General interesting links: May 2018

Last month’s bunch of random stuff:

 

The original “skywalkers” …

 

  • A look at how both Apple and Star wars have come to dominate our “tech aesthetic” in a very deep sense
  • Something about Nirvana (not the band)
  • Michael Polan (of Omnivore fame) talking about psychedelics (on NPR! this stuff is going mainstream again!)
  • File this under this month’s humor section: a 30-year old man had to be sued by his parents to get him to move out of their house
  • Ditto, but the darker variety: story of a man who remained functionally illiterate while being a high school teacher. Choice quote:

Why did I go into teaching? Looking back it was crazy that I would do that. But I’d been through high school and college without getting caught – so being a teacher seemed a good place to hide. Nobody suspects a teacher of not knowing how to read.

  • On the “Very Short Introduction …” series

(there isn’t a lot here this time, partly due to it just being a busy time, partly because I was in Australia for a good third of the month …)

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On the death of Stalin

I believe I’ve just watched the funniest movie in at least a few years. Every single scene, every single interaction, is shot through with dark humor. It really doesn’t get any darker than this.

It’s the kind of material which a lesser movie might have tried to satire or (worse!) turn into a fictionalized documentary.

But no, an accurate retelling is all that works here, preserving all of the idiocy, all of the despair, all of the absurdity— and there is so much absurdity here!

My favorite movie of the year, by far.

General Interesting Links: April 2018

 

Yes, the figure at the bottom of this absurdly tall tree is a horse!

 

Bunch of random stuff that I liked this month:

In this process, which scientists call ‘ballooning’, the spider creates a sail-like web that catches the breeze, allowing it to travel distances as short as a few meters or embark on epic journeys that can take them up into the jet stream or as far as remote islands in the ocean.

  • I found some old advertisements that I liked, but I liked them so much I made the one-liner into a separate post.
  • I’ve been watching a bit of “Thomas the Train Engine” with my daughter, and have a growing unease at the back of my mind each time I do, but this person nails the reason why; will never be able to look at it the same way again (!)
  • I feel terrible that I never paid attention to this line at the beginning of The Big Lebowski, so here’s someone over-analyzing it
  • Something that doesn’t fit anywhere: about seeking, and insights (also has something to say about the Matrix, and about just doing)
  • The “canon wars” continue on (I’m very pessimistic about all this; readers who’ve seen me mention Allan Bloom in the past know which side of the fence I sit on, though)
  • Finally, the real” story of Alladin turns out to be way more obscure/interesting than I knew!

The un-happened future

Regular readers may have noticed my fondness for historical advertising (of a very specific kind). Here are some old advertisements by Bohn Aluminum that I came across, and here is a bigger list. This stuff dates from the 1940s.

These look like the background design of Bioshock and you can’t imagine seeing something like this today, but the real story here (I think) is how it used to be possible to imagine building big stuff in a positive sense, and how everyone almost took it for granted that “wonderful infrastructure” was going to come, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, but it was going to come.

Today, it’s hard to find believers of that sort. Today, this giant rocket airplane, with five decks, would draw either a laugh, or a smirk, or worse, but for a brief period it might have drawn admiration.

General Interesting Links: March 2018

 

A 1933 rendering of Plan Obus by Le Corbusier

 

Bunch of random stuff I liked this month:

General interesting links: February 2018

Wangenheim’s drawings of the aurora borealis.

Some random links from last month:

 

 

  • This month’s “art pick” are sketches by Alexey Feodosievich Wangenheim, who was the first head of the Soviet Union’s weather bureau in the 1930s, and drew these while spending the rest of his life in the Gulag.

 

 

Some amazing quotes:

Maya civilisation, at its peak some 1,500 years ago, covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, with an estimated population of around five million.

”With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there,” said Mr Estrada-Belli, “including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”

The archaeologists were struck by the “incredible defensive features”, which included walls, fortresses and moats.

They showed that the Maya invested more resources into defending themselves than previously thought, Mr Garrison said.

One of the hidden finds is a seven-storey pyramid so covered in vegetation that it practically melts into the jungle.

The game-changing technology here appears to be Lidar.

 

 

General interesting links: January 2018

Meta note: decided to change the continuing title here from “Media Summary”, which made sense to me when I first started it in 2016 but just sounds a bit odd now.

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A worker polishes the marble at Kievskaya station, in the Moscow Metro

So, some stuff I read last month that I liked: