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Spinnable 3D Models of the British Library’s 16th Century Globes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

The British Library has digitized some of their 17th & 18th century globes into 3D models that you can explore and spin online (and in VR). These are seriously cool at fullscreen.

During the so-called ‘Age of Exploration’, expanding European geographical and astronomical knowledge fuelled the demand for maps and sea charts. It also inspired experimentation in the art of globe-making, and the first half of the 16th century saw the production of several models, both hand-painted and printed.

Printing made it possible to produce globes in greater numbers at lower cost so they could be more widely distributed. The printed globe, terrestrial and celestial, soon became established as the standard type of globe, sometimes called the ‘common’ globe, and the methods of manufacture changed surprisingly little from the mid-16th century until the 20th century.

The one at the top of this post is my favorite: Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s Celestial Globe from 1602. (via @john_overholt)

Pandemic Stories from Readers Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

In the latest issue of the kottke.org newsletter sent out on Sunday evening, I asked readers if they would share what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and how their families and communities are coping. I received a bunch of responses from people all over the world and beginning today, I will be sharing a few excerpts on kottke.org and in the newsletter — you can read all of the responses here.

A doctor writes in from Cape Town, South Africa:

We are well accustomed to working in a resource-scarce setting, and improvisation and decisions about which patients qualify for resuscitation, ventilation and ICU care are the order of the day for us generally. I have been very interested to read media reports about the moral dilemmas facing doctors; first in Italy and now in other parts of the first world where these types of ethical decisions are less commonplace.

From a French schoolteacher:

I am glad I live in France and I know that no matter your social background and bank account status, if you get sick, you get treated the same way and for free.

A pastor from Jackson, Mississippi:

I live in Jackson, MS, which is somewhere between Yonkers and Syracuse in size — something like 170,000 people, and the largest city in Mississippi. Some things about Jackson that make this particularly difficult is that Jackson was already desperately poor before all this went down — 25% of the city has a household income of less than $15,000 a year, and 75% of the the city was a USDA food desert when everything is “normal”.

As a result, most of Jackson has to travel significant distances to go to the grocery store, and there aren’t huge amounts of money floating around to buy up supplies, anyway. So a big part of my work, as the pastor of a small church down here has been helping people get access to food and supplies.

A report from a central Ohio suburb:

Here in our small tree-lined suburb in central Ohio, we have been carefully observing the social distancing and stay home instructions for nearly four weeks now. As native southerners, we count ourselves lucky to live in Ohio where our (Republican, wow!) governor acted early and rapidly to take measures to flatten the curve of Covid-19. In his first address on the subject he proclaimed that he would be “guided by science” in passing guidelines to protect us, and we look at other less-proactive states and worry about our families there.

New Zealand is in lockdown:

The fallout from our lockdown is going to be massive. No one is really confident at what it will look like, but numbers being thrown around are 30% of small to medium businesses (the category which most of our businesses fall into) will not be able to reopen when the lockdown is lifted. Thousands of people are being made redundant. It’s like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes here. Even the GFC didn’t have this bad an impact on our economy. Our parliament (the house of government) is closed, with most of our Members of Parliament locked down at home like the rest of us. What we have in place of the normal sitting of both government and the opposition parties, is a committee made up of representatives of all parties who scrutinise how the government is responding to the virus. The daily sittings of this committee are broadcast online so anyone can see what’s being asked and answered. This seems to be working well and at least safeguards some of our democracy in a time when we’re effectively on a war-footing.

A reminder from Winnipeg, Canada:

School is suspended indefinitely and everyone is home. I’m fortunate to have a family who gets along well and children (10 and 12) who I don’t have to worry about if they miss school for an extended run. I’ve tried to focus on how lucky we are as a family to be able to be together and sustain ourselves. One of the things I heard on the radio early in this period was a discussion on CBC Radio’s As It Happens (one of the nation’s greatest radio programmes, and a great source of information at a time like this) with authors Margaret Atwood, Waubgeshig Rice and Daniel Kalla. Something Rice, an Indigenous author, said, really stuck with me: “I think we’re all scared in some ways. But I think if your first response is fear, it’s important to acknowledge your privilege in that you maybe haven’t been to the brink before. Whereas a lot of marginalized communities have experienced that and continue to experience that. And there’s a long list of examples in Canada of world ending for different communities. You know, you can look at the destruction of Africville in Nova Scotia or the internment of Japanese Canadians. You know, it’s important to take a look at what your personal perspective is and your place in society and just, you know, acknowledge that privilege of being part of the dominant culture and things being generally good in Canada in the last 150 years or so.” I try to remember this as I think about my own fears and my own family’s situation.

The independent spirit of southwest Wyoming:

It’s strange to think about having to shelter in place when we have so much empty space that we can occupy our time with outside, so people are still out and about around our town. And I am completely in favor of shelter in place policies in major metro areas, but somehow it just doesn’t seem like it would work here given the political and personal leanings of the people of Wyoming. I am new to Wyoming (have lived here 2.5 years), but there is a certain way people seem to think this is still the old west and, for better or worse, they tend to have that independent spirit. The virus has just recently arrived in our county, but to be honest the scariest thing for me is the fact that this is Trump country and that people believe him. I’m more scared of jackasses flaunting this as a hoax and not taking the proper precautions when they are at the grocery store with me or my family.

Again, you can read all of the responses right here.

Weird Internet Careers

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2020

Gretchen McCulloch, author of Because Internet, has developed a Weird Internet Career as an internet linguist. In the first installment in a series on such jobs, McCulloch explains what they are:

Weird Internet Careers are the kinds of jobs that are impossible to explain to your parents, people who somehow make a living from the internet, generally involving a changing mix of revenue streams. Weird Internet Career is a term I made up (it had no google results in quotes before I started using it), but once you start noticing them, you’ll see them everywhere.

Weird Internet Careers are weird because there is no one else who does exactly what they do. They’re internet because they rely on the internet as a cornerstone, such as bloggers, webcomics, youtubers, artists, podcasters, writers, developers, subject-matter experts, and other people in very specific niches. And they’re careers because they somehow manage to support themselves, often making money from some combination of ad revenue, t-shirt sales, other merch, ongoing membership/subscription (Patreon, Substack), crowdfunding (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Ko-Fi), sponsorship deals, conventional book deals, self-published ebooks, selling online courses, selling products or apps or services, public speaking, and consulting.

I’ve had a Weird Internet Career for more than 15 years and even though it’s much more normalized now than when I started (folks generally know that people make money from being popular on YouTube or Instagram), it’s still a struggle to explain. Usually someone will ask me what I do and I tell them. Them, wide-eyed: “That’s your job?!” Then there’s a long pause and eventually their curiosity overwhelms their politeness and they tentatively say: “Can I ask…uh…how do you make money doing that?”

For awhile, in an attempt to have more symmetrical relationships with new friends — because 5 minutes of googling yields so much about who I am, leading to weird information imbalances — I would be vague about my profession, saying that I managed a website and not offering any further information. This approach often backfired because you’ve essentially given people a mystery, and mysteries must be solved. More than one person looked at me with a cocked eyebrow and asked, “Do you run a porn site? Is that why you don’t want to tell me?” *facepalm*

Artist in the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2020

Andre Smits

Andre Smits

Andre Smits

For more than 10 years now, André Smits has been traveling the world taking photos of artists (from behind) in their studios and out in the world. Earlier this year, Smits explained how the project got started:

He laughs, “I realized it was an alibi for getting in their studios, because most artists keep their doors shut and otherwise I would not get to come in. That was the beginning of the project, really. Then artists from other buildings in Rotterdam asked me to come to their place, it was like a snowball, it just started happening,” he recalls.

After Rotterdam, he visited Amsterdam and Antwerp, realizing the strength of the concept could take him all over the world. “So, I sold my house, quit my job, and now I am traveling everywhere, the project was developing in all different directions.”

It’s fun to get a glimpse into so many studios of working artists — they’re all very similar and yet different in the details. (via Noah Kalina, who Smits photographed in 2015)

Why Has Germany Been Effective at Limiting Covid-19 Deaths?

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

As I’m writing this, according to Johns Hopkins’ Covid-19 tracker, Germany has recorded 100,186 confirmed cases of Covid-19 (fourth most in the world) and 1590 deaths — that’s a death rate of about 1.6%. Compare that to Italy (12.3%), China (4%), the US (2.9%), and even South Korea (1.8%) and you start to wonder how they’re doing it. This article from the NY Times details why the death rate is so low in Germany.

Another explanation for the low fatality rate is that Germany has been testing far more people than most nations. That means it catches more people with few or no symptoms, increasing the number of known cases, but not the number of fatalities.

“That automatically lowers the death rate on paper,” said Professor Kräusslich.

But there are also significant medical factors that have kept the number of deaths in Germany relatively low, epidemiologists and virologists say, chief among them early and widespread testing and treatment, plenty of intensive care beds and a trusted government whose social distancing guidelines are widely observed.

This article is a real punch in the gut if you’re an American. Obviously there are bureaucracies and inefficiencies in Germany like anywhere else, but it really seems like they listened to the experts and did what a government is supposed to do for its people before a disaster struck.

“Maybe our biggest strength in Germany,” said Professor Kräusslich, “is the rational decision-making at the highest level of government combined with the trust the government enjoys in the population.”

This whole crisis is really laying bare many of the worst aspects of American society — it’s increasingly obvious that the United States resembles a failed state in many ways. I can’t be the only American whose response to the pandemic is to think seriously about moving to a country with a functioning government, good healthcare for everyone, and a real social safety net.

COVID-19 Empties Out Public Spaces

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2020

For the Atlantic, Alan Taylor compiled a bunch of photos of normally bustling places that are a lot emptier due to the COVID-19 crisis. This is the Grand Mosque in Mecca:

Covid 19 Empty Spaces

A Europa league football match played in an empty stadium (play in Italy’s Serie A league has been suspended until at least April 3):

Covid 19 Empty Spaces

And here’s Sunday mass at a church in Milan:

Covid 19 Empty Spaces

You can see the whole photo gallery here.

See also Ghost City Photos of a Usually Bustling Shanghai During Coronavirus Outbreak.

Update: Several more photo collections of the outside world’s increasingly empty spaces:

For Nieman Lab, Cherine Fahd and Sara Oscar wrote about the uncanny melancholy of empty photographs in the time of coronavirus.

These artists demonstrate a longstanding fascination with photographing architecture devoid of human subjects.

This fascination may be due to what architectural historian Anthony Vidler described as “the architectural uncanny.” Abandoned and deserted spaces, he said, make our familiar spaces become unfamiliar. For Vidler, this estrangement from space hinges on visual representation, such as in photography. These photographs of empty public spaces capture a departure from our everyday and instead visualize this uncanniness: an alternative reality emptied of our presence.

We May Be In This for the Long Haul…

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2020

Note: I feel the need to add a disclaimer to this post. This was a really hard thing to read for me and it might be for you too. It is a single paper from a scientific team dedicated to the study of infectious diseases — it has not been peer reviewed, the available data is changing every day (for things like death rates, transmission rates, and potential immunity), and there might be differing opinions & assumptions by other infectious disease experts that would result in a different analysis. Even so, this seems like a possibility to take seriously and I hope I’m being responsible in sharing it.

This is an excellent but extremely sobering read: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand, a 20-page paper by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team (and a few other organizations, including the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling).

The paper is technical in nature but mostly written in plain English so it’s pretty readable, but here is an article that summarizes the paper. It discusses the two main strategies for dealing with this epidemic (mitigation & suppression), the strengths and weaknesses of each one, and how they both may be necessary in some measure to best address the crisis. For instance, here’s a graph showing the effects of three different suppression scenarios for the US compared to critical care bed capacity:

Suppression Graph US

Two fundamental strategies are possible: (a) mitigation, which focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection, and (b) suppression, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely. Each policy has major challenges. We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half. However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option.

We show that in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognised that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems due to increased absenteeism. The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package — or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission — will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) — given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing — triggered by trends in disease surveillance — may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.

If you missed the scale on the graph (it extends until March 2021) and the bit in there about closures, quarantine, and self-distancing measures needing to remain in place for months and months, the authors repeat that assertion throughout the paper. From the discussion section of the paper:

Overall, our results suggest that population-wide social distancing applied to the population as a whole would have the largest impact; and in combination with other interventions — notably home isolation of cases and school and university closure — has the potential to suppress transmission below the threshold of R=1 required to rapidly reduce case incidence. A minimum policy for effective suppression is therefore population-wide social distancing combined with home isolation of cases and school and university closure.

To avoid a rebound in transmission, these policies will need to be maintained until large stocks of vaccine are available to immunise the population — which could be 18 months or more. Adaptive hospital surveillance-based triggers for switching on and off population-wide social distancing and school closure offer greater robustness to uncertainty than fixed duration interventions and can be adapted for regional use (e.g. at the state level in the US). Given local epidemics are not perfectly synchronised, local policies are also more efficient and can achieve comparable levels of suppression to national policies while being in force for a slightly smaller proportion of the time. However, we estimate that for a national GB policy, social distancing would need to be in force for at least 2/3 of the time (for R0=2.4, see Table 4) until a vaccine was available.

I absolutely do not want to seem alarmist here, but if this analysis is anywhere close to being in the ballpark, it seems at least feasible that this whole thing is going to last far longer than the few weeks that people are thinking about. The concluding sentence:

However, we emphasise that is not at all certain that suppression will succeed long term; no public health intervention with such disruptive effects on society has been previously attempted for such a long duration of time. How populations and societies will respond remains unclear.

The paper is available in several languages here.

Update: Here is a short review of the Imperial College paper by Chen Shen, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. The important bit:

However, they make structural mistakes in analyzing outbreak response. They ignore standard Contact Tracing [2] allowing isolation of infected prior to symptoms. They also ignore door-to-door monitoring to identify cases with symptoms [3]. Their conclusions that there will be resurgent outbreaks are wrong. After a few weeks of lockdown almost all infectious people are identified and their contacts are isolated prior to symptoms and cannot infect others [4]. The outbreak can be stopped completely with no resurgence as in China, where new cases were down to one yesterday, after excluding imported international travelers that are quarantined.

If I understand this correctly, Shen et al. are saying that some tactics not taken into account by the Imperial College analysis could be hyper-effective in containing the spread of COVID-19. The big if, particularly in countries like the US and Britain that are acting like failing states is if those measures can be implemented on the scale required. (thx, ryan)

Update: The lead author of the Imperial College paper, Neil Ferguson, has likely contracted COVID-19. From his Twitter acct:

Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine. Then developed high fever at 4am today.

Ferguson says he’s still at his desk, working away.

Update: The pair of articles I linked to in this post are excellent and you should read them after reading the Imperial College paper.

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

Apollo 11’s Post-Lunar Quarantine

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

I do not know if hearing about other people’s quarantine experiences makes going through one yourself any easier, but the story of how NASA sequestered the returning Apollo 11 astronauts away from the rest of the world for 21 days is interesting for other reasons as well. The worry was that some sort of “moon bug” or “lunar plague” was going to make its way from the Moon to the Earth in the spacecraft or the astronauts’ bodies.

From the moment the Apollo 11 astronauts arrive back on earth from their epochal visit to the moon, they will be treated not as heroes but as bearers of the most virulent, devastating plague the world has ever known.

So NASA quarantined Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins in a series of specially designed suits and environments until August 10, 1969. At one point, the three of them lived in a modified Airstream trailer in which the air pressure was lower on the inside than outside so if there was a leak, air would rush into the trailer, not out. Armstrong even celebrated a birthday in quarantine.

After Apollo 11, NASA did similar quarantines for 12 and 14 but abandoned them after that because they figured it was safe.

Oh, and if you were curious about the Soyuz launch yesterday that sent three astronauts to the ISS and how they were going to mitigate the chances of sending any SARS-CoV-2 up there, crews on all missions are subject to a mandatory 2 week quarantine before they leave (according to this press release).

Stream Ken Burns’ Baseball Documentary Series for Free on PBS

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2020

It would have been Opening Day for baseball here in the US. Since we’re without the actual thing due to COVID-19, Ken Burns asked PBS to allow people to stream his 18-hour documentary series on baseball from 1994 for free (US & Canada). Here’s part one:

(via open culture)

WHO Declares COVID-19 Outbreak Is Officially a Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2020

In a media briefing that’s still ongoing as I’m writing this, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization, has officially characterized the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. A pandemic is defined as:

An influenza pandemic is a global epidemic caused by a new influenza virus to which there is little or no pre-existing immunity in the human population. Influenza pandemics are impossible to predict; and they may be mild, or cause severe disease or death. Severe disease may occur in certain risk groups, which may correspond to those at risk of severe disease due to seasonal influenza.

Here’s a transcript of Dr. Tedros’s opening remarks from the briefing.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

Progress on fighting COVID-19 can be made everywhere when the right steps are taken:

If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.

Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus.

Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.

The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same — it’s whether they will.

But WHO also acknowledges how disruptive the pandemic can be:

We are grateful for the measures being taken in Iran, Italy and the Republic of Korea to slow the virus and control their epidemics.

We know that these measures are taking a heavy toll on societies and economies, just as they did in China.

All countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.

And in closing he deflects attention from the word “pandemic”:

Let me give you some other words that matter much more, and that are much more actionable.

Prevention.

Preparedness.

Public health.

Political leadership.

And most of all, people.

We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.

New York Apartment For Sale, Only $43.9 Billion

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2020

New York Apartment

For New York Apartment, an art project commissioned by The Whitney, artists Sam Lavigne and Tega Brain compiled actual NYC real estate listings into a listing for one mega apartment for sale.

Compiled from actual online real estate listings, the artwork collapses the high and low ends of the market, architectural periods and styles, and neighborhoods and affordability into a single space that cumulatively creates a portrait of New York’s living spaces and the real estate market. Like a standard real estate ad, the listing shows the price, number of bed- and bathrooms, and square footage, all of which are updated weekly based on the city’s aggregated real estate listings.

Take some time to explore the project — take the 3D virtual tour, scroll through all of the bathrooms & closets, peruse the apartment features, and take the video tour:

Do you crave brilliant sunshine and the peace Zen behind closed doors at home, and the bustle and excitement of the big city at your doorstep?

Do you dream of a Manhattan life?

Do you dream of Brooklyn living with Manhattan in reach?

Do you have a thing for top floor apartments?

Do you have vision?

Do you like light?

Do you love to cook?

Do you love to entertain?

Do you need lots of closet space?

Do you own or plan to buy a car?

Do you prefer simple shaker style wood cabinets with solid surface counters or custom lacquer cabinets paired with a travertine marble?

Do you want a home just steps to the beach?

Do you want Katz Deli, Russ and Daughters or maybe some Economy Candy?

Contact information for all of the brokers is listed on the site in case you’re interested.

A Joyful Flash Mob Plays Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2020

This is an oldie but a goodie. Watch as a single busking bass player grows into the Vallès Symphony Orchestra and a pair of choirs to perform a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy) in front of a delighted crowd. (via @victoriamia)

Sit-Skier Trevor Kennison Drops Into Corbet’s Couloir

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2020

With a mandatory steep drop into a narrow chute with rock walls on two sides,
Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole in Wyoming is one of America’s most challenging ski runs. During the annual Kings & Queens of Corbet’s event, skiers from all over converge to huck themselves over the cornice, doing backflips, spins, and grabs of all kinds.

I’d heard that sit-skier Trevor Kennison, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since a snowboarding accident in 2014, had dropped into Corbet’s during the 2019 Kings & Queens event but I’d never sat down to watch the video. Do yourself a favor and check this out:

From an REI blog post about Kennison:

Trevor Kennison imagined skiing Corbet’s Couloir — Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s iconic and nearly vertical chute with a dicey, dramatic entrance — six times in his head while waiting at the top. He closed his eyes, took three fast breaths, then visualized it: Ride the ramp at just the right speed, hit the takeoff, hug the rocks on skier’s left, then stick the landing into the chute. If he could picture it going perfectly in his head, he knew he could pull it off.

He’d wanted to ski this line for years and finally, the day had come. Kennison, who’s paralyzed from the waist down, says he wasn’t scared. “I knew what I had to do. I was ready,” Kennison, 26, said. “Everything I do is calculated risk. I think, where is it going to go wrong? I learn so much from the people around me.”

So great. I finally went down this rabbit hole because Kennison skied at our local ski area yesterday here in VT and dropped a couple of cliffs. I didn’t get over there to hang out, but I did see a friend of my son’s skiing with him in his Insta Stories.

Fanciful Typographic Performance of Peter & the Wolf

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2020

Yet another gem from the Kid Should See This: a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf that combines live action, animation, and creative typography.

I’d Like to Deprive the World of Water (to Make More Coca-Cola)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2020

For her video “The Real Thing”, filmmaker Julianna Villarosa used footage of Coca-Cola’s famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial ruined by pouring Coke on VHS and film copies to draw attention to the company’s water privatization practices in Chiapas, Mexico, where there’s a water shortage on. From the video:

The Chiapas Highlands, one of Mexico’s wettest regions, has a water shortage. Many drink Coca-Cola, which is bottled nearby and often easier to find than clean water. On average, residents drink more than half a gallon of soda per day. Indigenous Tzotzil use Coca-Cola in religious ceremonies and medicinal treatments. Diabetes has become the second-leading cause of death in Chiapas. The local Coca-Cola plant extracts more than 300,000 gallons of water per day.

Simple, direct, and brilliant activist art — Villarosa uses the company’s literally corrosive product to physically destroy their feel-good advertising to draw attention to the real harm this US company is doing to people & ecosystems around the world. Here’s more on the Chiapas region and the residents’ reliance on Coke:

Coca-Cola’s penetration of the market in Los Altos has also been aided by a strategy of charging less in remote rural areas where a Coke in a returnable glass bottle is often scarcely more expensive than bottled water. As in most of Mexico, clean drinking water is not generally available even to those who can count on running water in their homes, which means many turn to soft drinks for basic hydration.

The irony of this is clear in an area known for its constant downpours and abundant springs, such as the one that attracted the Coca-Cola bottling company. Local activists say the company has so overexploited the spring that the city of San Cristóbal is now facing water shortages.

The activists allege this has been possible in part because Coca-Cola has friends in high political places. Between 2000 and 2006 the country’s president was Vicente Fox, a former head of Coca-Cola Mexico.

It all adds up to a perfect storm of sugar-related health issues in Los Altos. María del Socorro Sánchez, who is in charge of nutrition at the main hospital in San Juan Chamula, says only about one in 10 of the indigenous patients with diabetes accept there is any need to cut out sugar-packed drinks. “They just don’t believe that it is bad for them,” she said.

(via the morning news)

Minimal Pics

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2020

Marcus Cederberg

Marcus Cederberg

Marcus Cederberg

I don’t know about you, but Marcus Cederberg’s minimalist photography has a soothing effect on me. Check out his Instagram for the newest stuff.

Picking Up Glowing Hot Space Shuttle Tiles with Bare Hands

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2020

Space Shuttle thermal tiles conduct heat so poorly that after being in a 2200 °F oven for hours, you can pick them up with your bare hands only seconds after they come out, still glowing hot.

Some Good News: The Hamilton Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

So, the second episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News might be even better than the first one (which included, if you recall, an The Office reunion with Steve Carell). I don’t want to entirely ruin it, but in the second half of the show, John and some co-conspirators totally make the day/year/century of a young Hamilton fan who missed going to the live show because of the pandemic.

A Genius Visualization of Social Distancing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 09, 2020

This public service announcement from the Ohio Department of Health contains an outstanding simple visualization of how social distancing can help prevent the spread of Covid-19 using ping pong balls and mouse traps.

This ad shows that Ohio’s relatively early response to the pandemic was not a fluke and that the state is still taking it seriously.

Cycling Through All the Streets of London

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2020

Over a period of four years, Davis Vilums cycled every street in central London. A map and a time lapse of his journeys:

London Cycle Map

Including some irregular times off, overall it took me four years to visit every single road on the map. When I started this hobby, it took me 30 to 40 minutes to do the route. Later it expanded to 2 hours to get to the office when I tried to reach the furthest places on my map. One of the main goals was never to be late for work. From the beginning, I planned to visit not only the main roads but every single accessible mews, yard, park trail, and a path that was possible to go through. I used Endomondo app to have a proper record of my journeys and proof that I have been there. After every trip, I prepared my next route in Google maps where it was easy to adjust streets to the next ones and mark points to revisit if I missed something.

Remaking the Spider-Verse Trailer with Traditional Animation Techniques

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 05, 2020

Animator Pinot Ichwandardi, designer/illustrator Dita Ichwandardi, and their three young children decided to remake some of the iconic scenes from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse trailer using traditional animation techniques. You can see some of the process and the impressive results in the video above. They drew the scenes by hand, built their own multiplane camera setup (a la Disney), and constructed a camera rig using Lego. You can read more about their process in these two Twitter threads: one, two.

After they were done, Sony Animation invited the family to visit their California campus to meet some of the team that worked on the movie, including producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

See also How Animators Created Spider-Verse.

Marshall Islands Navigation Charts

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2020

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

The arrangement of the sticks in these Marshall Islands navigational charts represents ocean swells & currents and how they interact with the land, useful information for navigating between islands via canoe. From a Smithsonian Magazine article about these charts:

The chart is less a literal representation of the sea, says museum curator and anthropologist Adrienne Kaeppler, and more an abstract illustration of the ways that ocean swells interact with land. Curved sticks, she explains, show where swells are deflected by an island; short, straight strips often indicate currents near islands; longer strips “may indicate the direction in which certain islands are to be found;” and small cowry shells represent the islands themselves.

The stick charts were preparatory & teaching tools — mariners would memorize the charts before heading out to sea rather than take them along on the boat.

The photos above are from the Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of Flickr.

See also Secrets of the Wave Pilots and other physical data visualizations. (via curationist)

Why Do Poor People Make Bad Decisions?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

From The Correspondent, this is an article by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman about why poor people make low-quality decisions. In a nutshell, it’s because living in poverty overwhelms your brain, decreasing cognitive ability by a significant amount. The piece cites a number of supporting studies, but this one is perhaps the most relevant to separating cause from effect:

Shafir found what he was looking for some 8,000 miles away in the districts of Vilupuram and Tiruvannamalai in rural India. The conditions were perfect. As it happened, the area’s sugarcane farmers collect 60% of their annual income all at once right after the harvest. This means they are flush one part of the year and poor the other.

So how did they do in the experiment?

At the time when they were comparatively poor, they scored substantially worse on the cognitive tests. Not because they had become less intelligent people somehow — they were still the same Indian sugarcane farmers, after all — but purely and simply because their mental bandwidth was compromised.

Another study, of Cherokee families whose income increased dramatically due to casino revenues, shows just how beneficial more money is to poor communities:

Soon after the casino opened, Costello was already noting huge improvements for her subjects. Behavioural problems among children who had been lifted out of poverty went down 40%, putting them in the same range as their peers who had never known hardship. Juvenile crime rates among the Cherokee also declined, along with drug and alcohol use, while their school scores improved markedly. At school, the Cherokee kids were now on a par with the study’s non-tribal participants.

On seeing the data, Costello’s first reaction was disbelief. “The expectation is that social interventions have relatively small effects,” she later said. “This one had quite large effects.”

Costello calculated that the extra $4,000 per annum resulted in an additional year of educational attainment by age 21 and reduced the chance of a criminal record at age 16 by 22%.

This article was adapted from Bregman’s book, Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, in which he advocates for three main changes to make our global society more equitable: a universal basic income, a 15-hour work-week, and open borders. The UBI issue is what he’s most known for — check out his 2013 article, Why we should give free money to everyone, and his two TED Talks on the topic. BTW, did you know that Nixon almost implemented a UBI in the US in the late 60s?

The Power of the Individual in an Exponential Crisis

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2020

Over the past week or so, echoing public health officials & epidemiologists, I’ve been trying to illustrate the often counterintuitive concept of exponential growth that you see in an epidemic and how flattening the curve can help keep people healthy and alive. But I think people have a hard time grasping what that means, personally, to them. Like, what’s one person in the face of a pandemic?

Well, epidemiologist Britta Jewell had a similar thought and came up with this brilliantly simple graph, one of the best I’ve seen in illustrating the power of exponential growth and how we as individuals can affect change:

One Person Exponential

Jewell explains a bit more about what we’re looking at:

The graph illustrates the results of a thought experiment. It assumes constant 30 percent growth throughout the next month in an epidemic like the one in the U.S. right now, and compares the results of stopping one infection today — by actions such as shifting to online classes, canceling of large events and imposing travel restrictions — versus taking the same action one week from today.

The difference is stark. If you act today, you will have averted four times as many infections in the next month: roughly 2,400 averted infections, versus just 600 if you wait one week. That’s the power of averting just one infection, and obviously we would like to avert more than one.

So that’s 1800 infections averted from the actions of just one person. Assuming a somewhat conservative death rate of 1% for COVID-19, that’s 18 deaths averted. Think about that before you head out to the bar tonight or convene your book group as usual. Your actions have a lot of power in this moment; take care in how you wield it.

“What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus”

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

Today’s must-read is What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick With Coronavirus by NY Times editor Jessica Lustig. If you’re on the fence about whether COVID-19 is worth all this fuss, Lustig’s account of caring for her gravely ill husband in a Brooklyn apartment while trying to keep herself and their daughter from getting sick should help straighten out your thinking.

Now we live in a world in which I have planned with his doctor which emergency room we should head to if T suddenly gets worse, a world in which I am suddenly afraid we won’t have enough of the few things tempering the raging fever and soaking sweats and severe aches wracking him — the Advil and Tylenol that the doctors advise us to layer, one after the other, and that I scroll through websites searching for, seeing “out of stock” again and again. We are living inside the news stories of testing, quarantine, shortages and the disease’s progression. A friend scours the nearby stores and drops off a bunch of bodega packets of Tylenol. Another finds a bottle at a more remote pharmacy and drops it off, a golden prize I treasure against the feverish nights to come.

His doctor calls three days later to say the test is positive. I find T lying on his side, reading an article about the surge in confirmed cases in New York State. He is reading stories of people being hospitalized, people being put on ventilators to breathe, people dying, sick with the same virus that is attacking him from the inside now.

This is a rough read, no doubt about it. I started crying at the part about his father’s sweater.

A 1929 Interview with a 103-Year-Old Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

The Great Span was Alger Hiss’s term for the personal links of living humans across large periods of time. For instance, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. shook hands with both John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy, linking the Revolutionary War with the Vietnam War. This interview with 103-year-old Galusha Cole filmed in 1929 is another instance of this phenomenon:

This was part of a series of interviews with the elderly on the cusp of the Great Depression. Cole was born in 18261 during the administration of John Quincy Adams, was alive at the same time as Ludwig van Beethoven, and lived just long enough to be captured in voice and picture on film.

  1. Although this page on Find a Grave claims that Cole was actually only 92 at the time of the interview. Which would be interesting vis a vis his proclamation that he doesn’t have any vices.

Super-Pandemics Last All Summer Long

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

The Atlantic’s Ed Yong has written his second long article about the Covid-19 pandemic about what happens next and what a roadmap to dealing with the next phase of the crisis might look like.

As I wrote last month, the only viable endgame is to play whack-a-mole with the coronavirus, suppressing it until a vaccine can be produced. With luck, that will take 18 to 24 months. During that time, new outbreaks will probably arise. Much about that period is unclear, but the dozens of experts whom I have interviewed agree that life as most people knew it cannot fully return. “I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “This is about the next two years.”

The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”

Celebrating 22 Years of Kottke.org

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2020

Hello all. I know there’s a pandemic going on out there, but I wanted to take a moment to celebrate kottke.org turning 22 years old today. If you’ve been reading along the entire time or for only a few days, it’s been an honor for me to inform, provoke, entertain, and possibly even infuriate you all for a few minutes every day. Thanks for reading — and an extra-special thanks to those who support the site with a membership. As I said a few weeks ago, all this really means a lot to me.

The Origin of 8-Bit Arcade Fonts

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

Aided by Toshi Omagari, who wrote Arcade Game Typography, Vox’s Estelle Caswell explores the origins and history of 8-bit arcade fonts. From the description of the book:

Video game designers of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s faced color and resolution limitations that stimulated incredible creativity. With each letter having to exist in a small pixel grid, artists began to use clever techniques to create elegant character sets within a tiny canvas.

As the creator of a tiny pixelated typeface, I find this stuff infinitely fascinating.

How Privacy-Friendly Contact Tracing Can Help Stop the Spread of Covid-19

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2020

Nicky Case, working with security & privacy researcher Carmela Troncoso and epidemiologist Marcel Salathé, came up with this fantastic explanation of how we can use apps to automatically do contact tracing for Covid-19 infections while protecting people’s privacy. The second panel succinctly explains why contact tracing (in conjunction with quick, ubiquitous testing) can have such a huge benefit in a case like this:

A problem with COVID-19: You’re contagious ~2 days before you know you’re infected. But it takes ~3 days to become contagious, so if we quarantine folks exposed to you the day you know you were infected… We stop the spread, by staying one step ahead!

Contact Tracing Comic

It’s based on a proposal called Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing developed by Troncoso, Salathé, and a host of others. Thanks to Case for putting this comic in the public domain so that anyone can publish it.

Update: About two hours after posting this, Apple and Google announced they are jointly working on contact tracing technology that uses Bluetooth and makes “user privacy and security central to the design”.

A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

Update: Based on information published by Google and Apple on their contact tracing protocols, it appears as though their system works pretty much like the one outlined about in the comic and this proposal.

Also, here is an important reminder that the problem of what to do about Covid-19 is not primarily a technological one and that turning it into one is troublesome.

We think it is necessary and overdue to rethink the way technology gets designed and implemented, because contact tracing apps, if implemented, will be scripting the way we will live our lives and not just for a short period. They will be laying out normative conditions for reality, and will contribute to the decisions of who gets to have freedom of choice and freedom to decide … or not. Contact tracing apps will co-define who gets to live and have a life, and the possibilities for perceiving the world itself.

Update: Security expert Bruce Schneier has some brief thoughts on “anonymous” contact tracing as well as some links to other critiques, including Ross Anderson’s:

But contact tracing in the real world is not quite as many of the academic and industry proposals assume.

First, it isn’t anonymous. Covid-19 is a notifiable disease so a doctor who diagnoses you must inform the public health authorities, and if they have the bandwidth they call you and ask who you’ve been in contact with. They then call your contacts in turn. It’s not about consent or anonymity, so much as being persuasive and having a good bedside manner.

I’m relaxed about doing all this under emergency public-health powers, since this will make it harder for intrusive systems to persist after the pandemic than if they have some privacy theater that can be used to argue that the whizzy new medi-panopticon is legal enough to be kept running.

And I had thoughts similar to Anderson’s about the potential for abuse:

Fifth, although the cryptographers — and now Google and Apple — are discussing more anonymous variants of the Singapore app, that’s not the problem. Anyone who’s worked on abuse will instantly realise that a voluntary app operated by anonymous actors is wide open to trolling. The performance art people will tie a phone to a dog and let it run around the park; the Russians will use the app to run service-denial attacks and spread panic; and little Johnny will self-report symptoms to get the whole school sent home.

The tie-a-phone-to-a-dog thing reminds me a lot of the wagon full of smartphones creating traffic jams. (via @circa1977)

Spirits Distilleries Around the US Now Producing Hand Sanitizer

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2020

Barr Hill Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer, a necessary tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has been difficult to come by in stores the past few weeks (or months, depending on your location). Last night, I read in a local email newsletter here in Vermont that Mad River Distillers is producing hand sanitizer and giving it away for free to local residents. They’ve set up two pick-up stations for today — it’s BYOB and limited to 6oz per person. Earlier this week, workers at Barr Hill’s closed distillery made hand sanitizer and distributed it to local food shelves. Green Mountain Distillers and Smuggler’s Notch Distillery have also begun producing hand sanitizer.

These Vermont companies join dozens of other distilleries around the country (and world) that have started using high proof alcohol to produce hand sanitizer that meets the CDC’s recommendation of 60% ethanol needed to inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19: Texas, Alabama, Florida, Connecticut, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oregon, and many more. From Bloomberg:

Basic recipes include aloe vera for moisturizing; distilleries will also add the botanicals or flavorings from their signature spirits as a twist. Portland, Ore.-based Shine Distillery & Grill isn’t treating its formula like a trade secret. “I have fielded some calls from Seattle and suggested they contact their local distilleries to tell them what we are doing,” says general manager Ryan Ruelos. “Because any distillery can do it.”

The one thing they cannot do, though, is sell their sanitizers: Sales of distilled spirits are strictly regulated by the government and could jeopardize business licenses. Instead, distilleries are giving them away to customers who come through their doors. In some cases, such as at Psychopomp Microdistillery in Bristol, England, donations from customers who take the sanitizer are being given to charity.

Around the world, alcohol is often used in toasts that relate to health: the Irish “sláinte” (health), the Mexican Spanish “salud” (to health), the Russian “vashe zdorov’ye” (to your health), the Persian “be salamati” (good health), and the Hindi “achchee sehat” (good health). These distillery-produced hand sanitizers are a toast of health from them to us, and I am very grateful for it.

Should Political Journalists Vote?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 03, 2020

I was reading this NY Times piece on their policies for reporters and editors around impartiality and politics — “newsroom staff members may not participate in political advocacy, like volunteering for candidates’ campaigns or making contributions” — and ran across this from the paper’s chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker:

As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate, and so to that end, I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to any non-journalism organization, I don’t support any candidate, I don’t give money to interest groups and I don’t vote.

I try hard not to take strong positions on public issues even in private, much to the frustration of friends and family. For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong.

And similar perspectives from a 2008 Politico piece. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like a deeply weird approach — and ultimately an intellectually dishonest one. Not voting is taking a political position — a passive one perhaps, but a political position nonetheless.1 There’s no direct analogy to not voting or not taking private positions on political issues for other areas of reporting, but just imagine being a technology reporter who doesn’t own a mobile phone or computer because they don’t want to show favoritism towards Apple or Samsung, a food reporter who is unable to dine at restaurants outside of work, or a style reporter who can’t wear any clothes they didn’t make themselves. Absurd, right? We do live in an age of too much opinion dressed up as news, but pretending not to have opinions ultimately does harm to a public in need of useful contextual information.

  1. My history professor in college was fond of saying: “Everyone has a world view. Even if you don’t have a world view, that’s a world view, isn’t it?” His name was Dr. Janus, which seems super appropriate vis a vis that quote.

Pandemic Advice from Wu Tang Clan

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2020

Wu Tang Covid-19

A message from Wu Tang Clan on Instagram about what to do about the COVID-19 pandemic. This is better guidance than we’re getting from the executive branch of our government. (via maria konnikova)

Linguistic Constellations

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Linguistic Constellations

Linguistic Constellations

Illustrator Jerry M. Wilson has drawn a series of constellations that explore the etymology of the constellations’ names and related words in several languages. So for example, “Taurus” is Latin for “bull”, which is “toro” in Spanish & Italian and “tyr” in Danish. And then you also have associated words like “toreador” (“bullfighter” in Spanish) and “teurastamo” (Finnish for “slaughterhouse”)…a constellation of words related to “Taurus”.

Some Programming Notes

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2020

Hey folks, just wanted to check in on a few things this morning. I hope you are staying healthy and kind.

1. I spent some time this weekend on the Quick Links infrastructure. (Quick Links are posted to the @kottke Twitter acct and displayed on the front page of the site, right under the most recent post.) There is now a public archive of the Quick Links available here. (If you’re a kottke.org member, you’ve had access to this for months now.) I also started periodically pushing the Quick Links into kottke.org’s RSS feed (yes, ppl still use RSS…at least tens of thousands of them by my count).

2. After a hiatus, I have restarted kottke.org’s newsletter. It was previously a weekly affair, but due to quick moving pandemic news and information, I’m now trying to publish a couple times a week at least. Click here to subscribe.

3. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that about two weeks ago, I abruptly switched to covering the COVID-19 pandemic almost exclusively. Aside from 9/11, kottke.org has never been focused on a single topic like this, but I believed it was important to get the word out about how infectious diseases spread and how seriously we should be taking this. (VERY SERIOUSLY.) I still believe that. But the site will likely start wandering back towards other topics this week, at least a little bit. This crisis is hitting all of us in many different ways — some are sick, some are bored, some are terrified, some are out there on the front lines saving lives. I hope it’s possible to keep all of those folks (and their different realities & needs) in our minds & hearts while still finding moments of connection to other kinds of human interests and obsessions.

Thanks for reading.

We’re All Dancers Now - Mindful Movement Is Key to Social Distancing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

I really liked How We Use Our Bodies to Navigate a Pandemic by NY Times dance critic Gia Kourlas on how many people struggle with the awareness of what their bodies are doing in public and that social distancing measures require a higher level of attentiveness to how we move and coordinate our movements with others.

In this time of confinement, we have been given one immeasurable gift — the freedom to go outside. In exchange, we must abide by a simple rule: Stay six feet away from others. As choreographic intentions go, that’s not remotely vague. Yet during my runs and walks in Brooklyn over the past few days, I’ve noticed that six feet doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody.

Spatial awareness, like coordination, isn’t a given. Watching the choices people make when they move in public, much less in this time of social distancing, can be shocking, from the much-bemoaned tourist who comes to a grinding halt in Times Square to the woman with a yoga mat knocking people aside to get her spot on the floor. (It’s OK; she’ll still feel good about bowing her head and saying namaste.)

Now the choreography of the streets has taken on higher stakes. It’s the difference between health and sickness, life and death. Inside we’re alone. Outside, a new alertness is in order, one that demands a deep connection to the position and movement of the body — or proprioception, sometimes referred to as the sixth sense.

Bong Joon-ho’s Extensive Storyboards for Parasite

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

Parasite Storyboards

Before he begins filming any of his movies, director Bong Joon-ho draws out storyboards for every single shot of every single scene of the film. From an interview with Bong in 2017:

I’m always very nervous in my everyday life and if I don’t prepare everything beforehand, I go crazy. That’s why I work very meticulously on the storyboards. If I ever go to a psych ward or a psychiatric hospital, they’ll diagnose me as someone who has a mental problem and they’ll tell me to stop working, but I still want to work. I have to draw storyboards.

For his Oscar-winning Parasite, Bong has collected the storyboards into a 304-page graphic novel due out in mid-May: Parasite: A Graphic Novel in Storyboards.

Drawn by Bong Joon Ho himself before the filming of the Palme d’Or Award-winning, Golden Globe(R)-nominated film, these illustrations, accompanied by every line of dialog, depict the film in its entirety. Director Bong has also provided a foreword which takes the reader even deeper into the creative process which gave rise to the stunning cinematic achievement of Parasite.

The book has already been released in Korea, and Through the Viewfinder did a 5-minute video comparison of the storyboards with the filmed scenes for the peach fuzz montage scene (and another video of the flood scene).

Amazing. That’s a whole lotta film school packed into five minutes of video.

Mathematicians Discover the Perfect Way to Multiply

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2020

If you’re a computer, it turns out that the fastest way to multiply two numbers, especially two very large numbers, is not by the grade school method of stacking the two numbers and then multiplying each digit in the top number by each digit in the bottom number and adding the results. Since 1960, mathematicians have been discovering ever faster methods to multiply and recently, a pair of mathematicians discovered a method that is perhaps the fastest way possible.

Their method is a refinement of the major work that came before them. It splits up digits, uses an improved version of the fast Fourier transform, and takes advantage of other advances made over the past forty years. “We use [the fast Fourier transform] in a much more violent way, use it several times instead of a single time, and replace even more multiplications with additions and subtractions,” van der Hoeven said.

What’s interesting is that independently of these discoveries, computers have become a lot better at multiplication:

In addition, the design of computer hardware has changed. Two decades ago, computers performed addition much faster than multiplication. The speed gap between multiplication and addition has narrowed considerably over the past 20 years to the point where multiplication can be even faster than addition in some chip architectures.

(via @macgbrown, who passed this along after I posted this video on Russian multiplication)

An Epidemic Graphing Calculator

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2020

Epidemic Calculator

By manipulating values like R0, incubation time, and hospitalization rate with this this epidemic graphing calculator, you really get a sense of how effective early intervention and aggressive measures can be in curbing infection & saving lives in an exponential crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pittsburgh Parking Chair

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 20, 2020

In this video, Dean Bog takes an entertaining look at “Pittsburgh’s weirdest tradition”, where residents place a chair on the street in front of their house to claim a parking spot and keep others from parking in it. The maneuver is technically illegal, but:

We don’t need official signs, we don’t need to get the cops involved, we can just understand that if you’re placing a chair in a spot, you’re asking everyone to respect it as your own.

Bostonites do this during the winter with cones and sometimes chairs — the logic is: if you did all the hard work of shoveling out a spot, why should someone else get to park there?

Bog is also doing this series of videos where he reviews the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. (thx, james)

People Behave More Cooperatively During Disasters

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a few weeks now, so I was glad to find this short but meaty Twitter thread by Dan Gardner about how people react in a crisis: they get more cooperative, not less.

Please remember: The idea that when disaster strikes people panic and social order collapses is very popular. It is also a myth. A huge research literature shows disaster makes people *more* pro-social. They cooperate. They support each other. They’re better than ever.

But the myth matters because it can lead people to take counterproductive actions and adopt policies. The simple truth is we are a fantastically social species and threats only fuel our instinct to pro-social behaviour.

Incidentally, this point is made, and is forgotten, after every disaster. Remember 9/11? Everyone was astonished that snarling, greedy, individualistic New Yorkers were suddenly behaving like selfless saints. No need for surprise. That’s humanity. That’s how we roll.

A reader suggested I check out Rebecca Solnit’s writing on the topic, and indeed she wrote an entire book in 2010 about this: A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Solnit recently spoke to CBC Radio about her research.

I had learned by reading the oral histories of the 1906 earthquake, and by reading the wonderful disaster sociologists in a field that begins in part with Samuel Prince, looking at the Halifax Explosion in 1917 … that actually in disasters, most people are altruistic, brave, communitarian, generous and deeply creative in rescuing each other, creating the conditions for success of survival and often creating these little disaster utopias where everyone feels equal. Everyone feels like a participant.

It’s like a reset, when you turn the machine on and off and on again, that our basic default setting is generous and communitarian and altruistic. But what’s shocking is the incredible joy people often seem to have, when they describe that sense of purpose, connection, community agency they found. It speaks to how deeply we desire something we mostly don’t have in everyday life. That’s a kind of social, public love and power, above and beyond the private life.

I’ve put this 2016 episode of On Being with Solnit on my to-listen list.

The amazing thing about the 1989 earthquake — it was an earthquake as big as the kind that killed thousands of people in places like Turkey and Mexico City, and things like that. But partly, because we have good infrastructure, about 50 people died, a number of people lost their homes, everybody was shaken up. But what was so interesting for me was that people seemed to kind of love what was going on.

That same year in the aftermath of the election, she wrote an essay called How to Survive a Disaster.

I landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, shortly after a big hurricane tore up the city in October of 2003. The man in charge of taking me around told me about the hurricane-not the winds at more than a hundred miles an hour that tore up trees, roofs, telephone poles, not the seas that rose nearly ten feet, but the neighbors. He spoke of the few days when everything was disrupted and lit up with happiness as he did so. In his neighborhood all the people had come out of their houses to speak with each other, aid each other, to improvise a community kitchen, make sure the elders were okay, and spend time together, no longer strangers. “Everybody woke up the next morning and everything was different,” he mused. “There was no electricity, all the stores were closed, no one had access to media. The consequence was that everyone poured out into the street to bear witness. Not quite a street party, but everyone out at once-it was a sense of happiness to see everybody even though we didn’t know each other.” His joy struck me powerfully.

More reading material on this, via Gardner: Disaster Mythology and Fact: Hurricane Katrina and Social Attachment, Psychological disaster myths in the perception and management of mass emergencies, There Goes Hurricane Florence; Here Come the Disaster Myths, and 5 Most Common (and Most Dangerous) Disaster Myths.

Note: A version of this post first appeared in Noticing, the kottke.org newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million High-Res Images Into the Public Domain

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2020

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

The Smithsonian Institution has released a massive trove of images and 3D models from their collections into the public domain, allowing the public to use the images however they see fit. From Smithsonian Magazine:

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose — be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

Part of the release is research data sets, 3D models of airplanes, chairs, and fossils, and developer tools like an API and GitHub repository. Here’s the Smithsonian’s official press release and a FAQ about the Open Access collection.

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

Smithsonian Open Access Collection

The images above are (from top to bottom): photograph of Frederick Douglass, 3D model of the Apollo 11 Command Module, inverted Curtiss Jenny stamp, 3D model & photographs of a tin of Madame C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, 3D model of a mammoth skeleton, carte-de-visite portrait of Harriet Tubman, 3D model of the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer, a placard carried in the 1968 Memphis march.

Sight & Sound: The Cinema of Walter Murch

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2020

From Jon Lefkovitz, Sight & Sound is a feature-length documentary film about the legendary film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who edited and did sound design for films like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation.

This feature-length documentary, viewed and enjoyed by legendary film editor and sound designer Walter Murch himself (“The Conversation”, “Apocalypse Now”), was culled by Jon Lefkovitz from over 50 hours of Murch’s lectures, interviews, and commentaries.

That’s the whole film embedded above, available online for free. Here’s the trailer in case you need some prodding. I haven’t watched the whole film yet, but I’m definitely going to tuck into it in the next few days.

See also Worldizing — How Walter Murch Brought More Immersive Sound to Film.

Gustave Eiffel’s Original Drawings for the Statue of Liberty

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Long thought destroyed or lost forever, a cache of original engineering drawings & blueprints for the Statue of Liberty done by Gustave Eiffel were found among some of Eiffel’s papers purchased at auction last year. Smithsonian magazine has the story of how they came to be found and why the drawings are so significant.

Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel’s engineering plans when it came to the statue’s upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm — a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”

High-res digital versions of the drawings & blueprints are available to view at raremaps.com. (via @mapdragons)

A Pandemic Strikes Business Town

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2020

I featured Business Town, an ultra-capitalist spoof of Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town, on this site a few years ago. Their last few entries have focused on the pandemic and they are devastatingly spot on.

Business Town Pandemic

Business Town Pandemic

(via waxy)

The Cephalopoda, a Hand-Drawn Atlas of Octopus and Squid (1910)

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

Cephalopoda

Cephalopoda

Cephalopoda

The Valdivia Expedition, led by German marine biologist Carl Chun in 1898-1899, was the first time humans had explored the ocean depths below 500 fathoms. What they found changed our conception of the oceans. The results, in the form of 24 volumes of text and illustrations, took decades to be published. Among the volumes was The Cephalopoda, published in 1910 and filled with colorful hand-illustrated drawings of octopuses and squid, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I found this on Brain Pickings, which identifies the illustrator as Friedrich Wilhelm Winter, a credit I couldn’t find in the actual book itself. They’re also selling some of the illustrations as prints, like this one of the octopus featured above.

How to Stop the Spread of COVID-19: Cancel Everything

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2020

Yascha Mounk writing for The Atlantic:

These three facts imply a simple conclusion. The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.

This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.

Given that most forms of social distancing will be useless if sick people cannot get treated-or afford to stay away from work when they are sick-the federal government should also take some additional steps to improve public health. It should take on the costs of medical treatment for the coronavirus, grant paid sick leave to stricken workers, promise not to deport undocumented immigrants who seek medical help, and invest in a rapid expansion of ICU facilities.

This is very close to my own personal thinking right now, particularly after watching this excellent video about exponential growth and epidemics.

Virtual Travel Photography in the Age of Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 24, 2020

Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy

Times Square in NYC

Huntington Beach, FL

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

Using live feed webcams, Noah Kalina is “travelling” around the world photographing places. From top to bottom, Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy, Times Square in NYC, Huntington Beach, CA, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Here’s St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City from just a few minutes ago — it’s completely deserted.

Portrait of a Coronavirus

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Soon after the CDC started to mobilize to address Covid-19, medical illustrators Alissa Eckert & Dan Higgins were asked to create this illustration of a coronavirus that could be used as the “face” of the epidemic.

Coronavirus Portrait

The novel coronavirus, like all viruses, is covered with proteins that give it its character and traits. There are the spike proteins, or S-proteins — the red clusters in the image — which allow the virus to attach to human cells. Envelope or E-proteins, represented by yellow crumbs, help it get into those cells. And membrane proteins, or M-proteins, shown in orange, give the virus its form.

In a video released last February, Eckert explained a little about what she does at CDC.

Grocery Store Worker Offers Suggestions for Staying Safe While Shopping During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

Rebecca Marquardt works at a grocery store and has some tips/suggestions/requests for grocery shoppers on how to keep themselves and grocery store employees healthy while shopping during the pandemic.

1. Make an organized shopping list so you can get in and out.
2. Stock up (DON’T hoard) so you don’t have to come in as often.
3. Go to the bathroom at home.
4. Sanitize your hands right before you enter the store.
4 1/2. Forgot when I filmed — wipe down the shopping cart/basket.
5. Touch only what you need to.
6. Maintain space between you, other customers, AND employees.
7. Ask if we’d like you to bag your own groceries.
8. Wash your reusable bags!
9. Sanitize your hands when you leave the store.

Are people serious with #3?! Jesus. I know it can be difficult to think of something as simple and ubiquitous as grocery shopping as requiring forethought, but these are not normal times. Make a plan and stick to it. The goal is to minimize your exposure (to keep yourself and workers safe) while getting necessary supplies. Marquardt’s list is really good, but I’d add a few more things based on common sense & policies I’ve seen at other stores:

1. Send only one person per family to do the shopping. And especially don’t bring your kids into the store.
2. Wear a mask.
3. Take only what you absolutely need into the store — no big purses or bags if you can help it. Use a paper shopping list; keep your phone in your pocket. Have your credit card out of your wallet and in a pocket for ease of use. All this minimizes the things you touch and need to potentially disinfect later.

Again, I know it feels completely idiotic to have to think about going to the store like you’re Serena Williams prepping for a Grand Slam final. It seems like an overreaction. But as Williams would probably be the first to tell you, preparation and careful execution of a plan are things that can help you feel more confident, comfortable, and in control about a potentially stressful event. We owe it to Marquardt and other store workers to keep them safe during all of this while they work to keep us fed and stocked with essentials. (via digg)

The Last Video Store

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2020

From director Arthur Cauty, a short documentary film about the oldest video rental store in the world, Bristol’s 20th Century Flicks, which has been operating continuously since 1982. Says Cauty:

It’s an ode to the video shop experience and a bygone way of watching movies. With studios like Disney launching their own streaming services and joining industry kingpins such as Netflix and Hulu, we have an almost endless flow of entertainment available at the click of a button. It’s amazing to me that a little independent video store can survive the Netflix cull and even outlive Blockbuster. Drop into the shop next time you’re in Bristol for a dose of movie nostalgia, have a chat about film and go home with a VHS rarity and a bag of popcorn.

From a 2014 Guardian piece about the shop as they were attempting an ultimately successful move & crowdfunding campaign:

The shop was never what you’d call high street, sandwiched as it was between Bristol University’s monstrous student’s union and the Clifton Wine Bar, but was always somewhere Bristolians were willing to travel to. In the 1990s there may have been a Blockbuster in every district, but if you wanted to rent Fitzcarraldo, Flicks was your only option. The shop’s all-time greatest hit is Withnail and I, and the current top of its chart is Calvary. Its policy of not disposing of titles when rentals slowed has resulted in an enviable off-site archive for requests — including a core of VHS movies that were never released on DVD and are still regularly taken out.

The owners say the store has a collection of more than 20,000 different titles, “about five times more than Netflix”.

See also Memory Power, a short doc about a Pennsylvania video store that’s also hanging in there.

How Iceland Has Dramatically Lowered Rates of Teen Substance Abuse Over the Past 20 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2020

There are certain links I’ve posted here that I think about more often than others. One that I think a lot about — weekly at least — is Emma Young’s story for Mosaic about Iceland’s very successful program that’s steered the nation’s teens away from drug and alcohol abuse. At the center of the Icelandic strategy is an insight by psychologist Harvey Milkman about a strategy of replacing substance and other unhealthy addictions with healthier natural highs:

At Metropolitan State College of Denver, Milkman was instrumental in developing the idea that people were getting addicted to changes in brain chemistry. Kids who were “active confronters” were after a rush — they’d get it by stealing hubcaps and radios and later cars, or through stimulant drugs. Alcohol also alters brain chemistry, of course. It’s a sedative but it sedates the brain’s control first, which can remove inhibitions and, in limited doses, reduce anxiety.

“People can get addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, cocaine — whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioural addiction became our trademark.”

This idea spawned another: “Why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry — because it seems obvious to me that people want to change their consciousness — without the deleterious effects of drugs?”

BTW, this is a somewhat controversial view but it has always made sense to me for those with mild addictions or depression. Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve found that when healthier alternatives are available to me (spending time with family & friends, exercise, exploring, reading a good book), I spend a lot less time mindlessly doing things that give me the same sort of brain buzz but which I don’t consider positive or worthwhile (drinking alcohol, watching TV, eating poorly, and especially reloading Instagram over and over again like a lab rat slapping that lever to get more cocaine).

But back to Iceland. By giving teens access to more healthy activities, getting parents more involved in their children’s lives, implementing curfews, and administering annual surveys, the country has made great strides over the past two decades:

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

Young did a follow-up last year about the expansion of the program into other areas of the world.

Iconic Art & Design Reimagined for the Social Distancing Era

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

While it predates the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying social distancing by several years, José Manuel Ballester’s Concealed Spaces project reimagines iconic works of art without the people in them (like what’s happening to our public spaces right now). No one showed up for Leonardo’s Last Supper:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights is perhaps just as delightful without people:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

And Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus has been rescheduled:

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Ben Greenman, Andy Baio, and Paco Conde & Roberto Fernandez have some suggestions for new album covers:

Corona Art Design Reimagined
Corona Art Design Reimagined
Corona Art Design Reimagined

Designer Jure Tovrljan redesigned some company logos for these coronavirus times.

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Corona Art Design Reimagined

Coca-Cola even modified their own logo on a Times Square billboard to put some distance between the letters.

Corona Art Design Reimagined

(via colossal & fast company)

Update: Some emoji designed specifically for COVID-19. The Earth with the pause button is my favorite. (via sidebar)

Let’s Go for a Stroll Outside

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Pavis (who has guest edited here in the past) shared some of her favorite YouTubers that post videos of themselves walking around as a way to ease our lack of mobility during the pandemic quarantine. (Remember walking around outside among other people? Ahh, those were the days…)

Most of these are of city walks, the kind of walking I miss most acutely.1 Some of the videos are narrated, but most contain just ambient city noise. You can find lots more walks, including those in more natural settings, by searching YouTube for “4K walks”, “binaural walks”, or similar terms.

See also Virtual Travel Photography in the Age of Pandemic.

  1. Here in Vermont, I feel very lucky that we have access to plentiful uncrowded outdoor spaces to exercise in. And our statewide shelter-in-place order allows people to leave the house for exercise (which is essential for many people’s physical and mental health).

Time Lapse of a Sunflower Growing from Seed to Flower

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2020

Starting from a seed, a sunflower plant grows, flowers…and then wilts. I’ve always thought these kinds of videos were wonderful, but given recent events, they are hitting with an extra poignance. Or maybe hope in a strange sort of way? I don’t know what one is supposed to be feeling about anything these days.

In this other sunflower time lapse, you can more clearly see the little seed helmets worn by the tiny plants soon after sprouting. Cute!

The Drawings Secretly Inserted into Official Swiss Topographical Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

For decades, mapmakers working for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography have defied their mandates to create the most accurate maps possible by covertly inserting drawings in official maps.

But on certain maps, in Switzerland’s more remote regions, there is also, curiously, a spider, a man’s face, a naked woman, a hiker, a fish, and a marmot. These barely-perceptible apparitions aren’t mistakes, but rather illustrations hidden by the official cartographers at Swisstopo in defiance of their mandate “to reconstitute reality.” Maps published by Swisstopo undergo a rigorous proofreading process, so to find an illicit drawing means that the cartographer has outsmarted his colleagues.

It also implies that the mapmaker has openly violated his commitment to accuracy, risking professional repercussions on account of an alpine rodent. No cartographer has been fired over these drawings, but then again, most were only discovered once their author had already left. (Many mapmakers timed the publication of their drawing to coincide with their retirement.)

Some of these blend remarkably well within the usual details of the maps — I never would have noticed the reclining nude in the second image above if it weren’t highlighted.

See also trap streets, errors deliberately introduced by mapmakers to catch others copying their work. (via @jschulenklopper)

The Pandemic Has Driven Twitter to New Lows in Happiness

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 07, 2020

Since 2008, the Hedonometer has been tracking the language we use on Twitter to assign a daily score that measures how collectively happy we are (English tweets only). From the data, you can see that happiness spikes on holidays & after notable news events (same-sex marriage legalization) and unhappiness follows mass shootings, terrorist events, and Trump’s election. But the Covid-19 pandemic has brought Twitter’s collective happiness rating to an overall new low and its first sustained period of unhappiness.

Twitter Happy Pandemic

The day they identify as the unhappiest is March 12, 2020, which is the day after Americans finally took Covid-19 seriously. Within the space of a few hours on March 11, the NBA announced it was suspending its season, Tom Hanks revealed that he and his wife Rita Wilson had Covid-19, the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Donald Trump went on primetime TV to address the nation, and the DJIA closed down 1400 points (it would drop another 2350 points on Mar 12).

See also the previous low point after the Las Vegas shootings and my initial post on the Hedonometer from July 2016. In that initial post, I shared a hunch that Twitter’s happiness seemed to have reached a peak in early 2016. With four years of additional data, it’s obvious that the happiness peaked in late 2015 or early 2016 (at least according to their methodology).

Twitter Happy Overall

Why Do New Diseases Like COVID-19 Appear First in China?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2020

This video from Vox is a few days old but is still a good look at why diseases like SARS and COVID-19 originate in China. It involved the designation of wild animals as “natural resources” by the Chinese government, which caused a large increase in wildlife farming, with many more and different kinds of animals being put into contact with humans and each other on a regular basis. Add illegally trafficked animals into the mix, and you’ve got the right conditions for diseases to jump from the animals to humans. Then potentially infected animals and their meat, accompanied by potentially infected humans who raised those animals and butchered that meat, are then brought to the wet markets for sale to the public.

It’s important to note, as Christopher St. Cavish says in the LA Times, “most wet markets are not wildlife markets, and confusing the two is dangerous”:

“Wet” markets are what China calls its fresh food markets, the kind you see all over the developing world and in many parts of Europe, where small stalls sell fresh vegetables and butchers sell meat, primarily pork. They are the daily market for tens of millions of Chinese who prefer to talk to the people who sell them produce, meat, seafood and tofu, and in small cities, are often the only outlet for small-scale farmers who can’t meet the supplier requirements for supermarkets.

I couldn’t find any up-to-date information on which animal is suspected of passing the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 along to humans, but bats are a prime suspect with a possible pangolin intermediary. (via open culture)

Fox News Moves Closer to the Truth as COVID-19 Crisis Deepens

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2020

The Washington Post made this short video that shows how Fox News personalities were talking about the COVID-19 pandemic a week or two ago — it’s a Democrat hoax!! — compared to their more recent coverage that aligns closer with the truth.

For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the news media of whipping up “mass hysteria” and being “panic pushers.” Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance “yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

It has never been more plain that Fox News is not journalism but conservative propaganda. They, along with Trump, some conservative members of Congress, and conservative talk radio, were just straight up lying, misleading the public, and peddling conspiracy theories until it became overwhelmingly clear that this is a serious situation, as experts had been saying for weeks. The video shows completely contradictory statements made by the same people days apart; as Andrew Kaczynski says, “what a damning indictment”. I’ll go further than that: Fox News endangered the lives of Americans with their false and misleading coverage. People will suffer and die unnecessarily because of it.

I’d urge you to show this to your red state relatives and ask them to defend Fox News as journalism, but I don’t think it will actually do any good. The whole point of propaganda is to deprive people of, as Hannah Arendt puts it, the “capacity to think and to judge”.

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie-a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days-but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

The Dance by FriendsWithYou

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2020

FriendsWithYou Dance

The latest exhibition by art duo FriendsWithYou is currently on view at Dallas Contemporary and includes a piece called The Dance that features two fuzzy orb-ish heads that slowly bobble around the room.

An interactive and communal experience, the exhibition actively incorporates audiences: two moving orbs serve as ambassadors as they meander along in a spiritual, cleansing, and comforting ritual set to a custom soundtrack in celebration of the beauty and power of togetherness.

You can see The Dance in motion on FriendsWithYou’s Instagram here and here. Natalie Gempel wrote about what it was like to pilot one of the orbs.

Submerged in my pink bubble, I spin, wobble, and drift aimlessly. Between the darkness and the humming of the air compressor, it’s almost like being in a sensory deprivation tank. I’m brought out of my haze when Carolina Alvares-Mathies, the Contemporary’s new Deputy Director, comes to check on me. It’s been cool, but I’m ready to exit.

The zipper opens and I stumble out. I don’t remember being born, but I assume it’s a similarly jarring feeling. Everything is too bright and I’m a little queasy. Still, I reentered the real world with the information I needed: It was weird in there, but I did have fun.

(thx, jenni)