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kottke.org

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

A feed by Jason Kottke

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Why Police Reform Doesn’t Work In America

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-11 17:25

With the help of Harvard historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad, this video from BuzzFeed documents investigations into police brutality and racism from the past century and how reforms based on those investigations have not brought about meaningful change. These reports — exploring the causes of unrest in Chicago in 1919, Harlem in 1935 & 1943, LA in 1965, Ferguson in 2014 — demonstrate again and again the discriminent violence committed against Black people by the police, and yet that violence and racism continues until the next investigation is conducted with the same conclusion.


Is Everyone Excited About Their Kids Going Back to School?

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-11 15:30

In the United States, amid high numbers of Covid-19 infections and thousands of weekly deaths, no national plan for testing & tracing, little support for working parents, and individual states and school districts left to their own devices to figure this all out for themselves, schools around the country are trying to “open” for the 2020-2021 school year. At McSweeney’s, Kara Baskin imagines Your School District’s Reopening Survey. Here’s what a hybrid learning model will look like:

This model will combine the key elements of in-person instruction (see above) with remote learning, which we hopefully perfected this spring. Your child will be divided into a cohort (A, B, AB, BC, CC, XVY, MCXLVII, and Depeche Mode) based on careful consideration of his or her learning style, social-emotional needs, friendships, and an algorithm our intern designed this summer. You will need a reliable Internet connection, a work schedule that follows no concrete pattern, a forgiving supervisor, independent wealth, or a Xanax prescription. Please contact our school nurse for the latter.

I sent this link to a friend who is currently evaluating several options for her child’s schooling that range from poor to dangerous, and she replied, “This may be too on the nose to be funny.”


Ballpoint Pen Portraits by Mark Powell

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-11 13:31

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Mark Powell Art

Artist Mark Powell draws portraits on repurposed canvases (old maps, newspapers, ads, postcards) with a ballpoint pen. I could have sworn I’d featured Powell’s work before, but I was probably thinking of the work of Ed Fairburn or Matthew Cusick.

The best way to check out Powell’s work is on Behance or on his website (where he has prints and originals for sale). (via colossal)


Five Months of the Virus in NYC

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-10 18:09

Daniel Arnold NYC Covid Times

Photographer Daniel Arnold and editor Dodai Stewart collaborated on a photoessay documenting the first five months of the pandemic in NYC. That image above is just…wow.

See also COVID-19 Empties Out Public Spaces.


A Livestream Reading of Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey Translation

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-10 16:22

Odyssey Live Read

On two consecutive weekends in late August (Aug 20-22 & Aug 27-29), the Oklahoma Contemporary museum will be livestreaming a reading of Emily Wilson’s excellent translation of The Odyssey. Wilson herself will be joined in reading the entire book by folks like actress Bebe Neuwirth, singer-songwriter Leslie Feist, writer Rebecca Nagle (who I’ve been listening to on the fascinating and infuriating This Land podcast), Oklahoma City mayor David Holt, and several other folks.

The exact schedule is TBD, but the event will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Check back here for details closer to the date. (thx, sarah)


Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-10 14:22

Elena Ferrante's The Lying Life of Adults

The English translation of Elena Ferrante’s latest novel, The Lying Life of Adults, is due out at the beginning of September and is available for preorder (Kindle). Here’s the synopsis:

Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.

Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.

The Guardian and the Washington Post have reviews of the Italian version of the book. And Netflix has already announced that they’re producing a TV series based on the novel; here’s a short teaser:

The series is being made by the same folks responsible for HBO’s My Brilliant Friend series (based on Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels), which has been outstanding in its two seasons so far.


Bisa Butler’s Colorful Quilted Portraits of Black Americans

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-06 22:36

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler

Using colorful African textiles, Bisa Butler makes large quilted portraits of Black Americans. From a statement on her gallery’s website:

In my work, I am telling the story — this African American side — of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen.

My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history.

In this short video, you can see how Butler creates her portraits. Look at the amazing sewing machine she uses — it’s got a steering wheel!

You can see more of her work on Instagram and in person at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York through Oct 4, 2020 and at the Art Institute of Chicago starting in November.

Update: I swapped out the previous video embedded above for a longer one that includes sound and an interview w/ Butler. (via @10engines)


Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-06 20:26

Jazz legend Miles Davis? That dude could cook. He could cook in the studio, on stage, and in the kitchen. One of his favorite dishes to make was a chili recipe he concocted through practice and improvisation: Miles’s South Side Chicago Chili Mack. Here’s the ingredients list:

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

You’ll have to click through for the instructions (as well as another of Davis’s chili recipes) but I will reveal that the last step is “Open a Heineken.”

See also the hamburger recipes of Dean Martin (minimalist), Frank Sinatra (even more minimalist), and Ernest Hemingway (surprisingly maximalist). (via @tedgioia)


The User Experience Design of Lego Interface Panels

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-06 18:19

Lego Console Interfaces

I thought George Cave’s The UX of LEGO Interface Panels was going to be a fun distraction, but it’s actually a great layperson’s explanation, using familiar Lego pieces, of how interfaces work in the real world and the design considerations that go into building them.

Shape coding is one approach to differentiation, but there are many others. Colour coding is perhaps the only one to break into our everyday vocabulary, but we can add four more: size, texture, position and operation coding. Together these six are our allies in the design of error-proof interfaces.

Size, shape and colour-coding are the fundamentals: quick-wins that can fix a lot of interface problems. Texture is also a great differentiator for blind operation, particularly on small dials requiring precise control.

(via sidebar)


I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a New Film from Charlie Kaufman

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-06 16:12

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation), director. Łukasz Żal (Ida, Cold War), cinematographer. Jesse Plemons (Friday Night Lights), Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl), Toni Collette (too many amazing things), David Thewlis (Lupin from Harry Potter). Adapted from I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. Netflix. September 4. Trailer above. Excited! Bye.


Extending American Sign Language Vocabulary With Signs for “Coronavirus” and “TikTok”

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-06 14:20

Coronavirus in sign language

The Instagram account thefamilyvocab features videos of words & phrases in sign language that are not part of standard ASL.

Our aim is to play with sign language and expand my child’s visual vocabulary with signs that are not part of standard ASL. It’s only 200 years old and still thriving and evolving.

I love this. So far, they’ve done words like pho, Black Lives Matter, TikTok (I really like this one), Brexit, coronavirus, emoji (I like this one too), gentrification, and dozens of others. They’re creating new signs, taking suggestions from followers, and sourcing signs from other sign languages from around the world. (via youngna)


Watch Popcorn Popping in Super Slow Motion (100,000 fps)

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-05 20:20

Popped popcorn kernels are like snowflakes: no two are alike. If you watch popcorn popping at the ludicrously slow speed of 100,000 fps, you can see these individualized forms flowering into existence. Pro tip: turn off the upbeat music on the video and supply a mellower soundtrack of your own — slow motion video requires meditative music.

See also How to Make Popcorn Using a Blow Torch & Hair Dryer. (via moss & fog)


Defund the Police? We’ve Already Done It Successfully in America.

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-05 18:15

The American system of law enforcement is so deeply embedded into our national psyche that if you find the idea of defunding or abolishing the police challenging, I don’t blame you. But imagine calling an ambulance because a loved one was having trouble breathing or was suffering a stroke and, instead of the expected trained paramedics, a man with a gun showed up. Not great, right? As Jamie Ford explains in this thread, that was not unusual in America until recently.

Until the 70s, ambulance services were generally run by local police and fire departments. There was no law requiring medical training beyond basic first-aid and in many cases the assignment of ambulance duty was used as a form of punishment.

As you can imagine, throwing people with medical emergencies into the back of a paddy wagon produced less than spectacular health outcomes. Now imagine how much worse it became when disgruntled white police officers were demoted to ambulance duty in black neighborhoods.

From Kevin Hazzard’s The First Responders:

Emergency care was mostly a transportation industry, focused on getting patients to hospitals, and it was dominated by two groups: funeral homes and police departments. Call the local authorities for help and you’d likely get morticians in a hearse or cops in a paddy wagon. If you received any treatment en route to the hospital — and most likely you did not — it wouldn’t be very good. At best, one of the people helping may have taken a first-aid course. At worst, you’d ride alone in the back, hoping, if you were conscious, that you’d survive.

Pittsburgh’s Freedom House Ambulance Service changed all that, ushering in a new era of much improved medical care for communities around the US.

Together the two men hashed out a plan: Hallen would raise the money, Safar would contribute his medical expertise, and together they would design advanced ambulances and teach paramedics to provide care on the scene of an accident or emergency. It would be a pioneering medical effort, and Hallen, who was white, suggested another first. The Falk Fund was committed to mitigating racism, and Hallen wanted to staff the service with young black men from the Hill. He hoped that empowering individuals long deemed unemployable would be a source of pride in the black community, a symbol of equality, and a signal that bigoted notions about the black people of Pittsburgh standing in their own way were nonsense.

To help with recruitment, Hallen and Safar partnered with an organization called Freedom House Enterprises, a nonprofit dedicated to establishing and supporting black-run businesses in the city. Freedom House handled staffing for the fledgling ambulance service and recruited the first class of paramedics, including Vietnam veterans and men with criminal records.

So this is a great instance in which armed and untrained police officers have been relieved of a particular responsibility and replaced with specially trained personnel, resulting in a greatly improved outcome for members of the community. If you want other examples, just think about how odd, unhelpful, and dangerous it would be for our communities if the police showed up — armed with a loaded weapon — to collect your garbage, to put out fires, to inspect restaurants, to fix potholes, or to deliver the mail. No, we have sanitation workers, firefighters, public health inspectors, municipal maintenance workers, and postal workers to do these jobs — and they’re all trained in the ins and outs of their particular disciplines.

With these examples in mind, instead of armed personnel handling a wide variety of situations for which they are often not trained, it becomes easier to imagine traffic patrols conducting transportation safety stops, social workers responding to domestic disputes, special crisis centers assisting rape victims, mental health counselors helping people behaving erratically in public, housing guides finding homeless folks a place to stay, student safety coaches helping struggling students navigate school, unarmed personnel responding to property crime, and drug addiction counselors helping drug users stay safe. These are all areas where American communities have applied policing by default, like a flimsy bandaid. It’s ineffective, expensive, and dangerous, and communities should think seriously about supporting and funding alternatives that will be more effective, cheaper, safer, and produce better outcomes for everyone.

Update: See also (hear also?) 99% Invisible’s episode on the Freedom House Ambulance Service.


Transfiguration: An Ever-Evolving Walking Figure

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-05 16:10

First conceived and implemented in 2011, Universal Everything’s walking figure has been remastered and rebuilt from the ground up with the latest digital effects. Transfiguration (2020) treats us to the spectacle of caramel, fire, rocks, smoke, and shrubbery striding around like a person.

Transfiguration 2020

Transfiguration 2020

I think the flowers are still my favorite.


Shel Silverstein’s “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries”

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-05 13:45

The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries

Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a famously divisive children’s book because the story can be interpreted as an abusive relationship between a greedy boy and a tree he takes advantage of. Playing off of that interpretation, Topher Payne rewrote the ending of the book so that the tree is still generous, but only up to a point: The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries.

“And while we’re on the subject,” the tree said, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. “I recognize friendships evolve over time, and we may not see each other as often because you don’t have time for your tree friends. But we used to be real tight. Now it feels like I only see you when you need something. How do you think that makes me feel?”

The Boy took a long breath. He felt a sour rumble in his stomach. Because he realized he hadn’t considered his friend’s feelings. “I bet it makes you feel bad,” said the Boy.

(via waxy)


Nurse to Teachers: Suck It Up!

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-04 22:43

Kristen McConnell writing for The Atlantic: I’m a Nurse in New York. Teachers Should Do Their Jobs, Just Like I Did.

So I can understand that teachers are nervous about returning to school. But they should take a cue from their fellow essential workers and do their job. Even people who think there’s a fundamental difference between a nurse and a teacher in a pandemic must realize that there isn’t one between a grocery-store worker and a teacher, in terms of obligation. People who work at grocery stores in no way signed up to expose themselves to disease, but we expected them to go to work, and they did. If they had not, society would have collapsed. What do teachers think will happen if working parents cannot send their children to school? Life as we know it simply will not go on.

Oh yes, that is a totally awesome thing our brave grocery store workers did for us out of a sense of obligation and not because their choice was between risking their health and losing their job in a country with a terrible social safety net. But let’s leave that to one side for a second.

I think many more people would support (and indeed rapturously welcome) kids going back to school if a) there were many fewer cases of Covid-19 in the US, b) if the federal and state governments were doing more testing, tracing, and isolation & support of those who test positive, c) if there was more support for parents, and especially low-income folks, with other options around education and childcare (more on that below), and d) if the mask issue wasn’t so contentious in some parts of the country. Oh and don’t forget that even before any of this happened, teachers regularly used their own money and held online fundraisers to buy necessary school supplies for their classrooms.

Blaming teachers for not wanting to go back to work because their country and communities can’t or won’t do the hard work of making it safe is ridiculous. It’s not fair to ask them to do their part when others with greater responsibility to act are not. Someone has been watching too many war movies where soldiers dying due to the negligence, incompetence, or bad intentions of their superiors is played off as patriotic service & bravery instead of murder.

And this…this is just flat out false:

(And parents who want their children to stay home have that option, whether through homeschooling or continued remote learning.)

Rich people with reliable internet access and extra computers lying around have that option, and it’s a terrible option if those parents work (especially if they’re single parents). A huge chunk of America does not.1 If, by some miracle, the federal government started paying people to stay home from work to help their kids with school, gave everyone a laptop stipend (as well as enough money so that kids have access to meals that they might usually get through school programs), and ensured internet access to those who don’t have it, that statement would be closer to the truth. As long as we’re waving magic wands, I would like a chocolate pony and a peanut butter unicorn.

I would have been far more sympathetic to McConnell’s case had she made a convincing argument that school is so essential to children that it’s worth the risk to them, their teachers, and their families, that schools and governments are doing the right things to ensure the safety of their students and staff, and that Covid-19 is coming under control in the United States. But she did not.

Update: Sarah Jones rebuts McConnell’s argument for New York magazine: Teachers Aren’t Sacrificial Lambs. No Essential Worker Is.

The idea that remote work and home education don’t qualify as doing one’s part for society is so pernicious that it nearly distracts from McConnell’s core argument, which is both simple and widespread: If work is essential, it must also be sacrificial. That argument is worth examining, not least because it’s likely to reappear as parents cope with another semester at home. McConnell has taken a view expressed most commonly in the pandemic policies of certain large corporations and extended it to teachers. The same thread is visible both in Amazon’s failure to get enough masks to workers and to ensure social-distancing in warehouses and in the insistence that teachers should head back into classrooms, whatever the risk.

I also had a bunch of mail in my inbox this morning, both from teachers and healthcare professionals, poking holes in this poorly argued piece. The Atlantic’s coverage of the pandemic has been outstanding, but this article was just not very good — a rare misfire. (via @zidaya)

  1. In the spring here in Vermont, where cell service and internet can be spotty, there was a steady stream of people asking on local message boards if anyone had extra computers to donate to their kids and where they could find free wifi that was accessible from the parking lot so their kids could sit in the car and do their schoolwork.


Basketball Court Repaired Using the Traditional Japanese Art of Kintsugi

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-04 20:06

Kintsugi Court

Kintsugi Court

As part of his Literally Balling project, artist Victor Solomon fixed up a rundown basketball court, repairing the blacktop using the Japanese art of kintsugi. Traditionally, the kintsugi method involves repairing pottery with glue mixed with gold powder, which results in visible cracks, a reminder of the pottery’s past and what it’s been through. Says Solomon of the project:

With the heartbreaking beginning to 2020 and this weekend’s return of basketball — I’ve been thinking about the parallels between sport as a uniting platform to inspire healing and my ongoing experiments with the technique of Kintsugi that embellishes an objects repair with gold to celebrate it’s healing as formative part of the journey.

(via the kid should see this)


A Long Walk Along Japan’s Historic Nakasendo Highway to Eat Pizza Toast

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-04 15:45

Kissa By Kissa

Kissa By Kissa

Last year, Craig Mod walked 620 miles from Tokyo to Kyoto along the Nakasendō historic highway and along the way he stopped at kissaten (or kissa), old-school Japanese cafes known for their pizza toast. Mod wrote about his quest late last year for Eater and has now turned a fuller account of the journey into a gorgeous book called Kissa By Kissa.

Those kissaten — or kissa — served up toast. I ate that toast. So. Much. Toast. Much of it pizza toast. If you buy this book, you’ll learn more than you ever dared to know about this variety of toast available all across Japan. It’s a classic post-war food staple. Kissa by kissa, and slice by thick slice of beautiful, white toast, I took a heckuva affecting and long walk. This book is my sharing with you, of that walk, the people I met along the way, and the food I ate.

Even more interesting is that to sell the book, Mod built a Kickstarter clone on top of Shopify called Craigstarter. And he’s released the code for it on Github.

Kickstarter is an excellent way to run a crowdfunding campaign. But if you already have a community built up, and have communication channels in place (via a newsletter, for example), and already run an online shop, then Kickstarter can be unnecessarily cumbersome. Kickstarter’s 10% fee is also quite hefty. By leaning on Shopify’s flexible Liquid templating system and reasonable CC processing fees, an independent publisher running a campaign can save some ~$7,000 for every $100,000 of sales by using Craigstarter instead of Kickstarter. That’s materially meaningful, especially in the world of books.

You can order Kissa By Kissa right here.


The Winners of the Malofiej International Infographics Awards for 2020

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-04 13:59

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej Awards 2020

Malofiej have announced their 28th International Infographics Awards for 2020, which they refer to as “the Pulitzers for infographics”. You can check out some of the top infographics here, culled from newspapers, magazines, and online media from around the world. The full list is available here, complete with links to the online winners.


Fantastical Overclocked Urban Scenes by Cássio Vasconcellos

Permalink - Posted on 2020-08-03 18:04

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

Cassio Vasconcellos, Collectives

For his Collectives series, Cássio Vasconcellos takes crowded urban scenes and stitches them together to form fantastical patterns of human activity that look abstract from far away but detailed close up. These are great onscreen, but I’d love to see them in person someday. I could imagine looking at the highways one for hours, zooming in and out on all the details.

See also Sporting Events Compressed into Single Composite Photos. (via print)