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kottke.org posts about video

Dave Chappelle. 8:46.

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2020

Comedian Dave Chappelle has released the video of a set he did recently near Dayton, Ohio. In it, he addresses the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests. From Slate:

Chappelle opens with a thank-you to young protesters — “You all are excellent drivers. I am comfortable in the back seat” — and keeps circling back to his ambivalence about taking a piece of their spotlight, even as he’s heard the calls for people with platforms the size of his to speak out. “This is the streets talking now,” he says. “They don’t need me right now.” But he also keeps coming back to the number that gives the special its title, the eight minutes and 46 seconds during which Derek Chauvin watched George Floyd’s life ebb away while three other police officers stood by “with their hands in their pockets.” “Who are you talking to?” he asks them. “What are you signifying — that you can kneel on a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and feel like you wouldn’t get the wrath of God? That’s what is happening right now. It’s not for a single cop. It’s for all of it. Fucking all of it.”

This very much is worth watching. Even though this isn’t a comedy set, Chappelle demonstrates that he and comedians like him are often the most keen observers and skilled translators of culture that we have.

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas HBO Series Is Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2020

Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas was an HBO documentary series created and hosted by writer and comedian Wyatt Cenac. The entire run of the show is available for free on YouTube (and on the HBO website) for the next month, but of particular interest is the first season, which was dedicated to the problem of policing in America. The first episode of season one, embedded above, explores police training (specifically “warrior training”) and how it contributed to the death of Philando Castile in Minneapolis. The season’s other episodes cover community policing, police abolition, use of force, and abuse of power.

Cenac says of the show:

The show’s not perfect. You can see when my eyes are reading a teleprompter because HBO’s legal team needed me to say something very specifically so they didn’t get sued. But the show wasn’t about being perfect or even about being right. It was about trying to have a dialogue.

When the smoke clears, we’re still going to need to find a way forward. And we’re going to have to find a way to do it together because this country is a dingy apartment and we’re all just a bunch of Craigslist roommates that have to find a way not to eat each other’s cheese.

See also Ava DuVernay’s Selma and 13th Available to Watch Online for Free.

Meet the Real Rosa Parks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2020

From motion graphics studio Eido, director Joash Berkeley, and educator Riché Richardson, an animated short film about civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Many people only know of Parks through sanitized stories in school textbooks, documentaries, and the top results on Google: that she was a tired old seamstress who quietly (and almost accidentally) ignited the Montgomery bus boycott by not wanting to move from her seat. But Parks was a political radical who had a long history of fighting for civil rights. Here is Parks’ great niece Urana McCauley on how involved and passionate she was:

One of the things that people don’t understand about my aunt is that she was an activist her whole life and she started questioning things at a young age. I think part of it was her upbringing with her grandfather, Sylvester Edwards. He would sit up at night with a shotgun — in case the KKK might come by and try to kill them — and talk to her about black resistance and the key figures in it: Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey. That laid the foundation for my aunt to feel like, “This isn’t right. I should be doing something and becoming an activist.” Her whole life became dedicated to change.

In 2013, political science professor Jeanne Theoharis published a biography called The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks about Parks’ decades of activism.

Presenting a powerful corrective to the popular iconography of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who with a single act birthed the modern civil rights movement, scholar Jeanne Theoharis excavates Parks’s political philosophy and six decades of activism. Theoharis masterfully details the political depth of a national heroine who dedicated her life to fighting American inequality and, in the process, resurrects a civil rights movement radical who has been hidden in plain sight far too long.

Theoharis wrote an article a couple of years later after the Library of Congress opened their Rosa Parks Collection to the public.

Her “life history of being rebellious,” as she put it, comes through decisively in the recently opened Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress. It features previously unseen personal writings, letters, speech notes, financial and medical records, political documents, and decades of photographs.

There, we see a lifelong activist who had been challenging white supremacy for decades before she became the famous catalyst for the Montgomery bus boycott. We see a woman who, from her youth, didn’t hesitate to indict the system of oppression around her. As she once wrote, “I talked and talked of everything I know about the white man’s inhuman treatment of the negro.”

Parks was a seasoned freedom fighter who had grown up in a family that supported Marcus Garvey and who married an activist for the Scottsboro boys. She joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943, becoming branch secretary. She spent the next decade pushing for voter registration, seeking justice for black victims of white brutality and sexual violence, supporting wrongfully accused black men, and pressing for desegregation of schools and public spaces. Committed to both the power of organized nonviolent direct action and the moral right of self defense, she called Malcolm X her personal hero.

(video via print)

A Short History of Housing Segregation in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2020

In this video for NPR, Gene Demby summarizes the history of housing segregation in America and how it’s a factor for current differences in health (poorer), wealth (much less), education (underfunded), and policing (much more aggressive) for Black communities in US cities.

If you look at the way housing segregation works in America, you can see how things ended up this way. Once you see it, you won’t be able to unsee it.

When you’re talking about housing policy in America, Kimberly Jones’ Monopoly analogy starts to sound a lot less metaphorical and more literal: if Black people cannot buy houses or can only buy houses on certain streets, they will not be able to build wealth like others can.

For more on housing segregation, check out historian Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. From a 2017 interview with Rothstein:

The federal government pursued two important policies in the mid-20th century that segregated metropolitan areas. One was the first civilian public housing program which frequently demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing.

The second program that the federal government pursued was to subsidize the development of suburbs on a condition that they be only sold to white families and that the homes in those suburbs had deeds that prohibited resale to African-Americans. These two policies worked together to segregate metropolitan areas in ways that they otherwise would never have been segregated.

Rothstein talked about the book with Ta-Nehisi Coates during a conversation at Politics and Prose Bookstore.

Update: This is excellent: you can explore the maps created by the federal government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation at Mapping Inequality by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab.

These grades were a tool for redlining: making it difficult or impossible for people in certain areas to access mortgage financing and thus become homeowners. Redlining directed both public and private capital to native-born white families and away from African American and immigrant families. As homeownership was arguably the most significant means of intergenerational wealth building in the United States in the twentieth century, these redlining practices from eight decades ago had long-term effects in creating wealth inequalities that we still see today.

(via @masonadams)

Ava DuVernay’s Selma and 13th Available to Watch Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

Last month, Netflix posted a number of their educational programs on YouTube for free, including Ava DuVernay’s powerful documentary 13th on race, justice, and mass incarceration in America. Here’s the full-length film (discussion guide):

On Friday, Paramount Pictures started offering DuVernay’s Selma for free rental on a variety of platforms (Apple, Amazon, etc.). Selma is an historical drama about Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. If you haven’t seen it, it’s excellent — here’s a trailer:

As DuVernay said of the film on Twitter:

We’ve gotta understand where we’ve been to strategize where we’re going. History helps us create the blueprint.

In addition, legal drama Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan and Jaime Foxx is available online for free until the end of the month and The Criterion Channel is making movies that “focus on Black lives” available to non-subscribers. (via open culture)

“The Game Is Fixed” Against Black People in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

Do me a favor and take about 7 minutes to watch author Kimberly Jones’ off-the-cuff “rant” (her words) about how rioting and looting fit within the larger narrative of the economic oppression of Black people in America. I’ve never heard the long, shameful, and deadly history of white supremacy in America summed up any better or more succinctly than Jones does here. The Monopoly analogy in particular is fantastic.

When they say “Why do you burn down the community? Why do you burn down your own neighborhood?” It’s not ours! We don’t own anything! We don’t own anything! Trevor Noah said it so beautifully last night: There’s a social contract that we all have — that if you steal or if I steal, then the person who is the authority comes in and they fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us! So the social contract is broken. And if the social contract is broken, why the fuck do I give a shit about burning the fucking Football Hall of Fame, about burning the fucking Target? You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets and didn’t give a fuck! You broke the contract when for 400 years we played your game and built your wealth!

Update: Jones has signed a deal with Henry Holt and Company to write two books, one of which will be called “How We Can Win” and will be based on the video above.

John Oliver on Policing in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

For the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated his entire show to policing in America. It is worth watching as a summary of how we got here, what the obstacles to reform have been, and where we can go from here.

We’re actually not going to focus on Trump tonight nor are we — unlike some in cable news — going to dwell on the incidents of looting that occurred, except to say if you said the name “Macy’s” more than you’ve said the name “Breonna Taylor” this week you can very much fuck off.

Likewise if you asking why spontaneous decentralized protests can’t control every one of its participants more than you are asking the same about a taxpayer-funded heavily regimented paid workforce, you can also — in the words of this generation’s Robert Frost — suck my dick and choke on it.

A Powerful Lesson in Discrimination

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2020

Calling it one of their most requested videos, PBS’s Frontline has uploaded to YouTube their 1985 program on schoolteacher Jane Elliott’s powerful lesson in discrimination. The video shows how, in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Elliott divided her third-grade class into those with blue eyes and those with non-blue eyes and then instructed the non-blue-eyed group to treat the blue-eyed group as inferior. The resulting behavior is fascinating, upsetting, and illuminating.

Elliott went on to become a noted antiracism activist and has done blue eyes/brown eyes workshops with groups of adults and teens. And she goes hard at them — see this video and this video for instance.

I’m trying to get the people who participate in this exercise the opportunity to find out how it feels like to be something other than white in this society. ‘Alright people, I’m Jane Elliott and I’m your resident bitch for the day and make no mistake about that, that is exactly what this is about.’ I do this in a mean, nasty way because racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, ethnocentrism are mean and nasty.

I would also highly recommend watching this brief clip of a talk by Elliott. In less than a minute, she deftly skewers the idea that racial discrimination doesn’t exist in America and calls out White Americans’ complicity in allowing it to persist.

I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens — if you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.

[Nobody stands.]

You didn’t understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society, stand. Nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.

Freedom for some is not freedom.

Update: Alisha Haridasani Gupta recently interviewed Elliott for the NY Times. In it, she reveals that she doesn’t do her workshops anymore because people are increasingly close-minded.

I’ve been doing the exercise with adults for about 35 years. But in the last few years, I’ve only been doing speeches about it because we now live in a situation where people turn off immediately if they think they’re going to learn something counter to their beliefs, and I don’t want to be threatened with death anymore. I’m tired of receiving death threats.

Run the Jewels’ Killer Mike Delivers an Emotional Plea

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2020

If you haven’t had a chance to watch this, it’s really worth your time. Rapper and activist Michael Render, aka Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, spoke at a press conference in Atlanta about the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the history of policing in the city, and his outrage, delivering a plea for the city’s residents to not “burn your own house down for anger with an enemy”.

I’m. Mad. As Hell. I woke up wanting to see the world burn down yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die. He casually put his knee on a human being’s neck for nine minutes as he died, like a zebra in the clutch of a lion’s jaw. And we watch like murder porn, over and over again.

So that’s why children are burning it to the ground. They don’t know what else to do. And it is the responsibility of us to make this better — right now. We don’t want to see one officer charged, we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see Targets burning, we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.

Update: Although Killer Mike’s remarks have been widely praised (including by prominent members of the Black community like Lebron James), others in the Black community have condemned them. See Devyn Springer’s article in the Independent:

This weekend, as I watched T.I. share a stage with fellow rapper and landlord, Killer Mike, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, in an attempt to disparage the righteous Black rage in response to the police killing of George Floyd, I instantly knew we’ve entered a new era of Black sellouts that we must reckon with.

It’s interesting that the underlying message of Barack Obama’s recent post How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change is not substantially different than Killer Mike’s comments. That post was also widely shared and praised (though, conspicuously, not by many prominent Black activists), especially by White people. One of the reasons I shared the video of Killer Mike is that there is disagreement — real, non-cynical disagreement — within the Black community about how to best address and protest racism & oppression in the United States, and you can plainly hear that his feelings and motivations are complicated.

Tonight’s Classic Radiohead Concert Is From 1994

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2020

Since early April, Radiohead has been putting video of one classic concert a week up on YouTube (playlist here). Tonight’s show, which starts streaming at 5pm ET, is from a really interesting point in the band’s evolution. In May 1994, Radiohead had released only one album (Pablo Honey) and no one knew whether they were going to be anything more than a one-hit wonder. At the time, the group was in the midst of recording The Bends and the setlist contains several songs from that album, including Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, My Iron Lungs, and Just.

The release of The Bends and the reception to it established Radiohead as a group to be taken seriously and set the stage for OK Computer launching them into the critical stratosphere. As Jonny Greenwood later recounted: “That’s when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band”. Really excited to watch this one.

NASA & SpaceX Scheduled to Launch Astronauts Into Orbit From US Soil for First Time in 9 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2020

NASA and SpaceX are scheduled to launch two astronauts into orbit this afternoon from the United States for the first time in nine years. The launch is scheduled to take place at 4:33 p.m. EDT. We’ll be watching for sure!

SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, May 27 for Falcon 9’s launch of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft will return human spaceflight to the United States.

The mission is also the first time a private company will carry humans into orbit. You can watch the launch in the stream above with commentary (the coverage has already started — the astronauts just suited up and are on their way to launchpad 39A and now Kelly Clarkson is singing the National Anthem from her house) or with just the audio feed from Mission Control. And you can read more about the mission here.

Update: The launch got scrubbed for today — poor weather conditions. The next launch window is Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm ET.

Full-Day Rotation of the Earth Around a Stationary Sky

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2020

Last year I posted a pair of videos showing a sky-stabilized rotation of the Earth around the starry sky. Because the Earth is our vantage point, we’re not used to seeing this view and it’s pretty trippy.

Now Bartosz Wojczyński has created a video showing full-day rotation of the Earth with footage shot in Namibia. The rotation is sped up to take only 24 seconds and is repeated 60 times to simulate about 2 months of rotation. I find this very relaxing to watch, like I’m riding in a very slow clothes dryer.

See also The Entire Plane of the Milky Way Captured in a Single Photo.

Errol Morris’s Next Documentary Is About Psychedelic Guru Timothy Leary

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

The next documentary film from Errol Morris is about LSD advocate Timothy Leary and will debut on Showtime later in the year. The film is still untitled but is based on a memoir by Joanna Harcourt-Smith called Tripping the Bardo with Timothy Leary: My Psychedelic Love Story.

A FILM BY ERROL MORRIS (w/t) asks the question why Leary, the High Priest of LSD, became a narc in 1974 and seemingly abandoned the millions he urged to turn on, tune in and drop out. Was his “perfect love” Joanna Harcourt-Smith a government pawn, as suggested by Allen Ginsberg? Or was she simply a rich, beautiful, young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime? Morris and Harcourt-Smith will reexamine this chaotic period of her life and explore the mystery of the Leary saga: his period of exile, reimprisonment and subsequent cooperation with the authorities. Devotion or selfishness? Perfect love or outright betrayal? Destiny or manipulation?

This is Morris’s second foray into the topic of LSD — his 2017 Netflix series Wormwood explored the use of the drug by the CIA.

“New” Philip Glass Music, Rediscovered After 50 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts

In 1970, right in the middle of his minimalist period, Philip Glass composed a work called Music in Eight Parts. It was performed a few times and then lost to the sands of time.

It’s theorized that after Glass’s 1975 opera Einstein on the Beach landed the composer in a fair amount of debt, Glass was forced to sell a number of scores. In Glass’s archive, only fragmentary sketches of MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS remained as evidence of the piece’s existence. Glass “never intended this early music to last” and yet these pieces have ended up being some of his most appreciated. MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS is immediately recognizable as being of Glass’s minimalist musical language in full stride and it is played with absolute mastery by the specialists of this repertoire.

The manuscript was rediscovered in 2017 and plans were made to perform the work in a series of European concerts. The pandemic intervened, so several members of the Philip Glass Ensemble each recorded their parts at home and they’ve released a recording online (Spotify, Apple Music).

You can see some of the individual recordings in the middle part of this video:

The cover art is by Sol LeWitt, who used to send Glass random $1000 checks. See also a writeup of the music in the NY Times, listen to a snippet of an archival performance of the piece from the 70s, and the manuscript itself, which sold at auction in 2017 for $43,750.

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts score

Knight Rider for 8 Cellos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

This is a video of the Knight Rider theme song arranged for 8 cellos by Samara Ginsberg. You’re either the type of person who can’t wait to click on a link that says “Knight Rider for 8 cellos” or you are not. When I was in college, a friend who DJ’d campus parties used to throw the Knight Rider theme on and people always went nuts for it. Because it BANGS.

Bill Gates’ Pandemic Summer Reading List

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2020

As he does every year, Bill Gates has shared his reading list for this summer. This time around, he’s included more than his usual five picks and many of the recommendations have a connection to the ongoing pandemic.

Of The Choice by Edith Eva Eger, he says:

This book is partly a memoir and partly a guide to processing trauma. Eger was only sixteen years old when she and her family got sent to Auschwitz. After surviving unbelievable horrors, she moved to the United States and became a therapist. Her unique background gives her amazing insight, and I think many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations.

He also recommends The Great Influenza by John Barry, Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe.

For years, I was a skeptic about meditation. Now I do it as often as I can — three times a week, if time allows. Andy’s book and the app he created, Headspace, are what made me a convert. Andy, a former Buddhist monk, offers lots of helpful metaphors to explain potentially tricky concepts in meditation. At a time when we all could use a few minutes to de-stress and re-focus each day, this is a great place to start.

Gates also recommended some TV shows and movies — Netflix’s Pandemic but also Ozark. He read Cloud Atlas recently — I wonder if he’s seen the movie by the Wachowskis (which is underrated IMO)?

Carly Rae Jepsen Uses My Silkscreen Font in a Promo Video

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2020

This morning, Carly Rae Jepsen released a new album called Dedicated Side B (stream here). Amidst rumors of fresh music, the pop star had been teasing fans with its release all week, including this video of a simulated chat posted to Twitter and Instagram yesterday.

Long-time readers will recognize that the chat text is displayed with typeface called Silkscreen, which I designed back in 1999, an era of small monitors and even smaller fonts.

Carly Rae Jepsen, Silkscreen Font

Back in the day, Britney Spears used Silkscreen on her website, and now it’s come (sorta) full circle with Jepsen. Silkscreen pops up here and there every few months, and I’m glad to see people are still getting some use out of it. It was retro when I made it and now its retro-ness is retro. Culture is fun! (thx to @desdakon for spotting this)

Dad, How Do I…?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2020

When he was a kid, Rob Kenney had a rough family life and grew up without stable parents around to teach him how to do common household chores. He and his wife successfully raised two children and Kenney decided to use his parenting experience to help those who may be lacking parental guidance. He’s started a YouTube channel called “Dad, how do I?” that offers “practical ‘dadvice’ for every day tasks” like how to fix a running toilet, how to check the oil in your car, and how to shave your face.

My god, the dad joke he tells at the beginning of the running toilet video is just *chef’s kiss* perfect.

Nature By Numbers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 20, 2020

This lovely short film by Cristóbal Vila shows how the simple Fibonacci sequence manifests itself in natural forms like sunflowers, nautilus shells, and dragonfly wings.

See also Arthur Benjamin’s TED Talk on the Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio and the Fibonacci Shelf. (via @stevenstrogatz)

Beastie Boys Videos Remastered in HD

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2020

In celebration of the documentary Beastie Boys Story coming out, the Beastie Boys and their record label have remastered dozens of the group’s music videos in HD and uploaded them to YouTube. The videos include heavy-hitters like Sabotage and (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) but also some more obscure stuff as well. Check out the entire remastered playlist here.

Solving the “The Miracle Sudoku”

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Every once in a while during my internet travels, I run across something like this video: something impossibly mundane and niche (a ~26-minute video of someone solving a sudoku puzzle) that turns out to be ludicrously entertaining. I cannot improve upon Ben Orlin’s description:

You’re about to spend the next 25 minutes watching a guy solve a Sudoku. Not only that, but it’s going to be the highlight of your day.

The solver himself calls it “a work of sublime genius” and “one of the most extraordinary puzzles we’ve ever seen”. It’s fascinating listening to him slowly uncover different aspects of the puzzle — watching him methodically figure out the 3s was genuinely thrilling. And the symmetry thing at the end…

If you fancy yourself a sudoku master, you can try solving the puzzle yourself here (keeping in mind the special chess-related rules laid out in the video). (via @robinsloan)

A Very Short Guide to Union Glacier Camp in Antarctica

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

In this charming little film (that feels very Wes Andersonian), we get to visit the Union Glacier Camp in West Antarctica, see what life is like there, and meet the people who run it. The camp is situated next to a blue-ice runway (which makes the area accessible to large aircraft) and serves as the jumping-off point for many kinds of activities, projects, and expeditions.

Union Glacier Camp is the only facility of its kind in Antarctica. Our full-service private camp operates during the Antarctic summer (November through January) and is dismantled at the end of each season. Our camp not only provides accommodations to guests on guided experiences but also serves as a logistics hub, supporting private expeditions and National Antarctic Programs.

I love the grid of tents for guests.

We can house up to 70 guests in our dual occupancy Clam Tents. These double-walled sleeping tents are designed to withstand Antarctic conditions with a high-tech nylon covering and durable aluminum frame that opens up like a clam shell. They are also incredibly comfortable to live in with large doors and a tall interior that allows you to stand upright and move around easily (16 ft x 8 ft or 5 m x 2.4 m). Tents are naturally heated by the 24-hour sunlight up to 60^0-70^0F (15^0-21^0C) but also have a wooden floor underneath to provide insulation from the snow and solid footing. Each guest is provided with a cot, mattress, pillow, linens, towels, and wash basin.

Tourist trips to Union Glacier start at $26,000 for six days.

Da 5 Bloods, a New Spike Lee Joint

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Spike Lee’s newest film, Da 5 Bloods, is coming to Netflix on June 12 and the trailer, driven by the Chambers Brothers’ psychedelic rock anthem Time Has Come Today, is really compelling.

From Academy Award(R) Winner Spike Lee comes a New Joint: the story of four African-American Vets — Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) — who return to Vietnam. Searching for the remains of their fallen Squad Leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the promise of buried treasure, our heroes, joined by Paul’s concerned son (Jonathan Majors), battle forces of Man and Nature — while confronted by the lasting ravages of The Immorality of The Vietnam War.

Having recently been to Vietnam and done a bit of reading about US veterans retiring there, I’m interested to see how Lee handles that dynamic and portrays the country.

Meander Maps for Imaginary Rivers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

I have written previously about cartographer Harold Fisk’s wonderful meander maps of the Mississippi River produced for the Army Corps of Engineers. Borrowing the aesthetic of these maps, interactive artist & engineer Robert Hodgin wrote some software called Meander to generate meander maps for fictional rivers.

From an input curve, the terrain, land plots, side roads, highways, marsh land and mountain peaks are generated and prominent features are named. The map is then weathered and rendered in the style of old US Army Corp of Engineers maps from the 1930s and 40s.

You can check some of the generated maps out on Twitter or on Instagram, including some prototypes and animations (this one is my favorite). Hodgin has promised a full write-up of the project; I’ll link to it when he publishes it.

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post I got an email from a reader about an audiovisual installation called Meandering River that displayed “real-time visuals generated by an algorithm and music composed by an A.I.”

Synchronicity!

Update: Hodgin wrote about the Meander project on his website and included several more gorgeous examples of his output.

Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothing Streaming Online for Free

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2020

One of many cancellations due to the pandemic is the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park performances. But for the next three weeks, PBS is streaming their Great Performances recording of last year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing for free on their site (embedded above, reviews here).

This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features Danielle Brooks (“Orange is the New Black,” Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) and Grantham Coleman (“Buzzer,” “The Americans”) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (“American Son,” “A Raisin in the Sun”) directs with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (“Choir Boy”).

To whet your appetite, you can check out some of the highlights of the performance in this short video.

P.S. You can also watch this 2009 production of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart in the lead role. (via laura olin)

Questlove is DJing Up a Storm During Quarantine

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2020

Most nights since mid-March, The Roots’ Questlove has been doing lengthy DJ sets for fans, kind of like a series of distributed house parties. The shows range in length from 2.5 hours to more than 6 hours — most are in the 3-4 hour range. The past shows have been collected in this playlist. The most recent show, from Tuesday, celebrated the 70th birthday of Stevie Wonder:

He did a 3-hour set made up of audience requests:

And of course there were sets focused on particular artists and bands — the Beastie Boys, James Brown, and Prince:

From a Fast Company piece about how The Roots have adapted their approach to entertainment during the pandemic:

“My whole narrative is that I’m this musical griot or this musical expert with 170,000 pieces of vinyl that you can Google, but now that I’m thrown in the pool, I realized, yeah, I have 170,000 records, but at the end of the day, I know maybe 400.”

Questlove has digital access to about 30% of that massive collection and decided to get to know more of his songs in front of a live audience. It’s different when that audience is the internet, but Questlove gets it now. He can reach more people. He’s having fun with his selections, and his diverse and meticulous approach to music shows up in his nightly playlists.

“I challenged myself to do a dancehall set that didn’t require me to play ‘Murder She Wrote.’ I’m gonna try and do the salsa set that doesn’t require me to play like ‘Suavemente,’ all the Captain Obvious stuff,” he explains. “So, I mean just as a music lover and a musician, it’s challenging me to find exciting ways to present music.”

Chair Times: A History of Seating

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2020

Vitra Chair Times

For a limited time, you can view the feature length documentary Chair Times: A History of Seating online for free courtesy of Vitra, a Swiss design company. Here’s a trailer:

In the focus are 125 objects from the Collection of the Vitra Design Museum. Arranged according to their year of production, they illustrate development from 1807 to the very latest designs straight off the 3D printer, forming a timeline to modern seating design.

Accompanying the film is a book of the same name. (via moss & fog)

Prince and the Revolution Live Show from 1985 Will Be Shown on YouTube for a Limited Time

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2020

As part of a benefit for Covid-19 relief, The Prince Estate will be broadcasting a classic concert by Prince & the Revolution from 1985’s Purple Rain tour on YouTube. The stream (embedded above) will begin on Thursday, May 14 at 8pm ET and will only be available through Sunday, May 17.

The concert was recorded in Syracuse, NY on March 30, 1985 and is considered a classic, a show that found Prince at the crest of his pop culture stardom. Laurie Gwen Shapiro recounted going to the show in college — a friend of hers camped out in the ticket line to get front row seats.

In the past decade it has been very difficult to find this legendary concert film in the United States that was later released in the 1991 as “Prince and the Revolution Live!” on VHS only. If you watch the film — and I swear this is true — I am the person the cameras flashes on first in a venue that holds 40,000 plus, and I am making a rather ridiculous orgiastic face for the ages. To understand how I was the beneficiary of such dumb luck, and the greatness of Prince’s performance, let’s go back to 1985 when the internet was yet to come.

The setlist includes many of his most popular songs — Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, 1999, Little Red Corvette — and the show ended with a 20-minute rendition of Purple Rain (10 minutes of which is a Prince guitar solo).

By the time they finished a towering 20 minute rendition of “Purple Rain,” featuring what is probably the best single guitar solo I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh, most of the crowd would have let Prince do anything with them that he wished. What Prince did to us, and for us, was the best gift of all.

The show is also available on DVD as part of this remastered edition of Purple Rain. The remastered audio from the concert will also be released to streaming services on Friday.

Update: The live album is now available on streaming music platforms: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Pandora.

The Purple Rain closer clocks in at 19 minutes 26 seconds.

Update: Prince superfan Anil Dash wrote up some notes about this show.

Finally, we come to Prince’s scorching final guitar coda to “Let’s Go Crazy” where he brings out his entire palette of Guitar Face expressions, from playful smirk to full Mustachioed Telecaster Orgasm.

Flat Earthers Listening to Daft Punk

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

This made me laugh really hard today:

Gotta be frustrating. ♪ Around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world, around the world… ♪ (thx, naomi)

The Simpsons Parody of Succession

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

In the “couch gag” preceding The Simpsons episode that aired on May 3, 2020, they did a pitch-perfect parody of the opening title sequence of Succession, complete with the iconic theme song. (via @omcfarlane)