Ricky Jay, sleight of hand APR 29
Situated on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, Longyearbyen is only 600 miles south of the North Pole and has a population of more than 2000, which makes it the northernmost town in the world. It is also home to a Toyota dealership, but people use snowmobiles to get around most of the time.
From the excellent collection of British Pathé videos on YouTube comes footage of a 1928 bicycle race on penny farthings aka the "boneshaker" aka those bikes with the big wheel in front. Here are a couple of contemporary penny farthing races. (via @sampotts)
Opened in 1956, Southdale Center in Edina, MN was the first fully enclosed shopping mall of its kind. Designed by Victor Gruen, it became the archetype of the typical American mall. Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece about Gruen is a great read.
Southdale Mall still exists. It is situated off I-494, south of downtown Minneapolis and west of the airport -- a big concrete box in a sea of parking. The anchor tenants are now J.C. Penney and Marshall Field's, and there is an Ann Taylor and a Sunglass Hut and a Foot Locker and just about every other chain store that you've ever seen in a mall. It does not seem like a historic building, which is precisely why it is one. Fifty years ago, Victor Gruen designed a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant shopping complex with a garden court under a skylight -- and today virtually every regional shopping center in America is a fully enclosed, introverted, multitiered, double-anchor-tenant complex with a garden court under a skylight. Victor Gruen didn't design a building; he designed an archetype. For a decade, he gave speeches about it and wrote books and met with one developer after another and waved his hands in the air excitedly, and over the past half century that archetype has been reproduced so faithfully on so many thousands of occasions that today virtually every suburban American goes shopping or wanders around or hangs out in a Southdale facsimile at least once or twice a month. Victor Gruen may well have been the most influential architect of the twentieth century. He invented the mall.
Things were changing even as that piece was published in 2004. Sprawling shopping malls are closing and new construction has slowed dramatically. Commerce moved online and to big box stores. Southdale's still kicking though!
How to end a movie APR 28
Using 12 Angry Men, Psycho, The Godfather, and Gone Girl as examples, this video shows several different ways to end a movie. And so, spoilers.
The Art of Atari APR 27
The Art of Atari showcases the design of the iconic company's video game packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and other stuff. Judging from my reaction to just the cover, I might die of nostalgia if I were to see the inside. Might be worth the risk though.
The traveling salesman problem is a classic in computer science. It sounds deceptively easy: given any number of cities, determine the shortest path a traveling salesman would have to travel to visit them all. This video shows how the "obvious" solution -- "well, just start somewhere and always visit the next closest town!" -- doesn't hold up well against other approaches. (via @coudal)
Misplaced New York APR 27
The Misplaced Series removes notable New York buildings from their surroundings and "misplaces" them in desolate landscapes around the world. Concrete behemoths and steel-and-glass towers rise from sand dunes and rocky cliffs, inviting viewers to see them as if for the first time. Out of context, architectural forms become more pronounced and easily understood.
See all 10 buildings in their new surroundings at Misplaced New York.
Snowden APR 27
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden in this film directed by Oliver Stone. I was not at all curious about seeing this, but after watching the trailer, I may give it a shot. See also Citizenfour (which was excellent).
Stitching together thousands of images, photographer Levon Biss produces huge and detailed photographs of tiny insects; prints of 10 mm bugs are 3 meters across. An exhibition of Biss' photos will be on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. All three images above are of the orchid cuckoo bee at different levels of zoom. This video shows how the photos are made:
People text amazing things.
Talkshow is a simple messaging app that allows you to text these things in public. With Talkshow, individuals, groups of friends, entertainers, creators -- anyone! -- can have conversations in public, to be viewed by others in real time or after the fact. Every Talkshow can be shared outside the app and embedded into other websites.
Talkshow was built by Michael Sippey, who has recently been at Medium and Twitter and was a formative influence in my early days online, and Greg Knauss, who loves the web down to his bones and has pulled my own personal bacon out of the system administrative fire more times than I can count, so I am predisposed to like this app and also to recommend it to you.
Back in 2007, riffing on some thoughts by Marc Hedlund about turning Unix commands into startups, I suggested choosing web projects by taking something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent.
Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."
Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."
YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.
Talkshow, 2016. Talkshow = public text messaging.1 I am delighted to see that this approach still bearing fruit.
But, but, you cry, Twitter is public texting! Talkshow is public IM! Well, sure! Twitter does a bunch of different things now, but in the first few years, it was public IM. The big difference I see is while Twitter allows anyone to participate in any public conversation (which is both a plus and minus), with Talkshow, the membership of each group/show is limited but the output is public. And that difference will allow people to do some things better w/ Talkshow than they can with Twitter. ↩
In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein explores the philosophy and life lessons of Star Wars.
In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.
Update: Sunstein, who is a professor at Harvard Law School, gave the commencement address last year at Penn Law. He starts off, dryly: "Graduates, faculty, family, friends, our topic today is Star Wars."