The origins of the moonwalkAPR 23

We all know Michael Jackson invented the moonwalk on-stage during a performance of Billy Jean at the Motown 25th Anniversary show. What this video presupposes is, maybe he didn't?

What the video shows is that as early as the 1930s, performers such as Fred Astaire, Bill Bailey, Cab Calloway, and Sammy Davis Jr. were doing something like the moonwalk. Now, Jackson didn't get the move from any of these sources, not directly anyway. As Jackson's choreographer Jeffrey Daniel explains, he got the moves from The Electric Boogaloos street dance crew and, according to LaToya Jackson, instructed Michael Jackson.

Which is to say, the moonwalk is yet another example of multiple discovery, along with calculus, the discovery of oxygen, and the invention of the telephone. (via open culture)

HBO shows on Amazon Prime Instant VideoAPR 23

HBO is licensing some of their shows exclusively to Amazon for streaming on their Prime Instant Video service. Here's the scoop:

Beginning May 21, Amazon Prime members will have unlimited streaming access to:

- All seasons of revered classics such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome and Six Feet Under, and of recent favorites such as Eastbound & Down, Enlightened and Flight of the Conchords

- Epic miniseries, including Angels in America, Band of Brothers, John Adams, The Pacific and Parade's End

- Select seasons of current series such as Boardwalk Empire, Treme and True Blood

Game of Thrones and True Detective are notably absent from the deal. But Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to stream all of the shows above for free. (via deadline)

Image copy/pasteAPR 23

Project Naptha is a browser extension that lets you copy text from images on the web.

Project Naptha automatically applies state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms on every image you see while browsing the web. The result is a seamless and intuitive experience, where you can highlight as well as copy and paste and even edit and translate the text formerly trapped within an image.

I was skeptical of this actually working, but it totally does...try it on xkcd or Frank Sinatra's "loosen up" letter to George Michael for example. The translation and editing features aren't enabled yet, but the project's creator is working on them. (via @tcarmody)

Tim's VermeerAPR 22

It's been suggested that perhaps Johannes Vermeer painted his exacting masterpieces with the help of mirrors and lenses. Tim Jenison learned of these suggestions and started to study the problem.

He was in no rush. His R&D period lasted five years. He went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. "Looking at their Vermeers," he says, "I had an epiphany" -- the first of several. "The photographic tone is what jumped out at me. Why was Vermeer so realistic? Because he got the values right," meaning the color values. "Vermeer got it right in ways that the eye couldn't see. It looked to me like Vermeer was painting in a way that was impossible. I jumped into studying art."

A recent documentary called Tim's Vermeer (directed by Penn & Teller's Teller) follows Jenison's quest to construct a contraption that allows someone to paint as Vermeer did. Here's a trailer:

Not sure you can find the movie in theaters anymore, but it should be out on DVD/download soon.

2048: the Beyonce GIF editionAPR 22

Beyonce 2048

There are many versions of the game 2048 (which is itself a rip-off of Threes). There's the original, a version that plays itself, a multiplayer version, a collaborative version, a doge version, a clever Flappy Bird version, the Numberwang version, one that uses only colors, a version that uses Dropbox to save progress and high scores, a hard version that actively works against you, a version where you add tiles to thwart an evil AI, and probably thousands of other versions.

But the best one is the one where each square is an animated GIF of Beyonce.

A life without left turnsAPR 22

A reader saw my post about UPS drivers seldom taking left turns and sent in this story from 2006. In it, Michael Gartner shares the secret to long life relayed to him by his father: no left turns. Among other things:

My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.) He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home. If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church.

He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

(thx, gloria)

NYC Basic Tips and EtiquetteAPR 22

NYC tips and etiquette

Nathan Pyle has written and illustrated a book about the unwritten rules for how to behave on the streets of NYC. It's called NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette (only $6!).

In NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette, Pyle reveals the secrets and unwritten rules for living in and visiting New York including the answers to such burning questions as, how do I hail a cab? What is a bodega? Which way is Uptown? Why are there so many doors in the sidewalk? How do I walk on an escalator? Do we need be touching right now? Where should I inhale or exhale while passing sidewalk garbage? How long should I honk my horn? If New York were a game show, how would I win? What happens when I stand in the bike lane? Who should get the empty subway seats? How do I stay safe during a trash tornado?

In support of the book, Pyle animated a few of the tips and put them on Imgur. Also, the Apple ebook contains the animated versions of the illustrations. You fancy!

London traffic scenes from the 1890sAPR 22

Film shot of London street scenes, mostly from the 1890s and 1900s.

There's also a brief shot of Paris in 1900 right at the end. See also the extremely rare footage of Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900. The Victorian era seems so long ago (and indeed she began her reign in 1837) but there she is on the modern medium of film. Yet another example of the Great Span.

Super Planet CrashAPR 21

Super Planet Crash

Super Planet Crash is half game, half planetary simulator in which you try to cram as much orbital mass into your solar system without making any of your planets zing off beyond the Kuiper belt. You get bonus points for crowding planets together and locating planets in the star's habitability zone. Warning: I got lost in this for at least an hour the other day.

Game of PhonesAPR 21

Ooh, I really like the idea of this smartphone card game on Kickstarter: Game of Phones.

One player picks a card and gets to judge that round. They read the prompt to everyone else. Something like 'Find the best #selfie' or 'Show the last photo you took'. Everyone finds something on their phones and shows the judge, who gets to choose a winner for that round. First to win 10 rounds is the overall winner.

This is pretty much what people do when they get together anyway, why not make it a game?

H.G. Wells interviews Joseph StalinAPR 21

In 1934, H.G. Wells interviewed Joseph Stalin. This is how the interview began:

Wells: I am very much obliged to you, Mr Stalin, for agreeing to see me. I was in the United States recently. I had a long conversation with President Roosevelt and tried to ascertain what his leading ideas were. Now I have come to ask you what you are doing to change the world . . .

Stalin: Not so very much.

Wells: I wander around the world as a common man and, as a common man, observe what is going on around me.

Stalin: Important public men like yourself are not "common men". Of course, history alone can show how important this or that public man has been; at all events, you do not look at the world as a "common man".

Wells: I am not pretending humility. What I mean is that I try to see the world through the eyes of the common man, and not as a party politician or a responsible administrator. My visit to the United States excited my mind. The old financial world is collapsing; the economic life of the country is being reorganised on new lines.

Lenin said: "We must learn to do business," learn this from the capitalists. Today the capitalists have to learn from you, to grasp the spirit of Socialism. It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganisation, the creation of planned, that is, Socialist, economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas, between Moscow and Washington?

In Washington I was struck by the same thing I see going on here; they are building offices, they are creating a number of state regulation bodies, they are organising a long-needed civil service. Their need, like yours, is directive ability.

Micro robots!APR 21

SRI International and DARPA are making little tiny robots (some are way smaller than a penny) that can actually manufacture products.

They can move so fast! And that shot of dozens of them moving in a synchronized fashion! Perhaps Skynet will actually manifest itself not as human-sized killing machines but as swarms of trillions of microscopic nanobots, a la this episode of Star Trek:TNG. (via @themexican)

Beautifully intricate Romanian Easter eggsAPR 20

Romanian Eggs

The small village of Ciocanesti in Romania produces the most beautiful hand-painted Easter eggs I've ever seen. This video is a wonderful look at the process and tradition.

Here's how it works:

First, the (duck, goose, chicken, or even ostrich) egg is drained, through a tiny hole. Then, using a method akin to batik, it is dipped in dye and painted one color at a time, with the painter applying beeswax to those areas she wants to protect from the next round of dying. The painting implement, called a kishitze, is a stick with an iron tip. (Previously, egg-painters would have used thorns or pig bristles.)

And then the wax is melted and wiped off the egg, revealing the colors underneath. So cool. (via @colossal)

The new Ten CommandmentsAPR 20

From God's Twitter account, a new set of ten commandments:

1 Laugh.
2 Read.
3 Say please.
4 Floss.
5 Doubt.
6 Exercise.
7 Learn.
8 Don't hate.
9 Cut the bullshit.
10 Chill.

Amen.

Understanding innovationAPR 18

Horace Dediu explains what innovation is and how it differs from novelty, invention, and creation.

Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

Big Bang gravitational waves possibly in doubtAPR 18

Ruh-roh. Remember the news last month about the detection of gravitational waves would have allowed scientists to see all the way back to the Big Bang? Well, that result may be in jeopardy. The problem? Dust on the lens. Well, not on the lens exactly:

An imprint left on ancient cosmic light that was attributed to ripples in spacetime -- and hailed by some as the discovery of the century -- may have been caused by ashes from an exploding star.

In the most extreme scenario, the finding could suggest that what looked like a groundbreaking result was only a false alarm. Another possibility is that the stellar ashes could help bring the result in line with other cosmic observations. We should know which it is later this year, when researchers report new results from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite.

You may also remember the video of physicist Andrei Linde being told about the result, which seemed to confirm a theory that had been his life's work. I don't think I want to see the video of Linde being told of this stellar ashes business. Although Linde is more than aware that this is how science works...you have to go where observation takes you. (via @daveg)

Citi Bike swarmsAPR 18

Data visualization of Citi Bike trips taken over a 48-hour period in NYC:

Love seeing the swarms starting around 8am and 5:30pm but hate experiencing them. I've been using Citi Bike almost since the launch last year and I can't imagine NYC without it now. I use it several times daily, way more than the subway even. I hope they can find a way to make it a viable business.

Aerial drone video of New YorkAARON COHEN  ·  APR 18

Drone Week on Kottke continues with this beautiful drone video of NYC from Randy Scott Slavin.

I found two more videos and a bunch of stories about a drone crashing a crime scene last year. (thx, noah)

The British Pathe archiveAPR 17

Newsreel archivist British Pathé has uploaded their entire 85,000 film archive to YouTube. This is an amazing resource.

British Pathé was once a dominant feature of the British cinema experience, renowned for first-class reporting and an informative yet uniquely entertaining style. It is now considered to be the finest newsreel archive in existence. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, the collection includes footage -- not only from Britain, but from around the globe -- of major events, famous faces, fashion trends, travel, sport and culture. The archive is particularly strong in its coverage of the First and Second World Wars.

I've shared videos from British Pathé before: the Hindenberg disaster and this bizarre film of a little boy being taunted with chocolate. The archive is chock full of gems: a 19-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger at a bodybuilding competition, footage of and interviews with survivors of the Titanic, video of the world's tallest man (8'11"), and the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. And this film from 1956 showing how cricket balls are made by hand:

The top 100 animated moviesAPR 17

Time Out polled more than 100 experts to find the 100 best animated movies. Here's the top 10 (minus the top pick...you'll have to click through for that):

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
7. The Iron Giant
6. Dumbo
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story
3. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away

I'm delighted to see Fantastic Mr Fox on the list...it's an underrated effort by Wes Anderson that will continue to grow in esteem as the years pass. No Wall-E in the top 10 though? I don't know about that. It clocks in at #36, behind Chicken Run (the least of Aardman's efforts in my mind) and Up, which is maybe my least favorite Pixar film. (via @garymross)

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