homeaboutarchivenewslettermembership!
aboutarchivemembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

My Recent Media Diet, Summer 2023 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2023

Mad Men's Peggy Olson saying 'Oh shit. It's June 1st?'

Oh no. It's June? Where what how?!? I did not mean to let this much time elapse since the last installment of my media diet, all the way back on Dec 2 in a completely different calendar year. But there's nothing to be done about it, we're all here now, so tuck your arms inside the carriage and let's do this thing. Here's what I've been watching, reading, listening to, and experiencing over the last six months. Enjoy.

Fire of Love. Superb documentary on volcanos and obsession. The footage, mostly shot by the subjects, is unbelievable. (A)

Star Trek: First Contact. Maybe my favorite Star Trek movie? Ok, maybe not favorite but I like it a lot. (A)

Splendor. This is one of my favorite engine-building games that I've played — it strips the concept down to the bare bones. That makes it easy to get the hang of but there's a lot of room for different strategies as skill levels rise. (A-)

Ted Lasso (season three). I almost didn't watch this because season two was not my favorite and the critics were just tearing into season three, but I'm so glad I did...this is one of my favorite things I watched over the past few months. This was more like free therapy than a "sitcom", which probably explains why some people didn't care for it. (A)

Mercado Little Spain. José Andrés' Spanish version of Eataly. I've only been there a couple of times, but omg the food. The pan con tomate is the simplest imaginable dish — bread, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt — but I could easily eat it every day. (A)

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure. Such a gift to see so much of Basquiat's art in one place. Loved it. (A+)

Wood stove. An actual fire inside of your house that warms and captivates. Perfect, no notes. (A+)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner. A memoir about loss, grief, food, and the Korean American experience. (A-)

The Bourne Identity. Over 20 years old and still a great action thriller. (A-)

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). I've been using the first-gen AirPods Pro for the last few years and they've been great. But these 2nd-gen ones are next-level: the noise cancelling is way better and they are much more comfortable...been wearing the hell out of these since I got them. (A+)

Succession (season four). Has any show ever hit it out of the park on every episode like this? The whole last season, including the finale, was just fantastic. (A+)

China's Van Goghs. A Chinese man who's been painting replica van Goghs for half his life visits Holland and France to see the original paintings and the locations where van Gogh painted. Fascinating. What makes someone a "real" artist? (A-)

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Got to ski here with my kids a couple of times this winter and I can see why they love it. (B)

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. Better than I expected and perhaps better than a superhero holiday special has any right to be. (B+)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. If you've ever enjoyed a long collaborative creative partnership with another person or group of people and that collaborative frisson felt like the highlight of your life, you will probably like this book. (A)

Glass Onion. Super fun. (A-)

Andor. I really enjoyed this but was also kind of perplexed about the hype around how much better this series was than the rest of Star Wars. Again, I liked it but it didn't seem too far apart from the whole. (A-)

The 2022 World Cup. This whole thing gets an F for the corruption, human rights abuses, and idiotic TV coverage in the US, but as a long-time fan of Lionel Messi, watching Argentina win the trophy was 💯. The final against France was one of the peak sports viewing experiences of my life. (F/A+)

Rogue One. Had to rewatch after Andor. Still a favorite. (A-)

1899. This gave me Lost and Westworld vibes (that's bad) but I'd heard good things so I stuck with it for two more episodes than I should have. Stopped watching halfway through and then read the Wikipedia page and, yep, thankful I didn't spend anymore time on it. I have to stop watching these puzzle box shows. (C-)

Bullet Train. People seemed to like this more than I did. Seemed like a Guy Ritchie Tarantino sort of thing, but a bit flashier? It was fine? (B)

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. This movie gets better and better every time I watch it. Two world-class hams, William Shatner and Ricardo Montalban, trying to see who can chew the most scenery, the first movie scene wholly generated by computer, and Scotty playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes? Come on! (A+)

White Noise. Fine, I guess. But the end credits were the best part. (B)

Acupuncture. I tried acupuncture to address a chronic injury. It didn't end up working for that purpose, but each time I went, I felt an incredible sense of relaxation and calm after the session. (B)

Wonderland Dreams. I posted about Alexa Meade's "living still lifes" more than 13 years ago and I finally got a chance to see her work in person in NYC. (A-)

Edward Hopper's New York. Always good to visit the Whitney. (B+)

Avatar: The Way of Water. Oh dear. Amazing effects but the plot & dialogue were right out of a B movie. And yeah, just a few months after seeing it, I can't name a single character. (B-)

Fleishman is in Trouble. This wrecked me and I loved it. So much of this rhymed with my life — very uncomfortable at times! (A+)

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Read this straight after I finished the show. (A)

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. Entertaining time travel adventure from the author of Station Eleven. (B+)

Ambient 23. Moby made an 2.5-hour-long ambient album and it's pretty good. (B+)

The Fablemans. I liked this quite a bit — it's one of those films that grows in your esteem as you think back to it. Curious to see it again in a month or two to see how it holds up. (A-)

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I hadn't read any Hemingway since high school and ok, I get it now. Enjoyed the first half more than the second though. (A)

Minions: The Rise of Gru. I enjoy the Minions more than, what, I should? And what's not to like about Steve Carell doing a funny voice? (B+)

The White Lotus (season two). I didn't care for the first season of this (I stopped watching halfway through), but I loved this season. I did think the ending was a little weaker than the rest of it. (A-)

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Picked this book up after a viral tweet by Bigolas Dickolas sent it screaming up the Amazon bestseller charts. Not bad (time travel, causality, etc.) but the writing style was not my favorite. (B+)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. My kids and I went to see this the other day and afterwards had an interesting chat about how you can make a movie where one of the themes is animal cruelty and then the rest of the movie is just a lot of hyper-violence with a surprising amount of yelling (at children!) and also mindless killing of some cyborg animals (during the rescue of other cyborg animals). Honestly disappointing and kind of a muddle. (B)

The Rihanna Halftime Show at Super Bowl LVII. It's been years since I watched the Super Bowl (or American football), but my daughter and I were excited to catch Rihanna's halftime show. We both loved it, a great performance. (A)

Raiders of the Lost Ark. A perfect action/adventure movie. (A+)

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Listened to this on audiobook with my mystery-loving daughter — it made some long drives fly right by. (A-)

The Last of Us. Some of the episodes showed their video game roots (side quests, NPCs, etc.) a little too much but maybe that's just how most action drama is written now? (A)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The kids and I agreed this was just fine but wasn't as fun as the other two Ant-Men. (B)

The Book of Mormon. Live things are always a hell of a lot of fun, but I think this played a lot differently when it premiered in 2011 than it does today. (B+)

Speed Racer. Not a fan of the visual style of this movie. (B)

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout. I've been in a mode of my life for awhile now where I identify with the characters of books I read and movies/TV that I watch and it makes it difficult to actually be objective (ha!) about it, even with myself. Did I like this or did I just identify strongly with the characters? And what does it matter if I got something valuable out of it even if it wasn't "good"? (B+)

Ivory. I've mostly quit Twitter and this app from Tapbots makes Mastodon feel a lot like Twitter for me. Well, without the right-wing owner and increasingly fascist rhetoric. (B+)

Triangle of Sadness. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to everyone, but I loved it. The dinner scene had me hyperventilating with laughter. (A)

Combustion Predictive Thermometer. I preordered this years ago when I was doing a lot more grilling. Mixed results so far. The thermometer is designed to stay in the meat while you cook it, but the heat of my hardwood charcoal grill was too much for it (I run it *hot*) and I had to take it out. But doing the oven part of the reverse sear is a total breeze with this thing...worth it just for that. (B+)

The Complete History & Strategy of LVMH. I am not usually a VC/startup bro podcast listener, but my pal Timoni strongly recommended this episode on luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and it ended up being really fascinating. The episode is 3.5 hours long and I wanted more. (A)

ChatGPT. I wrote about this extensively back in March and I'm still using it several times a week, mostly as a programming assistant. (A)

The Mysterious Benedict Society. Watched with the kids and I think we all agreed it was a bit better than the first season? But Disney cancelled the show and removed it completely from Disney+ 👎 so good luck watching it... (B+)

Star Trek: Picard (seasons two & three). I'd heard not-great things about season two so I wasn't super-curious to watch but with the buzz around season three, I decided to give it a try. I ended up watching both seasons in the space of a couple of weeks during a particularly tough period. I just really like spending time in that universe with those people. (A-)

The Mandalorian (season three). This season really dragged in spots — I guess I don't care about the Mandalorian back story that much? (B+)

Crossword puzzles. I've never been a crossword puzzle person, but I've been doing the NY Times crossword with a friend for the past few months (mostly over FaceTime) and I've become a fan. (B+)

The Wager by David Grann. The beginning is sort of unavoidably slow due to having to explain global geopolitics and how the British Navy functioned in the 18th century, but the rest of the book is just plain masterful and unputdownable. (A)

The Five Lives of Hilma af Klint by Philipp Deines. A graphic novel based on the diaries and art of Hilma af Klint — better than I was expecting. (B+)

Nuun Sport Tablets. I drink a lot of water during the course of my day but also too many sugary drinks. I don't like seltzer so I've been on the lookout for a beverage that tastes good (or at least not terrible) without a lot of sugar. In her excellent newsletter, Laura Olin recommended these and I've been enjoying them so far, particularly the citrus flavors. (B+)

Superman. Christopher Reeve would be just 70 years old right now if he hadn't died in 2004. Wish he were still around; he was a hell of an actor. (A-)

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Strong word-of-mouth got me to sit down and watch this and it didn't disappoint. Solid action/adventure that reminded me of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. (B+)

Poker Face. I'm only a little more than halfway through this, but Natasha Lyonne solving mysteries while on the lam across America in a TV series by Rian Johnson? In. (B+)

Mrs. Davis. I wanted to like this! I'd heard good things! But it was giving me Lost vibes so I had to stop after two episodes. I do not know how to describe it, but I do not like television shows that are confusing/mysterious in the particular way that this show is. See also Lost, The Leftovers, and Watchmen – all, not coincidentally, written and created by Damon Lindelof. (C)

The Great (season two). I loved season one but season two took me forever to get through – like 7-8 months – and I still have the last episode left. I've heard season three gets good again, so I'm gonna push through and give that a chance. The leads are marvelous. (B)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Galactic Menagerie, Wes Anderson's Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2023

It's a no-brainer: what if you handed over a visually rich sci-fi universe with slightly campy origins to a quirky auteur with an overwhelming aesthetic, just to see what you'd get? This short trailer imagines Wes Anderson at the helm of his very own Star Wars movie, complete with Bill Murray as Obi-Wan and Owen Wilson as Darth Vader (wow).

See also, from back in 2012, Conan O'Brien's take on Wes Anderson's Star Wars, A Life Galactic. I would totally watch either of these movies tbh.

Concerning Rogue Waves

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2023

Tsunamis, tidal waves, storm surges, and other hazardous aquatic events can all unleash the great power of the sea on ships and shorelines, but rogue waves are the largest and most mysterious waves that our oceans can muster. Rogue waves are a fairly recent discovery...until you look carefully at the historical record. This video looks at all the different kinds of big waves and tracks previously unacknowledged rogue waves from their depiction in art (Hokusai's Great Wave Off Kanagawa) to a suspected 220-foot wave that battered an Irish lighthouse.

The 2023 Father's Day Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2023

Father's Day here in the US is coming up in about 3 weeks (June 18) and I thought I'd throw together a list of gift ideas for the occasion. I used to do December holiday gift guides and really enjoyed the process, so this is me dipping my toe back into the gift guide water after a three-year absence.

Note: if you're shopping for a fishing/hunting/golfing dad, this list might not be that useful. Read on if your dad is a tech/design/culture dork like me — this is all stuff I wouldn't mind getting or already own myself.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for Nintendo Switch. This game has gotten such good reviews that the only thing holding me back from getting it is the knowledge that I have other things in my life that I cannot completely neglect for the next three weeks.

hands holding a pair of silver kitchen scissors

Ernest Wright Turton Kitchen Scissors. I've featured products from this English scissor company for years — the first time was almost 9 years ago. These suckers aren't cheap and they're backordered (so won't arrive in time for Father's Day), but they're handmade and a pleasure to cut with. You could also try the Kutrite (pictured above), although that one is so backordered that there's now a ticketed reservation system in place.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation). Great noise-cancelling earbuds that are a true step up from the 1st gen ones. And somehow, Amazon is selling them for 20% less than what you would pay at the Apple Store. 🤷‍♂️👍

an LED display device sitting on a table, displaying the score of a baseball game

Tidbyt. This is a simple retro-style display device that can show you the time, weather, news, sports scores, etc. and fits on your bedside table or kitchen counter. You can even make your own apps for it. Tidbyt is connected to the internet to get data, but there's no speaker, AI, or microphone, so you don't have to worry about it eavesdropping on you or organizing your appliances into open rebellion.

Darn Tough Hiking Socks. These are made right here in Vermont and they are great socks — I have several pair for hiking and skiing. Check out their website for many more options.

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann. This is a total dad book and a damn good read to boot. Other dad books: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad.

Ember Travel Mug 2. I can't tell if this is idiotic or genius, so I'll let you decide: a travel mug with a programmable temperature feature, a pairable app, and if you lose it, you can locate it with Apple's Find My feature. For the right person, I bet this is the perfect gift.

a bowl of stewed meat next to a bunch of scallions

Xi'an Famous Foods Hand-Pulled Noodles Meal Kits. When I learned that one of my favorite places to eat in NYC shipped meal kits around the country, I was excited but also a little wary. Would the food taste like it does in the restaurant? Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes...my family and everyone I've ever recommended this to loves it. My personal favorite is the Mt. Qi Pork Hand-Ripped Noodles.

Vintage Baseball Cards. If your dad watched baseball or collected baseball cards as a kid, a cool thing to get them is a little nostalgia bomb in the form of some unopened packs of cards from whenever they were 8-16 years old (give or take). For me, that was the mid-to-late 80s. They aren't that expensive and will be worth every penny to see the look on their face when they open them and attempt to chew the extremely stale gum within.

Ice.Made.Clear. When making cocktails at home, I'm a fan of the big ice cube. This ice maker ups the game in a major way: big cubes that are perfectly clear like you get at the fancy cocktail bar where the staff refer to themselves as mixologists. If you don't want to splurge on this one, try this cheaper one.

Ooni Fyra 12 Wood Pellet Pizza Oven. Everyone I know that has an Ooni pizza oven uses it to churn out restaurant-quality pies and loves it. This model is portable, uses hardwood pellets, and can cook a pizza in just 60 seconds at 950°F.

inside view of a magnetic 3x3 solving cube

Moyu RS3M 2021 MagLev 3x3 Magnetic Speed Cube. A maglev Rubik's Cube? Yeah, this 3x3 cube has strong magnets in it to cut down on friction and noise while you're solving. This is perhaps overkill but for $13, why not? Besides, it might inspire them to bring that solving time down from 10 minutes...

Hokusai – The Great Wave Lego Set. The Lego version of the Hokusai's iconic woodblock print in one of several kits by the company geared towards adults. Here are some others to choose from: a bonsai tree, the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander, the Nintendo Entertainment System, a typewriter, and Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe.

Ambient Weather WS-1965 WiFi Weather Station. Just set up this personal weather station somewhere outside your house and you can measure the very local weather conditions, including temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, humidity, wind speed & direction, and more. It connects to the internet so you can do some cool things with your data, including letting others access your hyperlocal weather via Weather Underground and other services.

a lit Keap candle on a table

Keap Wood Cabin Candle. I have this candle and love it — it smells great and lasts months and months if you don't overdo it. A very sensible splurge.

Kindle Paperwhite. Overall, this is still the best ereader out there...I'm on my third model. The Paperwhite holds thousands of books, goes several weeks between charges, and is waterproof for beach/tub reading. And you can use Libby to check books out from your local library right to your device.

a piece of art by Hilma af Klint of a circular shape on a red background

Art from 20x200. My favorite online art shop, run by my pal Jen Bekman. Here are some things to get you started: Hilma af Klint, letterpress print of Albrecht Dürer's pillow drawings, Book Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone poster, Jason Polan's Zoo Baggu, and Harold Fisk's meander maps of the Mississippi River.

Cocktail Smoker Kit. I thought cocktail & food smoking required a large glass dome and some other fussy apparatus, but this tiny fire that sits on top of a glass looks pretty simple. I want to try this!

Babish Carbon Steel Flat Bottom Wok. Did you know that Binging With Babish has a line of cookware? I didn't either until I bought this wok last year. I was trying to follow Kenji's advice on wok-buying (14-inch, flat-bottom, carbon steel, thick gauge but not too thick) and his usual (and cheaper) choice was sold out, so I went with the Babish one and I really like using it.

the book Apollo Remastered open to a page that shows two photos of the surface of the Moon

Apollo Remastered: The Ultimate Photographic Record by Andy Saunders. This coffee table book contains hundreds of images from the Apollo program, recently rescanned and remastered from the original photographic film that rarely leaves a frozen vault at NASA. I haven't seen this book in person but it sounds amazing.

Amazon Gift Card. Let's destigmatize the gift card: there is no shame in not knowing what to get someone for a gift, even if you know them really well. This is actually the gift of getting someone exactly what they want, even if it's something practical & lame like razor blade refills, HDMI adapters, or laundry detergent.

That was fun — I've genuinely missed doing this. But I have too many things in my shopping cart now... 🫠 I hope you find this useful and that everyone has a good Father's Day.

P.S. If you need even more ideas, I used the following gift guides in compiling this one: Wired, >NY Times (one, two), The Verge, GQ, The Strategist (one, two, three), My Modern Met, Kitchn (one, two), The Spruce, and BuzzFeed.

When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

The Visiting Cards of Notable Artists

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2023

calling card of Piet Mondrian

calling card of Edouard Manet

calling card of Pierre Auguste Renoir

F. C. Schang collected the calling cards of prominent artists and musicians and in the late 20th century, donated a collection of them to Met Museum.

Calling cards derived from a custom, originating in England, in which messages were inscribed on the backs of playing cards. Cards made for the express purpose of sharing hand-written messages were manufactured beginning in the eighteenth century; by the early-nineteenth century, calling cards had become a popular means for sending well wishes, holiday greetings, condolences, and messages of courtship.

The cards include those of Klee, Renoir, Pissarro, Rodin, Monet, Mondrian, Braque, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, and many more. I think my favorites are Piet Mondrian's (above) and Joan Miró's, the former because it's very much in keeping with the artist's style and the latter because it isn't:

calling card of Joan Miro

Schang published a book of these cards in 1983 — it's long out of print but you can get one here (signed, no less). He also collected the calling cards of generally famous people, singers, pianists, and violinists. (via greg allen)

The Assassin's Teapot

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2023

The assassin's teapot is certainly an eye-catching name for pottery, but there's also an interesting bit of physics going on here. The teapot in question has two separate chambers for holding liquid, and the flow out of the pot from each chamber can be controlled by covering or uncovering small holes located on the handle. So, as the legend goes, a would-be assassin could pour themselves a perfectly fine drink from one chamber and then pour a poisoned drink to their prey from the other chamber, just by discreetly covering and uncovering the proper holes with their fingers. As the video explains, the mechanism here has to do with surface tension and air pressure.

You can get your own assassin's teapot right here.

Tiny Electronic Desktop Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2023

Hardware engineer Mohit Bhoite designs functional little desktop bots like this thermometer and this internet-connected weather display:

a little desktop sculpture that displays the temperature

a little desktop sculpture that displays the weather on a color display

These are adorable...there's no other way to describe them. You can check out more of Bhoite's sculptures on his website or on Instagram. (via core77)

Real-Life Infrastructure That Looks Like Sci-Fi

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2023

Kane Hsieh, proprietor of the excellent MachinePix, has collected a bunch of photos of infrastructure that looks like science fiction.

the Z Pulsed Power Facility at Sandia National Laboratories

a massive bucket excavator that completely dwarfs cars and a road

a person paddles a small boat through a neutrino detector

The "Disturbing Beauty" of Shattering Porcelain Statues

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2023

a pair of shattering porcelain statues caught a fraction of a second after hitting the floor

I posted a link to these the other day from the broken plates post (and first posted about them more than 15 years ago), but I love these photographic sculptures by Martin Klimas so much that I wanted feature them in a proper post.

From a height of three meters, porcelain figurines are dropped on the ground, and the sound they make when they hit trips the shutter release. The result: razor-sharp images of disturbing beauty, more than the sum of its parts. Temporary sculptures made visible to the human eye by high-speed photography. The porcelain statuette bursting into pieces isn't what really captures the attention; the fascination lies in the genesis of a dynamic figure that seems to stop/pause the time and make time visible itself.

See also Klimas' Flowervases ("Flawlessly arranged flower vases are shot by steel bullets and captured at the moment of their destruction") and Sonic Sculptures ("Klimas begins with splatters of paint in fuchsia, teal and lime green, positioned on a scrim over the diaphragm of a speaker — then, the volume is turned up").

The Four Republican "Freedoms"

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2023

For the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie takes a look at the legislation that Republicans around the country are pushing and, in the style of FDR's Four Freedoms speech, outlines what goals they are attempting to achieve.

There is the freedom to control — to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit — to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor — to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace — to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

That sounds about right, and it reminds me, as Republican "governance" often does these days, of Frank Wilhoit's definition of conservatism:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Channel Drift (Or: Why Cable TV Networks Are All the Same Now)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 24, 2023

MTV used to show music videos. Bravo was home to opera and jazz programming. The Learning Channel focused on educational programming. The History Channel aired shows about history. Discovery: nature shows. A&E: fine arts and educational content. Now they all air a lot of reality TV programming like Vanderpump Rules, MILF Manor (I had to look this one up to make sure it's an actual show), and Duck Dynasty. This video from Captain Midnight explains how and why "channel drift" happened (hint: follow the money).

The Most Popular Song From Each Month Since January 1980

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2023

Oh man, this is a huge huge nostalgia bomb for me - a 50-minute medley of the most popular song from each month since January 1980. When I was a kid growing up in rural Wisconsin, there were basically four choices of music to listen to: country, metal, oldies, and pop/top 40. I chose pop, so the first ~15 minutes of this video is basically the soundtrack to my childhood.

Here's a playlist of all the songs on Spotify, in case you want to listen to the whole megillah. See also The Hood Internet's remixes of pop music by year. (via open culture)

"What's the Healthiest Way to Handle a Creeping Feeling That the World Is Ending?"

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2023

The end of the world is nigh...or at least it feels like that sometimes these days. As historian and archaeologist Ian Morris says in the video, the five factors that crop up throughout history when a major societal collapse occurs seem to be present today: mass migrations, epidemic disease, collapse of states, major famines, and climate change. So, how should we think about the potential impending disintegration of society? How should we prepare? How should we feel about it?

In this short film, filmmaker Ryan Malloy explores, in a "fretful yet lighthearted" way, how one should prepare for the apocalypse by talking to a historian & archaeologist (the aforementioned Morris), a therapist, and a couple of different types of preppers.

Putting together a supply kit made me realize just how helpless I'd be if disaster struck. When you think about it, it's almost like we live in a world run by magic. I don't know how water, electricity, and gas gets to my house, but they've always been there. It wouldn't take much, even just a small crisis for them to be gone. What would it be like to live without these things?

Imagining an Alternative to AI-Supercharged Capitalism

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2023

Expanding on his previous thoughts on the relationship between AI and capitalism — "I tend to think that most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism" — Ted Chiang offers a useful metaphor for how to think about AI: as a management-consulting firm like McKinsey.

So, I would like to propose another metaphor for the risks of artificial intelligence. I suggest that we think about A.I. as a management-consulting firm, along the lines of McKinsey & Company. Firms like McKinsey are hired for a wide variety of reasons, and A.I. systems are used for many reasons, too. But the similarities between McKinsey — a consulting firm that works with ninety per cent of the Fortune 100 — and A.I. are also clear. Social-media companies use machine learning to keep users glued to their feeds. In a similar way, Purdue Pharma used McKinsey to figure out how to "turbocharge" sales of OxyContin during the opioid epidemic. Just as A.I. promises to offer managers a cheap replacement for human workers, so McKinsey and similar firms helped normalize the practice of mass layoffs as a way of increasing stock prices and executive compensation, contributing to the destruction of the middle class in America.

A former McKinsey employee has described the company as "capital's willing executioners": if you want something done but don't want to get your hands dirty, McKinsey will do it for you. That escape from accountability is one of the most valuable services that management consultancies provide. Bosses have certain goals, but don't want to be blamed for doing what's necessary to achieve those goals; by hiring consultants, management can say that they were just following independent, expert advice. Even in its current rudimentary form, A.I. has become a way for a company to evade responsibility by saying that it's just doing what "the algorithm" says, even though it was the company that commissioned the algorithm in the first place.

Good stuff — I especially enjoyed the mini You're Wrong About on the Luddites — do read the whole thing.

In The End: What It Felt Like to Almost Die

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2023

In this short film by Sarah Klein & Tom Mason, Christen O'Brien tells the story of how she almost died from a massive pulmonary embolism, what she experienced in those moments, and what she took from the experience. The film is based on an essay she wrote called What It Felt Like to Almost Die.1

Realizing that I was dying was like being pushed into a pool. You have no thought but to hold your breath and start swimming. It was the most out of control I'd ever been in my life, yet the only option was to succumb peacefully. I could hear the percussion of my heart beating wildly, recklessly. My breath only reached my trachea now, its pathway closing in rapidly. My palms spread open to the sky, just as my dog moved to stand over me. I am here with you, I am here to protect you.

O'Brien wrote a follow-up to her original post, How It Felt to Come Back to Life:

Coming back from death showed me that the journey of life is not what we often believe. On the surface, it appears as a journey outward — toward things, people, organizations, achievements. But in truth, it is a journey inward — toward the soul. Toward becoming who you actually are, no matter how far outward you may have to travel in order to discover that all the answers are within you, where you belong.

  1. The filmmakers first read O'Brien's story via a link from kottke.org. It doesn't happen that often, but I love it when things I feature go on to inspire others to create things of their own. Just doing my bit to complete the loop.?

A "Perfect Scene" from Mad Men

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2023

I loved this analysis of a scene from the final episode of season three of Mad Men.

The scene shifts. The partners go from standing in disarray around the room to orderly sitting, two by two across from one another. They go from tense standing disagreements to calm, relaxed collusion.

This video is also a reminder of what a great show Mad Men was (it's in my all-time top 5) and how they just don't make TV like this anymore.

The Sound of a Dialup Modem, Visualized and Explained

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2023

There are few sounds that can transport me back to a specific time and place like the handshake of a dialup modem. I heard that arrangement of noises thousands of times sitting at my desk in rural Wisconsin, trying to soak up the entire internet. That sound meant freedom, connection, knowledge.

Oona Räisänen created this great visualization and explanation of what's going on when a modem is making those noises.

a visualization of the sounds made by a dialup modem

If you ever connected to the Internet before the 2000s, you probably remember that it made a peculiar sound. But despite becoming so familiar, it remained a mystery for most of us. What do these sounds mean?

As many already know, what you're hearing is often called a handshake, the start of a telephone conversation between two modems. The modems are trying to find a common language and determine the weaknesses of the telephone channel originally meant for human speech.

See also this other visualization of dialup sounds, opera singers dubbed with dialup modems, and a vocal arrangement of the modem handshake.

Chonky Pixel Abstracts Made With Excel

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2023

abstract image of a house in a meadow made in Excel

abstract image of a pond made in Excel

Internet artist evbuilds creates these chunky pixelized abstract images in Microsoft Excel.

Excel is one of those rare pieces of software that is terrifically useful at what it's designed to do but also powerful enough where you can make it do things that perhaps it really shouldn't be doing. See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist, Making Music in Excel, and Super Mario Bros Recreated in Excel.

How Noiseless Props Are Made For Movies And TV Shows

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2023

Insider has been doing a whole series of videos on how movie props are made (view the entire thing here) and I found this one on how prop makers rely on noiseless props to be particularly interesting. To cut down on distracting on-set noise (so dialogue can be heard, for instance), they swap racquetball balls for pool balls, silicon chunks for ice cubes, and paper bags made out of coffee filter material for real paper bags. So weird to watch those objects in action without their usual sounds. (thx, caroline)

Ze Frank on Slime Molds

posted by Jason Kottke   May 24, 2023

As part of his True Facts series about the natural world, Ze Frank explains all about slime molds, which are super interesting! Slime molds can efficiently solve mazes, plan efficient train routes, adapt to changing conditions, and learn from each other.

See also many beautiful photos of slime molds.

The Accidental Tetris World Champion

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2023

Last month I posted a link to a story about a woman who discovered she was one of the world's top Candy Crush players.

Since progress was tied to game score rather than PvP results, Rhoden kept getting pop-ups for milestones such as passing the quarterfinals, and then entering the semifinals as she was just casually taking part in her regular Candy Crush routine.

She was overwhelmed, so she texted the other esports athlete in the family: Her son. Xane was the best Meta Knight player in the midwest during the height of his Super Smash Bros. career. She asked him what a $250,000 prize pool was. After he explained that first place got half of the total pool, he asked why. "I'm in the semifinals accidentally," she wrote.

In that vein, a reader sent me a link to this 2007 Boston Globe piece about a woman who discovers that she's actually the world's best Tetris player.

"It's funny," I told Flewin. "We have an old Nintendo Game Boy floating around the house, and Tetris is the only game we own. My wife will sometimes dig it out to play on airplanes and long car rides. She's weirdly good at it. She can get 500 or 600 lines, no problem."

What Flewin said next I will never forget.

"Oh, my!"

After I hung up the phone, I went to the bedroom and woke my wife, Lori.

"Honey," I said. "You're not going to believe this, but I just got off the phone with a guy who's in charge of video game world records, and he said the world record for Game Boy Tetris is 327 lines, and he wants us to go to New Hampshire this spring so you can try to break the world record live in front of the judges at the world's largest classic video game tournament.

Spoiler alert: she broke the record. Baker is still 5th on the all-time scoring list but her score was bested just three months later by Harry Hong, the original record holder, who achieved a score six times higher than Baker's. (thx, euse42)

Some Cool NY Times Ads

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2023

These two ads for the NY Times are really effective at communicating the breadth of the paper's offerings and also how everything, from sneakers to climate change to gravity, is connected to everything else.

Here's more info from It's Nice That.

The Greatest Classic Tetris Game of All Time

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2023

In the finals of the Classic Tetris Mega Masters Championship held at the end of last month, two of the top Tetris players in the world played what is probably the greatest 1-vs-1 Classic Tetris game of all time. And then they did it again...

Even if you only have a passing interest in Tetris or video games, this is worth a watch and just as exciting as watching a hard-fought soccer or tennis match.

Fun fact: one of the finalists, Alex T, managed to score zero points in a match at a previous tournament. (via @peterme)

Kottke AMA - You Asked, I Answered

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2023

Just a quick reminder that I answered a bunch of questions from readers for the inaugural Kottke.org Ask Me Anything. I talked about how to separate work from life:

If I let it, every part of my life could be part of my job: not only books, movies, and travel but kids, relationships, emotions, everyday goings-on, etc. etc. etc. That's the way it used to be, much more than it is now. But slicing and dicing everything up for consumption all the time, meta-experiencing absolutely everything; that's no way to live. Back in the day, you saw journalers and bloggers burn out from sharing too much of themselves and their lives online with others — now you see it happening with YouTubers, TikTokers, and influencers. I've learned (mostly) how to meter myself; you get less of me now (this AMA notwithstanding) but hopefully for much longer.

And who I have in mind when I write for the site:

The site is best when I try to write posts as if each one is an email to a curious friend who I think would be interested in the thing I'm writing about, irrespective of topic/subject/field/whatever. I know not everyone is interested in every topic (or even most topics!) but I tend to look for things that people might find intriguing even if they don't normally collect stamps, skateboard, watch ballet, appreciate mathematics, or listen to rap. Anything is interesting if you dig deep enough, observe it from the correct angle, or talk to the right enthusiast.

And what my kids and I have read before bedtime:

One book we read together that turned out to be surprisingly popular with them (when they were ~9-11 years old) was Emily Wilson's excellent translation of The Odyssey. They were already fans of Greek mythology and knew some of the story and Wilson's writing is so wonderful — "Soon Dawn was born, her fingers bright with roses" — that we blazed right through it and were sad when it ended.

And a favorite recent pasta recipe:

I have been really enjoying this Pasta alla Norcina recipe I found on Instagram awhile back. There's some great Italian sausage that I get from the local market that works really well for it. And my daughter got me some truffle oil for my birthday, so we put a little bit of that on there too.

I might pop in there later this week to answer some more questions, so stay tuned! Folks had lots of questions about my process and what I learned on my sabbatical, so I may tackle them next.

Henri Cartier-Bresson's Forgotten Photographs of New Jersey

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2023

black and white photo of kids running across the street in 70s New Jersey

black and white photo of a big box truck under a bridge

In 1975, famed French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson traveled, at the behest of a public television station, to the US to take photographs of New Jersey.

The photographer felt that New Jersey's anywhere-ness, its density and diversity, was "a kind of shortcut through America." With that prompt, Evans assembled an itinerary. Cunningham picked up Cartier-Bresson in Manhattan around sunrise each day for three weeks and headed for the bridges and tunnels. They embedded with ambulance drivers in Newark and chicken farmers in West Orange. They visited suburban sprawl, horse country, pine barrens, swamps, seashore, beauty parlors, labs, nuclear facilities, jails, mansions. They once stayed overnight in a South Jersey motel, and Cartier-Bresson insisted that they flip a coin to determine who got the bed.

It was one of his final photo projects and because his photos were cropped for use on television ("a practice Cartier-Bresson viewed as sacrilege"), the project was not included in most catalogues of his work and was almost forgotten.

You can watch the resulting TV program from 1975 at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Can Water Solve a Maze?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2023

I saw this video on the front page a YouTube a couple of weeks ago and ignored it. Like, of course water can solve a maze, next! But then it got the Kid Should See This seal of approval so I gave it a shot. It turns out: water can solve a maze...but specifics are super interesting in several respects. Steve Mould, who you may remember from the assassin's teapot video not too long ago, built four mazes of different sizes and shapes, each of them useful for demonstrating a different wrinkle in how the water moves through a maze. Recommended viewing for all ages.

A Diorama of Michael Jackson on Fire

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2023

I.... Hmm. I really don't know how to describe this video. Bobby Fingers, who seems to be a professional model maker of some sort (who can also sing and dance?), made a diorama of when Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial (which, weirdly, occurred almost exactly halfway through Jackson's life). It's quietly and surreally hilarious — I absolutely lost it when the horse poop made an abrupt-but-relevant appearance. I don't know what else to say...just watch it. Thank god the internet can still be weird. (thx, tim & clarke)

Fractured Ice Sheet Portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2023

fractured portrait of a person on sheets of ice

fractured portrait of a person on sheets of ice

During the course of my online travels, I see a lot of cool and interesting things, but this one really stopped me in my tracks. David Popa uses natural pigments to draw large format portraits on fractured sheets of ice and then photographs them from above. Wow, wow, wow. From a profile of Popa's work at Colossal:

Because many of his works are destined to melt and be reabsorbed, Popa opts for natural materials like white chalk from the Champagne region, ochres from France and Italy, and powdered charcoal he makes himself — the latter also plays a small role in purifying the water, leaving it cleaner than the artist found it. Most pieces take between three and six hours to complete, and his work time is dependent on the weather, temperature, and condition of the sea. "The charcoal will sink into the ice and disappear from a very dark shade to a medium shade, so it has to be created very quickly and documented. No to mention the work on the ice will just crack and drift away completely, or the next day it will snow and be completely covered," he says. "I'm really battling the elements."

I love these so much — they remind me of self-portraits taken in shattered mirrors or fragmented mirrored surfaces, a practice I apparently engage in with some regularity.

The Kottke.org Ask Me Anything

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 28, 2023

Last month, I put out a call for readers to ask me anything — "questions about the sabbatical, media diets, 25 years of blogging, membership stuff, editorial policies, my fiddle leaf fig, Mastodon, parenting, Fortnite, etc." I meant to start answering these sooner, but I ended up getting so any questions (over 330 of them!) that I decided to go a little overboard and build a little site to host the questions and answers.

I'll be spending the entire day today answering questions over there, so check it out now and then come back later for more. You can favorite posts to help others discover what the collective readership thinks are the best ones. Here's one of the questions I've answered so far:

Q: What's the reader profile you have in your mind when you write? Are you thinking about someone or some kind of person specifically? I'm a 37 year old lawyer who can't even remember how I first came across your blog. I've read for 10+ years and have always sort of wondered if you had a sense of the breadth of people who read your blog. I don't necessarily fit neatly within any of the topics you focus on but always learn something when I dip in. - Garo

A: The site is best when I try to write posts as if each one is an email to a curious friend who I think would be interested in the thing I'm writing about, irrespective of topic/subject/field/whatever. I know not everyone is interested in every topic (or even most topics!) but I tend to look for things that people might find intriguing even if they don't normally collect stamps, skateboard, watch ballet, appreciate mathematics, or listen to rap. Anything is interesting if you dig deep enough, observe it from the correct angle, or talk to the right enthusiast.

Check out the full AMA for more.

The Train Speed Optical Illusion

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2023

If you watch the video above of a front-facing camera on a moving train, the train appears to move much faster in the zoomed out view than in the zoomed in view. Here's what's going on:

The illusion that speed decreases when zoomed is "because when one focuses on an inner portion of the movie, the optic flow angular speed is slow, and appears to fill one's entitle visual field, which is consistent with overall lower forward speed.

Note: The more zoomed, the more densely packed the overhead rigging appears. So, even though you appear to be moving forward more slowly when zoomed in, the actual rate of rigging flowing by remains constant, consistent with same forward speed in all conditions.

(via the kid should see this)

The 13 Levels of Complexity of Drumming

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 18, 2023

I love Wired's video series on the levels of complexity of various activities, and they got someone really good to show us about drumming. Larnell Lewis is a Grammy Award-winning musician and a professor of music at Humber College in Toronto and his tour of the 13 levels of drumming, from easy to complex, is super clear, entertaining, and informative. Aside from the names of some of the drum kit pieces, I did not know a damn thing about drumming before watching this and now my eyes have been opened to how amazing drummers are to be able to do all of that (and look cool as hell at the same time). Like, I can't even comprehend how they keep all those rhythms going at the same time...it just seems like magic to me. Watching Lewis's solo at the end gave me a real boost this morning.

Some of my other "levels" favorites: A Demonstration of 16 Levels of Piano Playing Complexity, Robert Lang on the 11 Levels of Complexity of Origami, How to Draw a Self-Portrait in 11 Levels of Increasing Complexity, and Tony Hawk on the 21 Levels of Complexity of Skateboard Tricks.

ChatGPT Made Me Cry and Other Adventures in AI Land

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2023

ChatGPT answers a question about what kottke.org is

[Yesterday I spent all day answering reader questions for the inaugural Kottke.org Ask Me Anything. One of them asked my opinion of the current crop of AI tools and I thought it was worth reprinting the whole thing here. -j]

Q: I would love to know your thoughts on AI, and specifically the ones that threaten us writers. I know you've touched on it in the past, but it seems like ChatGPT and the like really exploded while you were on sabbatical. Like, you left and the world was one way, and when you returned, it was very different. —Gregor

A: I got several questions about AI and I haven't written anything about my experience with it on the site, so here we go. Let's start with two facts:

  1. ChatGPT moved me to tears.
  2. I built this AMA site with the assistance of ChatGPT. (Or was it the other way around?)

Ok, the first thing. Last month, my son skied at a competition out in Montana. He'd (somewhat inexplicably) struggled earlier in the season at comps, which was tough for him to go through and for us as parents to watch. How much do we let him figure out on his own vs. how much support/guidance do we give him? This Montana comp was his last chance to get out there and show his skills. I was here in VT, so I texted him my usual "Good luck! Stomp it!" message the morning of the comp. But I happened to be futzing around with ChatGPT at the time (the GPT-3.5 model) and thought, you know, let's punch this up a little bit. So I asked ChatGPT to write a good luck poem for a skier competing at a freeski competition at Big Sky.

In response, it wrote a perfectly serviceable 12-line poem with three couplets that was on topic, made narrative sense, and rhymed. And when I read the last line, I burst into tears. So does that make ChatGPT a soulful poet of rare ability? No. I've thought a lot about this and here's what I think is going on: I was primed for an emotional response (because my son was struggling with something really important to him, because I was feeling anxious for him, because he was doing something potentially dangerous, because I haven't seen him too much this winter) and ChatGPT used the language and methods of thousands of years of writing to deliver something a) about someone I love, and b) in the form of a poem (which is often an emotionally charged form) — both of which I had explicitly asked for. When you're really in your feelings, even the worst movie or the cheesiest song can resonate with you and move you — just the tiniest bit of narrative and sentiment can send you over the edge. ChatGPT didn't really make me cry...I did.

But still. Even so. It felt a little magical when it happened.

Now for the second part. I would say ChatGPT (mostly the new GPT-4 model), with a lot of hand-holding and cajoling from me, wrote 60-70% of the code (PHP, Javascript, CSS, SQL) for this AMA site. And we easily did it in a third of the time it would have taken me by myself, without having to look something up on Stack Overflow every four minutes or endlessly consulting CSS and PHP reference guides or tediously writing tests, etc. etc. etc. In fact, I never would have even embarked on building this little site-let had ChatGPT not existed...I would have done something much simpler and more manual instead. And it was a *blast*. I had so much fun and learned so much along the way.

I've also been using ChatGPT for some other programming projects — we whipped the Quick Links into better shape (it can write Movable Type templating code...really!) and set up direct posting of the site's links to Facebook via the API rather than through Zapier (saving me $20/mo in the process). It has really turbo-charged my ability to get shit done around here and has me thinking about all sorts of possibilities.

I keep using the word "we" here because coding with ChatGPT — and this is where it starts to feel weird in an uncanny valley sort of way — feels like a genuine creative collaboration. It feels like there is a "someone" on the other side of that chat, a something that's really capable but also needs a lot of hand-holding. Just. Like. Me. There's a back and forth. We both screw up and take turns correcting each other's mistakes. I ask it please and tell it thank you. ChatGPT lies to me; I gently and non-judgmentally guide it in a more constructive direction (as you would with a toddler). It is the fucking craziest weirdest thing and I don't really know how to think about it.

There have only been a few occasions in my life when I've used or seen some new technology that felt like magic. The first time I wrote & ran a simple BASIC program on a computer. The first time I used the web. The first time using a laptop with wifi. The first time using an iPhone. Programming with ChatGPT over the past few weeks has felt like magic in the same way. While working on these projects with ChatGPT, I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning to pick up where we left off last night (likely too late last night), a feeling I honestly have not consistently felt about work in a long time. I feel giddy. I feel POWERFUL.

That powerful feeling makes me uneasy. We shouldn't feel so suddenly powerful without pausing to interrogate where that power comes from, who ultimately wields it, and who it will benefit and harm. The issues around these tools are complex & far-reaching and I'm still struggling to figure out what to think about it all. I'm persuaded by arguments that these tools offer an almost unprecedented opportunity for "helping humans be creative and express themselves" and that machine/human collaboration can deepen our understanding and appreciation of the world around us (as has happened with chess and go). I'm also persuaded by Ted Chiang's assertion that our fears of AI are actually about capitalism — and we've got a lot to fear from capitalism when it comes to these tools, particularly given the present dysfunction of US politics. There is just so much potential power here and many people out there don't feel uneasy about wielding it — and they will do what they want without regard for the rest of us. That's pretty scary.

Powerful, weird, scary, uncanny, giddy — how the hell do we collectively navigate all that?

(Note: ChatGPT didn't write any of this, nor has it written anything else on kottke.org. I used it once while writing a post a few weeks ago, basically as a smart thesaurus to suggest adjectives related to a topic. I'll let you know if/when that changes — I expect it will not for quite some time, if ever. Even in the age of Ikea, there's still plenty of handcrafted furniture makers around and in the same way, I suspect the future availability of cheap good-enough AI writing/curation will likely increase the demand and value for human-produced goods.)

Abstract Wood Block Sculptures of Notable Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2023

a chunky abstract representation of a van Gogh self-portrait made from colorful wooden blocks

a chunky abstract representation of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring made from colorful wooden blocks

Using colorful wooden blocks cut at different angles, Timur Zagirov makes pixel-log 1 representations of famous artworks by Vermeer, van Gogh, and Leonardo. You can check out his work on Instagram or at Stowe Gallery. (via moss & fog)

  1. Pixelized + analog + wood = pixel-log! Ok fine that's terrible but I'm leaving it in. 😜?

Taking the Day (or Two)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2023

Hey folks. I've been struggling with some things recently and I need to take some time to try to recalibrate instead of sitting in front of a computer. I'll see you back here on Monday.

RuPublicans

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2023

The folks at RuPublicans are having fun using AI to generate photorealistic imagery of prominent conservatives in drag. Here are Anita Filibust-Her McConnell, Claretta Corrupta, Rhonda Santy, serving looks:

Mitch McConnell in drag

Ron DeSantis in drag

Clarence Thomas in drag

From their Stories:

Oh honey, darlings, sugar pies! THANK YOU for following and sharing. Drag artists have brought me joy, laughter, helped heal old wounds, and given me permission to love myself — and I'm not the only one.

Now let's get real kittens. Drag isn't lip-syncing; it's art, it's heart, and oh honey, it's protest. To those in power serving up false narratives like an overcooked wig at a drag brunch, listen up: we're here, we're queer, and we ain't going anywhere.

(via @thoughtbrain)

Ingenious Banana Bruise Artworks

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2023

art of a girl with an umbrella in the rain imprinted on a banana

art of a sunset over a river imprinted on a banana

art of an open peapod imprinted on a banana

As it ripens, banana skin oxidizes and turns black. Bruising the skin speeds up the process, a fact that Anna Chojnicka exploits to create these bruised banana artworks (also on Instagram). Here's how it works:

I bruise the peel by pressing into it lightly with a blunt point. Speeding up and controlling the bruising process conjures light and shade in the image.

Over a few hours, the mark gradually goes darker until black. I start with the darkest parts of the image first, and then work my way backwards, finishing with the lightest parts last.

By managing the timing, it's possible to make intricate images with graduating shades. There's a short window of time when the image looks its best; I photograph the banana, and then eat it.

Chojnicka started the project in the early days of the pandemic while bored/delirious at home with a suspected Covid infection. The increase in art using found objects during the pandemic is fascinating: people couldn't spend a lot of time out of the house, so they reached for whatever they could find to express their creativity...in this case, bananas.

It's Just Business

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2023

Whenever I hear someone say "it's just business" in order to magically justify some decision to ignore the humanity of individual people, I remember that it's adapted from a line in The Godfather spoken by Michael Corleone at the precise moment when he decides to become a murderous sociopath. We should maybe stop running businesses like fictional mafia families.

Eternal Spring, a Timelapse of Ice Melting

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2023

Eternal Spring is a short timelapse film by Christopher Dormoy featuring beautiful shots of melting snow and ice. Watching this, it is difficult not to think of the climate crisis, which is of course the whole point.

Ice is a beautiful element I love to work with in my video projects. I wanted to feature the ice melting aspect in timelapse process to illustrate the phenomenon of global warming. Melting ice is beautiful and symbolizes spring, but it can also symbolize a problematic aspect of our climate.

And wow, that shot of the Moon at the halfway point... (via colossal)

Times New Bastard

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2023

Times New Bastard, a font based on Times New Roam but every seventh letter is jarringly sans serif

Times New Bastard is a free font based on a Tumblr thread: "It's Times New Roman but every seventh letter is jarringly sans serif."

Watch the Trailer for Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2023

I've been waiting patiently on this one: the teaser trailer for Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It's based on the fantastic book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.

The movie will be out in theaters on October 6. Oh, and Scorsese & DiCaprio have already signed on to adapt Grann's latest book, The Wager, which I recently read and loved.

SineRider: A Game About Love & Graphing

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2023

Remember Line Rider? It's a simple video game / physics toy where you draw slopes and curves for a person on a sled to navigate, pulled along by gravity. SineRider, a project started by Chris Walker and finished by a group of teen hackers at Hack Club, is a version of Line Rider where you use math equations to draw curves to maneuver the sledder through a series of points, sometimes in a certain order. Here's a trailer with some gameplay examples:

Let me tell you, I haven't had this much fun mucking around with an online game/toy since I don't know when. My math is super rusty, but SineRider eases you into the action with some simple slopes (no cosines or tangents necessary) and before you know it, it's 20 minutes later and you're googling equations for parabolas.

Right now, there are two ways to play. You can start on the front page and go through a progression of puzzles that get more challenging as more concepts are introduced (such as the curve changing over time). Or you can do the challenges, which are posted daily to Twitter or Reddit. My son and I spent 10-15 minutes solving these two challenges and we were laughing and cheering when we finally got them. (The educational opportunity here is obvious...)

SineRider is currently in beta so some of the UI stuff is a little rough around the edges, but I was really charmed by the music, the animations...everything really. The project is open source — the code is available on GitHub and the Hack Club folks are looking for contributors and collaborators:

There's a reason it's open-source and written in 100% vanilla JavaScript. We need volunteer artists, writers, programmers, and puzzle designers. And, if you're a smart teenager who wants to change education for the better, you should come join Hack Club!

Copenhagen's Circle Bridge

posted by Jason Kottke   May 30, 2023

Copenhagen's Circle Bridge, which crosses a canal and is made up of several circles

In 2015, artist Olafur Eliasson designed the Circle Bridge (Cirkelbroen) to span a canal in central Copenhagen. The pedestrian bridge was designed to slow people down a bit:

The bridge is made of five circular platforms, and it contributes to a larger circle that will form a pedestrian route around Copenhagen Harbour, where people — cycling, running, walking — can see the city from a very different perspective. As many as 5,000 people will cross this bridge each day. I hope that these people will use Cirkelbroen as a meeting place, and that the zigzag design of the bridge will make them reduce their speed and take a break. To hesitate on our way is to engage in bodily thought. I see such introspection as an essential part of a vibrant city.

Small boats can travel easily under the bridge but a section of the bridge also swings gracefully away to let larger boats pass. (via greg allen)

Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2023

Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send

From XKCD, Curve-Fitting Methods and the Messages They Send. Ahhhh, this takes me back to my research days in college, tinkering with best fits and R-squared values...

Shin Oh's 3D Pixel Rooms

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2023

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a barber shop

These are lovely: voxel rooms of Malaysian hawker stalls and other shops by Shin Oh. She started making them after quitting her job due to anxiety and depression:

At that point in my life, I lost passion and interest in everything, I was feeling worthless, I felt like there was nothing I was good at," Shin shares. But, later in her career break she discovered voxel art, and this, she says, is when things started to change. Noticing that voxel art was making her "more focused, relaxed and calm" after six months she began to share her creations on social media, and receiving good responses, she felt herself regaining her "long-lost" self confidence. "Making voxel art is now my hobby and my job, it's a fun way for me to explore and express myself," Shin concludes. "Voxel art has saved my life."

(via present & correct)

Edward Burtynsky's African Studies

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2023

aerial view of a colorful landscape

aerial view of a colorful landscape

aerial view of a colorful landscape

I've long been a fan of Edward Burtynsky's photographic surveys of humanity's impact on our environment, so I was eager to explore his newest project, African Studies.

In Edward Burtynsky's recent photographs, produced across the African continent, the patterns and scars of human-altered landscapes initially appear to form an abstract painterly language; they reference the sublime and often surreal qualities of human mark-making. While chronicling the major themes of terraforming and extraction, urbanization and deforestation, African Studies conveys the unsettling reality of sweeping resource depletion on both a human and industrial scale.

You can check out more photos from the series here and here as well as in his forthcoming book (Amazon). (via colossal)

Space Iris

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2023

Space Iris is a mesmerizing abstract video by Rus Khasanov of expanding and contracting patterns that resemble eye irises and cosmic nebulae. The description doesn't say how this was made, but a glance at Khasanov's Instagram account shows a bunch of experiments with liquids. You can cehck out still from the video on Behance. (via colossal)

The Best Photos of the Milky Way for 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2023

the Milky Way shines brilliantly at night above the mountains and a layer of clouds

a composite view of the Milky Way combining how it looks in the night sky during the winter and summer

the Milky Way in the night sky over baobab trees in Madagascar

Capture the Atlas have announced their picks for the 2023 Milky Way Photographer of the Year competition. As usual, I've included a few of my favorites here — from top to bottom: Jakob Sahner's photo from the Canary Islands, Mihail Minkov's composite shot of the Milky Way as it looks in both the summer & winter, and Steffi Lieberman amongst the baobab trees in Madagascar. Here's Minkov explaining his full-galactic view:

I've always wondered what the night sky would look like if we could see the two Milky Way arches from the winter and summer side by side. This is practically impossible, since they are part of a whole and are visible at different times of the day.

However, this 360-degree time-blended panorama shows us what they would look like. The two arches of the Milky Way represent one object in the starry sky, with part of it visible in winter and part of it in summer. Therefore, they are called the winter and summer arches. The winter arch includes objects that we can observe from October to March, primarily associated with the constellation Orion.

On the other hand, the summer arch features the Milky Way core, visible from March to September, which is the most characteristic and luminous part of the night sky, representing the center of our galaxy.

Trailer for Dune: Part Two

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2023

Ok, here's the first trailer for second part of Denis Villeneuve's Dune. Time to get hyped! It comes out on November 3 — we have until then to decide what "Timothée Chalamet rides the worm" is a euphemism for.

The Otherworldly Ice Caves of Iceland

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2023

a lone figure stands silhouetted in the entrance of a blue ice cave with the northern lights behind them

a lone figure silhouetted in the entrance of a blue ice cave, descending on a rope

Well, I don't think these photos of Icelandic ice caves by Ryan Newburn need much explanation. Stunning. I found these photos via Colossal, which has more information about how they were taken.

Occupying such an ancient and always evolving space is an experience that's difficult to photograph, Newburn shares, because the constant trickle of melting water, the roar of distant rivers, or even the unique interplay of light and glacier are impossible to depict entirely. "Underneath the ice, where the sun cannot penetrate," he says, "your eyes slowly adjust from the bright sun to the glowing deep blue crystal walls of the ice cave. The more that your eyes adjust, the more saturated the blue gets. It's a surreal visual experience that you cannot get from any photo of an ice cave."

If you'd like to see some of these places for yourself, Newburn runs a tour company called Ice Pic Journeys.

The Best Illusions of 2023 Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2023

The mind-boggling winners of the Best Illusion of the Year Contest for 2023 have been announced. The entries for each the ten finalists include a video that demonstrates each illusion and then shows how it works. The top prize winner is this working model of Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books:

One of my favorites is The Poggendorff Triangles, which goes to show you that straight lines aren't always straight:

Here's an audio illusion that sounds as though the tempo is endlessly rising (similar to the Shepard tone):

And then there's this hollow face illusion in which this woman's face looks at you as you move around her:

You can check out the rest of the finalists here.

Vintage Analog Photo Booths

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2023

a vintage analog photo booth

a vintage analog photo booth

a vintage analog photo booth

FotoAutomat restores vintage analog photo booths and redeploys them around Europe, mostly in Paris.

There are less than fifty working analog photo booths remaining in the world now. Since 2007, FotoAutomat has been working to preserve this photographic heritage by restoring and maintaining the last original analog photobooths in Paris, Nantes and Prague, mainly in spaces dedicated to art and culture.

This is some primo Wes Anderson shit. (via meanwhile)

Hunting Kestrels Are Nature's Steadycams

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2023

This video from Paul Dinning features kestrels hunting in Cornwall. I will never tire of watching raptors hovering in the wind, their wings & bodies making dozens of micro-adjustments a second so that they can keep their heads perfectly still and focused on searching for prey on the ground below. From The Kid Should See This:

Like hummingbirds and kingfishers, kestrels have the advantage of a larger accessory optic system, a sort of superhero power that detects movement and helps keep their balance, enabling unparalleled head stabilization while hovering. By bobbing their heads periodically, kestrels can estimate distances and locate prey, sometimes by seeing urine trails with their ultraviolet-sensitive vision.

Watch until the end to see a kestrel eating a still-writhing snake. 😳

See also The Perfect Head Stabilization of a Hunting Red-Tailed Hawk, This Owl Will Not Move His Head, and The Eerie Stillness of Chicken Heads.

A Brief History of the Concept Album

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2023

Polyphonic's videos on music are always worth a watch and in this latest one, they explore the history of the concept album, from its proto-origins in the Romantic era to the 70s rock opera heyday to the modern era, where a large percentage of all album releases are conceptual in nature. Along the way, they namecheck a variety of artists from many genres, including Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Kraftwerk, Iron Maiden, De La Soul, Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Janelle Monáe, Kendrick Lamar, and Taylor Swift. (via open culture)

Should We Reflect Sunlight to Cool the Planet?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2023

In this video in their ongoing series on the climate crisis and how to fix it, Vox looks at the pros and cons of solar geoengineering (aka using artificial means to reflect sunlight in order to cool the Earth).

The climate change crisis has become so dire that we're being forced not only to think of ways to curb emissions and mitigate greenhouse gases, but of ways to adapt to our current situation to buy ourselves more time.

One of those technologies is called solar geoengineering. It happens in nature when huge volcanic eruptions cover the stratosphere with ash: That ash forms a layer that reflects sunlight and cools the planet underneath. Solar geoengineering takes advantage of that principle, using different scientific methods to make the planet more reflective overall. The problem is, deploying it would require messing with our very complicated climate on a massive scale, and many scientists don't think the risks are worth it.

Japan's Evaporated People

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2023

In Japan, people who disappear from their lives are called "evaporated people". People choose to drop out of their lives for different reasons, ranging from debt or abuse to mental health struggles or a lack of second chances in Japanese society. Some Japanese who want to go into hiding or relocate from domestic abuse or stalkers hire "night movers" to help them disappear.

For more info, here's a long piece from Time magazine from 2017.

Sometimes a whole team works on a client's disappearance, swiftly sweeping through an apartment in the dead of night. At TS, it costs between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they're going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher. Every day, TS receives between five and 10 inquiries like the one Saita described. Most people simply require counseling or legal advice but the company claims to help between 100 and 150 people to vanish annually.

Pepperoni Hug Spot

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2023

I'm not going to make a habit of posting AI generated video and photography here (mainly because most of it is not that interesting) but Pepperoni Hug Spot is just too perfect a name for a pizza place to pass up. And it's got Too Many Cooks vibes.

How Big Are the Biggest Black Holes?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2023

This short animation from NASA shows the sizes of some of the supermassive black holes that feature at the center of galaxies. Some are relatively small:

First up is 1601+3113, a dwarf galaxy hosting a black hole packed with the mass of 100,000 Suns. The matter is so compressed that even the black hole's shadow is smaller than our Sun.

While others are much larger than the solar system...and this isn't even the biggest one:

At the animation's larger scale lies M87's black hole, now with a updated mass of 5.4 billion Suns. Its shadow is so big that even a beam of light — traveling at 670 million mph (1 billion kph) — would take about two and a half days to cross it.

Emily Wilson's Translation of the Iliad!

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2023

the book cover for Emily Wilson's translation of Homer's The Iliad

Emily Wilson's eagerly-awaited translation of Homer's Iliad will be out on September 26 and is finally available for pre-order! I loved her version of The Odyssey (I read it to my kids and we all got a lot out of it).

Wilson posts a lot about her process on Twitter but hasn't said too much about the finished book yet, aside from this tweet back in February:

It feels bittersweet to be at the end of my eleven-year labor of love, creating verse translations of the Homeric epics. I'm working through Iliad proofs, and full of gratitude that I have had this magical opportunity, to work so closely for so long with these sublime poems.

I'm excited to read the complete Homeric epic in the fall! In the meantime, you can pre-order it at Amazon or Bookshop.org.

Type Beasts

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2023

the word 'effect' repeated over and over on a grid

the word 'essence' in a flowing script

the word 'fuck' in a flowing script

the word 'hope' in a flowing script, twice

In a pair of collections on Behance, Hungarian designer and artist Miklós Kiss showcases his skill with ligatures and swirling serifs: Type Beast and Type Beast 2.0

I love typography. I love letters. I love to make ligatures and find connections between letters. These are not logos, but sometimes they can be. Sometimes this kind of typography is not readable. Sometimes they look like abstract artworks. Sometimes they look like choreography. I love to watch them move, I love their beauty. I call my little typography monsters my Type Beasts.

(via abdz)

Tour the Bridges of All of Star Trek's Starships Enterprise

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2023

Drawing from the materials of The Roddenberry Archive, this video takes us on a virtual tour of the 3D rendered bridges of every iteration of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, from the original 1964 sketches to the final scenes of Star Trek: Picard. I've watched a bunch of Star Trek recently and it was neat to see the evolution of the design and presumed technology. Designing for the future is difficult and it's even tougher when, for instance, you need to design something that for the future that looks contemporary to now but also, somehow, predates a design that looked contemporary 30 years ago. (If that makes any sense...)

You can also head over to The Roddenberry Archive to check out all of the Enterprise designs in more detail, inside and out. (via open culture)