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Stan Lee: “Fuck” Is the “Most Useful Word in the English Language”

1 December, by Jason Kottke[ —]

This is a lovely little animated video made from a recording of Stan Lee where he declares that the f-word is “probable the most useful word in the English language”. I found this via Josh Jones’ post at Open Culture, who shares some more Stan Lee tidbits.

Tags: language   Stan Lee   swearing   video

Learn Some Black American Sign Language

1 December, by Jason Kottke[ —]

After a video Nakia Smith did with her grandfather went viral, Netflix asked her to explain what Black American Sign Language is, how it came about, and how it differs from American Sign Language.

Black American Sign Language is a dialect of American Sign Language. It’s still a language. It was developed by Black deaf people in the 1800s and 1900s during segregation. For reference, the first American school for the deaf was created in 1817, but only started admitting Black students in 1952. So as a result, Black communities had a different means of language socialization and BASL was born.

Smith demonstrates a few BASL signs that differ from ASL signs and you can see more of those differences in the video w/ her grandfather, who is also deaf.

For more information, you can check out Smith’s TikTok, Wikipedia, and a documentary film called Signing Black in America.

Tags: American Sign Language   Black American Sign Language   deafness   language   Nakia Smith   video

“52 Things I Learned in 2020”

1 December, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Every year around this time, Tom Whitwell shares a list of 52 things he’s learned over the course of the year, complete with references so you can drill down into each one. Here’s 2020’s version — fascinating as usual. A few favorites:

3. The hold music you hear when you phone Octopus Energy is personalised to your customer account: it’s a number one record from the year you were 14. [Clem Cowton]

18. 10% of the GDP of Nepal comes from people climbing Mount Everest. [Zachary Crockett]

30. In Warsaw’s Gruba Kaśka water plant there are eight clams with sensors attached to their shells. If the clams close because they don’t like the taste of the water, the city’s supply is automatically shut off. [Judita K]

44. A micromort is a one-in-a-million chance of death. Just being alive is about 24 micromorts per day, skydiving is 8 micromorts per jump. [Matt Webb]

52. British clowns register their unique makeup patterns by having them hand painted onto chicken eggs. The eggs are then stored either at the Holy Trinity Church in Dalston or at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset. [Dave Fagundes & Aaron Perzanowski]

You can check out the rest here.

Tags: best of   best of 2020   lists   Tom Whitwell

Vanity Fair Interviews Billie Eilish for a Fourth Consecutive Year

1 December, by Jason Kottke[ —]

For the fourth year in a row, Vanity Fair interviewed teen pop star Billie Eilish on where she is in her life, what she’s learned, where she sees herself in the future, how her work is progressing, and how her answers from previous years hold up. (Past interviews: 2019, 2018.) This year is obviously different because of the pandemic and hits differently because of it.

I still marvel that Vanity Fair embarked on this project with this particular person. They could have chosen any number of up-and-coming 2017 pop singer/songwriters and they got lucky with the one who went supernova and won multiple Grammys.

Tags: Billie Eilish   interviews   video

How Are You Doing?

30 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

As a companion of sorts to the previous post, I ran across this infographic on a site of pandemic resources for Colorado healthcare workers that shows some typical responses to different levels of stress.

Stress Levels Chart

Sometimes having a tough time can make it difficult to determine just how tough a time you’re having. Using a chart like this can help you figure out where you are on the stress continuum (as long as you remember that everyone is different) and then seek out the proper kind of assistance. (via @TheRaDR)


How to Help a Friend Through a Tough Time

30 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Based on the four separate conversations I had with friends this weekend (and reading/watching assorted social media posts), it seems like everyone is really struggling with the pandemic right now, perhaps more so than back in March/April/May. Fatigue is really starting to set in, misinformation is wearing people down, there’s disease and death all around us, it’s tough to keep going towards an ill-defined finish line, and dealing with 9 straight months of grief is just not sustainable. I myself have been all right recently, thankful I’m able to do what I can to support others, but it really varies from week to week.

A year ago, before the pandemic set in, clinical psychologist Kathryn Gordon wrote a piece for Vox on how to help people that you know through a tough time. You may have seen similar advice before — e.g. How Do You Help a Grieving Friend? — but now seems like a good time for a refresher. Here’s one of Gordon’s four tips on how to help:

Ask them how they are feeling. Then, listen non-judgmentally to their response. The simple act of asking someone how they’re doing, with an open-ended question, shows that you care. Listen attentively rather than interrupting or offering your opinion. Ask simple follow-up questions like, “What does that feel like?” or “What has been on your mind as you’re going through this?” This communicates that you genuinely want to know how they’re doing and feel comfortable hearing the truth.

I hope you’re getting the support you need during all of this and are able to find small pockets of time & energy in which to be useful to those around you.

Tags: COVID-19   Kathryn Gordon

Pandemic Stories from Around the World, Fall 2020

30 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

My friend Jodi Ettenberg spent a decade traveling around the world, so she’s got friends and followers from all over the place. Over the weekend, she asked her Instagram followers to share their pandemic experiences and she’s been republishing them in Story collections: one, two, three. (You can also find them on her Instagram profile page.) Individually and as a collection, the stories she’s received are fascinating and heartbreaking to read. Almost 11 months into the pandemic — Wuhan’s lockdown began on Jan 23 — folks out there are really struggling and the response of governments around the world has varied widely (and wildly). Here are a few of the stories…check out the links above to read the rest.

pandemic stories from around the world

pandemic stories from around the world

pandemic stories from around the world

She’s still gathering & sharing stories from people, so send her a DM on Instagram about how things are going in your part of the world if you’d like to participate.

I solicited stories like this from folks back in early April. It’s surreal reading those responses now — so much completely avoidable death and suffering has occurred between then and now.

Tags: COVID-19   Jodi Ettenberg   travel

Speculation: Scented Candle Ratings Down Due to Covid-19 Loss of Smell

30 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

After Terri Nelson noticed people complaining online about a lack of scent from newly purchased scented candles, Kate Petrova analyzed Amazon reviews for candles from the past three years and found a drop in ratings for scented candles beginning in January 2020 (compared to a smaller ratings decline for unscented candles).

graph showing a ratings decline for scented candles since January 2020

The hypothesis is that some of these buyers have lost their sense of smell due to Covid-19 infections and that’s showing up in the ratings.

Tags: COVID-19   infoviz   Kate Petrova   medicine   science   smell   Terri Nelson

Rotating Circles Optical Illusion

27 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

This is one of the best optical illusions I’ve ever seen: aside from rotating, these circles don’t move.

The left/right/up/down arrows were freaky enough but the in & out arrows really blew a gasket in my brain. For proof that the circles don’t move, blink your eyes quickly as you watch or check out this gif. (via @jagarikin)

Tags: optical illusions

The Pandemic Is a Marathon Without a Finish Line. How Can We Win?

25 November, by Jason Kottke[ —]

With the positive news about the Covid-19 vaccine trials, I assume many of you have started to think about the potential end of the pandemic — what we’ll do, where we’ll go, who we’ll see, and reckon with what’s changed and what’s been lost. I know I have. Alex Hutchinson has written an intriguing piece on what sports science might be able to tell us about the psychology of a situation like the pandemic, where the finish line is poorly defined, ever-changing, or even non-existent.

As it happens, there’s a whole subfield of sports science, at the intersection of physiology and psychology, that explores this terrain. It’s called teleoanticipation, a term coined in 1996 by German physiologist Hans-Volkhart Ulmer to describe how our knowledge of an eventual endpoint (or telos) influences the entirety of an experience. Using endurance sports as their medium, researchers in this subfield have probed what happens when you hide the finish line, surreptitiously move it or take it away entirely. For those of us tempted by promising vaccine updates to start fantasizing about an end to the pandemic, these researchers have some advice: don’t.

Instead, the key seems to be remaining in the moment instead of focusing on the goal.

It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?” rather than “Can I make it to the finish?” you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.

This squares with mindfulness practices from Buddhism and Stoicism but also reminds me of a motivational trick I first heard a few years ago: that you can do anything for 10 seconds — and then you just begin a new 10 seconds. Turns out that was popularized by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Good advice can come from anywhere.

Tags: Alex Hutchinson   COVID-19   science   sports

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