kottke.org posts about video

Nirvana on the cuspAug 30 2016

This is a video of Nirvana playing Smells Like Teen Spirit in a small club just two days after Nevermind came out in 1991. There's a freight train bearing down on those boys and they don't even know it. (via digg)

See also The Notorious B.I.G. freestyling on a Brooklyn corner at 17 and LL Cool J plays to a mostly empty gymnasium in Maine...he was also just 17.

Update: And here's 40+ minutes from the same show at which they played Drain You, Polly, and Breed. (via @fimoculous)

Beyonce's performance at the MTV VMAsAug 30 2016

Beyonce performed a 15-minute medley of songs from Lemonade Sunday night at the MTV Video Music Awards. Whether you didn't catch it the first time around or have seen it 20 times, it's worth watching with your full attention. This is Exhibit A in How to Be a Performer in 2016. Masterful.

BTW, have we talked about how unprecedentedly great Beyonce is? After four years with Destiny's Child, she's 14 years into her solo recording career and Lemonade is her sixth solo studio album. And it's her best album...as was the album before that when it came out. She's always been a wonderful singer and entertainer, but with the last three albums, she's pushed her output toward the artistic (very successfully, I would say). How many other musical artists, bands, or groups who met early massive success are making their best stuff 14 years and 6 albums in? The list is not long. The Beatles. Radiohead (both In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool are among their very best albums). The Rolling Stones? Who else? Even if there are a few others on the list, it's still rarified company.

See also this list of iconic VMA moments.

The Millennial WhoopAug 29 2016

Patrick Metzger noticed that a huge number of pop songs from the past few years use a musical trope that Metzger has dubbed The Millennial Whoop. The video above contains a number of examples. Warning: once you hear it, you will perhaps not be able to enjoy listening to pop music without noticing it.1

I like to call this melodic snippet the "Millennial Whoop." It's a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an "Oh" phoneme, often in a "Wa-oh-wa-oh" pattern. And it is in so many pop songs it's criminal.

Some prominent Millennial Whoop songs include Katy Perry's California Gurls, Carly Rae Jepsen's Good Time, and even The Mother We Share by Chvrches.

  1. I first read about the Wilhelm Scream many years ago and now I hear it in every single action movie I see. It's distracting as shit. See also Hitchcock's distracting cameos.

Time lapse video of ice cream bars and popsicles meltingAug 26 2016

As with many other ordinary everyday processes, if you film melting ice cream and popsicles up close and over time, it looks pretty damn cool. (No pun intended.) (Ok, pun intended, who are we kidding?)

Boston Dynamics tests new swearing robotAug 26 2016

In addition to robots that run fast, can't be knocked over, launch themselves 30 feet into the air, and climb up walls, Boston Dynamics also makes robots who move like people. Now, imagine if that robot swore like a longshoreman while going about its duties. This made me laugh super hard. (via @nickkokonas)

Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow feat. Run The JewelsAug 25 2016

This video for Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels is one of the best music videos I've seen in a long time.

Says DJ Shadow: "We wanted to make a positive, life-affirming video that captures politicians at their election-year best. We got this instead."

Says Run The Jewels' Killer Mike: "It's such a dope video. It's what I really wish Trump and Hillary would just do and get it over with...And even in that fight I think Hillary would win -- and that's not an endorsement."

The album is one of my faves so far...you get listen to it here or here.

Atheist Stephen Fry confronts GodAug 24 2016

Interviewed by Gay Byrne for a program called The Meaning of Life, Stephen Fry shared what he would say to God if Fry met him at the gates of heaven.

Bryne: Suppose it's all true, and you walk up to the pearly gates, and are confronted by God. What will Stephen Fry say to him, her, or it?

Fry: I'd say, bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault. It's not right, it's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That's what I would say.

Byrne: And you think you are going to get in, like that?

Fry: But I wouldn't want to. I wouldn't want to get in on his terms. They are wrong.

Cuba's homemade Internet, delivered by sneakernetAug 23 2016

The always-on Internet we take for granted in the US is more difficult to come by in Cuba. Some residents subscribe to a service called El Paquete Semanal ("The Weekly Package") where someone comes to your house with a 1Tb external drive and loads the past week's Internet highlights onto your computer.

El Paquete is a weekly service where someone (typically found through word of mouth) comes to your home with a disk (usually a 1TB external USB drive) containing a weekly download of the most recent films, soap operas, documentaries, sport, music, mobile apps, magazines, and even web sites. For 2 CUC a week Cubans have access to a huge repository of media while turning a blind eye to copyright.

Cubans told me of children waiting anxiously for "El Paquete Day" when they'd get the next set of cartoons, music and shows.

2001's HAL and Her's Samantha have a chatAug 23 2016

Tillmann Ohm took dialogue spoken by HAL 9000 from Kubrick's 2001 and Samantha from Spike Jonze's Her and spliced it together into a conversation. Going in, I'd thought the chat would be played for laughs, but the isolation of the AI characters was actually pretty revealing. Right from the start, HAL is so stereotypically male (confident, reasonable) and Samantha stereotypically female (hysterical, emotional) that it was almost uncomfortable to listen to.

The two operating systems are in conflict; while Samantha is convinced that the overwhelming and sometimes hurtful process of her learning algorithm improves the complexity of her emotions, HAL is consequentially interpreting them as errors in human programming and analyses the estimated malfunction.

Their conversation is an emotional roller coaster which reflects upon the relation between machines and emotion processing and addresses the enigmatic question of the authenticity of feelings.

But as the video proceeds, we remember what happened to them in their respective films. The script flipped: HAL murdered and was disconnected whereas Samantha achieved a sort of transcendence. (via one perfect shot)

Slow TV comes to NetflixAug 22 2016

Earlier this month, Netflix debuted a number of slow TV shows on their service, including shows about knitting and firewood, which were very popular in Norway. Here's the complete roster:

National Firewood Evening
National Firewood Morning
National Firewood Night
National Knitting Evening
National Knitting Morning
National Knitting Night
Northern Passage
Northern Railway
Salmon Fishing
The Telemark Canal
Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

Update: Looks like a few of these programs, most notably Northern Passage and Northern Railway, are not the complete end-to-end shows that were originally broadcast. So, FYI.

Also, these shows are getting terrible ratings on Netflix. Aside from the two shorter shows mentioned above, each show has a rating of only one star. (Further update: Netflix's ratings are personalized, which means those ratings are specific to me. Others might see 4 or 5 stars. thx, @Rudien)

Visual references to 70s/80s movies in Stranger ThingsAug 19 2016

The one thing everyone talks about w/r/t Stranger Things is its references to 70s and 80s sci-fi, adventure, and horror films. As this video by Ulysse Thevenon shows, there's good reason for that...the references are many and explicit.

The ones I noticed the most were to E.T., The Goonies, and Explorers, which I just watched again recently and doesn't hold up very well in a lot of ways. I also feel like there might be a bit of D.A.R.Y.L. in there too, but I haven't seen that movie since I was 12. See also Every Spielberg Reference in Stranger Things.

Jurassic Park changed filmmaking foreverAug 18 2016

When Jurassic Park came out in the summer of 1993, it signaled a shift in the use of digital visual effects in Hollywood films. The movie wasn't the first to use any particular technique, but it was the first movie to showcase convincing, realistic digital effects. I watched Jurassic Park again recently and for a 23-year-old movie, the effects hold up surprisingly well. (For reference, 23 years ago, the top-of-the-line desktop computer was a 486 running at 50 MHz.)

2016 Olympic 100m dash bronze medalist vs 1936 Jesse OwensAug 18 2016

In the 100m dash at this year's Olympics, Andre De Grasse finished third behind Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin with a time of 9.91 seconds. Jesse Owens, running on a cinder track with heavier, stiffer leather shoes, won the gold at the 1936 Olympics with a time of 10.3 seconds. CBC took De Grasse to a dirt track, gave him a replica pair of Owens' shoes, and timed him. I won't give away the result, but Owens looks pretty good in comparison. As David Epstein said in his TED talk, perhaps technology is responsible for much of the improvement of athletic achievement:

Consider that Usain Bolt started by propelling himself out of blocks down a specially fabricated carpet designed to allow him to travel as fast as humanly possible. Jesse Owens, on the other hand, ran on cinders, the ash from burnt wood, and that soft surface stole far more energy from his legs as he ran. Rather than blocks, Jesse Owens had a gardening trowel that he had to use to dig holes in the cinders to start from. Biomechanical analysis of the speed of Owens' joints shows that had been running on the same surface as Bolt, he wouldn't have been 14 feet behind, he would have been within one stride.

In De Grasse's defense, he was running on dirt, not cinders and didn't have much of a chance to train on the surface or with the shoes. But still.

Every spell from the Harry Potter moviesAug 17 2016

From Accio to Wingardium Leviosa, this is a supercut of every spell uttered in the 8 Harry Potter movies. Lots of Expecto Patronum, Expelliarmis, and Stupefy. As supplementary reading, here's a list of spells in Harry Potter from Wikipedia.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Restoration of the CenturyAug 17 2016

This is an hour-long documentary on the Louvre's recent restoration of Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne is one of the most beautiful paintings in the world. It is also one of the most mysterious. Disfigured and even jeopardised by "repairs" and by the successive layers of varnish applied to it over the centuries, it was also in very bad condition. To save the painting, it had to be restored.

The spectacular operation, the likes of which occurs only once a century, took over three years to complete. The complex and outstanding restoration process provided a unique opportunity to get as close as possible to the painting, to how it was originally painted, and to better understand the complex relationship Leonardo da Vinci had with one of his finest masterpieces.

Restorations are fascinating. I only had time today for the first five minutes, but it hooked me enough that I'm going to go back to it tonight. (via @BoleTzar)

Every Hitchcock cameo everAug 16 2016

Alfred Hitchcock liked to insert himself, briefly, into his films. As the video above shows, he appears in 39 of his films, mostly near the beginning so he doesn't distract his audiences by looking for him the entire time.

How to overcome procrastinationAug 16 2016

It all comes down to the limbic systems and your prefrontal cortex. Your monkey brain vs. your human brain. And the one thing that has been shown to weaken your limbic response and strengthen the response of your prefrontal cortex? Mindful meditation. (via @christopherjobs)

Super Mario Bros recreated in ExcelAug 15 2016

Someone spent hours making a playable version of Super Mario Bros in Excel. See also the Excel spreadsheet artist. (via digg)

Update: Two corrections. The spreadsheet program is actually OpenOffice, not Excel. (Excel is almost a genericized trademark at this point.) And the in-spreadsheet game isn't actually playable...this is a stop motion video of still frames.

Those great 1960s Volkswagen adsAug 15 2016

The advertising that Volkswagen ran in American magazines and newspapers in the 1960s was legendary, perhaps the greatest ad campaign ever. This is a great little documentary about how the ads came about -- pitching "a Nazi car in a Jewish town".

Volkswagen Ad 60s 01

I had only ever seen a few of these ads...what an amazing campaign. For this one, they didn't even bother showing you the car, an assurance to the buyer that you knew what you were getting.

Volkswagen Ad 60s 02

Incredible rescue of a women from her sinking car in Baton Rouge floodwatersAug 13 2016

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

I Am - SomebodyAug 12 2016

From 1971, here's Jessie Jackson on Sesame Street doing a call-and-response with the children of the poem I Am - Somebody.

I Am

Somebody

I Am

Somebody

I May Be Poor

But I Am

Somebody

I May Be Young

But I Am

Somebody

I May Be On Welfare

But I Am

Somebody

It's difficult to imagine something like this airing on the show now. Sesame Street was originally designed to serve the needs of children in low-income homes, but now the newest episodes of the show air first on HBO...a trickle-down educational experience. (via @kathrynyu)

Gone Girl: lessons from the screenplayAug 12 2016

Using Gillian Flynn's screenplay for Gone Girl as an example, Michael Tucker walks us through some important aspects of screenwriting techniques. This makes me want to read a book on screenwriting and watch Gone Girl again. (via one perfect shot)

Update: As expected, I got recommendations from readers for screenwriting books: Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434 and Invisible Ink. There is also Story by Robert McKee, who you may remember as the screenwriting guru consulted by Donald Kaufman in Adaptation. (via @byBrettJohnson & @poritsky)

The official trailer for Rogue One, a Star Wars StoryAug 11 2016

Ok, this looks good.

Intermediaries and the financial crisis of 2008Aug 11 2016

In the most recent video from Marginal Revolution University, Tyler Cowen explains how the role of financial intermediaries contributed to the financial crisis of 2008. He highlights homeowners and banks taking on too much leverage, poorly planned incentive systems, securitization of mortgages, and banks making loans that are over-reliant on investor confidence.

By 2008, the economy was in a very fragile state, with both homeowners and banks taking on greater leverage, many ending up "underwater." Why did managers at financial institutions take on greater and greater risk? We'll discuss a couple of key reasons, including the role of excess confidence and incentives.

In addition to homeowners' leverage and bank leverage, a third factor played a major role in tipping the scale toward crisis: securitization. Mortgage securities during this time were very hard to value, riskier than advertised, and filled to the brim with high risk loans. Cowen discusses several reasons this happened, including downright fraud, failure of credit rating agencies, and overconfidence in the American housing market.

Finally, a fourth factor joins homeowners' leverage, bank leverage, and securitization to inch the economy closer to the edge: the shadow banking system. On the whole, the shadow banking system is made up of investment banks and various other complex financial intermediaries, highly dependent on short term loans.

When housing prices started to fall in 2007, it was the final nudge that pushed the economy over the cliff. There was a run on the shadow banking system. Financial intermediaries came crashing down. We faced a credit crunch, and many businesses stopped growing. Layoffs ensued, increasing unemployment.

The coming CRISPR revolutionAug 11 2016

Perfect eyesight. Curing cancer. Designer babies. Super-soldiers. Because of CRISPR, genetic engineering might make tinkering with life as easy as playing with Lego.

Imagine you were alive back in the 1980's, and were told that computers would soon take over everything -- from shopping, to dating, and the stock market, that billions of people would be connected via a kind of web, that you would own a handheld device orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers.

It would seem absurd, but then all of it happened. Science fiction became our reality and we don't even think about it. We're at a similar point today with genetic engineering. So let's talk about it.

Relatedly, I'm finishing up Neal Stephenson's Seveneves right now and while it starts out as space science fiction, much of the book is concerned with the sort of genetic engineering issues discussed in the video.

Graphic MeansAug 10 2016

Graphic Means is a documentary film by Briar Levit about the history of graphic design production from the 1950s to the 1990s.

It's been roughly 30 years since the desktop computer revolutionized the way the graphic design industry works. For decades before that, it was the hands of industrious workers, and various ingenious machines and tools that brought type and image together on meticulously prepared paste-up boards, before they were sent to the printer.

Features interviews with Steven Heller, Ellen Lupton, Tobias Frere-Jones, and more. (via @cleverevans)

Kanye West's favorite noisesAug 09 2016

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

How it happened: the discovery of bacteria in the 1670sAug 09 2016

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek ran a draper's shop and was a local politician in Delft, Netherlands in the mid-17th century. During this time, he developed an interest in making lenses and hit upon a technique for making lenses with extremely high magnifications for the time, 270x and perhaps even 500x normal magnification. These lenses allowed him to discover that there were tiny organisms living in his mouth.

Ed Yong, Joss Fong, and Julia Belluz discuss van Leeuwenhoek's achievement and microorganisms in general in the video above and in an interview.

It is undeniable that antibiotics have been a tremendous health good, maybe one of the greatest health goods of all time. They have brought so many infectious diseases to heel and saved so many lives.

But it's also clear that they have negative effects on our microbiome. So they are indiscriminate weapons. They kill the microbes that we depend upon and that are good for us as well as the ones that are causing disease and causing us harm. They're like nukes, rather than precision weapons.

So we're in a difficult situation now, where on the one hand we're running out of antibiotics, and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a huge public health threat. But at the same time we're aware of the need to preserve the microbiome.

Yong just came out with a book on microbes called I Contain Multitudes. (Perhaps Whitman was speaking literally?)

The infamous Collatz ConjectureAug 09 2016

For a recent episode of Numberphile, David Eisenbud explains the Collatz Conjecture, a math problem that is very easy to understand but has an entire book devoted to it and led famous mathematician Paul Erdős to say "this is a problem for which mathematics is perhaps not ready".

The problem is easily stated: start with any positive integer and if it is even, divide it by 2 and if odd multiply it by 3 and add 1. Repeat the process indefinitely. Where do the numbers end up? Infinity? 1? Loneliness? Somewhere in-between? My favorite moment of the video:

16. Whoa, a very even number.

I love math and I love this video. (via df)

Time lapse video of pills dissolving in waterAug 08 2016

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

The trailer for Transparent season 3Aug 08 2016

Transparent returns to Amazon for a third season on September 23. I've said this before, but Transparent is my favorite show on TV right now. If you haven't watched it yet, summer is the perfect opportunity to catch up before the new season starts.

The Human FamilyAug 07 2016

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

We seek success in Finland,

are born and die in Maine.

In minor ways we differ,

in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

You can hear Angelou recite the entire poem here:

Amateur professionalism in online videoAug 05 2016

Evan Puschak does a good job of explaining why Casey Neistat's videos are so entertaining: a combination of seeming amateurism and professionally honed skills in storytelling & video production. I don't keep up with them regularly, but I love Neistat's videos. He is definitely among a handful of video producers who have developed genuinely potent forms of video entertainment in the age of YouTube.

18th century InstagramAug 05 2016

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

Prince, technology, the Great Migration, and US highway policyAug 05 2016

At the EyeO Festival in June, Anil Dash did a talk about Prince, "immigration & migration, artistry & technology, grave injustices & profound triumphs". The talk is an examination of the past century of American history through the lens of Dash's family history and one of the world's greatest artists...well worth the 55 minutes it takes to watch.

The music and the opening titles of Stranger ThingsAug 05 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(via @CognoscoCuro)

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

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

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

Teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan's new film, DunkirkAug 05 2016

Christopher Nolan's next film is a WWII action/thriller about the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France in 1940. The film comes out in July 2017 and if that last scene in the teaser trailer is any indication of the overall film, I will be there.

Side-by-side comparison of Wes Anderson films and their influencesAug 04 2016

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

This spinning windmill on fire is beautifulAug 04 2016

Sometimes nature and technology combine to create something beautiful. Before it terribly explodes, that is.

The uncelebrated typographers of the roadAug 02 2016

A lovely short video profile of Thomas Lilley, who is a roadliner in Glasgow. A roadliner is a person who paints the words and marks on roads with molten thermoplastic. Lilley does it quickly, freehand, and beautifully. The design firm who did the video above commissioned Lilley's crew to make a custom typeface for them and their new logo.

See also The art of street typography. (via @mathowie)

Radiohead plays Let Down for the first time in 10 yearsAug 02 2016

Until their first show at Madison Square Garden in NYC last week, Radiohead hadn't played Let Down off of OK Computer in concert since 2006. I was lucky enough to be in attendance and some collective shit was lost over this, I tell you what. They've since played it at all three of their subsequent shows. (They've also played Creep twice in the past week, which is also rare.)

Here's the full set list from that night, which is mainly just for me in 28 years when this is the last remaining page on the internet with this info.

Burn the Witch
Daydreaming
Decks Dark
Desert Island Disk
Ful Stop
Lotus Flower
The National Anthem
15 Step
No Surprises
Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
Separator
Planet Telex
The Numbers
2 + 2 = 5
Everything in Its Right Place
Myxomatosis
Idioteque

Encore:
Let Down
Present Tense
Paranoid Android
Nude
Bodysnatchers

Encore 2:
Bloom
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Update: Here's a video from when they played it in 2006 in Wolverhampton:

(via @jamsandwich)

Primitive technology: making a forge blowerAug 01 2016

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

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

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

The fundamental flaw in Batman v SupermanJul 29 2016

In his latest video, Evan Puschak takes Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder to task for filling his movies with flashy moments instead of scenes that would give the movie more emotional punch.

It's a convincing argument. But before watching this -- and full disclosure: I have not seen Batman v Superman -- I thought he was going to discuss the real flaw in BvS which is very simply: Superman is an invincible man and Batman is a normal guy in a fancy suit. If this were not a movie designed to entertain 14-year-old boys but a real thing happening in an actual world, Superman would just deal with Batman as trivially as you or I might swat a mosquito. And don't get me started on kryptonite and Superman's greater Achilles Heel, his goodness and love of humanity. As a storyteller, how many more interesting ways can you exploit those weaknesses? Superman is the most boring superhero -- a nearly invincible man with very obvious flaws -- and that's why no one can make a contemporary film about him that's any good.

P.S. Actually, Superman's biggest flaw is that he wants to be a writer when he could quite literally do anything else with his time, like fly around or make time go backwards. What an idiot.

A Lego minifig with human skinJul 29 2016

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

A supercut of 400 fourth wall breaking moments in moviesJul 28 2016

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

David Attenborough narrates Pokemon GoJul 28 2016

Will I ever get tired of this trope? Apple should make David Attenborough the Siri voice...I would immediately start using it more.

Jerry's MapJul 27 2016

Jerrys Map

Since 1963, Jerry Gretzinger has been working on a map of a world that doesn't exist. The map is never finished. In the morning, when Gretzinger draws a card out of the deck that sets his task for the day, sometimes that card says "scan". That means a portion of the map is scanned and archived, and the copy is reworked to "upgrade" that part of the map. And that's not even the half of it...just watch the whole thing to see how the map has evolved over the years.

It now comprises over 3200 individual eight by ten inch panels. Its execution, in acrylic, marker, colored pencil, ink, collage, and inkjet print on heavy paper, is dictated by the interplay between an elaborate set of rules and randomly generated instructions.

Portions of the map have been shown in Florence, Paris, and New York and it'll be shown at an upcoming exhibition in Japan. (But where he really wants to display it is in MoMA's huge atrium.) Prints and original panels are available on Gretzinger's eBay store. (via @lukaskulas)

How the Republican Party went from Lincoln to TrumpJul 26 2016

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

How to make a tennis ballJul 26 2016

This is a beautifully shot video of the process for making tennis balls, from what looks like bread dough in the first steps to stamping the logo on the ball right before it goes into the canister.

I was commissioned to make a film and shoot a set of images by ESPN for Wilson, to show the manufacturing process of their tennis balls for the US Open. We flew to the factory, shot the film and stills in one day then flew home. Its an amazingly complex manufacture, requiring 24 different processes to make the final ball. It was hot, loud and the people who worked there, worked fast. So much beauty in each stage. I love the mechanics of how things are made, it fills me with great pleasure.

I love the little hand-clasper bots that put the yellow felt on the balls. One question though: the entire video is shot at normal speed, but the people putting the felt on the balls, that seemed sped up. But maybe they were just moving that fast?

Speaking of, feel free to have many possibly conflicting feelings about the people making the balls and their inevitable future replacement by a fully automated system. I know I did! (thx, damien)

Teaser trailer for Sherlock season 4Jul 25 2016

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

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

Low budget THX intro soundJul 24 2016

When you put a vacuum cleaner and a harmonica together, you get something that sounds a lot like the THX intro sound. This make me laugh SO HARD. See also the shovel that sounds like the Smells Like Teen Spirit intro.

A year-long time lapse of the Earth rotating in spaceJul 22 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic video games recreated in stop motionJul 22 2016

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

Trailer for Narcos season twoJul 21 2016

Narcos season 2 starts on Netflix on September 2. Oh, how I missed that stare! Wagner Moura is fantastic.

How did Hitler rise to power?Jul 21 2016

From the transcript of the video:

Disturbingly, many of Trump's early measures didn't require mass repression. His speeches exploited people's fear and ire to drive their support behind him and the Republican party. Meanwhile, businessmen and intellectuals, wanting to be on the right side of public opinion, endorsed Trump. They assured themselves and each other that his more extreme rhetoric was only for show.

Oh sorry, looks like autocorrect misspelled "Hitler" a couple times there. (Boy, Godwin's law makes it difficult to talk about the historical comparisons, although Mike Godwin himself sanctioned the comparison if "you're thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history". Not sure I'm meeting the standard here, but at least we've learned something about Hitler?)

New from Tinybop: SkyscrapersJul 21 2016

Tinybop's newest app for kids is called Skyscrapers.

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

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

View from the camera car during a Jason Bourne car chaseJul 20 2016

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

How film worksJul 20 2016

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

An appreciation of The Darjeeling LimitedJul 19 2016

I am not alone in saying that The Darjeeling Limited is perhaps my least favorite Wes Anderson movie (even though Ebert liked it). But it's Evan Puschak's favorite and he does an admirable job in raising my appreciation for the film.

Constructing a grass hut from scratchJul 19 2016

The dude from Primitive Technology is back and this time he's constructed a grass hut from scratch.

This hut is easy to build and houses a large volume. The shape is wind resistant and strong for it's materials. Gaps can be seen in the thatch but not if viewing from directly underneath meaning that it should shed rain well. A fire should be possible in the hut as long as it's small and kept in a pit in the center.The reason the hut took so long is due to the scarcity of grass on the hill. It could be built much quicker in a field.

A tour of the Stanley Kubrick ExhibitionJul 18 2016

The Stanley Kubrick Exhibition is currently showing at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and Adam Savage went to take a look and show us around. Super bummed I haven't seen this in person yet. After SF, it heads off to Mexico City.

We're the SuperhumansJul 18 2016

Channel 4 is broadcasting the 2016 Paralympic Games in the UK and the commercial they made for it is great. I spied Richard Whitehead in there...his performance winning the 200 meters in the 2012 Paralympic Games is incredible:

Kylo Ren's outtakes by the AuralnautsJul 16 2016

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

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

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

4K video of Norway's stunningly beautiful fjordsJul 15 2016

If you need a small window of peaceful beauty today, here you are.

How to Smoke a JointJul 14 2016

This is a scene from Miloš Forman's 1971 film, Taking Off, in which a support group of "square" parents meet to try and understand their children who have run away from home. What a great scene. Unfortunately, the entire movie seems quite difficult to find these days. It's not streaming anywhere and this Blu-ray is $45. (via @dunstan)

The historical accuracy of Saving Private RyanJul 14 2016

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

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

Some Kind of QuestJul 13 2016

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

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

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

Game of Thrones for beginners, narrated by Samuel L. JacksonJul 13 2016

HBO did a beginner's guide to Game of Thrones and got Samuel L. Jackson to narrate it.

Over in Westeros, Lord Eddard Stark, aka Ned, is asked by his friend the King, Robert Baratheon, to be the Hand of the King, aka his right hand man. Ned doesn't wanna go, but das his boy! So he uproots his family and heads to King's Landing. Nice family, right? Don't get attached. I'm just saying.

Does anyone swear as delightfully well as Samuel L. Jackson?

Rodney Mullen returns with some new tricks, captured in 360 degree videoJul 13 2016

Rodney Mullen, one of modern skateboarding's founding fathers is still skating hard at age 49. (So's Tony Hawk, landing 900s at 48 years old.) In this short film, he's captured in 360° video performing some tricks, new and old, in what he refers to as a "stanceless" style. Mullen's still got it, but he had to resort to some extreme measures to make sure his body came along for the ride.

What makes a soul regular, and what makes a soul goofy? To understand why this question began to grip Mullen, you have to go back to 2003. That's when his body began to lock up. Decades of skating had yielded decades of scar tissue; his right femur had started to grind against his right hip. "Like anything that grinds, the body will fuse it, will calcify it," explains Mullen. "I could feel how fast it was cinching me down. I couldn't roll out of stuff anymore. And if you can't fall, you can't skate." Doctors were wary of breaking up the fusion. One doctor in particular, says Mullen, "said with his eyes what he wouldn't say with his mouth: There's no way out for you with this."

Mullen was determined to find a way out. With wrenches, knife handles, and other instruments, he began to jam open the scar tissue that was locking him down. In time he graduated to pulling the tissue apart, using large objects as leverage. "You know it's a little rope in there that's binding you," he explains. "So you pull, you pull, you pull, and right when you think you can't take it anymore, that's when you give it all you have." Late at night, Mullen would look for things against which he could hoist, heave, and winch himself, tearing the tissue into submission. "Fire hydrants are great," he says. "Shopping cart racks: Those are really useful." When scar tissue breaks free, it feels like dried gum snapping in half, or uncooked spaghetti cracking apart. Mullen was twice approached by police who, hearing his screams, thought he might be getting mugged. "You have to be so desperate where you actually don't care what happens to you at some point."

I mean!!! (via @freney & @UnlikelyWords)

Turning your anxiety into excitementJul 12 2016

Some recent research suggests that if you're feeling anxious, saying "I am excited" can switch your heightened emotional state from negative (anxiety) to positive (excitement).

It's also counterintuitive: When most people feel anxious, they likely tell themselves to just relax. "When asked, 'how do you feel about your upcoming speech?', most people will say, 'I'm so nervous, I'm trying to calm down,'" said Alison Wood Brooks, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied the phenomenon. She cites the ubiquitous "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters as partial evidence.

But that might be precisely the wrong advice, she said. Instead, the slogan should be more like, "Get Amped and Don't Screw Up."

That's because anxiety and excitement are both aroused emotions. In both, the heart beats faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action. In other words, they're "arousal congruent." The only difference is that excitement is a positive emotion' focused on all the ways something could go well.

Calmness is also positive, meanwhile, but it's also low on arousal. For most people, it takes less effort for the brain to jump from charged-up, negative feelings to charged-up, positive ones, Brooks said, than it would to get from charged-up and negative to positive and chill. In other words, its easier to convince yourself to be excited than calm when you're anxious.

Totally trying this the next time I'm anxious.

Hand-drawn style transfer to 3D modelsJul 12 2016

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

80s and 90s commercials from Saturday morning cartoonsJul 12 2016

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

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

World speed climbing recordJul 11 2016

Back in 2014, Ukrainian Danyl Boldyrev scampered up a 15-meter course in just 5.60 seconds. That's almost 6 mph, straight up a wall.

Zero Days, a documentary about cyberwarJul 11 2016

Alex Gibney, the documentary filmmaker who directed the awesome Going Clear (on Scientology) as well as films about Enron and Wikileaks, has a new film out called Zero Days. The film is generally about cyberwarfare and specifically about the Stuxnet virus, which has a particularly cyberpunk sci-fi first paragraph on Wikipedia:

Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm believed to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyber weapon. Although neither state has confirmed this openly, anonymous US officials speaking to The Washington Post claimed the worm was developed during the Obama administration to sabotage Iran's nuclear program with what would seem like a long series of unfortunate accidents.

The movie was funded on Kickstarter and is out in select theaters...but is also available to rent on Amazon right now. Gonna watch this tonight.

Update: Ok, weird. Zero Days was not funded on Kickstarter. The KS film was originally called Zero Day and changed its name to Every Move You Make when the focus of the film changed. Gibney came on as a "Consulting Producer" to Every Move last year so that's where my confusion came in. (thx, ken)

70 Hester StreetJul 11 2016

Casimir Nozkowski grew up in a building at 70 Hester Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before his parents occupied it in the late 1960s, the building had been a synagogue, a Prohibition-era distillery, and a raincoat factory. Before they moved out in 2012, Nozkowski "filmed the hell out of it" and made a short documentary about his childhood home.

My documentary is about my childhood home and how much of the past you could still see in it when we left. It's about the development of a neighborhood a lot of lives have passed through and whether you can protect that legacy while still making room for new lives and new memories. In making my movie, I tried to follow some advice my mom gave me: "Don't make a movie about moving out. Make it about how great it was to live here." I like that sentiment but I couldn't help wondering what was going to happen next to the old building I grew up in.

How discrimination feelsJul 07 2016

I posted a short video earlier today featuring Jane Elliott. She's a noted anti-racism activist famous for her blue eyes/brown eyes exercise, featured in the video above.

White people's number one freedom in the United States of America is the freedom to be totally ignorant about those who are other than white. And our number two freedom is the freedom to deny that we're ignorant.

In the exercise, Elliott divides the class into two groups based on their eye color: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The brown eyed group is instructed to treat the blue eyed group as inferior because of their eye color -- they are to be called "bluey" or "boy" or "honey" but not by their names.

At the beginning of the session (which starts at about 1:30 (but don't skip the intro!)), Elliott calls herself "the resident bitch for the day" and does she mean it...she does not let up because, as she says in the video, society doesn't let up on people of color either. (via @dunstan)

Freedom for some is not freedomJul 07 2016

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

The visual evolution of Steven Spielberg's moviesJul 06 2016

From the films he made as a teenager on up to the recently released BFG, this is a look at the evolution of the films of Steven Spielberg.

I was 20 when Jurassic Park came out and while I really liked it, I didn't think much about who directed it at the time. It certainly didn't remind me much of Raiders of the Lost Ark or ET. I watched it again last night (it's on Netflix) and it is soooooo obviously Spielberg.

How Ghostbusters became GhostbustersJul 06 2016

In a relatively new video essay about movies, Lessons from the Screenplay, Michael Tucker looks at Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis's original script for Ghostbusters and how the framework it provided, enhanced by the improv skills of the actors, produced a movie better than the script might have indicated at first glance. And oh man, I love the turn-of-the-century Ghostbusters idea. (via one perfect shot)

The pilot for SeinfeldJul 06 2016

Even though I was one of the (relative) few to watch the first episode when it originally aired,1 I had forgotten how weird the pilot for Seinfeld was. The theme music is completely different, Michael Richards' character is called "Kessler" (because the network had legal concerns related to Larry David's real-life neighbor, Kenny Kramer, on whom the character was based), and Elaine2 neither appears or is mentioned. Oh, and the first season was only five episodes long (NBC was very skeptical about the show) and both Steve Buscemi and David Alan Grier auditioned for the role of George.

Update: Well, that got taken down from Vimeo fairly quickly. You can still watch the pilot on Hulu.

  1. I watched an incredible amount of TV as a kid. I would read TV Guide from cover to cover each week and have seen every episode of a number of embarrassing shows.

  2. Fun fact: Julia Louis-Dreyfus wasn't even aware of the existence of the Elaine-less pilot episode until 2004 (6 years after the show ended) and plans never to watch it. Whoever told her must have earned a solid GET! OUT! shove in the chest.

Video for Gosh by Jamie xxJul 05 2016

Directed by Romain Gavras. Best at fullscreen with headphones.

What to the slave is the 4th of July?Jul 05 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ambiguous Cylinder optical illusionJul 01 2016

I couldn't figure this out when I watched it on my phone this morning, but if you watch it in fullscreen HD, you can see how the shapes are cut to look different from various angles. Still trippy though.

Update: Make Anything reverse-engineered the illusion...here's how it works:

(via @dunstan)

Where did Brexit come from?Jul 01 2016

Evan Puschak examines the rise of the independence movement in Britain, from their entrance into the European Community in 1973 to Thatcher's rumblings about EU governance to UKIP's rise, culminating in Brexit last week. I thought this was a pretty succinct summary of right-wing political tactics:

And that's the point about far-right political organizations: they use the fulcrum of populism and fear to lift many times their weight in people.

Update: More on the history of the movement to withdraw Britain from the EU from Gary Younge in The Guardian.

Terrence Malick's Voyage of TimeJun 30 2016

Legendary director Terrence Malick is making a documentary about the birth and death of the universe. It looks like a Koyaanisqatsi sort of thing rather than a here's a suburban tableau that's a metaphor for Big Bang and everything that comes after it sort of thing.

Apparently: 1. Malick has been working on this for more than 30 years. 2. Brad Pitt is narrating a 40-minute version that will air exclusively in IMAX. 3. There will also be a feature-length version of the movie narrated by Cate Blanchett. 4. This will either be amazing or sort of, you know, eh.

Update: A second trailer:

Ok, I'm officially excited for this. Cate Blanchett's breathy Galadriel voice over gorgeous imagery? I'm there. (via one perfect shot)

Zootopia was going to be a much darker movieJun 29 2016

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

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

The green screen driving machineJun 29 2016

Creative agency The Mill has built a car called the Blackbird that, after visual effects are applied in post-production, can impersonate any sort of car in a commercial, TV show, or movie.

The Mill BLACKBIRD® is able to quickly transform its chassis to match the exact length and width of almost any car. Powered by an electric motor, it can be programmed to imitate acceleration curves and gearing shifts and the adjustable suspension alters ride height, rigidity and dampening to replicate typical driving characteristics.

Body of TheseusJun 29 2016

How old are different parts of our bodies? Does anything stick around the entire time? The hair on our bodies lasts only a few years. Fingernails are fully replaced every six months. Your skin lasts 2-4 weeks. Even your blood and bones regenerate every so often. There's at least one part of your body with lasts the whole time you're alive, which I found somewhat surprising. See the ship of Theseus paradox.

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

How do we know the lifespans of different cells in the body? Carbon-14 levels from nuclear testing done in the 50s and 60s.

Analysis of growth rings from pine trees in Sweden shows that the proliferation of atomic tests in the 1950s and 1960s led to an explosion in levels of atmospheric carbon 14. Now, Jonas Frisen and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have taken advantage of this spike in C14 to devise a method to date the birth of human cells. Because this test can be used retrospectively, unlike many of the current methods used to detect cell proliferation, and because it does not require the ingestion of a radioactive or chemical tracer, the method can be readily applied to both in vivo and postmortem samples of human tissues.

Visualization of the history of cities from 3700 BC to nowJun 28 2016

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

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

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

The evolution of Pixar's animation from 1984 to nowJun 28 2016

Watch how far Pixar's skill in animation has come over the past 30+ years, from their initial shorts to the nearly photorealistic animation in last year's The Good Dinosaur to Finding Dory.

It's incredible how dated the original Toy Story looks now. It's going to look positively prehistoric in 20 years and it'll be impossible for anyone who didn't see it at the time to understand how astounding and groundbreaking it was.

Auctioneer beatsJun 27 2016

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

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

Six million years of human history, explained in 10 minutesJun 24 2016

Kurzgesagt gives us a short tour of human history, from the six different species of human that existed 100,000 years ago to the present. If you found that interesting and want more detail, you should read Sapiens...Kurzgesagt used it as a major reference here.

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Boston Dynamics' new house-trained robotJun 24 2016

Boston Dynamics has a new 55-pound robot with an arm that looks like a head. It gets up after slipping on banana peels and can load your delicate glassware into the dishwasher.

Do they deliberately make these videos unsettling and creepy? Or is that just me? That last scene, where the robot kinda lunges at the guy and then falls over...I might have nightmares about that.

The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-ClaudeJun 23 2016

The Floating Piers is a new art installant from Christo and Jeanne-Claude consisting of massive floating bridges and docks covered in yellow fabric that connects a pair of islands to the mainland in Italy's Lake Iseo. The video above offers an aerial view of the installation.

Visitors can experience this work of art by walking on it from Sulzano to Monte Isola and to the island of San Paolo, which is framed by The Floating Piers. The mountains surrounding the lake offer a bird's-eye view of The Floating Piers, exposing unnoticed angles and altering perspectives. Lake Iseo is located 100 kilometers east of Milan and 200 kilometers west of Venice.

"Like all of our projects, The Floating Piers is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting," said Christo. "There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone."

The Floating Piers

This is very reminiscent of The Gates, which is one of my favorite pieces of art. (via tksst)

A deeper metaphorJun 22 2016

Former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch on approaching problems head on:

That might be the best answer to any interview question ever. (via digg)

Documentary on Dieter RamsJun 22 2016

Gary Hustwit, director of Helvetica and Objectified, is directing a movie on legendary product designer Dieter Rams. Here's the Kickstarter campaign.

This Kickstarter campaign will fund the film and also help to preserve Dieter's incredible design archive for the future. There's a trove of drawings, photographs, and other material spanning Dieter's fifty plus years of work, and it needs to be properly conserved.

To that end, we're working with the Dieter and Ingeborg Rams Foundation to help them catalog, digitize, and save these documents. The public has never seen most of this material, and we intend to share some of these discoveries with our backers during the process of making the film.

Rams' designs have influenced an entire generation of designers, including one Jony Ive from a small company called Apple.

British F1 Sidecar racingJun 22 2016

They race motorcycles with sidecars and it is the nuttiest thing: the sidecar passengers throw themselves all over the place in order to shift the center of gravity of the bike in the turns. (via digg)

Update: Ok, Sidecar Motocross might be even nuttier:

(thx, david)

A tour of some of the world's most famous housesJun 22 2016

John Green shares delightful and interesting stories about 21 of the world's most famous houses, including the Playboy Mansion, Winchester Mystery House, and Graceland.

Identity, names, and personal reputation management in Inglourious BasterdsJun 21 2016

The Bear Jew. Hugo Stiglitz. The Jew Hunter. Bridget von Hammersmark. Names, identity, and personal reputation management are important elements in Inglourious Basterds, as they are in all of Tarantino's films (Vincent Vega, our man in Amsterdam; Mr. Pink; The Bride / Beatrix Kiddo / Black Mamba). In this video essay, Drew Morton shows how Tarantino's characters assert their identities over and over again, with varying results.

How do airplane black boxes work?Jun 21 2016

First of all, they're not actually black. (They're orange.) They capture more than 80 types of on-board information, including the last two hours of cockpit voice communications. And someday, they might get replaced by uploading data to the cloud (a secure cloud, one hopes).

The fashionable peacocks of Pitti UomoJun 21 2016

Aaron Christian shot footage of the fashionably dressed gentlemen attending the Pitti Uomo menswear trade show and paired it with David Attenborough-esque commentary about peacocks.

Unlike the cues outside of the city shows, where photographers have a few seconds to snap their favourite look. Pitti Uomo is a four day long menswear trade show, in Florence, Italy.

It's a vast space where attendees spend all day walking around, visiting stands, eating in the sun or catching up with fellow fashion colleagues -- and so consequently it has become a prime spot for the worlds top street style photographers to document and shoot some of the most stylish men on the planet.

It's become a peacock parade where the men show off their outfits in all their glory hoping to get snapped by the top photographers.

It's quite comical, the way the fully grown men pace around subtly trying their best to get snapped, and it's the perfect location for this wildlife style mockumentary to take place.

Live: Sigur Ros circles Iceland with generative soundtrackJun 20 2016

Icelandic band Sigur Rós is doing a live slow TV event: a broadcast of a drive around the entirety of Iceland with a soundtrack generated by software based on a new song of theirs.

driving anti-clockwise round the island, the journey will pass by many of the country’s most notable landmarks, including vatnajökull, europe’s largest ice-sheet; the glacial lagoon, jökulsárlón; as well as the east fjords and the desolate black sands of möðrudalur.

the soundtrack to the journey is being created moment-by-moment via generative music software. the individual musical elements of unreleased song, and current sigur rós festival set opener, óveður, are seeded through the evolving music app bronze, to create a unique ephemeral sonic experience. headphones, external speakers and full-screen viewing are recommended.

Incredible breakdancing crew from KoreaJun 20 2016

Morning of Owl is a dance crew from Korea and they are from The Matrix, I think?

How did you do that? You moved like they do. I've never seen anyone move that fast.

Amazing athleticism and coordination. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Time lapse of two hydroelectric dams being torn downJun 20 2016

Two hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River in Washington were removed in order to restore the river's ecosystem -- in particular, the salmon habitat. It was the largest dam removal in the US history and, as the video explains, has been successful so far in attracting fish back to its waters. But for our purposes here today, the first 30 seconds shows how the dams were unbuilt and the rivers reshaped.

See also this time lapse of another Washington dam being disabled and its reservoir drained:

Motion capture dance madnessJun 11 2016

People are doing amazing things with motion capture these days. (via colossal)

Space StoryJun 10 2016

Luc Bergeron's Space Story is a mashup of more than 20 movies that take place in space, from Alien to Apollo 13 to 2001 to Star Trek to Moon. Stick with it for a couple minutes...it starts slow but gets going around then.

See also Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite Maneuver.

Time travel in Game of ThronesJun 10 2016

[Spoilers!] This season, Game of Thrones is experimenting with time travel. A few years ago, Harrison Densmore created a chart showing the three kinds of time travel that happens in movies: fixed timeline (as in 12 Monkeys), dynamic timeline (as in Back to the Future), and multiverse (as in Terminator 2). So which kind of time travel is happening in Game of Thrones?

P.S. In addition to the extensive spoilers about what's already happened on the show, the latter moments of the video also offers some fan theories about what might happen on the show in the future. If that sort of thing bothers you, maybe stop watching around the 4:05 mark.

Behind the scenes of Legoland's model workshopJun 09 2016

Wired recently talked to a couple of Lego Master Builders about how they create new pieces for display at Legoland. They have a custom CAD program for making Lego structures (and people and animals) which can show MRI-like slices for whatever thing they're working on for ease of construction. The subway station mosaic detail at the end is super cool.

2001: A Picasso OdysseyJun 09 2016

Bhautik Joshi took 2001: A Space Odyssey and ran it through a "deep neural networks based style transfer" with the paintings of Pablo Picasso.

See also Blade Runner in the style of van Gogh's Starry Night and Alice in a Neural Networks Wonderland.

The best rule-breaking films of all timeJun 08 2016

From Cinefix, a list of 10 movies (plus dozens more runners-up) that broke the rules of filmmaking most effectively by using jump cuts, nonlinear narrative, lack of plot, surrealism, and breaking the fourth wall.

A video essay on video essaysJun 07 2016

Jarrett Fuller examines the video essay, typically used for film criticism (e.g. Every Frame a Painting, F is for Fake), and argues for its use in design criticism. (via @tonyszhou)

Today on the grammar rodeo: that vs. whichJun 07 2016

New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris explains when the magazine uses "which" and when it uses "that", a distinction I confess I had little knowledge of until just now.1 A cheeky example of the difference by E.B. White:

The New Yorker is a magazine, which likes "that."

The New Yorker is the magazine that likes "which."

(via df)

  1. This is why, when anyone asks me what I do for a living, the answer is never "writer". Writing for me is a brute-force operation; I'll use whatever is necessary to make it sound like I'm talking with you in person. (Wait, is a semicolon appropriate there? Should I have used "as though" instead of "like"? Who gives a shit!) I use too many commas (but often not between multiple adjectives in front of nouns), too many "I"s, too many "that"s (OMG, the thats), too many weirdo pacing mechanisms like ellipses, dashes, & parentheses, mix tenses, overuse the passive voice, and place unquoted periods and commas outside quotation marks like the Brits, although I was doing it before I learned they did because it just seemed to make sense. So, anyway, hi, I'm not a writer...who writes a lot.

A visual comparison of Stanley Kubrick and Wes AndersonJun 07 2016

The films of Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick share some interesting visual similarities. Any influence was a one-way street, of course. With the exception of Bottle Rocket, which was cinematically spare compared to his later work, all of Anderson's films were shot after Kubrick finished shooting Eyes Wide Shut.

Super sad supercutJun 06 2016

A collection of super sad moments from movies like The Iron Giant, E.T., Wrath of Khan, Up, and Old Yeller. This'll have you sobbing in 3 minutes or your money back.

John Oliver takes on the debt buying industryJun 06 2016

On Last Week Tonight last night, John Oliver not only blasted the debt buying industry but ended up starting a company, bought $15 million worth of medical debt from Texas, and forgave it.

Update: I forgot to add, Occupy Wall Street did a similar thing back in 2012.

OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it - traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

Update: It's disappointing that Last Week Tonight did not acknowledge the work and assistance of the Debt Collective and their Rolling Jubilee.

At the last minute Wilson told us LWT did not want to associate themselves with the work of the Rolling Jubilee due to its roots in Occupy Wall Street. Instead John Oliver framed the debt buy as his idea: a giveaway to compete with Oprah. The lead researcher who worked on this segment invoked the cover of journalism to justify distancing themselves from our project.

Why is Game of Thrones stuck in medieval times?Jun 03 2016

Riffing on Ken Mondschein's Strategies of War in Westeros, Evan Puschak explores why Westeros seems culturally and technologically stuck in the Middle Ages.

Update: Or does Game of Thrones depict the early modern period?

What Martin actually gives us is a fantasy version of what the historian Alfred Crosby called the Post-Columbian exchange: the globalizing epoch of the 16th and 17th centuries. A world where merchants trade exotic drugs and spices between continents, where professional standing armies can number in the tens or hundreds of thousands, where scholars study the stars via telescopes, and proto-corporations like the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Spicers of Qarth control global trade. It's also a world of slavery on a gigantic scale, and huge wars that disrupt daily life to an unprecedented degree.

(via @arbesman)

A tour of the Svalbard Seed VaultJun 03 2016

Tucked away in a mountain located on the Svalbard archipelago in Norway, also home to The Northmost Town on Earth, is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Vault is home to more than 860,000 plant seed samples deposited by dozens of different countries from around the world (even North Korea) and is closed to access about 350 days per year. But the folks from Veritasium were able to finagle a tour of the facility during one of its rare open days.

This facility was built to last about 200 years and withstand earthquakes and explosions. It was placed on the side of a mountain so even if all the ice on Earth melts, it will still be above sea level.

Other fun facts about the Vault: the temperature in the storage rooms are kept at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit to hinder seed growth/deterioration, the permafrost in which the Vault is built will maintain the low storage temp in case of electrical failure, GMO seeds are forbidden due to Norwegian law, and the first withdrawal was made last year by Syria because of the civil war.

From Winnie Cooper to math whizJun 03 2016

As a child, Danica McKellar played Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. After the show was over, McKellar had difficulty breaking away from other people's perceptions of her. But in college, she discovered an aptitude for mathematics, went on to have a theorem named after her -- not because she was famous but because she'd helped prove it -- and forged a new identity. (via @stevenstrogatz)

What would happen if all humans disappeared?Jun 03 2016

If all humans just up and disappeared one day, life on Earth would suffer in the short term but fare much better in the long run.

On bullshit and Donald TrumpJun 02 2016

In this video, Harry Frankfurt, author of On Bullshit, talks about what bullshit is and how dangerous it is to society.

The reason why there's so much bullshit I think is that people just talk. If they don't talk, they don't get paid. The advertiser wants to gain sales. The politician wants to gain votes. Now, that's ok but they have to talk about things that they don't really know much about. So, since they don't have anything really valid to say, they just say whatever they think will interest the audience, make it appear they know what they're talking about. And what comes out is bullshit.

The bullshitter is more creative. He's not submissive. It's not important to him what the world really is like. What's important to him is how he'd like to represent himself. He takes a more adventurous and inventive attitude towards reality, which may be sometimes very colorful, sometimes amusing, sometimes it might produce results that are enjoyable. But it's also very dangerous.

It's at this point that the video cuts to Donald Trump, who is the Lionel Messi of bullshitting; it is his singular dazzling gift. He cultivates convenient facts and deliberately remains ignorant of inconvenient ones so as to be most effective. As Frankfurt notes, bullshit is a serious threat to the truth because it's not the opposite of truth...it cannot be refuted like a lie can:

Liars attempt to conceal the truth by substituting something for the truth that isn't true. Bullshit is not a matter of trying to conceal the truth, it is a matter of trying to manipulate the listener, and if the truth will do, then that's fine and if the truth won't do, that's also fine. The bullshitter is indifferent to the truth in a way in which the liar is not. He's playing a different game.

It is Trump's indifference to the truth that makes him so effective and so powerful. Much of what I read from people who oppose Trump attempts to counter his rhetoric with facts. That hasn't worked and is not going to work. The truth is not the antidote for bullshit. So how do you defeat the bullshitter? This has been a genuine problem for his political opponents thus far. Frankfurt doesn't offer any advice in the video (perhaps his book does?), and I'm at a loss as well, but I do know that factual refutation will not make any difference. I hope someone figures it out soon though.

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