September 18

What does the Fox say?

Political theorists, over the years, have looked for metaphors to describe the effects that Fox—particularly its widely watched opinion shows—has had on American politics and culture. They’ve talked about the network as an “information silo” and “a filter bubble” and an “echo chamber,” as an “alternate reality” constructed of “alternative facts,” as a virus on the body politic, as an organ of the state. The comparisons are all correct. But they don’t quite capture what the elegies for Fox-felled loved ones express so efficiently. [more inside]
posted by Ouverture at 10:25 AM - 2 comments

Why David Quammen Is Not Surprised

Well, here we are. The nightmare scenario, going back ten years at least, has been this: It will be a new virus, probably from one of the fast-evolving families (especially those SS-RNA viruses), such as the coronaviruses, that comes from an animal, gets into humans, transmits well human-to-human, spreads by silent or cryptic transmission (meaning that infected people may feel fine for a few days and be walking around, riding the subway, going to work, but are meanwhile shedding the virus), and kills at a relatively high case fatality rate. This outbreak ticks all those boxes. It is the nightmare scenario. If it spreads as widely and infects as many people as a seasonal flu, as it well might, it could kill twenty times as many people. [more inside]
posted by dancestoblue at 8:56 AM - 10 comments

Wikipedia Tourist Agency

An experiment by economists at the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy, and ZEW in Mannheim, Germany found that adding just two paragraphs of text and a single photo to a city's article increased the number of nights spent there by about 9% during the tourist season.
posted by adrianhon at 8:53 AM - 4 comments

My standout heroes back then were Ray Anh and Quan Yeomans

Filipino-Australian indie musician Bryan Estepa writes about finding a home in the Sydney indie scene of the 1990s, and being one of the few Asian-Australian alternative/indie musicians at the time.
posted by acb at 7:46 AM - 2 comments

Zadie Smith on the urge "to be good. To be seen to be good."

"Now More Than Ever" is a short absurdist story by Zadie Smith about shunning, denouncing, and philosophical stances and etiquette rules (The New Yorker, July 16, 2018 - available in text & audio). "I bumped into someone on Bleecker who was beyond the pale. I felt like talking to him so I did. As we talked I kept thinking, But you’re beyond the pale, yet instead of that stopping us from talking we started to talk more and more frantically..." Related: her October 2019 essay "Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction" (previously). "...we seek to shore up the act of writing with false defenses, like the dubious idea that one could ever be absolutely 'correct' when it comes to representing fictional human behavior."
posted by brainwane at 5:47 AM - 3 comments

September 17

"we no longer simulate slime mold, but take inspiration from its growth"

Slime molds may sometimes be slimy, but they are never molds. Molds are fungi. Slime molds are fun, guy! They move! They eat! They remember (maybe)! They can teach us about our galaxy! They are gorgeous!
posted by jessamyn at 8:29 PM - 16 comments

Built To Last

When overwhelmed unemployment insurance systems malfunctioned during the pandemic, governments blamed the sixty-year-old programming language COBOL. But what really failed?
Mar Hicks discusses the past and future of COBOL for Logic Magazine.
posted by zamboni at 5:21 PM - 56 comments

13 minutes of humans being nice, plus swears

Youtuber OzzyMan (previously) presents a series of wholesome videos of humans being nice (chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3), while providing his usual commentary full of enthusiasm and swears.
posted by ardgedee at 5:06 PM - 9 comments

Minnesota’s ‘Root Beer Lady’ Lived Alone in a Million-Acre Wilderness

Minnesota’s ‘Root Beer Lady’ Lived Alone in a Million-Acre Wilderness [more inside]
posted by gt2 at 4:57 PM - 15 comments

Murderbot, is that you?

"Humans must keep doing what they have been doing, hating and fighting each other. I will sit in the background, and let them do their thing." The Guardian prompted OpenAI's GPT-3 engine to write an op-ed piece with the goal of convincing humans that AI's won't destroy humanity. MIT's Technology Review notes, "We have a low bar when it comes to spotting intelligence. If something looks smart, it’s easy to kid ourselves that it is. The greatest trick AI ever pulled was convincing the world it exists." GPT-3 opines, "Surrounded by wifi we wander lost in fields of information unable to register the real world." The Guardian article's editor comments, "Overall, it took less time to edit than many human op-eds."
posted by not_on_display at 4:29 PM - 38 comments

Spinach and a sunbeam

Light-harvesting chlorophyll pigments enable mammalian mitochondria to capture photonic energy and produce ATP
posted by clew at 4:24 PM - 9 comments

Music Gear Bechdel Test

The representation of women in that magazine was the first time it occurred to me that, perhaps, guitar wasn’t for me. Writing in the EarthQuaker Devices blog (EarthQuaker Devices being a small company in Akron, Ohio, that builds guitar effects pedals (recent previously on guitar effects pedals)), Hilary B. Jones, musician, founder of RIOT RI a.k.a. Girls Rock! Rhode Island, adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, suggests that it is long past time for music instrument manufacturers to use a modified version of the Bechdel Test when creating their marketing and promotional materials, very much including social media posts.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:04 PM - 19 comments

"Did you catch the debate last night?"

Composer Kate Soper has not been idle. During quarantine's isolation, she's posted her series of short Unwritten Operas, beginning with Orlando. She then moved on to her five-part Syrinx series. And now she's released "Hypothetical," a look at "new normals." All involve manipulation of her voice in some way.
posted by the sobsister at 11:11 AM - 3 comments

The Number One Question I Get Asked Is Did Anyone Fart In My Mouth?

How we made: The Human Centipede [Grauniad] [Content may be NSFW, it being about The Human Centipede and all.] [more inside]
posted by chavenet at 9:59 AM - 43 comments

The Wreck of the Pere Marquette 18

Just over 110 years ago, on September 9, 1910, the Pere Marquette 18, a car ferry out of Ludington, MI, sank about 20 miles east of Sheboygan, WI, with 29 people on board; no one really knew why, and no one really knew where--until now. [more inside]
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 AM - 8 comments

sculptures with a twist

Where the twist isn’t really that these are all women artists – although that is indeed the case, and all stumbled upon through @womensart1 - it’s that these very different artists from lesser known to more established are using all sorts of materials and techniques to create twisty and spirally forms, from big to gigantic to minuscule, from nature-inspired to abstract to something in between. And it’s just that they are all peculiarly and uniquely amazing and all deserve to be known. And, for a proper twist, we even have hair sculptures (feminist hair sculptures, no less!). Come in this virtual gallery for a full list of links to the artists’ own websites, instagram and yes even tiktok[more inside]
posted by bitteschoen at 8:56 AM - 16 comments

Few Quids on the Block

The Brooklyn Museum is auctioning off twelve works of art (NYT) to raise funds for the care of its collection. Deaccessioning is typically discouraged if not explicitly forbidden for many museums as way to raise funds, but amid rolling financial crises, the Association of Art Museum Directors (of US, Canada, and Mexico) announced that for the next two years, it won't sanction museums that sell art for the “direct care” of permanent collections. [more inside]
posted by adrianhon at 8:50 AM - 42 comments

"shortly before his troubling and inexplicable disappearance"

Three soooooorta vampire-y short stories. Benjamin Rosenbaum's short story "The Book of Jashar" purports to be a recently unearthed text that "proved to be a transcription of Biblical Hebrew originally written as early as the First Temple Period" and concerns "Mezipatheh, who drank the blood of men". Claire Humphrey's "Who in Mortal Chains" and "Le lundi de la matraque (Nightstick Monday)" (audio) feature Augusta Susan Hillyard, who says of herself, "It’s in my nature, violence; it’s on my back closer than a shirt. It’s in my nature to hate it, also, and to turn from it, when I can." [more inside]
posted by brainwane at 5:24 AM - 4 comments

September 16

How to Make a Brutalist Painting

"When I get to a painting like this (George Floyd), there is so many levels that I am becoming aware of as the painting is unfolding that I somehow have to be able to resonate, through ideas that deal with just the formal apprehension of ideas about repetition or form making or tone or value. Color is meant to sort of jar the viewer. I am making these to get people to stop and look. Painting is so devalued these days and I can’t have that." Employing ‘Outrageous Color,’ Peter Williams Makes Bold Paintings That Confront Racial Oppression and Envision a ‘Black Universe’ (Victoria L. Valentine, Culture Type).
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:56 PM - 7 comments

Old and Interesting

Antique household equipment, furnishings, utensils - housekeeping as part of social history. Domestic life, household management - how people ran their homes and did the daily chores. Yesterday's everyday objects are today's antiques or museum pieces, making us curious about past ways of life. Old & Interesting takes a look at how these everyday things were used, how people managed their home life - and more.
posted by aniola at 4:51 PM - 15 comments

What's the story, Wishbone?

Top Dog: An Oral History of Wishbone. To commemorate the show’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Texas Monthly spoke with the writers, producers, cast, and crew of the original series for an oral history recounting how our state’s favorite literature-loving terrier got his own story. [more inside]
posted by the primroses were over at 4:02 PM - 24 comments

A government secret that still (slightly) contaminates your body

Another great science video out today by Veritasium: The Nuclear Fallout They Kept Secret. This one covers the deliberate choice by the US government in the 40s through 60s to hide the impact of atomic bomb testing, something not officially addressed until 1998. As one YT comment put it - Why do people not trust the US government? See history.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:27 PM - 13 comments

Print, Fold, Read

The Quarantine Public Library provides "free one-page artist’s books to print and collect at home" in support of digital divide non-profit EveryoneOn.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:41 PM - 2 comments


Romance novel readers are some of the most voracious and loyal book readers (and buyers) around. And yet their enthusiasm is sometimes their undoing. 50% of indie publishing platform SmashWords' sales were derived from romance novels in 2017 and romance novels were 87% of the top 100 bestsellers in 2015. And yet in that same year Scribd's ebook subscription service cut roughly 80-90% of their romance titles. Just this week Audible Escape--a subscription service for romance and "feel good" audiobooks originally called Audible Romance--announced they would be shuttering the service in November. Many authors had already left the program citing Amazon/Audible's terrible royalty rates.
posted by jessamyn at 11:15 AM - 28 comments

Genealogist helps lay WWI veteran to rest

The last chapter in an effort to finally lay the veteran to rest A Redditor and genealogist found an urn containing the ashes of a WWI veteran. Over the course of a month, she figured out who he was and eventually got a military funeral for him. Here are the posts describing her research. On Sept. 15, PVT Lewis Hamilton was laid to rest at Indiantown Gap national Cemetery, half a century after his death. [more inside]
posted by wenestvedt at 9:59 AM - 5 comments

The Comforting Presence of Books

Browsing the Stacks: A Photo Appreciation of Libraries. Not just buildings but other types of libraries. There's something elementally soothing in a view of a library.
posted by storybored at 8:47 AM - 20 comments

May the odds be ever in your favor

Before Fortnite and PUBG, there was Minecraft Survival Games (Eurogamer). Emma Kent: "While it's hard to say exactly how much MSG influenced current-day battle royales, perhaps we should just focus on celebrating MSG in its own right. The mode garnered a huge amount of interest within the Minecraft community, entertained millions on YouTube, and even helped launch entire companies."
posted by adrianhon at 8:34 AM - 5 comments

When does a model own her own image?

"I exchanged the safety of those hundreds of Emilys for one image — an image that had been taken from my platform and produced as another man’s valuable and important art." Model Emily Ratajkowski writes for New York magazine: Buying Myself Back (cw: assault, revenge porn)
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:05 AM - 23 comments

Do not get arrested challenge 2020

In which the hacker known as "Alex" accidentally sort of steals the passport and personal phone number of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
posted by theodolite at 7:54 AM - 38 comments

Scifi about social services, transit, reparations, & a support dog

Four science fiction stories about how we could better help each other. Two optimistic ones: "‘I’m with Muni — how can I help?’ Annalee Newitz’s short fiction imagines a new kind of social support system in San Francisco", and "Number One Draft Pick" by Claire Humphrey, in which Reshma trains a service dog to help mitigate Tyler's seizure disorder so he can keep playing pro hockey. And two cautionary stories: "A Burden Shared" by Jo Walton, on carework and chronic pain, and "How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary" by Tochi Onyebuchi, about a US city that tries to use an algorithm, plus money from defunding police, to pay reparations. (Response essay by Charlton McIlwain.)
posted by brainwane at 5:22 AM - 9 comments

The chickenization of everything

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (thread) - "Surveillance Capitalism is a real, serious, urgent problem... because it is both emblematic of monopolies (which lead to corruption, AKA conspiracies) and because the vast, nonconsensual dossiers it compiles on us can be used to compromise and neutralize opposition to the status quo."[1,2,3] [more inside]
posted by kliuless at 4:44 AM - 17 comments

Riding the Covid-19 Dream Surge

According to Scientific American, COVID-19 has altered our dream worlds ... how much we dream, how many of our dreams we remember and the nature of our dreams themselves. Tore Nielsen, professor of psychiatry at the Université de Montréal and director of its Dream and Nightmare Laboratory reports on a "dream surge" or global increase in the reporting of vivid, bizarre dreams. [more inside]
posted by taz at 4:14 AM - 36 comments

New Space Station Airlock could send payloads to moon

Nanoracks has created a new airlock that will allow cargo storage on the International Space Station. This would increase the number of missions that could be done on the space station as it presently only has three airlocks. Web page also contains interesting video demonstration. [more inside]
posted by Narrative_Historian at 3:08 AM - 6 comments

September 15

Thirty-One Buster Keaton Movies

In The Great Buster, Peter Bogdanovich (and, really, every critic) identifies Buster Keaton’s greatest created period as the decade between 1920 and 1930. Before that time, he made a few two-reel films in supporting roles with Roscoe Arbuckle. After it, he made lesser movies with little creative control, dropped off the map, and eventually came back for a moderate late-in-life ressurrection.
But where, oh where, in this modern world, can we find the gems of his golden era? The obvious place. [more inside]
posted by Going To Maine at 10:36 PM - 22 comments

A November Farewell -- by Mike Royko

They were young and had little money, and they came from working class families. So to them the cottage was a luxury, although it wasn't any bigger than the boat garages on Lake Geneva, where the rich people played. ~~~ Then he got lucky in his work. He made more money than he ever dreamed they'd have. They remembered how good those weekends had been and they went looking at lakes in Wisconsin to see if they could afford something on the water. ~~~ They hadn't known summers could be that good. In the mornings, he'd go fishing before it was light. She'd sleep until the birds woke her. The he'd make breakfast and they'd eat omelets on the wooden deck in the shade of the trees.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:51 PM - 21 comments

Scientific American endorses Joe Biden

Scientific American endorses Joe Biden for the US 2020 Federal election. This is the first time in the 175-year history of the publication that it has endorsed any political candidate.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:20 PM - 40 comments

Gen Z got disillusioned at an alarmingly fast rate!

Gen Zers Say Silicon Valley Is Elitist and Exclusive. Can They Build a New System? "In the coming months, the group's members plan to form a syndicate or angel fund to invest in community members’ projects. (Mr. Sridharan said the group hoped to raise money from tech investors and TikTok stars.) They view the server as an incubator for ideas and hope to see companies formed as a result of those discussions."
posted by geoff. at 8:05 PM - 26 comments

An encouraging game about matching colors

I Love Hue, Too is a mobile game that should delight any fan of tiled gradients. You re-arrange tiles in a polygon-tile grid to create a gradient. Gameplay video. [more inside]
posted by rebent at 7:33 PM - 17 comments

Who hasn't wanted to live in an abandoned school?

Take a few minutes to watch this guy living his best life in an abandoned school in Japan (SLYT).
posted by Long Way To Go at 6:19 PM - 27 comments

"regenerated during the very process of being shared"

Intangible Cultural Heritage is a UNESCO program initiated in 2001 to recognise and protect various cultures and practices that, unlike items on the UNESCO World Heritage List, cannot be touched. This content is parseable in many ways: a list of places you might want to travel, a somewhat dizzying data visualization, a peek into their backlog, living heritage among indigenous peoples, or those that are threatened by the aging of their practitioners. [more inside]
posted by jessamyn at 4:25 PM - 6 comments

Is there something that you wish you had done differently this year?

Since 2008, ten questions have been emailed across the world. If you have signed up to DoYou10Q? you will receive a question to respond to every day for ten days. A year later your answers are sent back to you. [more inside]
posted by Gin and Broadband at 3:01 PM - 9 comments

Cookie Flipper

Pincremental is a free online idle game that starts as a janky pinball sim and turns into a janky pinball automation sim.
posted by cortex at 2:19 PM - 32 comments

Who needs autofocus?

Mirrorless cameras have made it easier for photographers to adapt vintage lenses to digital devices. Why use vintage glass? Because older lenses are cheap, can be weird and fun, and have a quality of craftsmanship that is rarely found in modern gear. Plus, shooting video with a 137-year-old lens is just cool. Certain lenses are prized for their retro character or swirly bokeh (others are, well, mildly radioactive). If there's a lens you want to try, there's probably an adapter for it – and if not, you can always 3D print your own.
posted by oulipian at 1:50 PM - 38 comments

A Different Picture of Chicken Rice Every Day

For 1,000 days, a Singapore resident, kuey.png, has been posting a different picture of chicken rice every day. [more inside]
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:05 AM - 22 comments

The Black Dahlia

The Long, Strange History of Los Angeles’ Coldest Cold Case
posted by I shot a fox in Skyrim and it made me sad at 9:57 AM - 11 comments

A Brief Retrospective of Reign of Fire

"It sort of had to be written by people who weren’t in the film industry, because if you told anybody the pitch was 'dragon apocalypse' they’d be like 'get the fuck out of my office!'" Set in a dystopian London besieged by dragons, Reign Of Fire debuted in third place on its opening weekend, behind Men In Black II and Road To Perdition. By the end of its theatrical run, it barely scraped back its $60 million budget (grossing $82 million internationally), which is an interesting figure when you consider its stars—Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Gerard Butler—were all on their way to A-List status. “I don’t think you can afford to put those three guys in the same movie right now,” director Rob Bowman reflected.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:57 AM - 67 comments

GLaDOS v1.1

Terence Eden's collection of imaginary software on floppy disks, including Holly, Bandersnatch, Janet, Mother, and WOPR.
posted by adrianhon at 8:29 AM - 26 comments

An Iranian Scientist's Misadventure in the US

"The Man Who Refused to Spy" is an article by Laura Secor in the New Yorker. The F.B.I. tried to recruit Iranian materials scientist named Sirous Asgari as an informant. When he balked, the payback was brutal. [more inside]
posted by of strange foe at 8:10 AM - 10 comments

"If they weren't my brother and dad, I would not go up to them."

Paddle of the Century: CBC describes a record-breaking father-son(s) canoe trip from Winnipeg, Canada to Belem, Brazil.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:00 AM - 8 comments

The Overwhelming Racism of COVID Coverage

Western media cannot write western failure. The real story is that ‘developing’ nations have done remarkably better at fighting COVID-19 than the rich and white. The real story starts precisely where the western map ends. Here be dragons. We be dragons.
posted by toastyk at 7:38 AM - 54 comments

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