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, publicly thanked the group for having provided her with “free security.”

Early returns showed Trump ahead in Michigan, but many absentee ballots had yet to be processed. Because Trump had relentlessly denigrated absentee voting throughout the campaign, in-person votes had been expected to skew his way. It was similarly unsurprising when his lead diminished after results arrived from Wayne County and other heavily Democratic jurisdictions. Nonetheless, shortly after midnight, Trump launched his post-election misinformation campaign: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election.”

The next day, I found an angry mob outside the T.C.F. Center. Police officers guarded the doors. Most of the protesters had driven down from Macomb County, which is eighty per cent white and went for Trump in both 2016 and 2020. “We know what’s going on here,” one man told me. “They’re stuffing the ballot box.”

In April, in response to Whitmer’s aggressive public-health measures, Trump had tweeted, “Liberate Michigan!” Two weeks later, heavily armed militia members entered the state capitol, terrifying lawmakers.

During Trump’s speech on January 6th, he said, “The media is the biggest problem we have.” He went on, “It’s become the enemy of the people. … We gotta get them straightened out.” Several journalists were attacked during the siege. Men assaulted a Times photographer inside the Capitol, near the rotunda, as she screamed for help. After National Guard soldiers and federal agents finally arrived and expelled the Trump supporters, some members of the mob shifted their attention to television crews in a park on the east side of the building. Earlier, a man had accosted an Israeli journalist in the middle of a live broadcast, calling him a “lying Israeli” and telling him, “You are cattle today.” Now the Trump supporters surrounded teams from the Associated Press and other outlets, chasing off the reporters and smashing their equipment with bats and sticks.

Mogelson has reported on wars in Afghanistan and Syria — and now in America. You should read the whole thing.

Update: This is an incredible video companion to this article — videos shot by Mogelson during assault on Congress:

  1. I’ve seen many folks and media outlets refer to the events of January 6, 2021 as an attack “on the Capitol”. While that is technically correct, focusing on the venue obscures the true target: Congress. This was an attack on the entire legislative branch of the United States government. Being explicit about that point is important.

Sisters with Transistors: Electronic Music’s Unsung Heroines

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2021

Sisters with Transistors (great title!) is a documentary film by Lisa Rovner about the overlooked female pioneers of electronic music.

The history of women has been a history of silence.

As one of the film’s subjects, Laurie Spiegel explains: “We women were especially drawn to electronic music when the possibility of a woman composing was in itself controversial. Electronics let us make music that could be heard by others without having to be taken seriously by the male dominated Establishment.”

The film’s subjects, which you can read about here, include Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel. Oram, for example, was one of the founding members of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop:

With many of her country’s men serving in the second World War, she began her career in radio broadcasting in the early ’40s. Galvanized by the ongoing developments in audio technology, she devoted much of her free time to exploring new ways to make sounds with electronics. One of the founding figures of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, she was one of the earliest British composers to produce electronic sounds and compose from field recordings — Musique Concrete, the ancestry of today’s electronic music.

Sisters with Transistors has been playing at some online festivals but I couldn’t find any info about release dates or screenings in the US. Hopefully it will be out there soon? (via open culture)

Lava Lamps Help Keep The Internet Secure??

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2021

Web performance and security company Cloudflare uses a wall of lava lamps to generate random numbers to help keep the internet secure. Random numbers generated by computers are often not exactly random, so what Cloudflare does is take photos of the lamps’ activities and uses the uncertainty of the lava blooping up and down to generate truly random numbers. Here’s a look at how the process works:

At Cloudflare, we have thousands of computers in data centers all around the world, and each one of these computers needs cryptographic randomness. Historically, they got that randomness using the default mechanism made available by the operating system that we run on them, Linux.

But being good cryptographers, we’re always trying to hedge our bets. We wanted a system to ensure that even if the default mechanism for acquiring randomness was flawed, we’d still be secure. That’s how we came up with LavaRand.

LavaRand is a system that uses lava lamps as a secondary source of randomness for our production servers. A wall of lava lamps in the lobby of our San Francisco office provides an unpredictable input to a camera aimed at the wall. A video feed from the camera is fed into a CSPRNG [cryptographically-secure pseudorandom number generator], and that CSPRNG provides a stream of random values that can be used as an extra source of randomness by our production servers. Since the flow of the “lava” in a lava lamp is very unpredictable, “measuring” the lamps by taking footage of them is a good way to obtain unpredictable randomness. Computers store images as very large numbers, so we can use them as the input to a CSPRNG just like any other number.

(via open culture)