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Jason Kottke's weblog, home of fine hypertext products



Updated: 2017-03-29T19:20:22Z

 



The Ballad of Holland Island House

2017-03-29T19:20:22Z

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The Ballad of Holland Island House was created by animator Lynn Tomlinson using a clay-on-glass painting technique.

The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.

The technique is a hybrid of traditional cel animation (traditionally done on transparent sheets) and claymation stop-motion animation.

Tags: animation   Lynn Tomlinson   stop motion   video



The satirical origins of the meritocracy

2017-03-29T17:19:41Z

In 1958, Michael Young published a book called The Rise of the Meritocracy as a satirical criticism of the concept of meritocracy. From Wikipedia:

It describes a dystopian society in a future United Kingdom in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society, replacing previous divisions of social class and creating a society stratified between a merited power holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited.

In 2001, Young wrote a piece for The Guardian about his disappointment that the satire had been stripped away from his term and embraced by an elite using it to justify their status.

The business meritocracy is in vogue. If meritocrats believe, as more and more of them are encouraged to, that their advancement comes from their own merits, they can feel they deserve whatever they can get.

They can be insufferably smug, much more so than the people who knew they had achieved advancement not on their own merit but because they were, as somebody’s son or daughter, the beneficiaries of nepotism. The newcomers can actually believe they have morality on their side.

So assured have the elite become that there is almost no block on the rewards they arrogate to themselves. The old restraints of the business world have been lifted and, as the book also predicted, all manner of new ways for people to feather their own nests have been invented and exploited.

Salaries and fees have shot up. Generous share option schemes have proliferated. Top bonuses and golden handshakes have multiplied.

As a result, general inequality has been becoming more grievous with every year that passes, and without a bleat from the leaders of the party who once spoke up so trenchantly and characteristically for greater equality.

Perhaps the tide seems to be turning slightly of late, but the meritocracy is thrown around pretty regularly in Silicon Valley as a justification for all sorts of things. Maybe the problem is the Valley doesn’t understand satire…after all, they invented a food product called Soylent. (via @mulegirl)

Tags: books   Michael Young   The Rise of the Meritocracy



Why are knights pictured fighting snails in medieval manuscripts?

2017-03-29T15:20:37Z

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Snails, particularly those shown in combat with knights, show up in the margins of medieval manuscripts copied around the turn of the 14th century…a sort of medieval meme that spread among scribes. In this video, Phil Edwards investigates what’s going on with those snails, drawing upon the work of Lilian Randall in The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare (a corker of a title for an academic work, to be sure).

Tags: books   Lilian Randall   Phil Edwards   video



Meet this season’s hot new clouds

2017-03-29T14:01:28Z

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For the first time in 30 years, the world’s cloud authority has classified a dozen new types of cloud. You can find them in the International Cloud Atlas, published by the World Meteorological Organization.

The existing classifications have been reviewed and all have been retained. Several new, formal cloud classifications have been introduced. These include one new species (volutus), five new supplementary features (asperitas, cauda, cavum, fluctus and murus), and one new accessory cloud (flumen). The species floccus has been formally recognized as being able to occur in association with stratocumulus. The separate section on Special Clouds has been removed, and the cloud and meteor types previously discussed within this section have been integrated into the cloud classification scheme as cataractagenitus, flammagenitus, homogenitus, silvagenitus, and homomutatus.

The cloud in the second photo is a cavum cloud, which is not so much a cloud itself as a hole in a altocumulus or cirrocumulus cloud. The cloud in the top photo, the one that looks like a van Gogh painting, is an asperitas (formerly known as undulatus asperatus). The asperitas is best seen in motion:

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Tags: clouds   video



Strange Beasts, a sci-fi short about an augmented reality game

2017-03-28T20:27:41Z

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Magali Barbé wrote and directed this short sci-fi video about an imaginary augmented reality game called Strange Beasts. It starts off with a “hey, yeah, cool, augemented reality games are going to be fun to play” vibe but gradually veers down the same dystopian path as a lot of augmented reality fictions (like Keiichi Matsuda’s Hyper-Reality). Barbé wrote about how the video was created.

Tags: Magali Barbe   video



The Tinderization of the NBA

2017-03-28T18:47:20Z

Since the late 1980s, the winning percentage of road teams has been rising in the NBA. After speaking to dozens of players, coaches, and team officials, Tom Haberstroh found a fairly accepted answer: “NBA players are sleeping more and drinking less”. Players are taking their careers more seriously and partying less on the road while transportation coordination has improved. Ubiquitous cameras and big sponsorships keep bad behavior in check. An additional factor is that with apps like Tinder and Instagram, companionship can be delivered to a player’s hotel room like Seamless or Postmates without the need to drink at the club for a few hours beforehand.

Indeed, various apps have done for sex in the NBA what Amazon has done for books. One no longer needs to leave home to find a party. The party now comes to you. And lifestyle judgments aside, the NBA road life is simply more efficient — and less taxing — when there aren’t open hours spent trolling clubs.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting laid on the road today versus 15 years ago,” says one former All-Star, who adds that players actually prefer Instagram to Tinder when away from home. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”

The NBA player staring at a 9:30 a.m. team breakfast in a hotel conference room the morning of the game can now log seven or eight hours of z’s and still enjoy a tryst. Thanks to direct messaging and texting, some NBA players even arrange to have keys left at the front desk so dates can be inside the room when a player arrives at the hotel.

As Haberstroh says further down in the article, “Partying is the midrange jumper of nightlife.” (via mr)

Tags: basketball   Instagram   NBA   sports   Tinder   Tom Haberstroh



Daft Punk samples and their sources

2017-03-28T16:38:48Z

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Daft Punk creates their songs by extensively sampling records, mostly from the 70s and 80s. In some cases, bits of song are used relatively unchanged while others are chopped up and repeated to the point of being unrecognizable. Here are a few of the group’s samples compared with their original sources.

See also the duo’s Alive 2007 live album, which I have been listening to extensively lately.

Update: The video I’d originally linked to got taken down but I replaced it with another one. Here’s another one as well.

Tags: Daft Punk   music   remix   video



George Saunders on “what writers really do when they write”

2017-03-28T14:20:13Z

From The Guardian, a typically illuminating piece from George Saunders on how he approaches writing…and more specifically how he approached writing a novel after so many years of writing short stories. Regarding the writer/reader connection:

This is a hopeful notion, because it implies that our minds are built on common architecture — that whatever is present in me might also be present in you. “I” might be a 19th-century Russian count, “you” a part-time Walmart clerk in 2017, in Boise, Idaho, but when you start crying at the end of my (Tolstoy’s) story “Master and Man”, you have proved that we have something in common, communicable across language and miles and time, and despite the fact that one of us is dead.

Another reason you’re crying: you’ve just realised that Tolstoy thought well of you — he believed that his own notions about life here on earth would be discernible to you, and would move you.

Tolstoy imagined you generously, you rose to the occasion.

Tags: George Saunders   writing



I wuv you wobot!

2017-03-28T01:28:56Z

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Rayna is a small child who thinks this hot water heater looks like a robot and she is determined to say hi to it and tell it that she loves it. THIS IS THE CUTEST THING OF ALL TIME THAT IS NOT THAT PHOTO OF OTTERS HOLDING HANDS SO THEY DON’T DRIFT AWAY FROM EACH OTHER WHILE SLEEPING. In the future, when humanity is on trial for the mistreatment of machines, our randomly assigned legal algorithm will introduce this video as Exhibit A in our defense. I like our chances.

Tags: robots   video



“Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen”

2017-03-27T23:39:31Z

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The title of this video is “Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen—MUST WATCH END!!” and there is literally nothing else I can say to entice you to watch it if you’re not already hooked by that.

Tags: video



Bill Hayes adored Oliver Sacks

2017-03-27T18:55:04Z

The Guardian has an entertaining and touching excerpt of Bill Hayes’ memoir Insomniac City about his moving to New York and his relationship with Oliver Sacks. Even though Sacks had little interest or knowledge about popular culture — “‘What is Michael Jackson?’ he asked me the day after the news [of Jackson’s death]” — he became part of it, and so he and Hayes travel to Iceland to dine with Björk and run into the actress and model Lauren Hutton at a concert.

[Hutton] overheard Oliver talking to Kevin about his new book, Hallucinations, which was coming out in a couple weeks. Lauren leaned across the table and listened intently.

“Hey doc, you ever done belladonna?” she asked. “Now there’s a drug!”

“Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I have,” and he proceeded to tell her about his hallucinations on belladonna. They traded stories. Eventually she began to figure out that this wasn’t his first book.

“Are you — are you Oliver Sacks? The Oliver Sacks?” Oliver looked both pleased and stricken.

“Well, it is very good to meet you, sir.” She sounded like a southern barmaid in a 50s western. But it wasn’t an act. “I’ve been reading you since way back. Oliver Sacks - imagine that!”

Oliver, I should note, had absolutely no idea who she was, nor would he understand if I had pulled him aside and told him.

Fashion? Vogue magazine? No idea…

The two of them hit it off. She was fast-talking, bawdy, opinionated, a broad - the opposite of Oliver except for having in common that mysterious quality: charm.

See also My Own Life, a piece about the cancer diagnosis that would eventually take Sacks’ life.

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

Sacks dictated the piece to Hayes “nearly verbatim” and is very much worth a re-read. (via @tedgioia)

Tags: Bill Hayes   Bjork   books   crying at work   death   Insomniac City   Lauren Hutton   Oliver Sacks



A timeline map of the global median age from 1960-2060

2017-03-27T17:12:09Z

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From Aron Strandberg,1 this is a timeline visualization of the age of the world’s population from 1960-2060. The world’s human population has increased rapidly in the last couple centuries, most recently doubling since 1970:

A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).

But watching that video, you’ll realize that the world’s population will not reach 20 or 30 billion in 2050 — human civilization is getting old.

  1. Strandberg was also recently in charge of Sweden’s Twitter account, which they hand over to a random Swedish person each week. That’s where I found his chart.

Tags: Aron Strandberg   infoviz   maps   population   timelines   video



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

2017-03-27T15:48:29Z

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From director Martin McDonagh, who is also responsible for In Bruges, comes Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Frances McDormand stars and even in the trailer, she is a force of nature. (No offense to Meryl Streep, but McDormand is a very strong candidate for the best actor or actress working today.) The red band trailer above is entertaining in its use of many of George Carlin’s seven dirty words but I prefer the more conventional trailer I saw in the theater the other day — which I cannot locate online for some reason — because, among other reasons, it contains more Peter Dinklage.

Tags: Frances McDormand   Martin McDonagh   movies   Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri   trailers   video



How Vladimir Putin rose to power and Made Russia Great Again

2017-03-27T14:30:59Z

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This video from Vox explains how Vladimir Putin took advantage of the post-Soviet political and economic chaos in Russia to become its leader in a very short period of time and what’s he done with that leadership since then.

Vladimir Putin has been ruling Russia since 1999. In that time he has shaped the country into an authoritarian and militaristic society. The Soviet Union dissolved into 15 new countries, including the new Russian Federation. In Putin’s eyes, Russia had just lost 2 million square miles of territory. But Putin’s regime has also developed and fostered the most effect cyber hacker army in the world and he’s used it to wreak havoc in the West. But the election of Donald Trump brings new hope for the Putin vision. Trump’s rhetoric has been notably soft on Russia. He could lift sanctions and weaken NATO, potentially freeing up space for Putin’s Russia to become a dominant power once again.

Watching this, it’s easy to see how Putin’s progress in Making Russia Great Again, not to mention the authoritarian methods he employs, would be appealing to Trump.

See also Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways.

Tags: Donald Trump   politics   Russia   video   Vladimir Putin



Skateboarding on frozen sand

2017-03-24T20:51:15Z

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In this beautifully shot video, four skateboarders discover the joys of skating on the frozen sand of a Norwegian beach.

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? Four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup — biting winds and short days, ollies and a frozen miniramp.

The result is a lot more contemplative than a lot of other skateboarding videos. The emphasis is not on cool tricks (which were difficult to do in the cold weather) but on the vibe of skating on a frozen Norwegian shoreline with only a few hours of sunlight a day. A longer version is available to rent or buy on Vimeo (and more info here).

Tags: skateboarding   sports   video



Delicately detailed illustrations of small Korean convenience stores

2017-03-24T18:32:37Z

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Oh, I really like these. The detail, the delicate realism, the muted but also somehow vibrant colors. Me Kyeoung Lee has been drawing South Korean convenience stores for the past two decades. There appears to be a recent book of her work, but I don’t know if or where it’s available (Google Translate isn’t working on that page). Doesn’t look like prints are available either. Yo 20x200, get on this! (via colossal)

Tags: art   Me Kyeoung Lee   South Korea



Citizen Jane, a documentary film about Jane Jacobs

2017-03-24T16:19:02Z

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Citizen Jane: The Battle for the City is a documentary films about Jane Jacobs and her legendary battle against Robert Moses for the soul of New York City.

People have to insist on government trying things their way.

The film will be available in theaters and on-demand on April 21.

I’m a bit more than halfway through the audiobook of The Power Broker and Robert Moses is approaching the height of his influence. The power that Moses possessed in NYC almost cannot be overstated — I can’t think of any other single person who affected the “look and feel” of the city more than he did. I have heard the story many times, but I can’t wait to get the part with Jacobs, to hear in Caro’s words how this infinitely powerful man lost his grip on the city because of this remarkable woman and a group of concerned citizens. (via @daveg)

Update: Astoundingly, Jacobs is not in The Power Broker. Her chapter was cut for length. (thx, alec)

Tags: books   cities   Citizen Jane   Jane Jacobs   movies   NYC   Robert Caro   Robert Moses   The Power Broker   trailers   video



The importance of social capital in public life

2017-03-24T14:34:43Z

In 1993, Robert Putnam, who later went on to write Bowling Alone (which inspired Meetup), wrote a piece for The American Prospect called The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life about social capital and its contribution to political and economic well-being of a society. Much has changed since then, but Putnam’s piece is solidly relevant to the political situation in America today.

How does social capital undergird good government and economic progress? First, networks of civic engagement foster sturdy norms of generalized reciprocity: I’ll do this for you now, in the expectation that down the road you or someone else will return the favor. “Social capital is akin to what Tom Wolfe called the ‘favor bank’ in his novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities,” notes economist Robert Frank. A society that relies on generalized reciprocity is more efficient than a distrustful society, for the same reason that money is more efficient than barter. Trust lubricates social life.

Networks of civic engagement also facilitate coordination and communication and amplify information about the trustworthiness of other individuals. Students of prisoners’ dilemmas and related games report that cooperation is most easily sustained through repeat play. When economic and political dealing is embedded in dense networks of social interaction, incentives for opportunism and malfeasance are reduced. This is why the diamond trade, with its extreme possibilities for fraud, is concentrated within close-knit ethnic enclaves. Dense social ties facilitate gossip and other valuable ways of cultivating reputation—an essential foundation for trust in a complex society.

This quote by 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume that leads off the piece succinctly sums up the challenges involved and the potential consequences in not addressing them properly:

Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.

(via @timoreilly)

Tags: books   Bowling Alone   David Hume   economics   politics   Robert Putnam



Fran Lebowitz on books and reading

2017-03-23T20:32:38Z

The New York Times Book Review recently interviewed Fran Lebowitz for their By the Book series. She mentions Memoirs of Hadrian as the last great book she read and doesn’t like literary dinner parties.

Q: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

a: None. I would never do it. My idea of a great literary dinner party is Fran, eating alone, reading a book. That’s my idea of a literary dinner party. When I eat alone, I spend a lot of time, before I sit down to my meager meal, choosing what to read. And I’m a lot better choosing a book than preparing a meal. And I never eat anything without reading. Ever. If I’m eating an apple, I have to get a book.

Her answer to the very last question made me laugh out loud. Buuuuuuurn.

Tags: books   Fran Lebowitz   interviews



The state-fueled slavery of the Alabama coal mining industry

2017-03-23T18:15:46Z

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From Ariel Aberg-Riger, a visual story for CityLab’s series on power about how, for decades, Alabama purposely imprisoned young black men on trumped-up charges in order to rent them out as de facto slaves to the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company, which grew fat on the cheap, coerced labor.

TCI, as it was known — was wildly profitable. Period accounts attribute the company’s booming success to the “sage” “energetic” “accomplished” entrepreneurial white developers of “intrepidity and public spirit” who capitalized upon the “admirable richness of the coal flora of Alabama.” But the true key to TCI’s “profits” lay in a deadly contract the company managed to negotiate with the state of Alabama in 1888.

(thx, david)

Tags: Ariel Aberg-Riger   business   energy   racism   slavery



Andre Agassi and what the scoreboard doesn’t say

2017-03-23T15:59:54Z

Let’s get this out of the way first…this is a photo of Andre Agassi playing tennis at age 7:

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OMG, that face! That photo is from a recent profile/interview of Agassi, who, after some struggles on and off the court early in his career, seems to have figured out how to live his life with purpose. Through his foundation and other efforts, Agassi has helped build almost 80 schools around the country for underprivileged children.

Did Agassi also wish he could be on court playing Federer or Nadal? “No. You can’t believe you once were at that level — and, even if I could do it, I think of my life now and ask: ‘Why do they do it?’ Steffi said: ‘Can you believe what these guys are still willing to put themselves through?’ It’s remarkable but if I went back in time I would probably retire sooner.”

Surely he misses the intensity? “I miss that the least. That was always the tough part for me. I enjoyed the work that went into making yourself the best you can be but I hated what the scoreboard doesn’t say. It just tells you if you won or lost. But the biggest issue for most athletes is you spend a third of your life not preparing for the next two-thirds. One day your entire way of life comes to an end. It’s a kind of death. You just have to go through it and figure it out. In her own quiet way Steffi feels stronger than me. She’s pretty linear in how she lives. I probably do a little more reminiscing than she does — which says a lot.”

As a kid, I always loved watching Agassi play, especially during the second half of his career. He’d been through some shit, dealt with it, and was playing with a different kind of verve. His game was more knowing, purposeful. I still remember Pete Sampras, overflowing with talent, pounding that amazing serve of his at Agassi, a serve that no one else on the tour could return properly. Some of these wicked serves would confound him, but every few points, Agassi would take a Sampras serve, this perfect booming thing, and absolutely paste it right down the line or cross-court for an easy winner. He took everything that was good about that serve and molded it into his return — the better Sampras hit the serve, the better Agassi’s return would be. (via mr)

Tags: Andre Agassi   education   sports   tennis



A fire ant colony moves into a giant new space

2017-03-23T14:14:05Z

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This is perhaps the most interesting and engaging 14-minute video about an indoor fire ant colony that you’ll ever see. (The narration merits special mention; it’s somewhere between that of a nature documentary and a trailer for a Michael Bay movie.) This colony has been very successful and is bursting at the seams with worker ants, so a massive new space full of organic soil has been arranged for them.

What happens when you introduce a massive, ravenous fire ant colony to a bin full of soil? Pure awesomeness! In this video, we watch as our favourite Fire Ant colony “The Fire Nation” moves into a bin full of soil called “The Fire Palace”. We observe the amazing tunnel work and constructions they make and witness what makes ants the best architects and designs Mother Nature has to offer.

It’s amazing how quickly and completely the ants transform their habitat into something that suits their needs…they moved almost the entire colony into the new space in only 2 days. I…I kinda want to build my own ant colony now? Looks like I need to start by reading this.

Tags: ants   video



The end of Rogue One + the beginning of Star Wars

2017-03-23T02:20:04Z

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The ending of Rogue One — spoilers! — shows an unconvincing CG clone of Princess Leia receiving the plans for the Death Star just before her ship jumps into hyperspace. The beginning of Star Wars takes place just a few minutes (or hours?) after the final scene in Rogue One. Vader’s ship has caught the Rebel ship. He boards it and captures Leia, but not before she hands off the plans to R2-D2, who escapes to Tatooine with C-3PO. Watching them cut together like this, the whole narrative makes a lot more sense. BTW, on March 24, you’ll be able to watch both movies back-to-back in the comfort of your home when Rogue One is available for digital download.

Tags: movies   remix   Rogue One   Star Wars   video



Heinz is actually running ketchup ads created by Mad Men’s Don Draper

2017-03-22T21:24:29Z

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In the second episode of the 6th season of Mad Men, ad man Don Draper of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce pitches Heinz on a campaign where you never actually see the product. The ads show French fries, steak, and a hamburger with the tagline “Pass the Heinz” and your mind fills in the missing ketchup bit. Here’s the pitch (which doesn’t exactly land w/ the Heinz folks):

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Now, in the real universe, the actual Heinz is running Draper’s ads.

Partly a PR stunt, partly just solid on-brand communications, the campaign is sure to delight fans of the AMC show, which in July will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its premiere. And in a nice touch, the ads are officially being credited to Heinz’s current agency, David Miami, and to Don’s fictional 1960s firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. (Draper and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who approved the idea, are both listed in the credits.)

Heinz tells AdFreak that each one will get its own billboard in NYC. All three ads will also run in the New York Post, and the fries execution will run in Variety too. The ads will get support across Heinz’s social media channels as well.

See also Malcolm Gladwell on The Ketchup Conundrum.

Tags: advertising   Don Draper   Heinz   Mad Men   Malcolm Gladwell   TV   video



A recreation of the bedroom from 2001: A Space Odyssey

2017-03-22T20:03:05Z

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Artist Simon Birch and architect Paul Kember have recreated the famous bedroom from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as part of a larger art project called The 14th Factory in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Weirdly, when Birch approached Kember about doing the project, Kember revealed that his uncles had worked on the actual set for Kubrick:

Birch showed the project’s architect, a guy named Paul Kember, a series of stills from the film hoping he’d be able to recreate it. Then Paul goes, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Oh, Si, didn’t I tell you? My uncle and great-uncle — you know, Tony and John? — were draughtsman on that movie, and they literally — literally! — worked on that exact room! Isn’t that bonkers?!”

From the Instagram evidence, it looks as though you can walk around the bedroom, sit on the furniture, lay on the bed, etc. This might almost be worth making a special trip to LA.

Tags: 2001   art   movies   Paul Kember   Simon Birch   Stanley Kubrick



How to… not do anything the right way

2017-03-22T18:11:37Z

The contemporary internet is full to the brim with videos shot from above showing how different foods and crafty things are made. Like this one. Everything is orderly, precise, and moves along at a brisk pace. And then, there’s this:

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Cutting tomatoes with a dull knife, folding paper not exactly in half, excruciatingly peeling a hard boiled egg…that sort of thing. Probably not good for folks who have any kind of OCD tendency.

See also this video of the most unsatisfying things in the world. Same general idea but more clever. (via deadspin)

Tags: how to   video



Recreating the Asteroids arcade game with a laser

2017-03-22T15:55:28Z

width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FkHjG759ABY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Watch as digital artist Seb Lee-Delisle recreates the old school video game Asteroids with a laser. But why use a laser? There’s actually a good explanation for this. In the olden days of arcade video games, the screens on most games were like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong…a typical CRT refreshed the entire screen line-by-line many times a second to form a pixelized scene. But with vector games like Tempest, Star Wars, and Asteroids, the electron beam was manipulated magnetically to draw the ships and rocks and enemies directly…and you get all these cool effects like phosphor trails and brighter objects where the beam lingers. When you play Asteroids on a contemporary computer or gaming system, all those artifacts are lost. But with a laser, you can emulate the original feel of the game much more closely. You’re not going to want to because it’s 17 minutes long, but you should watch the whole video…it’s super nerdy and the explanations of how the various technologies work is worth your while (unless you’re already a laser expert). I loved the bit near the end where they slowed down the rate of the laser so you could see it drawing the game and then slowly sped it back up again, passing through the transition from seeing the individual movements of the laser to observing an entire seamless scene that our mind has stitched together. In his recent book Wonderland, Steven Johnson talks about this remarkable trick of the mind: On some basic level, this property of the human eye is a defect. When we watch movies, our eyes are empirically failing to give an accurate report of what is happening in front of them. They are seeing something that isn’t there. Many technological innovations exploit the strengths that evolution has granted us: tools and utensils harness our manual dexterity and opposable thumbs; graphic interfaces draw on our powerful visual memory to navigate information space. But moving pictures take the opposite approach: they succeed precisely because our eyes fail. This flaw was not inevitable. Human eyesight might have just as easily evolved to perceive a succession of still images as exactly that: the world’s fastest slide show. Or the eye might have just perceived them as a confusing blur. There is no evolutionary reason why the eye should create the illusion of movement at twelve frames per second; the ancestral environment where our visual systems evolved had no film projectors or LCD screens or thaumatropes. Persistence of vision is what Stephen Jay Gould famously called a spandrel — an accidental property that emerged as a consequence of other more direct adaptations. It is interesting to contemplate how the past two centuries would have played out had the human eye not possessed this strange defect. We might be living in a world with jet airplanes, atomic bombs, radio, satellites, and cell phones — but without television and movies. (Computers and computer networks would likely exist, but without some of the animated subtleties of modern graphical interfaces.) Imagine the twentieth century without propaganda films, Hollywood, sitcoms, the televised Nixon-Kennedy debate, the footage of civil rights protesters being fire-h[...]



“Morning Studio” by Nicole Eisenman

2017-03-22T14:09:55Z

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I ran across this painting by Nicole Eisenman this morning on Facebook and it really grabbed my attention. There’s something about the cozy sweatpants vibe of the person with the default Emoji Yellow™ skin in contrast to everything else in the scene that really belongs to the present moment. Looking closer, you’ll notice the surprising realism of the purple milk crate in the foreground, the teeth on the woman’s zipper, the icons on the projected desktop, and the inputs on the back of the projector. But much of the rest of the painting isn’t that detailed — Eisenman is playing with different levels of abstraction in the same painting.

You can take a look at some of Eisenman’s other work here, here, and here. Stylistically, she’s is all over the place, as noted by Roberta Smith in the NY Times:

Few figurative painters are doing what Nicole Eisenman is, jumping back and forth among starkly different styles while inviting us to consider an equally broad range of urgent themes.

Her constant movement may be more familiar in male painters inclined to the abstract. So it’s not surprising that in her interview for the catalog for “Nicole Eisenman: Al-ugh-ories,” her exhibition at the New Museum, she mentions her admiration for two stylistic gadflies, Sigmar Polke and Julian Schnabel.

(thx, laura)

Tags: art   Nicole Eisenman



Super cool time lapse video of cell division

2017-03-21T19:20:00Z

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This is a stunning time lapse video of the cells in a tadpole egg dividing over a period of 33 hours. The filmmaker, Francis Chee, built a custom microscope and lighting system to capture the action.

I can say that it was done with a custom designed microscope based on the “infinity optical design” It is not available by any manufacturer. I built it. I used LEDs and relevant optics to light the egg. They too were custom designed by me. The whole microscope sits on anti-vibration table. I have to say that it doesn’t matter too much what microscope people use to perform this. There are countless other variables involved in performing this tricky shot, such as for example: the ambient temperature during shooting; the time at which the eggs were collected; the handling skills of the operator; the type of water used; lenses; quality of camera etc etc.

Chee says in the comments that he’s perfecting his technique and hopes to capture a complete egg-to-tadpole video in the near future. His other videos are worth a look too, like this mushroom time lapse and this gruesome video of a praying mantis eating a fly alive. (via colossal)

Tags: biology   Francis Chee   science   video



The best movie dialogue of all time

2017-03-21T17:27:27Z

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Cinefix lists the best movie dialogue of all time. This is an unorthodox list…not sure many would rate Aaron Sorkin’s movie about Steve Jobs so highly. I enjoyed the shout out to Primer for its realistic-seeming dialogue of the cofounders of a small startup dealing with terrific success.

Tags: best of   lists   movies   Primer   video



The paintings of “Afro Surrealist” Alim Smith

2017-03-21T14:23:34Z

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I really like these paintings by Alim Smith of black culture in America. (The best way to see them all is in the shop.) They’re slightly Cubist almost, reminiscent of Picasso. But of course Picasso’s Cubism was heavily influenced by African art and sculpture; unpacking the levels of cultural influence and appropriation here is above my pay grade. On Instagram, Smith refers to himself as an “Afro Surrealist”. Prints are available. (via @anildash)

Tags: Alim Smith   art



Atheism in the Arab world

2017-03-20T20:21:25Z

Writing for New Humanist, Brian Whitaker writes about the rise of atheism in the Arab world. The differences between atheism in Christian societies and Arab ones include political considerations, how science is viewed, and how scripture is interpreted.

While there’s little doubt that an Islamic reformation would benefit the Middle East socially and politically, atheists cannot advocate this without sacrificing their principles. Progressive versions of Islam generally view the Qur’an in its historical context, arguing that rules which applied in the time of the Prophet can be reinterpreted today in the light of changing circumstances — but that involves accepting the Qur’an as the supreme scriptural authority.

The status of the Qur’an is a particularly important issue for both followers and opponents of Islam. Whereas Christians usually consider the Bible as divinely inspired but written by humans, the Qur’an is claimed to be the actual words of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel (Jibril in Arabic).

Tags: atheism   Brian Whitaker   Islam   religion



An epic desk lunch

2017-03-20T18:04:42Z

Admission: I eat lunch at my desk pretty much every day. So do a lot of people. Some think desk lunches are sad, but many people trade lunch at their desks for family or leisure time at some other point in the day.

A Chinese YouTuber, Little Ye, has taken the desk lunch to a whole new level. In this video, she makes noodles from scratch, scavenges soda cans out of garbage to turn into DIY Bunsen burners & food graters, and cooks a hotpot meal right at her desk.

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Little Ye, you are my new hero. In this one, she takes apart her computer so she can use the case to fry a breakfast crepe.

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She and the Primitive Technology guy should definitely meet. (thx, claire)

Tags: DIY   food   video



Photos of grand Soviet-era subway stations

2017-03-20T15:59:23Z

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Back in the days before the US bankrupted the Soviet Union with the space race and the nuclear arms race, the Soviets spent lavishly on some public works…like these amazing metro stations built in the Stalin era. Photographer David Burdeny got special middle-of-the-night access to these stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg and came away with these great photographs. Could you imagine an NYC subway station with chandeliers? Or even moderately clean walls? (via petapixel)

Tags: David Burdeny   photography   Soviet Union   subway



“Are Liberals on the Wrong Side of History?”

2017-03-20T13:51:53Z

Adam Gopnik writes about three books — Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra, A Culture of Growth by Joel Mokyr, and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari — that address the tension between liberalism and conservatism, going back to Voltaire v. Rousseau during the Enlightenment (and even further back, to Plato).

For Mishra, elements in modernity that seem violently opposed, Zionism and Islamism, Hindu nationalism and Theosophical soppiness — not to mention Nazi militarism — share a common wellspring. Their apostles all believe in some kind of blood consciousness, some kind of shared pre-rational identity, and appeal to a population enraged at being reduced to the hamster wheel of meaningless work and material reward. Mishra brings this Walpurgisnacht of romanticized violence to a nihilistic climax with the happy meeting in a Supermax prison of Timothy McVeigh, perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing, and Ramzi Yousef, perpetrator of the World Trade Center bombing: the fanatic, child-murdering right-wing atheist finds “lots in common” with the equally murderous Islamic militant — one of those healing conversations we’re always being urged to pursue. (“I never have [known] anyone in my life who has so similar a personality to my own as his,” Yousef gushed of McVeigh.)

Very interesting context and a stimulating argument for the middle way by Gopnik — in his estimation, Betteridge’s law applies to the title. He didn’t care much for Homo Deus, and I have to admit, as a big fan of Sapiens, that I’ve run out of steam with this new one and found myself nodding my head at Gopnik’s objections. I’m gonna get back to it, I’m sure, but with less enthusiasm than before.

Tags: A Culture of Growth   Adam Gopnik   Age of Anger   books   Homo Deus   Joel Mokyr   Pankaj Mishra   politics   Yuval Noah Harari



Alexander and the V Bad, FML Day

2017-03-17T21:11:05Z

From Mark Remy, a riff on the classic children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, only this time Alexander has access to a smartphone, apps, and the cloud.

At breakfast Anthony watched ESPN on his tablet and Nick watched “Zootopia” on his tablet but on my tablet the video kept freezing.

I think I’ll move to Australia, where hybrid fibre-coaxial cable networks run at up to thirty megabits per second in major metro areas.

(thx, meg)

Tags: Alexander and the Terrible   books   Horrible   Mark Remy   No Good   Very Bad Day



The economics of airline classes

2017-03-17T19:42:48Z

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How much money does an airline make on a typical flight in the various classes of service? On some flights, revenue from first & business class seats can be up to 5 times that of economy seats. This video explores the economics of airline classes and looks at how we got to the present moment, where the people and companies buying business class and first class tickets are subsidizing those of us who fly economy.

Tags: business   economics   flying   video



The first trailer for Coco

2017-03-17T17:44:04Z

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Pixar’s next movie, Coco, is coming out in November and here’s the first trailer.

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.

Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3) directs and the movie is out on November 22.

Tags: Coco   movies   Pixar   trailers   video



How complacent are you?

2017-03-17T15:28:59Z

In his new book, The Complacent Class, Tyler Cowen argues that Americans have gotten too comfortable.

In The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, Tyler Cowen argues that more Americans are living comfortably and contently with what life has handed them. By sheltering ourselves from the new and different, it’s hard to see what is lost by standing still. But if you look at the data, we’re seeing a shift in the fabric of American society — from losses in new startups and economic growth to more instances of segregation and inequality. It’s not too late to change course and re-embrace the restlessness that has long defined America.

Cowen built a quiz that you can take to see if you are, in his eyes, too comfortable with your life. The quiz is composed of 27 questions like “In the last 10 years, how many states have you lived in?” and “Have you lived in a neighborhood for at least a year where you were the racial minority?” The quiz has four possible outcomes:

Tier 1: You are a trailblazer — You do not accept the status quo as the best outcome in life. Your ambitions will help America get out of its rut.

Tier 2: You are a striver — You embrace newness, but you need to strive harder to break the mold.

Tier 3: You are comfortable — You are interested in trying new things but not enough to create real change.

Tier 4: You are complacent — You need to get off the couch, step outside, and see what you’re missing.

I took the quiz and got “comfortable”, which seems fair enough, given the questions. I think part of that result is being introverted and part of it is family considerations that take precedence in my life over adventure and risk-taking. I wouldn’t ever call myself a “trailblazer” but I don’t know anyone who runs their own business who would consider that situation “comfortable”. “Terrifying on a daily basis” maybe.

Tags: books   The Complacent Class   Tyler Cowen



How a bad grade on a college paper resulted in a Constitutional amendment

2017-03-17T13:31:37Z

In college, Gregory Watson got a C on a paper in a government class about an ancient proposed amendment to the US Constitution written by James Madison in 1789.

Gregory was intrigued. He decided to write his paper about the amendment and argue that it was still alive and could be ratified. He got to work, being very meticulous about citations and fonts and everything. He turned it in to the teaching assistant for his class — and got it back with a C.

Motivated by what he considered an unfair grade, Watson spent the next 20 years working to get the amendment ratified. In 1992, Watson’s hard work paid off and the proposed amendment became the 27th Amendment to the US Constitution.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

Now his former teacher thinks he deserves an A+. What a heartwarming story.

Or perhaps a terrifying one. If you look at the maps for the past 5 Presidential elections, you’ll notice that the red states outnumber the blue ones. Republicans dominate governorships and state legislatures too. The consolidation of liberal voters into fewer and fewer states (and cities) is likely to continue, making the state counts more lopsided. If you can get a proposed amendment out of Congress (or a national convention called for by 2/3 of the states), then 3/4 of the states (currently 38) are needed to ratify the amendment and make it the law of the land. Now, this doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Well, Gregory Watson got it done. Just imagine if he had resuscitated a half-ratified amendment outlawing immigration or something.

Tags: Gregory Watson   politics