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Updated: 2017-04-26T20:48:58Z

 



How fake are nature documentaries?

2017-04-26T20:48:58Z

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When you’re watching a nature documentary, you notice it right away: there’s something odd about the sound effects. They seem a little too…Hollywood. When Vox did their series on how the BBC made Planet Earth II, they didn’t mention the sound:

I hope the third program is on sound, which has been bugging me while watching Planet Earth II. I could be wrong, but they seem to be using extensive foley effects for the sounds the animals make — not their cries necessarily, but the sounds they make as they move. Once you notice, it feels deceptive.

Several other people noticed and complained, causing the BBC to explain that getting real sounds in many cases was impossible. Audio producer Matt North adds some context:

Whilst I’m no wildlife expert, it’s fairly straightforward to conclude that such an unpredictable and uncontrollable subject as wildlife would have prompted the need to often shoot on long lenses, thus making it almost physically impossible for a sound recordist to obtain ‘realistic’ recordings that would match the treatment and emotive style of the programme. Combine this with the shooting climate, as well as the need for frequent communication between crew just to capture the necessary shots that will cut well in the edit suite and you have a recipe for failure in regards to obtaining useable sound. Therefore, it’s not only impractical but virtually impossible to capture the ‘real’ sound that some of these disgruntled viewers may be protesting for.

As Simon Cade shows in the video above, sound is only one of the ways in which nature documentaries use editing to “fake” things. Is it manipulation? Or good storytelling? And what’s the difference between the two anyway? A silent security feed of a Walmart parking lot is not a documentary but The Thin Blue Line, with its many dramatizations and Philip Glass score, is a great documentary.

Tags: audio   Matt North   Planet Earth   Simon Cade   video



kottke.org memberships are a great way to support the site

2017-04-26T20:08:01Z

Hello! Jason Kottke here. If you’re a regular reader of this RSS feed, please consider supporting my efforts on kottke.org by becoming a member today. The revenue from memberships is critical to keeping one of the best independent websites running at its full capacity. There are several membership options to choose from; you can check them out here or read about why I’m doing this here.

And if you’re already a member, thank you! You are the best.




A brief visual history of Studio Ghibli

2017-04-26T18:22:38Z

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Studio Ghibli has been making incredible animated movies since 1985. This video traces the history and the work of the studio and its principal director Hayao Miyazaki from his pre-Ghibli work (including Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) all the way up to Miyazaki’s recent unretirement & involvement in Boro the Caterpillar.

The name Ghibli was given by Hayao Miyazaki from the Italian noun “ghibli”, based on the Libyan-Arabic name for the hot desert wind of that country, the idea being the studio would “blow a new wind through the anime industry”. It also refers to an Italian aircraft, the Caproni Ca.309 Ghibli.

I still remember seeing Princess Mononoke in the theater in 1999 (having no previous knowledge of Ghibli or Miyazaki) and being completely blown away by it. Made me a fan for life. (via film school rejects)

Tags: animation   Hayao Miyazaki   movies   Princess Mononoke   Studio Ghibli   video



Seinfeld-sourced paper gets into “legit” science journal

2017-04-26T16:17:21Z

John McCool suspected that a scientific journal called the Urology & Nephrology Open Access Journal was essentially a pay-to-publish journal with a flimsy peer-review process. So he wrote a paper based on a bogus medical condition made up for an episode of Seinfeld and submitted it to them.

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This was inspired by the classic 1991 episode “The Parking Garage,” where the gang can’t find their car in a mall parking garage. Eventually, Jerry has to urinate; he goes against a garage wall and gets busted by a security guard; and he tries to get out of it by claiming that he suffers from a disease called “uromycitisis” and could die if he doesn’t relieve himself whenever and wherever he needs to.

I went all out. I wrote it as Dr. Martin van Nostrand, Kramer’s physician alter ego, and coauthored by Jay Reimenschneider (Kramer’s friend who eats horse meat) and Leonard “Len” Nicodemo (another of Kramer’s friends, who once had gout). I included fake references to articles written by the likes of Costanza GL, Pennypacker HE, and Peterman J. I created a fake institution where the authors worked: the Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute. In the Acknowledgements section, I thanked people such as Tor Eckman, the bizarre holistic healer from “The Heart Attack” episode, giving him a “Doctor of Holistic Medicine (HMD)” degree.

The Arthur Vandelay Urological Research Institute!! That’s some top-shelf trolling right there. If you read the full paper, you’ll also see references to Steinbrenner and Lloyd Braun. Of course the journal accepted and published it:

The journal was excited to receive this “quality” and “very interesting” case report. A mere 33 minutes after receiving it, a representative notified “Dr. van Nostrand” that it had been sent out for peer review (a process the journal’s website touts as “rigorous”). Three days later, reviewer comments were returned to me, and I was asked to make a few minor changes, including adding lab test results from when the patient was in the emergency room. I made these up, too, and promptly resubmitted the revised case report. Soon after, it was officially accepted for publication.

The publication eventually figured out it had been pranked and had a quick back-and-forth with McCool about it.

Tags: John McCool   science   Seinfeld   TV



Endless robotic loop of a toy train

2017-04-26T14:02:58Z

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This video of robot continuously building a looped track in front of a toy train is definitely a metaphor for something. Procrastination? Living paycheck to paycheck? Life with small children? I don’t know, but it makes me SO ANXIOUS! Why does it wait so long to place the next section of track?!! I couldn’t watch for more than 10 seconds or so.

See also the chase scene from The Wrong Trousers. (via @MachinePix)

Tags: robots   this is a metaphor for something   video



Bowler rolls a perfect 300 game in just 90 seconds

2017-04-25T19:30:47Z

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My top bowling score is probably 1381 and took more than an hour because there were 6 people using the same lane and no one was really paying that much attention to anything other than conversation and chicken wings. This guy, using all the lanes in the alley, rolled a 300 in just under 90 seconds. With two hands…I’ve never seen that before. And I love the way he scampers from lane to lane.

  1. Or somewhere in the high 200s if you count Wii bowling. I don’t think I ever scored a perfect 300 on the Wii.

Tags: bowling   sports   video



Preemie lambs successfully grown to term in artificial wombs

2017-04-25T16:13:27Z

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have succeeded in gestating premature lambs in artificial wombs. The abstract from the paper in Nature Communications: In the developed world, extreme prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and morbidity due to a combination of organ immaturity and iatrogenic injury. Until now, efforts to extend gestation using extracorporeal systems have achieved limited success. Here we report the development of a system that incorporates a pumpless oxygenator circuit connected to the fetus of a lamb via an umbilical cord interface that is maintained within a closed ‘amniotic fluid’ circuit that closely reproduces the environment of the womb. We show that fetal lambs that are developmentally equivalent to the extreme premature human infant can be physiologically supported in this extra-uterine device for up to 4 weeks. Lambs on support maintain stable haemodynamics, have normal blood gas and oxygenation parameters and maintain patency of the fetal circulation. With appropriate nutritional support, lambs on the system demonstrate normal somatic growth, lung maturation and brain growth and myelination. The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan translates what that might mean for human babies born prematurely. One reason preterm birth is so dangerous is that, for an underweight baby, the first few breaths of air halt the development of the lungs. “Infants that are currently born and supported in a neonatal intensive care unit with gas-based ventilation demonstrate an arrest of lung development,” Partridge says, “which manifests in a long-term, severe restriction of lung function.” With the artificial womb, the infant would continue “breathing” through the umbilical cord as its floats in amniotic fluid, which would flow into and out of the bag. Using its tiny heart, the fetus would pump its own blood through its umbilical cord and into an oxygenator, where the blood would pick up oxygen and return it to the fetus-much like with a normal placenta. In addition to boosting lung growth, the amniotic fluid would protect the baby from infections and support the development of the intestines. If this does work for humans, there’s a possibility that at some point using artificial wombs may be safer (or just preferable for some people) than women carrying babies to term…which would have an interesting effect on childbirth (to say the least). And as Khazan mentions, there are potential implications related to abortion rights: If they ever materialize, artificial wombs may stir concerns among pro-choice advocates, since the devices could push the point of viability for human fetuses even lower. That might encourage even more states to curtail abortions after, say, 20 weeks’ gestation. But speaking with reporters Monday, the Philadelphia researchers emphasized they don’t intend to expand the bounds of life before the 23rd gestational week. Before that point, fetuses are too fragile even for the artificial wombs. Update: There’s a short video clip of the lamb in the artificial womb as well: width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AE7D9Nmsg5A?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Tags: abortion   Olga Khazan   science   video [...]



The writers strike and the rise of Trump

2017-04-25T15:42:21Z

The members of the two large writing guilds representing more than 12,000 Hollywood writers recently voted to strike.

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America, East, and the Writers Guild of America, West, announced the results of an online strike authorization vote in an email to members. The unions said that 6,310 eligible members voted; 96 percent of the vote was in favor of a strike.

A three-year contract between the guilds and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the makers of films and TV series, expires at midnight on May 1. Negotiators were set to resume talks on Tuesday, with funding of a failing union health care plan a sticking point.

Last time there was a writers strike in 2007, networks moved to replace their scripted shows with reality programs, including the resurrection of a fading reality show called The Apprentice.

During the last work stoppage, CBS ordered additional seasons of its flagship reality competition shows to fill airtime. And then there’s NBC.

Trump’s “The Apprentice” had been removed from the network’s lineup amid low ratings. But a new programming chief came aboard in 2007, and the network decided to revive the competition show, but with a twist. And when the writers’ strike meant no more new episodes of “The Office” and “Scrubs,” NBC replaced the Thursday night shows in 2008 with “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

That’s a curious butterfly effect. The writers strike made room for The Celebrity Apprentice on TV. The Celebrity Apprentice gave Trump seven more seasons of primetime TV visibility. Trump parlayed that visibility into the highest political office in the land.

Tags: 2016 election   Donald Trump   Hollywood   politics   TV



Option B: building resilience and finding meaning in the face of adversity

2017-04-25T14:15:20Z

Two years ago, Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband to an unexpected death. The loss left her bereft and adrift. Grieving hard, she struggled to figure out how to move forward with her life. The result of her journey is a book co-authored by Adam Grant called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build. Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Jessi Hempel’s piece on Sandberg is a good overview on the book and that period in her life, particularly in relation to Sandberg’s return to work and how that changed leadership & communication at Facebook. Every year in late May, Facebook gathers its policy and communications team for a day-long retreat. Employees fly in from satellite offices in Germany, say, or Japan. It’s a chance to address problems, and set strategy for the year to come. Sandberg always speaks, but that year Caryn Marooney, who was then in charge of technology communications, remembers everyone told her she could skip it. She insisted on coming anyway. As 200 people looked on, she began telling the group what she was going through, and how it was. “There were a lot of tears. It was incredibly raw, and then she said, “I’m going to open it up to Q and A,” Marooney remembers. People spoke up. Talking about her situation allowed Sandberg — and the entire team — to move past it and transition into a productive conversation. Having acknowledged the proverbial elephant in the room, they could all focus on the work at hand. “I think people think that vulnerable is soft, but it’s not,” said Marooney, as she described Sandberg’s tough approach to business questions that followed. “It was a blueprint of what we saw from Sheryl going forward.” Sandberg has also started a non-profit “dedicated to helping you build resilience in the face of adversity — and giving you the tools to help your family, friends, and community build resilience too.” See also Sandberg’s Facebook post about her husband’s death and her NY Times opinion piece How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss. One afternoon, I sat down with my kids to write out “family rules” to remind us of the coping mechanisms we would need. We wrote together that it’s O.K. to be sad and to take a break from any activity to cry. It’s O.K. to be happy and laugh. It’s O.K. to be angry and jealous of friends and cousins who still have fathers. It’s O.K. to say to anyone that we do not want to talk about it now. And it’s always O.K. to ask for help. The poster we made that day — with the rules written by my kids in colored markers — still hangs in our hall so we can look at it every day. It reminds us that our feelings matter and that we are not alone. Tags: Adam Grant   books   business   crying at work   death   Facebook   Jessi Hempel   Option B   Sheryl Sandberg [...]



The work of photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue

2017-04-24T22:32:34Z

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Born into wealth, Jacques Henri Lartigue got his first camera at age seven and began documenting the world around him: his friends and family at play in the world. His work presaged the “prolonged adolescence” of the “leisure class” readily on display on Instagram these days.

Taking pictures gave Lartigue a hobby and a purpose. His immediate surroundings and leisure class milieu provided the subject matter and Lartigue, a native user, wielded his camera with technical mastery almost from the beginning. He also brought a child’s whimsy to photography’s staid practice of posing and composing. Lartigue had a low vantage, a wandering eye, and a loose frame that was far ahead of his time. He also had the resources and time to experiment. Lartigue continued photographing prolifically into his teens and early adulthood, finding muses in his wives and mistresses and the diversions of prolonged adolescence.

Lartigue’s photography was an influence on director Wes Anderson, particularly in Rushmore and The Life Aquatic. If you can’t see Rushmore’s Max Fischer in the top photo of the homemade go-kart, you certainly can in this one:

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And the kid in the tire boat in the other photo? That is Lartigue’s older brother, Maurice. Everyone called him Zissou. (Curiously, none of this is in The Wes Anderson Collection. Come on! The photo of Zissou’s mentor Lord Mandrake in The Life Aquatic? That’s a self portrait of Jacques Henri Lartigue!)

Tags: Jacques Henri Lartigue   photography   Wes Anderson



DON’T deep fry gnocchi

2017-04-24T18:15:07Z

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If you’re like me from three minutes ago and you’ve never seen this video but want to laugh really hard, push play on this little number. You can safely skip ahead to about 0:33…that’s when the action starts.

P.S. Yo Kenji! Why does the gnocchi do that?! (via @essl)

Update: I have not gotten an answer from Kenji yet (to be fair, he just became a father), but the consensus on Twitter is gnocchi and popcorn share some similarities. I will let John Vermylen, who is a Stanford PhD and also runs the pasta company Zerega, explain:

Hydrated starch on gnocchi exterior gelatinizes with temp, forming impervious barrier. Temp builds up inside. Water tries to boil as temp rises, but can’t turn to steam due to barrier. So pressure builds up, which pushes against wall of gnocchi. Eventually high pressure forces crack in that wall, which leads to pressure drop and instant flash off of high temp water to steam.

There’s an opportunity here to make crispy popcorn gnocchi…which brave chef will take up the challenge?

Tags: food   funny   how to   John Vermylen   video



Trailer for Errol Morris’ new documentary, The B-Side

2017-04-24T16:10:06Z

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Errol Morris’ documentary about portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman is coming out in early June and the first trailer was just released.

Errol Morris’s surprising new film is simplicity itself: a visit to the Cambridge, Massachusetts studio of his friend, the 20x24 Polaroid portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman, who specifies on her website that she likes her subjects “to wear clothes (and to bring toys, skis, books, tennis racquets, musical instruments, and particularly pets…).” As this charming, articulate, and calmly uncompromising woman takes us through her fifty-plus years of remarkable but fragile images of paying customers, commissioned subjects, family, and close friends (including the poet Allen Ginsberg), the sense of time passing grows more and more acute.

Tags: Elsa Dorfman   Errol Morris   movies   photography   The B-Side   trailers   video



Science is a fundamental part of America

2017-04-24T14:16:33Z

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Science in America is an impassioned video from Neil deGrasse Tyson about the threat we face from the political uncoupling of science from the truth in America today.

How did America rise up from a backwoods country to be one of the greatest nations the world has ever known? We pioneered industries. And all this required the greatest innovations in science and technology in the world. And so, science is a fundamental part of the country that we are. But in this, the 21st century, when it comes time to make decisions about science, it seems to me people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not, what is reliable what is not reliable, what should you believe what you do not believe. And when you have people who don’t know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.

Tags: Neil deGrasse Tyson   politics   science   video



These websites could change your life

2017-04-21T20:18:00Z

I asked Kottke.org readers if they had ever seen, heard, or read something on the web that literally changed their lives. width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KZvsAh5VFRw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Fourteen people said no. Sixteen said maybe. Thirty-eight people said yes. These are some of their answers. Everyone is anonymous. Some said more than others. Four different people listed pages from Metafilter: Ask MetaFilter;Where’s My Cut? —: On Unpaid Emotional LaborFor the person who’s got everything: “I read this post, applied, and had a play made for me.”[creepy filter] Is it normal to become this distracted from seeing an attractive person in public?: This reader pointed to a comment in this thread “that describes the grinding reality of daily low-grade sexual harassment.” Five readers listed works of journalism. The Lilly Suicides by Richard DeGrandpre.The Overprotected Kid by Hanna Rosin “persuaded me to be a far less uptight parent.”Is This Working? on discipline and punishment in the school system.The Blissfully Slow World of Internet Newsletters. (I hope this person now does something with newsletters.)Don’t report sexual harassment (in most cases) by Penelope Trunk. Five listed personal essays or advice. Ten Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser [PDF]Mindfulness in Plain English by Ven. Henepola Gunaratana.Encountering the Gifted Self Again, For the First Time “made me realise that I’m not just a weirdo, but all of my “quirks” actually fit together under a label, and that has made me understand myself about 10000x better.”Pixel Poppers: Awesome By Proxy: Addicted to Fake Achievement: “an essay on performance orientation vs. mastery orientation, as applied to videogame genres.”DEAR SUGAR, The Rumpus Advice Column #77: The Truth That Lives There. Five listed videos or video series. “Almost any woodworking video by Matthias Wandel.”Vsauce. The School of LifeThe power of vulnerability by Brené Brown.Kid President’s Letter To A Person On Their First Day Here: width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/l5-EwrhsMzY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> And ten listed entire websites. “Josh Davis’s www.dreamless.org message board, now defunct.””Violet Blue’s writing, which lead to me realizing sex is a much deeper and more interesting topic than mainstream news coverage would have me believe.”“The website MathPuzzle. It was the first time a website caught my attention and I corresponded with the owner/webmaster, and it opened me up to the online and offline community of puzzlers around the world. Working as a puzzle author got me through college and helped me establish a name for myself.”Bullet Journal.YearCompass.“Jeph Jacques’s Questionable Content, particularly how he dealt with suicide, depression, and the concept of people from different backgrounds so elegantly. I like to think it increased (and continues to increase) my empathy in the world.”National Novel Writing Month”Radiolab made me want to be a journalist.”Université du Québec à Chicoutimi: “In 2005 I was trying to get information on how to study abroad for a year. Everything I read was on the Internet, and I then spent 9 months between 2006 and 2007 in Chicoutimi, Quebec.”Pixel Envy. “Not pandering. Started reading Kottke, DF, and Metafilter, and realized that I could try doing the same thing. I’ve had a modicum of success since, and met a bunch of really cool people as a result.” Now pick up y[...]



The web’s best hidden gems

2017-04-21T17:55:00Z

I asked Kottke.org readers to tell me what were the best web sites that they knew about that most people have never heard of. Normally, each of these sites would be worth a blog post on its own, either a longer or shorter one. But this week, we’re… HYPERPOSTING!!! A few of the sites readers suggested are actually (in my experience) quite well-known. However, if you’ve never been to Daring Fireball, Longform.org, The Millions, Hacker News, Every Frame A Painting, DuckDuckGo, LMGTFY, xkcd, Nautilus, The Internet Archive, Google Reverse Image Search, or, yes, Kottke.org, you should remedy that as soon as you can. The rest of the suggestions are really quite something. I’d never heard of most of them. A few others I’ve loved and shared as a secret handshake between friends. In lieu of lengthy explanations, I’m just going to link them all and let you explore. (This is what most web pages used to be: just long lists of links. We were such dorks back then. But maybe we were on to something.) Note: The order is not a ranking, but simply an easy way I can count how many links there are. Also Note: No money changed hands to feature any of these sites on Kottke.org, although in retrospect, that would have been a good idea.. Final Note: If the site required a login, or I couldn’t figure out what it was doing or why it would be interesting to anyone, I didn’t include it. Sorry. Weird Fiction Review: “an ongoing exploration into all facets of the weird, from the classics to the next generation of weird writers and international weird.”Pink Trombone: You kinda have to play with this one to get it. Internet Hockey Database: Statistics, Logos, and Trading Cards.diamond geezer: A lovely blog about trains and architecture in Great Britain. MLB Uniforms worn on April 19, 2017: You can do this for any date you want.Nepali: A Beginner’s Primer Conversation and GrammarSwear TrekFuck You, Broccoli: “An in-depth exploration of vegetables and other so-called healthy foods.”Spacetrawler: A science-fiction webcomic and comics blog. Extra Ordinary: Another webcomic, about a little girl who has sweetly surreal adventures. WPC Probabilistic Winter Precipitation Guidance: Tracks snowfall. The Drawfee Channel: A video blog about drawing with digital tools. Is it Christmas?: Current answer: NO BoardGameGeek | Gaming Unplugged Since 2000 Free online Dictionary of English Pronunciation - How to Pronounce English words Instant No Button! Unhappy Darth Vader on demand. Seismic Monitor: Recent earthquakes on a world map and much more. Autostraddle: News, Entertainment, Opinion, Community and Girl-on-Girl Culture. This site is great. Superbad.com: I… I don’t understand this thing I’m seeing. WWWF Grudge Match - Where useless knowledge breeds champions: If you’ve ever wondered, “What if Boris Yeltsin and Ted Kennedy had a drinking contest?” this site is for you. The Griddle: A puzzle blog with free puzzles. Badger Badger Badger.com! The Original Dancing Badgers! Futility Closet - An idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements Skyline - YouTube: “Esports analyst and coach focusing on the game Overwatch.” Two people suggested this. The Vintagent: A vintage motorcycles blog. CDC WONDER: The CDC’s online databases. Get as much government data as you can, while you can. InfiniteLooper: Endless loops of YouTube videos. The Morning News: A real blog. I love it. Deadspin’s The Stacks: O[...]



Welcome to the only show in town

2017-04-21T14:55:00Z

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[From Achewood, by Chris Onstad]

It’s never good when someone calls you on the phone to tell you that someone you love has died. It’s like those scenes on TV shows where the police or the White House are rushing to notify the family of the deceased before the news breaks so that they don’t learn about it from the television.

I’ve had it happen for three people in my life who weren’t close friends or family members: George Carlin, Steve Jobs, and Prince. In each of those cases, someone heard the news first and thought of me. This may be the sweetest and most melancholy kind of kindness. Today, it’s been a year since Prince died.

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Prince made music for as long as I was alive. His self-titled album, made when he was still a teenager, was released the week before I was born. My mother, who loved Prince as much as I did, listened to “I Wanna Be Your Lover” over and over again when I was in utero. Prince and his music were Facts of the Universe, like the ancient Greeks believed in Zeus and his thunderbolts.

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The only star as big and bright was Michael Jackson, and you couldn’t go into your room and put on headphones to listen to Michael Jackson’s dirty songs where nobody else could listen. It was a different kind of intimacy and intensity.

Tags: best of the web   Twitter



In praise of Flickr

2017-04-17T20:10:00Z

Matt Haughey comes not to bury Flickr, but to praise it. Flickr represents one of the very best of things in the history of the internet. It was the first popular way to share photos in a social way instead of photos lingering in private accounts online and in the real world in shoeboxes under beds. It brought millions together and helped kick off first the digital SLR revolution, then it was eclipsed by the mobile photography revolution. Flickr—despite being a big corporate entity—embraced open licensing and took on the ambitious goal of being a mirror and gallery for oodles of museums around the globe. Those values that drove Flickr during its influential peak can be seen in its Explore page, which still knocks your socks off. Matt calls it “an entire year’s worth of epic shots from National Geographic, generated each day, automatically by algorithms.” Lots of wondrous shots from places I’ve never heard of. Lots of “how’d they even get that shot?!” photos of animals… Instagram has an explore tab but it’s popular music and tv stars and their dogs or it’s brand advertising-driven shots cooked up to sell something. There’s something so completely boring about Instagram’s explore page that makes me ignore it and go back to my friend feeds, whereas Flickr is the opposite: my friend feed is largely silent, but the best of the best page is truly awe-inspiring and at least one photo each day is going to take my breath away. It is bizarre to think now that Flickr was only active for about a year before it was acquired by Yahoo. For those of us who were on the site then, that year felt like everything. Jason’s first post that mentions Flickr is from March 2004. He wonders whether Flickr could be used as a universal login (much like Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts are today). Annotation quickly followed. Then calendar view. RSS feed splicing. Organizr. A public API. The interestingness algorithm. Prints. It was step-by-step, bit-by-bit, but every new feature was a milestone. It excited people, and got them thinking and working on what was next. Jason even has a remarkable post from August 2004 where he imagines an entire web-based operating system linking different services together: To put this another way, a distributed data storage system would take the place of a local storage system. And not just data storage, but data processing/filtering/formatting. Taking the weblog example to the extreme, you could use TypePad to write a weblog entry; Flickr to store your photos; store some mp3s (for an mp3 blog) on your ISP-hosted shell account; your events calendar on Upcoming; use iCal to update your personal calendar (which is then stored on your .Mac account); use GMail for email; use TypeKey or Flickr’s authentication system to handle identity; outsource your storage/backups to Google or Akamai; you let Feedburner “listen” for new content from all those sources, transform/aggregate/filter it all, and publish it to your Web space; and you manage all this on the Web at each individual Web site or with a Watson-ish desktop client. Think of it like Unix…small pieces loosely joined. That last part didn’t come true; the pieces didn’t join so much as fuse together into something new. The companies listed either took over the world, faded into relative obscurity, or stopped existing (at least for a little while). And then there’s Flickr — which didn’t do any of those things, but changed how we use the web forever. I usually say that platform[...]



The internet is an all-in-one machine

2017-04-17T18:30:00Z

Kevin Kelly’s helped me make sense of the internet for as long as I can remember. One of his best blog posts, from 2008, is “Better Than Free.” The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free… When copies are super abundant, they become worthless. When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied. Well, what can’t be copied? Kelly suggests eight “generative” values that can’t be easily copied by the internet: Immediacy, Personalization, Interpretation, Authenticity, Accessibility, Embodiment, Patronage, and Findability. This list holds up pretty well: digital tech has handled some of these things better than others (we can get our digital files from the cloud almost anywhere; embodiment is still mostly analog). And most of these things we do pay for, if only in the form of being locked in to one company’s ecosystem that manages these things for us. It also ties in clearly to 1000 True Fans and other essays of Kelly’s that have turned out to be prescient and/or influential. But is the internet really best characterized as a copy machine? This has always bothered me. Unlimited free copies of digital objects proliferating everywhere is a problem because of the internet. But the other things that the internet does pose thorny problems too. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that “the internet is a fax machine.” Most of what we do on the internet is zip digital documents back and forth from one machine to the other. It would be nice to think of that process as simply copying. But we need channels and tubes and signals and protocols to move those docs back and forth, and all of that we pay for. And at a more abstract level, we need distribution channels so the docs reach who they’re supposed to. TCP/IP is a distribution channel, but so are Facebook and Google and Snapchat and Twitter. Somebody ends up paying for all of them. The other two parts of the all-in-one machine are more complicated. If we’re just copying things backwards and forwards, we never add anything new. And if you look at a lot of internet media, it’s mostly just recycled content from some other part of the internet. A Reddit thread becomes a Twitter meme becomes a web story becomes a TV story, which becomes 20 web stories. Copying is getting pretty tired. We need to do more scanning — literally and figuratively. We need to think harder about how to make the offline and online worlds meet. The internet companies spending real money right now are spending it on this problem. Printing is just the other side of the same thing. How can we translate online activity to offline action? Or, even if it stays digital, how do we produce a work that people can recognized as a finished object? How can we move a digital thing from one physical experience to another? If we used to print digital documents or p[...]



A Golden Age of Oral Histories

2017-04-17T15:10:00Z

Golden Girls is one of my ten favorite TV shows ever. Recently, the entire series came to Hulu. I went to find the terrific oral history of the show, published just last year… and it was gone. The entire publication and its website had folded. Luckily, the writer (Drew Mackie) had saved a copy, and published it on his own site after the magazine went under. So we still have gems like this anecdote from writer Winifred Hervey: Bea was always my favorite. I left after the third season, and that’s the year she won her Emmy for Best Actress. I was at the ceremony, and after she gave her speech she came over and said, “Winifred, did you hear I mentioned your name, you little twat?” She was mad because I left. That Golden Girls oral history is part of why I’ve been thinking about how we might save and recirculate the best parts of the web. So many good things have already vanished. The web is resilient, but fragile, too. Big, splashy, gossipy pop culture oral histories used to be pretty rare, online or off. Vanity Fair would publish one every once in a while; in 2009, the magazine collected nine of them from the previous decade, including great features on The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Motown Records, and a galloping 50-year history of the entire internet, from ARPA to YouTube. Other magazines would do oral histories from time to time — GQ has had some terrific ones — but the real explosion begins in this decade, and it begins and ends on the web. One of the first pieces Grantland published in 2011 was an oral history of The National, a writerly sports publication stacked with talent that could never make enough money and ended far too soon. (Message!) Right around then, a few really successful features helped kick off the boom. Since then, my god — we have so many oral histories! Two years ago, Thrillist put together a list of 260 oral histories on music, movies, TV, and related pop culture alone. There are fake oral histories, “oral histories” that only interview two people, oral histories of things the writers profess to hate (trigger warning: autoplay), and oral histories of cult TV shows even more cultish side characters. (“In the end, I really liked Magnitude because I realized that the reason he calls himself Magnitude is because it stands for Magnetic Attitude.”) But what are the histories you actually need to read? The Kottke Archives have links to and capsule summaries of no fewer than twenty-five oral histories, going back to 2008. These include histories of SXSW Interactive, the Challenger disaster, Freaks and Geeks, Cheers, Die Hard, and George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic. With these alone, you already have enough reading material to get you through this week and beyond. But since we’re saving these for aliens, our grandchildren, and our alien grandchildren, I’m going to add a few more. These are just some of my favorite oral histories that (as far as I can tell) have never appeared on Kottke.org. An oral history of the March on Washington (Smithsonian, 2013) Surely you can’t be serious: An oral history of Airplane! (The Onion A.V. Club, 2015) Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas: A Complete Oral History (GQ, 2010) You Either Smoke or You Get Smoked: An oral history of White Men Can’t Jump (Grantland, 2012) Girly Show: The Oral History of Liz Phair’s ‘Exile In Guyville’ (Spin, 2013) Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of “The Dana Carvey ShowR[...]



A Time Capsule for the World Wide Web

2017-04-17T12:00:00Z

There’s an Achewood comic that I love where Ray, one of the strip’s deeply flawed but endearing animal protagonists, frustrated with browsing eBay, types “WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT” into the search bar. This unlocks a special store called “eBay Platinum Reserve,” where Ray can buy items like “The Biggest Laser,” a real Airwolf helicopter, and Keith Moon’s head in a jar. Ray immediately buys Moon’s head and Airwolf, and the laser… well, eleven years later, like Chekhov’s proverbial pistol, it’s never been fired. Sometimes I wish the internet worked like eBay Platinum Reserve, turning up the best stuff without us having to look for it. But for all that search engines, social media, and even artificial intelligence have given us over all these years, the closest thing we have to Platinum Reserve are still blogs like Kottke.org. Somebody still has to go out, concierge-style, to find the best stuff on the web and serve it up. More than ever, what the web serves up on its own is the very worst things that have just happened. It’s an active shooter livestreaming a snuff film on Facebook — or something not as bad, but not much better. And hey, focusing on very recent, very bad news makes a lot of sense. If there are awful things happening right now, I want to know about them. If some overpaid someone wrote something stupid and everyone I know is slamming it on Twitter, I want to get in on it. We’re only human. But sometimes, I wonder, with all the abundance and ephemerality of the web, whether we indulge the opposite impulse enough. I don’t mean sharing more new things that are funny, or heartwarming, or relatable. I mean going out and finding or rediscovering the things that are The Very Best We Have to Offer, gathering them together, and saving them, forever. This week, I am proposing an experiment. I am asking you — all of you: readers of Kottke.org, my friends, my colleagues, my strangers, my citizens of the World Wide Web, people who have known the grandeur of the best webcomics, the best YouTube videos, the best memes, the best stories and articles and entire blogs and games and nonsense with which we entertain and edify ourselves every day — I am asking you: WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT We’re going to find the best things in the history of the internet, and gather them here, together, forever. And never to part. Find me on Twitter at @kottke or at @tcarmody and tell me what you want to show your children and grandchildren; what you want to show the aliens when they arrive; what you showed your partner when you couldn’t believe they’d never seen it. Tell me what made your jaw drop open in awe like Ray’s when he saw Airwolf. Imagine we’re making the world’s greatest time capsule, or the world’s greatest mixtape, of everything on the web. Tell me what’s worth saving. And then we will save them all. Here. Together. Update: Twitter turned out to be the wrong way to handle this, so I created a Google questionnaire that could better manage suggestions. It also lets me ask a few more focused questions, like “what’s the funniest story you’ve read on the web?” or “what’s the best animal thing you’ve ever seen on here?” It also, importantly, allows me to ask for the URL of the thing of you’re talking about. So please, if you have the time, I’d love your help. [...]



Research principles of the legendary Xerox PARC

2017-04-14T18:03:12Z

Xerox PARC was one of the most influential technology companies of the past 50 years. Among the technologies invented and/or developed there include Ethernet, laser printers, the modern mouse-controlled GUI, and WYSIWYG text editing. On Quora, former PARC researcher Alan Kay shared the principles under which research at the company operated; here are the first five:

1. Visions not goals

2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.

3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving

4. Milestones not deadlines

5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not failure but the overhead for getting hits. (As in baseball, an “error” is failing to pull off something that is technically feasible.)

(via @pieratt)

Tags: Alan Kay   lists   Xerox PARC



Teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2017-04-14T16:14:40Z

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YAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS. I will never not be excited for more Star Wars and I don’t care what this says about me as a person.

Tags: movies   Star Wars   trailers   video



Cute illustrations of bread birds

2017-04-14T15:51:03Z

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Twitter user @fuguhitman has recently done a series of bread birds with portmanteau names like Croisswant, Breadolark, Pidgingerbread, Bagull, and Crownut. Now I’m hungry and I want to go sit in a quiet forest with binoculars.

Tags: art   birds   illustration   remix



A touching Star Wars video tribute to Carrie Fisher

2017-04-14T13:48:31Z

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Next month is the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars and at Star Wars Celebration this year, there was a 40 Years of Star Wars panel with George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Harrison Ford. At the end of the panel, after some personal thoughts from Lucas and the other panelists about Carrie Fisher, they played this video tribute to Fisher.

Tags: Carrie Fisher   movies   Star Wars   video



Should we get rid of the European Union?

2017-04-13T20:50:13Z

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As Britain lumbers towards Brexit, other parts of Europe seem to be weighing, electorally and otherwise, if the European Union is something worth keeping or whether it belongs on the trash heap of history next to The League of Nations and the Roman Empire. In this video, Kurzgesagt takes a look at some of the benefits and criticisms of the EU and considers whether the former outweigh the latter.

Tags: European Union   politics   video



Building an iPhone from scratch

2017-04-13T19:10:02Z

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Scotty Allen built a working iPhone 6S from scratch using parts bought in the electronics markets of Shenzhen, China.

I built a like-new(but really refurbished) iPhone 6S 16GB entirely from parts I bought in the public cell phone parts markets in Huaqiangbei. And it works!

I’ve been fascinated by the cell phone parts markets in Shenzhen, China for a while. I’d walked through them a bunch of times, but I still didn’t understand basic things, like how they were organized or who was buying all these parts and what they were doing with them.

So when someone mentioned they wondered if you could build a working smartphone from parts in the markets, I jumped at the chance to really dive in and understand how everything works.

It is kind of amazing that he ends up with a fully functional iPhone, complete with a box with charger, headphones, etc. The era of transistor radio kits is not quiiiite dead yet. (via bb)

Tags: Apple   China   DIY   iPhone   Scotty Allen   telephony   video



What will the night sky look like in 5 million years?

2017-04-13T17:00:20Z

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Based on the motions of the 2 million stars observed by ESA’s Gaia mission over the past two years, scientists created this simulated animation of how the view of the Milky Way in the night sky will evolve over the next 5 million years.

The shape of the Orion constellation can be spotted towards the right edge of the frame, just below the Galactic Plane, at the beginning of the video. As the sequence proceeds, the familiar shape of this constellation (and others) evolves into a new pattern. Two stellar clusters — groups of stars that were born together and consequently move together — can be seen towards the left edge of the frame: these are the alpha Persei (Per OB3) and Pleiades open clusters.

Stars seem to move with a wide range of velocities in this video, with stars in the Galactic Plane moving quite slow and faster ones appearing over the entire frame. This is a perspective effect: most of the stars we see in the plane are much farther from us, and thus seem to be moving slower than the nearby stars, which are visible across the entire sky.

Well, how’s that for some perspective? (via blastr)

Tags: astronomy   ESA   physics   science   space   video



NASA’s new nighttime map of the entire Earth

2017-04-13T15:14:22Z

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For the first time since 2012, NASA has released a new map of the entire Earth at night. Of course, you don’t see the Earth so much as the activity of humans in well-lit cities.

Today they are releasing a new global composite map of night lights as observed in 2016, as well as a revised version of the 2012 map. The NASA group has examined the different ways that light is radiated, scattered and reflected by land, atmospheric and ocean surfaces. The principal challenge in nighttime satellite imaging is accounting for the phases of the moon, which constantly varies the amount of light shining on Earth, though in predictable ways. Likewise, seasonal vegetation, clouds, aerosols, snow and ice cover, and even faint atmospheric emissions (such as airglow and auroras) change the way light is observed in different parts of the world. The new maps were produced with data from all months of each year. The team wrote code that picked the clearest night views each month, ultimately combining moonlight-free and moonlight-corrected data.

Scientists are planning on providing “daily, high-definition views of Earth at night” starting later this year. It’s worth clicking through to play with the interactive India map…it’s astounding to see how much light the country has added in the past 5 years. And see if you can spot North Korea at night:

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Barely…just a tiny dot for Pyongyang. You can play around with a fully zoomable version of the entire map here. (via @JamesJM)

Tags: Earth   maps   NASA



Experiencing grief can feel like tripping on hallucinogens

2017-04-13T14:23:11Z

Last year, Ariel Meadow Stallings wrote a piece in the Guardian called Seven things I wish I’d known before my divorce: an optimistic guide to the future. It’s a good list, full of problems turned into opportunities, but the first item blew my mind a little.

1. Trip out on grief — it’s a hallucinogen.

Regardless of how your marriage ends, it’s a death. Maybe it’s a loving euthanasia that you both agree on, maybe it’s a violent one-sided decision that only one of you sees coming, but it’s a death regardless. This means both of you will go through grief — a powerful mind-altering substance.

In the darkest of my days, I felt like I was on a low dose of LSD at all times — time was weird, my vision was odd, I threw up for no reason, my emotions were out of control. Even eating was an intellectual exercise (chew, chew … swallow? Is that what you do next?). I generally felt like I was tripping.

This state of mind was profoundly uncomfortable, but also weirdly educational. Never a big crier, I received a crash course in what tear-induced catharsis felt like — and holy wow, it felt good. Like many mind-altering substances, there are lessons there if you want to learn them.

I didn’t realize it until I read this, but having experienced the sort of grief Stallings describes here and come out the other side (mostly) the better for it, I can attest to her description of it as a trippy educational experience.

Tags: Ariel Meadow Stallings



Aleutian Dreams: photos of the Alaskan fishing industry

2017-04-12T18:32:45Z

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For a project called Aleutian Dreams, photographer and fisher Corey Arnold has documented the lives and landscapes of the fishing industry in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a job-wanted sign and hung it outside of a bathroom near Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal. It read: “Experienced deckhand looking for work on a commercial crab or halibut fishing boat in Alaska — hard worker — does not get seasick” I was 24 years old, energetic and ambitious, with a few years of salmon fishing experience but naive to the world of high seas fish-work. After a few shifty respondents, I was hired by a seasoned Norwegian fisherman and flew on a small prop plane past the icy volcanos and windswept passes of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, eventually slamming down onto the short runway in Dutch Harbor. The experience would forever change the direction of my life and shape my identity as both a fisherman and photographer. Isolated from the mainland by some of the world’s roughest waters, Dutch Harbor is a thriving, working-class commercial fishing port surrounded by steep mountains and lonely windswept valleys. It’s a place where industry and nature collide in strange and beautiful ways, a place where people harvest seafood on a massive scale, and share their meals and their refuse with local wildlife — from rapacious bald eagles to curious foxes.

(via the guardian)

Tags: Alaska   Corey Arnold   fishing   photography