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2020-09-25T20:14:27Z
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How Cities Can Make the Most of a Pandemic Winter

As winter approaches in North America and Europe, cities should be thinking about how to encourage and enable people to spend as much time outdoors as possible to help keep everyone sane and safe from Covid-19. From a great piece in CityLab by Alexandra Lange:

Dress in layers, invest in silk and wool long underwear, get over your prejudice against parkas. Many people do this as a matter of course when gearing up for a day of skiing or a turn around the ice rink. But in cities, people dress for the destination, not the journey. “People dress saying, I’m going from my home to this business. What’s the least amount of clothing I can wear for the tolerance of walking x feet?” says Simon O’Byrne, senior vice president of community development for global design consultancy Stantec. “We have to switch that, and dress to loiter.”

O’Byrne, who is also co-chair of the WinterCity Advisory Council, adds, “Stickiness encourages people outside. Moscow does year-round farmers markets. The artists’ community has been pulverized by Covid. As much as we can, we should embrace things to help the local artists, community.” He suggests commissioning visual artists to illuminate dark spaces, via murals or light installations, and hiring musicians for distanced outdoor concerts.

Cities should also invest in places to loiter. All of those outdoor restaurants that are supporting local businesses and bringing liveliness back to the streets? In New York City, at least, they are scheduled to shut down at the end of October, while the mayor and governor bicker over indoor dining. But cities need to catch up to ski areas, which long ago figured out how to make après ski activities like outdoor bars and music venues as much of an attraction as the slopes. Wind breaks (with openings above and below for ventilation), patio heaters and sun orientation can all take outdoor dining further into 2020. WinterCity’s Four Season Patio Design Tips also include higher insulation value materials, like wood or straw bales rather than metal seating, as well as simple solutions like blankets, which offer customers the winter equivalent of being able to reposition your chair in the sun — though that works year-round.

And indeed, NYC just announced that the increased outdoor dining that the city has allowed during the pandemic will become “permanent and year-round”.

Tens of thousands of parking spaces will be permanently repurposed from free private vehicle storage for use by the city’s struggling restaurant owners as part of a revolution in public space unleashed on Friday by Mayor de Blasio.

On WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor” segment, Hizzoner revealed that restaurants would be allowed to occupy curbside spaces - which more than 10,000 are already doing — for outdoor dining, not just through the coronavirus pandemic, but all year and, apparently, forever.

It may turn out to be the single biggest conversion of public space since, well, since car drivers commandeered the curbside lane for free overnight vehicle storage in the 1950s.

But whatever measures are taken, they need to be inclusive for the diverse populations that live in cities. Here’s Lange again, who spends several paragraphs in her piece on this issue:

Snow clearance has become an ongoing political issue for winter cities, with disabled people, the elderly, and parents and caregivers arguing that sidewalks and crossings deserve the same priority as cars, lest people be essentially trapped in their homes. Many physically disabled people have already had their mobility limited during quarantine due to pre-existing health risks, the inability to avoid using elevators and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing. Temporary urban design changes also need to be inclusive.

Tags: Alexandra Lange   architecture   cities   COVID-19   NYC

2020-09-25T20:14:27Z


RIP Robert Bechtle

Robert Bechtle 01

Robert Bechtle 02

Speaking of realism, while researching this post on Arinze Stanley, I noticed that American realist painter Robert Bechtle died yesterday. I can’t exactly remember which of the paintings shown above (‘61 Pontiac at the Whitney, Alameda Gran Torino, 1974 at SFMoMA) I saw in person first, but I do remember being instantly drawn to his work. The level of detail combined with objects of such mundanity sent my mind spinning off into all kinds of interesting realms.

Tags: art   Robert Bechtle

2020-09-25T18:19:03Z


Four Quick Links for Friday Noonish

The Marshall Project and Vox take a close look at US crime statistics over the past several months. "Something to know about crime trends: They are shaped by police action and inaction." [themarshallproject.org]

From an American living there, a report on how Vietnam beat back a second wave of Covid-19 infections. They used localized lockdowns, test/trace/isolate everywhere else, and the gov't has been clear and transparent in their actions and goals. [medium.com]

"Don't think of it as the warmest month of August in California in the last century. Think of it as one of the coolest months of August in California in the next century." [twitter.com]

Governor Newsom announced that California will ban the sale of gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks in 2035. Good news but make it 2025 and then you'd have something. [apnews.com]

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2020-09-25T16:52:01Z


The Surreal Hyperrealism of Arinze Stanley

Arinze Stanley

Arinze Stanley

Arinze Stanley

Nigerian artist Arinze Stanley uses hyperrealistic techniques to draw surreal portraits in stunning detail. From his artist statement:

I draw inspiration from life experiences and basically everything that sparks a feeling of necessity, I find myself spending countless hours working on an artwork to stimulate deep and strong emotions in order to connect more intimately with my viewers

Most times it’s almost like I lose control of my pencils and the art flows through me to the paper.

I work with my Principle of the Three P’s namely Patience, Practice and Persistence. These have guided me over the years towards perfecting my craft.”

Great Big Story did a feature on Stanley and his work last year that’s worth watching:

(via colossal)

Tags: Arinze Stanley   art   video

2020-09-25T15:51:34Z


Two Quick Links for Thursday Evening

Tonight at 8pm ET: a livestreamed recording of Prince's New Year's Eve Benefit Concert from 1987 at Paisley Park. Prince fan @anildash says: "An amazing show, with perhaps Prince's best live band...and *then* Miles Davis shows up." [youtube.com]

Super-interesting perspective on debate as a "technique that transforms a potential exchange of knowledge into a tool of exclusion & oppression". [twitter.com]

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2020-09-25T00:52:01Z


Clear Language on Slavery

I’ve posted before about how the language we’ve been conditioned to use about slavery and the Civil War obscures reality. From historian Michael Todd Landis:

Likewise, scholar Edward Baptist (Cornell) has provided new terms with which to speak about slavery. In his 2014 book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books), he rejects “plantations” (a term pregnant with false memory and romantic myths) in favor of “labor camps”; instead of “slave-owners” (which seems to legitimate and rationalize the ownership of human beings), he uses “enslavers.” Small changes with big implications. These far more accurate and appropriate terms serve his argument well, as he re-examines the role of unfree labor in the rise of the United States as an economic powerhouse and its place in the global economy. In order to tear down old myths, he eschews the old language.

@absurdistwords had a great thread on this recently, urging us to “stop obscuring the horror with detached, antiquated, euphemistic terms”.

Clear Language on Slavery:

Slaves = Hostages
Slave Owners = Human Traffickers
Slave Catchers = Police
Plantations = Death Camps
Mistresses = Rape Victims
Discipline = Torture/Murder
Overseers = Torturers
Trading = Kidnapping
Profit = Theft
Middle Passage = Genocide

For example:

“The prominent slave owner never publicly recognized the offspring of he and one of his slave romances but allowed him to serve in the house”

is really

“The rich human trafficker raped his female hostage and then held their son hostage as well at the death camp he owned”

And from an earlier thread:

When you replace

“Owned slaves” with

“Was an active and willing participant in a vast conspiracy to kidnap children from their families in order to force them into industrial and sexual servitude”

It becomes harder to write slave owning off as just a blot on one’s record.

For instance:

George Washington was our first President and was an active and willing participant in a vast conspiracy to kidnap children from their families in order to force them into industrial and sexual servitude

They continue:

America treats slavery like an oopsie rather than a centuries-long campaign of nightmarish, brutal terrorism.

America sees the systemic and sadistic destruction of Black families as an etiquette violation.

Which is why it will excuse slave owners so readily.

Tags: language   racism   slavery   USA

2020-09-24T21:57:14Z


Two Quick Links for Thursday Afternoon

Fig/wasp codependent evolution is fascinating. "There are more than seven hundred species of fig, and each one has its own species of wasp. When you eat a dried fig, you're probably chewing wasp mummies, too." [newyorker.com]

The presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine have released a joint statement that they are "alarmed by political interference in science amid [the] pandemic". [nationalacademies.org]

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2020-09-24T21:52:01Z


The Approaching Crisis of the 2020 Election

This is an excellent piece in The Atlantic by Barton Gellman on The Election That Could Break America. Excellent and hair-raising. It outlines several of the ways that Donald Trump & the Republicans could disrupt the election process to produce an ambiguous outcome and use the chaos to retain the presidency.

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un-certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice. The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

Read on for the details about how that could happen (voter suppression, mail-in voting, the “blue-shift”, the expired consent decree governing “ballot security” operations at polls, deploying the military to “Democrat-run cities” to “protect ballots”, hand-picked electors in Republican-controlled swing states). But Gellman is clear: some or all of this is going to happen.

Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.

Trump’s invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before.

(As a quick aside, just yesterday, after Gellman’s piece was finalized, Trump again declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.)

I’m not a political scientist nor a therapist, but as someone who has been writing for years that Trump will never willingly leave office, I urge those of you who don’t want America to slide further into autocracy to acclimate yourself to the worst case scenario here so that you’re not completely devastated and immobilized when Election Day and then Inauguration Day comes and this shit happens. Don’t ignore this, optimistically rationalize it away, or stuff it deep down inside you; face it now, directly, and be prepared to assist in the fight for democracy and justice that’s coming.

Update: Here’s a thread by lawyer & author Teri Kanefield responding to The Atlantic piece that’s gotten some attention on Twitter.

First, remember that each state has rules that govern the certifying of their elections.

Yes, laws still matter.

The Trump legal advisor wants you to think they don’t.

Why? Because when enough people lose confidence in democracy, democracy will fail.

That’s why…a goal of active measures is to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

Trump is trying his best to get you to lose confidence in democratic processes.

He is trying to make you think he can pull this off.

New polls came out today showing that Trump is ten points behind nationally.

The Strongman needs you to think he’s strong. He doesn’t want you talking about the polls.

If he was winning, he’d want you talking about the polls.

There are some good details in there, but ultimately she’s really only talking about one aspect of the piece (the election certification) and it remains to be seen whether national polling during a pandemic and more than a month before the election will have anything to with reality when it comes to actual counted votes in a selection of swing states. As the 2016 election showed, all you really need is to bend things your way a little bit in a few states and you’ve got yourself an election or crisis or whatever. (via @heathr)

Tags: 2020 election   Barton Gellman   Donald Trump   politics   Teri Kanefield   USA

2020-09-24T19:02:04Z


Two Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

Remembering the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in photos. [theatlantic.com]

DIY Paper Ruth Bader Ginsburg Protest Collars. [facebook.com]

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2020-09-24T16:52:01Z


Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lying in repose on the portico of the US Supreme Court building

That’s the flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lying in repose on the portico of The Supreme Court Building. From the Washington Post (link is mine):

Her casket was placed on the Lincoln catafalque, built for President Abraham Lincoln’s casket in 1865, and surrounded by an arrangement of the justice’s favorite flowers, including white hydrangea, freesia and white tea roses.

Members of the public can pay their respects until 10pm today and from 9am-10pm tomorrow. On Friday, her casket will be moved to the US Capitol, where she will become the first ever woman to lie in state there.

Tags: death   Ruth Bader Ginsburg

2020-09-23T18:18:03Z


Four Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

The World's Most Expensive Potato Chips Will Run You $15 Per Chip. The phrase "hand-picked" comes up more than once in the description... [mossandfog.com]

In this interview on feminism & trans rights, Judith Butler puts on a mini masterclass about how to effectively answer questions that she thinks are terrible. [newstatesman.com]

A collection of books with unusual but brilliant structures [austinkleon.com]

Turkey is planning on building a canal on the other side of Istanbul from the Bosporus, effectively turning the city into an island. [bigthink.com]

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2020-09-23T16:52:01Z


Behind the Scenes Footage of Mortal Kombat

Released on the heels of the success of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat was one of the earliest games to make extensive use of human actors as models for onscreen action. You can see this proto-motion capture in action in the video above, which features actors & martial artists performing the moves for each of the fighters in the first version of the game. Each pose or motion was recorded and then turned into actions by the onscreen avatars. In the first few seconds, you can even see the actor doing that subtle rocking motion thing that video game avatars do now. (Does this motion have a name? The ready stance?)

See also the making of several subsequent versions of the game — the capture techniques obviously get more sophisticated as the tech improves.

Tags: Mortal Kombat   video   video games

2020-09-23T16:19:49Z


The Typography of Star Trek

Star Trek title card

poster fro Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek typography

In an extended excerpt from his book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies (Amazon), Dave Addey goes long on the typography and design of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and Trek in general).

Alas, The Original Series’s inconsistent typography did not survive the stylistic leap into the 1970s. To make up for it, The Motion Picture’s title card introduces a new font, with some of the curviest Es known to sci-fi. It also follows an emerging seventies trend: Movie names beginning with STAR must have long trailing lines on the opening S.

Tags: books   Dave Addey   design   movies   Star Trek   Typeset in the Future   typography

2020-09-23T14:07:19Z


This Is Usually Where the Title Goes

Hey everybody stream of consciousness warning. I’m behind on most things in my life and this has been exacerbated recently by some medical drama of my own dumb making (not Covid) so I am going to beg your kind pardon if things continue to be a little slow and disjointed around here while I get some things sorted out. I don’t really know what kottke.org is supposed to be right now — an escape? the spearpoint of the resistance? hopeful? realistic? — but I do know that the site has been not that solid lately. I didn’t even post anything about RBG for pete’s sake. Didn’t get to write about a place in NYC that was very special to me, a place that changed my life, that has closed its doors forever. I have not talked enough about kottke.org’s great new podcast (or maybe I’ve mentioned it too much). In this moment it seems both completely irrelevant and absolutely necessary to share art and film and music and scientific wonder and frivolities and my feelings about this necessity changes from day to day. Anyway, if I default to easier topics or if things seem a little less stable than usual I hope you understand. Thank you as always for reading.

ps. I am personally fine, both in body and soul! Just strapped for time/energy/brainspace right now. And always confused/curious about what the future holds. Aren’t we all these days?

Tags: kottke.org

2020-09-23T12:28:08Z


Two Quick Links for Tuesday Evening

Scenes from movies where characters are listening to music with headphones but they're listening to podcasts instead. The Baby Driver / Serial one is so good. [twitter.com]

The Overlooked History of Race Barriers in the United States. Physical segregation walls and race barriers were built in cities & towns around America to separate white neighbors from Black neighborhoods and many of them still exist today. [placesjournal.org]

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2020-09-23T00:52:01Z


The Delightful New “Universe in a Nutshell” App

The breadth of scale of measurable objects in the universe — our distance from the most distant objects we can observe (billions of light years away) to particles measured in something called a yoctometer (1×10-24 meters) — is staggering to think about. That’s where the Universe in a Nutshell app comes in. Developed by Kurzgesagt & Wait But Why (both kottke.org favorites), you can use the app to quickly and easily zoom in and out through objects at all the scales of the universe, like quarks, DNA, cells, earthworms, Europe, Jupiter, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Crab Nebula, galaxies, and galaxy superclusters.

Universe In A Nutshell

Universe In A Nutshell

You can tap on any object you encounter to learn more about it, like an interactive Powers of Ten. I spent 20 minutes just now playing around and it’s really fun. You can download the app for $2.99 from the App Store or on Google Play.

To mark the release, Kurzgesagt made a video comparing the sizes of stars:

And Wait But Why’s Tim Urban wrote a post about the scales of objects: The Big and the Small.

Tags: iPhone apps   Kurzgesagt   long zoom   science   Tim Urban   video

2020-09-22T21:45:34Z


Friluftsliv, the Norwegian Concept of Outdoor Living

Two people out walking in a snowstorm

As winter weather approaches here in North America, those seeking relief from pandemic isolation might take inspiration from the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (meaning roughly “open-air living”).

In Norway this is not as outlandish as it might seem in other nations. The Reads are simply following the concept of friluftsliv, which translates roughly to “open-air living” and is deeply engrained in the country’s heritage.

From the remote Arctic to urban Oslo, friluftsliv means a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast. “It’s the most natural thing for me because I’m Norwegian,” says Alexander, who documents their father-daughter journeys on Instagram.

The idea is as Norwegian as cross-country skis and aquavit. But amid a pandemic that’s upended rhythms of daily life around the globe, friluftsliv might also be a model for coming more safely — and sanely — through the northern hemisphere’s approaching winter season.

I wrote last year about The Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter and I’ll have more to say about how that approach worked out for me personally in a future post (short version: well), but for now I’ll just mention that one of my favorite things I did last winter was going on a 7-mile walk in the freezing cold with a friend. We were both dressed appropriately and keeping warm through movement — being out in nature and the engaging conversation was so enjoyable that I could have cared less about the temperature. (via kottke ride home)

Tags: Norway

2020-09-22T18:32:35Z


Two Quick Links for Tuesday Noonish

Gig Economy Company Launches Uber, But for Evicting People. "Civvl aims to make it easy for landlords to hire process servers and eviction agents as gig workers." [vice.com]

William Gibson asks what the collective weight is of all the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the world. Various guesstimates are presented in the thread; a rough consensus seems to be on the order of grams? [twitter.com]

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2020-09-22T16:52:02Z


A Photographic Window into the Remote Siberian Territory of Yakutia

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev

Alexey Vasilyev’s photos of the remote Russian territory of Yakutia (also known as Sakha, ultra-cold in the winter and hot in the summer) and the people who live there are really something.

Yakutia is the largest region of Russia, but it is almost not explored by man. The number of population is only one million on three million square kilometers. There is no other corner on the Earth where people live in such a severe and contrasting climate. In summer the air warms up to 40 degrees Celsius and in winter it drops to 60 degrees below zero. There is the longest duration of winter, temperatures below zero and snow lies here from October to mid-April.

The transport system has made Yakutia one of the most inaccessible areas in the world. There are almost no railways and few roads. Some places can be reached by plane or helicopter only. The remoteness from the world and severe climatic conditions determined a special way of life and culture of local residents.

That culture includes an enthusiasm for filmmaking, which Vasilyev has also captured.

However, Yakutia is famous not only for the severe climate and gold which is mined here, but also for the cinema. Yakut films participate in international festivals in Europe and Asia, receive awards, which are already more than 80. Yakut Hollywood is called “Sakhawood”.

People with different experiences are engaged in filmmaking. Most directors have no special education, for some of them directing is not the main way to earn money. Actors are people who work in the theater, or people who have never acted in a movie before. About 7-10 feature length films are shot here per year, from romantic comedies to fairy tales, based on local legends and beliefs. Sometimes Yakut movies have better box office than world blockbusters.

You can find more of Vasilyev’s work on Instagram.

Tags: Alexey Vasilyev   photography   Russia

2020-09-22T16:12:14Z


Winners of the 2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

2020 Astronomy Photographer of the Year

The winning entries from the Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 competition are here and they are spectacular. As longtime readers can attest, I will never get tired of looking at photos of the sky and space.

Above from top to bottom: Nicolas Lefaudeux’s tilt-shift shot of the Andromeda Galaxy, Alain Paillou’s ultra-contrasty photo of the Moon, Kristina Makeeva’s aurora shot, Evan McKay’s self-portrait under the Milky Way, and Olga Suchanova’s 3-month exposure of the Sun’s path through the sky using a beer can pinhole camera. You can read a little bit about how Suchanova got that shot on 35mmc:

If exposure times on the order of minutes seem long, try months. Olga Suchanova (London, UK) used a pinhole camera made from a beercan — and not just any beercan, but a Peter Saville design for the Tate Modern — to record the solargraph below.

She used Ilford paper, exposed for 3 or 4 months at an art residency in Almeria, Spain. The long exposure traces the sun’s path across the sky over multiple days — sunny days make brighter lines, and as spring turns to summer, the sun rises higher in the sky. The fantastic colours — another consequence of the long exposure — are created spontaneously on black and white paper, without the need for development or any other chemical processing.

Tags: astronomy   best of   best of 2020   photography   space

2020-09-22T14:21:16Z


Two Quick Links for Monday Afternoon

Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the first woman ever to lie in state at the US Capitol. [usatoday.com]

The Atlantic storm season has been so busy that they've run out of names for tropical storms & hurricanes and have started in on Greek letters. [twitter.com]

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2020-09-21T21:52:01Z


The Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Finalists for the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Each year, photographers entering the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards capture animals in various hilarious (and often anthropomorphic) situations and this year’s finalists can hopefully provide you with some relief from the absolute shitstorm that’s raging outside our skulls here in 2020. [Uh, how about something a little more upbeat next time? -ed] (via digg)

Tags: best of   best of 2020   photography

2020-09-21T20:19:12Z


A Conversation with Jason Kottke on the Kottke Ride Home Podcast

Hi folks. As you may have seen here recently, there is now an official kottke.org podcast: Kottke Ride Home (subscribe here). Every weekday, host Jackson Bird brings you 15 minutes of “the coolest stuff that happened in the world today”. Last week, Jackson and I talked on Skype for a special weekend bonus episode of the podcast: A Conversation with Jason Kottke (more listening options).

This is a peek behind the scenes of Jason’s process, his philosophies, and general thoughts on the internet — where it’s been, and maybe where it’s going. We talked about what running the blog looks like now, how it’s changed over the years. The evolution of patronage models, and his current thoughts on them. We talked a bit about burn out and managing that tension between what you really want to do versus what may appear to be the path of success online. And about the increasingly challenging task of maintaining ownership over what you create online. We also compared and contrasted our experiences as an OG blogger versus an OG vlogger, and how terrible both of those words are.

I thought this was a really good conversation. Jackson had some great questions that got me talking about some stuff I don’t normally get into. Hopefully we’ll do another one again soon. In the meantime, subscribe to Kottke Ride Home to get the best of the internet into your ears every weekday.

Tags: Jackson Bird   Jason Kottke   Kottke Ride Home   kottke.org   podcasts   weblogs

2020-09-21T17:36:14Z


Two Quick Links for Monday Noonish

Join me and the 1000 other backers in supporting The Brick House Cooperative, "a journalist-owned, wolf-proof home for independent media" from veterans of the Awl, Splinter, Gawker, Deadspin, and other like-minded publications. [kickstarter.com]

The Root 100, a list of the most influential African Americans in 2020. Lots of bold-faced names (Nikole Hannah-Jones, Yamiche Alcindor, Ibram X. Kendi, Issa Rae) but spend some time getting to know the folks farther down the list too. [interactives.theroot.com]

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2020-09-21T16:52:01Z


Who Knew You Could Play Music with a Boxing Speed Bag?!

Alan Kahn, aka the Speed Bag King and author of The Speed Bag Bible, can seemingly do anything with a boxing speed bag…like make music. Just watch this 45-second video of him getting warmed up on the bag and then performing a tiny virtuoso concert for a small group of amazed onlookers.

See also Kahn punch drumming the William Tell Overture. Again, this starts off slow but wait for the complex stuff to kick in over the course of the video. (via @austinkleon)

Tags: Alan Kahn   boxing   music   sports   video

2020-09-21T15:40:11Z


Washington National Cathedral Bell Tolls for 200,000 Covid-19 Victims

In the next day or two, the official number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the United States will pass 200,000 (the actual death toll passed 200,000 back in July). To mark the grim occasion yesterday, the Washington National Cathedral tolled its mourning bell 200 times in remembrance, once for each 1000 people who have died.

We toll this 12-ton bell for every funeral held at the Cathedral. Funerals mourn the loss, but they also celebrate the lives of our loved ones, and point us to the hope of resurrection.

This gesture cannot replace the lives lost, but we hope it will help each American mourn the toll of this pandemic.

The tolling goes on for more than 19 minutes and you hear a number of deaths equal to 9/11 every 17 seconds. I recommend listening as long as you are able, to remember those who have been lost, and to inspire action so that 200,000 more Americans don’t have to die before this is all over.

See also A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death from back in July.

Tags: COVID-19   death   video

2020-09-21T13:39:54Z


FKA twigs on Artemisia Gentileschi’s Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy is a painting made in the 1620s by Artemisia Gentileschi. The painting was presumed lost until it was rediscovered in a private collection in France and sold at auction for more than $1 million in 2014.

As part of season 2 of Google Arts & Culture’s Art Zoom project (previously), British singer/songwriter FKA twigs gives her personal interpretation of the painting in the video above.

Scholars assumed it was painted in the 1620s, when Artemisia Gentileschi left Florence and moved back to Rome. She had separated from her husband and become an independent woman, the head of her own household, a rarity at that time.

When making my own album, entitled “Magdalene,” it was a time of great healing for me. When I was researching about Mary Magdalene and I was looking at a lot of paintings of her, she seemed so poised and so together. But the irony is in finishing my music, I found a deep wildness, a looseness, an acceptance, a release. And that’s exactly what I’m experiencing in this painting.

I found this incredibly soothing to watch and listen to…almost ASMR-like. And as usual, you can zoom around the painting yourself; this is not even halfway zoomed in…at full zoom you can see individual brushstrokes and cracks in the painting.

Artemisia Gentileschi's 17th-century painting of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy

Tags: art   art history   Artemisia Gentileschi   FKA twigs   video

2020-09-17T18:59:06Z


Six Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

Back in early April, the USPS had a plan to send free face masks to every household in America. The White House blocked it. This would have saved many lives and prevented many severe infections. [twitter.com]

Former model Amy Dorris says that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in 1997. This makes at least 2 dozen women to come forward with sexual assault and rape accusations against Trump. [theguardian.com]

These maps based on recent research shows how profoundly climate change will alter the United States to make large swaths of the country unsuitable for human habitation in the next 20-40 years. [projects.propublica.org]

Open Culture, always excellent, has been absolutely fantastic lately. [openculture.com]

For the first time since the Great Depression, more than 50% of Americans aged 18-29 live at home with their parents. [axios.com]

The American Ornithological Society just renamed the McCown's Longspur as the Thick-billed Longspur and faces pressure to reevaluate other names. "You shouldn't just put an apostrophe and call it your bird – that's not how this should be working." [audubon.org]

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2020-09-17T16:52:02Z


A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Cover of Barack Obama's book, A Promised Land

A Promised Land is a forthcoming memoir from Barack Obama that he says is “an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody”. Here’s the official description of the book:

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency — a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy.

A Promised Land will be released November 17 but you can preorder it on Bookshop or for the Kindle.

Tags: A Promised Land   Barack Obama   books   politics

2020-09-17T15:52:39Z


The Song Exploder TV Series

Wow! Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder podcast is now a Netflix series! (For those who have never listened, Song Exploder features musicians telling the stories of how their songs were created.) Check out the trailer above, featuring song explosions by Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, R.E.M., and Ty Dolla .

Hirway says on Twitter:

I still don’t fully believe it but @SongExploder, a podcast I started in my bedroom!, is going to be a @netflix series.

If anyone at Netflix wants to talk about kottke.org becoming a series, let me know!! It can be about literally anything and everything. (Hey, we’ll call it “Anything and Everything”! The wheels are already in motion…)

Tags: Hrishikesh Hirway   Netflix   podcasts   Song Exploder   trailers   TV   video

2020-09-17T14:51:21Z


Reprogramming a Game By Playing It: an Unbelievable Super Mario Bros 3 Speedrun

After a fellow named Zikubi beat the speedrun record for Super Mario Bros 3 with a time of just over three minutes, speedrun analyst Bismuth made the video above to explain how he did it…by changing the game with the gameplay itself.

The first couple minutes go exactly as you’d expect, but the speedrun takes a weird turn when, instead of using the second warp whistle to go to level 8, he uses it to go to level 7. And once in level 7, Mario races around randomly, letting opportunity slip away like a blindfolded birthday boy unwittingly steering himself away from the piñata. It’s only later, during the explanation of how he got from level 7 to the final screen so quickly, that you realize Mario’s panicky idiot behavior is actually the player actively reprogramming the game to open up a wormhole to the ending. Watch the whole explanation — it’s a really fascinating little hack.

See also Bismuth’s explanation of a Super Mario Bros world record speedrun, which includes a short argument by me about why video game speedrun breakdowns are interesting to watch even if you don’t play video games.

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

(via @craigmod)

Tags: Super Mario Bros   video   video games

2020-09-17T14:09:44Z


In Search of a Flat Earth

In Search of a Flat Earth is a documentary essay by Folding Ideas’ Dan Olson that starts out talking about people who believe the Earth is flat (and why it’s so difficult to convince them otherwise) but then takes a sharp turn toward a more recent and much more worrying conspiracy theory, QAnon. Lots of interesting information and observations throughout.

See also QAnon, Conspiracy Theories, and the Rise of Magical Thinking.

Tags: Dan Olson   politics   QAnon   science   video

2020-09-16T18:46:38Z


Six Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

New survey: "Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust." [theguardian.com]

James Fallows: "The press hasn't broken its most destructive habits when it comes to covering Donald Trump", including both-sides-ism, covering elections as horse races, and focusing on spectacle. [theatlantic.com]

"The effects of global warming in the Arctic are so severe that the region is shifting to a different climate, one characterized less by ice and snow and more by open water and rain, scientists said Monday." [nytimes.com]

A great piece by model Emily Ratajkowski about the ownership of one's image. "The problem with justice, or even the pursuit of justice, in the U.S. is that it costs. A lot." [thecut.com]

A very entertaining story about finding out the personal info of a former Australian PM just from an Instagram boarding pass pic. "If Tony Abbott's passport number is in this treasure trove of computer spaghetti, maybe there's wayyyyy more..." [mango.pdf.zone]

Months into the pandemic, some consumer goods are still difficult to find. "The coronavirus has eaten away at the entire system by which things are bought and sold in America, and few signs of improvement are on the horizon." [theatlantic.com]

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2020-09-16T16:52:02Z


Study of the Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study of the Creative Specimens is a collection of fantastical hybrid creatures created for Adobe’s 99U conference by Mark Brooks and illustration studio alademosca. Prints are available from Paper Chase Press. (via colossal)

Tags: art   design   illustration   Mark Brooks   remix

2020-09-16T16:37:44Z


“David Lynch Being a Madman for a Relentless 8 Minutes and 30 Seconds”

The title of this video is “David Lynch being a madman for a relentless 8 minutes and 30 seconds” is perfect and requires no further information or contextualization. (thx, david (no relation))

Tags: David Lynch   video

2020-09-16T14:41:38Z


Paul Rudd, Hilariously: Wear a Mask!

NY governor Andrew Cuomo enlisted actor Paul Rudd to do a public service announcement about the benefits of wearing a mask during the pandemic. Rudd, who often looks like he hasn’t aged a day in the past 20 years but is actually 51 years old, is in total “how do you do fellow kids” mode in this video, deploying some totally plausible youth lingo in an effort to get his fellow youths to mask up.

Tags: COVID-19   Paul Rudd   video

2020-09-15T23:44:36Z


Four Quick Links for Tuesday Afternoon

David Byrne's American Utopia is coming to HBO in the form of a "concert film" directed by Spike Lee. Friends who saw the Broadway version of this said it was amazing. [openculture.com]

For decades, the oil, gas, and plastics companies have sold the public on the idea of recycling plastics knowing that it wouldn't work, "all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic". [npr.org]

Selling these ineffectual, poor-fitting paper masks (even with a disclaimer) is irresponsible and dangerous. Please stop this @moo. [moo.com]

For the first time in the 175-year history of Scientific American, the magazine is endorsing a presidential candidate: Joe Biden. "The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people." [scientificamerican.com]

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Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

2020-09-15T21:52:01Z


Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

Book cover for Four Hundred Souls

From historians Keisha N. Blain (author of Set the World on Fire) and Ibram X. Kendi (author of How to Be an Antiracist) comes what sounds like a fascinating new book, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. As editors, Blain and Kendi assembled 90 Black writers & poets to write a chronological history of Black America. Details on the bookseller sites are sparse, but Kendi explained the project on Instagram:

Histories of Black America have almost always been written by individuals, usually men. But why not a community of writers chronicling the history of a community? Keisha and I assembled a community of eighty Black writers and ten Black poets who represented some of the best Black recorders of Black America at its four-hundred-year mark. Though the project was conceived in late 2018, most of the pieces were written in 2019. We wanted the community to be writing during the four hundredth year. We wanted FOUR HUNDRED SOULS to write history and be history, a diary entry in the history of letters when Black America symbolically turned four hundred years old.

In different ways and forms, eighty writers each chronicled five years of Black America’s history in succession, amounting to four hundred years. They related that history, those five years, to our time. The volume’s first writer, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, writes from August 20, 1619 to August 19, 1624. The volume’s final writer, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, writes from August 20, 2014 to August 19, 2019. All 90 contributors are leaders in their fields. I can’t wait to introduce all of them. The lineup is beyond belief.

FOUR HUNDRED SOULS has ten sections, each spanning forty years. Each section concludes with a poem that recaptures forty years of the history in verse. Sometimes history is best captured by poets — as these ten Black poets show. Indeed, the lives of Black Americans have been nothing short of poetic.

That sounds super interesting, in both form and content. You can preorder Four Hundred Souls today; it comes out on Feb 2nd.

Tags: books   Four Hundred Souls   Ibram X. Kendi   Keisha N. Blain

2020-09-15T21:04:51Z


Horrifying Reports of Forced Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Camps

A coalition of organizations led by Project South (which was founded as the Institute to Eliminate Poverty & Genocide — more on that last word in a minute) has filed a complaint based on a whistleblower about an ICE concentration camp in Georgia where, the complaint alleges, detained immigrants are not being properly treated for Covid-19, important medications are being withheld, conditions are appalling, and women are being given unnecessary hysterectomies. From a piece about the complaint:

Multiple women came forward to tell Project South about what they perceived to be the inordinate rate at which women in ICDC were subjected to hysterectomies — a surgical operation in which all or part of the uterus is removed. Additionally, many of the immigrant women who underwent the procedure were reportedly “confused” when asked to explain why they had the surgery, with one detainee likening their treatment to prisoners in concentration camps.

“Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done,” the complaint stated. “When she talked to them about the surgery, the women ‘reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.’ The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were ‘trying to tell themselves it’s going to be OK.’”

“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” the detainee said.

According to Wooten, ICDC consistently used a particular gynecologist — outside the facility — who almost always opted to remove all or part of the uterus of his female detainee patients.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said, adding that, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”

According to the UN’s Genocide Convention of 1948, “imposing measures intended to prevent births” within “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is genocide. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented:

The fact of the matter is the United States has engaged in a program of mass human rights violations targeting immigrants.

I’ll remind you, as I have with increasing frequency lately about the activities of our country’s increasingly authoritarian government, that forced sterilization in detention camps is literally what the literal Nazis did (inspired by, you guessed it, America’s treatment of “undesirable” populations).

You can read the complaint here and check out this thread from Brooke Binkowski for more context and examples of detainee mistreatment at the hands of the increasingly extra-legal ICE.

Tags: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez   Brooke Binkowski   genocide   ICE   medicine   Nazis   USA

2020-09-15T19:13:22Z


The Trailer for Season Two of The Mandalorian

So admittedly I was not the biggest fan of the first season of The Mandalorian — I don’t particularly care for westerns, space or otherwise, and in terms of the off-piste Star Wars tales, preferred Rogue One and even Solo to Mando’s adventures. But there is something compelling there and because I was indoctrinated in the ways of The Force as a child,1 I will watch the new season that starts on Disney+ October 30.

  1. I am not Force-sensitive myself, but I like to watch those who are.

Tags: Star Wars   trailers   TV   video

2020-09-15T17:07:37Z


Page created: Mon, Sep 28, 2020 - 09:05 AM GMT