"Driving [an EV across Australia] wasn't as easy as doing it in a petrol car: the spontaneity was lost to the need to plan charging stops. But those waits allowed for serendipitous discoveries." [smh.com.au]
Since it assumed leadership in the effort to eradicate guinea worm disease, the foundation started by Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter has reduced cases from 3.5 million in 1986 to just 13 in 2022. Best former President ever (and it's not close). [cartercenter.org]
"Analyses have found that 12 people — coined the "disinformation dozen" — are responsible for 65% of misleading claims, rumors, and lies about COVID-19 vaccines on social media." WHAT? [yourlocalepidemiologist.substack.com]
Nicholas Rougeux designed a series of posters to visualize all 143 prime numbers with three digits based on simple rules.
Each print contains all 143 prime numbers with 3 digits. Each is represented by an image composed of simple geometric shapes based on its digital root and colors based on its digits. Arranging these images sequentially creates colorful collages of prime numbers based on simple rules.
For each poster, a unique shape was assigned to the digital root of each prime number which is calculated by iteratively summing its digits until one remains. (All known prime numbers greater than 3 have digital roots of 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, or 8.)
There are nine posters in all that use a few different styles of geometric shape.Tags: design mathematics Nicholas Rougeux
For his project Illustrated People, Thomas Mailaender imprinted photographic images onto people’s skin by shining a UV light through negatives. The visual effect created is not unlike that of a sunburn but it goes away as soon as the skin is exposed to light. I wonder…does it hurt like a sunburn?Tags: art photography Thomas Mailaender
The Cause of Depression Is Probably Not What You Think. "Depression has often been blamed on low levels of serotonin in the brain. That answer is insufficient, but alternatives are coming into view and changing our understanding of the disease." [quantamagazine.org]
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and it's worth spending some time adding your name alongside the name of a Holocaust victim to the IRemember Wall at Yad Vashem. [iremember.yadvashem.org]
This is a delightfully early-80s clip about how electronic music legend Suzanne Ciani created the soundtrack and sound effects for the Xenon pinball game. Xenon was the first talking Bally pinball game and the first pinball game voiced by a woman.
The idea of using the short grunts and groans came to me when I watched people playing the game — the way that people expressed their frustrations or their involvement with the game — and I wanted the game to do that back. I wanted it to talk back to the people playing.
Here are two other videos from the 80s of her explaining her work: on PBS’s 3-2-1 Contact (I *loved* that show) and on The David Letterman Show. According to her Wikipedia page, Ciani created the Coca-Cola “Pop ‘n Pour” sound logo as well as other sound logos for Energizer and ABC.
In 2013, Ciani was inducted into the Pinball Expo Hall of Fame for her pioneering work on the game. (thx, caroline)Tags: games music pinball Suzanne Ciani video
This piece by Cory Doctorow on TikTok’s enshittification (also available at Wired) contains some of the best and simplest descriptions of how online platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Uber, TikTok, Twitter, etc. evolve as they grow and then eventually die.
Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.
This is enshittification: Surpluses are first directed to users; then, once they’re locked in, surpluses go to suppliers; then once they’re locked in, the surplus is handed to shareholders and the platform becomes a useless pile of shit. From mobile app stores to Steam, from Facebook to Twitter, this is the enshittification lifecycle.
The Amazon example he uses is really easy to follow. Early in the company’s history, the site used to be a great place to shop; their customers loved Amazon. But then Amazon’s sellers became their real customers and the user experience started to suffer. And now, much of the value generated by the users and customers goes to the shareholders (which, functionally speaking these days, means several dozen people who run hedge funds or large investment funds).
This strategy meant that it became progressively harder for shoppers to find things anywhere except Amazon, which meant that they only searched on Amazon, which meant that sellers had to sell on Amazon. That’s when Amazon started to harvest the surplus from its business customers and send it to Amazon’s shareholders. Today, Marketplace sellers are handing more than 45 percent of the sale price to Amazon in junk fees. The company’s $31 billion “advertising” program is really a payola scheme that pits sellers against each other, forcing them to bid on the chance to be at the top of your search.
Over at Techdirt, Mike Masnick riffed on Doctorow’s piece, arguing that enshittification, this playing of various parties against each other while siphoning off the value, is bad business because it focuses too much on short term gains.
Because maximizing revenue in the short term (i.e., in the 3 month window that Wall Street requires) often means sacrificing long term sustainability and long term profits. That’s because if you’re only looking at the next quarter (or, perhaps, the next two to four quarters if we’re being generous) then you’re going to be tempted to squeeze more of the value out of your customers, to “maximize revenue” or “maximize profits for shareholders.”
He uses early Amazon as an example of long-term thinking:
Once you go public, and you have that quarterly drumbeat from Wall Street where pretty much all that matters is revenue and profit growth. Indeed, it’s long forgotten now, but Jeff Bezos and Amazon actually were a rare company that kind of bucked that trend, and for a while at least, told Wall Street not to expect such things, as it was going to invest more and more deeply in serving its customers, and Wall Street punished Bezos for it. It’s long forgotten now, but Wall Street absolutely hated Amazon Prime, which locked in customer loyalty, but which they thought was a huge waste of money. The same was true of Amazon Web Services, which has become a huge revenue driver for the company.
They created a tremendous amount of value for their shareholders by playing the long game, which for whatever reason they aren’t willing to do anymore.Tags: Amazon business Cory Doctorow Facebook Mike Masnick TikTok Twitter
Artist Siren Elise Wilhelmsen designed a clock that knits while it tells time — the clock makes one two-meter long scarf every 365 days.
Time is manifested in physical objects; in things that grow, develop or extinguish. Time is an ever forward-moving force and I wanted to make a clock based on times true nature, more than the numbers we have attached to it.
(via clive thompson)Tags: art Siren Elise Wilhelmsen time
How donkeys changed the course of human history. "From bearing the burdens of the Roman Empire to enabling trade over long distances, the humble donkey has been surprisingly influential." Also: giant donkeys! [bbc.com]
With soooo much TV these days, everyone has their own pick for The Best Show on TV Right Now and my pick, aside from the excellent & underrated My Brilliant Friend, is Succession. Since the middle of the first season, I have eagerly looked forward to each episode and I’ve been jonesing for season four since about 2 seconds after the final episode of season three aired. Plus, the opening credits are unskippable. Succession starts up again on HBO Max on March 26.Tags: Succession trailers TV video
This is something I’ve heard over and over again, in many cities around the world: putting in bike lanes in place of car parking and/or car lanes results in an increase in humans patronizing local businesses and increased sales.
Tags: bicycles business cities
Five years ago, the city of Queens, New York, announced that it would be putting bike lanes onto a stretch of Skillman Ave-and removing 116 parking spots. Cyclists loved the plan, but local business owners went ballistic. Taking out those parking spots, as they argued at protests and in letters to the city council, would devastate stores and restaurants along Skillman. “Parking here is already a nightmare,” one fumed at a protest rally.
But the bike lanes were a done deal, and soon they were in place. Early this year, Jesse Coburn — an investigative writer with Streetsblog New York — wondered whether those predictions of economic collapse came true. So he asked the city’s Department of Finance to give him a few years’ worth of sales figures for that stretch of Skillman Ave. How had the businesses on that street fared?
Quite well, it turns out. In the year after the bike lanes arrived, businesses on Skillman saw sales rise by 12 percent, compared to 3 percent for Queens in general. What’s more, that section of road saw new businesses open, while Queens overall had a net loss.
The thing is, the actual merchants along Skillman? They didn’t believe it. When Coburn spoke to them and described what he’d found, only a few store owners admitted the lanes had helped. Many still insisted the lanes were killing their part of the city. And emotions ran hot: Someone scattered tacks on the bike lane.
This graph of military spending is the one of the most misleading statistical graphs I've ever seen. "If a student presented this in a statistics 101 class, the teacher would likely give them an F." [geopoliticaleconomy.com]
Perfidious Pricing: How Companies Use Drip Pricing to Overcharge Consumers. Odd choice to use restaurants as an example of drip pricing creep – tax + tip has always been a "hidden" charge. [passingtime.substack.com]
Macroeconomic Changes Have Made It Impossible for Me to Want to Pay You. "Let's not mince words, though; the accountability for this decision rests with me. The consequences, on the other hand, rest with you." [mcsweeneys.net]
Some really nice work amongst the winners and runners up of the Minimalist Photography Awards for 2022. I’ve included a few favorites of mine above (from top to bottom: Daniel Dencescu, Gleici Rufatto, Julie Kenny, and Alexandre Caetano).Tags: best of best of 2022 photography
Haley Nahman on the contagious visual blandness of Netflix:
It’s actually, specifically, about how movies these days look. That is, more flat, more fake, over-saturated, or else over-filtered, like an Instagram photo in 2012, but rendered in commercial-like high-def. This applies to prestige television, too. There are more green screens and sound stages, more CGI, more fixing-it-in-post. As these production tools have gotten slicker and cheaper and thus more widely abused, it’s not that everything looks obviously shitty or too good to feel true, it’s actually that most things look mid in the exact same way.
Yes, yes, 1000 times yes. This has been bugging me for years now — movies and TV shows are too blandly shiny these days (or is it shinily bland?) It’s easy to make everything look just so — and so filmmakers do, without the visual zip of a Wes Anderson or David Fincher. This comment from Reddit captures the vibe:
Tags: Haley Nahman movies TV
I actually think it looks too “perfect”. Everyone is lit perfectly and filmed digitally on raw and tweaked to perfection. It makes everything have a fake feeling to it. Commercials use the same cameras and color correction so everything looks the same. Every shot looks like it could be used in a stock photo and it looks completely soulless.
No film grain, no shadows on faces, and no wide shots. I have a theory that going from tungsten to led lightning added to this as well. Tungsten allows for more accurate color in camera but LEDs are cheaper, cooler, and more convenient. So the solution is to film on a nice digital camera and fix the color in post. However, this makes for less creativity on set and less use of shadows.
Green screens make it worse as they also require flatter lighting to work. Marvel films are very obviously mostly made in post and they all look very flat and not real. Even shitty low budget 90’s comedies look better and I think this can be attributed to the lighting.
Catherine Scorsese appeared in many of her son Martin’s films — Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Casino, etc. — and would often cook for the cast and crew.
Robert DeNiro said, “She made the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I always wanted to serve it at TriBeCa Grill,” while Harvey Keitel said, “In my memory, Catherine was the epitome of a warm, loving Italian mother. She enjoyed watching me eat as much as I enjoyed eating her cooking.” And Pesci said, “Katie was one of the sweetest ladies I ever met. She was a true innocent. She never did anything bad; she never knew anything bad. In terms of her cooking, it’s a toss-up as to who’s a better cook, Katie or my mother.”
In 1974, Martin made a documentary about his parents called Italianamerican:
Over dinner at their New York apartment on Elizabeth Street, Martin engages his parents in a lively and candid discussion about their lives, discussing such topics as their upbringing, family, religion, marriage, their Italian ancestors, post-war life in Italy, and the hardships of poor Sicilian immigrants striving to succeed in America.
During the film, Catherine cooks meatballs and sauce for dinner and a bare-bones recipe appears in the ending credits (which you can see here with the rest of the film):
Singe an onion & a pinch of garlic in oil. Throw in a piece of veal, a piece of beef, some pork sausage, & a lamb neck bone. Add a basil leaf.
When the meat is brown, take it out & put it on a plate. Put in a can of tomato paste & some water. Pass a can of packed whole tomatoes through a blender and pour it in. Let it boil. Add salt, pepper & a pinch of sugar. Let it cook for awhile. Throw the meat back in. Cook for 1 hour.
Now make the meatballs. Put a slice of bread, without crust, 2 eggs, & a drop of milk, into a bowl of ground veal & beef. Add salt, pepper, some cheese & a few spoons of sauce. Mix it with your hands. Roll them up, throw them in. Let it cook for another hour.
As you can see, the recipe is pretty vague on measurements, but Catherine published a cookbook of her recipes shortly before she died, Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook. The book has long been out of print and seems to be an expensive collector’s item now, but some kind soul has republished the full meatballs and sauce recipe here.Catherine Scorsese food Italianamerican Martin Scorsese movies
Orion Magazine recently republished Rebecca Solnit's 2013 piece, Cyclopedia of an Expedition Around Svalbard. "The water liquid pewter and iron, with gentle ripples rather than white-crested waves. And the smeared red of a polar bear's meal." [orionmagazine.org]
It’s been a bit since we’ve checked in on artist Reuben Wu, who uses drones to paint (sculpt?) with light in the sky over dark landscapes. Most of his recent stuff seems to be video on his Instagram account but I pulled a couple of photos of his that I haven’t featured before. Always inspiring stuff worth exploring.Tags: art photography Reuben Wu
Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild by Kathy Fish. "A resplendence of poets. A beacon of scientists. A raft of social workers. [...] A group of schoolchildren is a target." [jellyfishreview.wordpress.com]
This education startup from Hank and John Green (plus Arizona State and Google) looks really interesting: "a path to get college credit that begins on a YouTube video". Videos are free, classes are $25, college credit is $400. [twitter.com]
Pickup trucks have gotten bigger, less useful, and are increasingly purchased for lifestyle & image reasons. "So what are people using their trucks for? Shopping, errands, commuting and Sunday drives." [axios.com]
Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is currently making its way through the northern skies and should reach its brightest magnitude in early February, according to In-The-Sky.org as it approaches perigee on Feb. 1. To see the comet for yourself, look to the north just after sunset and look for a faint greenish glow. Under the right dark sky conditions, the comet could be visible to the unaided eye, but binoculars will certainly make the job easier.
The comet last visited the Earth about 50,000 years ago and this may be its last visit before it leaves the solar system for good. The unusual green color results from a rare chemical reaction:
The comet itself isn’t green, but its head does appear to glow green thanks to a somewhat rare chemical reaction. The glow likely comes from diatomic carbon (C2) — a simple molecule made of two carbon atoms bonded together. When ultraviolet light from the sun breaks this molecule down, it emits a greenish glow that can last for several days, according to a 2021 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This eerie light disappears before making its way to the comet’s tail, or coma, which is made of gas. That gas is once again a result of solar radiation - in this case, sunlight causes part of the comet to sublimate, or transition from a solid into a gas without entering a liquid state. That gas streaks behind the comet, often glowing blue from the ultraviolet light.
The best, brightest views of the comet will be right around Feb 1, when it will be near the constellation Camelopardalis (almost due north, in the general vicinity of the Big and Little Dippers) right after sunset — use an app like Sky Guide to help find it. It’s cloudy here in Vermont until Friday…I’m going to try to catch a glimpse of it then.
Amazing photo of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) above by Dan Bartlett.Tags: astronomy comets Dan Bartlett photography space
Wow! A forthcoming exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum will bring together 23 of the 37 known paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, including The Girl with a Pearl Earring. As the museum’s website says: “Never before have so many Vermeers been brought together”.
The exhibition will include masterpieces such as The Girl with a Pearl Earring (Mauritshuis, The Hague), The Geographer (Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main), Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid (The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and Woman Holding a Balance (The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC).
Works never before shown to the public in the Netherlands will include the newly restored Girl Reading a Letter at the Open Window from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden.
This page lists all of the works that will appear in the exhibition — you can click on the title of any of the artworks to see a zoomable high-resolution image of the painting, e.g. The Milkmaid or Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.
This is one of the best virtual exhibitions I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of them. It is written in a personable, light-hearted style that still manages to be incredibly information-rich. The way they zoom into the detail of the paintings to illustrate the commentary is flawlessly paced and takes full advantage of the ultra-high resolution photographs. Fry explains changes Vermeer made based on the most recent imaging and research into his process. There are also annotated areas of each painting which you can click on for a shot of additional information. The notes open in windows that have click-through images, so every note is really multiple notes. Then when you’re done exploring the nooks and crannies, you click back to the main tour and the narration picks up where you left off. Whoever designed this is a content management genius, seriously.
The exhibition runs at the Rijksmuseum from February 10 to June 4, 2023 — but note that The Girl with a Pearl Earring will only be available for viewing until March 30, at which point the painting will return to Mauritshuis in The Hague. I….think I might have to get to Amsterdam to go see this?Tags: art Johannes Vermeer museums Rijksmuseum
XKCD’s Randall Munroe recently shared some of the pages from his grandfather’s collection of Disfrustrating Puzzles and Diversions for People Who Don’t Have Time for the Hard Ones and….I cannot stop laughing at some of these.
Welp, it’s no mystery where XKCD came from then.Tags: Randall Munroe XKCD
Image by Cuban cartoonist Osvaldo Gutierrez Gomez. The cartoon is a few years old, but with the increased scrutiny of and legal repercussions feared by school librarians and the never-ending gun violence in our communities, it’s more relevant than ever. (via @irwin)Tags: books guns Osvaldo Gutierrez Gomez USA
New album from Ladytron: Time's Arrow. [ladytron.bandcamp.com]