Victor Lodato wrote about his friendship with a woman named Austin.
Later, crossing the road back to my Craigslist sublet, I wondered what I was doing. I reminded myself of my plan: hiding out, staying in the dream of the book. I wasn’t here to socialize. After years of work on a single project, I was in the final stretch. I could finish a draft in a few months and head back home.
Besides, if I wanted a friend during my retreat, I would find someone my age to throw back beers with. Gin and tonics with an old lady in her garden? That wasn’t in the plan.
But there I was the next weekend having dinner with her, and then it was every weekend. Sometimes we went out to a restaurant or hiked in the mountains. Austin’s older friends seemed confused.
What a completely touching and charming story. In my adult life, most of my friendships have been with the same kind of people, but that’s changed in the past few years, and it’s made my life better.Tags: Victor Lodato
The Japan Times is reporting that legendary director Hayao Miyazaki has un-retired and is currently working on a new feature-length animated film for Studio Ghibli!
The decision comes nearly 3½ years after Miyazaki, 76, announced his retirement amid persistent calls for him to make a comeback from his fans both in and outside Japan.
“He is creating it in Tokyo, working hard right now,” Toshio Suzuki, a producer at the major Japanese animation company, said Thursday on a talk show, adding he was presented by the animation maestro with the storyboard of the new film at the end of last year.
“(The storyboard) was quite exciting,” 68-year-old Suzuki said, adding, “but if I’d told him it was good, I know it would ruin my own retirement,” as making the film would dominate his life, Suzuki told the audience.
(via @garymross)Tags: animation Hayao Miyazaki movies Studio Ghibli
MinaLima (aka Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima) is the design studio that designs all of the graphics, signs, newspapers, decrees, posters, labels, maps, book covers, and packaging that you see in the Harry Potter movies.
design Eduardo Lima Harry Potter Miraphora Mina movies
The range of design styles on display is impressive and captures the films’ combination of humour, horror and fantasy.
On one wall, packaging and adverts for products in a shop owned by the Weasley family combine early 20th century print advertising with humorous taglines and garish colours, while posters promoting the fictional game of Quidditch (below) reference 1950s Olympics adverts.
Official notices and letters use hand written fonts, and pamphlets demonising ‘mudbloods’ — a wizard born to non-wizard parents — are inspired by Soviet progaganda (top).
“One of the best things about working on the Harry Potter films was being able to try out so many different styles, from Victorian letterpress to modern design,” says Lima.
“The Daily Prophet was designed to look very Gothic, as did the architecture of Hogwarts [the boarding school for wizards where the film is set]. When an organisation called the Ministry of Magic takes control in later films, the school becomes a kind of totalitarian state, so we started looking to Russian constructivist design to reflect that,” says Mina.
Cognitive biases are systematic ways in which people deviate from rationality in making judgements. Wikipedia maintains a list such biases and one example is survivorship bias, the tendency to focus on those things or people which succeed in an endeavor and discount the experiences of those which did not.
A commonly held opinion in many populations is that machinery, equipment, and goods manufactured in previous generations often is better built and lasts longer than similar contemporary items. (This perception is reflected in the common expression “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”) Again, because of the selective pressures of time and use, it is inevitable that only those items which were built to last will have survived into the present day. Therefore, most of the old machinery still seen functioning well in the present day must necessarily have been built to a standard of quality necessary to survive. All of the machinery, equipment, and goods that have failed over the intervening years are no longer visible to the general population as they have been junked, scrapped, recycled, or otherwise disposed of.
Buster Benson recently went through the list of biases and tried to simplify them into some sort of structure. What he came up with is a list of four conundrums — “4 qualities of the universe that limit our own intelligence and the intelligence of every other person, collective, organism, machine, alien, or imaginable god” — that lead to all biases. They are:
1. There’s too much information.
2. There’s not enough meaning.
3. There’s not enough time and resources.
4. There’s not enough memory.
The 2nd conundrum is that the process of turning raw information into something meaningful requires connecting the dots between the limited information that’s made it to you and the catalog of mental models, beliefs, symbols, and associations that you’ve stored from previous experiences. Connecting dots is an imprecise and subjective process, resulting in a story that’s a blend of new and old information. Your new stories are being built out of the bricks of your old stories, and so will always have a hint of past qualities and textures that may not have actually been there.
For each conundrum in Benson’s scheme, there are categories of bias, 20 in all. For example, the categories that related to the “not enough meaning” conundrum are:
1. We find stories and patterns even in sparse data.
2. We fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories whenever there are new specific instances or gaps in information.
3. We imagine things and people we’re familiar with or fond of as better than things and people we aren’t familiar with or fond of.
4. We simplify probabilities and numbers to make them easier to think about.
5. We project our current mindset and assumptions onto the past and future.
Benson’s whole piece is worth a read, but if you spend too much time with it, you might become unable to function because you’ll start to see cognitive biases everywhere.Tags: Buster Benson psychology
2017-02-24T21:31:27ZBack in 2000, Amazon ran a poll asking their customers what they thought were the best books, music, and movies of the past 1000 years. The results, archived by the Internet Archive, are a time capsule not only of recently popular works (Braveheart, Millennium by the Backstreet Boys, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling) but also of who was on the internet at that time. It’s interesting that Harry Potter made the list; the first book had only been out in the US for less than a year and a half and the 2nd and 3rd books had been out for less than 6 months. The winners in each category were The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, and Star Wars. The author of the millennium was J.R.R. Tolkien (runner-up: Ayn Rand), The Beatles and Pink Floyd were the top musical artists, and the directors were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Here are the full top 10 lists: Books 1. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien 2. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell 3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 4. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger 5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - J.K. Rowling 6. The Stand - Stephen King 7. Ulysses - James Joyce 8. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand 9. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 10. 1984 - George Orwell Music albums 1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles 2. The Beatles (The White Album) - The Beatles 3. Millennium - Backstreet Boys 4. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd 5. Abbey Road - The Beatles 6. Thriller - Michael Jackson 7. The Joshua Tree - U2 8. The Wall - Pink Floyd 9. Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis 10. Nevermind - Nirvana Movies 1. Star Wars 2. Titanic 3. Citizen Kane 4. Gone With the Wind 5. The Godfather 6. Schindler’s List 7. The Matrix 8. Saving Private Ryan 9. Casablanca 10. Braveheart Tags: Amazon best of lists [...]
Elif Batuman wrote a short piece about how she discovered stoicism for The New Yorker.
The first line of Epictetus’ manual of ethical advice, the Enchiridion — “Some things are in our control and others not” — made me feel that a weight was being lifted off my chest. For Epictetus, the only thing we can totally control, and therefore the only thing we should ever worry about, is our own judgment about what is good. If we desire money, health, sex, or reputation, we will inevitably be unhappy. If we genuinely wish to avoid poverty, sickness, loneliness, and obscurity, we will live in constant anxiety and frustration. Of course, fear and desire are unavoidable. Everyone feels those flashes of dread or anticipation. Being a Stoic means interrogating those flashes: asking whether they apply to things outside your control and, if they do, being “ready with the reaction ‘Then it’s none of my concern.’”
I’m still struggling with recalling Epictetus’ advice when I need to, but I can identify with Batuman’s feeling of a weight being lifted when I do. I’ve noticed that the more central the notion of a lack of control is to my thinking, the more productive, more caring, more mindful, and (perhaps paradoxically) more willing to take risks I become.Tags: Elif Batuman
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Artist Garip Ay recently painted van Gogh’s Starry Night (along with his self-portrait) on top of water. Ebru, or paper marbling, is an art form where paint or ink is splattered or “painted” on the surface of water. Typically the painted scene is then transferred to paper with the finished product resembling polished marble stone. But Ay records his marbling on video and the effect is pretty cool.
See also the art of making marbled paper, which is well worth your attention.Tags: art Garip Ay video Vincent van Gogh
I love these abstract paintings by Samantha Keely Smith. The paintings are Smith’s attempt at representing our inner emotional worlds using imagery resembling oceans, clouds, and even nebulas. From Colossal:
Smith refers to her paintings as ‘internal landscapes,’ part of an ongoing examination of an externalized inner conflict. “My newer works try to boldly portray the struggle I’ve always tried to address in my work between order and chaos, dark and light, and positive and negative impulses,” Smith shares, “along with addressing what feels like a shifting and unpredictable landscape due to global warming.”
A few prints of the original paintings are available through Smith’s website.Tags: art Samantha Keely Smith
Jason Ditzian writes about how the Nazis used new technological advances — high-fidelity microphones, public address systems, magnetic tape recording — to rise to power.
And since this amplification invention was new, the novelty added to the mesmerizing effects of a little man shouting atop the biggest soapbox that had ever existed. The quality of sound had a mystical effect upon listeners. It imbued Hitler with godlike powers, making him a deity who could project himself everywhere at once, whether one was standing amid a vast audience or sitting in one’s living room listening to the radio. Sometimes the voice was live; sometimes the voice was recorded in life-like clarity by another cutting-edge German innovation — a reel of magnetic tape.
He compares it to Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, which allows him to instantly soapbox to his millions of followers at all hours of the day and night — “a deity who could project himself everywhere at once” indeed.
Tags: Donald Trump Jason Ditzian Nazis politics
With Twitter, every moment is a Trump rally. Everyone in the connected world knows what this unhinged narcissistic compulsive liar is thinking at any given moment. More time, energy, thought and commentary have been given to his minute-by-minute inane bullshit than any other issue of the last two years. And a lot of important things happened in the last two years.
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A new video by Kurzgesagt explores the question of machine’s rights. Do machines deserve rights? Perhaps not right now, but what about if they achieve consciousness at some point in the future? (And what does that even mean?) If machines are programmed to feel pain and suffering, do they deserve protection? Or will machines not be allowed to be programmed to suffer and therefore be exempt from rights, for the potential benefit of humans? One thing seems certain: when the shift from machine as thing to machine as thinking, feeling being occurs, it will happen pretty quickly and humans will handle it poorly.
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Tags: Bill Gates robots video
In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates said that a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited. He argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes.
In 1938-39 on the eve of World War II, Nicholas Winton established an organization to rescue Jewish children living in Czechoslovakia from the Holocaust by giving them safe passage to Britain, which had recently approved a measure allowing refugees younger than 17 entry into the country. Winton’s organization ended up saving 669 children — future poets, politicians, scientists, and filmmakers among them. Getting these children out of Czechoslovakia was literally a matter of life and death. From Winton’s Wikipedia page:
The last group of 250, scheduled to leave Prague on 1 September 1939, were unable to depart. With Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the same day, the Second World War had begun. Of the children due to leave on that train, only two survived the war.
Although he continued his humanitarian work after the war, Winton rarely spoke of his efforts in saving the children. The full scope of what he had done was revealed only after his wife found a scrapbook in 1988 of the children’s names and the names of the British families that had taken them in. The public learned of Winton’s efforts on a TV show called That’s Life. Winton believed he was attending the show as an audience member, but it was revealed that he was actually sitting amongst about 2 dozen of the now-grown children that he had saved:
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For his efforts, Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. He died just a year and a half ago, at the age of 106.Tags: Holocaust Nicholas Winton TV video
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In a series of pieces written for King Frederick II of Prussia in 1747 called The Musical Offering, Johann Sebastian Bach included a canon that is popularly referred to as the Crab Canon. The piece is a puzzle to be worked out by the reader/player.
You may notice that the Crab Canon is performed by two instruments, but only one line is notated. What’s the deal?
Bach published the canons in the Musical Offering as puzzles, giving the reader the minimum amount of information with which they can figure out the piece as long as they understand its structure. To “solve” a puzzle canon is to give it a structure that makes it fit together in pleasing harmony.
The solution to the Crab Canon is that it can be played forwards or backwards or forwards and backwards together in accompaniment. It’s a musical palindrome of sorts. (via open culture)Tags: Johann Sebastian Bach music video
In the early 1970s, Camilo José Vergara trained his camera on scenes of everyday street life in New York City. His photographs captured kids playing on the street, subway cars before graffiti, sections of the Bronx that look bombed out, and the construction of the World Trade Center in progress.Camilo Jose Vergara NYC photography
Radiohead is data scientist Charlie Thompson’s favorite band and he recently employed his professional skills to determine Radiohead’s most depressing songs and albums. Using data from Spotify and Genius, he analyzed and weighted how sad each song sounded musically and the sadness of the lyrics.
While valence serves as an out-of-the box measure of musical sentiment, the emotions behind song lyrics are much more elusive. To find the most depressing song, I used sentiment analysis to pick out words associated with sadness. Specifically, I used tidytext and the NRC lexicon, based on a crowd-sourced project by the National Research Council Canada. This lexicon contains an array of emotions (sadness, joy, anger, surprise, etc.) and the words determined to most likely elicit them.
Unsurprisingly, True Love Waits is Radiohead’s saddest song and Moon Shaped Pool its saddest album. You can play with this interactive chart to see all of the results. I thought Videotape would score lower on the Gloom Index…along with True Love Waits, it’s my go-to Radiohead song for wallowing in the darkness of my life. (via @RichardWestenra)Tags: Charlie Thompson music Radiohead
astronomy NASA science space
The planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light years, or about 235 trillion miles, from Earth. That is quite close, and by happy accident, the orientation of the orbits of the seven planets allows them to be studied in great detail.
One or more of the exoplanets - planets around stars other than the sun - in this new system could be at the right temperature to be awash in oceans of water, astronomers said, based on the distance of the planets from the dwarf star.
“This is the first time so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,” said Michael Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium and the leader of an international team that has been observing Trappist-1.
2017-02-22T16:56:51ZAmong the requirements that all immigrants must meet to become a naturalized US citizen is a civics test covering US history and government. The test contains 100 questions, 10 of which are verbally posed by a Citizenship and Immigration Services officer…no multiple choice. Applicants must answer 6 out of 10 correctly to pass. The questions include: What is the supreme law of the land? What is freedom of religion? What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful? The House of Representatives has how many voting members? What is the name of the President of the United States now? Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states? What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy? The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers. When must all men register for the Selective Service? Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s. What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did? Why does the flag have 13 stripes? Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in? Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States. Name two national U.S. holidays. You can take a 20-question multiple choice test on the USCIS website or if you want to see how many you can answer out of 100 with no multiple choice, I knocked up a Google Sheets version here — access is read-only but you can make a copy and take the test by choosing File / Make a copy… from the menu. Here’s a full list of the questions and suggested answers to check your work. Without studying, some of the questions are more difficult than you’d think, particularly if your last political science and American history classes were 25 years ago in high school. And like all tests, this one is imperfect.1 In 2001, Dafna Linzer wrote about her test-taking experience. Then there is Question 12: What is the “rule of law”? I showed it to lawyers and law professors. They were stumped. There are four acceptable answers: “Everyone must follow the law”; “Leaders must obey the law”; “Government must obey the law”; “No one is above the law.” Judge Richard Posner, the constitutional scholar who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, was unhappy. “These are all incorrect,” he wrote me. “The rule of law means that judges decide cases ‘without respect of persons,’ that is, without considering the social status, attractiveness, etc. of the parties or their lawyers.” The Simpsons lampooned this aspect of the test in 1996 when Apu answered a question about the Civil War2 during his civics test. Examiner: “Alright, here’s your last question: What was the cause of the Civil War?” Apu: “Actually there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, economic factors both domestic and international…” Examiner: “Hey, hey…” Apu: “Yep?” Examiner: “Just… just say ‘slavery’”. Apu: “Slavery it is, sir.” This would never happen in a million years, but I would love for someone to sit down with Donald Trump to see how many of these he could answer. Like I said, if you haven’t studied, some of the questions are not that easy. But surely the President of the United States should be able to get almost all of them correct… I was always good at tests in school because I learned early on the difference between the correct answer and th[...]
Martin O’Leary is a research scientist who studies glaciers, but in his spare time, he built Uncharted Atlas, a program that auto-generates maps of fantasy lands (like from Game of Thrones or LOTR) and posts them to a Twitter account. The explanation of how the terrain is generated is quite interesting and includes embedded map generators that you can play around with (i.e. prepare to lose about 20 minutes to this).
There are loads of articles on the internet which describe terrain generation, and they almost all use some variation on a fractal noise approach, either directly (by adding layers of noise functions), or indirectly (e.g. through midpoint displacement). These methods produce lots of fine detail, but the large-scale structure always looks a bit off. Features are attached in random ways, with no thought to the processes which form landscapes. I wanted to try something a little bit different.
There are a few different stages to the generator. First we build up a height-map of the terrain, and do things like routing water flow over the surface. Then we can render the ‘physical’ portion of the map. Finally we can place cities and ‘regions’ on the map, and place their labels.
And here’s how the languages for the place names are generated; each map has its own generated language so all of the place names are consistant with each other and different from those regions shown on other maps.
Tags: language maps Martin O’Leary
I wanted to produce something which was a step above the usual alphabetic soup of generated placenames, and which was capable of producing recognisably distinct languages. The initial idea was that different regions of each map would have different languages, but I abandoned this because it was too hard to make it clear that this was what was going on, while still having the languages themselves be interesting.
The problem is to generate something like what the constructed languages (conlang) community call a ‘naming language’. This is a light sketch of a language, focusing purely on the parts which are necessary to produce names. So there’s little to no grammar, but a good sense of what the language sounds like, and how it’s written.
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Missed this early this month while I was on vacation: Computer Show is back with a new episode, partnering with HP to showcase one of their fast color printers. Yes it’s an ad, but yes it’s still funny.Tags: Computer Show computing video
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Before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, most women seeking abortions in the US had to get them illegally. Illegal abortions were often unsafe & painful, and many women died, were injured, or were sexually assaulted by the men performing the procedures. In this video, three women who had abortions before 1973 and a woman who worked at a Brooklyn hospital in that era described their experiences.
Tags: abortion medicine video
“He said, ‘I’m not going to give you any anesthetic’ and he said ‘If you scream, they will hear you.’”
That’s how Connie described the illegal abortion she received in 1953 when she was 16 years old. Now a retired teacher, mother and grandmother, Connie said that after she received the abortion, the man who performed the procedure proceeded to sexually assault her as she lay bleeding on the table.
2017-02-21T16:48:14ZLast week Charles C. Mann, author of the excellent 1491 (one of my favorite nonfiction books ever) and 1493, tweeted what looked like a completed manuscript of a new book, The Wizard and the Prophet. Aside from a pub date (Oct 5), Mann was coy about details in the thread and there’s not a lot of information about the book on the internet. But there is a little. From the Books on Tape website: From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493 — an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment, laying the groundwork for how people in the twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow’s world. In forty years, Earth’s population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups — Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, non-polemical new book. The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose! The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug’s cry. Only in that way can everyone win! Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces — food, water, energy, climate change — grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author’s insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth. In 2012, Orion Magazine published a piece by Mann called State of the Species, which was nominated for a 2013 National Magazine Award and is said to be “an early version of the introductory chapter” to The Wizard and the Prophet. How can we provide these things for all these new people? That is only part of the question. The full question is: How can we provide them without wrecking the natural systems on which all depend? Scientists, activists, and politicians have proposed many solutions, each from a different ideological and moral perspective. Some argue that we must drastically throttle industrial civilization. (Stop energy-intensive, chemical-based farming today! Eliminate fossil fuels to halt climate change!) Others claim that only intense exploitation of scientific knowledge can save us. (Plant super-productive, genetically modified crops now! Switch to nuclear power to halt climate change!) No matter which course is chosen, though, it will require radical, large-scale transformations in the human enterprise — a daunting, hideously expensive task. Worse, the ship is too large to turn quickly. The world’s food supply cannot be decoupled rapidly from industrial agriculture, if that is seen as the answer. Aquifers cannot be recharged with a snap of the fingers. If the high-tech route is chosen, genetically modified crops cannot be bred and tested overnight. Similarly, carbon-sequestration techniques and nuclear power plants cannot be deployed instantly. Changes must be planned and executed decades in advance of the [...]
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In this short video, Josh Begley shows all of the front pages of the NY Times in chronological order from 1852 to the present. The Times began publishing in 1851 so not every front page is represented, but that’s still more than 50,000 pages in less than a minute. Since they go by so quickly, here are some highlights:
Dec 11, 1861: The Times publishes their first illustrations on the front page. One is a map of Virginia and the other two are political cartoons lampooning James Gordon Bennett, founder of the New York Herald, one of the Times’ main rivals.
Apr 15, 1865: The front page columns were lined with black as they reported on the assassination of Lincoln.
Dec 1, 1896: The hyphen is dropped from “The New-York Times”.
Feb 10, 1897: The slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print” appears for the first time on the front page.
May 30, 1910: The first news photograph appears on the front page, a photo of aviator Glenn Curtiss flying from Albany to NYC at the blistering pace of 54 mi/hr.
May 1, 1926: The Times prints the first photo “radioed” to the newspaper from London. Transmission time: 1hr 45m.
Jul 21, 1969: The first use of 96 pt. type on the front page announces the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon and subsequent moonwalk. The large type will also be used to announce Nixon’s resignation, the first day of 2000, 9/11, and the election of Barack Obama.
Sept 7, 1976: The columns on the front page are widened, reducing their number from 8 to 6.
Begley also made Best of Luck With the Wall, a video showing the entire extent of the US-Mexico border.Tags: infoviz Josh Begley journalism NY Times video
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Since 2001, the Oscars have awarded The Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The video above shows a scene from each of the winning movies: Shrek, Spirited Away, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Rango, Brave, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and Inside Out….as well as 2016’s five nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, and Zootopia. Pixar has dominated the category with 8 wins (and 10 nominations) out of 15 years, but the strong field this year meant the studio’s critically acclaimed blockbuster Finding Dory wasn’t even nominated, joining Cars 2, Monsters University, and The Good Dinosaur as the only Pixar films made during that period not to be nominated.Tags: best of Finding Dory movies Oscars Pixar video
2017-02-20T16:27:22Zwidth="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qAOKOJhzYXk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> In the first of a three-part video series, Vox’s Joss Fong looks at how the technology used to film nature documentaries has changed over the past 50 years and how the producers of Planet Earth II used contemporary image stabilization techniques to make the series with a more cinematic style. In the 1970s and ’80s, it was enough for the NHU to show people a creature they’d never seen before and provide the details in the narration. The films were illustrated zoology lectures. Since then, the producers have become sticklers for capturing specific behaviors, and in Planet Earth II, they showcase the drama of those behaviors. Each scene sets up the characters to perform something - something brave, something brutal, something bizarre. They’ve made room for our emotions; that’s what cinematic storytelling means. And visually, the cinematic approach means the camera is often moving. Hollywood filmmakers have kept the camera in motion for decades, but for obvious reasons, it’s much more difficult when your subject is wildlife. As we explain in the video at the top of this post, NHU producers used new stabilization tools throughout the production of Planet Earth II to move the camera alongside the animals. The program doesn’t make you wait long to showcase this new approach. The tracking shot of a lemur jumping from tree to tree is one of the first things you see in the first episode and it put my jaw right on the floor. It’s so close and fluid, how did they do that? Going into the series, I thought it was going to be more of the same — Planet Earth but with new stories, different animals, etc. — but this is really some next-level shit. The kids were more excited after watching it than any movie they’ve seen in the past 6 months (aside from possibly Rogue One). The Blu-ray will be out at the end of March1 but there’s also a 4K “ultra HD” version that had me researching new ultra HD TVs I don’t really need. Oh, and remember that thrilling sequence of the snakes chasing the newly hatched iguanas? Here’s a short clip on how they filmed it. width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2cOMjZWJyog?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Update: The second video in the series is an ode to the BBC’s pioneering use of slow motion and time lapse photography in their nature programs. width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bpbmWqQMzq0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Fong also explains one of my favorite things to come out of the first Planet Earth show, the slow motion buffer capture system used by the crew to catch great white sharks leaping out of the water. But also, digital high-speed cameras came with a continuous recording feature. Instead of pressing a button to start recording and then pressing it again to stop, they could press the button as soon as they saw some action, and the camera would save the seconds that happened before the button was pressed. That’s how the cameraman captured this great white shark coming out of the water, not just in the air, for this sequence in the 2006 Planet Earth series. I hope the third program is on sound, which has been bugging me while watching Planet Earth II. I could be wrong, but they seem to be using extensive foley effects[...]
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Actor Michael K. Williams — who played Omar Little in The Wire and Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire — has a conversation with himself, musing if he’s been typecast for a certain type of role.
Face it, we from a certain type a people that come from a type a place that look a type a way. You know what that make us?
For a promotional video (for The Atlantic), that was unexpectedly poignant.Tags: Michael K. Williams video
In partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar is offering a number of free online lessons in making 3D animated movies and storytelling called Pixar in a Box. Here’s a video introduction of what courses are available:
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There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week. Here’s the introductory video for that, featuring Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out.
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This is pretty cool. I’m hoping to spend some more time with this over the weekend.Tags: education Khan Academy movies Pete Docter Pixar
Yay! It’s Fractal Friday! (It’s not, I just made that up.) But anyway, courtesy of Christopher Night, you can play around with this Julia set fractal. It works in a desktop browser (by moving the mouse) or on your phone (by dragging your finger).
The Julia set, if you don’t remember, goes thusly: Let f(z) be a complex rational function from the plane into itself, that is, f(z)=p(z)/q(z) f(z)=p(z)/q(z), where p(z) and q(z) are complex polynomials. Then there is a finite number of open sets F1, …, Fr, that are left invariant by f(z) which, uh, is um… yay! Fractal Friday! The colors are so pretty!Tags: Christopher Night design fractals mathematics
The Super Bowl is old news at this point and I have a love/hate thing with Bill Simmons going on, but I loved his ranking of the top 10 coin flips in history, which in typical Simmons fashion, crosses a bunch of different boundaries, from technology:
10. The Wright Brothers. In 1903, Wilbur and Orville flipped a coin to see who would attempt the first airborne flight. Wilbur won … and couldn’t keep the plane in the air. They repaired the plane and three days later Orville nailed the second flight, leading Skip Bayless to tweet, “I know this is Orville’s day but I can’t get over that choke job by Wilbur!”
3. Secretariat. Remember when Penny Chenery and Ogden Phipps flipped a coin for the first pick of two foals that Bold Ruler had sired? And Phipps won and picked a foal born from Bold Ruler and Hasty Matelda? And Chenery settled for Secretariat, the eventual Triple Crown winner that became the most famous race horse who ever lived? And then Diane Lane played Chenery in Disney’s Secretariat movie that was 25 minutes too long? Poor Ogden Phipps.
…to the #1 pick from the musical world (which you might guess but will have to click through for).Tags: best of Bill Simmons lists
Each year, Bill and Melinda Gates write a letter about the work they’re doing with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2006, Warren Buffett donated more than billion to their foundation, which effectively doubled its available resources. This year’s letter from the Gateses is addressed to Buffett and details the return on his investment so far.
Bill: If we could show you only one number that proves how life has changed for the poorest, it would be 122 million — the number of children’s lives saved since 1990.
Melinda: Every September, the UN announces the number of children under five who died the previous year. Every year, this number breaks my heart and gives me hope. It’s tragic that so many children are dying, but every year more children live.
Bill: More children survived in 2015 than in 2014. More survived in 2014 than in 2013, and so on. If you add it all up, 122 million children under age five have been saved over the past 25 years. These are children who would have died if mortality rates had stayed where they were in 1990.
Bill calls saving children’s lives “the best deal in philanthropy”. Melinda continues:
Bill Gates charity death medicine Melinda Gates vaccines Warren Buffett
Melinda: And if you want to know the best deal within the deal — it’s vaccines. Coverage for the basic package of childhood vaccines is now the highest it’s ever been, at 86 percent. And the gap between the richest and the poorest countries is the lowest it’s ever been. Vaccines are the biggest reason for the drop in childhood deaths.
Melinda: They’re an incredible investment. The pentavalent vaccine, which protects against five deadly infections in a single shot, now costs under a dollar.
Bill: And for every dollar spent on childhood immunizations, you get $44 in economic benefits. That includes saving the money that families lose when a child is sick and a parent can’t work.
2017-02-17T16:11:41ZGeorge Saunders has written his first novel and it’s just as unusual as his short stories. Lincoln in the Bardo is historical fiction about Abraham Lincoln mourning the death of his son Willie, who is caught between lives. February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. Buzzfeed has an excerpt of the novel, which takes the form of a collection of quotes. The boy, frustrated at being denied the attention he felt he deserved, moved in and leaned against his father, as the father continued to hold and gently rock the— the reverend everly thomas Sick-form. hans vollman At one point, moved, I turned away from the scene and found we were not alone. roger bevins iii A crowd had gathered outside. the reverend everly thomas All were silent. roger bevins iii As the man continued to gently rock his child. the reverend everly thomas While his child, simultaneously, stood quietly leaning against him. hans vollman Then the gentleman began to speak. roger bevins iii Time to bust out the Google Cardboard: the NY Times VR team adapted a part of the novel into a 10-minute VR film. width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/phuCt50JCk8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Here’s a good interview with Saunders about the book and a review by Colson Whitehead. The book has been hovering near the top of the Amazon best sellers list since its release — it was #2 when I looked yesterday but is currently 6th, right after Orwell’s 19841 — and I’ve seen several people in my Instagram feed reading it…or at least socially signaling that they’re reading it. ;) The current #1 is a hardcover strategy guide for a new Legend of Zelda game that doesn’t come out until next month.↩ Tags: Abraham Lincoln books Colson Whitehead George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo video VR [...]
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For their short film Ten Meter Tower, Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson coaxed dozens of people to jump off of a 10-meter diving platform for the first time.
Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt. We’ve all seen actors playing doubt in fiction films, but we have few true images of the feeling in documentaries. To make them, we decided to put people in a situation powerful enough not to need any classic narrative framework. A high dive seemed like the perfect scenario.
After the first 10 seconds, I was riveted to the screen for the remaining 16 minutes. It’s not at all obvious who will jump easily and who won’t.
My head says, “Go!” But my heart says, “No!”
People often worry about competition from others, but in the sporting world, the workplace, the home, and school, the struggle against the self — closing the gap between what you want your life to be like and reality, what your head wants and what your heart can provide — is always the most significant and difficult. (via @thisiseamonn)Tags: Axel Danielson diving Maximilien Van Aertryck sports video
kottke.org will not be updated today in support of the Day Without Immigrants Strike. From the Washington Post:
Immigrants in D.C. and across the country plan to participate in the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a response to President Trump’s pledges to crack down on those in the country illegally, use “extreme vetting” and build a wall along the Mexican border. The social-media-organized protest aims to show the president the effect immigrants have in the country on a daily basis. The boycott calls for immigrants not to attend work, open their businesses, spend money or even send their children to school.
The regularly irregular publishing schedule will resume tomorrow.Tags: immigration kottke.org
2017-02-16T02:05:04Zwidth="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z18LY6NME1s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> In his newest video, Evan Puschak talks about Arrival, calling it “a response to bad movies”. Arrival was perhaps my favorite film of 2016, and I agree with him about how well-made this film is. There’s a top-to-bottom attention to craft on display, from how it looks to how it was cast (Amy Adams was the absolute perfect choice for the lead) to the integration of the theme with story to how expertly it was adapted from Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life. The whole thing’s tight as a drum. If you happened to miss it, don’t watch this video (it gives the whole thing away) and go watch it instead…it’s available to rent/buy on Amazon. Looking back through the archives, I’m realizing I never did a post about Arrival even though I collected some links about it. So, linkdump time! Wired wrote about how the movie’s alien alphabet was developed. Stephen Wolfram wrote about his involvement with the science of the film — his son Christopher wrote Mathematica code for some of the on-screen visuals. 1 Science vs Cinema explored how well the movie represented actual science: width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xzEPU2PTjT4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Screenwriter Eric Heisserer wrote about how he adapted Chiang’s short story for the screen. Jordan Brower wrote a perceptive review/analysis that includes links to several other resources about the film. Update: The director of photography for Arrival was Bradford Young, who shot Selma and is currently working on the Han Solo movie for Disney. Young did an interview with No Film School just before Arrival came out. I’m from the South, so quilts are a big part of telling our story. Quilting is ancient, but in the South it’s a very particular translation of idea, time, and space. In my own practice as an image maker, I slowly began to be less concerned with precision and more concerned with feeling. Quiltmakers are rigorous, but they’re a mixed media format. I think filmmaking should be a mixed media format. I’m just really honoring what quiltmakers do, which is tell a story by using varying texture within a specific framework to communicate an idea. For me, with digital technology, lenses do that the best. The chips don’t do it now-digital film stock is basically all captured the same, but the lenses are how you give the image its textural quality. (thx, raafi) Update: James Gleick, author of Time Travel, wrote about Arrival and Story of Your Life for The New York Review of Books. What if the future is as real as the past? Physicists have been suggesting as much since Einstein. It’s all just the space-time continuum. “So in the future, the sister of the past,” thinks young Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, “I may see myself as I sit here now but by reflection from that which then I shall be.” Twisty! What if you received knowledge of your own tragic future-as a gift, or perhaps a curse? What if your all-too-vivid sensation of free will is merely an illusion? These are the roads do[...]
WhaleSynth is a cool little instrument for making whale sounds. There are three different species of whale to choose from, you can add clicks and sonar echoes, and you can also adjust the depth and number of whales in your chorus. Warning: this might occupy many many minutes of your time but could also soothe frayed political nerves.Tags: audio whales
2017-02-15T17:52:41ZThe Green Angels is a group of pot dealers that was started by a former fashion model named Honey (not her real name). Many of the dealers and dispatchers are also former models…or at least possess enough good looks and easy charm to talk their way out of trouble with NYPD officers. Honey is clear-eyed about the nature of her operation: “I tell the girls, it’s not a club; it’s a drug ring.” The whole business is run via text messages between her, the dispatchers in her headquarters, the runners who do the deliveries, and the customers. “I have carpal tunnel in my thumb from all the texting,” Honey says. Dispatchers get 10 percent of each sale; the runners get 20 percent, which averages out to $300 or $400 a day. Several of them, according to Honey, “are paying off their NYU student loans.” Just like any other business, there are tricks of the trade and protocols to follow: One of the Angels suggests using a tote bag instead of a backpack to carry the box. She generally uses a WNYC tote bag, which is given out to donors to the public-radio station. The other day, an old lady gave her a high five after seeing her tote. “I thought, If you only knew what I have in this bag,” she says. Honey tells the girls to get a work phone from MetroPCS, which costs $100. When buying it, they should pay in cash and have a name in mind to put down on the form, in case the police check. “I like to use the names of girls who were my enemies growing up,” Honey says. The business is organized and disciplined, which I suspect it needs to be if you don’t want to get tossed in jail: The Green Angels average around 150 orders a day, which is about a fourth of what the busiest services handle. When a customer texts, it goes to one of the cell phones on the table in the living room. There’s a hierarchy: The phones with the pink covers are the lowest; they contain the numbers of the flakes, cheapskates, or people who live in Bed-Stuy. The purple phones contain the good, solid customers. Blue is for the VIPs. There are over a thousand customers on Honey’s master list. To place an order, a customer is supposed to text “Can we hang out?” and a runner is sent to his apartment. No calling, no other codes or requests. Delivery is guaranteed within an hour and a half. If the customer isn’t home, he gets a strike. Three strikes and he’s 86’d. If he yells at the runner, he’s 86’d immediately. The Angels work only by referral. The customers should refer people they really know and trust, not strangers, and no one they’ve met in a bar. If you refer someone who becomes a problem, Charley says, you lose your membership. Really interesting throughout. Tags: business drugs legal NYC working [...]
In Focus is featuring some of the winning shots from the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards. The top one is Dancing Octopus taken by Gabriel Barathieu and the bottom one is by Qing Lin, who took the photo near Lembeh, Indonesia, which is home to some of the strangest marine life in the world.
If you look at Lin’s photo of the clownfish for more than a second or two — pay attention…this is the nightmarish side to living on the reef that Pixar kept from you in Finding Nemo — you will notice not just three pairs of eyes but six pairs of eyes. In the mouth of each clownfish is a parasitic isopod looking right at the camera. The isopod enters the fish through the gills, attaches itself to the fish’s tongue, feeds on the blood in the tongue until it falls off, and then attaches itself to the tongue stump. And the fish uses the isopod as a replacement tongue! Cool! And gross!Tags: best of best of 2017 Finding Nemo Gabriel Barathieu movies photography Qing Lin science
Philip Pullman has announced a follow-up to his acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy called The Book of Dust. The first volume, still untitled, will be out in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Tags: books His Dark Materials Philip Pullman The Book of Dust
Philip Pullman offers these tantalizing details: “I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College, and in thinking about it, I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her twenty years later. As for the third and final part, my lips are sealed.
“So, second: is it a prequel? Is it a sequel? It’s neither. In fact, The Book of Dust is… an equel. It doesn’t stand before or after His Dark Materials, but beside it. It’s a different story, but there are settings that readers of His Dark Materials will recognize, and characters they’ve met before. Also, of course, there are some characters who are new to us, including an ordinary boy (a boy we have glimpsed in an earlier part of Lyra’s story, if we were paying attention) who, with Lyra, is caught up in a terrifying adventure that takes him into a new world.
Writing for The New Yorker, Tom Batten has come up with some Valentine’s Day themed math word problems.
holidays Tom Batten
3. A local pizzeria is offering one large pizza for eleven dollars and seventy-five cents on Valentine’s Day. If you have forty-six dollars in your checking account, it takes you twenty-five minutes to eat a large pizza all by yourself, and your only plan for the evening is to spend ninety minutes scrolling through the Instagram account of a woman you had a crush on in high school for clues that her marriage might be faltering, how did it come to this?
books design infoviz Manuel Lima The Book of Circles
In this follow-up to his hugely popular The Book of Trees and Visual Complexity, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millennia of circular information design. Three hundred detailed and colorful illustrations from around the world cover an encyclopedic array of subjects-architecture, urban planning, fine art, design, fashion, technology, religion, cartography, biology, astronomy, and physics, all based on the circle, the universal symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity, enlightenment, and perfection. Clay tokens used by ancient Sumerians as a system of recording trade are juxtaposed with logos of modern retailers like Target; Venn diagrams are discussed alongside the trefoil biohazard symbol, symbols of the Christian trinity, and the Olympic rings; and a diagram revealing the characteristics of ten thousand porn stars displays structural similarities to early celestial charts placing the earth at the center of the universe.
2017-02-14T20:04:28Zwidth="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RK8xHq6dfAo?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> I finally got the chance to see Hidden Figures the other day. Recommended. It’s a science/space story in the vein of Apollo 13, but the twin engines of the film are the three excellent lead actresses — Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer & Janelle Monáe — and the persistent portrayal of the systemic biases of segregation and sexism. You watch this movie and think, how much higher could the human race have flown if women and people of color had always had the same opportunities as white men?1 How many Katherine Johnsons never got the chance to develop and use their skills in math, science, or technology because of their skin color or gender? Our society wastes so much energy and human lives telling people what they can’t do rather than empowering them to show everyone what they can do. Hidden Figures was adopted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name. The film takes some dramatic license with the timing of certain events but overall is historically accurate. The film primarily focuses on John Glenn’s 1962 trip around the globe and does add dramatic flourishes that are, well, Hollywood. However, most of the events in the movie are historically accurate. Johnson’s main job in the lead-up and during the mission was to double-check and reverse engineer the newly-installed IBM 7090s trajectory calculations. As it shows, there were very tense moments during the flight that forced the mission to end earlier than expected. And John Glenn did request that Johnson specifically check and confirm trajectories and entry points that the IBM spat out (albeit, perhaps, not at the exact moment that the movie depicts). As Shetterly wrote in her book and explained in a September NPR interview, Glenn did not completely trust the computer. So, he asked the head engineers to “get the girl to check the numbers… If she says the numbers are good… I’m ready to go.” You can view Johnson’s published reports on NASA’s site, including her initial technical report from 1960 on the Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position. I’m using the past tense here, but I am definitely not saying that women and people of color now possess those same opportunities. Take a quick look at the current racial and gender wage gaps in the US and you’ll see that they still do not.↩ Tags: books Hidden Figures Katherine Johnson Margot Lee Shetterly movies NASA racism science sexism trailers video [...]
You can’t control what the stock market does, who the President is, or what your partner wants to do with their life. So why not focus your energy on stuff you can control? From Lori Deschene at Tiny Buddha, a list of 50 Things You Can Control Right Now. Here are some that jumped out at me:
Your level of honesty.
How often you say “thank you.”
Whether or not you give someone the benefit of the doubt.
Whether or not you compete with people around you.
Whether you think positive or negative thoughts.
How much time you spend worrying.
How much exercise you get.
How many risks you take.
The type of food you eat.
The list isn’t perfect — e.g. it’s more difficult for some people to control what they eat than others — but the point is that worrying about things outside of your control can burn a lot of energy that you can use in more productive ways to make your life better.
BTW, this is a reminder to myself more than anything. There are three things I’m super-anxious about right now that I have zero control over and I am desperately trying to convince myself that focusing on things I can do something about is the only way through.Tags: lists Lori Deschene