Over at McSweeney's, Gary Almeter reimagines episodes of the Little House on the Prairie TV show to reflect the presence of a Starbucks in Walnut Grove.
Charles inherits the entire estate of a wealthy uncle. Within 24 hours, the Ingallses, who are seemingly rich, suddenly become Harriet Oleson's best pals. They are pressured to make various contributions throughout the community, and they even receive newspaper article offers to chronicle this tremendous change in their lives. Things get even worse when this newfound fortune threatens the family's relationships with their real friends. Meanwhile, Nellie Oleson, to avenge a barista who broke Nellie's doll, replaces the cinnamon at the Starbucks condiments bar with cayenne pepper while Mr. Edwards finally accepts the idea that coffee can be iced.
After writing The Cat in the Hat in 1955 using only 223 words, Dr. Seuss bet his publisher that he could write a book using only 50 words. Seuss collected on the wager in 1960 with the publication of Green Eggs and Ham. Here are the 50 distinct words used in the book:
a am and anywhere are be boat box car could dark do eat eggs fox goat good green ham here house I if in let like may me mouse not on or rain Sam say see so thank that the them there they train tree try will with would you
From a programming perspective, one of the fun things about Green Eggs and Ham is because the text contains so little information repeated in a cumulative tale, the story could be more efficiently represented as an algorithm. A simple loop would take the place of the following excerpt:
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam I am.
But I don't know...
foreach ($items as $value) doesn't quite have the same sense of poetry as the original Seuss.
Man rides the rails on a giant skateboard made out of a wooden pallet:
That worked way better than I would have expected. (via digg)
If you've been paying attention to the promos for HBO's Game of Thrones series, there's been a lot of Jon Snow sitting on the Iron Throne. When the show started, Snow seemed like a relatively minor character, but his uncertain parentage hinted at possible greater things on the horizon. Here's a video explanation of one of the more popular theories about Snow's parents:
BTW, if you, like me, haven't read the books and have only seen the TV show, the video doesn't contain any outright spoilers, only enriching context. So watch away. And if you've read the books, you probably don't need to watch the video because you're probably already aware of this old theory. If you're interested, there are more theories (and crazy spoilers) where that came from.
Bread and butter is often an afterthought at restaurants...the bread can be meh and bland butter served too cold to spread. Chef Dan Richer takes the bread and butter offered at his New Jersey restaurant as seriously as any of the other items on his menu.
Cultured butter is delicious...Per Se serves it as well. (via digg)
"Minecraft is a game about creation," writes Robin Sloan. "But it is just as much a game about secret knowledge."
There's no official manual, so the game's teeming network of devotees, young and old, proper publishers and web-based wildcats, have worked to create them by the score. Not just guides, but wikis, videos, hints, tricks. The rules can only be discovered by observation, reasoning, and experiment. Like science -- or magic:
Imagine yourself a child. Imagine yourself given one of these books: not merely a story of exploration and adventure, but a manual to such.
Imagine yourself acquiring the keys to a mutable world in which you can explore caves, fight spiders, build castles, ride pigs, blow up mountains, construct aqueducts to carry water to your summer palace... anything.
Imagine yourself a child, in possession of the secret knowledge.
Maybe the most interesting thing about this, Robin writes, is how the game "calls forth" the books -- another kind of magic. Is this a function of how much Minecraft players love the game? Or is that arcane, indirect, networked, bottomless well of knowledge, asking to be impossibly filled, what they love about it?
This is a lie, but I got dozens of emails today asking, "Jason, what movie should I watch tonight?" Whoa, slow down everyone, I've got just the thing: Snowpiercer. It's a Korean film from 2013 that's just now trickling into the consciousness of the rest of the world (c.f. this Grantland piece). The film takes place entirely on a train carrying the last remaining humans speeding forever around a frozen Earth (caused by an overenthusiastic response to climate change) and director Bong Joon-ho takes full advantage of this confined and linear setting. Plus, Tilda Swinton as a Terry Gilliam-ified Maggie Thatcher is worth the price of admission alone.
Snowpiercer is out in ~350 theaters in the US, so if you're not in a major metropolitan area, it might be a little hard to catch. But the movie is also available digitally at Amazon and iTunes.
Over at McSweeney's, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won't believe what God said to this man...
At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn't Have Other Gods.
37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.
Jokey t-shirts for infants are almost never funny but putting the same shirts on adults is the best idea ever.
All the designs featured are actually available for sale -- here's that I Pooped Today shirt -- just click on the "See all styles" button for adult options. Ok, just one more:
If you enjoyed the World Cup but don't know how to proceed into the seemingly impenetrable world of soccer, with its overlapping leagues, cups, and tournaments, this guide from Grantland is for you.
Just because the World Cup is over doesn't mean soccer stops. Soccer never stops; that's one of its biggest appeals. There are so many different teams, leagues, club competitions, and international tournaments that, if you want to, you can always find someone to cheer for or some team to root against. It can also be a bit daunting to wade into without any experience. Luckily, you have me, your Russian Premier League-watching, tactics board-chalking, Opta Stats-devouring Gandalf, to help you tailor your soccer-watching habits. And now I will answer some completely made-up questions to guide you along your soccer path.
This was basically my situation after the 2010 World Cup, a soccer fan with nowhere to direct his fandom. What I did was:
1. Picked a player I enjoyed watching (Messi) and started following his club team (FC Barcelona) and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the league that team played in (La Liga). I know a lot more cities in Spain than I used to.
2. Watched as many Champions League matches as I could every year, again more or less following Barcelona.
3. Got into UEFA European Championship, which is basically the World Cup but just for Europe. It's held every four years on a two-year stagger from the WC and the next one is in 2016 in France, which, I'm realizing just now, I should try to attend.
I also watched a few Premier League matches here and there...it's a great league with good competition. What I didn't do is follow any MLS or the USMNT, although after this WC, I might give the Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments some more attention. And qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup start in mid-2015...soccer never ends.
The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.
Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.
Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)
Helsinki has announced plans to integrate all transportation within the Finnish city into a single system with a single payment structure and run it as a public utility.
Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.
Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.
As the Helsinki Times' headline reads, the future resident of Helsinki will not own a car.
In the early 1930s, Western Union and AT&T built two new buildings in lower Manhattan to house their telecommunications infrastructure. Here's a short film about their construction and ongoing use as hubs for contemporary telecom and internet communications.
Amazing that those buildings are still being used for the same use all these years later...they just run newer and newer technology through the same old conduits.
This clever and well-done visualization shows where individual NYC taxis picked up and dropped off their fares over the course of a day.
Mesmerizing. Has anyone done analysis on which drivers are the most effective and what the data shows as the most effective techniques? The best drivers must have their tricks on where to be at which times to get the most fares. (via @dens)
The evidence has mounted to such an extent that Brian Windhorst of ESPN has written an article about LeBron James' fantastic memory.
So what does it mean? What it seems to suggest -- at least the part of it that James will discuss -- is that if you give up the baseline to James on a drive in November 2011 and he's playing against you in March 2013, the Heat small forward will remember it. It means that if you tried to change your pick-and-roll coverage in the middle of the fourth quarter of the 2008 playoffs, he'll be ready for you to try it again in 2014, even if you're coaching a different team. It also means that if you had a good game the last time you played against Milwaukee because James got you a few good looks in the first quarter, the next time you play the Bucks you can count on James looking for you early in the game. Because, you know, the memory never forgets.
"I can usually remember plays in situations a couple of years back -- quite a few years back sometimes," James says. "I'm able to calibrate them throughout a game to the situation I'm in, to know who has it going on our team, what position to put him in.
"I'm lucky to have a photographic memory," he will add, "and to have learned how to work with it."
Which sounds great, right? Except that thinking's best friend is often overthinking.
Consider what you know of the 2011 NBA Finals. And now consider it, instead, like this: In what will likely be remembered as the low point of his career, James is miserable for several games against the Dallas Mavericks -- including a vitally important Game 4 collapse when he somehow scores just eight points in 46 minutes. At times during that game it appears as if James is in a trance.
"What is he thinking?" the basketball world wonders.
James -- with two titles and counting, and four straight trips to the Finals -- can admit today what he's thinking in 2011: He's thinking of everything. Everything good, and everything bad. In 2011, he isn't just playing against the Mavs; he's also battling the demons of a year earlier, when he failed in a series against the Boston Celtics as the pressure of the moment beat him down. It's Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and it is, to this point, perhaps the most incomprehensible game of James' career. His performance is so lockjawed, so devoid of rhythm, the world crafts its own narrative, buying into unfounded and ridiculous rumors because they seem more plausible than his performance.
I've probably said this a million times, but my favorite aspect of sports is the mental game, each athlete's battle with her/himself: from Shaq's dreamful attraction to Allen Iverson's visualization in lieu of practice to better living through self deception to Roger Federer's conservation of concentration to free diver Natalia Molchanova's attention deconcentration to deliberate practice to relaxed concentration. James taming his tide of memories fits right in.
Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.
July 25 was probably the 25th anniversary of Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. (Google and a few other sources say the release date was actually June 25, but July 25 is the consensus.) There's a new mural of the group, painted by Danielle Mastrion, at the corner of Ludlow and Rivington, on New York's Lower East Side, where the album cover was shot.
This remix of Paul's Boutique, released a few years ago, has also been recirculating on Twitter and Soundcloud. Caught in the Middle of a Three-Way Mix, by DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot, and DJ Food, recombines the album's original source tracks and a capella verses with audio commentaries and a handful of newer songs.
The remix is fun to listen to, but mostly, it just reminds you that Paul's Boutique sounds amazing because its sampled sources were amazing. Like De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising, released the same year, Paul's Boutique lifts tracks that would cost a small mint to borrow from today. (Three Feet High has never had an official digital release because the rights holders still can't sort out the royalties.) The Beatles, The Supremes, The Ramones, Curtis Mayfield, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly, Bernard Hermann, and James Brown (of course) are all there. But mostly, it's a love letter to old-school New York City hip hop: Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5, The Sugarhill Gang, The Funky 4 +1, and contemporaries like Run-DMC, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy are the glue that holds the whole project together.
Now, if you know Paul's Boutique well, you can't hear those older songs any more without hearing Paul's Boutique. There's specific moments in those songs that hide there waiting for you to trip over them, like quotations of ancient Greek in an Ezra Pound or TS Eliot poem. Beastie Boys didn't just find a way to make older music sound new; they found a way to invent their own precursors.
It's still wonderful to go back to the roots. In 2012, I found tracks from a handful of playlists and website listings and edited them together to make a Spotify playlist that I called "Paul's Boutique Without Paul's Boutique." It's just the sampled songs, as many of them as I could find, roughly in the order they appear on the album. It's ridiculously fun. I like it better than the three-DJ mix, and I might like it even better than the Beasties' album.
It feels like you're at an amazing party at Adam Yauch's house, the Dust Brothers have control of the record player, and Mike D and Adam Horowitz are watching TV and telling you jokes the whole time. I never want it to end.
For the latest installment of Grantland's 30 for 30 short documentary series, a story on the genesis of the high five and what happened to one of its inventors. This video is chock full of amazing vintage footage of awkward high fives. [Weird aside: The sound on this video is only coming out of the left channel. Is that a subtle homage to the one-handed gesture or a sound mixing boner?]
Everyone has a superpower. This guy's superpower is that he can flip mini-pancakes faster than I thought humanly possible.
I love watching stuff like this...here's a guy chopping lemons in half 20 times quicker than Superman himself would.
ps. This is still the world's best pancake recipe.
Oh, this is wonderful: Laurin Döpfner took an industrial sander to objects like logs, electronics, a camera, and a walnut, shaved off 0.5 mm at a time, and made a time lapse video of the results.
This is like a full-color MRI process. Could watch it all day. (via colossal)
In 1986, the BBC produced a short documentary film on the Taylor brothers, a trio of professional cyclists from the 1930s and 40s. The three of them operated a bicycle shop, which turned out handmade bikes for decades.
Delightful. Don't miss one of the brothers putting the racing stripes on a frame by hand starting at around 12:00. You can read a bit more about the brothers here and here. (via @cdevroe)
Martin Scorsese uses silence very effectively in his films. Tony Zhou explains:
(via dot info)
A short film about how Neal's Yard Dairy, a top seller of cheese in London, works with producers to make cheese.
I had a tour of the caves below Murray's in the West Village where they do the same sort of thing as at Neal's Yard. Pretty cool to see the process in action and to taste the same cheeses at different ages.
From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.
Buzz Aldrin just did one of Reddit's crowdsourced Q&As. He hits it out of the park with his first answer:
Q: Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?
A: My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was "Magnificent desolation." The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream -- achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate -- there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away -- no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up -- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.
From XKCD, an illustration of the solar system's solid surfaces stitched together. Best viewed large (if only to find the "all human skin" label). Randall Munroe is just the best, isn't he?
The first season of a new series based on 12 Monkeys (and La Jetée) is set to debut on Syfy in January; here's the trailer:
(via the verge)
Mark Bittman on the true cost of producing a hamburger, after accounting for externalities like carbon generation and obesity.
Cheeseburgers are the coal of the food world, with externalities in spades; in fact it's unlikely that producers of cheeseburgers bear the full cost of any aspect of making them.
This made me think of something I wrote for Worldchanging several years ago about a True Cost rating:
Wealth doesn't just magically materialize into your bank account. It comes from the ground, human effort, the flesh of animals, the sun, and the atom. The global economy is driven by nature, and yet it's not usually found on the accountant's balance sheet. Perhaps it should be. I'd like to know the true cost of the stuff I buy. Embodied energy and carbon footprint calculations are a good start, but it would be nice if the product itself came with a True Cost number or rating, like the nutritional information on a cereal box or the Energy Star rating on a refrigerator.
When True Cost is factored in, conflict diamonds become a morally expensive choice to make when they're fueling turmoil in the world. Likewise clothing made in sweatshops. Organic tomatoes flown in from Chile may be less expensive at the register, but how much carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere flying/driving them to your table? What's the energy cost of living in the suburbs compared to living downtown? Do the people who made the clock hanging on my wall get paid a fair wage and receive healthcare? Just how bad for the environment is the laptop on which I'm typing?
I straight-up loved this movie. It's a fascinating look at the creative process of a team with strong leadership operating at a very high level. The trailer is pretty misleading in this respect...the main story in the film has little to do with fashion and should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked with a bunch of people on a project. Others have made the comparison of Anna Wintour with Steve Jobs and it seems apt. At several points in the film, my thoughts drifted to Jobs and Apple; Wintour seems like the same sort of creative leader as Jobs.
Two dozen people offer you their best advice on how to invest a single dollar.
I don't have any awesome ideas for how to invest a buck, unfortunately. That is my weakness. My first instinct was to invest it in a stripper's g-string or a barista's tip jar. But I'm not sure how that translates as investment. I do know that the more frequently you visit/tip a barista -- your neighborhood barista, who does not work at a Starbucks -- the more often you are treated like family and you get free coffee. I think that the more you invest in a stripper, the less you get free things from that stripper.
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Over the past century, adult per capita cigarette consumption in the US rose from nearly nothing in 1900 to a peak of more than 4000 cigarettes per year in the early 60s and then fell to the current rate of around 1000/yr. Currently, smoking in the US correlates highly with level of education and poverty.
Smoking, as it happens, also appears to be highly correlated with both poverty and education levels in the United States: 27.9 percent of American adults living below the poverty line are smokers, while just 17 percent of those living above it are, according to the CDC; 24.7 percent of American adults without a high school diploma are smokers, while 23.1 percent of those with one are. Only 9.1 percent of those with an undergraduate degree, and 5.9 percent of those with a graduate degree are smokers.
According to Wikipedia, the US is 51st among nations in annual smoking rates. Eastern Europe and Russia hold all the top spots, but their per capita rates (~2800/yr) are all lower than the rate in the US in the 60s. But that's nothing compared to Scotland...their rate was once 7000 cigarettes per year. (via @dens)
A couple in a kayak gets too close to a whale and then the whale raises them right out of the water. And not just for a moment either.
In his new video, Casey Neistat and his son visit a German waterpark housed in a giant former airship hangar.
Some information on the structure from the waterpark's web site:
The Tropical Islands Dome is gigantic. In fact, it is the largest free-standing hall in the world: 360 metres long, 210 metres wide and an incredible 107 metres high.
That is big enough to fit the Statue of Liberty in standing up and the Eiffel Tower lying on its side. The Tropical Islands Dome covers an area of 66,000 m², the size of eight football fields. And it is high enough to fit in the whole of Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, with all its skyscrapers.
(via john hodgman)
In a post on his great blog, The Year in Pictures, James Danziger discusses some of the photography featured in a forthcoming book, The Final Four of Everything, including Danziger's own selections for Iconic American Photographs. The Final Four of Everything seems to be a sequel of sorts to The Enlightened Bracketologist by the same authors...or perhaps just the same book with a much better title.
This is pretty much the point at which I knew I was going to love Inglourious Basterds:
Although I can sure see why someone might hate it; the film rode that razor's edge all the way through.
The Strange Maps book is out today. The book is based on the awesome Strange Maps blog, one the very few sites I have to exercise restraint in not linking to every single item posted there. The content of the book is adapted from the site, so of course it's top shelf.
My only reservation in recommending the book is the design. When I cracked it open, I was expecting full-bleed reproductions of the maps, large enough to really get a detailed look at them. The maps *are* the book, after all. But that's not the case...only a few of the maps get an entire non-full-bleed page and some of the maps are stuck in the corner of a page of text, like small afterthoughts. The rest of the design is not much better, cheesy at best and distracting at worst. I wasn't expecting Taschen-grade production values, but something more appropriate to the subject matter would have been nice.
At The Morning News, Giles Turnbull offers up a fake history of blogging, er, bloggering.
Depending on who you ask, the first bloggering happened in the late 1990s, when the web was still young, and clicking links to pages where you'd click more links was cool. This was in the days when the only use for an animated GIF was to tell people you were still working on your web page. Even if you weren't.
"I invented bloggering," says mad old Laurence Fortey, a mad old internet guy from the old, old days. He can remember hand-coded websites. He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.
John Gruber's tweet last night reminded me I'd never written up a review for Room 237, the documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Gruber writes:
Broke down and watched "Room 237". It was bad. Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people.
Just watch "The Shining" again instead.
I agree. I watched it earlier this year and disliked the film so much, I didn't even finish it, which is rare for me. As I hinted at on Twitter, I'm exposed to enough anti-vaccine, anti-evolution, anti-anthropogenic climate change, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist "theories" in my day-to-day reading that are genuinely harmful to humanity that an examination of how the minds of conspiracy theory crackpots take the smallest little details and weave them into fantastical stories that make no sense is not how I want to spend my time.
As if to underscore my dislike of the film, the following arrived in my inbox shortly after I watched it.
To: Jason Kottke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Prospective Story: Re: Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"
i'm not good at salesmanship so i'll get right to the point. i've solved the mystery of room 237 in stanley kubrick's 'the shining' i'm shopping this information to various media sources. here's the deal:
*** the price is $13,000.00
*** i'm aware of the documentaries, the scholarly analyses and the terrabytes of web space dedicated to the topic
*** nobody has gottten it right
*** i guarantee satisfaction
*** there's no risk. either you think the solution to the greatest cinematic mystery of all time is worth 13k or you don't. all i require beforehand is a conditional agreement protecting me from ip theft
*** i remain anonymous. once the transaction is complete the information is yours. i don't care who receives credit or what you do with it
it's been over 30 years. this information should be public. YOU can be the first.
i look forward to your response
Putting on my tin foil hat for a minute, DONT YOU SHEEPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? That someone is watching what I'm watching! How did this person know I had just watched Room 237?! I bet it's the NSA! Or something! They are watching for people with large audiences to plant lies about Kubrick to deflect attention away from the faked Moon landing! For some reason! THIS IS THE PROOF WEVE BEEN WAITING FOR!??
Yep: "Really bad. Boring bad. Crazy people."
I was 29 years old and living the dream, or at least my version of it, when everything changed. I was in love with an amazing woman and had a rent-controlled sublet in New York City's West Village and a good job at a glossy magazine. By any estimation as I now recall my life before it was tossed upside down, my girlfriend and I had no discernible problems.
In Matter, Larry Smith's My Life with Piper: From Big House to Small Screen.
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Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has planted every single tree in a forest that covers some 1360 acres of an island in the Jorhat district of India. The forest helps prevent the erosion of the island and is now home to elephants, rhinos, tigers, and other animals. Forest Man is a short documentary film on how this forest came to be.
In a piece for the Pottermore web site, JK Rowling writes an update on how the gang from the Harry Potter books is doing. The piece is an account of the Quidditch World Cup Final written by Rita Skeeter, the gossip columnist from the books. You need a login to read it on Pottermore, but someone uploaded it to Reddit as well.
The Potter family and the rest of Dumbledore's Army have been given accommodation in the VIP section of the campsite, which is protected by heavy charms and patrolled by Security Warlocks. Their presence has ensured large crowds along the cordoned area, all hoping for a glimpse of their heroes. At 3pm today they got their wish when, to the accompaniment of loud screams, Potter took his young sons James and Albus to visit the players' compound, where he introduced them to Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum.
About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror's black hair, but he continues to wear the distinctive round glasses that some might say are better suited to a style-deficient twelve-year-old. The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic: 'We do not comment on the top secret work of the Auror department, as we have told you no less than 514 times, Ms. Skeeter.' So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?
That last line is one of a few references to possible new stories in the piece...the last paragraph mentions a new biography of Harry and his pals due out at the end of this month:
And for those who want to know exactly how imperfect they are, my new biography: Dumbledore's Army: The Dark Side of the Demob will be available from Flourish and Blotts on July 31st.
Could Rowling be setting the stage for an eighth Potter book or is she just winding us up?
The growing inequality between the rich and poor has become one of the key stories of this era. But while the focus is on money, it's really about something much more basic than that: Life. Americans who are affluent already live about twelve years longer than their poor and working class counterparts. And with new technologies on the way, that gap could widen dramatically. The story of the haves and the have-nots could quickly become a story of the haves and the dead. Aeon's Linda Marsa on The Longevity Gap.
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From Portraits in Creativity, a video profile of Maira Kalman, doer of many wonderful things.
Kalman's newest book is Girls Standing on Lawns, a collaboration with MoMA and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).
This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler. Poetic and thought-provoking, Girls Standing on Lawns is a meditation on memories, childhood, nostalgia, home, family, and the act of seeing.
I once saw Kalman while I was eating lunch with my son in the cafe on the second floor of MoMA. She came in and sat opposite us a few tables away and started sketching. What a thrill to watch her work. (via @curiousoctopus)
Just after Infinite Jest was published, David Foster Wallace came to Boston and did a radio interview with Chris Lydon. Radio Open Source recently unearthed that interview, probably unheard for the past 18 years, and published it on their site.
When I started the book the only idea I had is I wanted to do something about America that was sad but wasn't just making fun of America. Most of my friends are extremely bright, privileged, well-educated Americans who are sad on some level, and it has something, I think, to do with loneliness. I'm talking out of my ear a little bit, this is just my opinion, but I think somehow the culture has taught us or we've allowed the culture to teach us that the point of living is to get as much as you can and experience as much pleasure as you can, and that the implicit promise is that will make you happy. I know that's almost offensively simplistic, but the effects of it aren't simplistic at all.
Earlier today I asked my Twitter followers for recommendations for "really good" biographies about scientists. I gave Genius (James Gleick's bio of Richard Feynman) and Cleopatra, A Life (not about a scientist but was super interesting and well-written) as examples of what I was looking for. You can see the responses here and I've pulled out a few of the most interesting ones below:
- Isaac Newton by James Gleick. Gleick wrote the aforementioned Genius and Chaos, another favorite of mine. I tried to read The Information last year after many glowing recommendations from friends but couldn't get into it. Someone suggested Never at Rest is a superior Newton bio.
- The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman. I've read this biography of mathematician Paul Erdos; highly recommended.
- Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I've never read anything by Sobel; I'll have to rectify that.
- Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. I enjoyed his problematic Jobs biography and I notice that he's written one on Ben Franklin as well.
- Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.
- American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Bio of J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project. See also: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, one of my favorite books ever.
- Everything and More by David Foster Wallace. I've heard Wallace was bit handwavy with the math in this one, but I still enjoyed it.
- Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson. Newton was a detective?
- The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura Snyder. Four-way bio of a group of school friends (Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones) who changed the world.
- The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen. How Charles Darwin devised his theory of evolution and then sat on it for years is one of science's most fascinating stories.
- T. rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez. Not a biography of a person but of a theory: that a meteor impact 65 million years ago caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
- Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Disney isn't a scientist, but when you ask for book recommendations and Steven Johnson tells you to read something, it goes on the list.
- The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel. Bio of brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.
- Edge of Objectivity by Charles Gillispie. A biography of modern science published in 1966, all but out of print at this point unfortunately.
- Galileo at Work by Stillman Drake.
- The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes.
And many more here. Thanks to everyone who suggested books.
Update: Because this came up on Twitter, some biographies specifically about women in science: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Hedy's Folly, On a Farther Shore, Marie Curie: A Life, A Feeling for the Organism, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, and Radioactive.
Over at Very Small Array, an analysis of the obscurity of hit songs, i.e. which top ten songs from each year since 1900 have remained popular and which have been lost to the sands of time. Of the least popular hit songs:
Don't cry for them. All they need is one Wes Anderson movie to get back in the game.
In 1976, 20th Century Fox released a teaser trailer for a little film called Star Wars...aka "the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe".
No James Earl Jones voiceover for Vader, no John Williams score (which wasn't finished until just two months before the film premiered), but those visuals must have impressed.
Here's the first teaser trailer for Empire Strikes Back, which features no film footage at all, just concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie:
And for the sake of completeness, the teaser trailer for Return of the Jedi, which appeared in theaters before Lucas changed the name from Revenge of the Jedi:
From a pair of science historians, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, comes The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, a book of science fiction about the consequences of climate change.
The year is 2393, and a senior scholar of the Second People's Republic of China presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment, the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies, entered into a Penumbral period in the early decades of the twenty-first century, a time when sound science and rational discourse about global change were prohibited and clear warnings of climate catastrophe were ignored. What ensues when soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, and mass migrations disrupt the global governmental and economic regimes? The Great Collapse of 2093.
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.
He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.
The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".
We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.
Sometime around 1918 in Buenos Aires, Marcel Duchamp designed a chess set:
Sometime earlier this year, Scott Kildall and Brian Sera used archival photos of the hard-to-find set, turned them into 3D models of the chess pieces, and made a pattern for 3D printing your own set:
The community at Thingaverse is already busy making interesting variations of Duchamp's set...look at this one:
Something tells me Duchamp would have loved this whole thing.
This is a reel from Mackevision, showing the visual effects they did for season 4 of Game of Thrones. I wasn't expecting all the boats to be fake.
This reel does a better job than most in showing the process and how all the different elements fit together. Also interesting to see how much the digital greebles make everything seem way more realistic.
Somehow I lived in WI for the first 17 years of my life, was a Brewers fan for many of those years, and never realized the old Brewers logo contained the letters "m" and "b" hidden in the ball and glove.
Wow. If your mind is blowing right now too, there's a Facebook group we can join together: Best Day of My Life: When I Realized the Brewers Logo Was a Ball and Glove AND the Letters M and B. (via kathryn yu)
ps. If you've somehow missed the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, here you go. Best kind of natural high there is.
Explaining Hitler is a 1998 book by Ron Rosenbaum that compiled a number of different theories about why Adolf Hitler was the way he was, updated recently with new information.
Hitler did not escape the bunker in Berlin but, seven decades later, he has managed to escape explanation in ways both frightening and profound. Explaining Hitler is an extraordinary quest, an expedition into the war zone of Hitler theories. This is a passionate, enthralling book that illuminates what Hitler explainers tell us about Hitler, about the explainers, and about ourselves.
Vice recently interviewed Rosenbaum about the book.
Oh my God, there are so many terrible psychological attempts to explain Hitler. I think the subject brings out the worst in talk show psychologists. There's a lot of 'psychopathic narcissism' among those psychologizing Hitler. The examples in my book were two psychoanalysts-one wanted to claim that Hitler became Hitler because he was beaten by his father, and the other psychoanalyst was equally determined to believe that Hitler had a malignant mother who was over-protective. As if everyone who has an over-protective mother or abusive father turns into Hitler. If everyone who has been struck by their father turned into Hitler we would be in a lot more trouble than we are.
Related by not related: Rosenbaum wrote a story in 1971 for Esquire about phone phreaking, Secrets of the Little Blue Box, which inspired the very first partnership between a pair of young future tech titans, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. (via @errolmorris)
In the same vein as the Zinn/Chomsky Lord of the Rings commentary is A People's History of Tattooine, a Twitter conversation that Jacob Harris kicks off thusly:
What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?
Some other highlights:
"more civilized time?" Check your privilege, Obi Wan
the Tusken People. Raiders presumes some malevolent intent
all I'm saying is that I don't blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man
like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park
Robert Wright has a new book out soon called The Evolution of God. Andrew Sullivan has a review.
From primitive animists to the legends of the first gods, battling like irrational cloud-inhabiting humans over the cosmos, Wright tells the story of how war and trade, technology and human interaction slowly exposed humans to the gods of others. How this awareness led to the Jewish innovation of a hidden and universal God, how the cosmopolitan early Christians, in order to market their doctrines more successfully, universalised and sanitised this Jewish God in turn, and how Islam equally included a civilising universalism despite its doctrinal rigidity and founding violence.
Last month's issue of The Atlantic contained an excerpt.
For all the advances and wonders of our global era, Christians, Jews, and Muslims seem ever more locked in mortal combat. But history suggests a happier outcome for the Peoples of the Book. As technological evolution has brought communities, nations, and faiths into closer contact, it is the prophets of tolerance and love that have prospered, along with the religions they represent. Is globalization, in fact, God's will?
I loved two of Wright's previous books, The Moral Animal and especially Nonzero. (via marginal revolution)
The New Yorker has got a new web site and with it, they are offering everything they've published since 2007 online for free all summer. From the editor's note:
Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish -- the work in the print magazine and the work published online only -- will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces -- and then it's up to them to subscribe. You've likely seen this system elsewhere -- at the Times, for instance -- and we will do all we can to make it work seamlessly.
Previously, only select articles from each issue were available for free online...everything else was for subscribers only. (Umlaats and extensive commas will be forever freely available on all the New Yorker's publishing platforms.) Longform has a solid list of their 25 favorite now-unlocked pieces.
See also: In Praise of Slow Design, a piece by Michael Bierut about The New Yorker's careful design evolution.
From Aimee Bender, an appreciation of Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, a favorite of mine to read to my kids when they were younger.
"Goodnight Moon" does two things right away: It sets up a world and then it subverts its own rules even as it follows them. It works like a sonata of sorts, but, like a good version of the form, it does not follow a wholly predictable structure. Many children's books do, particularly for this age, as kids love repetition and the books supply it. They often end as we expect, with a circling back to the start, and a fun twist. This is satisfying but it can be forgettable. Kids - people - also love depth and surprise, and "Goodnight Moon" offers both.
Haven't read Goodnight Moon in ages...at 4 and 7, my kids protest whenever I suggest it. We're currently powering our way through the third Harry Potter book, which, though I enjoy Potter, is no Goodnight Moon.
Update: How Goodnight Moon overcame bad initial reviews and became a word-of-mouth bestseller.
On each episode of the Song Exploder podcast, Hrishikesh Hirway interviews musicians about how their songs were made..."where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made." I listened to this episode about the House of Cards theme song via this 99% Invisible episode and the inaugural episode features Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service talking about The District Sleeps Alone Tonight:
In 2011, Magnum photographer Martin Parr visited the Teddy Grays candy factory near Birmingham, England that makes old-fashioned candy with Wonka-esque names -- Mint Humbugs, Nutty Brittles, Spearminties. The result is this ultra-charming 20 minute film profile of the company and its candy-making process.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit A: When asked if the company would ever modernize, company director Teddy Gray responds, "Imagine coming to work in the morning and looking at all them faxes, oh no." Even his modernization references need modernizing.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit B: The lingerie calendar behind Gray as he talks on the phone, and the beefcake calendar behind his daughter in the very next scene.
Charmingness evidence, exhibit C through exhibit ZZZ: Every other scene in the film.
I know 20 minutes for a web video sounds daunting, but it's worth the while. At the very least, skip to 14:00 and watch how they make "lettered rock", hard candy sticks with words written on the inside of the candy. As shown in the video, the individual letters start out 3-4 inches high, are arranged into words when rolled up into a massive tube of candy a foot in diameter, and end up a fraction of an inch tall when pulled out into small sticks, like so:
And you thought laying out type for the web was difficult. (thx, nick)
From Mapbox, a map of places in the US where it is unsafe or illegal to fly drones. Forbidden areas include near airports and in National Parks. (via @tcarmody)