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Something interesting everyday from one of the oldest and best independent sites on the Web.

A feed by Jason Kottke


The voices in your head don’t tell the truth

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-27 21:36

A recent job loss left Byrne Reese feeling depressed. He sought advice from his stepfather, who has struggled with depression for much of his life.

The voices in your head don’t tell the truth. They are determined to be heard, revered, awed; to get you to hear them at all times — to take them very seriously. They want to be looked upon as the voice of God. Nothing modest about them.

To achieve their goals they lie like crazy. They know you — have been around you a long, long time.

They know the lies you will buy, the ones you cannot dismiss — they know all your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they are going to work on you as only a great Pro can.

Remember they have your brain so finely tuned, and aware of all your knowledge and insight. They are going play the whole shebang against you.

They are going to lie to you as you’ve never been lied to before. It’s a crisis and they know how to savage you. This is their chance to take you over, to ground you down into fine nonexistence. To powder.

Gorgeous trees on display at the 2017 World Bonsai Convention

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-27 18:19

Bonsai 2017

Bonsai 2017

The 8th World Bonsai Convention was recently held in Saitama, Japan. Billed as “the Olympics of the bonsai world”, over 300 trees were on display and one of them sold for ¥100,000,000 ($900,000). Japanistry and Bonsai Tree have some photos of the outstanding trees shown at the event. Bonsai Tonight also has some photos and descriptions of the trees from the convention, but I wish the photos were bigger. (via @sluicing)

A timeline of women’s fashion from 1784-1970

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-27 16:03

Fashion Plates 1784-1970

Part of the appeal of watching period shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey that happen over the course of many years is observing how fashion changes. Collected from a number of fashion plates, this image shows what a woman might have worn each year from 1784 to 1970. (I’m guessing the image only goes up through 1970 because photography made fashion plates increasingly irrelevant.)

Fashion plates do not usually depict specific people. Instead they take the form of generalized portraits, which simply dictate the style of clothes that a tailor, dressmaker, or store could make or sell, or demonstrate how different materials could be made up into clothes. The majority can be found in lady’s fashion magazines which began to appear during the last decades of the eighteenth century.

The above-the-knee dress makes its first appearance in the late 1920s (and then not again until the 60s) and everything is a dress or a skirt until the pantsuit in 1970.

During the 1960s trouser suits for women became increasingly widespread. Designers such as Foale and Tuffin in London and Luba Marks in the United States were early promoters of trouser suits. In 1966 Yves Saint-Laurent introduced his Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit for women that mimicked a man’s tuxedo. Whilst Saint-Laurent is often credited with introducing trouser suits, it was noted in 1968 that some of his pantsuits were very similar to designs that had already been offered by Luba Marks, and the London designer Ossie Clark had offered a trouser suit for women in 1964 that predated Saint Laurent’s ‘Le Smoking’ design by two years. In Britain a social watershed was crossed in 1967 when Lady Chichester, wife of the navigator Sir Francis Chichester, wore a trouser suit when her husband was publicly knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The last item about Lady Chichester was marked with a “citation needed” on Wikipedia, but I found a YouTube video of Chichester’s knighting and sure enough, his wife is wearing a bright red pantsuit (and he’s wearing what looks like a baseball cap (but is likely a sailor’s cap)).

A visual explanation of quantum mechanics

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-27 13:48

From the ViaScience YouTube channel comes this 31-part video explainer of quantum mechanics. As the introduction video notes, there is a fair bit of math in these videos presented at a quick pace, but if you took calculus in high school or college and remember the notation, that (and the pause button) should get you through this pretty well. (via @jsonpaul, who calls the series “fantastic”)

One way to deconstruct a movie, using There Will Be Blood as an example

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-26 20:52

Evan Puschak takes us behind the curtain at the Nerdwriter a little bit and shows us that one way to deconstruct a movie is by counting the number of cuts. If you do this with PT Anderson’s There Will Be Blood for example, you’ll notice that the average scene is quite long compared to most contemporary movies, which makes the viewer pay more attention to each cut.

Minimalist geometric animated GIFs

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-26 18:19


Vayssouze Faure

I love all these simple geometric animations by Frédéric Vayssouze-Faure. (via colossal)

A subway-style map of the Roman roads of Britain

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-26 15:56

Trubetskoy Britain Map

After completing his subway-style map of the roads of the entire Roman Empire, Sasha Trubetskoy began work on a highly requested follow-up: a similar map of the Roman roads in Britain.

This was far more complicated than I had initially anticipated. Not only were there way more Roman Roads in Britain than I initially thought, but also their exact locations and extents are not very clear. In a few places I had to get rather creative with the historical evidence.

As Wikipedia notes, most of the roads were completed by 180 AD and many of them are still in use today.

After the Romans departed, systematic construction of paved highways in the UK did not resume until the early 18th century. The Roman road network remained the only nationally-managed highway system within Britain until the establishment of the Ministry of Transport in the early 20th century.

The Shape of Water

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-26 13:54

Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) is out with a new movie this fall called The Shape of Water.

…an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda discover a secret classified experiment.

As the trailer reveals, the secret is a merman, who Elisa befriends and attempts to help. Pan’s Labyrinth was a masterpiece and this trailer has me hoping that The Shape of Water is in that same zip code.

What is it like to be white?

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-25 16:16

Here’s Fran Lebowitz talking about race in the US in a 1997 Vanity Fair interview:

The way to approach it, I think, is not to ask, “What would it be like to be black?” but to seriously consider what it is like to be white. That’s something white people almost never think about. And what it is like to be white is not to say, “We have to level the playing field,” but to acknowledge that not only do white people own the playing field but they have so designated this plot of land as a playing field to begin with. White people are the playing field. The advantage of being white is so extreme, so overwhelming, so immense, that to use the word “advantage” at all is misleading since it implies a kind of parity that simply does not exist.

It is now common — and I use the word “common” in its every sense — to see interviews with up-and-coming young movie stars whose parents or even grandparents were themselves movie stars. And when the interviewer asks, “Did you find it an advantage to be the child of a major motion-picture star?” the answer is invariably “Well, it gets you in the door, but after that you’ve got to perform, you’re on your own.” This is ludicrous. Getting in the door is pretty much the entire game, especially in movie acting, which is, after all, hardly a profession notable for its rigor. That’s how advantageous it is to be white. It’s as though all white people were the children of movie stars. Everyone gets in the door and then all you have to do is perform at this relatively minimal level.

Additionally, children of movie stars, like white people, have at — or actually in — their fingertips an advantage that is genetic. Because they are literally the progeny of movie stars they look specifically like the movie stars who have preceded them, their parents; they don’t have to convince us that they can be movie stars. We take them instantly at face value. Full face value. They look like their parents, whom we already know to be movie stars. White people look like their parents, whom we already know to be in charge. This is what white people look like — other white people. The owners. The people in charge. That’s the advantage of being white. And that’s the game. So by the time the white person sees the black person standing next to him at what he thinks is the starting line, the black person should be exhausted from his long and arduous trek to the beginning.

(via @amirtalai)

Pablo Escobar’s hippos

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-25 14:03

At the height of his power and wealth in the 1980s, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was one of the richest men in the world. On one of his many properties, Escobar built a private zoo, complete with animals from around the world, including zebras, rhinos, ostriches, and hippos.

As Escobar’s power waned and he was eventually killed, the animals in his zoo were transferred to proper zoos…except for four hippos that escaped into the wilderness. Nature did its thing and now the Colombian wild hippo population stands at nearly 40 and could rise to 100 in the next decade.

The winners of the Magnum Photography Awards 2017

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-24 20:30

Magnum 2017

Magnum 2017

Magnum 2017

The legendary Magnum Photos agency has announced the winners of their second annual Magnum Photography Awards. You can peruse the full selection of the winners, finalists, and juror’s picks on Lens Culture. The photos above are by (respectively) Nick Hannes, MD Tanveer Rohan, and Antonio Gibotta.

How did you know you’d found your person?

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-24 18:13

Laura Olin recently asked the readers of the Everything Changes mailing list how they knew they’d found the person they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with. Some of the responses might, well, is anyone chopping onions in here?

I first began dating my now husband back in the fall of 2008. It was only a couple of years after my father had passed away from lung cancer and the anniversary of his death was particularly difficult in those early years of heart aching loss as one might imagine. I warned him when the date was nearing because I wouldn’t be myself in the undertow of sadness that would take me. Fast forward a couple of years into our relationship, we had moved in together and shared our Google calendars with each other to make making plans and tracking things easier for the both of us (I would make plans without consulting him or have dinner with friends and forget to tell him and he’d have no idea where I was…whoops!). I was scrolling through into June to make some camping reservations and came across a note on June 26th on his calendar. He had made a note that just had my name and the words “Dad day”. That’s when I knew he was my person. He had marked down my sad day to be there for me. He has shown me in the almost 9 years we’ve been together so many other thoughtful ways he cares about me, but that was the moment.

I was only going to share one story but:

I have had two persons in my life; my late husband, and my best friend. I met my best friend one day in college; I hardly knew her, though I knew of her. For some reason, she wandered into my dorm room one afternoon, and burst into tears. She’d just had an abortion. I remember that I looked at her and thought, she’s my best friend forever. It was like a thunderbolt. She says something similar happened to her. We later discovered our dads had gone to the same high school in Cleveland, and that she and I had been born in the same hospital in Columbus, two months to the day apart, even though I then moved 2500 miles away from that town. We now work together and have for ten years. I think we’ll probably form a commune in Maine in twenty years and be together till the end.

My late husband…well, I was in Chicago, and struggling with whether to move to New York. I liked Chicago and didn’t want to leave, but my boyfriend at the time really wanted to go. But I woke up one more morning and just knew: If I move to New York, my life will change. So I did, and eighteen months after that, I got a call from a man named Peter, who needed to make a hire at his newspaper. We met at Grand Central and while I didn’t yet know he was going to be my husband, while I wasn’t even especially attracted to him physically, I was crazily attracted to him as a human being. I came home that night and told myself: I have to find a way to work for this man. I did. Two years later we were together, and we belonged to each other for 17 years. He died four years ago. His last week in the hospital, he held my hand and said, “You’re my person.”

So many onions.

40 hours (and counting) of relaxing Planet Earth II sounds

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-24 15:55

The producers of Planet Earth II (aka probably the best thing I’ve watched in the past year) shot a loooooot of footage for the program. Most of it got cut, but they’ve cut some of it together into these 10-hour videos of relaxing sights and sounds. So far, they’ve done mountains, the jungle, island, and desert.

A timeline map of the massive increase in human-caused earthquakes in Oklahoma

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-24 13:52

In just the past 10 years, the number of earthquakes in the central US (and particularly Oklahoma) has risen dramatically. In the 7-year period ending in 2016, there were more than three times the number of magnitude 3.0+ earthquakes than in the previous 36 years. Above is a video timeline of Oklahoma earthquakes from 2004-2016. At around the midpoint of the video, you’ll probably say, “wow, that’s crazy”. Keep watching.

These earthquakes are induced earthquakes, i.e. they are caused by humans. Fracking can cause induced earthquakes but the primary cause is pumping wastewater back into the ground. From the United States Geological Survey’s page on induced earthquake myths & misconceptions (a summarized version of this paper):

Wastewater disposal wells typically operate for longer durations and inject much more fluid than hydraulic fracturing, making them more likely to induce earthquakes. Enhanced oil recovery injects fluid into rock layers where oil and gas have already been extracted, while wastewater injection often occurs in never-before-touched rocks. Therefore, wastewater injection can raise pressure levels more than enhanced oil recovery, and thus increases the likelihood of induced earthquakes.

Of course, this wastewater is a byproduct of any oil & gas production, including fracking. But specifically in Oklahoma’s case, the induced earthquakes have relatively little to do with fracking:

In contrast, in Oklahoma spent hydraulic fracturing fluid represents 10% or less of the fluids disposed of in salt-water disposal wells in Oklahoma (Murray, 2013). The vast majority of the fluid that is disposed of in disposal wells in Oklahoma is produced water. Produced water is the salty brine from ancient oceans that was entrapped in the rocks when the sediments were deposited. This water is trapped in the same pore space as oil and gas, and as oil and gas is extracted, the produced water is extracted with it. Produced water often must be disposed in injection wells because it is frequently laden with dissolved salts, minerals, and occasionally other materials that make it unsuitable for other uses.

The 12 signature characteristics of a Christopher Nolan film

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-21 18:20

This short video from ScreenPrism details the 12 things you’ll find in a Christopher Nolan film, from non-linear storytelling to moral ambiguity to ambiguous endin…

My favorite observation in the video is that Nolan films his movies from the subjective point of view of his characters, so that the viewer often only knows as much as a characters know, which turns the audience into detectives, trying to unravel mysteries alongside the characters.

If you enjoyed that, ScreenPrism has also made a longer video that takes a more extensive look at Nolan’s career patterns and influences.

A photo appreciation of trees

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-21 16:19



I’ve been on a bit of a tree bender lately (see wolf trees and one tree, one year), so I really enjoyed Alan Taylor’s recent A Walk in the Woods: A Photo Appreciation of Trees.

The top photo was taken by Clément Bucco-Lechat in Hong Kong. And the bottom photo was taken by Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi of Reuters:

Dragon’s Blood trees, known locally as Dam al-Akhawain, or blood of the two brothers, on Socotra island on March 27, 2008. Prized for its red medicinal sap, the Dragon’s Blood is the most striking of 900 plant species on the Socotra islands in the Arabian Sea, 380 km (238 miles) south of mainland Yemen.

I love how the roots of one tree and the branches of another resemble one another.

Young Explorers

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-21 14:40

Young Explorers is a wonderful series of short films by Jacob Krupnick that follow toddlers who have recently mastered walking as they explore the wide world on their own. Fair warning: as a parent, the solo NYC street crossing scene gave me a heart attack!

Kids do not want to be contained — they are built for adventure. As a culture, we are wildly protective of our little ones, often to the point of protecting them from happy accidents and mistakes they might learn from. “Young Explorers” is a series of short films about what happens when you allow kids who are very young — who have just learned to walk by themselves — to explore the world completely on their own.

There are ten films in all so far, two of which are available on Vimeo (embedded above). They are on display outside the ICP Museum in NYC until July 23.

Why is the upcoming total solar eclipse such a big deal?

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-20 22:41

Well, the short answer is that they don’t happen all that often and when they do, they’ve visible from only a small bit of Earth. Joss Fong elaborates in a video for Vox.

The next total solar eclipse to visit the US will be in 2024. If an eclipse happens to come to your town, you’re lucky. Any given location will see a total solar eclipse only once in more than 300 years, on average. The vast majority of us will have to travel to an eclipse path if we want to see a total eclipse in our lifetimes.

I’m off to Nebraska in August to meet up with some friends and see the eclipse. (And that 2024 eclipse Fong mentions? The path of totality goes right over my damn house. Woooo!) But no matter where you are in North America, you can enjoy the eclipse…just make sure you buy some safety glasses (and other supplies) if you want to look directly at the Sun. (via @veganstraightedge)

Your world just keeps expanding (if you want it to)

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-20 20:45

Today is the 48th anniversary of the Moon landing, but it’s also my pal Mike Monteiro’s birthday. He wrote a really moving essay on what turning 50 means to him, and how he’s expanded his personal definition of “us” and “we” along the way, moving from his family, to his immigrant community, to a group of punk art school outcasts, to a wider and wider world full of people who are more similar than different.

When we arrived in the United States in 1970, we settled in Philadelphia because it was the home of a lot of Portuguese immigrants from the small town my parents (and I guess me) came from. And so the we grew from a family unit to a community of immigrants who looked out for each other. We shopped at a Portuguese grocery store because they gave us credit. We rented from a Portuguese landlord because he wasn’t concerned about a rental history. And my parents worked for Portuguese businesses because we didn’t come here to steal jobs, but to create them.

This same community also looked out for each other. When there was trouble, we were there. When someone was laid off a construction job for the winter, we cooked and delivered meals. When someone’s son ended up in jail, we found bail. And when someone’s relative wanted to immigrate, we lined up jobs and moved money to the right bank accounts to prove solvency.

But as anyone who has ever grown up in an immigrant community knows, we also demands a them. They were not us. And they didn’t see us as them either. And at the risk of airing immigrant dirty laundry in public, I can attest that immigrant communities can be racist as fuck. We hated blacks. We hated Puerto Ricans. (It wasn’t too long ago I had to ask my mom to stop talking about “lazy Puerto Ricans” in front of her half-Puerto Rican grandchildren.) We hated Jews. In our eagerness to show Americans we belonged, we adopted their racism. (We also brought some of our own with us.)

I cried about three times reading this. Happy birthday, Mike.

Live TV coverage of Apollo 11 landing and moon walk

Permalink - Posted on 2017-07-20 19:11

Apollo 11 TV Coverage

48 years ago today, the lunar module from the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon. Later that same day, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the module, set foot on the surface, and went for a walk. And the entire world watched them do it. Live.

For the 40th anniversary of the landing in 2009, I put together a page where you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk, synced to the present-day time. Just open this page in your browser and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule (all times EDT):

4:10:30 pm: Moon landing broadcast starts
4:17:40 pm: Lunar module lands on the Moon

4:20:15 pm: Break in coverage

10:51:27 pm: Moon walk broadcast starts
10:56:15 pm: First step on Moon
11:51:30 pm: Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew
12:00:30 am: Broadcast end (on July 21)

Here’s what I wrote when I launched the project:

If you’ve never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I’ve watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I’m struck by two things: 1) how it’s almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth.

This is one of my favorite projects I’ve ever done, and it almost didn’t happen this year. I woke up this morning assuming it was just going to work again, just like it had the previous 8 years, but a bit of testing revealed that YouTube had discontinued the API I was using to display and time the videos. I wasn’t sure I had the JavaScript chops to fix it in time for the big show this afternoon. Luckily, I was able to solicit some help on Twitter and as the internet continues to be absolutely amazing, Geoff Stearns fixed the problem. As he said in his tweet, Stearns works for Google and wrote the YouTube API that had been discontinued, which is a bit like Marshall McLuhan popping out from behind a poster in Annie Hall, but instead of saying “you know nothing of my work”, he says “I’m gonna fix this up real quick”. Reader, it took him 14 minutes from saying “I’ll help” to posting the solution, and I’d bet half of that time was spent running to the fridge for a LaCroix and selecting the proper coding playlist on Spotify. So big thanks to Geoff for making this happen today! And thanks also to Brian Seward, who landed a solution in my inbox a bit after Geoff’s.

Oh, and no more Flash! So it’ll work on any modern browser with no plugins. But I tested it on my phone and it still doesn’t seem to work properly there…the video loads but doesn’t autoplay. Something to improve for next year!