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Entries for May 2017 (June 2017 »    July 2017 »    August 2017 »    Archives)

 

Who is the last Jedi? What is the phantom menace?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

Vanity Fair’s David Kamp recently tried to get Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson to tell him the meaning behind The Last Jedi, the title of the upcoming Star Wars movie. LOL. Hopeless move, right? Why would he even ask such a question? Oh, because George Lucas told him who the The Phantom Menace referred to before that movie came out.

Vanity Fair: So, do we know what the words The Last Jedi allude to?

Kathleen Kennedy: Why in the world do you think I would tell you that?

VF: I’ll tell you why. Back in 1998, I interviewed George Lucas for V.F. ahead of The Phantom Menace, and I asked, “Who or what is the phantom menace?” And he nonchalantly said, “Oh, it’s Darth Sidious.”

KK: Did he really?

VF: Just like that.

KK: I’m not going to do that.

VF: So, does the word “Jedi” work in the singular or the plural?

KK: That’s actually what’s interesting about the title, and very intentionally ambiguous.

VF: As you’re being right now.

KK: Yes.

Here’s the relevant passage from a piece written by Kamp and published in 1999:

Given that The Phantom Menace is a Vader- and Emperor-free movie, the role of evil string-puller falls to someone we’ve never heard of. “The phantom menace is a character named Darth Sidious,” Lucas says, “who is the last of the Sith” (“An ancient people… conquered by powerful dark-side Jedi magic”-page 268, Star Wars Encyclopedia, by Stephen J. Sansweet). Actually, Lucas goes on to explain, the “menace” honorific should be broadened to include Sidious’s apprentice, Darth Maul, a terrifyingly fierce-looking character played by the martial-arts expert Ray Park. Maul gets to fight a lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan, but Sidious remains a shadowy figure. “Nobody knows Darth Sidious exists,” says Lucas. “Well, he’s seen to the audience, but not to the players.”

Lucas appears to be firmly in the spoilers are fine camp.

4K supercell thunderstorm time lapse

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

I have said it before and I will say it again and you will get tired of me saying it for decades to come (or until Facebook just outright buys the internet and shuts down all independent media), but I will never ever tire of watching high-resolution time lapse videos of thunderstorms. Look at those gorgeous mammatus clouds!

Supercell thunderstorms are a manifestation of nature’s attempt to correct an extreme imbalance. The ever ongoing effort to reach equilibrium, or viscosity, is what drives all of our weather, and the force with which the atmosphere tries to correct this imbalance is proportional to the gradient. In other words, the more extreme the imbalance, the more extreme the storm.

I’ve had this up in a tab since last week but lost track of it…glad to rediscover it via Colossal.

The story of the Chinese farmer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

In a talk about Taoism called Swimming Headless, Alan Watts shared with his audience the parable of the Chinese farmer.

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. Ran away. And all the neighbors came ‘round that evening and said, “that’s too bad.”

And he said, “maybe.”

The next day, the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. And all the neighbors came around and said, “that’s great, isn’t it?”

And he said, “maybe.”

The point, according to Watts’ interpretation of Lao Tzu’s teachings, is “to try to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage”.

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune. Or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

I read the Tao Te Ching in an English class in college, and I remember not getting it. It was a small class, only six students, and none of us white midwestern kids had ever read any Eastern philosophy before and didn’t really understand it, to the professor’s frustration. I wish I could take that class again; I’d get so much more out of it now. (via @sausaw)

Seven helpful tips on how to be miserable

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

The internet is chock full of articles and videos on how to be happier. But why chase happiness when making yourself miserable is so much easier? In this video, CGP Grey shares seven tactics to maximize your misery:

1. Stay still.
2. Screw with your sleep.
3. Maximize your screentime.
4. Use your screen to stoke your negative emotions.
5. Set vapid goals.
6. Pursue happiness directly.
7. Follow your instincts.

The video is based on Randy Paterson’s recent book, How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use.

A brief history of America’s shameful inaction on climate change

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

This is the most depressing video I have seen in a long time. The premise is devastating in its simplicity: a collection of clips of news programs and politicians (mostly Republicans) talking about climate change next to a pair of charts showing rising global temperatures and falling Arctic sea ice coverage.

I found it striking that before the 2008 election of Obama and (especially) the 2010 midterm election that resulted in a Republican majority in the House, Republican politicians spoke clearly and publicly that climate change was happening and that something needed to be done about it. And now? Republicans deny climate change is happening and Trump is on the verge of pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Update: See also How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science.

Those divisions did not happen by themselves. Republican lawmakers were moved along by a campaign carefully crafted by fossil fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries (which can process 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day) as well as a subsidiary that owns or operates 4,000 miles of pipelines that move crude oil.

Government rules intended to slow climate change are “making people’s lives worse rather than better,” Charles Koch explained in a rare interview last year with Fortune, arguing that despite the costs, these efforts would make “very little difference in the future on what the temperature or the weather will be.”

History, I hope, will not be kind to the Koch brothers. The ruin they have brought upon America for their own personal gain will be felt for decades.

Striking B&W photos of humpback whales

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2017

Cresswell Humpbacks

Cresswell Humpbacks

Jem Cresswell swam with humpback whales, took over 10,000 black & white photos, and whittled them down into his series, Giants. From Colossal:

In addition to being intrigued by the animals’ size, the Australian-based artist is also fascinated by their brains. In 2006, spindle cells, which were only thought to be present in humans and great apes, were also found to exist within the brains of humpback whales. These cells, which are tied to social organization, empathy, and intuition, were found to be more than three times as prevalent in humpback whales than they were in humans.

Humpbacks aren’t blue whales,1 but that reminded me of a passage I read recently from Robert Sapolsky’s Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst:

Many neurons are also outlandishly large. A zillion red blood cells fit on the proverbial period at the end of this sentence. In contrast, there are single neurons in the spinal cord that send out projection cables many feet long. There are spinal cord neurons in blue whales that are half the length of a basketball court.

Anyway, here’s a behind-the-scenes of Cresswell doing his work.

Beautiful. I may have to add “swimming with humpbacks” to my bucket list.

  1. Duh. As the largest animal ever known to swim the ocean or walk the earth, blue whales are almost twice as big as humpbacks and can live more than twice as long.

10 ways to have a better conversation

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2017

Celeste Headlee is an expert in talking to people. As part of her job as a public radio host and interviewer, she talks to hundreds of people each year, teasing from her guests what makes them interesting. At a TEDx conference two years ago, Headlee shared 10 tips for having a better conversations that work for anyone:

1. Don’t multitask.
2. Don’t pontificate.
3. Use open-ended questions.
4. Go with the flow.
5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.
7. Try not to repeat yourself.
8. Stay out of the weeds.
9. Listen.
10. Be brief.

Watch the video for the explanations of each point. I’m pretty good on 1, 5, & 7 while I struggle with 3, 4, and sometimes 6. 9 is a constant struggle and depends on how much I’ve talked with other people recently. (via swissmiss)

Update: From the WSJ, Save Yourself From Tedious Small Talk.

Much of our day-to-day talk is a missed opportunity. The ability to draw others into meaningful conversations can determine whether people want to get to know you, or remember you at all. Failure to learn it can stall your career.

Vanessa Van Edwards had been attending networking events for several years during and after college when she realized she was having the same conversation again and again. “It went like this: So what do you do? Yeah. Where are you from. Yeah, yeah, been there. Do you live around here? Well, I’d better go get another glass of wine,” says Ms. Van Edwards, a Portland, Ore., corporate trainer and author of “Captivate,” a new book on social skills.

She started trying conversation-openers that jarred people a bit, in a pleasant way: “Have you been working on anything exciting recently?” Or, “Any exciting plans this summer?”

“If I’m feeling very brave, I ask, ‘What personal passion projects are you working on?’” Ms. Van Edwards says. She began making contacts who followed up more often.

A very satisfying calligraphy video

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2017

This video has much to teach us about how to live. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

If you require a chaser, check out calligraphy master Seb Lester’s impressive work, including hand-lettered Beyonce and Netflix logos.

Logan Lucky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2017

He said he was retired from making movies, but Steven Soderbergh is back with a new movie called Lucky Logan. It’s a heist movie that looks like a cross between Ocean’s 11, Talladega Nights, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Cast? I mean: Adam Driver, Hilary Swank, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, and Channing Tatum. Soderbergh describes the film like so:

On the most obvious level, it’s the complete inversion of an Ocean’s movie. It’s an anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie. Nobody dresses nice. Nobody has nice stuff. They have no money. They have no technology. It’s all rubber band technology, and that’s what I thought was fun about it. It seemed familiar to me, but different enough. The landscape, the characters, and the canvass were the complete opposite of an Ocean’s film. What was weird is that I was working as a producer on Ocean’s Eight while we were shooting Logan, and it was kind of head-spinning. That’s like a proper Ocean’s film. This is a version of an Ocean’s movie that’s up on cement blocks in your front yard.

Between this and Baby Driver, it looks like we’re all set with crazy car capers for Summer 2017.

Vivid new images and flyby videos of Jupiter

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2017

Jupiter South Pole Juno

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is currently orbiting around Jupiter and taking some of the best photos and scientific measurements we’ve seen of the solar system’s largest planet. The photo above is of Jupiter’s south pole, gathering point for massive cyclones.

Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.

“We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”

Using data and photos from Juno, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran have created these videos that approximate what it might look like flying by Jupiter in a spacecraft.

Wonderful.

Dronescapes: beautiful photography from drones

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2017

Dronescapes

Dronescapes

Dronescapes

Dronescapes is an art book of some of the most visually arresting drone photography collected from Dronestagram.

Readers will see the planet from entirely new vantage points, whether it’s a bird’s-eye view of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, a photograph taken inches away from an eagle in midflight, or a vertiginous shot taken above Mexico’s Tamul Waterfalls. There are extended commentaries on how individual images were created and a separate, concise guide containing technical advice on how to use a drone and select the right model.

God knows we can all use a shot of the mini-overview effect right now.

What the world’s strongest man eats in one day

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2017

Brian Shaw is the World’s Strongest Man, having won that competition in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016. In order to fuel his body through what I’m sure is a grueling training program, Shaw eats 12,000 calories spread across 6 meals a day. This video follows him through a typical day before a hard training session. His initial meal is peanut butter, 8 scrambled eggs, and a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which is pretty much just an hors d’oeuvre for Shaw.

This meal, even though it’s eight eggs and all that, it doesn’t seem to really fill me up. I get through it pretty quickly and then I’m hungry again.

Bill Gates’ book recommendations for summer 2017

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2017

Just as he did last year, Bill Gates has recommended five books for people to read this summer. Among the picks:

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal. Gates, who usually reads nonfiction, says:

While you’ll find this book in the fiction section at your local bookstore, what de Kerangal has done here in this exploration of grief is closer to poetry than anything else. At its most basic level, she tells the story of a heart transplant: a young man is killed in an accident, and his parents decide to donate his heart. But the plot is secondary to the strength of its words and characters.

A Full Life by Jimmy Carter. Gates:

Even though the former President has already written more than two dozen books, he somehow managed to save some great anecdotes for this quick, condensed tour of his fascinating life. I loved reading about Carter’s improbable rise to the world’s highest office.

Last year, I took Gates’ advice and read Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

A biologist explains CRISPR to people at five different levels of knowledge

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2017

For the second part of an ongoing series, Wired asked biologist Neville Sanjana to explain CRISPR to five people with different levels of knowledge: a 7-year-old, a high school student, a college student, a grad student, and an expert on CRISPR. As I began to watch, I thought he’d gone off the rails right away with the little kid, but as soon as they connected on a personal issue (allergies), you can see the bridge of understanding being constructed.

The first installment in the series featured a neuroscientist explaining connectomes to five people.

A cheeky review of the different kinds of Facebook videos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2017

You may recognize some of these types of videos in Materialisimo’s funny review of Every Facebook Video EVER. (via @JossFong)

Logan: when superhero movies get old

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2017

Using John Cawelti’s 1977 article “Chinatown” and Generic Transformation in Recent Films as a guide, Evan Puschak examines the genre of superhero movies (and Logan in particular). In the piece, Cawelti offers four possible responses to the conventions of a genre becoming well-known (or, less kindly, stale):

1. Humorous burlesque
2. The cultivation of nostalgia
3. Demythologization
4. The affirmation of myth

Puschak examines each of these in relation to superhero movies and wonders what sort of response Logan represents.

The Art of Slamming Paper Against Metal

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2017

A short vignette of Bowne & Co. Stationers at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, an old-school letterpress printing shop. I love the description of printing as “dancing with the machine”. My pals at Swayspace — who have printed a couple of jobs for me over the years, including this watercolor map of Paris — taught me how to use one of their presses many years ago and there’s definitely a rhythm to it that takes awhile to master. I’m just glad I still have all my fingers.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library on Flickr

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2017

Biodiversity

Biodiversity

Biodiversity

Biodiversity

The Biodiversity Heritage Library maintains a huge trove of plant and animal drawings that they’ve put up on Flickr for free.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.”

Over 110,000 images are available, organized into hundreds of albums. You could easily lose an entire afternoon in there.

P.S. While the Biodiversity Heritage Library doesn’t appear to be an official participant, Flickr’s The Commons project remains one of the under-appreciated gems of the Web.

Amazon’s data-driven bookstores

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2017

Amazon Bookstore

Over at Recode, Dan Frommer has a look inside Amazon’s first NYC bookstore, opening Thursday in the mall in the Time Warner Center. I haven’t visited any of Amazon’s stores yet (they’ve got several around the country), but what I find interesting from the photos is how up-front they are about the shopping experience being data driven. There are signs for books rated “4.8 Stars & Above”, a shelf of “Books Kindle Readers Finish in 3 Days or Less”, a section of “If You Like [this book], You’ll Love [these other books]”, and each book’s shelf label lists the star rating and number of reviews on Amazon.com. Another sign near the checkout reads “Over 7950 Goodreads members like this quote from Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince: ‘We live and breathe words.’”

Other bookstores have books arranged according to best-seller lists, store-specific best-sellers, and staff recommendations, but I’ve never seen any store layout so extensively informed by data and where they tell you so much about why you’re seeing each item. Grocery store item placement is very data driven, but they don’t tell you why you’re seeing a display of Coke at the end of the aisle or why the produce is typically right at the entrance. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon’s approach works or if people will be turned off by shopping inside a product database, a dehumanizing feeling Frommer hints at with “a collection of books that feels blandly standard” when compared to human curated selections at smaller bookstores.

P.S. So weird that there’s no prices on items…you have to scan them with a store scanner or a phone app. Overall, the store feels less oriented towards its book-buying customers and more towards driving Prime memberships, Amazon app downloads, and Kindle & Echo sales (which might be Amazon’s objective).

Update: Jia Tolentino on Amazon’s stores.

The store’s biggest shortcoming, though, is that it is so clearly not intended for people who read regularly. I normally walk into a bookstore and shop the way a person might shop for clothes: I know what I like, what generally works for me, what new styles I might be ready to try. It was a strange feeling, on Thursday, to do laps around a bookstore without feeling a single unexpected thrill. There were no wild cards, no deep cuts, no oddballs — just books that were already best-sellers, pieces of clothing I knew wouldn’t fit me or that I already owned.

Tolentino also notes that the fiction section in the NYC store contains fewer than 200 different titles.

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2017

War, huh, good God, what is good for? Ratings and new HBO Now subscriptions, say it again. Finally, after six seasons of mere skirmishes, Jon Snow says “the Great War is here”. Excited for this, particularly because it appears to lack an aspect that plagued seasons in the past: Parliamentary Procedure with Daenerys Targaryen. (“Your dragon stole my goat! What shall we do about it?”) Anyway, excited for this!

Update: Another new trailer:

Foursquare: US tourism is down sharply in the age of Trump

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2017

Over the past couple of years, Foursquare has used their location data to accurately predict iPhone sales and Chipotle’s sales figures following an E. coli outbreak. Their latest report suggests that leisure tourism to the United States was way down year-over-year over the past 6 months (relative to tourism to other countries).

Foursquare Tourism

Our findings reveal that America’s ‘market share’ in international tourism started to decline in October 2016, when the U.S. tourism share fell by 6% year-over-year, and continued to decrease through March 2017, when it dropped all the way to -16%. Currently, there is no sign of recovery in the data.

And business travel to the US is suffering as well, relative to other countries:

Business trip activity is up in the U.S. by about 3% (as a share of international traveler global activity), but that trend line is not as high as elsewhere in the world, where YoY trends are closer to 10%. Relative to business travel gains globally, business travel to the U.S. is suffering.

As Foursquare notes, correlation is not causation and there are other factors at play (e.g. a stronger US dollar), but it’s not difficult to imagine that our xenophobic white nationalist administration and its travel & immigration policies have something to do with this decline.

New USPS stamps commemorate sports balls

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2017

USPS Balls

The US Postal Service recently announced a new series of stamps that feature balls from eight different sports.

The U.S. Postal Service will soon release first-of-a-kind stamps with the look — and feel — of actual balls used in eight popular sports. Available nationwide June 14, the Have a Ball! Forever stamps depict balls used in baseball, basketball, football, golf, kickball, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

The stamps are round but what’s really cool is that they will have a special coating that lets you feel the unique texture of each kind of ball — the baseball’s laces, the basketball’s nubby surface, the golf ball’s dimples. The ball stamps are available for preorder and will ship in mid-June.

See also their upcoming solar eclipse stamps, which are printed using thermochromic ink — when you touch them, the heat of your finger reveals the hidden Moon passing in front of the Sun. (via print)

Is the Great Barrier Reef dead?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2017

Due to the unprecedented bleaching events over the past few years, the Great Barrier Reef has been eulogized extensively in the media. But it’s not actually dead. Yet. In this video for Vox, Joss Fong explains how corals form, bleach, and die and how our response to climate change might be the only thing that can save the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s other coral reefs from death.

Here’s how we know the Earth is round

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2017

Flat-Earthers aside, people have known that the Earth is round since at least the 3rd century BC. This quick video explores a few of the ways we know the world is spherical, some of them quite simple to recreate as experiments. See also Top 10 Ways to Know the Earth is Not Flat.

(5) Seeing Farther from Higher

Standing in a flat plateau, you look ahead of you towards the horizon. You strain your eyes, then take out your favorite binoculars and stare through them, as far as your eyes (with the help of the binocular lenses) can see.

Then, you climb up the closest tree — the higher the better, just be careful not to drop those binoculars and break their lenses. You then look again, strain your eyes, stare through the binoculars out to the horizon.

The higher up you are the farther you will see. Usually, we tend to relate this to Earthly obstacles, like the fact we have houses or other trees obstructing our vision on the ground, and climbing upwards we have a clear view, but that’s not the true reason. Even if you would have a completely clear plateau with no obstacles between you and the horizon, you would see much farther from greater height than you would on the ground.

This phenomena is caused by the curvature of the Earth as well, and would not happen if the Earth was flat.

Update: Carl Sagan explains how Greek astronomer and mathematician Eratosthenes figured out how the Earth was round in ~200 BC.

(via @preshit)

Why the mayor of New Orleans had Confederate statues torn down

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2017

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu recently gave a speech about why the city chose to remove four Confederate monuments. Here’s a snippet from the transcript…it’s worth reading or watching in full.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

The presence of the monuments became something that was impossible for Landrieu and the city to ignore for any longer:

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

Fashion inspiration boards for Philip & Elizabeth’s 1980s disguises on The Americans

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2017

The FX show The Americans follows a married couple, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, who are Soviet spies living in America during the 1980s. In the course of their spying activities, the KBG couple often don disguises to protect their identities. Costume designer Katie Irish is responsible for dressing the couple on the show, and she’s been sharing some of the fashion inspiration boards for those disguises (as well as other costumes) on her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The Americans Bioboards

The Americans Bioboards

The Americans Bioboards

The Americans Bioboards

The Americans Bioboards

As you can see, Irish and her team pull images from anywhere: TV, movies, catalogs, photojournalism, yearbooks, advertising, etc. The goal is authenticity:

The point is to use clothes to embody the characters and bring them to life in a way that lets audiences believe in and feel invested in them. The show’s leads, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, are characters who live their lives in costume, in a sense. They dress like the upper-middle-class travel agents that they have embodied for years, but there are subtle hints at their internal selves, as ideologically driven Russian spies. “They’re Russian at the core,” Irish explains, “and they don’t want anything that is overtly capitalist.” You won’t see much logo branding on their clothes.

P.S. I’ve been waiting for someone to make a supercut video of all of the Jennings’ disguises, but it hasn’t happened yet. Am I going to have to do it myself?

A Continuous Shape

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2017

Watch stone carver Anna Rubincam as she goes from measuring a live person (essentially creating a geometric model of their face) to a clay model to a finished stone portrait in three weeks.

On a human face, even though there’s a change in pigment, there’s no end. Like, you come to the end of the lips and it just carries on going. And if you try and make it a stark difference, then the face will look strange. The skin is sort of a continuous surface that undulates and has tension in certain places and slack in other places.

I got so anxious watching her carving the stone piece from the clay model. One false move and… *bites nails* More about how the film was made. (via digg)

The Earth’s five energy revolutions

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2017

Five Energy Expansions

Since life first formed on Earth billions of years ago, the ability of organisms to use more powerful and efficient energy sources has been key in driving the diversity and complexity of life. According to this provocative piece in Nature by Olivia Judson, the history of life on Earth can be divided into five energetic epochs characterized by the following energy sources: geochemical energy, sunlight, oxygen, flesh and fire.

The first two were present at the start, but oxygen, flesh and fire are all consequences of evolutionary events. Since no category of energy source has disappeared, this has, over time, resulted in an expanding realm of the sources of energy available to living organisms and a concomitant increase in the diversity and complexity of ecosystems. These energy expansions have also mediated the transformation of key aspects of the planetary environment, which have in turn mediated the future course of evolutionary change. Using energy as a lens thus illuminates patterns in the entwined histories of life and Earth, and may also provide a framework for considering the potential trajectories of life-planet systems elsewhere.

Organisms formed on Earth and changed the planet, which led to the formation of new organisms more suited to the new environment. For instance, when a type of bacteria evolved to turn sunshine into oxygen, it completely changed the planet.

In the absence of a biotic source of oxygen, trace quantities of the gas can be generated abiotically: water molecules can be split by sunlight or radioactive decay. However, these abiotic processes are much less efficient than their biotic equivalent. Had cyanobacteria, or something like them, never evolved, oxygen would never have built up in the atmosphere of the Earth.

But build up it did. Between 2.45 and 2.32 Ga, significant quantities of oxygen began to accumulate in the air, an episode known as the Great Oxidation Event. Before the Great Oxidation, atmospheric oxygen levels were less than 10^-5 of the present atmospheric level of ~21%. By ~2 Ga, they had risen to perhaps 0.1-1% of the present atmospheric level. Although the subsequent history of oxygen is complex and many details are uncertain, Earth’s atmosphere has contained an appreciable level of the gas ever since. (Full oxygenation of the oceans, however, would not happen until around 1.8 billion years after the Great Oxidation.)

The original piece in Nature is fairly readable for a science journal, but this summary in The Atlantic is worth a look if you’re short on time or attention. (via @CharlesCMann)

Coke Habit

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2017

How much Coca-Cola do you have to drink to go through severe withdrawal symptoms for weeks when you go cold turkey? Find out in Coke Habit, a short animation about a delicious childhood treat that got out of hand.

The Summer after 10th grade Mike spent two solid weeks with horrible horrible migraines, dizziness, blind spots and tunnel vision — he didn’t know what it was… This is the story of his Coke Habit.

The bullfighters’ tailor

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2017

It’s not a suit. The outfit that matadors wear when they fight bulls is called a bullfighter’s dress.

It’s called a dress of lights. A bullfighter’s dress is heavy when you hold it in your hand. You can only really understand the dress when you have a 1,300-pound animal coming at you.

And the Fermin Tailor Shop in Madrid has been making dresses by hand for matadors for 55 years. One dress takes seven people a month to make. Check out that embroidery!

A history of tea, the second most-consumed beverage in the world

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2017

From TED-ed and tea expert Shunan Teng, a short video on the history of tea, from its invention in China to its role in globalization.

Our history of tea begins with the legend of the “divine famer” Shen Nong who is credited in many ancient Chinese texts with various agricultural accomplishments. However, some scholars of ancient China now believe Shen Nong might in fact originally have referred to a group of people, living within China and utilizing particularly advanced agricultural techniques for the era. Over time this people’s knowledge of farming was canonized in the form of legends about a divine farmer who shared their name, and whose fame ultimately eclipsed their own.

The other less famous photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2017

Ruby Shoots Oswald

Thread! Austin Kleon shared something he learned on Twitter yesterday: there are actually two photos of Jack Ruby about to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald taken by two different photographers. We’ve all seen the familiar one, taken by Bob Jackson:

Ruby Shoots Oswald

But like Kleon, I had never seen Jack Beers’ version shown at the top of the post, taken a little more than a half-second before Jackson’s. Kleon says:

At the time, Bob Jackson was “depressed” because he didn’t have film in his camera when Kennedy was assassinated. When Beers’ superiors saw the negative they were sure he’d just won the Pulitzer. Meanwhile, Jackson’s editors asked if he’d gotten anything. Jackson’s shot captured the exact right moment, with Oswald recoiling in pain, making the face, etc. He won the Pulitzer and fame. Beers was devastated. He felt like he’d had the Pulitzer and lost it. His daughter says he never really got over his bad luck. So, you have two photographers shooting a guy who got shot — one’s career “ruined” for him, one’s made.

According to an article about the two men who took the photographs, Beers was personally acquainted with Ruby:

He loved crime stories, she says, and went on ride-alongs with the Dallas police. He also came to know a strange little man who often hung out at police headquarters, a stripclub operator named Jack Ruby.

To fatten his pocketbook, Mr. Beers even photographed some of Ruby’s “girls,” whose pictures are part of the family collection.

And Jackson was in President Kennedy’s motorcade and spotted Oswald’s rifle peeking out of a window:

And then came the first shot.

Instinctively, Mr. Jackson says he looked to where the shot was coming from — and saw a rifle protruding from a window in the east end of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald fired three shots from a sniper’s perch he had constructed in that window.

But he’d used all of his film up getting crowd shots and was unable to reload quickly enough. Back to the Ruby Oswald photos:

“Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw a sudden movement … My first impression was, it was a photographer out of position or with a very short lens trying to improve his position, then the curse, ‘You son of a bitch,’ punctuated by the shot. The curse was in such an unnatural and excited voice, before it concluded I knew someone had gone berserk and was attacking Oswald.”

The sudden movement provoked Mr. Jackson, six-tenths of a second later, to snap the shutter.

“The reason Beers shot too soon, in comparison to me,” says Mr. Jackson, “is that he saw it easier and quicker than I did. Ruby was more in his vision. I had a better position because I wasn’t distracted by Ruby as much. I was still looking at Oswald’s face, and I knew I was going to shoot before whoever that was blocked my view.”

What a story. (via @austinkleon)

The colors of Mister Rogers’ cardigan sweaters, 1979-2001

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2017

Mr Rogers Sweater Colors

Using data from The Neighborhood Archive, Owen Phillips charted the color of every sweater Mister Rogers wore on his PBS television program from 1979 to 2001.

Some sweaters were worn once and then never again, like the neon blue cardigan Rogers wore in episode 1497. Others, like his harvest gold sweaters, were part of Rogers’ regular rotation and then disappeared. And then there were the unusual batch of black and olive green sweaters Rogers wore exclusively while filming the “Dress-Up” episodes in 1991.

Some things about the sweaters and Mister Rogers:

- His mother knit the sweaters. Sorry, MISTER ROGERS’ MOTHER KNIT HIS CARDIGAN SWEATERS! I have not heard a more perfect detail about anything recently. He talks about his mom and the sweaters in this video — “I guess that’s the best thing about things. They remind you of people.”

- As you can see from the visualization above, Mister Rogers’ sweaters got darker as the show progressed. I will not speculate about what that might have meant.

- The Mister Rogers Marathon on Twitch is still going.

- But if you miss the marathon, there are plenty of episodes available on Amazon Prime.

My social media fast

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2017

Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only.1 I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked.

Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.2

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan3 to rural Vermont. It’s beautiful here. I live in a house in the country surrounded by horse pasture and there’s great skiing in the winter. The nearest town is only five minutes away by car; it has a two-screen movie theater, a handful of restaurants (none of which are typically open after 10pm), two grocery stores, but nowhere to get a proper donut, sushi, or bowl of ramen. (The nearest ramen is an hour’s drive away.) While I was writing this post yesterday afternoon, the power in my house went out and didn’t come back on for three hours, forcing a delay in publication. It’s been difficult to meet people. Folks here are nice, but they mostly remind me of the people in the small town I grew up in (aka why I moved to the city in the first place). I work from home at a desk in my bedroom and some days, the only beings I’ll talk to are Siri, my landlord’s horses, and some days, my kids and their mom.

Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it. When I wasn’t working, I was on my phone, refreshing Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook repeatedly in an endless series, like a little old lady at Caesar’s Palace working several slot machines at the same time. And I couldn’t stop it — my phone was in my hand even when I was trying to concentrate on my kids, watching a movie, or reading a book. So, I quit for a week to see what would happen. It’s not a super-long time period, but here’s what I noticed:

- Once I’d set my mind to it, it was pretty easy to go cold turkey. Perhaps my Twitter usage and keeping up with the news for kottke.org acted as a nicotine patch, but I don’t think so. Instagram was the toughest to stay away from, but I didn’t crack once.

- As the week went on, it was more and more evident that it wasn’t so much social media as the phone that was the problem. Even now, a few days after the conclusion of my experiment, I’m leaving my phone at home when I go out or across the room when I’m doing something. I’m going to try hard to keep this up.

- Buuuut, when you have kids, there is no such thing as giving up your phone. There’s always the potential call from their school or their mom or their doctor or another parent regarding a playdate or or or. I spend enough time online at my computer for work that I could mostly do without my phone, but with kids, that’s not really an option.

- Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

- My no-social week, for a variety of reasons, was probably the shittiest week I’d had in more than a year. Total emotional mess. Being off social media didn’t make it any better, but I doubt it made it worse. Overall, it was probably a good thing I wasn’t subjecting my friends and followers to self-subtweets and emo Instagram Stories…I was already scoring enough own goals without social media’s help.

- So, what did I do instead? I wish I could say that I had loads of extra free time that I used to learn Spanish, clean my house, catch up with old friends, cook delicious meals, and finish a couple work projects. Perhaps if shittiest week ever hadn’t been happening, I would have done some of that. Still, I did end up going to bed early every night, read a couple books, and had more time for work and dealing with kid drama.

After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting. I unfollowed some accounts I realized I didn’t care that much about and followed others I’ve been curious to check out. Swarm I check a lot less, about once a day — there was a lot of FOMO going on when I saw friends checked in at cool places in NYC or on vacations in Europe. And I’m only checking in when I go someplace novel, just to keep a log of where I’ve been…that’s always fun to look back on.

Mostly, I’ve resolved to use my phone less. Being on my phone was my fidget spinner…this thing that I would do when there was nothing else to do or that I would use to delay going to bed or delay getting out of bed in the morning. Going forward, I’m going to be more mindful about its use. If nothing else, my hands and thumbs might start feeling better.

  1. Yeah, I did not stop using Twitter. Ideally I would have, but Twitter is a huge source of information for this here website and I couldn’t afford to give it up without ditching work for a week, which I did not want to do because I wanted to maintain my normal schedule. But I didn’t look at Twitter on my phone, didn’t reply to or fave any tweets, muted some non-news/link accounts I follow, and limited my usage to “business hours”.

  1. Still one of my favorite tweets is from Scott Simpson: “My new standard of cool: when I’m hanging out with you, I never see your phone ever ever ever.”

  1. Haha, you’re getting a mini leaving NYC essay anyway. Suckers!

On the anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2017

Mount St Helens

Mount St Helens

37 years ago today, on May 18, 1980, Washington’s Mount St. Helens erupted in a blast that killed 57 people and covered a huge swath of the western US with ash and destruction. Alan Taylor, who grew up nearby and vividly remembers the eruption, shared some photos of the eruption and its aftermath at In Focus.

I was 6 when Mount St. Helens erupted and it was probably my first concrete memory of the wider world from childhood. For days and days, it was all anyone talked about at school. The next summer (or it may have been 1982), my parents, my little sister, and I embarked on a car trip west towards the Pacific from Wisconsin, which I later learned was a last hurrah family vacation before my parents divorced. We motored in a beast of a station wagon resembling The Griswold Family Truckster, and stopped at the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, Rapid City, Yellowstone, and finally Seattle, where the only memory I have is of seeing the Space Needle briefly.

But the highlight of the trip was going to see Mount St. Helens. The landscape looked very much like in the second photo above, trees flattened over an ashy lunar landscape. It’s still one of the weirdest, most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. We collected a couple of jars of ash to take home, along with some pumice stone.

Back at school in the fall, I managed a brief respite from my crippling unpopularity by showing off the ash jars and demonstrating how the pumice floated in water. A rock floating in water! But then the holes in the pumice filled with water, it slowly sank, and with it my new-found popularity. I imagine that pumice and those jars are still somewhere at my dad’s house, in a pile of something somewhere…it would be great to see them again.

Okja

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2017

In his directorial follow-up to Snowpiercer, Korean director Bong Joon-ho has teamed up once again with Tilda Swinton for Okja. The title character is a giant pig-like animal sought by a multinational corporation as a superfood. There’s more, but just watch the trailer…this looks weeeeird and good.

Oh, and it’s from Netflix, available on June 28.

Time lapse of a cloud inversion filling the Grand Canyon with an undulating vaporous ocean

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2017

Usually, the air nearest the Earth is the warmest and it gets cooler as the altitude increases. But sometimes, there’s a meteorological inversion and colder air gets trapped near the ground with a layer of warmer air on top. While working on a dark sky project, Harun Mehmedinovic shot a time lapse movie of a rare cloud inversion in the Grand Canyon, in which the entire canyon is filled nearly to the brim with fluffy clouds. (via colossal)

Entire films condensed into single photographs using ultra-long exposures

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2017

Photos Of Films 02

Photos Of Films 01

Photos Of Films 03

For his Photographs of Films project, Jason Shulman condenses entire movies into single photos using ultra-long exposures. Some of the resulting photos are just shape and color, but for films that use longer shots of static sets, you can make out some identifying features, as with the war room and Ripper’s office in the Dr. Strangelove still above. And the Dumbo still I could almost drop in as a new header image for kottke.org.

See also Jason Salavon’s amalgamations. (via the guardian)

Update: Kevin Ferguson has been doing the same thing with movies since 2013, prior to Shulman’s project. Ferguson addressed Shulman’s work in a piece for Hyperallergic and included a guide to making your own such images. (via @mattthomas)

Update: Some prior art from Jim Campbell as well. He made flattened versions of Psycho and Wizard of Oz in 2000 and 2001. (thx, ben)

Studying climate change with small self-contained ecosystems

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2017

Carl Zimmer reports that a team of Australian scientists have developed a useful way of studying the effects of climate change: they’re building small-scale ocean ecosystems in the lab and manipulating different variables and studying the outcomes. The approach is a middle-of-the-road effort to minimize the number of variables typically present in a real-world ecosystem like a coral reef while having the habitats be large enough to observe the effects they’re looking for without oversimplifying.

To test the effects of climate change, Dr. Nagelkerken and his colleagues manipulated the water in the pools. In three of them, the researchers raised the temperature 5 degrees - a conservative projection of how warm water off the coast of South Australia will get.

The scientists also studied the effect of the carbon dioxide that is raising the planet’s temperature.

The gas is dissolving into the oceans, making them more acidic and potentially causing harm to marine animals and plants. Yet the extra carbon dioxide can be used by algae to carry out more photosynthesis.

To measure the overall impact, Dr. Nagelkerken and his colleagues pumped the gas into three of the pools, keeping them at today’s ocean temperatures.

In three others, the researchers made both changes, heating up the water and pumping in carbon dioxide. The scientists left the remaining three pools unaltered, to serve as a baseline for measuring changes in the other nine pools.

Lunar, a short film about humankind’s journey to the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2017

Using NASA still photographs and audio from the Apollo missions, Christian Stangl created this animated collage as a dedication “to all people who believe in peaceful expansion of our borders”.

In the year 1957 the cold war expands to space. The Soviet-Union sends Sputnik as the first manmade object into earth-orbit. 2 years later Yuri Gagarin enters space as the first man in space. The so called “Space Race” seems to be decided. But in 1961 President Kennedy promised to send American Astronauts to the moon. The Apollo Project was born. A space ship had to be built that is strong enough to escape earth’s gravitation, land on the moon and bring the crew safely back to earth.

I am a total sucker for everything Moon/Apollo related. To me, putting humans on the Moon is one of the best and most inspiring things we have ever done as a species, even though it’s the poster child for the right thing done for the wrong reason.

Everything

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2017

Everything, which was created (and funded) by David OReilly over a three-year period, is a difficult game to explain. Maybe just watch the trailer and let it wash over you, as I did.

Everything is an open ended interactive experience and reality simulation game.

There is no right or wrong way to play, and each person’s game will be different.

Playing Everything involves traveling through the Universe and seeing it from different points of view, it has elements of role playing games, sandbox & simulation. The systems connecting the game are designed to create moments of peace, beauty, sadness and joy — and allow the player to do whatever they want. Everything requires no player input — it will play automatically if left unattended.

That was perhaps the most cerebral video game trailer I’ve ever seen. (The voiceover is Alan Watts, btw.) The game itself contains elements of Powers of Ten as well as Dali and 2001, with a sprinkle of Katamari Damaci.

In his review of Everything for Polygon, Colin Campbell writes:

Mostly, Everything lets you loose to be and do as you please. I enjoy making small things very large or very small and placing them in strange places. A cockroach as big as a sun. A rhino as tiny as a mote. Once I’ve collected enough things, I can become any of them at any time. Look, I am a blue whale floating through space. Someone should write a book about me.

I wheel through existence, one life-form after another. It turns out that all things are infinitely variable and also, sorta the same as one another. Size, intelligence, beauty. None of these qualities signify much.

I think of the way my youngest child plays with Lego. He makes things one into the other, improbable concoctions. His imagination is boundless. This is precisely how I play Everything.

OReilly previously worked on the game animations in Spike Jonze’s Her and Mountain, a game in which you are a mountain.

Africa is urbanizing without globalizing

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2017

This is pretty interesting. Daniel Knowles:

This is Africa’s third biggest city. At 12 million, its population is bigger than London’s. Yet it has almost no connections to the outside world. On normal days, there are only 11 international flights out of Kinshasa per day. At Heathrow, the figure is around 1,400. Apart from the airport, the only other way into this vast megacity is the rickety ferry from neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville. If you were extremely brave, you could try the road to the Atlantic Ocean. But that’s about it. Kinshasa can burn and most of the world doesn’t notice, because Kinshasa is only slightly better connected to the global economy than the North Pole.

And yet somehow it is one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Kinshasa is a particularly extreme example of how Africa is urbanising without globalising. Sixty years ago the whole of sub-Saharan Africa had no cities with a population of more than a million people. Now it has dozens.

But unlike the English peasants who moved to factory cities in the 19th century, or Chinese ones in the 20th, the people moving to African cities are not moving to new global metropolises. Africa’s urbanisation is not driven by economic growth. Instead, people are moving to miserable mega-cities, with crumbling infrastructure and corrupt political systems, and which export almost nothing. Two thirds of Africa’s urban population growth is accounted for by slums. Changing that may well be the biggest challenge facing African governments in the 21st century.

This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2017

This Is How We Do It

This Is How We Do It is a children’s book by Matt Lamothe that follows the daily lives of seven real kids from different countries around the world (Japan, Peru, Iran, Russia, India, Italy, and Uganda).

In Japan Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda Daphine likes to jump rope. But while the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days — and this one world we all share — unites them. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as a mirror reflecting our common experiences.

Watch the trailer. This is exactly the sort of book I love getting for my kids: it’s What Do People Do All Day plus What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.

How the Internet has changed in the past 10 years

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2017

Alexis Madrigal is back at The Atlantic, where he’ll be writing about technology, science, and business. His first piece is a reflection on how the Internet has changed in the 10 years he’s been writing about it. In 2007, the Web was triumphant. But then came apps and Facebook and other semi-walled gardens:

O’Reilly’s lengthy description of the principles of Web 2.0 has become more fascinating through time. It seems to be describing a slightly parallel universe. “Hyperlinking is the foundation of the web,” O’Reilly wrote. “As users add new content, and new sites, it is bound into the structure of the web by other users discovering the content and linking to it. Much as synapses form in the brain, with associations becoming stronger through repetition or intensity, the web of connections grows organically as an output of the collective activity of all web users.”

Nowadays, (hyper)linking is an afterthought because most of the action occurs within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and messaging apps, which all have carved space out of the open web.

That strategy has made the top tech companies insanely valuable:

In mid-May of 2007, these five companies were worth $577 billion. Now, they represent $2.9 trillion worth of market value! Not so far off from the combined market cap ($2.85T) of the top 10 largest companies in the second quarter of 2007: Exxon Mobil, GE, Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, AT&T, Citigroup, Gazprom, BP, Toyota, and Bank of America.

In 2007, I wrote a piece (and a follow-up) about how Facebook was the new AOL and how their walled garden strategy was doomed to fail in the face of the open Web. The final paragraph of that initial post is a good example of the Web triumphalism described by Madrigal but hasn’t aged well:

As it happens, we already have a platform on which anyone can communicate and collaborate with anyone else, individuals and companies can develop applications which can interoperate with one another through open and freely available tools, protocols, and interfaces. It’s called the internet and it’s more compelling than AOL was in 1994 and Facebook in 2007. Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.

The thing is, Facebook did open up…they turned themselves inside-out and crushed the small pieces loosely joined contingent. They let the Web flood in but caught the Web’s users and content creators before they could wash back out again. The final paragraph of the follow-up piece fared much better in hindsight:

At some point in the future, Facebook may well open up, rendering much of this criticism irrelevant. Their privacy controls are legendarily flexible and precise…it should be easy for them to let people expose parts of the information to anyone if they wanted to. And as Matt Webb pointed out to me in an email, there’s the possibility that Facebook turn itself inside out and be the social network bit for everyone else’s web apps. In the meantime, maybe we shouldn’t be so excited about the web’s future moving onto an intranet.

What no one saw back then, about a week after the release of the original iPhone, was how apps on smartphones would change everything. In a non-mobile world, these companies and services would still be formidable but if we were all still using laptops and desktops to access information instead of phones and tablets, I bet the open Web would have stood a better chance.

The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Marathon on Twitch

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2017

Streaming video site Twitch is currently showing all 886 episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a PBS fundraiser.

The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Marathon features the most comprehensive collection of episodes available, including many that only aired once and are unavailable elsewhere online. We will be playing the episodes back to back starting at 12PM Pacific on May 15th.

I really wish Mr. Rogers were here right now. He’d know what to do.

“My Family’s Slave”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2017

When Alex Tizon was a small child in the 60s, he moved with his family from the Phillipines to the US along with the family’s domestic servant, Lola. It was not until Tizon was nearly a teenager that he realized that Lola was not employed as a servant by his parents…she was a slave.

Her name was Eudocia Tomas Pulido. We called her Lola. She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine — my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.

An incredible and incredibly disturbing story. Heartbreaking, all the more because this sort of thing is probably more common than anyone realizes.

Update: Pulido’s 2011 obituary is worth reading (via andy).

As a teenager in the Philippines, Miss Pulido was asked to care for a young girl whose mother had died. When a relative asked Miss Pulido to always look after the girl, she gave her word.

Miss Pulido not only raised that girl, but the girl’s children and their children - cooking, cleaning and caring for three generations that came to know her as “Lola,” grandmother in her native Tagalog tongue. She asked for nothing in return, said her grandson, Alex Tizon, a former Seattle Times reporter, with whom she lived in Edmonds for nearly 12 years.

There are a few reaction threads on Twitter that are worth reading as well. Josh Shahryar:

How dare the author make excuses for his mother? She enslaved a woman for decades and used her free labor to prosper. She was a monster.

I don’t want to read about the “complexity” of the slave-owner. I don’t want to hear about her sob-story or how much she loved her children.

I am filled with nothing but anger and hatred at the vileness of the attempt by Alex Tizon to whitewash a slaveholder. No. FUCK! NO!

Jay Owens:

As I read it, I was confused by the timeline. It’s made evident teen-Alex hates the situation. But it conceals this: “My Family’s Slave is beautifully written but it doesn’t change that Alex Tizon was 40 before he did anything to improve Lola’s situation.” — @irishchickensoup

The writer is able to talk about his mother’s complicity — but not really grapple with his own. 20 years when he didn’t act.

He is in America, and talking about slavery, and he doesn’t talk about race.

He doesn’t reflect on how race and gender are used to naturalise servitude, and uses writerly sleights of hand to minimise it

Adrian Chen:

“My Family’s Slave” is now trending in the Philippines, where it’s lunch time. I’m going to share a few interesting threads from Filipinos

Sarah Jeong:

When I first read the article, I came away convinced of this: that Tizon died not understanding Lola was his real mother.

My recent media diet

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2017

Quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, and heard in the past few weeks. Don’t take the letter grades too seriously (that’s just good life advice).

The Simpsons. Watched some old episodes w/ the kids. I can’t tell if they’re still any good or not because I can still recite most of the dialogue by heart. (A-)

Dr. Strangelove. Superb. (A+)

DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar. I said I wanted to listen to this more and I have. Great. (A)

Citizen Jane. Watching this at a theater a short walk from the West Village and Washington Square Park was a powerful experience. (B+)

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. As good as everyone says. As a country we’ve never reckoned with what we did (and continue to do) to Native Americans and I doubt we ever will. (A-)

Pleasure by Feist. I had kinda forgotten about Feist but I will definitely remember this one. (B+)

S-Town. This didn’t go where you expected it to and it was all the better for it. Still, by the last two episodes, I’d run out of steam a little. (B+)

Nukes. Radiolab asks if there are any checks on the President ordering a nuclear strike and the answer is as terrifying as you might imagine. (B+)

True Love Waits by Christopher O’Riley & Radiohead. An old favorite. Good for when you’re feeling down. (B+)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Sequels are hard. (B)

Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. Mindfulness Lite, not that that’s a bad thing. (B-)

Mad Men. Still plugging away at watching this all the way through a second time. The later seasons lack a little something but it’s still great overall. (A-)

Is This It by The Strokes. Great NYC terroir. This album is all mixed up with my first few months/years in the city. (A)

Past installments of my media diets can be found here.

American Shokunin

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2017

Ryan Neil has been practicing the art of bonsai for almost 20 years. As he describes it, he’s still got a lot to learn.

Shokunin (Sho-koo-neen) is a Japanese word used to describe an individual that aspires to become a master in their particular craft or art form. Ryan Neil falls firmly into this description, as he has been practicing the art of Bonsai for nearly two decades. In this short film, we get a glimpse at the broader thinking behind a professional American Bonsai practitioner, as well as some of the inherent challenges and aspirations that come along with the pursuit for bonsai mastery in America.

It’s interesting to hear Neil talking about respecting and cultivating healthy trees while he’s ripping a branch in half with a cutting tool to create a certain aesthetic. (via @noahkalina)

Casting Remix with Ross Marquand

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2017

Have you ever wanted to see John C. Reilly play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver? How about Ewan McGregor as Forrest Gump? Kevin Spacey as Dirty Harry? Zach Galifianakis playing Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting? In this video, Ross Marquand does impressions of celebrity actors playing famous roles in movies they weren’t actually in. Though very brief, my favorite was Keanu Reeves as Jerry Maguire. Here are some more quick impressions by Marquand.

The transformative power of boredom

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2017

After bouncing out of the minor leagues in the US, Eric Thames found himself playing in a second-tier professional league in South Korea. Not knowing the language and with few other Americans on the team, Thames spent a lot of time by himself, bored. Applying himself, he started working on his approach to the game, his swing, and his patience.

He began to remedy the poor habits, the swinging-at-everything approach that had exiled him to the minors in 2013 and then the second-best pro league in Asia in 2014. With language still a barrier to working with his Dinos coaches and teammates, Thames arrived at his improved process alone. He began a practice of visualization, of imagining a pitch of a certain type, in a certain location, approaching home plate. He would balance a tablet on a counter or tabletop in his apartment and watch video of pitches, trying to decide whether to swing or lay off of them in real time with bat in hand.

“I kind of like swallowed my pride and said ‘Hey, I really want to get on base,’” Thames said.

He employed the same visualization practice behind the batting cage while teammates took swings. And he does the same practice now in the on-deck circle of major-league games, in his hotel on the road, or in pre-game cage work.

The breakout happened in 2015, his second season in South Korea. He walked (103) more than he struck out (91) and posted a .497 on-base mark and 1.288 OPS. He smashed 47 home runs.

His hard work continues to pay off. This year, Thames is back in the US, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers in the major leagues. He leads the NL in home runs, is 5th in OBP, 4th in OBPS, and 7th in walks. (thx, avi)

The infinitely breaking wave

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2017

By subtly animating still photos of waves shot by Ray Collins (previously), Armand Dijcks created short looping videos of waves that never break. It’s the visual equivalent of the Shepard tone, a sound that has the illusion of a forever rising or falling pitch.

An amazingly well-preserved dinosaur found in Canada

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2017

Nodosaur

In 2011, an excavator operator working in a Canadian mine uncovered a group of unusual looking rocks. The rocks turned out to be the remains of a dinosaur called a nodosaur that died about 110 million years ago. The nodosaur was so well preserved that it looks like a stone statue of a dinosaur instead of just fossilized remains.

The more I look at it, the more mind-boggling it becomes. Fossilized remnants of skin still cover the bumpy armor plates dotting the animal’s skull. Its right forefoot lies by its side, its five digits splayed upward. I can count the scales on its sole. Caleb Brown, a postdoctoral researcher at the museum, grins at my astonishment. “We don’t just have a skeleton,” he tells me later. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

The photos are amazing…it really does look like a statue.

A world map for fossil finds

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2017

Fossil World Map

The Paleobiology Database Navigator is a world map that shows where hundreds of thousands of fossils have been found. The data is maintained by an international group of paleontologists and you can filter the map by type of fossil and when it was found. There’s even a toggle to flip back and forth between the current placement of the continents and much earlier Pangea-like configurations. (via @srikardr)

Three artists who find art in the finger smudges on device screens

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2017

Wired recently featured Tabitha Soren’s project, Surface Tension, for which she photographed the fingerprints and smudges left on the screens of devices.

Smudge Art 01

The marks on the glass screens that technology users normally try to ignore or get rid of are the focal point of SURFACE TENSION. The textural conflicts in these pictures record how we now spend our lives. They’re not just grime; they’re evidence of the otherwise invisible.

In an earlier project (also, weirdly, titled Surface Tension), photographer Meggan Gould took photos of her and her husband’s smudged iPad screens.

Smudge Art 02

In 2012, Evan Roth produced a series of Multi-Touch Paintings, “paintings created by performing routine tasks on multi-touch hand held computing devices”. The tasks include slide-to-unlock, playing Angry Birds level 1-1, adding two numbers with the calculator app, and typing in a username and password.

Smudge Art 03

Smudge Art 04

I prefer Roth’s take the most (it’s the simplest…and first) but what I like about all of these is they compress many actions over time into a single flat images, not unlike BriefCam does with surveillance videos. Simple examples of time merge media.

An algorithm imagines a train ride

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2017

Damien Henry trained a machine learning algorithm with a bunch of videos recorded from train windows. Then, to test what it had learned, he asked the algorithm to make an hour-long video of a train journey — it began with a single frame and guessed subsequent frames as it went along. The video shows the algorithm getting smarter as it goes along…every 20 seconds the video gets a little more detailed and by the end of the video, you get stuff that looks like trees and clouds and power lines. Composer Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is the perfect accompaniment.

When introversion collides with the desire to connect

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2017

In The Ultimate Guide To Being An Introvert, James Altucher describes a scenario that is recognizable to anyone who is an introvert:

A few months ago I was at a dinner where everyone was “networking”.

I was totally frozen. I was speaking inside my head but I couldn’t open my mouth.

People were talking and laughing and getting to know each other.

Inside of me, I wanted desperately to talk, to think of things to say, to bond with the people. But suddenly I felt tired and dumb and like I had nothing to say.

And then I was afraid everyone thought I was stupid and boring. Then I thought they didn’t like me. So that made me want to talk even less.

I didn’t speak for the rest of the dinner. I went home but I couldn’t sleep. I kept whispering “sh*t” out loud even though I was trying not to. I just wanted to go to sleep and disappear.

My mind wouldn’t let me. For hours: “s**t”.

This has happened to me literally hundreds of times…at dinners, at conferences, at parties. That desperation to talk, to connect to other human beings, is so powerful but is matched by an even greater uncontrollable desire to sink right into the floor and out of the room. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more comfortable talking to others in these situations…with mixed results. I don’t know if it’s introversion or some other weird thing, but my brain is so engaged in listening to other people and paying attention to social cues that I don’t really have time to figure out what I’m going to say. So I end up just saying whatever I’m thinking…aka, my inner dialogue.1

I don’t know about you, but my inner dialogue is fucking weird and sometimes not fit for sharing with others. This doesn’t happen all the time, and I do have a filter that keeps most of the truly dumb stuff unsaid, but not all of it. At best, I’ve noticed this TMI tendency can come off as charmingly intimate and at worst, needy or unbalanced. As I get to know someone or am in a more familiar situation, this direct pipeline from my brain to my mouth shuts down, but while it exists, it can make it difficult for me to get to know people.

Hell, I don’t even know why I’m telling you all of this. I guess I’ve decided that, with apologies to not-Mark Twain, it’s better to speak and be thought a fool in the interests of getting to know others and hope that the people on the receiving end are understanding enough to recognize my earnest desire for connection among the sometimes hamfisted conversation.

  1. As I was telling a friend the other day, in this very tiny way, I sympathize with Donald Trump. There’s clearly very little filter between what he thinks and what he says. But, unlike him, I don’t do it all the time, I’m aware of it, I try hard to filter it when I can, and have chosen a line of work that allows me the luxury of taking time to shape my thoughts into something a little less stream-of-consciousness…present post and footnote excluded.

The birthplace of soy sauce

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2017

The small coastal Japanese town of Yuasa is known as the birthplace of soy sauce. Fermented sauces made using soybeans had been around for centuries in China, but a Buddhist monk who settled in Japan in the 13th century started making soy sauce “as we know it”.

Using the abundance of clear, spring water from the town of Yuasa he began producing a type of miso that he had learned about on his travels that had been used to preserve vegetables. A byproduct from this process — a liquid that collected in the barrels of the miso paste — was soy sauce.

More than 750 years later, factories in Yuasa still produce soy sauce using traditional methods.

The struggle with the self

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2017

This is a passage from Ethan Hawke’s Rules for a Knight, which takes the form of a fictional diary of lessons and anecdotes from a 15th century squire learning how to behave like a knight from his grandfather.

One time, on a sweltering August night, Grandfather and I made camp down by the ocean. He said, “While I teach you about the ways of war, I want you to know that the real struggle is between the two wolves that live inside each of us.”

“Two wolves?” I asked, seated on an old log near the fire. My eyes were transfixed by the flames twisting uncomfortably in the night air.

“One wolf is evil,” he continued. “It is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, deceit, false pride.” He paused, poking at the embers of our fire with a long stick he’d been carving.

“The other is good. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, humility, loving-kindness, forgiveness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith.”

I considered that for a minute, then tentatively asked, “Which wolf will win?”

Sparks danced towards the stars as the old man stared into the glare of the flames and replied, “Whichever one you feed.”

A helpful reminder that I’ve been feeding the wrong wolf recently. He’s so hungry and there’s been a lot of available food, but I’ve got to get back on track.

Update: As stated on the back cover, in writing this book Hawke borrowed liberally from “the ancient teachings of Eastern and Western philosophy and on the great spiritual and political writings of our time”. The story of the two wolves appears to originate from Billy Graham or perhaps from the Cherokee tribe. (thx, everyone)

history of the entire world, i guess

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2017

You may remember Bill Wurtz from his video history of Japan, which I called “the most entertaining history of anything I have ever seen”. I still stand by that, but his new video on the history of the Earth from before the Big Bang — “a long time ago, actually never, also now, nothing is nowhere” — to the present day is just as good. On the development of the ozone layer billions of years ago:

Hey, can we go on land?

NO.

Why?

The Sun is a deadly lazer.

Oh, ok.

Not anymore, there’s a blanket.

Shake Shack releases an official cookbook

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2017

Anatomy of a ShackBurger

Big news around these parts: the Shake Shack is coming out with their first cookbook next week. Shake Shack: Recipes & Stories details how the Shake Shack came about and spills the beans with recipes for almost all of the food, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fries included. According to Eater, the recipes have been tweaked for the home cook:

Rosati shares almost all of the company’s recipes, though unfortunately he isn’t giving away any real secrets here. The processes have been adapted for the home cook, and Garutti told Eater that only “six people” in the world know the real recipe for Shake Shack’s signature sauce.

The recipe in the book for Shack sauce is a mixture of Hellman’s, Dijon, Heinz, pickle juice, salt, and pepper. “We make our own from scratch,” Garutti says, but when he and Rosati first started testing recipes for the book they came to the conclusion that these weren’t recipes “most people would want to make at home,” because they were labor-intensive, “messy,” and time-consuming.

Immediate pre-order. See also Kenji’s Fake Shack burger recipe.

Update: Here’s the recipe for the ShackBurger and sauce from the book. The ShackSauce recipe includes “¼ teaspoon kosher dill pickling brine”, which is also the secret ingredient in my homemade tuna salad.

A view from the bottom of the watering hole

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2017

Here’s your tiny moment of zen for today. If you put a camera at the bottom of a bucket placed in the middle of a desert, several different kinds of animals will come to drink from it.

Important note: “The swimming bees were rescued.”

The poignant tale of an offbeat animal menagerie

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2017

In this short documentary film, Amy Nicholson features her dad and his wife and the menagerie of animals that they have collected and cared for over the years, including rescue chickens, a fish who couldn’t swim (the eponymous “Pickle”), a paraplegic possum that used a homemade wheelchair to get around, cross-eyed cats, and many many animals who met premature ends after being carted away by various prey.

I try to find a funny side to everything, and tragedy is no exception. This film’s unrelenting march of death has a light side, but hopefully between morbid curiosity and chuckling at the sheer volume of casualties, the audience will find a bit of themselves in this film. “Pickle” examines the depths of one couple’s devotion to their pets while exploring the complicated relationship that we humans have with all animals. If you find a hurt animal that you’re able to help, is it moral to come to its rescue, as we would with a human? Or is it true compassion to let nature take its course?

Insecurity questions for password recovery

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2017

Insecurity Questions

Insecurity Questions

Liana Finck came up with a list of password recovery questions that will remind you of your insecurities. Check out Finck’s Instagram for more of her acerbic and anxious drawings.

Blindingly fast data entry

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2017

This man punching numbers into the device hanging from his belt with a calm ferocity is doing inventory. A commenter on Reddit explains:

He is doing an inventory audit on the store. First, he enters the price, then the number of items, then moves to the next item. The entering of items is done by doing them in groups. When I used to do this, I would count in 4s. It would be 4+4+4+4+4+3 to indicate 23 items. When he looks at the 10-key he is probably correcting an error he just made. It is pretty rare to double check the count unless you fat fingered something. The end report does not contain SKU numbers but a categorical pricing of all the items in the store.

In Japan, there are competitions and clubs for performing quickly on calculators. Asuka Kamimura, a young Japanese featured in the beginning of this video, can work her calculator at a rate of nine keystrokes per second.

(via @dunstan)

Beautiful spring flowers time lapse

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2017

Jamie Scott worked for three years (on and off, one would presume) to make this time lapse video of hundreds of flowers opening for springtime. So lovely. His time lapse of NYC in the fall is nice too, but I like this one better. (via colossal)

Tension-building in the great first scene of Inglourious Basterds

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2017

Lessons from the Screenplay takes a look at the opening scene from Inglourious Basterds and dissects what makes it so suspenseful. The scene, which is one of my all-time favorites, shows SS officer Hans Landa showing up unannounced at a French farmhouse and sitting down for what starts off as a little chat with a farmer, a Monsieur LaPadite. With just a calm conversation and gestures, Landa ratchets up the tension in the scene, paving the way for an explosive climax.

Exploring the sound design of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2017

When considering the massive success of Star Wars, special effects and the Jospeh Campbell-inspired story always get their due. But the sound design of the film was just as important and revolutionary as the visual effects. From Darth Farmer’s overdubbing with James Earl Jones’ voice and the now-famous breathing noise (created using a SCUBA apparatus) to the lightsaber battles (the lightsaber noise comes from the hum of film projectors plus the buzz from a CRT TV set), the sounds added to the film hold everything together, creating the illusion of reality where none actually exists.

The 2017 TED reading list

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

ParrotRead has compiled a list of books recommended on Twitter by the speakers at the recently concluded TED 2017 conference in Vancouver. Some highlights:

Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple by Def Jam cofounder Russell Simmons. “Simmons shares the most fundamental key to success — meditation — and guides readers to use stillness as a powerful tool to access their potential.” Recommended by Serena Williams, who also recommended Eat Yourself Sexy (which sounds like a Troy McClure self-help infomercial).

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. I loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies so it’s high time I delve into Mantel’s older novels. This work of historical fiction about the Frech Revolution seems like an ideal place to start. Recommended by Atul Gawande.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. Classic sci-fi about humans living underground with all their needs being met by machines. Recommended by Elon Musk, who kinda wants to do that for realsies?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks’ cells were taken without her knowledge and used to develop medical breakthroughs worth billions of dollars. Now an HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey. Recommended by Lisa Genova.

SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully by Jane McGonigal. “She explains how we can cultivate new powers of recovery and resilience in everyday life simply by adopting a more ‘gameful’ mind-set.” Recommended by Tim Ferriss.

Blade Runner 2049 trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

This is the first full-length trailer for Blade Runner 2049 and how the heck are we supposed to wait until October for this? My God, that cinematography. I WANT IT NOW! See also the teaser trailer from December.

Update: Another trailer. This is still looking pretty strong.

The best movie shots of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

Cinefix has begun the monumental task of compiling a list of the best shots in film. They’ve got a list of more than 1000 potential clips to evaluate and rank, but in part one of their series, they focus on the best shots by size — “breaking down some of the best close ups, mediums, wide shots and extremes in film history”.

Their picks include Psycho for the extreme close up, The Godfather Part II for the wide shot, and Lawrence of Arabia for the extreme wide shot.

Born Sexy Yesterday

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

The most recent video by The Pop Culture Detective Agency explores a trope in TV and movies they call Born Sexy Yesterday.

It’s a science fiction convention in which the mind of a naive, yet highly skilled, girl is written into the body of a mature sexualized woman. Born Sexy Yesterday is about an unbalanced relationship, but it’s also very much connected to masculinity. The subtext of the trope is rooted in a deep seated male insecurity around experienced women and sexuality.

Note that Born Yesterday isn’t meant literally. Born Sexy Yesterday can be written literally but it doesn’t have to be. If media uses a “fish out of water” plot to frame an adult woman as an inexperience child then it fits the trope.

Examples of this trope can be seen in The Fifth Element, Forbidden Planet, Tron: Legacy, Splash, My Stepmother is an Alien, Japanese anime, and just about any episode of Star Trek where Kirk seduces an alien woman.

Some site news: hello advertising, my old friend

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

Last month, I told you that I lost the advertising on kottke.org after The Deck folded. After fielding lots of feedback (thank you!) and checking out a few different options, I’ve decided to try out Carbon Ads. By going with Carbon, the advertising on kottke.org retains many of the features I enjoyed about The Deck: a single unobtrusive ad per page, a curated group of sites and advertisers in the network, set it & forget it, and prompt payment. You’ll find the ad on each page of the site, in the post sidebar (or just below the post on mobile).

Before I let you go, I need a tiny bit of your help with this. If you use ad blocking software when you read kottke.org, could you please whitelist kottke.org and/or Carbon Ads (carbonads.com)? It should be pretty easy…check your ad block software’s instructions if you’ve never done it before. I don’t want to get into an argument about the ethics or morality of advertising or ad blocking, but I will say that blocking ads on kottke.org means less revenue for the site. As previously discussed, advertising is an essential piece of the ongoing stability of kottke.org and whitelisting the site would help me out in that regard. Thank you.

The Field Study Handbook

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2017

Field Study Handbook

Jan Chipchase runs Studio D, which I’ve previously described as “a modern day A-Team, except with more field research and fewer guns”. He and the studio are publishing a book called The Field Study Handbook and financing it through Kickstarter. Here’s how Chipchase describes the book:

The comprehensive how-to, why-to guide to running international field research projects.

But it’s not just for professionals. It’s for anyone who has travelled and has felt missed opportunities—

In understanding what is going on.

Experiences that didn’t sit right.

Conversations that fell short of their potential.

Questions left unanswered.

I wanted to create an artefact. A beautiful thing that takes up space in your life, and nudges you with its presence.

To travel, and experience the world with an open mind, and fresh eyes. So that when you return you too are ready to shape the world.

And from the rough table of contents, a preview of the chapter about conducting interviews:

Types of interview. Interview roles. Guides versus scripts. Interview setup. Client assumptions around data, note-taking. Focus, expansion, evidence, rapport, repetition, defensiveness, hostility and other in-depth interview techniques. Interview preparation. The importance of social parity. Native languages. Projecting and reading body language. Being non-judgemental. Embracing judgment. Dissecting emotional responses. The long pause and the grand tour. Leading questions. Running bilingual interviews. The nine stages of in-depth interview.

This looks great…can’t wait to get my copy.

Has Reservoir Dogs aged well?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2017

Evan Puschak looks at Reservoir Dogs 25 years after it was released and analyzes whether the film still holds up. I’m probably not giving anything away by saying his answer is “yes” (with a small caveat). I’ve probably watched that movie more than a dozen times, but I hadn’t seen it in 10-12 years before a viewing a few months ago. It is very much a first film, almost like a student film — it’s definitely no Pulp Fiction, but what is? — but all of the stuff that makes Tarantino Tarantino is very much in evidence.

I was way into Quentin Tarantino in the mid-90s. When I was designing my very first personal homepage, a large part of it was going to be a Tarantino fan page. There were already several QT fan pages on the web, but I thought I could do better. While I dropped the QT content and went in a slightly more creative direction with my page back then, I eventually ended up making that fan page after all.

Minecraft in real life

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2017

Real Life Minecraft

Real Life Minecraft

Real Life Minecraft

Aditya Aryanto took a bunch of animal photos and, using Photoshop, turned them into cubic Minecraft animals. (via colossal)

The swirling beauty of colored ink in water

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2017

Macro Room, which has previously brought you close-up shots of melting ice cream and pills dissolving in water, recently filled an aquarium with water, shot various colors of ink into it, and filmed the swirling beauty in close-up slow motion.

P.S. It’s worth sitting though the bro-y thanks portion of the video to get a glimpse of their lo-fi rooftop setup. Did they shoot all that on a phone?

Computer-generated moths

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2017

Moth Generator

Moth Generator

Moth Generator

Twitter bot @mothgenerator posts images of computer-generated moths with computer-generated names. From a NY Times article on Twitter science bots:

Also dedicated to winged creatures, this bot tweets make-believe moths of all shapes, sizes, textures and iridescent colors. It’s programmed to generate variations in several anatomical structures of real moths, including antennas, wing shapes and wing markings.

Another program, which splices and recombines real Latin and English moth names, generates monikers for the moths. You can also reply to the account with name suggestions, and it will generate a corresponding moth.

(via @nicolehe, who has a Twitter bot for her fiddle leaf fig plant)

Update: Because of the tweet accompanying this post, Moth Generator generated a new moth called “The Twitter bot posts images of realistic-looking computer-generated moths moth”. Neat!

Moth Generator

Still blogging in 2017

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2017

Tim Bray is still blogging in 2017.

I wonder what the Web will be like when we’re a couple more generations in? I’m pretty sure that as long as it remains easy to fill a little bit of the great namespace with your words and pictures, people will.

The great danger is that the Web’s future is mall-like: No space really public, no storefronts but national brands’, no visuals composed by amateurs, nothing that’s on offer just for its own sake, and for love.

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this on here before, but I often think of blogging as vaudeville to social media’s moving pictures (aka “movies”). It’s not that blogging and vaudeville are any less entertaining or engaging than they used to be,1 but movies in the 20s/30s and social media like Facebook and Snapchat (and media companies like Vox and BuzzFeed that leverage them well) provided tremendous quantities of scale and integrated means of production. Ok, the analogy needs a little work, but as Bray suggests, a few of us diehards will still be hoofing it here on our small stages until they sweep us off the stage. (via @cbredesen)

  1. Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show is basically vaudeville for the 2010s.

Notorious B.I.G.: Life After Death Star

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2017

Otaku Gang took more than a dozen tracks by Notorious B.I.G. and remixed them with music and sounds from Star Wars. The cantina band version of Party N’ Bullshit is kinda delightful. You can download the entire album (or just the instrumentals) here.

See also the Star Wars / Beatles mashup and Gnarls Biggie. (via @naveen)

Nomadic gardener rents people’s yards to grow produce

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2017

Jim Kovaleski is a nomadic gardener — he refers to what he does as “portable farming” at one point — who moves from place to place, renting out people’s yards to grow produce, which he then sells to stores and markets.

This nomadic gardener travels between Maine to Florida gardening leased front yards. With a frugal lifestyle and revenues as high as $1.5K a week, he’s living the dream.

That’s pretty cool. I have space for a garden at my place…I wonder if anyone local wants to farm it in exchange for some fresh produce? (via bb)

Coppola, Pacino, De Niro, Keaton & others reminisce about The Godfather I & II

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2017

For the 45th anniversary of The Godfather’s release in movie theaters, the Tribeca Film Festival gathered director Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall and Talia Shire for a back-to-back screening of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II followed by a panel discussion. Tomris Laffly highlighted some of the high points of the discussion.

“I found it a very emotional experience. I forgot a lot about the making of it,” said Francis Ford Coppola, who viewed the two films for the first time in many years. “This film could be made today, but it wouldn’t get a go ahead from a studio. The first film was made for about $6.5 million; the second was made for $11 or $12 million. They would never get a green light today,” he stated, briefly touching upon the dire state of the industry today. Diane Keaton, who said she watched the films on a computer quite recently, built on Coppola’s sentiments. “I hadn’t seen it in about 30 years. I couldn’t get over it,” she said. “It was so astonishing, Francis. It was so beautiful,” she continued. “And everybody is so great in it. Every choice you made was so authentically brilliant. I just kept crying, and that damn Talia. I am not kidding…. Everything was astonishing to me and I didn’t expect it.”

Every time I watch The Godfather, I’m struck by how much Pacino reminds me of Matthew Broderick in the first half of the movie. It’s gone by the end of the film and in every subsequent movie he made. Broderick, on the other hand, still seems very much the same, not so much the adult Ferris Bueller eventually became but more like a Ferris that never grew up at all.

Above, the original trailer for The Godfather.

Update: A video of the entire panel:

(via @nph)

Roses are red, violets are insane…

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2017

Pluses Optical Illusion

…this optical illusion broke my brain. And then for a second, I was like, I got it. Then my brain broke again. Repeat for several minutes. (via bb)

Update: This illusion was made by Charlie Deck. (via @tdhooper)

Ben Affleck’s DVD commentary on Armageddon is LOL

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2017

For the past 33 years, The Criterion Collection has been “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements” and includes films like The 400 Blows, Hoop Dreams, and Seven Samurai. One of the more unusual movies in the collection is Michael Bay’s Armageddon. You definitely won’t find many other films with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 39% in there.

On the commentary track included on the Armageddon DVD, Ben Affleck goes off for a couple of minutes about the scene where Bruce Willis’ character argues for sending oil drillers into space rather than training astronauts to drill. It’s hilarious.

I asked Michael why it’s easier to train oil drillers to be astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers. He told me to “shut shut shut the fuck up.” So that was the end of that talk. … See here’s where we demonstrate that because Bruce is gonna tell the guys that they did a bad job of building the drill tank. See, he’s a salt of the earth guy and the NASA nerdonauts don’t understand his salt of the earth ways, his rough and tumble ways. Like somehow they can build rocket ships but they don’t understand, like what makes a good tranny.

But he didn’t actually hate the movie. Or perhaps he did.

But Ben Affleck is far from finished with this movie. He recounts an argument wherein an incredulous Michael Bay asked him why he’d never learned how to pretend like he was floating in acting school. Affleck told him most acting training does not, in fact, include “weightless mime.”

“There is no reason to push against [convention]”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2017

From a Kim Severson profile of chef Thomas Keller:

Preeti Mistry, 40, a classically trained chef with a modified Mohawk who cooks elevated Indian street food at her Juhu Beach Club in Oakland, Calif., and her new spot, Navi Kitchen in nearby Emeryville, was in culinary school when she discovered Mr. Keller’s “French Laundry Cookbook.” It had become an instant professional and spiritual guide for cooks of her generation.

In 2004, she visited the French Laundry. At the time, she thought it was the most amazing meal she had ever eaten. She even got to shake hands with Mr. Keller. “I left feeling like I just met Drake or something,” she recalled.

But now? She views fine dining as disingenuous, built from a system steeped in oppression and hierarchy in which women, gays and other minorities — whether customers or cooks — are not treated the same.

“It’s essentially haute couture, and we know haute couture appropriates from minorities and urban communities,” she said. Chefs as powerful as Mr. Keller, she said, have a responsibility to address those issues. “You need to go on your woke journey.”

Mr. Keller smiled when presented with that lens on his profession.

“I pushed against convention when I was young,” he said. “Then you realize there is no reason to push against things. There is no value in it.” Hard work and dedication to craft, he said, will right all wrongs.

That certainly is one way to think about it. [thinking face emoji]

A huge collection of high-res National Park maps

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2017

National Park Maps

National Park Maps

A maps enthusiast who works as a ranger for the National Park Service has amassed an easy-to-access collection of more than 1600 high-resolution maps of US national parks, monuments, recreation areas, and seashores, all available for free download.

His page of favorite maps is a good place to start if you don’t have specific mapping needs.

America is a developing nation for most of its citizens

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2017

In his new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, MIT economics professor Peter Temin says that the US “is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation” and that the US is really two countries at this point:

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success. They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector. Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all. Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in. While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

This whole piece on the book by Lynn Parramore is worth a read. Another small tidbit:

In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Check. Mass incarceration. Check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2017

A duo called Palette-Swap Ninja has produced a mashup of Star Wars and the entirety of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Each song on the album is paired chronologically with a scene from the movie:

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Luke Is In The Desert (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds)
Being From The Spaceport Of Mos Eisley (Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!)

The effort here is amazing, particularly when this whole thing is going to get yanked at some point soon — it’s a race between Disney and Sony for quickest takedown notice. The whole video playlist is here and you can download the full album on their website or stream it on Soundcloud. (thx, tim)

The latest SpaceX rocket launch and landing, start-to-finish

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2017

This is cool. SpaceX has built a reusable rocket for launching things into space. The rocket takes off, separates from its payload, and then lands back on Earth, upright and intact on a landing pad. They’ve had several successful missions but this morning, they webcast the launch and return of the rocket with footage from long-range cameras and a camera fixed to the side of the rocket from start to finish.

The launch happens at 11:58, at 14:24 the main stage separates from the payload, and at 21:00, it’s on the ground — the whole thing is over in 9 minutes. And the views are super-clear (until clouds and exhaust from engines cloud the view right at the end) and the long continuous shot of the rocket is astounding…it looks totally fake, like out of a sci-fi movie.

Speaking of sci-fi, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a better view of the rocket landing on Instagram…here it is on YouTube:

Look at the landing gear delicately fold down about 2 seconds before the landing. Looks totally CG! I’ve seen footage of these landings dozens of times and it’s still incredible.

The hand-painted background scenes of the original Star Wars trilogy

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2017

Star Wars Matte Art

Star Wars Matte Art

Star Wars Matte Art

Back in the 70s and 80s, before photorealistic computer graphics became commonplace, elaborate background sets in movies were hand-painted. Sploid’s Jesus Diaz took at look at the background art featured in the original Star Wars trilogy and the artists who painted them.

Matte paintings are fake sets that-most of the times-used to be made with plexiglass and oil paint. The artists used oversized panels to create the necessary detail that the camera needed to fool the audiences when the film was projected over the large surface of the theater screen. The paintings were combined with live action filmed to match the perspective of the painting. If done well, the public would totally buy into the shot.

Robert Bechtle has nothing on these guys. Bonus painting: the warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Star Wars Matte Art

They had to use a painting because the filmmakers were unaware of Ikea at the time.

Race, identity, and genetic stories

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2017

Finding out about your family history through a DNA test can be a thrilling or disturbing experience, particularly when it comes to race and identity. In the NY Times, researcher Anita Foeman writes about asking people how they identify and then DNA testing them. A man named Bernard identifies as black and predicted his test would show 50% European and 50% African ancestry (his father was black and his mother was white):

His comments before the test: My mother said, “I know you are me, but no cop is going to take the time to find out your mother is white.” She was very specific about raising me as a black man.

His DNA test showed he is “91% European, 5% Middle Eastern, 2% Hispanic; less than 1% African and Asian”:

Thoughts about his ancestry results: What are you trying to do to me? You have caused a lot of problems in my family. I know my nose is sharp and my skin is light, but my politics are as black as night. Today, I don’t identify as mixed. I reject my white privilege in a racist America. There is no way that I or my kids will identify as anything other than black.

In a follow-up newsletter, Times reader Carl Johnson writes:

I am a 55-year-old American male of African descent. I have a dark complexion and grew up in rural East Tennessee with my mother’s relatives. I wanted to have DNA testing done to confirm rumors of my Native American heritage. To my surprise, my results were 84 percent West African, 14 percent European, and 2 percent East Asian.

My bigger dilemma is: How do I embrace my European origins? It’s assumed that the European DNA was obtained by force during slavery. I think that is most likely. But what if my European ancestors were indentured servants who worked closely with African slaves and a real romance evolved, despite the cultural norms of that time, and now here I am?

If I am true to myself and the scientific evidence that provides richness to the DNA I’ve inherited, I now need to figure out a way to honor all of me and those who survived to make me possible. The journey and adventure continues.

I got DNA tested many years ago and I just went back to look at the results. My parents’ grandparents (or great grandparents, don’t really know) settled in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the mid-to-late 1800s as part of a wave of upper Midwestern immigration from Germany and Scandinavia.1 Unsurprisingly, my results came back as 100% European — mostly Northern European with some Eastern European2 — but with more British and Irish than I suspected (12%):

You most likely had a grandparent, great-grandparent, or second great-grandparent who was 100% British & Irish. This person was likely born between 1850 and 1910.

Huh.

  1. This resulted in some interesting family stories. During WWII, my great uncle Jens Jensen (Danish!) was fighting with the US Armed Forces over in Europe while his wife Hulda (German!) was sending food and clothing to family members in Germany. He was still wound up about it even 40 years later when I heard the story — “I was getting shot at by Nazis and she’s sending them goddamned care packages!” — but stories like that were always accompanied by a wink and a grin, so at least some of the sting had dissipated.

  2. In the 1800s, the territories of Prussia and Germany often included Poland. I don’t know exactly where my branch of the Kottke family lived in the “Old Country” but I’ve heard that it’s more likely to be in modern-day Poland than within the present German borders.

The Guardians of the Galaxy music-playing bag of Doritos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2017

Doritos Galaxy

Frito-Lay and Marvel have teamed up to offer a limited-edition Doritos bag to promote Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The bag comes with a integrated MP3 player containing the soundtrack from the movie, a pair of 80s-style headphones, and a USB charging cable.

Plug your headphones into the bag, press play, and enjoy the Doritos packaged inside!

Their custom hashtag isn’t taking off the way that they had hoped (only 1 result on Twitter and 2 on Insta), but I have to admit, this is kinda cool…exactly the sort of weirdo product promotion that people would have gone bonkers for in the 80s.1 Engadget has a look at the bag and how it works:

The bags are sold out on Amazon (and I don’t think they were ever available anywhere else), but if you really want one, they are selling on eBay for anywhere from $50 to $500.

  1. You might even say — wait for it (actually don’t, this is stupid and beneath us all) — that it’s all that and a bag of chips. (Told you.)

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