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Updated: 2017-10-19T13:51:34Z

 



A trip to the vast expanse of Mongolia

2017-10-19T13:51:34Z

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Fulfilling a long-held dream, Kevin Kelly recently visited Mongolia and returned with dozens of photos of the country’s people and places.

40 years ago I had a vivid dream of flying into Mongolia, soaring over bare winter trees, but that vision did not come to pass. The parts of Mongolia I saw were much like my expectation: treeless to the horizon. There is much grass in Mongolia. Imagine a lawn 1,000 kilometers wide. It is hard to appreciate the vastness of Mongolia: for as far as you can see, no roads, no fences, no wires, just grass, rock, sky. And the occasional shepherd on a pony, happy to chat.

Most of the 3 million inhabitants live in the handful of towns and one capital city. The rest are distributed sparsely onto the grass, which they share with millions of herding animals: sheep, goats, cows, horses, yaks and camels. A large percent of rural Mongolians are nomadic herders, and proud of their nomadism. A few of them in the far west, where the culture and language is Kazak, they use eagles to hunt game and fur.

Tags: Kevin Kelly   Mongolia   photography



Dot Piano

2017-10-18T20:43:26Z

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Dot Piano is a web-based visual piano that works with a MIDI keyboard peripheral or with your regular computer keyboard. As you play, colorful dots dance across the screen in a variety of ways. Hit record and you can easily save and share your composition with others. This one is fun to watch. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Tags: audio   infoviz   music



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

2017-10-18T20:08:01Z

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.




The movement of David Fincher’s camera is a surrogate for your eyes

2017-10-18T18:56:15Z

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This is a really keen observation by Evan Puschak about the camera movement in David Fincher’s films: it mimics your eyes in paying attention to the behavior in a scene. The effect is sometimes subtle. When a character shifts even slightly, the camera keeps that person’s eyes and face in the same place in the frame, just as you would if you were in the room with them.

Tags: David Fincher   Evan Puschak   film school   movies   video



The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions

2017-10-18T17:03:28Z

Writing for the MIT Technology Review, robotics and AI pioneer Rodney Brooks, warns us against The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions. I particularly enjoyed his riff on Clarke’s third law — “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” — using Isaac Newton’s imagined reaction to an iPhone.

Now show Newton an Apple. Pull out an iPhone from your pocket, and turn it on so that the screen is glowing and full of icons, and hand it to him. Newton, who revealed how white light is made from components of different-colored light by pulling apart sunlight with a prism and then putting it back together, would no doubt be surprised at such a small object producing such vivid colors in the darkness of the chapel. Now play a movie of an English country scene, and then some church music that he would have heard. And then show him a Web page with the 500-plus pages of his personally annotated copy of his masterpiece Principia, teaching him how to use the pinch gesture to zoom in on details.

Could Newton begin to explain how this small device did all that? Although he invented calculus and explained both optics and gravity, he was never able to sort out chemistry from alchemy. So I think he would be flummoxed, and unable to come up with even the barest coherent outline of what this device was. It would be no different to him from an embodiment of the occult — something that was of great interest to him. It would be indistinguishable from magic. And remember, Newton was a really smart dude.

Brooks’ point is that from our current standpoint, something like artificial general intelligence is still “indistinguishable from magic” and once something is magical, it can do anything, solve any problem, reach any goal, without limitations…like a god. Arguments about it become faith-based.

Tags: artificial intelligence   lists   Rodney Brooks



Political scientists warn: American democracy is in decline

2017-10-18T13:42:07Z

Sean Illing reports on a recent gathering of political scientists at Yale where some alarm bells were going off about the state of democracy in the United States. On October 6, some of America’s top political scientists gathered at Yale University to answer these questions. And nearly everyone agreed: American democracy is eroding on multiple fronts — socially, culturally, and economically. The scholars pointed to breakdowns in social cohesion (meaning citizens are more fragmented than ever), the rise of tribalism, the erosion of democratic norms such as a commitment to rule of law, and a loss of faith in the electoral and economic systems as clear signs of democratic erosion. Illing highlighted a talk by Timothy Snyder as one of the most interesting of the gathering: Strangely enough, Snyder talked about time as a kind of political construct. (I know that sounds weird, but bear with me.) His thesis was that you can tell a lot about the health of a democracy based on how its leaders - and citizens - orient themselves in time. Take Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The slogan itself invokes a nostalgia for a bygone era that Trump voters believe was better than today and better than their imagined future. By speaking in this way, Snyder says, Trump is rejecting conventional politics in a subtle but significant way. Why, after all, do we strive for better policies today? Presumably it’s so that our lives can be improved tomorrow. But Trump reverses this. He anchors his discourse to a mythological past, so that voters are thinking less about the future and more about what they think they lost. “Trump isn’t after success — he’s after failure,” Snyder argued. By that, he means that Trump isn’t after what we’d typically consider success — passing good legislation that improves the lives of voters. Instead, Trump has defined the problems in such a way that they can’t be solved. We can’t be young again. We can’t go backward in time. We can’t relive some lost golden age. So these voters are condemned to perpetual disappointment. The counterargument is that Trump’s idealization of the past is, in its own way, an expression of a desire for a better future. If you’re a Trump voter, restoring some lost version of America or revamping trade policies or rebuilding the military is a way to create a better tomorrow based on a model from the past. For Snyder, though, that’s not really the point. The point is that Trump’s nostalgia is a tactic designed to distract voters from the absence of serious solutions. Trump may not be an authoritarian, Snyder warns, but this is something authoritarians typically do. They need the public to be angry, resentful, and focused on problems that can’t be remedied. Snyder calls this approach “the politics of eternity,” and he believes it’s a common sign of democratic backsliding because it tends to work only after society has fallen into disorder. Snyder is the author of this list of lessons from the 20th century on how to fight authoritarianism, which he turned into a book, On Tyranny. 1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom. 2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning. Tags: politics   Sean Illing&[...]



Goodbye Uncanny Valley

2017-10-17T19:49:08Z

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For years, the idea of the uncanny valley has dominated computer graphics. Computers were powerful enough to produce real-ish looking people, places, or things but not quite powerful enough to make audiences believe they were actually real…to the point where they’re actually kind of creepy. In this excellent video essay, Alan Warburton argues that the uncanny valley is behind us and previews where CG is headed next.

It’s 2017 and computer graphics have conquered the Uncanny Valley, that strange place where things are almost real… but not quite. After decades of innovation, we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software.

The question is, now that computers can realistically simulate anything, what will big movie studios, individual filmmakers, game makers, artists, and media outlets do with this capability? Computer graphics are so good, how can we trust what our eyes are seeing on a screen?

Tags: Alan Warburton   movies   video



Here’s why we like, really like, repetition in music.

2017-10-17T17:52:37Z

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Pop music songs have become increasingly repetitive in recent years — think Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, Beyonce’s 7/11 or Formation, and just about anything by Rihanna — and there’s a good reason for this: we like repetition. When people repeat words, it stops sounding like speaking and starts sounding like singing. Lyrical repetition makes songs sound more musical.

Tags: music   video



Intrigue in the online mattress review world

2017-10-17T16:09:04Z

For Fast Company, David Zax wrote about the Casper mattress company suing mattress-reviewing bloggers over their affiliate marketing relationships.

As Casper flourished through 2014 and early 2015, I learned, it enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Sleepopolis and similar sites. For many bloggers, in fact, Casper was among the first mattress companies to offer affiliate commissions, leading its competitors to respond in turn. The reviews sites were key parts of what marketers call the “purchase funnel,” converting a vague interest in mattresses into awareness of a specific brand, and often the decision to buy it. Many consumers were Googling terms like “best mattress,” landing on sites like Sleepopolis, and learning about e-tailers like Casper for the first time.

Indeed, one would never have predicted looming lawsuits from a friendly 2015 email exchange, in which Casper CEO Philip Krim attempted to court an affiliate marketer named Jack Mitcham, who ran a Sleepopolis-like site called Mattress Nerd.

In January 2015, Krim wrote Mitcham that while he supported objective reviews, “it pains us to see you (or anyone) recommend a competitor over us.”

Krim went on: “As you know, we are much bigger than our newly formed competitors. I am confident we can offer you a much bigger commercial relationship because of that. How would you ideally want to structure the affiliate relationship? And also, what can we do to help to grow your business?”

I was just thinking the other day about how these companies like Casper formed to undercut the price gouging mattress stores and now, with millions of VC dollars behind them, they’re pulling their own brand of underhanded tricks to manipulate people into buying their products. In five years, Casper will probably have dozens of retail stores and 10 different kinds of mattress at different price points — they already have more than a dozen stores and 3 models ranging from $600 to $1850 — just like the companies they are trying to replace. Their origin story won’t matter…VC-fueled marketing will paper over all of that and, tada, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Tags: business   David Zax



Dictionary of Ikea product name meanings

2017-10-16T21:15:47Z

The Ikea Dictionary is a listing of the meanings of the names of more than 1300 Ikea products.

Part of what makes IKEA unique is their product names. Each name means something, often in a funny or ambigious way. When IKEA went international, they decided to use the same Swedish names everywhere. This makes sense from an organizational sanity standpoint, but it deprives most of the world of this particular joy.

Some examples:

JERRIK - Ancient Scandinavian boy name
TROLSK - magic/enchanted, troll-like
MÖRRUM - city in south east Sweden
SNITTA - (to) cut (flowers)
SOLVAR - Norwegian boy name
VÄGGIS - made up -IS word ‘Vägg’ means ‘wall’, so ‘väggis’ could mean ‘wall thingie’

Tags: Ikea   language   lists



Myself hanging out with myself

2017-10-16T19:49:11Z

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Photographer Conor Nickerson has photoshopped himself into old family photos of him as a kid. Projects like this have been done before — most notably Ze Frank’s Young Me/Now Me — but this one is particularly well executed. (via colossal)

Tags: Conor Nickerson   photography   remix



Twitter has become “a pretty hate machine”

2017-10-16T15:52:56Z

Mike Monteiro wrote an essay about Twitter that is good and very much worth reading.

Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. That’s Twitter’s original sin. Like Oppenheimer, Twitter was so obsessed with splitting the atom they never stopped to think what we’d do with it.

Twitter, which was conceived and built by a room of privileged white boys (some of them my friends!), never considered the possibility that they were building a bomb. To this day, Jack Dorsey doesn’t realize the size of the bomb he’s sitting on. Or if he does, he believes it’s metaphorical. It’s not. He is utterly unprepared for the burden he’s found himself responsible for.

Tags: Mike Monteiro   Twitter



Chilling video footage of a 1939 pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden

2017-10-16T13:52:58Z

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MxxxlutsKuI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

On February 20, 1939, a crowd of 20,000 gathered at Madison Square Garden for a “Pro-American” rally sponsored by the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. I’d seen photos of the event, but I didn’t know there was film footage as well.

There is a moment during an on-stage scuffle involving a protestor (a Brooklyn man named Isadore Greenbaum), right around the 4:15 mark, when a young boy in the background rubs his hands and does a gleeful jig — I…I don’t even know what to say about how I felt watching that. After Greenbaum is spirited away, his clothes nearly ripped from his body, the crowd roars. As director Marshall Curry said in an interview about the film:

In the end, America pulled away from the cliff, but this rally is a reminder that things didn’t have to work out that way. If Roosevelt weren’t President, if Japan hadn’t attacked, is it possible we would have skated through without joining the war? And if Nazis hadn’t killed American soldiers, is it possible that their philosophy wouldn’t have become so taboo here?

(via open culture)

Tags: Nazis   NYC   politics   USA   video   World War II



My media diet for the past two weeks

2017-10-13T20:12:56Z

Quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past two weeks or so. I’ve been working and traveling, so there have been fewer books and more podcasts in my life. On the way home from NYC, I started The Devil in the White City on audiobook and can’t wait to get back to it. From Cells to Cities. Sam Harris podcast interview of Geoffrey West, author of Scale. Two genuinely mind-blowing moments can’t quite salvage the remained 2 hours of rambling. (A-/C-) Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. I much prefer the book. (C+) Kingsman: The Secret Service. Entertaining enough. I’ll give the new one a try. (B+) Philip Glass Piano Works by Vikingur Olafsson. This is relaxing to listen to in the morning. (A-) Luciferian Towers by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This sounds very much like all their other albums and I am not complaining. (B+) mother! An intense film but it was too overly metaphorical for me to take any of the intensity seriously. (B) The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel. “A fun, high-quality, serial mystery that can be described as Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things for 8-12 year olds.” My kids and I listened to season one over the course of a week and they could not wait to hear more. (A-) The Vietnam War original score. By Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. An unusual choice for the score to a Ken Burns film. (B+) Blade Runner 2049. Seeing this in IMAX (real IMAX not baby IMAX) really blew my doors off. Visually and sonically amazing. At least 20 minutes too long though. (A-) New Yorker TechFest. I hadn’t been to a tech conference in awhile because the ratio of style to substance had gotten too high. The caliber of the speakers set this conference apart. My full report is here. (B+) Items: Is Fashion Modern? Great collection of items, but I’m not sure I’m any closer to knowing the answer to the question in the title. (A-) LBJ’s War. A short, 6-part podcast on Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, consisting mostly of interviews and audio recordings from the period in question. A good companion to the PBS series on the war. (B+) Driverless Dilemma by Radiolab. Revisiting an old episode of Radiolab about the trolley problem in the context of self-driving cars. (B) Max Richter: Piano Works by Olivia Belli. Short and sweet. (A-) Jerry Before Seinfeld. This felt pretty phoned-in. Some of these old jokes — “women, am I right?” — should have stayed in the vault. (B-) Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack. A critical part of the movie that also stands alone. (A-) Spielberg. A solid appreciation of Spielberg’s career, but more of a critical eye would have been appreciated. Also, was surprised how many of his movies referenced his parents’ divorce. (B+) Universal Paperclips. Ugh, I cannot ever resist these incremental games. What an odd name, “incremental games”. Aren’t most games incremental? (A-/F) Tags: books   lists   media diet   movies   music   podcasts   TV   video games [...]



Full Moons on Flickr

2017-10-13T18:18:23Z

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For a pair of projects, Penelope Umbrico collected hundreds of photos of full Moons from Flickr and arranged them into massive wall-sized collages.

Everyone’s Photos Any License, looks at a purportedly more rarified photographic practice: taking a clear photograph of the full moon requires expensive specialized photographic equipment. However, when I searched Flickr for ‘full moon’ I was surprised to find 1,146,034 nearly identical, technically proficient images, most with the ‘All Rights Reserved’ license. Seen individually any one of these images is impressive. Seen as a group, however, they seem to cancel each other out. Everyone’s Photos Any License seeks to address the shifts in meaning and value that occur when the individual subjective experience of witnessing and photographing is revealed as a collective practice, seen recontextualized in its entirety.

For one of the project, Umbrico requested permission to display “Rights Reserved” photos from 654 photographers in exchange for 1/654 of the profit from any potential sale. Many of them were not into that arrangement, so she substituted images with Creative Commons licences instead.

See also Umbrico’s Sunset Portraits, Suns from Sunsets from Flickr, and TVs from Craigslist. (via austin kleon)

Tags: art   astronomy   Moon   Penelope Umbrico   photography



We’ve been playing with Slinkys all wrong

2017-10-13T16:32:43Z

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We all know that Slinkys walk down stairs, alone or in pairs. What this video presupposes is, maybe that’s not the best way to play with them? Who knew that you could treat a Slinky kind of like a yo-yo or juggling ball? Here’s a slightly shorter video of equally impressive tricks.

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/auDpX612vg0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Tags: Old Custer   Slinky   video



I have a message for you…

2017-10-13T15:02:09Z

Klara Prowisor, now 92 and living in Tel Aviv, escaped the gas chamber at Auschwitz by leaving her sick father and jumping from a train in Belgium. Years later, she received a message from him. Just watch this…it might be the best 13 minutes you’ll spend online all week.

title="New York Times Video - Embed Player" width="480" height="321" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="true" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" id="nyt_video_player" src="https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005474329">

My grandmother Lea once told me a story about the woman who lived next door to her in Tel Aviv, of her capture by the Nazis in Belgium and of an unfathomable decision she had to take to save herself. I never forgot it, and am pleased to share it with you in this Op-Doc film.

Even as a teenager, I was familiar with stories from the Holocaust. My grandfather had survived the horrors of the camps himself, and his stories formed a large part of our family’s shared narrative.

But this woman’s story felt different. Her pain and horror were woven with love, loss, guilt and redemption - and the epilogue was truly extraordinary. Many years later, once I’d become a documentary filmmaker, I decided to find out whether the woman was still alive.

Amazing, incredible story. You can see the whole world, all of humanity, in this wonderful woman’s face.

Tags: crying at work   Holocaust   Klara Prowisor   video



Merrie Maladies

2017-10-13T01:16:47Z

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It’s been a loooong couple of days / weeks / months / years / decades / centuries / millennia, hasn’t it? Sometimes you have to laugh, just a little. And then back to it. Thanks for the chuckle, Jessica Hische.

Tags: Jessica Hische



Dictionary Stories, a book of short stories composed entirely of dictionary example sentences

2017-10-12T23:25:52Z

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From illustrator, designer, and writer Jez Burrows comes a book called Dictionary Stories, a collection of illustrated short stories that are composed entirely of example sentences from the dictionary.

One day, while looking up a word in the New Oxford American Dictionary, Jez Burrows was stopped in his tracks by an example sentence: “He perched on the edge of the bed, a study in confusion and misery.” It seemed like a tiny piece of fiction had gotten lost, wandered out of another book and settled down in the dictionary. With that spark, and a handful of experimental stories posted to Tumblr, Dictionary Stories was born.

Super clever.

Tags: books   Dictionary Stories   Jez Burrows   language



The Mediterranean Sea of America

2017-10-12T17:32:44Z

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If you superimpose the Mediterranean Sea (and the Black Sea) over a map of the United States — creating geographic landmarks like the Confederate Sea, the Great Salt Islands, the Straits of Pismo, and a coastal Las Vegas — you get a real sense of how big each of them is. I confess, I didn’t think the Mediterranean Sea was this large. The other surprising thing is that the latitudes of the superposition are pretty accurate…only a degree or two off, if that.

You can try it yourself (and not just with the Med and US): the true size of things on world maps. And see also my old Manhattan Elsewhere project. (via fairly interesting)

Update: Lots of good geographical comparisons in this Twitter thread started by Maria Chong, including:

Italy is as close to Egypt as Kansas is to Florida.

Seattle is approximately Paris to the Aleppo (Syria) of Washington D.C.

The Trojan war was (probably) fought in the distance between Indiana and Missouri

When the Hebrews fled the Pharaoh in Egypt, it took them 40 years to get from somewhere in Florida to South Carolina

The Odyssey was a 10-year road trip from Indiana to California, then back to Missouri

Tags: maps   Maria Chong   remix   USA



The US Climate Explorer

2017-10-12T14:51:37Z

Last year, the NOAA updated their Climate Explorer tool, which lets you see how climate change will affect the weather (daily max/min temperatures, really hot & cold days, precipitation, etc.) in different parts of the United States. For example, if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase throughout the next 80 years, the average temperature in Miami will increase from a current ~84.5 °F to over 91 °F in 2100…and even worse, the annual number of 95+ degree days will go from less than 10 to 140.

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Which actually isn’t that big of a deal because a bunch of the city will be underwater and uninhabitable because of rising sea levels. Ok, moving on…

You live in the northeast and like to ski? Well, that might be a problem in the future. In Stowe, VT, the annual number of days with minimum temperatures below 32 °F will decrease from about 175 now to ~140 by 2070 even if emissions of greenhouse gases start dropping in 2040.

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And if emissions don’t drop, Vermont could only see ~105 days of minimum temperatures below 32 °F by 2100. Goodbye ski season.

See also our potential neverending hot American summer.

Tags: global warming   maps   skiing   Vermont



Last remaining privately held Leonardo painting up for sale

2017-10-11T19:27:02Z

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Only fewer than 20 of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings are known to have survived until the present day. In 2005, a painting of Leonardo’s called Salvator Mundi was rediscovered after its provenance had been forgotten hundreds of years ago, to the point that it sold for £45 at an auction in 1958. In November, Christie’s auction house is selling the painting.

The painting disappeared from 1763 until 1900 when — its authorship by Leonardo, origins and illustrious royal history entirely forgotten — it was acquired from Sir Charles Robinson, who purchased the picture as a work by Leonardo’s follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection, Doughty House, Richmond. By this time, Christ’s face and hair had been extensively repainted. A photograph taken in 1912 records the work’s altered appearance.

In the dispersal of the Cook Collection, the work was ultimately consigned to auction in 1958 where it fetched £45, after which it disappeared once again for nearly 50 years, emerging only in 2005 — its history still forgotten — when it was purchased from an American estate.

That estate sale in 2005 sold the painting for only $10,000…it was believed to be a Leonardo copy. The painting is estimated to sell at a price of $100 million but seeing how the last two sales netted $75 million and $127.5 million, it would be easy to see that going higher.

Tags: art   Leonardo da Vinci



A thrilling Line Rider track synched to music

2017-10-11T16:23:02Z

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RIz3klPET3o" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Remember Line Rider, the drawing/sledding game we were all obsessed with 11 years ago? YouTuber DoodleChaos drew a Line Rider track by hand that is synchronized to Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (which you will recognize when you hear it). Make sure your sound is on and watch the whole thing…it gets almost poetically thrilling near the end. (via @neilhalloran)

Tags: Edvard Grieg   Line Rider   music   video



Eminem blasts Donald Trump in new freestyle

2017-10-11T13:49:52Z

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LunHybOKIjU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> In a freestyle rap that aired at the BET Hip Hop Awards last night, Eminem blasted Donald Trump for his racism, false patriotism, deceit, and disrespect of military veterans, among other things. Watch it if you haven’t…the man is angry, as are many of us. The lyrics to the freestyle are on Genius: He says, “You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us, you bastards!” Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered ‘Cause to him you’re zeros ‘Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured That’s not disrespecting the military Fuck that! This is for Colin, ball up a fist! And keep that shit balled like Donald the bitch! “He’s gonna get rid of all immigrants!” “He’s gonna build that thing up taller than this!” Well, if he does build it, I hope it’s rock solid with bricks ‘Cause like him in politics, I’m using all of his tricks ‘Cause I’m throwin’ that piece of shit against the wall ‘til it sticks And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: “Fuck you!” The rest of America stand up We love our military, and we love our country But we fucking hate Trump As you can read, Eminem is really calling out his white fan base here, something that Elon James White mentioned in this Twitter thread: So basically Trump, a grade A troll just got trolled by a bigger more experienced troll. Eminim trolls every album & he chose 45 this time. White dudes who thought Eminem was [their] voice, all angry and White at home right now like [What do I doooooooooooo!?] And y’all know Eminem is petty. If 45 responds he’ll have 3 diss tracks in a week. If 45 doesn’t he will be shat on as weak AF & a punk. And a lot of White folks who may have been sitting this whole shit storm out just had their fav rapper call them dafuq out. White also addressed the misogyny and homophobia in Eminem’s music: And as for his music catalogue of misogyny and homophobia… . . . That empty space is called me not defending ANY of it one bit. Notice I didn’t say “everyone should go buy Eminem albums!” “SUPPORT THIS ARTIST!” I was commenting on the freestyle & how it will play. I haven’t bought an Eminem album since I was a young punk. But my support or lack thereof doesn’t negate his skill or his platform. Tags: Donald Trump   Elon James White   Eminem   music   politics   racism   video [...]



Universal Paperclips

2017-10-11T12:44:37Z

There’s a new meta game by Frank Lantz making the rounds: Universal Paperclips, “in which you play an AI who makes paperclips”. Basically, you click a button to make money and use that money to buy upgrades which gives you more money per click, rinse, repeat.

Why AI and paperclips? That’s from a thought experiment by philosopher Nick Bostrom, author of Superintelligence:

Imagine an artificial intelligence, he says, which decides to amass as many paperclips as possible. It devotes all its energy to acquiring paperclips, and to improving itself so that it can get paperclips in new ways, while resisting any attempt to divert it from this goal. Eventually it “starts transforming first all of Earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities”. This apparently silly scenario is intended to make the serious point that AIs need not have human-like motives or psyches. They might be able to avoid some kinds of human error or bias while making other kinds of mistake, such as fixating on paperclips. And although their goals might seem innocuous to start with, they could prove dangerous if AIs were able to design their own successors and thus repeatedly improve themselves. Even a “fettered superintelligence”, running on an isolated computer, might persuade its human handlers to set it free. Advanced AI is not just another technology, Mr Bostrom argues, but poses an existential threat to humanity.

But you know, have fun playing! (via @kevinhendricks)

Tags: artificial intelligence   books   Frank Lantz   Nick Bostrom   Superintelligence   video games



A report from the 2017 New Yorker TechFest

2017-10-10T20:31:29Z

Last Friday, I attended the New Yorker TechFest, a one-day, single-track conference about technology, an accompaniment to the larger New Yorker Festival. Overall, I thought the conference was really good, a sentiment echoed by other attendees. What follows is my impressionistic take on the interviews and talks. Siddhartha Mukherjee. Author of The Emperor of All Maladies, one of my favorite nonfiction books of the past five years. He mentioned therapeutic nihilism, a view of medicine which went out of fashion due to effective medicines and procedures. They talked about the progress in medicine (and accompanying complexity), which is all relatively recent: in 1945, there were three treatments available to patients with heart problems (give them oxygen, drain fluid through the feet, and morphine for the pain) but now there are 90 available treatments. That complexity is an area where AI can help…using machine learning to read chest x-rays more effectively or suggest courses of treatments for a given set of vitals/symptoms. But Mukherjee warned that “new diagnostic techniques almost always over-diagnose” and that, in relation to CRISPR, extraordinary technologies require extraordinary public response…i.e. we need to have a public conversation about how/why/when these technologies are used. Mukherjee is also involved with biotech startup Vor Biopharma, which is attempting to modify human immune cells to attack cancer cells. Garry Kasparov & Daniela Rus. Kasparov was one of the world’s best chess players (prob still is tbh) and Rus is the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. Kasparov’s face was injured from a taxi accident the day before, an accident that would not have occurred had he been in a self-driving car — he said car accidents due to human error will look ridiculous and barbaric to our children. (Quick sidebar: I’ve been teaching my 8-year-old daughter a little about cars. She’s been helping me pump gas and after we filled up a low tire the other day, I popped the hood and explained how the engine and cooling system worked. And she said something like, “Daddy, when I’m old enough to drive, cars probably won’t have a motor in them because they’ll all be electric.” From the mouths of babes…) Kasparov talked about his Deep Blue match, noting that it was the first time in his career that he knew that an opponent was better than he was and that today, free iPhone chess apps are more powerful than Deep Blue was. At one point when talking about tech’s effect on vastly improved medicine and healthcare, he quipped that without technology, old people wouldn’t even be around to complain about new technology. Rus and Kasparov both emphasized the role of AI and robots in society, namely that “robots can do predictable work in predictable situations”, machines will dominate closed systems but open systems are different, and “The machine has a steady hand. It will always prevail.” At times, these pronouncements sounded either comforting or like warnings. Both also noted that education has not kept pace with technology; Kasparov said the current paradigm of kids sitting and listening to a teacher is “antique”. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Ginsberg is a designer and artist wh[...]



The 2017 National Book Awards finalists

2017-10-10T18:19:39Z

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The National Book Foundation has announced the finalists (and the longlist) for The 2017 National Book Awards. Among the nominees in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, young people’s literature, and poetry are The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen, The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

I’m excited to see David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon on the list. I read it earlier this year and it was excellent.

Tags: best of   best of 2017   books   lists



Black Mirror is a parade of tragedies. So why do we watch it?

2017-10-10T15:57:10Z

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Black Mirror, which has a fourth season coming out in the near future, is an unflinchingly dark show, full of bad things happening to people that don’t necessarily deserve them. Centuries ago, Aristotle defined tragedy as:

A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language; … in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.

But as Evan Puschak argues in this video essay, that’s not the whole story of why we watch Black Mirror.

FYI: If you haven’t seen the series yet, there are major spoilers for Black Mirror (and also for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones).

Tags: Aristotle   Black Mirror   Evan Puschak   TV   video



A blueprint of hip hop history

2017-10-10T13:58:31Z

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Design studio Dorothy has released this poster of a map of hip hop history, featuring notable rap and hip hop artists and groups laid out in the style of a circuit diagram for a classic turntable.

The print pays homage to the godfathers of hip-hop (Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets) but takes its starting point as DJ Kool Herc’s Back to School Jam in August 1973 — a block party in the Bronx, New York which is widely regarded as the birthplace of hip-hop.

The print weaves it way through many different scenes and record labels including early old-school innovators (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Cold Crush Brothers), golden age heroes (Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, KRS-One, Eric B. & Rakim), the collective Native Tongues (De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love), politically charged hip-hop (Public Enemy, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Lauryn Hill), legendary East Coast artists (The Notorious B.I.G, Nas), legendary West Coast artists (Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre), gangsta rap (Ice-T, N.W.A, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg), hardcore (Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep), Southern rap (Lil Wayne, T.I., Outkast) underground hip-hop (Company Flow, MF Doom, Aesop Rock), turntablism (Invisibl Scratch Piklz, The X-Ecutioners), trip-hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead), UK grime (Wiley, Skepta and Stormzy) and legendary producers (DJ Premier, J Dilla and Madlib).

Pairs well with Tim Carmody’s Introduction to Hip Hop playlist.

Tags: infoviz   maps   music



Trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2017-10-10T02:11:38Z

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Now we know: the Last Jedi is us. Did not see that coming. (jk jk, it’s Kylo Ren. Or Rey. Or Luke. Or some combination of the three of them. Or Leia? Or maybe Joe from Blade Runner 2049?) See also the teaser trailer from back in April.

Update: Kylo Ren reacts to the new trailer for The Last Jedi. The Auralnauts are so gooood.

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Tags: movies   Star Wars   trailers   video



That time I was on Halt and Catch Fire

2017-10-08T17:57:10Z

*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up back in the 1970s with such a sweet jacket and bitchin’ mustac— Ok all jokey tropes aside, I got to appear on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire last night as a background extra. (Mild spoilers follow.) This season of the show is set in the 90s, but this episode flashes back to the 70s soon after Gordon and Donna get together. My scene takes place during this flashback and is pretty short. Gordon is at a gas station, waiting to use the pay phone. A man (that’s me!) exits the station with a 6-pack of beer, gets into his car, and drives off after Gordon crosses the pavement to the phone. And that was it! But as a big fan of the show — and I refuse to have any chill about this — it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in forever. I’ve been watching the show since the first season, when the action focused on a small company trying to build one of the first IBM-compatible PCs on the market. (You may have read about this show on kottke.org once or twice. Or a dozen times. I have an unauthorized Cardiff Electric t-shirt I bought from some sketchy site online. Did I mention I was a big fan?) At some point during the next two seasons of the show, when the action moved from PCs in Texas to online services & anti-virus software in Silicon Valley, I followed the two creators of the show, Christopher Cantwell and Christopher Rodgers on Twitter. And at some later point, they followed me back and we tweeted at each other a handful of times. Meanwhile, the show got renewed for a fourth and final season. At the end of season three, the characters started talking about this new thing called the World Wide Web and it was clear that season four was going to focus on early 90s web startups. Now, I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I love the web. (Oh, you could tell? I let that slip at some point?) And I am so very nostalgic for the early days of the web in the 90s — the Mosaic days, the Altavista days, the Bobaweb days, the Entropy8 days, the Suck days, the CSotD days, the alt.culture.days, the 0sil8 days, the Yahoo on the akebono server at Stanford days. The days when I was young and dumb and decided to quit grad school in a promising field without talking to a single other person about it because I just knew I needed to do whatever I could to get a job working on the web, a job that didn’t even exist at the beginning of my junior year in college. Season four was going to be about those days?! Holy shit. In June, Chris Cantwell, who was down in Atlanta to direct an episode of the fourth season, tweeted that he was in the hospital, on dilaudid waiting for a kidney stone to pass and was available to answer any questions his followers had about the show. After a crap-can month of May, I’d been focusing on being more direct with what I want, so fuck it, yolo, totally trying to take advantage of this poor guy being hopped up on goofballs, I tweeted back: Do you need extras for s04? Will do retro web design on screen for zero pay. I still can code circa-1994/5 HTML by hand. Which was like 30% joking and 70% serious. A few minutes later, he r[...]



Freelance achievement stickers

2017-10-06T20:10:57Z

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Jeremy Nguyen imagines a set of achievement stickers (or perhaps merit badges) for people who freelance or otherwise work from home and need a fun way to mark their accomplishments.

The struggle is real. Today, I earned the “put on pants” and “went outside” stickers but sadly not the “talked to someone in person” one. Will try to do better tomorrow.

Tags: Jeremy Nguyen   working



Anti-invitations for cancelled weddings

2017-10-06T17:14:57Z

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For a NY Times piece on cancelled weddings, Jessica Hische created these anti-invitations in the style of fancy wedding invites.

My thoughts immediately went to fancy wedding stationery, and I had a lot of fun both writing and designing these fake anti-invitations. I tried to poke fun at some of the current trends in wedding stationery design, which meant I got to have fun playing with watercolors!

Tags: design   Jessica Hische



A scientific simulation of Seveneves’ Moon disaster

2017-10-06T14:44:21Z

In the first line of Seveneves, Neal Stephenson lays out the event that the entire book’s action revolves around:

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.

Mild spoilers, but fairly quickly, scientists in the book figure out that this is a very bad thing that will cause humanity to become extinct unless drastic action is taken.

In the novel, one day the moon breaks up into 7 roughly equal-sized pieces. These pieces continue peacefully orbiting the Earth for a while, and eventually two pieces collide. This collision causes a piece to fragment, making future collisions more likely. The process repeats, at what Stephenson says is an exponential rate, until the Earth is under near-constant bombardment from meteorites, wiping out (nearly) all life on Earth.

Jason Cole wondered how plausible that scenario is and created a simulation to model it. Turns out Stephenson had his figures right.

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Tags: books   Jason Cole   Neal Stephenson   physics   science   Seveneves   video



Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew

2017-10-05T22:00:34Z

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Like some of you, I’ve been a fan of Mari Andrew’s illustrations on Instagram for a while now. Andrew is coming out with a book next March called Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood. She writes:

I wrote AM I THERE YET? toward the end of my 20s to share what I learned through heartbreak, love, loss, rejection, career confusion, adventures, and the gnawing question in the back of my mind: Where exactly am I going, or am I already there? I wrote and illustrated a book I wish I’d had in my 20s — to know that I wasn’t alone.

Here’s a favorite Andrew illustration of mine:

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Tags: Am I There Yet?   books   Mari Andrew



The Golden Age of the Poster, 1880-1918

2017-10-05T19:15:45Z

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This collection of posters compiled by the library at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design is an amazing trove of turn-of-the-century design and illustration.

In the late nineteenth century, lithographers began to use mass-produced zinc plates rather than stones in their printing process. This innovation allowed them to prepare multiple plates, each with a different color ink, and to print these with close registration on the same sheet of paper. Posters in a range of colors and variety of sizes could now be produced quickly, at modest cost. Skilled illustrators and graphic designers — such as Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, Eugène Grasset, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — quickly began to exploit this new technology; the “Golden Age of the Poster” (1890s through the First World War) was the spectacular result.

Tags: design   posters



How to Care for Your Introvert

2017-10-05T16:32:52Z

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(Not to be confused with Caring for Your Introvert.) I started this video thinking it was a serious thing but ended up laughing embarrassingly hard almost all the way through.

A pair of introverts is called an ‘awkward’. A group of introverts is called an ‘angst’. They’re generally never found together in the wild, except by accident, in which case they will apologize for making eye contact, nod politely, then run screaming in opposite directions.

It me. It fricking me. On a slightly more serious note, the other day investor Hunter Walk wrote How This Anxious Introvert Handles Large Events.

When I Feel Ready to Ghost, Stay 30m Longer: Before I’d quietly slip away whenever I felt the first tingles of “uh I don’t want to be here anymore.” Now I recognize that impulse, honor it, exhale and see if I’m cool staying another 30 minutes. Once I do this check-in I’m totally ok bouncing after 30 if that’s still the way I’m feeling, but often I’ll end up hanging out much longer without even knowing it.

Tags: Hunter Walk   introversion   video



On Seneca Village, torn down to make way for Central Park

2017-10-05T14:15:58Z

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Written and illustrated by Ariel Aberg-Riger, The City Needed Them Out tells the story of Seneca Village, a predominantly black NYC neighborhood destroyed in the 1850s to make way for Central Park. This article in the NY Times from July 9, 1856 expressed the city’s sentiment about the village and its inhabitants.

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Tags: Ariel Aberg-Riger   Central Park   NYC   racism   real estate



Video portrait of a master kunstglaser (a stained glass craftsman)

2017-10-04T20:24:42Z

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Norbert Sattler is a master kunstglaser, a stained glass craftsman. He strongly denies that he’s an artist, rejecting that label early in his career in favor of working with artists to best help them achieve their artistic visions in the medium of stained glass.

Tags: art   Norbert Sattler   video



The Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2017

2017-10-04T18:13:16Z

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Put on by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, The Astronomy Photographer of the Year is the largest competition of its kind in the world. For the 2017 awards, more than 3800 photos were entered from 91 countries. It’s astounding to me that many of these were taken with telescopes you can easily buy online (granted, for thousands of dollars) rather than with the Hubble or some building-sized scope on the top of a mountain in Chile.

The photos above were taken by Andriy Borovkov, Alexandra Hart, and Kamil Nureev.

Tags: astronomy   best of   best of 2017   photography   science   space   Sun