Jason Kottke's weblog, home of fine hypertext products

Updated: 2018-03-22T13:56:43Z


Stunt pilot restarts his single engine in the nick of time


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I always feel a little silly when I click through to watch videos with titles like “Plane Miraculously Flies To Safety After Sudden Engine Failure”, like I’m indulging in clickbait, a sugary online snack when I’m supposed to be consuming healthier fare. But my dad was a pilot when I was a kid, so I will watch any flying video that comes along (along with 35 minutes of “related videos” on YouTube…send help!)

But this one in particular is worth a look because all the drama lasts for less than a minute and the first person view from the camera (which is mounted on the pilot’s head) puts you right into the cockpit.1 One of the coolest things about wearable cameras like the GoPro is that ability to put the viewer into the action, to create a visceral sense of empathy with that person doing that thing. That pilot’s eyes are our eyes for those 60 seconds. You see the engine fail. Your arm reaches out to the controls and attempts to address the problem. You pull the plane up into a glide. You look around for somewhere to ditch. Ah, there. You turn the plane. You keep trying to restart the engine… I don’t know about you, but my palms were pretty sweaty by the time that video was over.

I’ve been paying way more attention to the different ways in which filmmakers use the camera to create this sort of empathy since watching Evan Puschak’s video on how David Fincher’s camera hijacks your eyes. The first-person camera view, where the camera moves as if it were swiveling around on a real person’s neck, is a particularly effective technique. Even if the scene in this video weren’t real, it would be difficult to convince your brain otherwise given your vantage point. (via digg)

  1. And don’t skimp on the sound either, put those headphones on. The sound of the suddenly rushing wind after the engine quits, of gravity asserting itself, is quite alarming.

Tags: David Fincher   flying   movies   video

Max Richter’s Sleep, an 8-hour album designed to be listened to while you sleep


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Composer Max Richter released Sleep in 2015, but it only recently became available on streaming platforms: Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, Tidal. The album is 8 hours and 24 minutes long and was designed by Richter as a sleep aid/accompaniment. The composer worked with neuroscientist David Eagleman to align the music with the brain & body’s natural sleep rhythms.

A snack-sized version of Sleep is also available: From Sleep, which clocks in at a mere hour long.

Tags: David Eagleman   Max Richter   music   neuroscience   Sleep

Fashion Climbing, photographer Bill Cunningham’s secret memoir



This is kind of amazing. Legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died two years ago, leaving behind a massive body of work documenting the last 40 years of the fashion world. Somewhat surprisingly, he also wrote a memoir that seemingly no one knew about. He called it Fashion Climbing (pre-order on Amazon).

Fashion Climbing is the story of a young man striving to be the person he was born to be: a true original. But although he was one of the city’s most recognized and treasured figures, Bill was also one of its most guarded. Written with his infectious joy and one-of-a-kind voice, this memoir was polished, neatly typewritten, and safely stored away in his lifetime. He held off on sharing it — and himself — until his passing. Between these covers, is an education in style, an effervescent tale of a bohemian world as it once was, and a final gift to the readers of one of New York’s great characters.

The NY Times, where Cunningham worked for decades, has more information on the book.

“There I was, 4 years old, decked out in my sister’s prettiest dress,” reads the memoir’s second sentence. “Women’s clothes were always much more stimulating to my imagination. That summer day, in 1933, as my back was pinned to the dining room wall, my eyes spattering tears all over the pink organdy full-skirted dress, my mother beat the hell out of me, and threatened every bone in my uninhibited body if I wore girls’ clothes again.”

The wonderful documentary about Cunningham is currently available on Amazon Prime. I was lucky enough to catch Cunningham at work on the streets of NYC, once at the Union Square Greenmarket and another time during Summer Streets. Watching him snap away with his camera in that blue coat of his, bicycle propped nearby, was thrilling for me, like watching a superhero dispatching bad guys on the streets of Metropolis or Gotham.1

  1. Almost as thrilling was watching Maira Kalman sketching people at a MoMA cafe. We usually only ever see the output of artists, so watching them actually at work is a special thing.

Tags: Bill Cunningham   books   fashion   Fashion Climbing   photography

12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech


From Anil Dash, 12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech.

1. Tech is not neutral. One of the most important things everybody should know about the apps and services they use is that the values of technology creators are deeply ingrained in every button, every link, and every glowing icon that we see. Choices that software developers make about design, technical architecture or business model can have profound impacts on our privacy, security and even civil rights as users. When software encourages us to take photos that are square instead of rectangular, or to put an always-on microphone in our living rooms, or to be reachable by our bosses at any moment, it changes our behaviors, and it changes our lives.

All of the changes in our lives that happen when we use new technologies do so according to the priorities and preferences of those who create those technologies.

Tags: Anil Dash   lists

Lessening the burden on Wikipedia


In a recent interview at SXSW, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company planned to use information from Wikipedia to counter misinformation in YouTube’s videos. In the NY Times, John Herrman wrote about the potential burden of a massive company like Google leaning so heavily on a relatively small non-profit organization like Wikipedia.

Then there’s the issue of money. As important as Wikipedia may be to some of the richest companies in the world, it is, in financial terms, comparatively minuscule, with a yearly budget of less than $100 million — a rounding error for big tech. (It should be noted that Google has made one-off contributions to Wikipedia in the past and includes the Wikimedia Foundation in a program through which it matches employee donations, which netted the foundation around $1 million last year.)

A few years ago, I wrote about financially supporting Wikipedia.

I consider it a subscription fee to an indispensable and irreplaceable resource I use dozens of times weekly while producing It’s a business expense, just like paying for server hosting, internet access, etc. — the decision to pay became a no-brainer for me when I thought of it that way.

I also called on other companies to support Wikipedia on a recurring basis:

Do other media companies subscribe to Wikipedia in the same fashion? How about it Gawker, NY Times, Vox, Wired, ESPN, WSJ, New York Magazine, Vice, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post? Even $500/month is a drop in the bucket compared to your monthly animated GIF hosting bill and I know your writers use Wikipedia as much as I do. Come on, grab that company credit card and subscribe.

Wikipedia is a shared online resource that we all would sorely miss if it went away, people and companies alike. We should all pitch in and support it.

Tags: Google   John Herrman   Susan Wojcicki   Wikipedia   YouTube

Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by Jessica Hische



Illustrator Jessica Hische (who did the typeface for Moonrise Kingdom, among many other wonderful things) has written and illustrated a children’s book called Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave.

Lyrically written and beautifully illustrated by award-winning lettering artist Jessica Hische, this book takes readers on a fantastic journey that encourages them to be adventurous, strong, smart, curious, creative, confident, and brave — reassuring them that if they haven’t been able to be all or any of those things today, there is always tomorrow, which is full of endless opportunities.

You can see some spreads from the book on Hische’s site.

Tags: books   Jessica Hische   Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave

The price of the US invasion of Iraq


Fifteen years ago, the United States invaded Iraq. In the NY Times, Sinan Antoon laments what has become of his country since then: Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country. This is a damning final paragraph about George W. Bush and the Republican hawks who used the events of 9/11 to manufacture a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime. Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of Trumpism and a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago, I watched Mr. Bush on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.) The pundits and “experts” who sold us the war still go on doing what they do. I never thought that Iraq could ever be worse than it was during Saddam’s reign, but that is what America’s war achieved and bequeathed to Iraqis.

Tags: George W. Bush   Iraq   politics   Sinan Antoon   USA   war

The trailer for Won’t You Be My Neighbor


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Morgan Neville’s documentary about Fred Rogers will be out in theaters on June 8; the trailer above just dropped today.

Fred Rogers led a singular life. He was a puppeteer. A minister. A musician. An educator. A father, a husband, and a neighbor. Fred Rogers spent 50 years on children’s television beseeching us to love and to allow ourselves to be loved. With television as his pulpit, he helped transform the very concept of childhood. He used puppets and play to explore the most complicated issues of the day — race, disability, equality and tragedy. He spoke directly to children and they responded by forging a lifelong bond with him-by the millions. And yet today his impact is unclear. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? explores the question of whether or not we have lived up to Fred’s ideal. Are we all good neighbors?

You can watch a clip of the film here.

Tags: Fred Rogers   Morgan Neville   movies   trailers   TV   video   Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A young video blogger with cancer shares her story


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When she was 16, Charlotte Eades was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer. About a year after the diagnosis, she began documenting her illness and her life on her YouTube channel. After Eades died, her family made the video above, a short tribute to her life and video blog.

Tags: cancer   Charlotte Eades   crying at work   medicine   video

20 years of gratitude and acknowledgements


I was on the road for an unexpectedly long time last week, so the post I wrote about’s 20th anniversary was a little rushed and incomplete. I often call my “one-man band” but it has been anything but. Today, I want to swing back around and thank all of the people and organizations who have supported me and the site with their encouragement, advice, criticism, well-wishes, hard work, and services. I’ve thanked ‘em before and I’ll thank ‘em again: the support of members has given this here webmaster new life. If you’d like to see run another 20 years, the best way to do that is to sign up for a membership (it’ll only take you a minute). I’ve been lucky to work with a bunch of talented guest editors over the years, including Sarah Pavis, Greg Allen, Adam Lisagor, Choire Sicha (now the editor of the NY Times Style section — fancy!), Deron Bauman of the dearly missed Clusterflock, Susannah Breslin, Cliff Kuang, Ainsley Drew, Jenni Leder, Joel Turnipseed, Lance Arthur, Andy Baio, and Chrysanthe Tenentes. Chris Piascik has provided the occasional high quality illustration. Aaron Cohen guest edited for a couple of weeks and then, unbidden & for reasons unknown, posted 3-5 posts each week for several months. (Aaron still bugs me bi-monthly about doing a Kottke Konference and someday he might actually persuade me to do it.) And a special mention goes to Tim Carmody, who has guest edited several times and is now writing the Noticing newsletter and posting on Fridays. He’s like my smarter and more verbose brother, and I love what he contributes to the site. Back in 2005, when I quit my job to work on full-time, I asked my readers to support me in a precursor to the membership program. Hundreds of them did just that, and I’m forever grateful. To Greg Knauss, Anil Dash, Heather Armstrong, Michael Sippey, Mark Wilkie, David Jacobs, Meg Hourihan, Jake Dobkin, and Jonah Peretti: your advice and counsel over the years has been invaluable to me. Best informal board of advisors ever. I need to thank Greg Knauss & Mark Wilkie again, along with Finn Smith, for helping me out with the heavy lifting server admin stuff. Mark in particular hosted on his own personal server for many years in the early days. Along with his counsel, I’d like to thank Jonah Peretti for providing me with a space at Eyebeam Labs in 2005 as a senior fellow and again at Buzzfeed as a design advisor and a desk-squatter for almost 10 years. is proudly hosted by Arcustech, which keeps the site running at top speed with no downtime. I dunno, maybe the site’s been down once, for like 2 seconds in the middle of the night, but I was sleeping and didn’t notice. The fonts for the site are courtesy of Hoefler & Co. I’m proud to have been one of the first sites on the web to use their web fonts. I’d like to thank my advertising partners throughout the years: Carbon Ads, We Work Remotely (which started out as the job board for 37signals), and especially The Deck. And last but not least, I’d like to thank all of you for reading all these years, despite the repeated use of cliches like “last but not least”. I ♥ you all! Tags: Jason Kottke [...]

CHICken: a coffee table book of beautiful chicken photos





The close reader of the Kickstarter project page for The Most Stunning High Quality Chicken Book Photos Ever Made will notice that the chicken photos coffee table book they’re making is called “CHICken” and not just “Chicken”. Chic chickens. Sheek-en. SHEEEEEEEEK-EN!! I am pronouncing it this way from now on for sure, especially in fancy restaurants. THA SHEEK-EN POR DOO SEAL VOO PLATE.1

See also The Illustrated Book of Poultry. (via colossal)

  1. Perhaps you don’t find this as hilarious as I do, but I grew up in a household where Target and J.C. Penney were pronounced in the French manner, TAR-JHAY and JHOCK PENNAY respectively. I don’t know exactly who we were poking fun at with this: the French we knew nothing about, high-end fashion brands we couldn’t afford, or ourselves (a time-honored Midwestern pastime).

Tags: books

A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place


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This video, a collaboration between Kurzgesagt and economist Max Roser, makes a compelling argument for empowering the maximum amount of people around the world to become happier/wealthier/more free, so that everyone can all work on solutions to problems that affect everyone. The main gist is that while pre-industrial conditions favored zero-sum thinking, the Industrial & Green Revolutions and global telecommunications have created a situation in which non-zero-sum thinking is favored.

I couldn’t help thinking of the Lost Einsteins due to inequality in America.

I encourage you to take a moment to absorb the size of these gaps. Women, African-Americans, Latinos, Southerners, and low- and middle-income children are far less likely to grow up to become patent holders and inventors. Our society appears to be missing out on most potential inventors from these groups. And these groups together make up most of the American population.

The key phrase in the research paper is “lost Einsteins.” It’s a reference to people who could “have had highly impactful innovations” if they had been able to pursue the opportunities they deserved, the authors write. Nobody knows precisely who the lost Einsteins are, of course, but there is little doubt that they exist.

In addition to the ethical and moral arguments for improving the lives of all humans, the non-zero-sumness of today’s world makes a powerful economic argument for doing so as well. How to accomplish this is left as an exercise to the reader…

Tags: economics   Max Roser   video

The cult of Trump and America’s increasingly authoritarian government


I missed Andrew Sullivan’s review of Cass Sunstein’s Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide and Can It Happen Here?: Authoritarianism in America (also edited by Sunstein) but I think Sullivan’s twin conclusions are spot on: Trump is likely unimpeachable1 and America is steadily headed towards an authoritarian government.

The result is that an unimpeachable president is slowly constructing the kind of authoritarian state that America was actually founded to overthrow.

There is nothing in the Constitution’s formal operation that can prevent this. Impeachment certainly cannot. As long as one major political party endorses it, and a solid plurality of Americans support such an authoritarian slide, it is unstoppable. The founders knew that without a virtuous citizenry, the Constitution was a mere piece of paper and, in Madison’s words, “no theoretical checks — no form of government can render us secure.” Franklin was blunter in forecasting the moment we are now in: He believed that the American experiment in self-government “can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” You can impeach a president, but you can’t, alas, impeach the people. They voted for the kind of monarchy the American republic was designed, above all else, to resist; and they have gotten one.

That is an astonishing passage, not only because of the allegation that 225+ years of American democracy is now effectively over because the Constitution does not include the necessary checks to prevent it, but also because it rings true.

  1. As I’ve said before, I don’t think Trump will resign or be impeached…or willingly leave the White House under any circumstance.

Tags: Andrew Sullivan   books   Can It Happen Here?   Cass Sunstein   Donald Trump   Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide   politics

Errol Morris on Stephen Hawking, “a king of infinite space”


From an interview with Errol Morris on his friend Stephen Hawking (about whom he made a documentary), Morris shares why Hawking’s A Brief History of Time resonated with so many people beyond the scientific community. I read the book on the plane on the way over. I was surprised, because I had been told that it was a book about theoretical physics and cosmology. But it was something much more than that. It was a work of literature. He had done something strange and unusual and powerful. He had described himself and his own situation in terms of his science. Hawking’s greatest discovery — Hawking Radiation — was, in its own way, a tour de force. He was combining elements from general relativity, from quantum mechanics, and from thermodynamics in a new way. There’s something extraordinary about it, but what was most extraordinary about it is that here you have this entity, a black hole, from which nothing can escape. The gravitational field is so strong, surrounded by an event horizon. Nothing can escape from the black hole. Nothing inside that event horizon can get out. What did Hawking show? Hawking showed that black holes are not entirely black. Radiation can escape from a black hole. He showed the mechanism through which this could occur. At the same time, he’s telling you that he’s been condemned to this chair, to motor neuron disease, to ALS, and is really unable to talk. He’s lost his ability to speak, and now has to use a computer device, a clicker, a screen with a built-in dictionary and cursor. Despite the disease, he’s not trapped inside of himself. He’s able to communicate. He would always cite the famous line from Hamlet, “Bounded …” “… in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space.” The whole thing is well worth a read. Like this bit about Hawking’s voice double: Q: What was the process of working on the film with him like? Not all of those passages are from the book. Were you sending him questions? A: Yes. He was writing answers, and some of the material was taken from lectures that he had given. Some of it was written for the film. I called him the first nontalking talking head. It became pretty clear that you had to assemble a dictionary of Hawking shots, but there’s no point in interviewing him for those, because it’s not synced. It’s a voice synthesizer. He gave us the voice synthesizer so we could just assemble his voice in the office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he insisted on calling “the pseudo-Cambridge.” There’s nothing like this project. Q: Wait. He sent you the synthesizer so he could send you an answer and then you could feed it through the synthesizer to get the sound of his voice delivering the answer? A: That’s correct. Tags: A Brief History of Time   books   Errol Morris   interviews   movies   Stephen Hawking [...]

John Oliver on Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency


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Using Beanie Babies, Chicken McNuggets, and the comedy talents of Keegan-Michael Key, John Oliver tries to explain the wild world of Bitcoin, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, the latter of which he describes as “everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers”.

My favorite part was the explanation of how difficult hacking the blockchain is: “[like] turning a Chicken McNugget back into a chicken”.

This was very hard to keep watching after Oliver started detailing cryptocurrency scams and charlatans trying to take advantage of people. One of Oliver’s targets, Brock Pierce, was actually canned from the company he co-founded after the segment aired.

Tags: Bitcoin   finance   John Oliver   video

Isle of Dogs cast interviews


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As a promo for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, snippets from the cast interviews were animated using the dog characters played by Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, and others. It’s amazing how much some of the dogs’ features & expressions mirror those of the actors who provide the voices. The bit starting at 2:30 with Jeff Goldblum is just straight flames.

Tags: Isle of Dogs   Jeff Goldblum   movies   video   Wes Anderson

Recipes by algorithm


Cover:Cheese is a website charting the progress of EMMA, the Evolutionary Meal Management Algorithm. This is what it sounds-like: a relatively basic attempt to automatically generate food recipes from other recipes.

The trick is, since it’s not just wordplay, and the results can’t be processed and validated by machines alone, somebody’s gotta actually make these recipes and see if they’re any good. And a lot of them are… not very good.

med okra
lot sugar
boil: sugar
okra sugar

NOTE: This one is still around. Don’t make it. You basically end up with a pan full of mucus

But there are some surprises. Apparently eggplant mixed with angel’s food cake is pretty tasty. Or at least, tastier than you might guess. Anyways, at least the algorithm is learning, right?

Tags: artificial intelligence   food

Translating Homer in public



I can’t claim to have finished Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey by Homer — epic poems are, well, epic — but I’m a huge fan of everything I’ve read, and especially Wilson’s Twitter feed, which is often devoted to explicating some small bit of Homeric text and comparing her approach to that of other translators.

Here, for example, she takes on the depiction of the Sirens. I’m going to pick and choose a few tweets, but you should read as much of the thread as you can.

Translation is hard, but translation in public is harder and better. There’s a richness in the commentary, and also a reckoning with the accretion of meanings that have come down through past readings, that you don’t often get without diving into scholarly apparatus. It’s not just peeling back the plaster; it’s trying to understand the work that plaster did in holding the whole structure together. Just remarkable.

Update: Dan Chiasson wrote about Wilson’s use of Twitter for the New Yorker.

Tags: books   Dan Chiasson   Emily Wilson   Homer   language   The Odyssey   translation

A world-historical theory of tool use



I love reading and rereading about the origin of humanity. I love that it’s not settled science: we’re still making new discoveries about when humans first left Africa, how and when we interbred with other hominins, and what makes us human in the first place. It’s just the coolest story, which is also every story.

Popular Science has a really nice new primer on the current state of research on early humanity. Embedded in it is a series of studies on tool use by early humans in Kenya that caught my attention. Basically, the tools got smaller and more portable, the materials used were more exotic (sourced from farther away), and they were decorated with pigments.

“That’s where there’s a similarity to technology in recent times; things start out big and clunky and they get small and portable,” says Richard Potts, head of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and a co-author of the papers. “The history [of] technology has been the same ever since.”

I wonder, though, if all three vectors hold up across history: greater portability, greater range of materials, and greater decorative value.

I suspect the null hypothesis would be that technologies that work tend to stay roughly the same over time. (For most of early human history, our tools didn’t change up that much, which is exactly why the burst of activity in east Africa is noteworthy.) You need something to shake things up: either sudden availability of new materials, or a deprivation of old ones (like the Bronze Age collapse, which eventually helped usher in the Iron Age).

As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened.

“One of the things we see is that around 500,000 years ago in the rift valley of southern Kenya, all hell breaks loose. There’s faulting that occurs, and earthquake activity was moving the landscape up and down. The climate record shows there is a stronger degree of oscillation between wet and dry. That would have disrupted the predictability of food and water, for those early people,” Potts says. “It’s exactly under those conditions that almost any organism—but especially a hunter-gatherer human, even an early one—would begin to expand geography of obtaining food or obtaining resources. It’s under those conditions that you begin to run into other groups of hominins and you become aware of resources beyond your usual boundaries.”
Tags: humans   science   tools

A literal world map





This is a map of the literal translations for the names of the world’s countries (bigger size). Some of the translations include:

Panama: Place of Abundant Fish
Paraguay: People Born Along the River
Namibia: The Vast Place
Ethiopia: Land of Burnt Faces
Egypt: Temple of the Soul of Ptah
Spain: Land of Many Rabbits
Hungary: 10 Arrows
Qatar: Land of Tar
Israel: He That Striveth with God
Thailand: Land of the Free
Nauru: I Go to the Beach
Australia: Southern Land

A spreadsheet of the translations and their sources is available here. See also a world map of every country’s tourism slogan. (via @danielhale)

Update: See also the Etymological Map of Africa. (via @danielhale)

Update: Two things. 1. This is not my map. I didn’t make it…it seems that (based on the logo in the lower right-hand corner) an Australian credit card comparison company did, but I can’t find any record of them having posted it anywhere online. 2. I have gotten many messages indicating the map is incorrect in one aspect or another, so you might want to take the whole thing with a healthy grain of salt (despite the research).

Tags: language   maps

A surgery resident analyzes medical scenes from TV & movies


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Annie Onishi is a general surgery resident at Columbia University and Wired asked her to break down scenes from movies and TV shows featuring emergency rooms, operating rooms, and other medical incidents. Spoiler alert: if you seek medical treatment from a TV doctor, you will probably die. Secondary spoiler alert: that adrenaline-shot-to-the-heart scene in Pulp Fiction is not as implausible as you might think, even if some of the details are wrong.

Tags: Annie Onishi   medicine   movies   Pulp Fiction   TV

“To share something is to risk losing it”


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Remember the Broccoli Tree and its eventual fate?

For the past few years, Patrik Svedberg has been taking photos of a beautiful Swedish tree he dubbed The Broccoli Tree. In a short time, the tree gained a healthy following on Instagram, becoming both a tourist attraction and an online celebrity of sorts. (I posted about tree two years ago.) Yesterday, Svedberg posted a sad update: someone had vandalized the tree by sawing through one of the limbs.

Very soon after, it was decided by some authority that the vandalism meant the entire tree had to come down. A work crew arrived and now it’s gone.

In a short video, John Green shares his perspective on the loss of the tree and the meaning of sharing with others in the age of social media.

To share something is to risk losing it, especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale and where everyone seems to want to be noticed, even if only for cutting down a beloved tree. […] And the truth is, if we horde and hide what we love, we can still lose it. Only then, we’re alone in the loss.

Tags: celebrity   John Green   video

“Oh my god!” People’s reactions to looking at the Moon through a telescope.


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Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh took a telescope around the streets of LA and invited people to look at the Moon through it. Watching people’s reactions to seeing such a closeup view of the Moon with their own eyes, perhaps for the first time, is really amazing.

Whoa, that looks like that’s right down the street, man!

I often wonder what the effect is of most Americans not being able to see the night sky on a regular basis. As Sriram Murali says:

The night skies remind us of our place in the Universe. Imagine if we lived under skies full of stars. That reminder we are a tiny part of this cosmos, the awe and a special connection with this remarkable world would make us much better beings — more thoughtful, inquisitive, empathetic, kind and caring. Imagine kids growing up passionate about astronomy looking for answers and how advanced humankind would be, how connected and caring we’d feel with one another, how noble and adventurous we’d be.

Tags: Alex Gorosh   astronomy   Moon   science   space   Sriram Murali   video   Wylie Overstreet

A recap and photos of National School Walkout Day



I didn’t get to follow National School Walkout Day as closely as I wanted to yesterday, but I just wanted to say on the morning after that I am very much in support of these kids, very proud of them, and deeply ashamed that ours is a country that has to regularly lean so hard on some of our most vulnerable members of society to get people and politicians to react to gross social injustice.

Buzzfeed has a great roundup of action from around the country, including 16-year-old Justin Blackman, who was the only one to walk out at his school…and ended up with millions of people supporting his efforts online. The Atlantic’s In Focus has gathered 35 photos of the walkout from around the nation.

Tags: guns   Justin Blackman   photography   politics

Ohio teenager’s raw photographs of his high school friends




The New Yorker is featuring a selection of photos taken by high school senior Colin Combs, mostly of him and his friends in Dayton, Ohio, “sometimes called the heroin capital of the United States”.

Minimalism is the necessary ethos of both his concept and his process. His equipment consists of expired film and cheap or disposable cameras, which Combs receives from patrons, including Wolfgang Grossmann, a school security guard, and Amy Powell, his photography teacher. Powell, who sent The New Yorker a selection of Combs’s images last December — the magazine later had dozens of rolls developed — has indulged her student’s autodidacticism, a trait that some educators might mistake for disobedience. “Sometimes he won’t do the assignments for class,” she said recently, laughing. “But he is always so hungry, prolific, constantly shooting. I’ve never had a student produce as much.”

The piece compares Combs’ work with that of Nan Goldin; parallels with the work of Larry Clark (NSFW), Ryan McGinley (NSFW), and Harmony Korine are also present. I went to see the Stephen Shore show at MoMA the other day (very recommended) and Combs’ photos making their way to the New Yorker reminded me of a 14-year-old Shore asking Edward Steichen, then MoMA’s curator of photography, to review his portfolio. Steichen purchased three photos from him.

You can follow Combs’ work on Instagram or read more about his work in the local Dayton paper.

Tags: Colin Combs   photography

Gorgeous 8K video of the aurora borealis dancing in the skies during a lunar eclipse


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8K resolution. Time lapse. 360º view. Aurora borealis. Lunar eclipse. I’m not really sure how you could pack much more into this video. Probably best experienced with some sort of VR rig, but for those of us without access to such a thing, watching it several times on a large screen while dragging the view around is a more than adequate substitute. If seeing the aurora borealis in person wasn’t already on your bucket list, it is now. Dang. (via the kid should see this)

Tags: astronomy   science   video


2018-03-14T13:56:23Z is 20 years old today. Holy shit! On March 14, 1998, I launched a new episode of 0sil8 called “Notes”. 0sil8 was a previous website of mine, started in 1995 or 1996. The site’s format was episodic: every month or two the design and content was completely different. With Notes, I wanted to have somewhere to write regularly for my friends, modeled after the online diaries that were growing in popularity at the time. Weblogs were a thing, one of the many types of regularly updated personal sites that were in existence then; they wouldn’t take off and begin to consume all media for another year or two. In December 1998, I registered ( was taken and I wasn’t a network so .org it was) and sometime later moved Notes over, where it’s been ever since. And now it’s one of the oldest regularly updated sites on the web. I’ve been reading back through the early archives (which I wouldn’t recommend), and it feels like excavating down through layers of sediment, tracing the growth & evolution of the web, a media format, and most of all, a person. On March 14, 1998, I was 24 years old and dumb as a brick. Oh sure, I’d had lots of book learning and was quick with ideas, but I knew shockingly little about actual real life.1 I was a cynical and cocky know-it-all. Some of my older posts are genuinely cringeworthy to read now: poorly written, cluelessly privileged, and even mean spirited. I’m ashamed to have written some of them. But had I not written all those posts, good and bad, I wouldn’t be who I am today, which, hopefully, is a somewhat wiser person vectoring towards a better version of himself. What the site has become in its best moments — a slightly highfalutin description from the about page: “[] covers the essential people, inventions, performances, and ideas that increase the collective adjacent possible of humanity” — has given me a chance to “try on” hundreds of thousands of ideas, put myself into the shoes of all kinds of different thinkers & creators, meet some wonderful people (some of whom I’m lucky enough to call my friends), and engage with some of the best readers on the web (that’s you!), who regularly challenge me on and improve my understanding of countless topics and viewpoints. I had a personal realization recently: isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world. Along the way, I’ve found myself and all of you. I feel so so so lucky to have had this opportunity. When turned 10, my post marking the anniversary ended with “I’ll see you in 2018”. In my recollection, that line was somewhat serious but also partially somewhere between a joke and a dare. Like, “how has this thing lasted 10 years, why not go for 20?” So…why not go for 30? 40? I’ll see you for sure in 2028 and perhaps even in 2038. Thank you so very much for being here with me, I surely don’t deserve such fine company. P.S. And if you’ll indulge me for a moment in a brief shameless sale pitch, if you have found something valuable here over the past 20 years, pleas[...]

Physics giant Stephen Hawking dead at age 76


Stephen Hawking, who uncovered the mysteries of black holes and with A Brief History of Time did more than anyone to popularize science since the late Carl Sagan, has died at his home in Cambridge at age 76. From an obituary in The Guardian: Hawking once estimated he worked only 1,000 hours during his three undergraduate years at Oxford. In his finals, he came borderline between a first- and second-class degree. Convinced that he was seen as a difficult student, he told his viva examiners that if they gave him a first he would move to Cambridge to pursue his PhD. Award a second and he threatened to stay. They opted for a first. Those who live in the shadow of death are often those who live most. For Hawking, the early diagnosis of his terminal disease, and witnessing the death from leukaemia of a boy he knew in hospital, ignited a fresh sense of purpose. “Although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before. I began to make progress with my research,” he once said. Embarking on his career in earnest, he declared: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” From Dennis Overbye’s obit in the NY Times: He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them. That work led to a turning point in modern physics, playing itself out in the closing months of 1973 on the walls of his brain when Dr. Hawking set out to apply quantum theory, the weird laws that govern subatomic reality, to black holes. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons. Nobody, including Dr. Hawking, believed it at first — that particles could be coming out of a black hole. “I wasn’t looking for them at all,” he recalled in an interview in 1978. “I merely tripped over them. I was rather annoyed.” That calculation, in a thesis published in 1974 in the journal Nature under the title “Black Hole Explosions?,” is hailed by scientists as the first great landmark in the struggle to find a single theory of nature — to connect gravity and quantum mechanics, those warring descriptions of the large and the small, to explain a universe that seems stranger than anybody had thought. The discovery of Hawking radiation, as it is known, turned black holes upside down. It transformed them from destroyers to creators — or at least to recyclers — and wrenched the dream of a final theory in a strange, new direction. “You can ask what will happen to someone who jumps into a black hole,” Dr. Hawking said in an interview in 1978. “I certainly don’t think he will survive it. “On the other hand,” he added, “if we send someone off to jump into a black hole, neither he nor his constituent atoms will come back, but his mass energy will come back. Maybe that[...]

Holy mountains haloed by drone light





Oh, I love these photos by Reuben Wu. As part of his project Lux Noctis, Wu flies drones in circles around mountain peaks and takes long-exposure photos, creating these beautiful haloed landscapes. Wu spoke to Colossal about his interest in zero-trace land art:

Recently Wu has evolved his process of working with the drones to form light paths above topographical peaks in the mountainous terrain. “I see it as a kind of ‘zero trace’ version of land art where the environment remains untouched by the artist, and at the same time is presented in a sublime way which speaks to 19th century Romantic painting and science and fictional imagery,” said Wu to Colossal.

Tags: art   photography   Reuben Wu

Broad Band, Claire Evans’ book about “The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet”


I’m looking forward to reading Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire Evans. Addie Wagenknecht recently did an interview with Evans about the book.

The easy thing is to say that Broad Band is a feminist history of the Internet. That’s what I’ve been telling people. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that it’s a history of the Internet told through women’s stories: boots-on-the-ground accounts of where the women were, how they were feeling and working, at specific, formative moments in Internet history. It emphasizes users and those who design for use, while many popular tech histories tend to zero in on the box. I’ve always been fascinated with what happens after hardware hits the market; it’s what we do with it that counts.

When I first heard of the book, I thought immediately of Halt and Catch Fire, a connection that Adi Robertson picked up on as well.

Robertson: It’s funny how much this book reminded me of Halt and Catch Fire.

Evans: Yes! Oh my god. One of my great regrets about the timing of me writing this book is that Halt and Catch Fire is over now, and I can’t con my way into a consulting job on that show. It was so fun being deep in the process of researching arcana and internet history and then seeing these little nuggets appear in a more glamorous form on my favorite TV show. It kind of felt surreal. But definitely made me feel like I was headed in the right direction.

Tags: Addie Wagenknecht   Adi Robertson   books   Broad Band   Claire Evans

National Geographic: “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist.”


As part of their issue on race, National Geographic asked historian John Edwin Mason to dive into their archives to examine the magazine’s past coverage of people of color, both in the US and abroad. What he found was not pretty.

What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché.

Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.

“Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan movies and crude racist caricatures,” he said. “Segregation was the way it was. National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority. National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism, and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized. That was a color line, and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”

Some of what you find in our archives leaves you speechless, like a 1916 story about Australia. Underneath photos of two Aboriginal people, the caption reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”

A laudable move, particularly for a publication owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Tags: National Geographic   racism

Puzzle twins





For her project entitled Within 15 Minutes, artist Alma Haser made identical jigsaw puzzles out of portraits she’d taken of identical twins and then swapped every other piece when putting them together, creating these serendipitously fragmented portraits. She said of her first attempt last year:

So today for no apparent reason I thought I’d test out a crazy idea I had. For the project I have been switching just the faces of the identical twins, but today I decided to see what it would look like to swap every other pieces with reach other. Completely entwining the beautiful @being__her sisters. And wow, what an effect! It really make you double take at their faces, trying to decipher one for the other.

You can follow Haser’s work, including the twin puzzles, on Instagram.

Tags: Alma Haser   art   photography

I and You: a short appreciation of Martin Buber’s ‘Ich und Du’


When I was in college, I was crazy about Martin Buber. Well, really, I was crazy about Friedrich Nietzsche, and I was dating an evangelical Christian, provisionally going to her church, so I needed a way to put the two together. Buber’s book Ich und Du (I and Thou) was it. It’s tricky to translate, in one of those “here are some basic differences between English and German” ways. German has two pronouns for you; “du” is the informal one, “sie” the plural or formal. “Sie” is also a third-person pronoun. But “du” is the way you address God, so it winds up turning into “thou.” Still, there’s nothing all that archaic about “du”; you’d call your pets “du.” Kind of like how Freud’s “ich” and “es” become “ego” and “id,” but are really just “I” and “it.” It’s a weird bit of business. Anyways, Aeon has a new essay on Buber’s I and Thou by a grad student, MM Owen, that’s making me think of picking up Buber again. Here’s his breakdown of the basic insight. Human existence is fundamentally interpersonal. Human beings are not isolated, free-floating objects, but subjects existing in perpetual, multiple, shifting relationships with other people, the world, and ultimately God. Life is defined by these myriad interactions ­- by the push and pull of intersubjectivity. This conception ties to Buber’s belief in the primacy of the spoken word. One of his life’s great projects was the 37-year process of producing an idiosyncratic German translation of the Bible wherein, to do justice to its oral roots, the text was divided into ‘breath measures’. For Buber, the act of speech embodied the deep-set interrelatedness of human beings. In speech, as in life, no ‘I’ is an island. I and Thou argues that within this elementally networked reality there are two basic modes of existence: the I-It, and the I-Thou. These two stances make up our basic ‘twofold attitude’. In the I-It mode, an ‘Ego’ approaches another as an object separate from itself. This type of engagement is driven by a sort of instrumentalism; the object is engaged primarily as something to be known or used, and its nature is always mediated through the subject’s own self-regard. From the I-It stance, we don’t engage with things in their entirety. Instead, we engage with a web of distinct and isolated qualities notable for how they are useful to us. Buber regarded this kind of self-centred outlook - typified, in his view, by proto-existentialists such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche - as a grave error. By contrast, in the I-Thou relationship, rather than simply experiencing another, we encounter them. A subject encounters a fellow subject’s whole being, and that being is not filtered through our mediated consciousness, with its litter of preconceptions and projections. ‘No purpose intervenes,’ as Buber put it. The I-Thou stance has a purity and an intimacy, and is inherently reciprocal. In relation to others, [...]

A close reading of Miyazaki’s sound design in The Wind Rises


I recently rewatched a bunch of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, although “watched” is a bit of a misnomer. I was playing them in the background while I was working, or reading, or trying to sleep, so really I was re-listening to them, and not especially closely. This almost feels like a sin for movies as beautiful as these, but it did help me notice something. Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind looks different from Princess Mononoke or The Wind Rises, sure; however, it sounds way different. The music, the foley effects, the subtler cues, the sheer sound density are completely different from one end of the career to another. This made me wonder whether somebody had charted this transformation. I didn’t quite find that, but I did find an outstanding series of blog posts specifically on the sound design in The Wind Rises, which stands in nicely. It’s not well copyedited, but it’s attentive and insightful. A few samples: Jiro enters his airplane, adjusts his aviator gloves and starts the artisanal machine. By now we have noticed the sound effects of the valves and exhaust pipes made of human mouth sounds and with vocalisations. The first engine starts and it’s clear that human voice is used to portray this activity. But once the propeller activates a low rumble sound effects is introduced, and a sound effect of a servo ascending is applied to the airplane rising, triggered by Jiro’s pulling the lever, and it’s in harmony with the music score. One occurrence with the sound that emphasises the oneiric dimension of this scene is the ‘dreamy’ quality of the reverb applied on the last blow of the machine lifting before it goes crossing the skies [00:02:03]. Here’s a clip a little later in the sequence — I’d never recognized that the dream engine sounds were being made by human mouths, but once you hear it, it’s perfect. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen> Or consider the earthquake, detail by detail: It is now that we are in the presence of the horror lived in this earthquake and sound plays such a big role with all its brutality. Different to the traditional approach of western film, the main elements heard are a composition of : horrified human screams on a higher-pitch range,medium-low pitch throat growls and groans like coming from a big beast, that moves upwards in pitch as the image from the houses undulates from a farther plane to a closer earthy impact stinger These elements are introduced a couple of frames before we see the houses being ripped apart. In the next scene the audience is shown, through close-ups, how the ground is animated in brutal waves breaking and disrupting the order of all man-made constructions. We no longer hear the horrifying screams and the sound designer paints the scene with sound of the ground disrupting, by utilising rumbles and earth debris. The sounds here are in the same universe as those indicated on Jiro’s first dream - choir-like sounds mimicking up and down movements, in which the upwar[...]

What America looked like before the EPA, in photos


Popular Science has a series of photos taken by EPA staff in the early years of the agency after it was formed in the 1970s, that have since been digitized.

It’s pretty grim stuff: abandoned cars in Jamaica Bay, broken candy-glass unreturnable bottles everywhere, and one mill after another belching out smoke and dumping refuse in the rivers.

The Atlas Chemical Company, by Marc St. Gil

Oxford Paper Company, by Charles Steinhacker

Burning barge on the Ohio River, by William Strode

Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water from her well, and has filed suit against the Hanna Coal Company - by Erik Calonius

Given that there’s been a renewed, serious push this year to dismantle or undermine the EPA, it’s worth revisiting just why we needed an agency to protect the environment to begin with.

Stevie Nicks sings “Wild Heart” on set


Thanks for following along this week while I filled in here! As my final post, it seems important to share the best YouTube video ever*.

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Here you have songbird Stevie Nicks, every makeup artist’s worst nightmare, belting out an early version of her song “Wild Heart” during an Annie Leibowitz cover shoot for Rolling Stone in 1981. If this sends you down a rabbit hole of live versions of “Silver Springs” and corresponding levels of emotion between Buckingham and Nicks, I don’t blame you.

*Feel free to tell me otherwise or to keep in touch on Twitter.

Tags: Annie Leibowitz   music   Stevie Nicks

“Stronger Shines the Light Inside”



Photographer Angie Smith spent over a year telling the stories of refugees resettled in Idaho, a state that (according to census data) is over 89% white. Her resulting work, Stronger Shines the Light Inside, focuses on the commonality on the human experience and the strength of community.


Smith’s work will be on view at an upcoming show in Los Angeles, opening April 11, at 1520 N. Cahuenga Boulevard from 6-9pm.

Tags: Angie Smith   Idaho   refugees

Remembering the Thomas Guide



For anyone who loves maps, history, or the history of maps, Airtalk did a segment this week on the beloved Thomas Guide.

During the year I spent in LA in 2004, I have distinct memories of frantically flipping from page to page in the Thomas Guide as co-pilot. You had to memorize the page numbers of the areas you frequented because they were not always in order (a north/south jump would sometimes take you thirty pages off). After a few months of this, we had pages fall out of the spiral-bound guide that we were always shoving back in the book. It was really the only way to navigate the maze of sprawl here other than printing out turn-by-turn directions from Mapquest (which we also did).

Tags: Los Angeles   maps

Like a (wo)man without a country


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The animated short “Your Black Friend,” based on the comic series by Ben Passmore, is a humorous and heartbreaking look at a very real topic. The film was temporarily removed from Facebook due to alt-right trolls earlier this year.

A special hardcover collection of Passmore’s comics series is out soon. It’s a vivid look at life and race in the backdrop of New Orleans.

(thanks Pete)

Tags: Ben Passmore   comics   New Orleans   racism

The charisma of lovable weirdo Jeff Goldblum



Read this homage to Jeff Goldblum in its entirety (preferably out loud, with a close friend) and then re-watch The Big Chill.

Edward Norton (‘Grand Budapest Hotel,’ 2014; ‘Isle of Dogs,’ out in March): A friend of mine was on a flight and was seated next to Jeff. She was reading a book and became aware that Jeff seemed to be looking at what she was reading. She said hello, and he asked her if she was enjoying the book.

Jeff Goldblum: It was some good book she was reading! [It was ‘The Private Lives of the Impressionists.’]

Norton: Jeff said, “I don’t know if this would interest you—and if not, of course no problem—but I’m very good at reading books aloud, and if you’d like I’d be happy to read it to you.” She said, “Sure.” She had about 90 pages left, and Jeff read her the rest of it out loud. She said his reading was excellent.

Jeff Goldblum: We got out of the plane, and her boyfriend, Evan Goldberg, who writes with Judd Apatow, contacted me and said, “Look, I’m going to propose to that girl that you sat next to. I’ve written her a poem that’s kind of the proposal. And I want to drive her over to your house and have you read it to her. Can we come over at 7:30 in the morning tomorrow?” “Sure!”

Evan Goldberg: We drove up to the Hollywood Hills in a limo for the proposal haiku.

Jeff Goldblum: I’m in my robe. Ding-dong! Evan goes, “Here, darling, Jeff has something to read to you.” I read, “Dearest angel…would you be my wife?” And there you go. They’re married.

He keeps up with posts tagged #JeffGoldblum on Instagram, pours orange juice over his corn flakes, and smells good. Of course I love the Parker Posey anecdote: partying with Carrie Fisher in the 90s, movie night and a private piano concert with Goldblum and Rosario Dawson. A must read.

Tags: Jeff Goldblum