FKA BiggieAPR 16

Terry Urban's 8-song mashup album of FKA Twigs and Notorious B.I.G.

Why not FKA Biggs? Or Notorious T.W.I.G.S.? Twiggie Smalls? (via @frank_chimero)

An animated history of 20th century hairstylesAPR 23

From The Atlantic, a history of hairstyles from 1900 to the present.

Hairstyles featured include the Gibson Girl, bob, conk, pompadour, beehive, Jheri curl, and hi-top fade.

The US Forest Service's Cocktail Construction ChartAPR 01

Cocktail Construction Chart

This is...weird. The National Archives contains a Cocktail Construction Chart made in an architectural style, for some reason, by the US Forest Service in 1974.

Cocktail Construction Chart

Update: Kenny Herzog at Esquire did some digging and found out some of the chart's backstory.

If it does, royalties might be due to the family of late Forest Service Region 8 Engineer Cleve "Red" Ketcham, who passed away in 2005 but has since been commemorated in the National Museum of Forest Service History. It's Ketcham's signature scribbled in the center of the chart, and according to Sharon Phillips, a longtime Program Management Analyst for Region 8 (which covers Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, though Ketcham worked out of its Atlanta office), who conferred with her engineering department, there's little doubt Ketcham concocted the chart in question. "They're assuming he's the one, because the drawing has a date of 1974, and he was working our office from 1974-1980," she said. And in case there'd be any curiosity as to whether someone else composed the chart and Ketcham merely signed off on it for disbursement, Phillips clarified that, "He's the author of the chart. I wouldn't say he passed it along to the staff, because at that time, he probably did that as maybe a joke, something he did for fun. It probably got mixed up with some legitimate stuff and ended up in the Archives."

I contacted the librarian at the Forest History Society and found similar information. An archivist pulled a staff directory from the Atlanta office (aka "Region 8") from 1975 and found three names that correlate with those on the document: David E. Ketcham & Cleve C. Ketcham (but not Ketchum, as on the document) and Robert B. Johns (presumably aka the Bob Johns in the lower right hand corner). Not sure if the two Ketchams were related or why the spellings of Cleve's actual last name and the last name of the signature on the chart are different.

However, in the past few days, I've run across several similar charts, most notably The Engineer's Guide to Drinks.1 Information on this chart is difficult to come by, but various commenters at Flowing Data and elsewhere remember the chart being used in the 1970s by a company called Calcomp to demonstrate their pen plotter.

Engineers Guide to Cocktails

As you can see, the Forest Service document and this one share a very similar visual language -- for instance, the five drops for Angostura bitters, the three-leaf mint sprig, and the lemon peel. And I haven't checked every single one, but the shading employed for the liquids appear to match exactly.

So which chart came first? The Forest Service chart has a date of 1974 and The Engineer's Guide to Drinks is dated 1978. But in this post, Autodesk Technologist Shaan Hurley says the Engineer's Guide dates to 1972. I emailed Hurley to ask about the date, but he couldn't point to a definite source, which is not uncommon when you're dealing with this sort of thing. It's like finding some initials next to "85" scratched into the cement on a sidewalk: you're pretty sure that someone did that in 1985 but you'd have a tough time proving it.

FWIW, if I had to guess where this chart originated, I'd say that the Calcomp plotter demo got out there somehow (maybe at a trade show or published in an industry magazine) and every engineer took a crack at their own version, like an early internet meme. Cleve Ketcham drew his by hand while others probably used the CAD software running on their workplace mainframes or minicomputers.

Anyway, if anyone has any further information about where these CAD-style cocktail instructions originated, let me know. (thx, @john_overholt & tre)

  1. Other instances include these reprints of drawings from 1978 on eBay and an advertisement for a Cocktail Construction drawing in the Dec 1982 issue of Texas Monthly.

The glass is already brokenAPR 24

"You see this goblet?" asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. "For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, 'Of course.' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious."

From Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein.

America's 1.5 million missing black menAPR 21

Missing Black Men

In Ferguson, for every 100 black women between the ages of 25 and 54, there are 60 black men. While Ferguson is extreme, it's not exceptional. Across America, we see similar numbers. So the question arises: What happened to all the black men? The short answer to that question is incarceration and premature death. The longer answer is equally upsetting. From Upshot: 1.5 Million Missing Black Men.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

2015 Pulitzer Prize winnersAPR 21

Sixth Extinction

Vox has a list of all the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners. I am especially pleased to see Elizabeth Kolbert win the general nonfiction category for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History...I've been reading her writing on climate change and environmental issues in the New Yorker for years now.

Teaser clip from season two of Halt and Catch FireMAR 27

Halt and Catch Fire season two is starting on May 31! And there's a five-minute clip to whet your appetite! And it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors!

The exclamation points mean that I am excited for the new season without explicitly saying so!! (via @kathrynyu)

The easy way to care for your jeansMAR 26

Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean made a video for Mr. Porter about how to care for your new pair of jeans.

I remember reading his original post on the topic and boggling at the concept of wearing a new pair of raw selvage jeans for an entire year before washing them. (I still have never done such a thing. I'm just not that fancy.)

A Year in SpaceMAR 26

On Friday, astronauts Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will be launched into space, where they will spend an entire year on the International Space Station. Time is doing a documentary series on Kelly's stay in space.

On March 27, the veteran of three previous space flights will take off for the International Space Station (ISS) and, along with cosmonaut Misha Kornienko, remain aloft for a full year. Meantime, Scott's twin brother Mark, a veteran of four space flights, will remain on the ground. The two men with their matching backgrounds, similar health and identical genomes, will serve as the perfect controlled experiment to learn more about how the human body handles weightlessness-and what can be done to minimize the damage during long-term trips to Mars and elsewhere.

The trailer is available here. Kelly and Kornienko will be the fifth and sixth people to spend at least a year in space...cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent 437 straight days in space in 1994-5.

All hail air conditioningMAR 23

Here's The Economist's obituary of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore.

Among a number of 20th-century luminaries asked by the Wall Street Journal in 1999 to pick the most influential invention of the millennium, he alone shunned the printing press, electricity, the internal combustion engine and the internet and chose the air-conditioner. He explained that, before air-con, people living in the tropics were at a disadvantage because the heat and humidity damaged the quality of their work.

Syndicated from NextDraft. Subscribe today or grab the iOS app.

The sameness of Pixar's womenMAR 24

For years, one of the knocks on Pixar was the lack of main characters who are women in their movies. 2012's Brave and this summer's Inside Out have addressed this criticism to an extent1. But Alex of every flavored bean noticed that, in contrast to the diversity of male faces, female characters in Disney/Pixar's recent movies all have the same face.

Pixar Female Faces

Boys in animated movies have faces that are square, round, skinny, fat, alien-looking, handsome, and ugly. The only face that girls get to have is some round snub-nosed baby face. That's not right.

Great observation.

Update: This piece has generated some interesting comments on Good, including this one from Dan Povenmire, co-creator of Phineas and Ferb.

This is idiotic and obviously written by someone who (A) can't draw and (B) has an axe to grind. The female characters they show have very varied faces. Yes the face shapes are all softer feminine shapes, but they purposely didn't include female characters from those same movies with less feminine faces, like Edna Mode in The Incredibles, or the Witch or the Cook in Brave, or any of the older female characters, like the fairy godmother, or... whatever. All the princes and male romantic leads in these movies have the same face shape as well but NO, she takes old men and villains and comedy relief characters to "prove" how sexist animation is. This is just stupid.

If you want literally dozens of examples of other characters omitted from the list see the other comments below.

(via @ckoerner)

  1. Although the gender stereotypes on display in the first trailer for Inside Out is not helping matters.

How to play "Wolf Hall"MAR 31

Mike Poulton adapted Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the stage. The play premiered last year in the UK and just began its run on Broadway here in NYC. There's a book version of the adaptation that contains some notes that Mantel wrote for the actors playing the various characters. The New York Review of Books has an excerpt of Mantel's notes; here's Anne Boleyn:

You do not have six fingers. The extra digit is added long after your death by Jesuit propaganda. But in your lifetime you are the focus of every lurid story that the imagination of Europe can dream up. From the moment you enter public consciousness, you carry the projections of everyone who is afraid of sex or ashamed of it. You will never be loved by the English people, who want a proper, royal Queen like Katherine, and who don't like change of any sort. Does that matter? Not really. What Henry's inner circle thinks of you matters far more. But do you realize this? Reputation management is not your strong point. Charm only thinly disguises your will to win.

The BBC aired a six-part TV version of Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies that finished up a month ago, and PBS will start showing it this weekend. I've watched all but the last part and it's really well done.

The "impossible" science of free divingMAR 26

This article on the science of free diving is fascinating. Boyle's Law predicted that the human body couldn't survive depths past 100 feet -- after which, the lungs would rupture -- but millions of years of evolution has equipped the human body with all sorts of tricks to survive at depths of over 900 feet.

Lundgren, among others, demonstrated how these phenomena might counteract Boyle's law. He recruited volunteer firemen from a fire brigade in the Swedish city of Malmo, submerged them up to the neck in water, and used a heart catheter to measure the increase in blood circulation in the chest. Lundgren discovered the body was able to counteract the increased outside water pressure by reinforcing vessels in the walls of the lungs with more blood, in much the same way we increase tire pressure by adding more volume of oxygen to the inside of a tire.

Boyle's Law had not been overturned. Scientists simply hadn't taken into account the effect this counterforce could exert to allow survival underwater. "A lot of blood, much more than was usually thought, can be transferred from the blood circulation out in the tissues into the blood vessels of the lung," Lundgren said, placing that amount at about half a gallon. The extra, densely packed blood can act as a bulwark, exerting a counterforce against the increased pressure pushing inward by the water.

1995: The Year the Future BeganMAR 27

Netscape 1995

The New Yorker's Louis Menand reviews a new book by W. Joseph Campbell, 1995: The Year the Future Began.

Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky is one of the five things that happened in 1995 that Campbell believes opened the door to the future. The others are the O. J. Simpson trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Dayton negotiations that settled the Bosnian war, and the rise and fall of the Internet browser Netscape Navigator.

The list certainly reflects the inchoate spirit of the age. But that is not Campbell's point. His point is that our contemporary (American) world started with a White House sex scandal; the murder trial of a former football star; a set of agreements hammered out among foreign heads of state on an Air Force base in Ohio; a loner who thought that blowing up a federal office building was justified on political principles; and a computer program that ultimately lost the "browser wars" to Microsoft. You have to admire a historian who proposes to extract reverse-prediction gold from that material.

I graduated from college in 1995 so I'm probably biased, but that year does seem like a cultural turning point in many ways. Interested to read Campbell's book.

Philip Glass discusses his piano etudesAPR 20

For the first episode of BAM's new podcast, Philip Glass and several world-class pianists talk about Glass's piano etudes and what makes them so challenging to perform.

How musicians dieMAR 30

In a series of three articles, Dianna Kenny examines the life expectancy of pop musicians, the myth of the 27 Club1, and how genre affects popular musicians' life expectancy. It is from the third article that this chart is taken:

Cause of death by genre for musicians

For male musicians across all genres, accidental death (including all vehicular incidents and accidental overdose) accounted for almost 20% of all deaths. But accidental death for rock musicians was higher than this (24.4%) and for metal musicians higher still (36.2%).

Suicide accounted for almost 7% of all deaths in the total sample. However, for punk musicians, suicide accounted for 11% of deaths; for metal musicians, a staggering 19.3%. At just 0.9%, gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all the genres studied.

Murder accounted for 6.0% of deaths across the sample, but was the cause of 51% of deaths in rap musicians and 51.5% of deaths for hip hop musicians, to date. This could be due to these genres' strong associations with drug-related crime and gang culture.

Heart-related fatalities accounted for 17.4% of all deaths across all genres, while 28% of blues musicians died of heart-related causes. Similarly, the average percentage of deaths accounted for by cancer was 23.4%. Older genres such as folk (32.3%) and jazz (30.6%) had higher rates of fatal cancers than other genres.

In the case of the newer genres, it's worth pointing out that members of these genres have not yet lived long enough to fall into the highest-risk ages for heart- and liver-related illnesses. Consequently, they had the lowest rates of death in these categories.

(via mr)

  1. The 27 Club is a group of musicians who died at the age of 27. Membership includes Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Robert Johnson.

Make your own Star Wars BB-8 rolling ball droidAPR 20

When the first trailer for JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie came out, we all assumed the rolling ball droid was CGI (and perhaps based on this 2008 xkcd post). Then an actual working model of the droid, called BB-8, showed up on stage at Star Wars Celebration. Minds blew. Industrial design student Christian Poulsen figured out how to make his own version of BB-8 by hacking a Sphero:

Update: It looks like Sphero will be manufacturing an official BB-8 droid toy, which will likely be a massive success.

Top new typefaces of 2014MAR 31

Cooper Hewitt typeface

Although I am slowly coming around1 to Massimo Vignelli's assertion that designers should only use a handful of typefaces, I enjoyed seeing Typographica's list of their favorite typefaces of 2014.

Typeface design and distribution is in a state of rapid change. Last year we noted its diffusion around the globe, and that trend persists. The majority of font production is no longer concentrated in a few regional epicenters.

That goes for corporate epicenters as well. The independence of type designers themselves is increasingly evident. Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm. Only a handful of the selections in this year's list were published by companies with more than ten employees.

I discovered that one of the selections, a beautiful custom typeface made for the reopening/rebranding of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (sample shown above), has been made available by the museum for free download (including a web fonts version).

  1. I mean, not really. But when 95% of everything sucks, paring down to only the good stuff is a seductive idea, isn't it? Also, Vignelli's NYC subway map was not good and would have benefitted from a less Swiss approach.

Online exhibition of Sino-Japanese War printsAPR 09

This collection of prints produced by artists about the Sino-Japanese War and housed in The British Library is great, but this particular print is just beyond:

Sino Japan Art

Treasure trove of over 1700 mechanical animationsAPR 22

Whenever I watch videos of how things are made, I marvel at the cleverness of the manufacturing machines. Retired engineer Duc Thang Nguyen has created over 1700 3D animations showing how all sorts of different mechanisms work...gears, linkages, drives, clutches, and couplings. Here are a few examples to whet your appetite.

(via make)

Feminist Ben & Jerry's flavorsMAR 25

From Amanda McCall, a selection of Ben & Jerry's flavors featuring women.

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

Feminist Ben Jerry

McCall made these because Ben & Jerry's hasn't done such a good job highlighting women with their products:

Over the past three decades, Ben & Jerry's has created over twenty flavors honoring various famous people, and only two of those people have been female: Tiny Fey's character on 30 Rock ("Liz Lemon's Greek Frozen Yogurt", released in 2013 ) and Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter ("Hannah Teter's Maple Blondie", released briefly in 2009).

There are currently no female flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (even Tina Fey would agree that, while "Greek frozen yogurt" is certainly a healthy ice cream alternative, it is not the same as ice cream), despite the fact that women consume significantly more ice cream than men do.

The best thing about the Butter Pecancé Knowles flavor is that butter pecan ice cream is actually the singer's favorite flavor.

"I love my butter pecan ice cream," she says, "but I also love to work out. We all have our issues. Mine is arms and legs, keeping them tight and toned. It takes work, believe me."

Ben & Jerry's! Let's make this happen! (via @amateurgourmet)

Guillaume Cornet's dense city illustrationsAPR 01

I love Guillaume Cornet's fanciful and intricate drawings. He's done Paris, New York, and a London apartment building, among others.

Guillaume Cornet

Guillaume Cornet

Guillaume Cornet

Society6 recently put a camera on Cornet while he did his Paris drawing, condensing 75 hours of painstaking work into a 2-minute time lapse.

My favorite little detail highlighted by Society6 is the appearance of the Emmet minifig in the NYC illustration, complete with the Piece of Resistance.

Guillaume Cornet

Richard Feynman: fire is stored sunshineMAR 31

In 1983, the BBC aired a six-part series called Fun to Imagine with a simple premise: put physicist Richard Feynman in front of a camera and have him explain everyday things. In this clip from one of the episodes, Feynman explains in very simple terms what fire is:

So good. Watch the whole thing...it seems like you get the gist about 2 minutes in, but that's only half the story. See also Feynman explaining rubber bands, how trains go around curves, and how magnets work.

Cloud tank special effectsMAR 25

To simulate unusual cloud formations in movies (like Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Independence Day), special effects artists injected paint into tanks containing water with two different densities.

A cloud tank consists of a bottom layer of salt water and a top layer of fresh water and when various forms of liquid are injected into tank, clouds are produced. This was the common technique that Hollywood used for decades to capture supernatural weather.

The developer of the cloud tank effect, Scott Squires, wrote a post detailing how it was accomplished.

Next white liquid tempra paint is injected in the fresh water portion (top), usually just a few inches from the dividing line of the fresh and salt water. Think of a large syringe with an aquarium tube going into the water. When the tempra paint is injected it billows outward like cumulus clouds and will tend to sink a bit. But the salt water prevents it from going lower so the 'cloud' tends to flatten it's base on the salt water line and and billow outward, similar to real clouds based on air pressure levels. Avoid going below into the saltwater since the clouds will just drop to the bottom of tank.

One-way streets are badAPR 21

A study of one-way streets in Louisville suggests they are generally not good for the city.

In 2011, Louisville converted two one-way streets near downtown, each a little more than a mile long, back to two-way traffic. In data that they gathered over the following three years, Gilderbloom and William Riggs found that traffic collisions dropped steeply -- by 36 percent on one street and 60 percent on the other -- after the conversion, even as the number of cars traveling these roads increased. Crime dropped too, by about a quarter, as crime in the rest of the city was rising. Property values rose, as did business revenue and pedestrian traffic, relative to before the change and to a pair of nearby comparison streets. The city, as a result, now stands to collect higher property tax revenues along these streets, and to spend less sending first-responders to accidents there.

For decades, American cities have been built around the automobile and getting them and their passengers through cities as quickly as possible. This research suggests slowing the pace of the city results in increased safety, decreased crime, and higher property values. (via mr)

Middle aged mollyAPR 01

Mary H.K. Choi writes about reconnecting with an experience she'd had when she was younger: rolling on molly.

When you're a kid, you think you'll be a certain place in your mid-30s. I presumed I'd be rich because when you're middle-class with hardworking immigrant parents that's the whole point. I also thought I'd be married and potentially own a beautiful apartment in New York. Ha ha. What you spend zero time wondering about is whether you'll still be doing drugs. You naturally assume you'll grow out of whatever stupidity you dabbled in as a teen. Even up to my 20s I didn't realize that job-having, non-fuckup grown-ups in their 30s and 40s still smoked weed. Or did ecstasy.

But then I got older and got bored. Saying you're bored as an adult is truly despicable since it implies that your Maslow's pyramid is so satisfied, so abundant with shelter, food, health, and love, that you're driven to idly wishing you liked video games more.

What I want is a vacation from myself. I've tried exercise, meditation, sex, and food. I wait for the desire to plan a wedding or have a kid or buy a house and when those things don't take hold or are plainly untenable, I get my aura read. I open a trillion tabs of internet and drink it in. I gorge on studies about magnets that make you think differently and begin researching the properties of crystals. I don't think about any of it as self-help because that's way too pathetic, certainly more than the itchy meh I feel. I want to hurl my brain into outer space; it's real, real quiet there, the ultimate holiday of feeling small. But because I'm not pregnant and don't have cancer, I just want to do drugs again.

rating: 4.5 stars

The September IssueMAR 18

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.

Finding ZeroAPR 23

Finding Zero

The latest book from Amir Aczel, who has written previously about the compass, the Large Hadron Collider, and Fermat's Last Theorem, is Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers...in particular, the number zero.

Finding Zero is an adventure filled saga of Amir Aczel's lifelong obsession: to find the original sources of our numerals. Aczel has doggedly crisscrossed the ancient world, scouring dusty, moldy texts, cross examining so-called scholars who offered wildly differing sets of facts, and ultimately penetrating deep into a Cambodian jungle to find a definitive proof.

The NY Times has a review of the book, written by another Amir, Amir Alexander, who wrote a recent book on infinitesimals, aka very nearly zero. (via @pomeranian99)

This made me cackle like a goose hopped up on goofballsAPR 13

The salad days of coin huntingAPR 15

Roger Pasquier hunts for coins on NYC sidewalks and keeps track of how much he finds. He discovered an odd consequence of everyone having a smartphone: people don't pick up change on the sidewalk anymore.

From 1987 to 2006, he averaged about fifty-eight dollars a year. Then Apple introduced the iPhone, and millions of potential competitors started to stare at their screens rather than at the sidewalks. Since 2007, Pasquier has averaged just over ninety-five dollars a year.

I know, I know, that's anecdotal and correlation != causation and whatever, but that's an interesting theory.

Flying with Virgin GalacticMAR 30

Virgin Galactic

From Vanity Fair's William Langewiesche, who has written extensively on the aviation industry and is a pilot himself, a detailed account of what happens during a space flight on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Accelerating through Mach 0.95, the aircraft wobbles as shock waves develop on its wings and tails. This is known as a burble, and it marks the entry into supersonic flight. The shock waves change the airflow over the conventional control surfaces -- the elevons -- and render them almost useless, forcing the pilot in supersonic flight to fly entirely by trimming the stabilizers on the tail. Flying by trim is difficult to do well, but with pilots like these the passengers probably don't need to worry. At Mach 1, the pilot rolls the pitch trim aft to a pre-determined position, and the spaceship responds by bending the flight path upward at a rate that pushes the passengers straight down into their seats with a force of 2.5 Gs. The passengers are now experiencing a total of 5.5 Gs, divided between two distinct vectors, and are rotated onto their backs as the spaceship accelerates ever more steeply upward. As they approach the vertical, nearing Mach 2, the pilot rolls the trim forward to capture the position, and 2.5 Gs are stripped away. Pointing straight up, the ship rockets into air growing so thin that the aerodynamic speeds decrease rapidly even as the ship keeps accelerating through Mach 3. At around that time, after about one minute of burn, and when an onboard instrument shows that the vehicle has sufficient energy to follow a ballistic path into space, the pilots shut down the rocket motor. The effect for the passengers, who are lying on their backs, facing straight up, is to go immediately from a condition of three Gs to the zero-G state called weightlessness.

Audiovisual illusion: Bar or far?MAR 30

If you play this video (click the sound on) and look at the man on the left side, it sounds like he's saying "bar". But if you look at the man on the right, it look like he's saying "far"!

And if you close your eyes, it's "bar" again. (via @arainert)

Update: This is called the McGurk effect.

The McGurk effect is a perceptual phenomenon that demonstrates an interaction between hearing and vision in speech perception. The illusion occurs when the auditory component of one sound is paired with the visual component of another sound, leading to the perception of a third sound. The visual information a person gets from seeing a person speak changes the way they hear the sound. People who are used to watching dubbed movies may be among people who are not susceptible to the McGurk effect because they have, to some extent, learned to ignore the information they are getting from the mouths of the "speakers".

Update: The Vine clip I previously posted just yanked the bar/far comparison from a AsapSCIENCE video, so I've replaced the imposter with the real thing. (via @michaelck & jess)

rating: 4.5 stars

Annie HallFEB 09

A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.

The future isn't any fun sometimes.

rating: 1.0 stars

Room 237SEP 25

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 <jason@kottke.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."

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer #2APR 16

Ok, this one gave me goosebumps. I hope this is good.

Teaching evolution to religious studentsMAR 27

James Krupa teaches a mandatory biology class at the University of Kentucky and some students have a difficult time because Krupa refuses to shy away from evolution.

Rarely do I have a Kentucky student who learned about human evolution in high school biology. Those who did usually attended high schools in large urban centers like Louisville or Lexington. Given how easily it can provoke parents, the teaching of human evolution is a rarity in high school, so much so in Kentucky that it startled me when I first arrived.

The story of our evolutionary history captivates many of my students, while infuriating some. During one lecture, a student stood up in the back row and shouted the length of the auditorium that Darwin denounced evolution on his deathbed -- a myth intentionally spread by creationists. The student then made it known that everything I was teaching was a lie and stomped out of the auditorium, slamming the door behind him. A few years later during the same lecture, another student also shouted out from the back row that I was lying. She said that no transitional fossil forms had ever been found -- despite my having shared images of many transitional forms during the semester. Many of her fellow students were shocked by her combativeness, particularly when she stormed out, also slamming the door behind her. Most semesters, a significant number of students abruptly leave as soon as they realize the topic is human evolution.

I personally don't understand the compatibility of evolutionary biology and Christianity Krupa emphasizes in his class, but I guess it helps to meet people halfway?

When to Rob a Bank...APR 10

When To Rob A Bank

A new book from the guys who brought you Freakonomics (which is ten years old...ten years): When to Rob a Bank: ...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants.

Over the past decade, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have published more than 8,000 blog posts on Freakonomics.com. Many of them, they freely admit, were rubbish. But now they've gone through and picked the best of the best. You'll discover what people lie about, and why; the best way to cut gun deaths; why it might be time for a sex tax; and, yes, when to rob a bank. (Short answer: never; the ROI is terrible.) You'll also learn a great deal about Levitt and Dubner's own quirks and passions, from gambling and golf to backgammon and the abolition of the penny.

FWIW, here are the posts about the sex tax and when to rob a bank. (via mr)

The ingenious design of the aluminum beverage canAPR 14

The aluminum soda can is a humble testament to the power and scope of human ingenuity. If that sounds like hyperbole, you should watch this video, which features eleven solid minutes of engineering explanation and is not boring for even a second.

More science/engineering programming like this please...I feel like if this would have been on PBS or Discovery, it would have lasted twice as long and communicated half the information. For a chaser, you can watch a detailed making-of from an aluminum can manufacturing company:

(via devour)

1491, the TV seriesAPR 23

1491 TV

Charles Mann's 1491 is one of my all-time favorite books. I mean, if this description doesn't stir you:

Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man's first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

On Twitter yesterday, Mann shared that a documentary series was being made based on the book. The eight-part series is being commissioned by Canada's APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network) and Barbara Hager, who is of Cree/Metis heritage, will write, direct, and produce.

This is fantastic news. I hope this gets US distribution at some point, even if it's online-only.

The radical humaneness of Norway's prison systemMAR 27

Norway Prison

Better out than in. That's the unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service. And they seem to mean it. In Norway, there is no death penalty and there are no life sentences. NYT Magazine's Jessica Benko visited Norway's Halden Prison and experienced what she described as its radical humaneness:

Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere -- these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.

Even the food was good.

The best meal I had in Norway -- spicy lasagna, garlic bread and a salad with sun-dried tomatoes -- was made by an inmate who had spent almost half of his 40 years in prison.

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Mad River Glen's famed single chairAPR 16

From Nowness, a brief homage to the single chair lift at one of the oddest and most wonderful ski areas in the US, Mad River Glen in Vermont.

You don't have a lot of opportunity in life these days to have 10 or 12 minutes alone. Some people think when they come here and they ride the chair, it's a lonely ride. I never really thought of it that way.

I haven't checked for sure, but Mad River might be the only ski area in the world with a chairlift that has its own beer.

Seveneves by Neal StephensonAPR 15

Stephenson Seveneves

Neal Stephenson has made the first 26 pages of his upcoming book, Seveneves, available on his website. About the book:

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain...

Five thousand years later, their progeny-seven distinct races now three billion strong-embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown... to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

The novel is out on May 19.

The beautiful thinking gameAPR 02

Judging by interviews, neither Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi seems like the smartest tool in the shed, but they both possess a keen mind for football as Simon Kuper explains. Messi, who appears to listlessly sandbag his way through the early part of matches, is actually using the time to size up his opponent:

It was a puzzling sight. The little man was wandering around, apparently ignoring the ball. The official explained: "In the first few minutes he just walks across the field. He is looking at each opponent, where the guy positions himself, and how their defense fits together. Only after doing that does he start to play."

And Rooney uses visualization (or as Shaq would call it, dreamful attraction), just like Allen Iverson:

"Part of my preparation," he told the writer David Winner for ESPN The Magazine in 2012, "is I go and ask the kit man what colour we're wearing, if it's red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You're trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a 'memory' before the game. I don't know if you'd call it visualizing or dreaming but I've always done it, my whole life."

A footballer's exceptional visual memory was on display recently when FC Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez was quizzed about 5 particular goals he's scored out of 57 total across almost 500 matches for his club:

He gets them all correct, even what the scores were when they happened, the final scores, who else scored in each match, and even the team's position in La Liga.

A quick P.S. for Messi. On Feb 16, 2015, Zito Madu wrote an article titled Is Lionel Messi even good anymore?

Plainly put, Messi is a shadow of his former self. He's much more cynical, more selfish and power-hungry. How else can the departure of Martino and friction with Enrique be explained? It's a power play by a man who feels his powers waning. Consider: after Barcelona's 5-0 victory against Levante, Messi had only managed 37 goals and 18 assists in all competitions. A far cry from the player who once scored 82 goals in one season.

At 27 years old, we might be witnessing the twilight of Messi's career. It's a shame for a player who seemed to be on a tear just a few years ago.

It was a weirdly cynical take that contained a kernel of truth. A little over a month later on Mar 23, Jeff Himmelman wrote a piece called Lionel Messi Is Back On His Game.

But in the new year, Messi has finally started to look like himself again; he has been on fire, racking up hat tricks and leading the league in scoring. His legs and his extraordinary bursts of energy -- the engine of his game -- are back, and a move to the right flank from the congested middle has freed him to do what he does best: making slashing runs at defenders with speed, creating space and chances.

On the evidence of the last week, it has become possible to wonder whether Messi might actually be better than ever. The best reason to think so was the first half of Barcelona's game against Manchester City on Wednesday, in the round of 16 of the Champions League European club championships. From the start, Messi spun passes into tight spaces and flew up and down the field with a boyish abandon that was nowhere to be found last year.

In that Man City game, Messi nutmegged both Milner and Fernandinho:

In a recent study released by CIES Football Observatory, Messi was judged to be the best forward in the world over the first three months of 2015. Ronaldo? 29th place. Eep.

Update: Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas demonstrates his remarkable memory, recalling scores from matches from up to 15 years ago he didn't even play in. (via @adamcohen15)

The Hidden Effects of Cheap OilMAR 31

Today's drop in crude-oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014, may be as disruptive as the quadrupling of oil prices that created the oil shock of 1974.

For most of us, lower oil prices simply translate as better prices at the gas pump. But the value of oil has big consequences around the world. From Moisés Naím in The Atlantic: The Hidden Effects of Cheap Oil.

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Desire map of the worldAPR 22

This map was compiled using the autocomplete results for "how much does a * cost" for every country in the world.

Desire Map World

Some notable desires: Mexican tummy tucks, Brazilian prostitutes, Albanian nose jobs, Russian MiGs, Lebanese PS3s, and Japanese watermelons.

See also the desire map of the US.

How the sausage gets madeAPR 23

As the old saying goes, it is sometimes unpleasant to watch the sausage being made. But not as unpleasant as watching the olive loaf being made.

(via digg)

The 100 Best Books of the Decade So FarAPR 09

Best Books 2010s

From the Oyster Review, a publication by online bookseller Oyster, a list of the 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far. Good to see The Emperor of All Maladies, Cleopatra: A Life, Bring Up the Bodies, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore on there, among others.

True Detective season twoAPR 09

HBO has released a teaser trailer for season two of True Detective. Los Angeles is swapped in for Louisiana, Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn for Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, and Justin Lin directing instead of Cary Fukunaga. It's an entirely different show.

Here's the synopsis from HBO:

A bizarre murder brings together three law-enforcement officers and a career criminal, each of whom must navigate a web of conspiracy and betrayal in the scorched landscapes of California. Colin Farrell is Ray Velcoro, a compromised detective in the all-industrial City of Vinci, LA County. Vince Vaughn plays Frank Semyon, a criminal and entrepreneur in danger of losing his life's work, while his wife and closest ally (Kelly Reilly), struggles with his choices and her own. Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a Ventura County Sheriff's detective often at odds with the system she serves, while Taylor Kitsch plays Paul Woodrugh, a war veteran and motorcycle cop for the California Highway Patrol who discovers a crime scene which triggers an investigation involving three law enforcement groups, multiple criminal collusions, and billions of dollars.

Amazon's goat grazing servicesAPR 21

Amazon Goats

Included in Amazon's recently launched Home Services is a goat grazing service, currently in beta.

Q: If goat grazing is right for my property, what would the service entail?

A: Once a pro has met with you to determine if unleashing some friendly goats on your property will help you get rid of any unwanted vegetation, you'll receive a recommendation for how many goats will be loaned to you, how long those goats will keep you company, and how often a pro will come check on them to make sure they're not attempting any fancy tricks to break free from the temporary fencing that will be placed around them. As they graze, they will likely leave behind some droppings, too, and you'll get to keep this fertilizer as a friendly parting gift!

The goat grazing service isn't available in Manhattan, but Amazon really does want to sell everything in the world, don't they. Buy N Large, here we come. (via @mkonnikova)

The rail refresherAPR 07

Meet the enormous machine that refreshes railroad tracks (rails, ties, gravel) with minimal human involvement. Fun to see the infrastructure behind the infrastructure.

Not even John Henry would stand a chance against this behemoth.

Coloring books for adultsAPR 06

The two top-selling books on Amazon right now are a pair of coloring books for adults by Johanna Basford: Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden.

Basford Coloring Book

Basford Coloring Book

Basford Coloring Book

Fans of the books have been posting examples of their coloring-in online; this one is from occasionalartist:

Basford Coloring Book

What This Says™ about contemporary culture is left as an exercise to the reader. Right after you finish coloring your flowers, of course.

Flying through an eclipseMAR 24

A group of astronomy enthusiasts rented a plane and flew through the shadow cast by the recent eclipse of the Sun. One passenger took the following video. Look at that shadow creeping across the cloud cover! So cool.

P.S. Still super excited for the 2017 eclipse! (via slate)

Freeline skate tricksAPR 20

I'd never heard of freeline skates before...they're like little skateboards, one for each foot. This video shows how they're used for tricks and such:

That looks hard, much more difficult than skateboarding or inline skates. But maybe not, once you get the hang of it? Can't beat the portability though...they'd slip right into a small bag when you're not using them. (via @matiasfrndz)

The sounds of HollywoodAPR 01

A profile of Gregg Barbanell, who is a Hollywood Foley artist responsible for the ambient sounds (walking, clothes rustling, gunshots, etc.) in Breaking Bad, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Walking Dead. The best bits are about how specific sounds are made.

Popular apocalyptic zombie TV series The Walking Dead has no shortage of gore -- and as the show's Foley artist, Barbanell is tasked with creating most of its gruesome "blood and guts" sounds. "They're pulling organs out of bodies, they're slicing heads off, reaching into bodies, pulling out things," says Barbanell, with disgust. "So, we get creative."

For "gushy, squishy sounds" like oozing blood, Barbanell uses chamois (a leather cloth made from the skin of mountain sheep). "You soak it, then lay into it, and it just oozes -- it's something you can control really easily," he says. "And when you put pressure on it, you get these amazing, gory noises." Sometimes, when that extra oompf is needed, he'll go out and buy a whole, raw chicken to stuff the chamois inside of.

For "breaking bones," big, full stocks of celery are employed -- not merely individual stocks, mind you, but HUGE bunches capable of producing layered, complex snaps. "They give you this huge, sinewy stringy sound," adds Barbanell. "It's very effective."

Oh, and his collection of shoes for making different walking sounds, some of which are shown here:

Foley Shoes

I love that Foley is still something done by hand, but sometimes it's a bit too much, less like ambient noise and more like these exaggerated Wordless Musicvideos.

Modern day VHSAPR 07

Modern Day VHS

Someone pretending to be a Parisian hipster who only watches VHS versions of modern shows & movies like Game of Thrones and Interstellar created these VHS covers as an April Fools joke. These are actually pretty great. (via subtraction)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...APR 02

For the one-year anniversary of Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou goes meta and talks about how to structure a video essay, using South Park and Orson Welles' F for Fake.

Happy anniversary EFAP!

Cancer: The Emperor of All MaladiesMAR 24

Oh, this sounds fantastic: PBS is set to air a six-hour documentary series, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, starting at the end of March. How have I not heard about this before today?

This "biography" of cancer covers its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the 20th century to cure, control and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The series also features the current status of cancer knowledge and treatment -- the dawn of an era in which cancer may become a chronic or curable illness rather than its historic death sentence in some forms.

The series is based on Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which is one of the most interesting books I've read in the past few years. Ken Burns is executive producing and Barak Goodman is directing.

Thanks to Sarah Klein at Redglass Pictures for letting me know about this. Redglass created a pair of videos for the series featuring Terrence Howard and Ken Jeong talking about their experiences with cancer.

Update: All three parts of the series are available on the PBS site for the next two weeks or so.

The Brontosaurus is back, baby!APR 07

Brontosaurus

After years of the Flintstones lying to me, I'd just gotten used to the idea of the Brontosaurus not actually being a dinosaur. But a recent study of the classifications given to various species and genera within the diplodocid group of dinosaurs has determined that the Brontosaurus and the Apatosaurus are different enough to be two separate species.

Very broadly, their tree confirmed established ideas about the evolutionary relationships among diplodocids. But the scientists also concluded that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus were different enough to belong in their own genera. Many of the anatomical differences between the two dinosaurs are obscure, Tschopp says, but Apatosaurus's stouter neck is an obvious one. "Even though both are very robust and massive animals, Apatosaurus is even more so," he adds.

Tschopp and his team thought very carefully about their decision to reinstate Brontosaurus, and they expect some pushback. "We knew it would be a major finding because Brontosaurus is such a popular name," he says. "I'm pretty sure there will be a scientific discussion around this. I hope there will be. That's how science works."

Huzzah! Now reinstate Pluto to full planetary status and we'll be all set. See also The Kindly Brontosaurus. (via @coudal)

The 100 best films of the decade (so far)APR 09

From the AV Club, a publication by The Onion, a list of the 100 best films of the decade (so far). Good to see Her, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Tree of Life, and Upstream Color on there, among others.

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