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Juno successfully enters orbit around Jupiter

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2016

After a voyage from Earth lasting almost 5 years, the Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit late last night.

The engine burn was tense. 35 minutes is a long time for a spacecraft burn; after 20 minutes it had slowed Juno enough to be in orbit, but not the correct one. It had to continue for another 15 minutes to put the spacecraft on the correct orbit. It worked essentially perfectly. The burn time was off by just one second. That will have no real effect on the orbit.

The 35-minute burn slowed Juno down by more than 1200 mph.

We Work Remotely

Limits are fun? Limits are fun!

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2016

Play Anything

Play Anything is a forthcoming book by game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost. The subtitle — The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games — provides a clue as to what it’s about. Here’s more from the book’s description:

Play is what happens when we accept these limitations, narrow our focus, and, consequently, have fun. Which is also how to live a good life. Manipulating a soccer ball into a goal is no different than treating ordinary circumstances — like grocery shopping, lawn mowing, and making PowerPoints — as sources for meaning and joy. We can “play anything” by filling our days with attention and discipline, devotion and love for the world as it really is, beyond our desires and fears.

Reading this little blurb, I immediately thought of two things:

1. One thing you hear from pediatricians and early childhood educators is: set limits. Children thrive on boundaries. There’s a certain sort of person for whom this appeals to their authoritarian nature, which is not the intended message. Then there are those who can’t abide by the thought of limiting their children in any way. But perhaps, per Bogost, the boundaries parents set for their children can be thought of as a series of games designed to keep their lives interesting and meaningful.1

2. This recent post about turning anxiety into excitement. Shifting from finding life’s limitations annoying to thinking of them as playable moments seems similar. Problems become opportunities, etc.

3. Ok, three things. I once wrote a post about bagging groceries and mowing the lawn as games.

Two chores I find extremely satisfying are bagging groceries and (especially) mowing the lawn. Getting all those different types of products — with their various shapes, sizes, weights, levels of fragility, temperatures — quickly into the least possible number of bags…quite pleasurable. Reminds me a little of Tetris. And mowing the lawn…making all the grass the same height, surrounding the remaining uncut lawn with concentric rectangles of freshly mowed grass.

What I’m saying is, I’m looking forward to reading this book. See also Steven Johnson’s forthcoming book, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World.

  1. I don’t know about other parents, but 75% of my parental energy is taken up by thinking about what limits are appropriate for my kids. (The other 25% is meal-planning.) What do they need right now? What do they want? What can I give them? How do I balance all of those concerns? What makes it particularly difficult for me sometimes is that my instincts and my intellect are not always in agreement with what is appropriate. What is easiest for me is not always best for them. This shit keeps me up at night. :|

Trump quotes in Zapp Brannigan’s voice

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2016

Billy West, who does the voice of Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan, is taking quotes from Donald Trump and speaking them in Brannigan’s voice. This is silly and dumb, but I can’t help loving these.

Update: The addition of Kif’s reactions really takes these to the next level.

Kif sighs for all of America. And this one, I mean…if they wrote this dialogue for the show it would be rejected because not even Zapp is that outlandishly dim and egotistical.

The Origin of (almost) Everything

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 09, 2016

Origin Almost Everything

Oh, this new book from Jennifer Daniel and New Scientist looks great: The Origin of (almost) Everything.

Together they take us on a whistle-stop tour from the start of our universe (through the history of stars, galaxies, meteorites, the Moon and dark energy) to our planet (through oceans and weather to oil) and life (through dinosaurs to emotions and sex) to civilization (from cities to alcohol and cooking), knowledge (from alphabets to alchemy) ending up with technology (computers to rocket science). Witty essays explore the concepts alongside enlightening infographics that zoom from how many people have ever lived to showing you how a left-wing brain differs from a right-wing one.

And Stephen Hawking wrote the foreword. You fancy, Jennifer Daniel!

Primitive technology: making a forge blower

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 01, 2016

The guy behind Primitive Technology (aka my favorite YouTube channel) is back with a video on how to build a forge blower, a device for fanning a fire to make it hotter.

This device produces a blast of air with each stroke of the bow regardless of whether it is pushed or pulled. The bow makes it possible to operate the blower without using a complicated belt and wheel assembly used in traditional forge blowers. There is a brief pause at the end of each stroke where the fan stops to rotate in the other direction, but this is effectively no different to the intermittent blast of a double acting bellows of Europe or box bellows of Asia. The materials used (wood, bark, bark fibre and clay) are readily available on most continents. No leather, valves or precisely fitted piston gaskets are required as with other types of bellows.

The way he shoots & edits these videos is so good…packing, what, dozens or even hundreds of years of technological evolution into a minute or two of wordless video.

The music and the opening titles of Stranger Things

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2016

Like many of you, I have been watching Stranger Things on Netflix. My 80s movie fixations tilted towards the War Games/Explorers/Goonies end of the spectrum rather than the supernatural/horror/Steven King end so I’m not obsessed, but I am definitely enjoying it. You can watch the first 8 minutes of the show to judge for yourself.

But I love the opening credits, especially the music. (Both remind me of the opening credits for Halt and Catch Fire.) The title song was composed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, members of Austin synth band Survive. Someone did a 10-minute extended version of the song and put it up on Soundcloud:

Currently on repeat for the last hour with no sign of stopping. You may also be interested in a pair of playlists featuring music from the show:

What else? Here’s a deep dive into the font used for the opening credits (which was also used for the Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the 80s). Alissa Walker wrote about the free-range children on display in ST, something that also grabbed my attention. When I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere. On summer weekends, I typically ate breakfast at my house and was gone until dinnertime. My parents had no clue where I was or what I was up to…and none of my classmates’ parents did either.

Update: Garrett Shane Bryant made a 50-track playlist of songs that sound like the score of the show. Outstanding. (via @dozens)

Update: From the NY Times, The ‘Stranger Things’ School of Parenting.

Still, “Stranger Things” is a reminder of a kind of unstructured childhood wandering that — because of all the cellphones, the fear of child molesters, a move toward more involved parenting or a combination of all three — seems less possible than it once was.

The show’s references to beloved films of the ’80s have been much remarked upon, but “Stranger Things” also calls to mind all those books and TV shows — from “The Chronicles of Narnia” to “Muppet Babies” — where parents are either absent or pushed into the background.

These stories let children imagine breaking the rules, but they also allow them to picture themselves solving mysteries or hunting down monsters all on their own. Often it’s only when the parents aren’t watching that a child can become a hero.

(via @CognoscoCuro)

Update: The official soundtrack for the show is available on iTunes. It’s the score though, not the classic 80s tunes.

Update: Vox spoke to a creative director at Imaginary Forces about their process for designing the opening titles.

Update: And the score is now available on Spotify. This is my working music for the day.

Some Kind of Quest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2016

What compels people to do things? Especially things that don’t make sense to other people? Bruce Zaccagnino has, by himself over the past few years, built Northlandz, a massive model train installation 75 minutes away from NYC. The facility is 52,000 square feet, where more than 100 trains travel over 8 miles of track.

But can it last? While Bruce has even grander plans for Northlandz, his dream has grown beyond what anyone initially imagined. Yet the audiences he hoped Northlandz would attract just aren’t coming. He’s transformed from a creator into a caretaker, wrestling with upkeep instead of making art. Northlandz is not just another roadside attraction. It’s a man’s life, work, and home.

The true scale of the thing becomes evident at 3:40, when you see Zaccagnino walking through a valley with the walls towering over him. As someone who has built a massive, sprawling thing by himself without knowing why or how it was going to be successful, I hope Zaccagnino finds a way to keep Northlandz going.

Freedom for some is not freedom

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2016

Jane Elliott asks an audience a very simple question about being black in America. (via @carltonspeight who says “No BS, I wish every white person on Twitter could see this. Maybe it’ll help”)

Zootopia was going to be a much darker movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2016

This storyboarded scene from Zootopia shows an early and much darker direction for the plot: the predators need to wear collars that shock them if they get too excited. This reminds me that Woody was a “sarcastic jerk” in the early drafts of Toy Story. Oh, and Lightning McQueen was an asshole in Cars whose redemption the audience didn’t completely buy, which Pixar didn’t end up fixing.

Update: There’s more about how Zootopia’s story evolved in Fusion’s 45-minute feature about the production of the film. (via @luketonge)

Kanye West’s favorite noises

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 09, 2016

A compilation of all the unusual noises — henh! hwuah! masanoonaa! eescrong! — Kanye West makes in his songs.

How populous is NYC? Big enough to fit 8 states into it.

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2016

NYC Population

The population of NYC is equal to the combined populations of Vermont, Alaska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and West Virginia. Here’s what that looks like on a map.

Put another way: 16 US Senators represent as many people in those states as a fraction of one of New York States’ Senators represent the population of NYC. A Senator from Wyoming represents 290,000 people while one from New York represents 9.8 million people…and in California, there are 19 million people per Senator. That gives a Wyoming resident 65 times the voting power of a California resident.

Civilization is itself a thinking machine

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2016

In response to the question “What Do You Think About Machines That Think?” Brian Eno responded that artificial intelligence has been with us for millennia and understanding it is more a matter of managing our ignorance of how it works.

My untroubled attitude results from my almost absolute faith in the reliability of the vast supercomputer I’m permanently plugged into. It was built with the intelligence of thousands of generations of human minds, and they’re still working at it now. All that human intelligence remains alive in the form of the supercomputer of tools, theories, technologies, crafts, sciences, disciplines, customs, rituals, rules-of-thumb, arts, systems of belief, superstitions, work-arounds, and observations that we call Global Civilisation.

Global Civilisation is something we humans created, though none of us really know how. It’s out of the individual control of any of us — a seething synergy of embodied intelligence that we’re all plugged into. None of us understands more than a tiny sliver of it, but by and large we aren’t paralysed or terrorised by that fact — we still live in it and make use of it. We feed it problems — such as “I want some porridge” and it miraculously offers us solutions that we don’t really understand. What does that remind you of?

Interesting perspective. There’s lots more on this question in the book What to Think About Machines That Think, which includes thoughts from Virginia Heffernan, Freeman Dyson, Alison Gopnik, Kevin Kelly, and dozens of others.

A year-long time lapse of the Earth rotating in space

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2016

NASA recently released a time lapse video of the Earth constructed from over 3000 still photographs taken over the course of a year. The photos were taken by a camera mounted on the NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite, which is perched above the Earth at Lagrange point 1.

Wait, have we talked about Lagrange points yet? Lagrange points are positions in space where the gravity of the Sun and the Earth (or between any two large things) cancel each other out. The Sun and the Earth pull equally on objects at these five points.

L1 is about a million miles from Earth directly between the Sun and Earth and anything that is placed there will hover there relative to the Earth forever (course adjustments for complicated reasons aside). It is the perfect spot for a weather satellite with a cool camera to hang out, taking photos of a never-dark Earth. In addition to DSCOVR, at least five other spacecraft have been positioned at L1.

L2 is about a million miles from the Earth directly opposite L1. The Earth always looks dark from there and it’s mostly shielded from solar radiation. Five spacecraft have lived at L2 and several more are planned, including the sequel to the Hubble Space Telescope. Turns out that the shadow of the Earth is a good place to put a telescope.

L3 is opposite the Earth from the Sun, the 6 o’clock to the Earth’s high noon. This point is less stable than the other points because the Earth’s gravitational influence is very small and other bodies (like Venus) periodically pass near enough to yank whatever’s there out, like George Clooney strolling through a country club dining room during date night.

And quoting Wikipedia, “the L4 and L5 points lie at the third corners of the two equilateral triangles in the plane of orbit whose common base is the line between the centers of the [Earth and Sun]”. No spacecraft have ever visited these points, but they are home to some interplanetary dust and asteroid 2010 TK7, which orbits around L4. Cool! (via slate)

18th century Instagram

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 05, 2016

A cute Ikea ad imagines what Instagram might have been like in the 18th century…it involves a painter and a lot of driving around in a carriage soliciting likes.

New from Tinybop: Skyscrapers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2016

Tinybop’s newest app for kids is called Skyscrapers.

Discover how people build, live, and play in skyscrapers. Construct a skyline full of buildings! Go up and down, through every floor, and underground. Spark a blackout, fix a pipe, or clog the toilets. Test your building’s engineering when dinosaurs invade, lightning strikes, or the earth quakes. Find out what keeps skyscrapers standing tall and people happy in them all.

I believe my kids have all of the Tinybop apps and love them…I’m downloading this one right now. See also a bunch of great educational-ish iPad apps for kids.

Kylo Ren’s outtakes by the Auralnauts

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2016

The Auralnauts are back with their expertly made revisions of Star Wars movies (see also Star Wars Episode II: The Friend Zone) and this time their subject is Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens.

What? What, dude?! Jim, what is up with your friend?

The Po Dameron interrogation scene: I haven’t laughed that hard in a loooong time.

Huge collection of photos of Native Americans taken by Edward Curtis

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2016

Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis

Edward Curtis

Beginning in 1904, Edward Curtis travelled around North American for more than 20 years photographing Native Americans. While his collection of over a thousand photos housed at the Library of Congress isn’t a precise record of how American Indians lived at the time (he took some liberties in romanticizing the past), it is nonetheless a valuable record of a people largely marginalized by history. (via open culture)

OJ: Made in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2016

OJ Simpson Trial

Last night, I finished OJ: Made in America, ESPN’s 8-hour documentary series about OJ Simpson. Prior to starting the series, I would rather have poked an eye out than spend another second of my life thinking about OJ Simpson; I’d gotten my fill back in the 90s. But I’d heard so many good things about it that I gave it a shot. Pretty quickly, you realize this is not just the biography of a man or the story of a trial but is a deep look at racism, policing, and celebrity in the US. OJ: Made in America is excellent and I recommend it unreservedly. From Brian Tallerico’s review:

Ezra Edelman’s stunningly ambitious, eight-hour documentary is a masterpiece, a refined piece of investigative journalism that places the subject it illuminates into the broader context of the end of the 20th century. You may think you know everything about The Trial of the Century, especially if you watched FX’s excellent “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story,” but “OJ: Made in America” not only fills in details about the case but offers background and commentary that you’ve never heard before. It is an examination of race, domestic abuse, celebrity, civil rights, the LAPD, the legal process and murder over the last fifty years, using the OJ Simpson story as a way to refract society. Its length may seem daunting, but I would have watched it for another eight hours and will almost certainly watch it again before the summer is over. It’s that good.

The only real criticism I have of the series is that the treatment of women in America should have been explored more, on the same level as racism and celebrity. A.O. Scott picked up on this in his NY Times review:

It is hard not to notice the predominance of male voices among the interview subjects, and the narrowness of the film’s discussion of domestic violence. This is not to say that the issue is ignored: Mr. Simpson’s history of abusing Nicole is extensively and graphically documented, as is the fact that most of his friends ignored what was going on at their Rockingham estate. But the film, which so persuasively treats law enforcement racism as a systemic problem, can’t figure out how to treat violence against women with the same kind of rigor or nuance.

A fuller discussion of domestic violence in the US and misogyny in sports would have provided another powerful, reinforcing aspect of the story.

Classic video games recreated in stop motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2016

From stop motion video wizard PES, the death scenes from five classic video games like Centipede and Asteroids recreated in stop motion using everyday objects like cupcakes, pizza, watches, and croquet balls.

Hand-drawn style transfer to 3D models

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2016

This is cool. StyLit is a patent-pending program for tranferring the style of an artist’s drawing to a 3D rendering in realtime. (via subtraction)

As American as free hotel ice

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2016

For the New Yorker, Heidi Julavits wrote about the easy access to ice being a particularly American trait.

As a kid, I took summer road trips with grandparents, and ice machines proved key to our modern pioneer-style vacations, wagon-bumping from one national park to another. We stored drinks and food in a giant cooler that, each morning, needed to be filled with new ice that would gradually melt during the day, until we reached our final destination.

Yes, this. I drove all over the US with my dad and sister in the summers when I was a kid and we rarely ate out (couldn’t afford it)…a big cooler full of daily replenished ice preserved our stores of food for the whole trip.

Anyway, for more info on refrigeration and how it changed America, see also the chapter on refrigeration in Steven Johnson’s How We Got to Now and Nicola Twilley’s posts on the artificial cryosphere.

80s and 90s commercials from Saturday morning cartoons

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2016

The Internet Archive has just uploaded a bunch of commercials that were shown during Saturday morning cartoons during the 70s, 80s, and 90s.1 Holy nostalgia bomb, OMG that Frosted Mini Wheats commercial! I somehow remember most of the 80s ones…can I delete those memories somehow to make more room for new thoughts about AI, self-driving cars, and climate change?

  1. For you youngsters out there, it used to be that cartoon shows on TV were shown on Saturday mornings…and only on Saturday mornings (mostly). Evenings were for dramas and sitcoms, afternoons were for soaps and game shows, and Sundays were for news shows and religion. It was an Event…and the only time during the week when parents could sleep in knowing for sure where the kids would be and what they were doing. Oh and also, there were only four channels and the TV screen was about as large as a sheet of paper…in B&W. And the phone was on the wall and had a rotary dial! And at the store, they looked your credit card number up in a book to make sure the card was valid! And you had to hand-crank your car to start it! And when the flint started to go on your axe, you just chipped yourself a new one….

The radicalization of the US Republican Party

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2016

Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann argue that the Republican Party has been radicalized and Trump is the result.

Trumpism may have parallels in populist, nativist movements abroad, but it is also the culmination of a proud political party’s steady descent into a deeply destructive and dysfunctional state.

While that descent has been underway for a long time, it has accelerated its pace in recent years. We noted four years ago the dysfunction of the Republican Party, arguing that its obstructionism, anti-intellectualism, and attacks on American institutions were making responsible governance impossible. The rise of Trump completes the script, confirming our thesis in explicit fashion.

We’re getting six new episodes of Making a Murderer from Netflix

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2016

Well! Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, directors of Making a Murderer, are working on six more episodes of the series for Netflix.

The new episodes of Making A Murderer will provide an in-depth look at the post-conviction process of convicted murderer Steven Avery, and his co-defendant, Brendan Dassey, as their respective investigative and legal teams challenge their convictions and the State fights to have their life sentences upheld.

They will also offer access to Avery’s new lawyer Kathleen Zellner and Dassey’s legal team, led by Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin, as well as the families and characters close to the case.

I thought Making a Murderer was excellent, one of the best things I watched last year. Reminder: the entire first episode of the show is on YouTube for free. (via @beaucolburn)

View from the camera car during a Jason Bourne car chase

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2016

Watch the intricate dance of trailing camera car, camera, and stunt car as they each bob and weave through traffic during the filming of the latest Jason Bourne movie in Las Vegas. The relevant scene is at 2:23 in the behind-the-scenes video above. (via @MachinePix)

Incredible rescue of a women from her sinking car in Baton Rouge floodwaters

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2016

Louisiana is currently experiencing a 500-year rainstorm, pushing rivers to record highs and causing historic floods. In Baton Rouge, a woman was rescued from her car just before it sank into the water by a courageous rescue crew. Well done, guys.

Auctioneer beats

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 27, 2016

From the Auctioneer Beats account on Vine, auctioneer calls set to the freshest beats.

Simple and delightful. Some of these auctioneers could give Daveed Diggs a run for his money. (via @fimoculous)

The world’s first chatbot lawyer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2016

AI chatbot lawyer sounds like a SNL skit, but the DoNotPay chatbot has successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York.

Dubbed as “the world’s first robot lawyer” by its 19-year-old creator, London-born second-year Stanford University student Joshua Browder, DoNotPay helps users contest parking tickets in an easy to use chat-like interface.

The program first works out whether an appeal is possible through a series of simple questions, such as were there clearly visible parking signs, and then guides users through the appeals process.

The results speak for themselves. In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets.

Having spent a shitload of money on lawyering over the past few years, there is definitely an opportunity for some automation there.

Werner Herzog is saying things about the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2016

Lo and Behold, a documentary about technology and the internet directed by Werner Herzog is coming out soon and so Herzog is doing some interviews and such about the film and dozens of other topics. With Paul Holdengraber, Herzog talks about North Korea and volcanoes:

The North Koreans apparently had seen quite a few of my films. I established a trust with them. It’s very strange because you’re accompanied by people who would look after what you were doing, who would politely tell you you cannot film this, or cannot film that, and at one point I filmed something which I was not allowed to do, so I wanted to have it edited or deleted. But since they are filming in 4K or 5K or so, very complicated data management, we were unable to delete it, and they wanted to take the entire memory hard drive. And I said, “But it contains two days worth of shooting, that would be terrible.” So I said, “You know what, I can guarantee to you that I’m not going to use this material.” And they said, “Guarantee, what do you mean by that?” I said, “Just look me in the eye, what I offer is my honor, my face, and my handshake.” And they said “ok” and they trusted me. And of course I’m not going to use this moment of filming that I was not supposed to film.

Herzog talked about Pokemon Go and film school with Emily Yoshida:

Q: You might be able to catch some. It’s all completely virtual. It’s very simple, but it’s also an overlay of physically based information that now exists on top of the real world.

A: When two persons in search of a pokemon clash at the corner of Sunset and San Vicente is there violence? Is there murder?

Q: They do fight, virtually.

A: Physically, do they fight?

Q: No-

A: Do they bite each other’s hands? Do they punch each other?

Jason Tanz spoke with Herzog for his profile on the director and his new film:

Herzog grins as he takes a seat in a conference room at UCLA, which has been set up for an event later this evening. His eyes droop, but his skin is remarkably smooth, like the surface of a slightly underinflated balloon. And then there’s that voice-silky, portentous-you can imagine it coming out of a GPS system giving driving directions to Valhalla. “I like to look back at the evolution of modern human beings,” he says of his interest in the Internet. “Using fire or electricity was an enormous step for civilization, and this is one of those. And I think the poet must not avert his eyes.”

What is interesting about Lo and Behold is that it’s technically branded content. No, really:

It’s a bonafide film that premiered at Sundance in January and has been generating lots of buzz heading toward its wider release. It also happens to be one giant ad, half in disguise, for POD New York client Netscout. The whole thing started out as an agency idea to produce short videos about the internet as part of a online Netscout campaign. But after they roped in Herzog, the vision for the project soon changed-for the better.

“I come from a digital background, and I’ve talked about the internet for my entire career. My first job was as the internet guy at DDB in Brazil,” Pereira said. “When we hired Werner to do content about the internet, I felt like, OK, I know it’s going to be awesome, but I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to see. But actually, it’s mind-blowing. We gave him the beginning of the idea and told him, ‘This is where it starts.’ He took it from there and owned it. It’s a mind-blowing documentary.”

I saw the film last week,1 and from what I remember, there’s nothing about Netscout in the film. They financed the film but according to Tanz, Herzog had final cut:

Herzog retained final cut while granting McNiel veto power, a privilege McNiel used only once, to excise some of the more horrifying troll comments, a decision Herzog now says he agrees with.

See also 24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog.

  1. It was interesting in spots, but I felt like splitting the narrative into 10 parts was not the right way to go. I would guess, however, the less you know about the technical aspects of technology, the more interesting Lo and Behold will be to you.

How happy is Twitter?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2016

Using a 5000-word dictionary of words rated on their happiness, the Hedonometer measures the average happiness on Twitter.

Happy Twitter

Christmas is always the happiest day of the year (“merry”, “happy”, and “joy” are all pretty positive) while shootings and terrorist attacks are Twitter’s saddest events. The recent mass shooting in Orlando seems to be the least happy Twitter has been over the past 7+ years.

The Hedonometer also analyzes the overall happiness of movies based on their scripts. The happiest movie is Sex in the City while the saddest is Omega Man (followed by The Bourne Ultimatum). Somehow, the fourth happiest movie is Lost in Translation, which might be reason for some overall skepticism about the project’s sensitivity to context.

The happiness over time of individual movie scripts has been analyzed by the Hedonometer too. Pulp Fiction’s happiest moment is when Vincent and Mia go to Jackrabbit Slim’s and the low point is “Bring out the Gimp”.

Happy Pulp Fiction

The system has analyzed books as well…the low point of the entire Harry Potter series seems to be the event at the end of The Half-Blood Prince.

Update: Grain of salt and all that, but the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas police officers have pushed the happiness quotient on Twitter lower again so that the two least happy days have both occurred in the past month. There’s been a general feeling that 2016 has been a bad year, like George RR Martin is writing it. I wish the data were available for a closer analysis, but if you look at the chart, you can see that Twitter’s overall happiness starts to rise around the end of 2012 but starts to fall again right around the beginning of 2016…the effect is quite clear, even just from eyeballing it.

How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to Trump

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2016

Now that Donald Trump’s officially the Republican candidate, here’s a summary of how a party once led by Abraham Lincoln came to select Mr. Orange as their #1. The Republican Party hasn’t been “the party of Lincoln” for many decades now, but I’m sure Abe is spinning particularly rapidly in his grave over his party’s latest turn. (As I’m sure Andrew Jackson and Jefferson Davis have been doing as well over the past eight years.)

NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 28, 2016

Launched from Earth in August 2011, the Juno probe is due to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Once there, it will circle Jupiter 37 times, observing its atmosphere and magnetic fields, before plunging into the giant planet so as not to contaminate Europa with microbes.

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

With its suite of science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras.

Juno will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system.

Science is great. That video? Maybe not so much.

In Situ, SFMOMA’s aggregated restaurant

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2016

In Situ is Corey Lee’s new restaurant in the recently refurbished SFMOMA. Like the museum does with art, In Situ brings culinary masterpieces from chefs around the world and presents them to guests. The current menu, which provides the name of the chef and the date the dish was first made in the style of the info cards next to artworks, includes Shrimp Grits from the now-closed WD-50 (Wylie Dufresne, 2013), Spicy Pork Sausage Rice Cakes from Ssam Bar (David Chang, 2007), Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Sherbet from Chez Panisse (Alice Waters, 1980), and Wood Sorrel & Sheep Milk’s Yogurt from Noma (René Redzepi, 2005).

This sort of thing is not exactly without precedent. From the very beginning of Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’ Next, one of the ideas was to present the menu from the French Laundry from Achatz’s first day on the job there in October 1996 (which is happening this fall) and the Chicago restaurant has already featured menus with dishes from El Bulli and Trio (Achatz’s first restaurant as head chef). Ssam Bar used to have cocktails from other places (Milk and Honey, Death & Co., etc.) on their beverage menu, properly credited. But as Pete Wells explains in his positive NY Times review, In Situ takes the concept further:

Would any chef have dreamed of building a restaurant like this 25 years ago? Would anyone have gone there? In Situ probably requires a steady supply of customers who care about restaurants in Lima and Copenhagen enough to have seen some of these dishes in cookbooks or at least in the Instagram accounts of the chefs in question. Mr. Lee depends on, and caters to, a class of eaters who pay attention to the global restaurant scene the way certain art hounds follow the goings on in Basel, Miami Beach and Venice.

One thing In Situ proves, just by existing, is that certain chefs are now cultural figures in a sense that once applied only to practitioners of what used to be called high culture: literature, concert music, avant-garde painting. A Redzepi dish can be visited in an art museum in 2016, and nobody finds this very strange.

What In Situ is doing also underscores how context and the renown of an artist can affect our perception of what is creative appropriation versus theft or plagiarism. That In Situ is helmed by one of the best chefs in the US and affiliated with a world-class museum matters. The similar work of an unknown chef might not get the same treatment, as Robin Wickens found out in 2006, when he presented dishes from WD-50 and Alinea on the menu at his Australian restaurant:

That’s what happened three months ago on the eGullet.com Web site. Sam Mason, a pastry chef at WD-50 in New York, set off an international dust-up when he posted a link to the Web site of Interlude, a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, and asked: “Is it me or are some of these dishes strikingly similar to a few American restaurants?” Interlude’s site showed photos of such unusual fare as noodles made of shrimp and a glass tube full of eucalyptus jelly and yogurt, dishes pioneered at WD-50 and Chicago’s Alinea, respectively. Interlude’s chef, Robin Wickens, had worked for a week at Alinea as a stagiere, or unpaid intern, and had dined at WD-50 while visiting the U.S.

EGullet’s administrators then juxtaposed Interlude’s images to nearly identical ones from WD-50 and Alinea. Within a few days, restaurateurs and chefs from around the country and dozens of eGullet members added to the thread, many branding Mr. Wickens a plagiarist.

Mortified, Mr. Wickens says he removed the dishes from his menu and his site, and sent letters to the chefs whose work he’d copied explaining that he only wanted to utilize what he’d learned on his travels. “I never tried to claim them as my own,” says Mr. Wickens, who says he told many patrons that the dishes had originated at the American restaurants.

I wish I had San Francisco travel plans…In Situ is the first new restaurant I’ve been excited about visiting in ages (for obvious reasons). Soon, hopefully.

The historical accuracy of Saving Private Ryan

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2016

Saving Private Ryan has been praised for its graphic and intense depiction of World War II, particularly the Normandy landing scene. History Buffs recently analyzed the film for its historical accuracy. How well does the film reflect the events of the actual D-Day landing and aftermath?

The video takes a bit to get going but is really good when it does. For instance, did you know that the Allies used inflatable tanks and Jeeps to make Germany believe Allied forces had strongholds in places they did not? Look at them inflating the tanks and bouncing Jeeps around:

Warm Regards, a new podcast about climate change

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2016

Eric Holthaus, the internet’s favorite meteorologist, is hosting a new podcast on climate change called Warm Regards (on iTunes). A recent episode is embedded above and here’s a bit more about the show, including some info about his co-hosts:

Joining me with co-hosts Andy Revkin, a veteran environment writer for the New York Times who has covered climate change for 30 years, and Jacquelyn Gill, a paleoecologist at the University of Maine who is an actual, real-life climate scientist and flawlessly navigates climate Twitter.

Also, Holthaus recently started a project on Patreon to support his independent journalism on climate change. I’m in for $3/mo…chip in if you enjoy Eric’s work and Twitter contributions and wish to see more.1

  1. I wish all of Holthaus’ Patreon stuff was public, not just for the people supporting him. I want to fund his current public work and help him create more work that will, hopefully, be disseminated far and wide. The folks that need intelligent writing and podcasting about climate change aren’t the people who are going to back him. I know it’s difficult to make that pitch to people (i.e. you get what everyone else does whether they pay or not), but I think most people are paying to support Holthaus and his work, not to get members-only stuff.

The definitive oral history of Die Hard

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2016

Die Hard

Now available as a Kindle single (71 pages): Die Hard: An Oral History.

In this definitive oral history of “Die Hard,” writers, actors, producers, and studio executives reveal behind-the-scenes stories, from the curious origins of the film’s title, to the script’s evolution from a depressing ’70s character study to an optimistic Reagan-era blockbuster, to the seminal negotiations between 20th Century Fox and Willis’s then-agent which sent his client’s career into the stratosphere, to details of moguls Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver’s famously tumultuous relationship while developing some of the ’80s most successful franchises.

The Daily Beast has an excerpt on the casting of John McClane.

They went to Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. They went to Sly, who turned it down. They went to Richard Gere-turned it down. They went to James Caan-turned it down. They went to Burt Reynolds, and all of these people rejected it because, remember, this is 1987. You had all these Rambo movies. We’ve had Commando, Predator, and in the wake of all of these, the hero, they said, was like a pussy. The reaction? “This guy’s no hero.” Right? In desperation, they went to Bruce Willis.

Wes Anderson’s Bad Dads

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2016

Bad Dads

Wes Anderson’s films are chock full of bad fathers and father figures. Bad Dads, the third book in the Wes Anderson Collection, showcases some of the art from the annual Bad Dads art show (prints!) at the Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco.

The winners of the 2015 50 Books/50 Covers competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 27, 2016

The AIGA and Design Observer have announced the results of the 50 Books/50 Covers competition for books published in 2015. The competition recognizes excellence in design of books and, separately, book covers. Here are a couple of my favorite covers:

50books Covers 2015

50books Covers 2015

Oreo by Fran Ross was designed by Erik Carter and Moon-Kie Jung’s Beneath the Surface of White Supremacy was designed by Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein.

Prettifying graffiti

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2016

Mathieu Tremblin

Mathieu Tremblin

For a project called Tag Clouds, street artist Mathieu Tremblin paints over graffiti tags and makes them more legible. The result looks like when Word says that the Hardkaze and Aerosol fonts are used in the document you’re trying to open but are missing from your computer and you click OK to replace them with whatever’s available. I think the font above is Arial, which is perfect. I also like this faux-watermark piece he did:

Mathieu Tremblin

What to the slave is the 4th of July?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2016

In 1852, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, NY which historian James West Davidson calls “the most remarkable Independence Day oration in American history”.

In Rochester, Douglass stalked his largely white audience with exquisite care, taking them by stealth. He began by providing what many listeners might not have expected from a notorious abolitionist: a fulsome paean to the Fourth and the founding generation. The day brought forth “demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm,” he told them, for the signers of the Declaration were “brave men. They were great men too-great enough to give fame to a great age.” Jefferson’s very words echoed in Douglass’s salute: “Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country … “

Your fathers. That pronoun signaled the slightest shift in the breeze. But Douglass continued cordially. “Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do.” Then another step back: “That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker.”

The text of the speech itself is well worth reading…that “slightest shift in the breeze” slowly builds to a mighty hurricane.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Several years ago, James Earl Jones read a portion of Douglass’ speech:

Update: Baratunde Thurston recently presented Douglass’ speech live at the Brooklyn Public Library. (thx, rick)

The NES Classic Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2016

Nes Classic

In November, Nintendo is coming out with a mini NES gaming system that includes 30 games and a classic controller. Among the games are Legend of Zelda, Dr. Mario, Bubble Bobble, all three Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Castlevania, and Metroid. It hooks to your TV with HDMI and will cost $60.1

There’s is no way I am not getting one of these. There’s no way to buy online yet, but keep your eye on this Amazon search and I imagine it’ll show up sometime soon.

  1. Taking inflation into account, the original NES Deluxe System (with R.O.B. the robot) sold in 1985 cost $664 in 2016 dollars. When it was released in 1987, Legend of Zelda retailed for $111 in 2016 dollars. Zelda was one of the more expensive games and some of the games included with the Classic Edition came out later, but say a typical game is $80 in 2016 dollars. That’s $3000 worth of games and system crammed into something that fits in your hand and costs $60. Moore’s Law!

Why is Peter Thiel supporting Donald Trump?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2016

As Elon Musk plans to introduce a fleet of completely autonomous self-driving vehicles to America’s roads, another PayPal co-founder is giving a speech in support of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. But why exactly is a canny libertarian with a penchant for undermining the fundamental pillars of democracy to forward his own personal aims supporting Trump? Jeff Bercovici has a not-so-crazy theory:

I think Peter Thiel supports Donald Trump because he believes it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to weaken America’s attachment to democratic government.

I’m not accusing Thiel of any ambitions he hasn’t more or less copped to. In an often-quoted 2009 essay, Thiel declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”

He also wrote that his fellow libertarians were on a “fool’s errand” trying to achieve their ends through political means: “In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms — from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called ‘social democracy.’”

Here’s the essay Bercovici refers to: The Education of a Libertarian. Tyler Cowen, who interviewed Thiel last year and admires him (or at least finds his views interesting), has another take on Thiel’s support of Trump, which is perhaps related to Bercovici’s:

The Straussian interpretation of the Republican Convention is the correct one, which is perhaps one reason why Peter Thiel will be speaking there. They are not saying what they are saying, in fact they are saying “the world is going to hell, and many of those amongst us have been traitorously disloyal. That is why we scream out stupidities, debase ourselves, and court attention by waving our arms in ridiculous ways. We are a small church seeking to become larger.” Is that not how many smaller churches behave? Is that not how some of the early branches of the Christian church behaved? Did they have any influence?

What does Donald Trump actually want? What does Thiel want? What do Republican voters want? I’d wager their actual goals have less to do with the party’s official platform and what people are saying at the convention and more to do with broader opportunities to gain power that arise from disruption and the energetic application of fear.

Ocean’s Ocho

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 10, 2016

They’re rebooting Ocean’s Eleven with an all-female ensemble including Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Sandra Bullock, and Cate Blanchett. As a lover of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, I am totally on board with this.

Ocean’s Eleven director Steven Soderbergh, who is based in New York and is expected to be deeply involved with the spinoff — perhaps taking on a below-the-line job like he has done on other studio films like Magic Mike XXL — is producing solo (Oceans Eleven producer Jerry Weintraub passed away last year). Olivia Milch and Ross wrote the screenplay.

And while we’re at it, let’s reboot everything with female leads. We’ve already got Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Ocho. Someone I was talking with at a party last week suggested an all-women A-Team reboot, which would be fantastic.1 What else? Reservoir Dogs? Indiana Jones? Back to the Future? Any movie Tom Hanks/Cruise/Hardy has ever made?

  1. The same person also suggested a Charlie’s Angels reboot with male leads. Charlie is a woman and they’re still referred to as her Angels. I am also on board with this.

Time lapse video of pills dissolving in water

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 08, 2016

Time lapse video filmed with a macro camera of various pills dissolving in water. Pills are often colorful so some of these end up looking like decaying clowns. You might want to take a couple tabs of something, throw this on the biggest screen you can, dim the lights, and trip your balls off.

Tilt-shift van Gogh

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2016

Tilt Shift Van Gogh

Tilt Shift Van Gogh

Scenes from van Gogh paintings, modified with a fake tilt-shift effect. (via colossal)

A Lego minifig with human skin

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2016

Um. Um, um, um. Uh. Frank Ippolito built a costume designed to look like a Lego minifig with real human skin. The hands — the haaaaaands!! — are super super super creepy.

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2016

Wonderland, Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson’s new book, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World, will be out in November. In it, he describes how novelties and games have been responsible for scientific innovation and technological change for hundreds of years.

This lushly illustrated history of popular entertainment takes a long-zoom approach, contending that the pursuit of novelty and wonder is a powerful driver of world-shaping technological change. Steven Johnson argues that, throughout history, the cutting edge of innovation lies wherever people are working the hardest to keep themselves and others amused.

Johnson’s storytelling is just as delightful as the inventions he describes, full of surprising stops along the journey from simple concepts to complex modern systems. He introduces us to the colorful innovators of leisure: the explorers, proprietors, showmen, and artists who changed the trajectory of history with their luxurious wares, exotic meals, taverns, gambling tables, and magic shows.

Here’s Johnson’s introduction on How We Get To Next.

They all revolve around the creative power of play: ideas and innovations that initially came into the world because people were trying to come up with fresh ways to trigger the feeling of delight or surprise, by making new sounds with a musical instrument, or devising clever games of chance, or projecting fanciful images on a screen. And here’s the fascinating bit: Those amusements, as trivial as they seemed at the time, ended up setting in motion momentous changes in science, technology, politics, and society.

[Ok, riff mode engaged…I have no idea if Johnson talks about learning while playing in his book, but I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately so…ready or not, here I come.] Being the parent of young children, you hear a lot about the power of play. I’ve never been a fan of a lot of screen time for kids, but lately I’ve been letting them play more apps on the iPad and also Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U. I’ve even come to think of their Kart playing as educational as well as entertaining. Watching them level up in the game has been fascinating to watch — Minna (my almost 7-year-old) has gone from not even being able to steer the kart to winning Grand Prix gold cups at 50cc (and she’s a better shot with a green shell than I am) and Ollie (my 9-year-old) is improving so rapidly that with his superior neuroplasticity and desire, he’ll be beating me in just a few months.1

Ok, but what is Mario Kart really teaching them? This isn’t about preparing them for their driver’s license exam. As dumb as it sounds,2 Mario Kart is a good vehicle (har!) for learning some of life’s most essential skills. They’re learning how persistant practice leads to steady improvement (something which isn’t always readily visible with schoolwork). They’re learning how to ignore what they can’t control and focus on what they can (Minna still watches green shells after shooting them but Ollie no longer does…helloooooo Stoicism). They’re learning how to lose gracefully and try again with determination. Most of all, they’re learning how to navigate an unfamiliar system. Teaching someone how to learn — knowing how to learn things is one of life’s greatest superpowers — is about exposing them to many different kinds of systems and helping them figure them out.

Update: Johnson is hosting a podcast based on the ideas in the book.

  1. Ok, maybe in a year or two. Old Man Kottke is pretty good at Kart and has a few tricks left up his sleeve. Wisdom and experience can often be more than a match for youthful brilliance.

  2. It’s a bummer to have to caveat this. Even in the age of Minecraft, video games aren’t often thought of as learning opportunities. Very few in the US would bat an eyelash if I were talking about basketball or Little League.

The heavy metal-ness of language

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2016

To determine which words are the most “metal”, this data scientist wrote a program to sift through more than 22,000 albums to find the words most frequently used in heavy metal songs compared to their use in standard English. “Burn” is the most metal word, followed by “cries”, “veins”, “eternity”, “breathe”, and “beast”. The least metal words?


If you were to run an analysis on what I’ve written at kottke.org, I doubt it would be particularly metal. \m/

The true size of things on world maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2016

True Size Map

One of the most popular map projections of the world is the Mercator projection:

Mercator Projection

It’s useful but misleading in important ways. With the the True Size Map, you can drag countries and continents around a Mercator map to uncover their true sizes. For example, it may not be apparent on a Mercator map that Australia is about the same size as the lower 48 US states (see above). Or that Africa is much larger than it seems on the map:

True Size Map

Or is it that North America is oversized on the map? Greenland certainly is. Its true size becomes more clear when you overlay it on India:

True Size Map

Mercator’s been around for hundreds of years, so luckily cartographers have invented dozens of other ways to visualize the world in 2D, each of which have their own strengths and disadvantages. You can view many of them here.

Update: I had somehow forgotten about this great scene from The West Wing discussing the geographic bias of the Mercator map:

(thx to the many who reminded me)

Side-by-side comparison of Wes Anderson films and their influences

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 04, 2016

A visual comparison of Wes Anderson’s movies with some of the films that influenced him, including The 400 Blows, The Graduate, The French Connection, Star Wars, and Last of the Mohicans. (thx, luis)

RIP Seymour Papert

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2016

Seymour Papert, a giant in the worlds of computing and education, died on Sunday aged 88.

Dr. Papert, who was born in South Africa, was one of the leading educational theorists of the last half-century and a co-director of the renowned Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In some circles he was considered the world’s foremost expert on how technology can provide new ways for children to learn.

In the pencil-and-paper world of the 1960s classroom, Dr. Papert envisioned a computing device on every desk and an internetlike environment in which vast amounts of printed material would be available to children. He put his ideas into practice, creating in the late ’60s a computer programming language, called Logo, to teach children how to use computers.

I missed out on using Logo as a kid, but I know many people for whom Logo was their introduction to computers and programming. The MIT Media Lab has a short remembrance of Papert as well.

The legs of New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2016

NY Legs

NY Legs

NY Legs

NY Legs

Stacey Baker, who is a photo editor at the NY Times, spends some of her leisure time photographing the legs of women on the streets of NYC. Her Instagram account has 78K+ followers and now she’s turned the project into a book: New York Legs.

NY Legs Cover

Great cover.

61 Glimpses of the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2016

Jan Chipchase is the founder of Studio D Radiodurans, which is sort of a modern day A-Team, except with more field research and fewer guns. For example, Chipchase is the sort of person who, for vacation, does not sip pina coladas in Bali but heads for “Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan’s GBAO region and China’s western provinces”. At the conclusion of the trip, which was actually only partially a vacation, Chipchase jotted down 61 Glimpses of the Future. A few of my favorite observations:

7. A white male travelling alone in interesting places, will always need to disprove they are a spy. Thanks Hollywood.

24. There is only one rule for driving in the GBAO: give a lift to every local that wants one, until the car is full. It’s common to travel main thoroughfares for a day and only see a couple of vehicles.

33. People wearing fake Supreme are way more interesting than those that wear the real deal.

34. An iPhone box full of fungus caterpillar in Kham Tibet sold wholesale, is worth more than a fully specced iPhone. It’s worth 10x at retail in 1st/2nd Tier China. It is a better aphrodisiac too.

38. Tibetan monks prefer iOS over Android.

53. Visitors to Tibet proper are supposed to go in a tour group and hire a local guide. With the right agent you can become a tour group of one and on arrival tell the guide you don’t need their services. It helps to look like you’re going to behave.

This is, as Tyler Cowen might say, interesting throughout. (via @themexican)

What’s new on Netflix for the July 4th weekend?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2016

If you’re looking to avoid the family or ocean or grilled meats or fireworks, there are some seriously good movies that have been added to Netflix in the US just in time for the long holiday weekend:

Mean Girls
Beverly Hills Cop
Back to the Future (I II & III)
Lethal Weapon
The Sting

And The Big Short arrives on July 6.

Visualization of the history of cities from 3700 BC to now

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 28, 2016

Using the results of a recent report by a team of Yale researchers, this visualization shows the growth of urbanization across the globe from 3700 BC to the present day. There is an amazing flurry of activity in the last few seconds of the video because:

By 2030, 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities. Today, about 54 percent of us do. In 1960, only 34 percent of the world lived in cities.

There are now 21 Chinese cities alone with a population of over 4 million.

Teaser trailer for Sherlock season 4

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 25, 2016

I really like Sherlock, but a little less so every season…and this trailer seems to point in what I feel is a bad direction. Why does everything have to be so cartoonishly big and important? This isn’t James Bond with the entire world under imminent threat every 12 months from some heretofore unknown super-villain who is in charge of a global cabal of baddies that suddenly materialized, fully formed, out of nowhere. To be fair, Sherlock is far from the only show/movie series that does this (and to be more fair, they do it less than most), but the constant raising of the stakes is lazy writing and leads only into a corner.

The two most suspenseful movies I saw last year were Mad Max: Fury Road and Spotlight. Both focused on relatively small actions — the rescue and survival of five women in the former and the gathering of long hidden truths about the Catholic Church in the latter — and both were edge-of-your-seat the entire time. And the movie about journalism (journalism!) was actually the more suspenseful of the two, even though I knew the outcome the entire time. That’s excellent writing. I know the Sherlock team is capable of excellent writing — it’s one of the most inventive shows out there — and I hope this season will be more interesting than the OH MY GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING AND ONLY SHERLOCK CAN SAVE US vibe I’m getting from the trailer. TL;DR: the trailer for a TV show is too exciting. (Oh brother.)

A supercut of 400 fourth wall breaking moments in movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2016

I have to admit I didn’t watch all 17 minutes of it, but this is a nicely edited compilation of direct narration, looks into the camera, and other self-conscious moments from movies.

The Human Family

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 07, 2016

A new commercial from Apple pairs photos & videos shot on iPhone 6 with a poem from Maya Angelou called Human Family.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

You can hear Angelou recite the entire poem here:

Israel achieves breakthroughs in freshwater making tech

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 01, 2016

In the biggest water miracle since Christ walked on the Sea of Galilee,1 Israel has turned certain drought into a surplus of water. Conservation helped — low-flow shower heads, recycling waste water for crop irrigation — but much of the gain came from vastly improved desalinization techniques, which they hope can spread across the region and the world.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Perhaps the world won’t end in water wars after all.

Update: Of course, technological advances can affect politics in many ways. Instead of sharing the tech, Israel can use their water advantage to put political pressure on their neighbors, as when Israel cut water supplies to the West Bank earlier this year during Ramadan.

Even without politics, desalinization is problematic…there’s the small matter of where to put all that salt:

Brine disposal is a big problem in much of the Middle East. The gulf, along with the Red and Mediterranean seas, are turning saltier because of desalination by-products — and the region is the epicenter of desalination worldwide, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman making up 45 percent of global desalination capacity. This brine is typically twice as salty as seawater, and advanced desalination plants still produce approximately two cubic meters of waste brine for every one cubic meter of clean water.

(thx, jennifer & nathan)

  1. [That’s your lede? Ok, I quit. -ed]

How film works

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2016

A short but info-packed explanation about how film works…you know, the actual stuff that snakes its way through movie cameras. (via one perfect shot)