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2019-03-19T18:07:31Z
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Vibrant Oil Paintings of Clouds

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher Clouds

Ian Fisher’s paintings of clouds are surprisingly lifelike. If you scroll through the paintings on his site, you can see his representation of them improve…his most recent ones are difficult to distinguish from photographs of actual clouds.

Tags: art   clouds   Ian Fisher

2019-03-19T18:07:31Z


The Legend of Nixon, a Data-Driven NES Soundscape

Brian Chirls took the approval ratings for Richard Nixon’s presidency and using sounds from The Legend of Zelda’s classic Dungeon Theme, he made a data-driven soundscape of the public perception of Nixon’s tenure in the White House. Here’s what his approval rating looked like:

Richard Nixon Approval

And here’s the resulting audio track:

The sound effects mostly represent actions the protagonist Link takes like the “sword slash”, things that happen to him like a grunt when he gets hurt, or the status of the game like the low health alarm that beeps when Link has only half a “heart container” left and can only take one or two more hits before he dies and the game is over. The goal of this project is to create a piece of audio that sounds like a typical playthrough of the game and also accurately tells the story of Nixon’s fall as represented by the data.

What a cool example of using the familiar to explain or illustrate the unfamiliar. If you’ve ever played Zelda, you can clearly hear Nixon doing more and more poorly as the track goes on — he’s taking damage, the dungeon boss sound chimes in right around when Watergate is ramping up, and he’s gaining fewer hearts. It’s like he’s a novice player armed only with the wooden sword trying to defeat the level 3 dungeon without a potion…the end comes pretty quickly.

Tags: audio   Brian Chirls   music   politics   remix   Richard Nixon   The Legend of Zelda   video games

2019-03-19T15:53:09Z


A Huge Collection of Apollo 11 Press Kits

When Apollo 11 landed two men on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth, thousands of people at NASA were joined in the effort by dozens of companies that did everything from building the spacecraft to providing the cameras for the mission. Each of those companies was understandably proud of their involvement and wanted to use the mission to drum up interest in their products and services. Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott has been collecting the press kits produced by the Apollo contractors and has made them available online for free download in PDF format.

What a trove! Here are a few of my favorites. First is the kit from Fisher, who provided the pens that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins wrote with during the voyage.

Apollo Press Kits

The final requirement was to see if the pen could still write after all that torture. NASA required that each pen write 1,653 feet of continuous traces, or for about 4 1/2 hours. The three pens were placed in an automatic writing machine and far out passed the qualifications. The first pen wrote for 54 hours and 50 minutes and 15,346 feet. The second finished after 18,303 feet. The third, writing on a new, highly absorbent paper, still wrote for 7,484 feet.

Fisher still sells a version of the original Apollo 11 space pen.

After the astronauts came back from the Moon, they were quarantined for 21 days to ensure that the crew had not returned with any harmful Moon germs. Stouffer’s, the frozen foods company, was contracted by NASA to provide some of the astronauts’ meals in quarantine.

Apollo Press Kits

A typical astronaut dinner will consist of short ribs of beef, potatoes au gratin and tossed green salad. Stouffer’s has been selected to provide from its retail line a major portion of the entrees and side dishes for the astronauts. Ease of preparation, purity, quality and variety as well as taste and appearance were the main reasons for NASA’s selection of Stouffer’s foods.

Hasselblad provided the cameras for the mission.

Apollo Press Kits

Grumman made the Lunar Module, the capsule that carried Armstrong and Aldrin to and from the surface of the Moon.

Apollo Press Kits

I could keep going on these all day. What a terrific resource. Scott, along with Richard Jurek, is also the author of Marketing the Moon, a book about how NASA sold the Apollo program to the American public. (via steven heller)

Tags: advertising   Apollo   Apollo 11   books   David Meerman Scott   Marketing the Moon   NASA   space

2019-03-19T14:04:45Z


Cutting Commentary on News Media’s Complicity in Spreading Hateful Views

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, a pair of comedians whose hilarious cooking show I’ve previously featured, are back with Get Krack!n, a series that parodies a typical TV morning show. In this clip, they debut a new segment that perfectly skewers how TV media provides a platform for radical kooks to promote hateful agendas for the mutual benefit of both kook & show. (Note: this clip contains swearing and simulated religious bigotry & misogyny.)

Kheck out our brand new seggment! #getkrackin @Mrdavidquirk @chookfish @gw_deb @ABCTV pic.twitter.com/fTvrmK7tc6

— Get Krack!n (@getkrackinshow) March 7, 2019

They’re not necessarily views that we endorse or share personally, Kate McCartney, but they’re definitely opinions that we are 100% complicit in broadcasting, and that in time we will go to hell for.

This is an Australian show, but a similar panel and topic could easily have appeared on any number of Fox News programs.

Tags: journalism   Kate McCartney   Kate McLennan   TV   video

2019-03-18T21:55:15Z


Monica Lewinsky on Public Shaming

This week, Last Week Tonight covered the topic of public shaming and the episode included an interview by host John Oliver of Monica Lewinsky, who shared her experience of going through perhaps the most intense and enduring instance of public shaming ever.

The whole video is worth watching, but if you want to skip to the Lewinsky interview, it starts around the 15:00 mark. Lewinsky doesn’t do a lot of interviews, and it’s interesting that Oliver has built enough trust to get one, especially as the host of a comedy show.

Tags: interviews   John Oliver   Monica Lewinsky   video

2019-03-18T20:35:52Z


Where Did Consciousness Come From?

Religion and philosophy have their own answers as to where our consciousness comes from, but in this video, Kurzgesagt explores how scientists believe consciousness first evolved, from organisms moving more quickly when consuming food to animals being able to animals who can remember where they hid food to reading the minds of competitors and allies.

The main source for the video is Rupert Glasgow’s Minimal Selfhood and the Origins of Consciousness (available as a free download). The complete list of their sources is here.

Tags: Kurzgesagt   Rupert Glasgow   video

2019-03-18T18:24:14Z


The Fertility Doctor’s Secret

For The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang tells the story of dozens of people who found out through DNA testing that a fertility doctor named Donald Cline had used his own sperm in artificial insemination procedures on their mothers. The piece begins with the story of a woman whose parents had been treated by Cline more than 30 years ago.

It was only when she got home and replaced her phone that she saw the barrage of messages from even more half siblings. They had found her on Facebook, she realized, after searching for the username linked to her Ancestry.com account. Her husband had given her a DNA test for Christmas because she was interested in genealogy. Her heritage turned out to be exactly what she had thought — Scottish, with English, Irish, and Scandinavian mixed in — and she never bothered to click on the link that would show whether anyone on the site shared her DNA.

Apparently she did have relatives on Ancestry.com — and not just distant cousins. The people now sending her messages said they were Cline’s secret biological children. They said their parents had also been treated by Cline. They said that decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination.

According to her DNA, Woock, too, was one of his children.

In the time since Woock’s half siblings got in touch with her, they have broken the news dozens more times. The children Cline fathered with his patients now number at least 48, confirmed by DNA tests from 23andMe or Ancestry.com. (Several have a twin or other siblings who likely share the same biological father but haven’t been tested.) They keep in touch through a Facebook group. New siblings pop up in waves, timed perversely after holidays like Christmas or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when DNA tests are given as well-intentioned gifts.

One of Cline’s patients said recently: “I feel like I was raped 15 times.”

Tags: crime   DNA   Donald Cline   genetics   Sarah Zhang

2019-03-18T16:20:05Z


Everything Is Just a Happening

This guided meditation by Alan Watts really helped me this morning. (There’s a version without music as well.)

From The Practice of Meditation:

Simply sit down, close your eyes, and listen to all sounds that may be going on — without trying to name or identify them. Listen as you would listen to music. If you find that verbal thinking will not drop away, don’t attempt to stop it by force of will-power. Just keep your tongue relaxed, floating easily in the lower jaw, and listen to your thoughts as if they were birds chattering outside — mere noise in the skull — and they will eventually subside of themselves, as a turbulent and muddy pool will become calm and clear if left alone.

Also, become aware of breathing and allow your lungs to work in whatever rhythm seems congenial to them. And for a while just sit listening and feeling breath. But, if possible, don’t call it that. Simply experience the non-verbal happening. You may object that this is not “spiritual” meditation but mere attention to the “physical” world, but it should be understood that the spiritual and the physical are only ideas, philosophical conceptions, and that the reality of which you are now aware is not an idea. Furthermore, there is no “you” aware of it. That was also just an idea. Can you hear yourself listening?

And then begin to let your breath “fall” out, slowly and easily. Don’t force or strain your lungs, but let the breath come out in the same way that you let yourself slump into a comfortable bed. Simply let it go, go, and go. As soon as there is the least strain, just let it come back in as a reflex; don’t pull it in. Forget the clock. Forget to count. Just keep it up for so long as you feel the luxury of it.

(via open culture)

Tags: Alan Watts   Buddhism   video

2019-03-18T15:05:03Z


The Problem of Writing and Money

Fragonard,_The_Reader - Cut.png

Now this is a lede:

When I first read Virginia Woolf’s dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” I was homeless.

It follows through on that first punch:

I know half a dozen published authors who’ve had to rely on food stamps. The seedy poverty of the author has been a cliche for centuries. We find the figure of the poor writer already in the medieval era, in the form of poet-clerics called “goliards,” who begged and sang ribald songs in taverns as they wandered from monastery to monastery. Hundreds of years later, in the Beat Generation, the type survived with no essential change. Now a new generation of writers are confronting ever lower and less reliable payment for articles, stingier advances for books, fewer jobs, and smaller royalty checks. A host of new threats to writers’ livelihoods, from internet piracy to the slow-motion collapse of the academic job market, means ever fewer writers are making a middle-class wage.

So, full-disclosure time! I have been on food stamps, as recently as a couple of years ago. I am currently on Medicaid, and thank god for that, because the open market for health care is terrible, and Medicaid is great. (Freelancers, stop paying COBRA or Obamacare and get yourself on Medicaid if you can.)

I have been a professional writer for almost ten years and have only been employed at a full-time job with benefits for (counts fingers) let’s say three of them. The rest of the time, I’ve been on the 1099 economy, piecing together pieces of living from freelance gigs. I have been homeless, and I have lived with family who’ve been much more stable than I have been. My health has never been good, which has made it difficult for me to maintain full-time work when I’ve had it. I have been behind on my child support, but am currently (thank God) current.

I would not say I am devoted to writing, with my poverty a consequence of that devotion. This entire time, I have simply not known what else to do. I have been writing for my life.

There are a lot of us. We don’t always show it.

Most writers I know who’ve been really poor practice similar forms of self-censorship. Sometimes the reasons are obvious even to someone who’s never had money problems. One writer I know went through a patch where he had to report to a subway cleaning crew to keep getting his welfare checks. He talked about this openly to friends, but went through extreme contortions to hide it from a publisher who was considering hiring him. When I was first profiled for a women’s magazine, I had their photographer come to my apartment, only to have her look around and instantly suggest we go out to a park. After that, I had photographers meet me at a richer person’s apartment to save everyone time and embarrassment.

But often the decisions are less clear-cut. Social media, for instance, can be the ideal forum for openly discussing social class—but it’s also notoriously a place where going too far can damage your career. Most of us filter what we say. This affects how we talk about being broke. A post about student debt is safe, but one about living in your car risks losing face and professional standing. It can even come across as a passive-aggressive jab at more affluent people. One writer friend of mine commented: “On Twitter, we make jokes about being poor. We don’t talk about the fucking dread eating through us because we’ll never be stable. We don’t talk about what it means, that we’re on Twitter because we can’t afford therapy or social lives.”

I don’t know what to do about any of this. I can’t promise that I’ll be more forthcoming about this on Twitter, or here on Kottke.org, or anywhere else I write. I do know that my life is changing again, thanks in part to The Amazon Chronicles, and other opportunities coming into my life. I hope it continues to change. I hope it changes for all of us.

I can only testify, right here and now, that poverty and authorship coincide, including authorship that comes with a kind of modest fame. I can testify that there is nothing romantic about it, only the very real life of compromises that Sandra Newman documents so well in this essay. I can testify that talking about and not talking about it can both eat away at you. There is no cure; only doing better and doing worse, only new wounds and a moderate form of relief.

I disagree with Newman on one point. I think there is no real market for stories about poverty, first-person or otherwise. Not really. Maybe in fiction, maybe as a one-off. But one cannot be a writer about poverty in the same way that one can become a writer about technology; and in most cases, being a writer about technology is extremely difficult when one is poor. (You can track my poverty level through my writing subjects: when I’ve done better, I write about gadgets and the business of technology. When I’ve done worse, I write about memoir or pop culture: music, movies, television, comics, the internet. Things accessible from my memory or on my computer for free or cheap.)

People may want to read about what it’s like to be poor, but they don’t want to pay for it. Paying for things is a rich person’s privilege, and people pay for access to material wealth and things that get them closer to it. And in the free economy, people like the lingua franca of pop culture. Simple stories about heroes and villains, that when you scratch them open, tell them bigger stories about themselves and the worlds they live in.

That’s not to say that people can’t be brought to hear a different kind of story, but they do have to be brought there. How to bring them there? That’s what we’re all trying to figure out.

Tags: poverty   writing

2019-03-15T19:30:00Z


A Fan-Made Trailer for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 2019 Edition

This trailer made by cinematographer and director Morgan Cooper imagines a contemporary reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that’s a little darker and grittier than the original. I dunno about you, but that’s one of the best fan-made trailers I’ve ever seen. I say give Cooper the show and let him run with it.

Tags: Morgan Cooper   The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air   trailers   TV   video

2019-03-15T17:25:03Z


Tetanus Has Nothing To Do With Rust

Tetanus, popularly called “lockjaw,” is a serious illness, fatal in 10 percent of cases in North America and a larger percentage elsewhere. But despite the popular perception of its association with cutting oneself on a rusty nail, the disease has nothing to do with iron oxide, or rust:

Rather, tetanus is a product of the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is in dirt, dust, and feces—in other words, everywhere. It can enter your body through puncture wounds, yes, but also through superficial cuts, bug bites, surgical procedures, and any other rupture to your skin. It can come from stepping on a rusty nail, or tending the soil in your garden. That’s why it’s so essential to track your booster shots: You need one every decade, not just when you rip your palm open on a rusty chain link fence. Waiting for a classic tetanus injury won’t work when anything could, in theory, be a tetanus injury.

If the bacteria enter your body and you aren’t up-to-date on your vaccinations, the tiny invaders begin to multiply rapidly. This incubation period, which lasts between three and 21 days, according to the CDC, is symptom free. But as the bacteria begin to die inside you, they form a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system. Specifically, it inhibits the chemical GABA, which regulates muscle contractions. The result is a body-wide state of tension, from lockjaw in your face to uncontrollable arching spasms in your back to permanently-curled toes.

Luckily, here as elsewhere, tetanus vaccines (a series of three shots and a booster every ten years) work. Get those shots up to date and mind those cuts, no matter where they came from.

Tags: science   tetanus   vaccines

2019-03-15T16:20:00Z


What Counts As Evidence in Mathematics?

Einstein-Blackboard-01.jpg

The ultimate form of argument, and for some, the most absolute form of truth, is mathematical proof. But short of a conclusive proof of a theorem, mathematicians also consider evidence that might 1) disprove a thesis or 2) suggest its possible truth or even avenues for proving that it’s true. But in a not-quite-empirical field, what the heck counts as evidence?

The twin primes conjecture is one example where evidence, as much as proof, guides our mathematical thinking. Twin primes are pairs of prime numbers that differ by 2 — for example, 3 and 5, 11 and 13, and 101 and 103 are all twin prime pairs. The twin primes conjecture hypothesizes that there is no largest pair of twin primes, that the pairs keep appearing as we make our way toward infinity on the number line.

The twin primes conjecture is not the Twin Primes Theorem, because, despite being one of the most famous problems in number theory, no one has been able to prove it. Yet almost everyone believes it is true, because there is lots of evidence that supports it.

For example, as we search for large primes, we continue to find extremely large twin prime pairs. The largest currently known pair of twin primes have nearly 400,000 digits each. And results similar to the twin primes conjecture have been proved. In 2013, Yitang Zhang shocked the mathematical world by proving that there are infinitely many prime number pairs that differ by 70 million or less. Thanks to a subsequent public “Polymath” project, we now know that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by no more than 246. We still haven’t proved that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by 2 — the twin primes conjecture — but 2 is a lot closer to 246 than it is to infinity.

This starts to get really complicated once you leave the relatively straightforward arithmetical world of prime numbers behind, with its clearly empirical pairs and approximating conjectures, and start working with computer models that generate arbitrarily large numbers of mathematical statements, all of which can be counted as evidence.

Patrick Hanner, the author of this article, gives what seems like a simple example: are all lines parallel or intersecting? Then he shows how the models one can use to answer this question vary wildly based on their initial assumptions, in this case, whether one is considering lines in a single geometric plane or lines in an n-dimensional geometric space. As always in mathematics, it comes back to one’s initial set of assumptions; you can “prove” (i.e., provide large quantities of evidence for) a statement with one set of rules, but that set of rules is not the universe.

Tags: argument   computing   evidence   mathematics   proof   science

2019-03-15T16:00:00Z


This Photo of Farmers Contains No Farmers

This is a photo taken in Germany in 1914 by August Sander:

August Sander Young Farmers

It’s called Young Farmers and it depicts three young men on their way to a dance in rural Germany. But as John Green explains in this video, there is so much more going on with this photo.

From The Tate, which has a print of Young Farmers in its collection:

The Marxist art critic John Berger famously analysed the photograph in his influential essay ‘The Suit and the Photograph’ (1980) writing: ‘The date is 1914. The three young men belong, at the very most, to the second generation who ever wore such suits in the European countryside. Twenty or 30 years earlier, such clothes did not exist at a price which peasants could afford.’ (Berger 1980, p.30.) Berger suggests that these mass market suits, emulating the higher quality attire of the bourgeois urban class, draws attention to, rather than disguises, their ‘social caste’, and not in a particularly flattering sense. In his essay, Berger considers that the three young men are of a social group not beyond the reach of aspirational advertising campaigns and travelling salesmen, and in a state of awkward transition, succumbing to a new ‘cultural hegemony’. The posturing of these three rural ‘lads’, perhaps on their way to a dance, confounds and subverts expectations of the peasant ‘type’, especially in that they smoke cigarettes. Peasants were traditionally depicted smoking a pipe handcrafted from wood, and which like the wooden canes that appear frequently in Sander’s volume of photographs devoted to peasants and farmers, including this one, connoted an organic connection to the native soil as well as a certain time-honoured wisdom. By contrast, the mass-manufactured cigarette was often seen at the time as an urban symbol of social dissolution.

However, Green also cautions that there’s only so much you can infer about people from a photograph (given, for example, that the three men weren’t actually farmers).

This video is from a new-to-me channel called The Art Assignment, which is about art and art history. Subscribed!

Tags: art   August Sander   John Green   photography   video

2019-03-14T20:14:00Z


Quid Pro Quo: The Three-Act Structure of a Thrilling Scene from The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is one of the finest psychological thrillers ever made. In the episode of the always-illuminating Lessons from the Screenplay, the team analyzes a scene from the film with Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling that demonstrates how effective scenes follow the same three act structure as entire movies/books/stories do.

The Lessons team also did a podcast episode about the differences between the screenplay for the film and the book that inspired it.

Tags: Anthony Hopkins   film school   Jodie Foster   Jonathan Demme   Lessons from the Screenplay   movies   The Silence of the Lambs   video

2019-03-14T18:06:15Z


Creatures of Habit

Ron and Diana Watson have been eating dinner at the same restaurant in Wichita 6 nights a week for 15 years. It’s their only meal of the day and they skip the bread because Ron was gaining too much weight from the complimentary dinner rolls.

The ritual is all part of the order Ron Watson likes in his life. A Vietnam veteran, he dines only in restaurants that offer military discounts, and Texas Roadhouse gives vets 10 percent off. He still has some PTSD, he said, and he feels comfortable at table 412, which is a booth at the bar that gives him a good view of the door and everyone coming and going.

The couple also are regular enough customers that they know how to make the most of their money at Texas Roadhouse. Every Sunday through Wednesday, they arrive between 3 and 3:15 p.m. to take advantage of the restaurant’s early bird special, which is available from 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and offers a full meal for $9.49.

I’m fascinated by people for whom routine is so important. I definitely have those tendencies; I watch favorite shows and movies repeatedly, wear pretty much the same outfit daily, return to familiar vacation destinations, and order the same dishes at the same restaurants again and again. So much of what I do for kottke.org focuses on finding the new — ideas, people, art, discoveries, culture — that it’s comforting to have parts of my life that aren’t relentlessly novel. But I also make ample time for new experiences that bring happiness & fulfillment into my life…and the rest I put on cruise control. (via tmn)

Update: From The Atlantic, The People Who Eat the Same Meal Every Day.

Many of the people I talked with emphasized the stress-reducing benefits of eating the same thing each day. Amanda Respers, a 32-year-old software developer in Newport News, Virginia, once ate a variation on the same home-brought salad (a lettuce, a protein, and a dressing) at work for about a year. She liked the simplicity of the formula, but the streak ended when she and her now-husband, who has more of an appetite for variety, moved in together six years ago. Would she still be eating the salad every day if she hadn’t met him? “Oh heck yeah,” she told me. “It would’ve saved so much time.”

Tags: food   video

2019-03-14T15:47:11Z


Pi, the Infinite Doorway to Calculus

Happy Pi Day! In celebration of this gloriously nerdy event, mathematician Steven Strogatz wrote about how pi was humanity’s first glimpse of the power of calculus and an early effort to come to grips with the idea of infinity.

As a ratio, pi has been around since Babylonian times, but it was the Greek geometer Archimedes, some 2,300 years ago, who first showed how to rigorously estimate the value of pi. Among mathematicians of his time, the concept of infinity was taboo; Aristotle had tried to banish it for being too paradoxical and logically treacherous. In Archimedes’s hands, however, infinity became a mathematical workhorse.

He used it to discover the area of a circle, the volume of a sphere and many other properties of curved shapes that had stumped the finest mathematicians before him. In each case, he approximated a curved shape by using a large number of tiny straight lines or flat polygons. The resulting approximations were gemlike, faceted objects that yielded fantastic insights into the original shapes, especially when he imagined using infinitely many, infinitesimally small facets in the process.

Here’s a video that runs through Archimedes’ method for calculating pi:

Strogatz’s piece is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe.

Tags: mathematics   pi   Steven Strogatz   video

2019-03-14T13:33:07Z


The Most Influential Academic Books in the Last 20 Years

The Chronicle of Higher Education has assembled The New Canon, a list of the most influential books written by academics in the past 20 years or so. The books were chosen by a panel that included sociologist Eric Klinenberg, classics professor Johanna Hanink, and professor of business Sheena Iyengar.

Their picks included Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:

It was a best seller, discussed and praised and criticized by both scholars and public intellectuals. Better Angels defends, at great length, a controversial claim, which is that violence is declining, both in the short run and the long run — and so, in a very important way, the world is getting better. Pinker is far from the first to make this argument, but he presents the most persuasive case. Better Angels also explores, at equally great length, psychological and social theories for why this is so, and illustrates that an evolutionary-psychology approach to the mind can give us considerable insight into how societies change over time.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander:

Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar, activist, and now a columnist for The New York Times, argues that the “war on drugs,” beginning with the Nixon administration and flourishing under Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, shifted antipoverty resources into an infinite war on crime that disproportionately targets black communities and robs the majority of black men in urban areas of their full citizenship. Fusing legal studies and history, Alexander demonstrates how America’s prison-industrial complex is the latest chapter in the nation’s tragic racial history. Her thesis not only touched scholars but also transformed the public’s understanding of structural racism in the American justice system.

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth Armstrong & Laura Hamilton is a timely choice given the unfolding college admissions investigation by the FBI:

The book is an ethnographic account of the lives of first-year women college students living on a “party floor” at a selective public university they call Midwest U. Varied in their social-class backgrounds, the students have profoundly different pathways through college. Poor and working-class young women face formidable obstacles to completing their degrees, while the children of upper middle class professionals pursue meaningful majors and vocations. At the same time, the daughters of the wealthiest, socialite families join sororities, and party their way through easy majors, graduation, and, beyond that, socially connected jobs.

If this were a book about no more than individual-level educational inequalities, the story might end there. But this is not that book. Instead, the authors use a cultural and organizational lens to show how the university itself is complicit in shaping students’ academic pursuits, social lives, and job opportunities in socially patterned ways.

Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community:

Americans participate less in group activities that entail coordination and cooperation toward a common purpose. Instead they engage more in activities that take place less regularly, in smaller groups or in isolation. They are less likely to play sports on teams, more likely to watch sports or to exercise at home. The book identifies trends that scholars and journalists continue to analyze and dissect 18 years later, culminating in the recent avalanche of books and essays describing how handheld devices now contribute to the breakdown of community.

Bowling Alone inspired my pal Scott Heiferman to start Meetup.

Tags: best of   books   lists

2019-03-13T22:34:11Z


Bauhaus-Style Logos of Famous Brands

Bauhaus Logo

Bauhaus Logo

Bauhaus Logo

To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus design movement, 99designs challenged their community of designers to reimagine the logos of famous brands in a Bauhaus style. (via moss & fog)

Tags: design   logos   remix

2019-03-13T18:37:01Z


A Last Lesson: Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s Return Home To Vietnam

Thich Nhat Hanh became a Buddhist monk in Vietnam in 1942 and became known over the next few decades as a teacher and peace activist during the Vietnam War, at one point urging Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly denounce the war. For his activism, Nhat Hanh was denied entry back into Vietnam for nearly 40 years.

Thich Nhat Hanh Mlk

Now 92 years old, world-renowned as a spiritual leader, and ailing from the aftermath of a stroke he suffered in 2014, Nhat Hanh has returned to his original temple in Vietnam to live out his final days.

The monk’s return to Vietnam to end his life can thus be seen as a message to his disciples. “Thay’s intention is to teach [the idea of] roots and for his students to learn they have roots in Vietnam,” says Thich Chan Phap An, the head of Nhat Hanh’s European Institute of Applied Buddhism. “Spiritually, it’s a very important decision.”

Vox’s Eliza Barclay interviewed Phap Dung, one of Nhat Hanh’s senior disciples, and asked him what his teacher might be trying to say by returning to Vietnam.

He’s definitely coming back to his roots.

He has come back to the place where he grew up as a monk. The message is to remember we don’t come from nowhere. We have roots. We have ancestors. We are part of a lineage or stream.

It’s a beautiful message, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and it is the deepest teaching in Buddhism: non-self. We are empty of a separate self, and yet at the same time, we are full of our ancestors.

He has emphasized this Vietnamese tradition of ancestral worship as a practice in our community. Worship here means to remember. For him to return to Vietnam is to point out that we are a stream that runs way back to the time of the Buddha in India, beyond even Vietnam and China.

Tags: Buddhism   death   Eliza Barclay   religion   Thich Nhat Hanh   Vietnam

2019-03-13T16:29:00Z


Hiking Interactions

Comedian Miel Bredouw packed every single type of interaction you’re ever going to have with another human being on a hiking trail into a video less than 40 seconds long. As a semi-frequent Vermont hiker (including this recent winter hike), I can vouch for every single one of these. They’re all here: the friendly dog greeting, the sing-song “hello”, the running “excuse me”, and the classic “hey how ya doin?” My go-to is usually the panting “hey”.

Tags: hiking   Miel Bredouw   sports   video

2019-03-13T14:18:35Z


Float

Float is a feature-length documentary film directed by Phil Kibbe about “the ultra-competitive sport of elite, stunningly-designed indoor model airplanes”. The main action of the film takes place at the F1D World Championships in Romania, where competitors from all over the world build delicately beautiful rubber-band-powered airplanes and compete to keep them afloat the longest.

After devoting years of time into construction and practice for no material reward, glory becomes their primary incentive. Like any competition, cheating and controversy are an integral part of the sport. FLOAT follows the tumultuous journey of Brett Sanborn and Yuan Kang Lee, two American competitors as they prepare for and compete at the World Championships.

“Designing, building, and flying the planes is truly an experience that requires patience and zen-like focus,” says Ben Saks, producer and subject in the film.

Float began as a Kickstarter project back in 2012…congrats to the team for their patience in getting it finished.

Tags: Float   flying   movies   Phil Kibbe   trailers   video

2019-03-12T21:13:17Z


Archaeologists Discover Mayan Chamber Untouched for 1000 Years

While exploring the ground underneath the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, archaeologists found a ritual chamber stuffed with artifacts untouched for more than 1000 years.

Maya Untouched Cave

De Anda recalls pulling himself on his stomach through the tight tunnels of Balamku for hours before his headlamp illuminated something entirely unexpected: A cascade of offerings left by the ancient residents of Chichén Itzá, so perfectly preserved and untouched that stalagmites had formed around the incense burners, vases, decorated plates, and other objects in the cavern.

“I couldn’t speak, I started to cry. I’ve analyzed human remains in [Chichén Itzá’s] Sacred Cenote, but nothing compares to the sensation I had entering, alone, for the first time in that cave,” says de Anda, who is an investigator with INAH and director of the Great Maya Aquifer Project, which seeks to explore, understand, and protect the aquifer of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

“You almost feel the presence of the Maya who deposited these things in there,” he adds.

Oddly, the cave was explored by an archaeologist back in 1966, but he ordered the entrance sealed up and the chamber and the objects contained within were forgotten until now.

Tags: archaeology   Maya civilization   Mexico

2019-03-12T18:08:38Z


Pegasus by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “the Most Beautiful Drawing Ever”

Pegasus Basquiat

The drawing above is Pegasus by Jean-Michel Basquiat. His first art dealer, Annina Nosei, once called it “the most beautiful drawing ever”. I am not going to disagree with her. I’ve only seen Basquiat’s work sporadically, mostly single paintings included in larger exhibitions with Warhols and Harings, but when I saw Pegasus in this short video about the artist’s life & work, it grabbed me, an instant favorite.

The drawing is held in a private collection, but I hope I get to see it in person someday. For more on Basquiat, check out the 2009 documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.

Tags: Annina Nosei   art   Jean-Michel Basquiat   video

2019-03-12T16:03:57Z


Photos of the Women Clearing One of the Largest Minefields in the World

Sri Lanka Deminers

Sri Lanka Deminers

Photographer Allison Joyce has been in Sri Lanka photographing the women clearing one of the biggest minefields in the world. The mines were left over from the Sri Lankan civil war and the women are employed by NGO HALO Trust.

Landmines were used in vast quantities by both sides at different stages of the fighting in the north. From 2010 to 2012, HALO deminers removed over 30,000 mines a year. By 2014 the total had fallen to 16,000 annually, but those remaining threaten the most economically vulnerable people in the country. Mines present an obstacle to the safe return of internally displaced people (IDPs) and prevent access to paddy fields, fishing jetties and grazing land affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people.

HALO remains the largest international mine action operator in the country. Our 830 staff, including a large proportion of former IDPs, work in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Fifty percent of our deminers are women, many of them war widows with children to support.

In Focus and The Guardian have photo essays about the women and their work.

Tags: Allison Joyce   photography   Sri Lanka   war

2019-03-12T14:01:50Z


How to Play Pac-Man

The highest score a player can get in Pac-Man is 3,333,360. In a fascinating recent article on the game, Cat DeSpira doesn’t tell us how to play the digital game on the screen but instead shows how people interact with the physical artifact of the cabinet while playing Pac-Man. Specifically, she notes that the particular pattern of wear on the sides of Pac-Man machines arises from the nature of the game.

Pac-Man wear pattern

Pac-Man is more of a driving game than a maze game. As you’re playing, you’re jamming that joystick left and right, up and down, movements that shifts your right shoulder forward and back, rocking your body side to side. When the going gets tough, and the ghosts start closing in, all of this rocking motion compels you to lean into the game and, whether you realize you’re doing it or not, you’re going to grab onto the game. You actually need to get a grip…on something. You’re either going to lean hard against your left palm as it rests on the control panel which isn’t comfortable for very long or, like most people, you’re going to grab the side of the game and hold on tight. You have to or you’ll lose your balance. You can’t take the sharp corners smoothly and quickly without doing this, ether. You need the extra stabilization to move Pac-Man around the corners accurately.

Many owners have “restored” the worn sides of their games so they look like new, but DeSpira argues that covers up a vital aspect of gaming history:

Pac-Man’s worn left-side is part of the game’s provenance. It’s unique only to Pac-Man games, including Ms. Pac-Man. It’s evidence left by “Pac-Mania” and also evidence of how the game was really played. It’s a time signature left by a generation of the first gamers. It’s history that should be preserved intact. It tells a story that we’ll never see written again.

Why anyone would want to destroy something that reflects a cultural phenomenon in gaming boggles my mind. It’s confusing even more to me that people can’t see it, can’t see the worn side of the game and know exactly what put it there and find it beautiful — hands. Thousands of human hands. Millions, even. Hands of many colors, many sizes; white collar hands, blue collar hands, no-collar hands. Hands that put a quarter in a machine that was attacked by the press as being “addicting” and “unhealthy”. Ordinances were passed that helped kill the video craze off early because of Pac-man, because a generation of newly risen gamers couldn’t keep their hands off it and, in a free country, shouldn’t have been expected to anyway. That scar was put there by an act of defiance.

(thx, s. ben)

Tags: Cat DeSpira   Pac-Man   video games

2019-03-11T20:03:56Z


The Robots Are Coming for Our Jobs (Thank God)

At SXSW, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked by an audience member about the economic challenge of a significant percentage of our labor force being replaced by automation. She responded, in part, by suggesting we decouple the idea of employment with being able to remain alive:

We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the toll booth collector not having to collect tolls anymore. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.

Then she went on to say:

We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.

Her full answer, including a bit about “automated inequality”, is worth worth watching in full, starting at ~55:15:

In a 1970 article in New York magazine, the architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller wrote about the collision of technology and “this nonsense of earning a living”:

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

(thx to @claytoncubitt for the AOC-Fuller connection)

Tags: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez   Buckminster Fuller   video   working

2019-03-11T17:47:24Z


A Day in the Life at a Bell Labs Datacenter in the Late 60s

Larry Luckham was a manager at a Bell Labs data center in Oakland in the late 60s and early 70s. One day, he captured daily life at the company with his camera.

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Note how many of his coworkers were women, including women of color. From The Secret History of Women in Coding:

A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits. “It was like working logic puzzles — big, complicated logic puzzles,” Wilkes says. “I still have a very picky, precise mind, to a fault. I notice pictures that are crooked on the wall.”

What sort of person possesses that kind of mentality? Back then, it was assumed to be women. They had already played a foundational role in the prehistory of computing: During World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s, where Wilkes worked, she recalls that most of those the government categorized as “career programmers” were female. It wasn’t high-status work — yet.

Tags: Larry Luckham   photography

2019-03-11T16:01:16Z


Tiny Private Mind-Motions

Prompted by a line from a poem by Tracy K. Smith, Sam Anderson writes about the thoughts that come unbidden to our minds during the course of our day.

Every morning, when I screw the lid onto my steaming thermos of coffee, I think to myself, automatically, the phrase “heat capture.” I have no idea why. I’ve never used that phrase in any other context in my life. And yet I couldn’t stop it if I tried. After years of this, I finally mentioned it to my wife, who revealed a similar habit: Every night, when she shuts the bedroom blinds, she thinks to herself the ridiculous words, “Sleep Chamber: Complete.” She said she kind of hates it because it makes her feel as if she’s living in an episode of “Star Trek,” but she has no choice.

Anderson calls these involuntary thoughts “tiny, private mind-motions”. I have a bunch of these — saying “hey” to the tiny pareidolia faces hidden in my bathroom’s wood paneling, recasting the word “debris” as “derbis” — but the one I’ve been noticing the most lately is nearly every time I run across a two-syllable word or phrase, my brain responds with the Batman jingle.

Na na na na na na na na na na na na snack bags!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na passport!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na Meek Mill!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na sport mode!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na Kottke!

(via na na na na na na na na na na na na craig mod)

Tags: language   Sam Anderson

2019-03-11T13:57:58Z


My Favorite Secret Social Network

peach emoji.png

If, for some reason, you join Peach, and you find my handle there, and you add me as a friend — maybe we’re IRL friends, or friends from other social network, or we used to work together, or you know me from here or someplace else — don’t be surprised if I don’t reciprocate your friendship right away.

Being Peach friends is a very special thing, and it doesn’t map neatly onto other kinds of friendship, digital or otherwise. The only way to know if someone is a good Peach friend is if they’ve been a good friend on Peach, which above all means one is supportive, discreet, and chill. The only other way to know if someone is a good Peach friend is if they’re not one of the people you go to Peach to talk about with your discreet, supportive, supremely chill Peach friends.

Confused? Yeah, it’s confusing to me too. The best effort at sorting it out in public so far is by Navneet Alang, who in “Notes on Peach” writes about why a small handful of us love this buggy, unreliable, deeply unpopular social network so much:

Most of all, there is no central feed. Instead, you have to click on each friend’s individual profile, which, first, limits the number of people you want to have on it, and second, makes things weirdly intimate, confessional, like you’re really writing to yourself and other people just happen to read. Of the odd mix that makes up my friend list of about fifteen—a couple of IRL friends, a few pals from Twitter, and a few complete strangers in another country—most use it as a sort of ongoing diary for the things you can’t say elsewhere, a release valve from the glare of Twitter. It is the sort of app where you talk about having a headache, the fact that you’re horny, a memory you have of your father that still fucks you up, and of course, pictures of your dog, mostly to a cobbled-together group of people you’ve never even met who, for some unknown reason, have all agreed not to judge.

I am the sort of person who has posted the following tweets in public, under my government name:

Writing is like sex because there are so many different ways to do it for the wrong reasons and with the wrong people

— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) August 26, 2017

Writing is like sex in that people say I'm really good at it, but eventually they all decide I'm not worth the trouble

— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) August 26, 2017

I’m posting them here again because frankly, I don’t think they got enough attention the first time. That’s who I am and what I’m about.

I blush to think at my Peach posts ever being made public. Or even private in a different context.

That’s what Peach is for. It is a place to be real with people who’ve chosen to be real with you. It’s friendly, it’s therapeutic, it’s cathartic. It’s necessary. When it’s not around, those of us who use it go a little bit mad.

We’ve come to lean on confessing out loud. And there are no priests left who can be trusted any more. The only thing we can trust is benign neglect.

Is that the next phase of the web? The web that hardly works, where no one’s paying attention because no one really cares? (Except your friends, including strangers, who somehow care so much?)1

As Bill Callahan wrote, “Everyone’s got their own thing that they yell into a well.”

Tags: social media

2019-03-08T20:15:00Z


Remaking the Servant Economy

Artus_Wolffort_-_The_Scullery_Maid.jpg

Alexis Madrigal looks at the vast body of “Uber-for-X” sharing economy companies and sees something that’s historically new, but very familiar:

The haves and the have-nots might be given new names: the demanding and the on-demand. These apps concretize the wild differences that the global economy currently assigns to the value of different kinds of labor. Some people’s time and effort are worth hundreds of times less than other people’s. The widening gap between the new American aristocracy and everyone else is what drives both the supply and demand of Uber-for-X companies.

The inequalities of capitalist economies are not exactly news. As my colleague Esther Bloom pointed out, “For centuries, a woman’s social status was clear-cut: either she had a maid or she was one.” Domestic servants—to walk the dog, do the laundry, clean the house, get groceries—were a fixture of life in America well into the 20th century. In the short-lived narrowing of economic fortunes wrapped around the Second World War that created what Americans think of as “the middle class,” servants became far less common, even as dual-income families became more the norm and the hours Americans worked lengthened.

What the combined efforts of the Uber-for-X companies created is a new form of servant, one distributed through complex markets to thousands of different people. It was Uber, after all, that launched with the idea of becoming “everyone’s private driver,” a chauffeur for all.

An unkind summary, then, of the past half decade of the consumer internet: Venture capitalists have subsidized the creation of platforms for low-paying work that deliver on-demand servant services to rich people, while subjecting all parties to increased surveillance.

What else is there to say?

2019-03-08T19:30:00Z


Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Superfan

Data-Stratagema.jpg

Georgia politician, almost-Governor, and Democratic superstar Stacey Abrams has a secret to her success: she loves Star Trek. In particular, she loves my favorite Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In explaining her approach to politics as a black Democratic woman in a state controlled by white Republican men, she devotes several pages to a pivotal scene from “Peak Performance,” an episode from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In the episode, Data, the preternaturally pale android with a greenish cast to his skin, is playing Strategema, a game that appears to be some incredibly complicated form of 3-D holographic chess, against a humanoid grandmaster named Kolrami. Data cannot defeat Kolrami, he discovers, but he can outlast him, drive him into a rage and force him to quit the game, which is itself a kind of victory.

Ms. Abrams writes that this has helped her focus her own thinking. “Data reframed his objective — not to win outright but to stay alive, passing up opportunities for immediate victory in favor of a strategy of survival,” she says in the book. “My lesson is simpler: change the rules of engagement.”

Stacey Abrams

This sparked some predictably joyous reactions among Star Trek fans:

Stacey Abrams is a STAR TREK FAN?! Please insert that viral "Unfollow me now, this is the only thing I'm going to talk about all day" gif…

(And she loves Queen Nichelle? And this article came out just in time for #TrekThursday, with more DSC tonight?)

@EbWatchesTrek

— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) March 7, 2019

And the following thoughtful thread from Manu Saadia (@trekonomics) on the history of progressive politics, as modeled in the Star Trek universe:

First off, that piece by historian @robgreeneII should convince @staceyabrams to take a second L ok at Deep Space 9.https://t.co/nlcpDm0svC

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Next, that long and detailed piece of Trek fandom. A special piece for me, as we had drinks with @mollitudo at the Convention in Vegas while she was reporting it. The Utopia is the fandom. https://t.co/FodCf34kXU

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

A look at 10 episodes:https://t.co/bmmWGzdbs2

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

I am always embarrassed to mention myself, especially in such great company, but here we are. https://t.co/g1gbNqr1Yi

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Politics is also about gender roles.https://t.co/HxEs3AoZjS

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

And guess what, MLK was a fan - and convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on that silly space show after the first season.https://t.co/hhPFJEBWUr

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

The sexual politics of Trek became more and intriguing as the show matured. Jadzia Dax, DS9's science officer and "old man" (eh!), was particularly adventurous - (and deftly incarnated by) @4TerryFarrell https://t.co/ZwQrHnL3r3

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Star Trek is a powerful source for political imagination. It is the Utopia of our times.

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Star Trek is a thought experiment on how humans would behave under terminally improved conditions. This is why it matters. There's very little sci-fi that takes on that big question.

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Live long and prosper! And no, it doesn't mean "make money!" pic.twitter.com/U4NTO1vd4z

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

It actually is possible to overthink this. All of this about politics and the imagination and utopian possibilities is true. But at the same time, ultimately, it’s just a really cool show. It’s one we grew up with. And as politicians get younger, it’s one we’ve always had with us, framing our background on entertainment, war, morality, politics, economics — everything.

The world the original Star Trek entered was one where space was only beginning to open, as a direct consequence of the nuclear and geopolitical crisis than enveloping the planet. Now, we have all new geopolitical crises to deal with. Star Trek offers a surprisingly resilient fictional framework for understanding most if not all of them. That’s a powerful tool. It’s foolish to pass it up.

Oh, and Ms. Abrams — keep bustin’ ‘em up.

Tags: movies   politics   space   Stacey Abrams   Star Trek   TV

2019-03-08T16:00:00Z


100-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Helen Fagin on How Books Save Lives

Starting when she was 21, Helen Fagin was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Radomsko and Warsaw ghettos in Poland. Her parents were sent to Treblinka and murdered there, but Fagin and her sister eventually managed to escape and, after a long journey around Europe, made it to the United States. Fagin has offered lengthy testimony about her experience of the Holocaust (for the USC Shoah Foundation and US Holocaust Memorial Museum), but in this short video, she reads a letter she wrote about how reading and stories gave a spark of hope to those under the Nazi boot in Warsaw.

Could you imagine a world without access to reading, to learning, to books?

At twenty-one, I was forced into Poland’s WWII ghetto, where being caught reading anything forbidden by the Nazis meant, at best, hard labor; at worst, death.

There, I conducted a clandestine school offering Jewish children a chance at the essential education denied them by their captors. But I soon came to feel that teaching these sensitive young souls Latin and mathematics was cheating them of something far more essential — what they needed wasn’t dry information but hope, the kind that comes from being transported into a dream-world of possibility.

One day, as if guessing my thoughts, one girl beseeched me: “Could you please tell us a book, please?”

I had spent the previous night reading Gone with the Wind — one of a few smuggled books circulated among trustworthy people via an underground channel, on their word of honor to read only at night, in secret. No one was allowed to keep a book longer than one night — that way, if reported, the book would have already changed hands by the time the searchers came.

The full text of the letter is here and is also collected in the book The Velocity of Being. (via open culture)

Tags: books   Helen Fagin   Holocaust   The Velocity of Being   video   war   World War II

2019-03-08T14:30:34Z


The Partisan States of America

The Atlantic recently teamed up with polling and analytics company PredictWise to build a county-by-county map of political open-mindedness in America.

US Map of Political Prejudice

In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves. This finding aligns in some ways with previous research by the University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, who has found that white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents. (In fact, people who went to graduate school have the least amount of political disagreement in their lives, as Mutz describes in her book Hearing the Other Side.) By contrast, many nonwhite Americans routinely encounter political disagreement. They have more diverse social networks, politically speaking, and therefore tend to have more complicated views of the other side, whatever side that may be.

We see this dynamic in the heat map. In some parts of the country, including swaths of North Carolina and upstate New York, people still seem to give their fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt, even when they disagree. In other places, including much of Massachusetts and Florida, people appear to have far less tolerance for political difference. They may be quicker to assume the worst about their political counterparts, on average.

If you click through to the article, the interactive map will let you see how prejudiced your county is. There are also maps for Republican on Democratic prejudice and Democratic on Republican prejudice.

This map is a little bit bonkers…I can’t wrap my head around some of the results. Why are Florida and South Carolina so polarized while the states surrounding them are not? And look at New York…aside from NYC, there’s relatively little polarization right up against a very polarized New England and Pennsylvania. Utah sticks out among western states but you can probably chalk that up to Mormonism. Is this a methodology problem or is it due to something fundamentally different about the states and/or their governments?

Tags: maps   politics   USA

2019-03-08T00:29:25Z


Fred Rogers Was Attracted to Both Men and Women

Like many people my age, Mister Rogers had a large influence on me in terms of how to act as a man. As Maxwell King wrote in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, he was not perceived at the time to be traditionally masculine:

Rogers himself was often labeled “a sissy,” or gay, in a derogatory sense. But as his longtime associate Eliot Daley put it: “Fred is one of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. So if they are saying he’s gay because… that’s a surrogate for saying he’s weak, that’s not right, because he’s incredibly strong.” He adds: “He wasn’t a very masculine person, he wasn’t a very feminine person; he was androgynous.”

In a 1975 interview for the New York Times, Rogers noted drolly: “I’m not John Wayne, so consequently, for some people I’m not the model for the man in the house.”

When I was little, Mister Rogers was the man of the house. My dad worked a lot and I sometimes only saw him for a few hours on weekends. Instead, my male role models were Captain Kangaroo, the men of Sesame Street (Mr. Hooper, Bob, Gordon, and Luis), and, most of all, Fred Rogers.

Now, some in the LGBTQ+ community are finding Fred Rogers to be a posthumous bisexual role model. Directly after the passage above, King continues:

In conversation with one of his friends, the openly gay Dr. William Hirsch, Fred Rogers himself concluded that if sexuality was measured on a scale of one to ten: “Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.”

As Out’s Mikelle Street notes, it’s tough to tell what Rogers meant by that in terms of his sexuality. We do know he was married to his wife Joanne for more than 50 years until his death in 2003. Rogers also advised François Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons and came out as gay during his time on the program (though not on air), to not go to gay bars while working on the show and encouraged him to marry a woman.

Clemmons did but then divorced his wife to live as an openly gay man, piercing his ear as a sign of his sexuality. He was not allowed to wear earrings while filming though — for years Clemmons masked his own sexuality, under the advice of Rogers, in an effort to be successful.

Could it be that the actor was less forthcoming about his sexuality because he understood what Hollywood then required for success?

If Street is right, perhaps Rogers didn’t come out publicly about his sexuality for the same reason he advised Clemmons to mask being gay and the same reason millions of other people didn’t in the 70s and 80s: fear of social stigma. As King repeatedly writes in the book, Rogers always put the needs of the small children who watched his program above all other concerns. Perhaps he felt that a potential scandal about his sexuality, even a small one, was not worth jeopardizing his relationship with his television neighbors.

For Clemmons though, there was little doubt that Rogers accepted him for who he was:

He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.”

Update: Clemmons spoke at length in this Vanity Fair interview about his relationship with Rogers, his sexuality, and appearing on the show. One excerpt:

And [during the show], I could not handle people having an open discussion about the fact that François Clemmons is living with his lover. I did feel like I was risking [something], because people knew who I was. I had a full conversation with Fred about what it could possibly do to the program and to my role on the program, and I didn’t feel I wanted to risk it. You know, the articles that have talked about me, I don’t think they’ve taken into full account that societal norms were vastly different than what they are right now.

Tags: books   Francois Clemmons   Fred Rogers   LGBT   Maxwell King   Mikelle Street   The Good Neighbor   TV

2019-03-07T21:25:04Z


Van Gogh’s The Night Café Was Among His “Ugliest Pictures”

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh called his 1888 oil painting The Night Café “one of the ugliest pictures I have done”.

Van Gogh Night Cafe

In this video, Evan Puschak looks at what van Gogh meant by that and how he used discordant colors together to suggest a mood.

van Gogh wrote of his intentions for the painting to his brother:

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green.

Tags: art   color   Evan Puschak   video   Vincent van Gogh

2019-03-07T15:29:42Z


Let’s Talk About Hagfish and Their Wondrously Soft Slime

Hagfish are an eel-like sea creatures with the ability to excrete a teaspoon of slime that almost instantly expands to 10,000 times the volume. The slime, a combination of mucous and protein threads, is magical, too! Surprise, it’s not sticky, and it’s actually incredibly soft. Think about the softest thing you can think of. WRONG, this is softer. Hagfish slime is so soft, scientists had to create new ways to measure it when traditional instruments couldn’t hack it.

The proteins threads that give the slime cohesion are incredible in their own right. Each is one-100th the width of a human hair, but can stretch for four to six inches. And within the slime glands, each thread is coiled like a ball of yarn within its own tiny cell — a feat akin to stuffing a kilometer of Christmas lights into a shoebox without a single knot or tangle. No one knows how the hagfish achieves this miracle of packaging, but Fudge just got a grant to test one idea. He thinks that the thread cells use their nuclei — the DNA-containing structures at their core — like a spindle, turning them to wind the growing protein threads into a single continuous loop.

But that’s not all! Hagfish don’t have a jawbone, they’ve got kind of a sandpaper on their face, which is not the scientific way to describe it at all. They eat by burrowing into carcasses and rub their face around to get their fill. The skin of a hagfish is more efficient at processing nutrients than their intestines, so needless to say the burrowing really works for them. While hagfish use their slime to defend against attacks — the excreted slime clogs the gills of attackers — they also use their ridiculously squishy bodies as a defense. If a shark bites them, the important bits squish out of the way like one of those water wiggly toys. (Do you know how hard it is is to google the name of a toy you’ve played with your entire life without ever having known the name of? “Squishy squiggly water snake” is what worked for me.) Lastly, hagfish tie themselves in knots to rid themselves of slime AND to help them eat when they’re inside the dead bodies of recently passed sea friends. Now you know.

As a hagfish cleanser, sea otters hold hands while they’re sleeping so they don’t drift apart.

(Allow me an aside. The last time I wrote about the wacky world of sea creatures on Kottke.org, it was a post about the first known case of the sperm of cooked squid implanting in someone’s mouth. (At the time, of course, everyone knew the sperm of raw squid could implant, but this first case of cooked squid doing the same was big news).)

Tags: video

2019-03-07T00:33:00Z


Clouds in Unexpected Places

Cloud Sculpture

Cloud Sculpture

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde creates ephemeral water vapor sculptures (you know, clouds!) in places you normally wouldn’t find them, like inside churches & museums. He shared some of his process with National Geographic:

The ingredients for Smilde’s clouds: just smoke and water vapor. He requires a cold and damp space with no air circulation, lest the clouds never form or fall straight to the ground. He mists an area with a spray bottle to put water vapor into the air. Then he turns on fog machines that spout tiny particles, and the vapor condenses around them.

Smilde runs around the forming cloud, coaxing it into a shape about 10 feet across and six feet tall. Then he steps back long enough for a photographer to snap several images. Once the air clears, he’ll start over, repeating the process dozens of times until he’s happy with the results. Later, he’ll retouch the photos to remove his tools.

(via moss & fog)

Tags: art   Berndnaut Smilde   clouds

2019-03-06T21:20:31Z


Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

As a hardcore generalist, David Epstein’s forthcoming book is intriguing to me: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

David Epstein, author of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, studied the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields — especially those that are complex and unpredictable — generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t spy from deep in their hyperfocused trenches. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

They will also somehow not be that much better at trivia and will be unable to talk authoritatively about a single topic with a genuine enthusiast or expert for more than 2-3 minutes before starting in on the “I don’t knows”. Wait, just me?

Tags: books   David Epstein   Range

2019-03-06T19:07:35Z


A Light Installation in a Scottish Coastal Town Vividly Shows Future Sea Level Rise

Lines Sea Level

Lines Sea Level

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W) is a light installation in Lochmaddy, Scotland that visualizes how much the sea level will rise if our climate keeps changing at its current pace. Co-collaborators Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta installed sensors to detect high tide, which then illuminates lights showing what the high tide will look like in the future.

The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long-term effects. The work provokes a dialogue on how the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future.

This is specifically relevant in the low lying island archipelago of Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, and in particular to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy where the installation is situated. The Centre cannot develop on its existing site due to predicted storm surge sea levels.

(via colossal)

Tags: art   global warming   Pekka Niittyvirta   Timo Aho

2019-03-06T17:02:34Z


Regarding the Thoughtful Cultivation of the Archived Internet

Kurzgesagt is one of my favorite YouTube channels. Their videos are entertaining & thoroughly researched, and the subject matter is right in the kottke.org wheelhouse. (This one on the physical limitations of humanity when it comes to space exploration is a particular recent favorite.)

So I appreciated their latest video called Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?

In it, they detail the process of making their videos, which has gotten more extensive as the channel matures. The second half is about a pair of videos that didn’t meet their current standard: one about addiction (which I posted about here) and another about the European migrant crisis of 2015. The addiction video represented only one side of a controversial issue within the scientific community while the migrant video was hastily produced and poorly researched. As a result, they deleted both videos, even though they were among the channel’s most popular and plan to publish a future video about addiction that will look more broadly at its causes.

With 20+ years of kottke.org archives, I’ve been thinking about this issue as well. There are many posts in the archive that I am not proud of. I’ve changed my mind in some cases and no longer hold the views attributed to me in my own words. I was too frequently a young and impatient asshole, full of himself and knowing it all. I was unaware of my privilege and too frequently assumed things of other people and groups that were incorrect and insensitive. I’ve amplified people and ideas in the past that I wouldn’t today.

My process today is more rigorous (but not as rigorous as Kurzgesagt b/c we have different aims) and I’ve gained some wisdom (I hope!) about when vigor or sensitivity are called for. I still place a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the reader — you are a smart bunch and I expect you to read and view everything here with a critical eye — but I am also more aware of my (small but not insignificant) responsibility as an informational gatekeeper.

But so anyway, I don’t know what to do about those old problematic posts. Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that cool URIs don’t change is almost part of my DNA at this point, so deleting them seems wrong. Approximately no one ever reads any post on this site that’s more than a few years old, but is that an argument for or against deleting them? (If a tree falls in the woods, etc…) Should I delete but leave a note they were deleted? Should I leave the original posts but append updates citing my current displeasure? Or like Mister Rogers used to do, should I rewrite the posts to bring them more into line with my current thinking? Is the kottke.org archive trapped in amber, a record of what I’ve written when I wrote it, or is it a living, breathing thing that thrives on activity? Is it more like a book or a performance? In my mind it’s both, which is why the site is compelling (IMO) but also makes this issue so thorny for me. The web is weird that way…but how do I embrace the weirdness re: this issue?

Tags: kottke.org   Kurzgesagt   weblogs

2019-03-06T15:04:59Z


Page created: Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - 09:05 PM GMT