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Time capsule: the best media of millennium

24 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Back in 2000, Amazon ran a poll asking their customers what they thought were the best books, music, and movies of the past 1000 years. The results, archived by the Internet Archive, are a time capsule not only of recently popular works (Braveheart, Millennium by the Backstreet Boys, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling) but also of who was on the internet at that time. It’s interesting that Harry Potter made the list; the first book had only been out in the US for less than a year and a half and the 2nd and 3rd books had been out for less than 6 months.

The winners in each category were The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles, and Star Wars. The author of the millennium was J.R.R. Tolkien (runner-up: Ayn Rand), The Beatles and Pink Floyd were the top musical artists, and the directors were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Here are the full top 10 lists:

Books
1. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
2. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
4. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone - J.K. Rowling
6. The Stand - Stephen King
7. Ulysses - James Joyce
8. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
9. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
10. 1984 - George Orwell

Music albums
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
2. The Beatles (The White Album) - The Beatles
3. Millennium - Backstreet Boys
4. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd
5. Abbey Road - The Beatles
6. Thriller - Michael Jackson
7. The Joshua Tree - U2
8. The Wall - Pink Floyd
9. Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis
10. Nevermind - Nirvana

Movies
1. Star Wars
2. Titanic
3. Citizen Kane
4. Gone With the Wind
5. The Godfather
6. Schindler’s List
7. The Matrix
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. Casablanca
10. Braveheart

Tags: Amazon   best of   lists

How to be a stoic

24 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Elif Batuman wrote a short piece about how she discovered stoicism for The New Yorker.

The first line of Epictetus’ manual of ethical advice, the Enchiridion — “Some things are in our control and others not” — made me feel that a weight was being lifted off my chest. For Epictetus, the only thing we can totally control, and therefore the only thing we should ever worry about, is our own judgment about what is good. If we desire money, health, sex, or reputation, we will inevitably be unhappy. If we genuinely wish to avoid poverty, sickness, loneliness, and obscurity, we will live in constant anxiety and frustration. Of course, fear and desire are unavoidable. Everyone feels those flashes of dread or anticipation. Being a Stoic means interrogating those flashes: asking whether they apply to things outside your control and, if they do, being “ready with the reaction ‘Then it’s none of my concern.’”

I’m still struggling with recalling Epictetus’ advice when I need to, but I can identify with Batuman’s feeling of a weight being lifted when I do. I’ve noticed that the more central the notion of a lack of control is to my thinking, the more productive, more caring, more mindful, and (perhaps paradoxically) more willing to take risks I become.

Tags: Elif Batuman

Van Gogh’s Starry Night painted on top of water

24 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Artist Garip Ay recently painted van Gogh’s Starry Night (along with his self-portrait) on top of water. Ebru, or paper marbling, is an art form where paint or ink is splattered or “painted” on the surface of water. Typically the painted scene is then transferred to paper with the finished product resembling polished marble stone. But Ay records his marbling on video and the effect is pretty cool.

See also the art of making marbled paper, which is well worth your attention.

Tags: art   Garip Ay   video   Vincent van Gogh

Ocean-like abstracts by Samantha Keely Smith

24 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Samantha Keely Smith

I love these abstract paintings by Samantha Keely Smith. The paintings are Smith’s attempt at representing our inner emotional worlds using imagery resembling oceans, clouds, and even nebulas. From Colossal:

Smith refers to her paintings as ‘internal landscapes,’ part of an ongoing examination of an externalized inner conflict. “My newer works try to boldly portray the struggle I’ve always tried to address in my work between order and chaos, dark and light, and positive and negative impulses,” Smith shares, “along with addressing what feels like a shifting and unpredictable landscape due to global warming.”

A few prints of the original paintings are available through Smith’s website.

Tags: art   Samantha Keely Smith

How technology amplifies authoritarianism

23 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Jason Ditzian writes about how the Nazis used new technological advances — high-fidelity microphones, public address systems, magnetic tape recording — to rise to power.

And since this amplification invention was new, the novelty added to the mesmerizing effects of a little man shouting atop the biggest soapbox that had ever existed. The quality of sound had a mystical effect upon listeners. It imbued Hitler with godlike powers, making him a deity who could project himself everywhere at once, whether one was standing amid a vast audience or sitting in one’s living room listening to the radio. Sometimes the voice was live; sometimes the voice was recorded in life-like clarity by another cutting-edge German innovation — a reel of magnetic tape.

He compares it to Donald Trump’s use of Twitter, which allows him to instantly soapbox to his millions of followers at all hours of the day and night — “a deity who could project himself everywhere at once” indeed.

With Twitter, every moment is a Trump rally. Everyone in the connected world knows what this unhinged narcissistic compulsive liar is thinking at any given moment. More time, energy, thought and commentary have been given to his minute-by-minute inane bullshit than any other issue of the last two years. And a lot of important things happened in the last two years.

Tags: Donald Trump   Jason Ditzian   Nazis   politics

Do robots deserve rights if they achieve consciousness?

23 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

A new video by Kurzgesagt explores the question of machine’s rights. Do machines deserve rights? Perhaps not right now, but what about if they achieve consciousness at some point in the future? (And what does that even mean?) If machines are programmed to feel pain and suffering, do they deserve protection? Or will machines not be allowed to be programmed to suffer and therefore be exempt from rights, for the potential benefit of humans? One thing seems certain: when the shift from machine as thing to machine as thinking, feeling being occurs, it will happen pretty quickly and humans will handle it poorly.

See also The Philosophy of Westworld and Bill Gates’ assertion that the robots who replace people in the workplace should pay taxes.

In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates said that a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools, for which needs are unmet and to which humans are particularly well suited. He argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes.

Tags: Bill Gates   robots   video

Nicholas Winton saved 100s of children from the Holocaust

23 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

In 1938-39 on the eve of World War II, Nicholas Winton established an organization to rescue Jewish children living in Czechoslovakia from the Holocaust by giving them safe passage to Britain, which had recently approved a measure allowing refugees younger than 17 entry into the country. Winton’s organization ended up saving 669 children — future poets, politicians, scientists, and filmmakers among them. Getting these children out of Czechoslovakia was literally a matter of life and death. From Winton’s Wikipedia page:

The last group of 250, scheduled to leave Prague on 1 September 1939, were unable to depart. With Hitler’s invasion of Poland on the same day, the Second World War had begun. Of the children due to leave on that train, only two survived the war.

Although he continued his humanitarian work after the war, Winton rarely spoke of his efforts in saving the children. The full scope of what he had done was revealed only after his wife found a scrapbook in 1988 of the children’s names and the names of the British families that had taken them in. The public learned of Winton’s efforts on a TV show called That’s Life. Winton believed he was attending the show as an audience member, but it was revealed that he was actually sitting amongst about 2 dozen of the now-grown children that he had saved:

For his efforts, Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. He died just a year and a half ago, at the age of 106.

Tags: Holocaust   Nicholas Winton   TV   video

Bach’s Crab Canon is a musical palindrome

23 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

In a series of pieces written for King Frederick II of Prussia in 1747 called The Musical Offering, Johann Sebastian Bach included a canon that is popularly referred to as the Crab Canon. The piece is a puzzle to be worked out by the reader/player.

You may notice that the Crab Canon is performed by two instruments, but only one line is notated. What’s the deal?

Bach published the canons in the Musical Offering as puzzles, giving the reader the minimum amount of information with which they can figure out the piece as long as they understand its structure. To “solve” a puzzle canon is to give it a structure that makes it fit together in pleasing harmony.

The solution to the Crab Canon is that it can be played forwards or backwards or forwards and backwards together in accompaniment. It’s a musical palindrome of sorts. (via open culture)

Tags: Johann Sebastian Bach   music   video

Photos of NYC in the early 1970s

22 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Vergara NYC

Vergara NYC

Vergara NYC

In the early 1970s, Camilo José Vergara trained his camera on scenes of everyday street life in New York City. His photographs captured kids playing on the street, subway cars before graffiti, sections of the Bronx that look bombed out, and the construction of the World Trade Center in progress.

See also his Tracking Time project, specific locations around the US photographed repeatedly over periods of up to 40 years. Vergara was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2002 for this work.

Tags: Camilo Jose Vergara   NYC   photography

Using data science to find the most depressing Radiohead songs

22 February, by Jason Kottke[ —]

Saddest Radiohead Song

Radiohead is data scientist Charlie Thompson’s favorite band and he recently employed his professional skills to determine Radiohead’s most depressing songs and albums. Using data from Spotify and Genius, he analyzed and weighted how sad each song sounded musically and the sadness of the lyrics.

While valence serves as an out-of-the box measure of musical sentiment, the emotions behind song lyrics are much more elusive. To find the most depressing song, I used sentiment analysis to pick out words associated with sadness. Specifically, I used tidytext and the NRC lexicon, based on a crowd-sourced project by the National Research Council Canada. This lexicon contains an array of emotions (sadness, joy, anger, surprise, etc.) and the words determined to most likely elicit them.

Unsurprisingly, True Love Waits is Radiohead’s saddest song and Moon Shaped Pool its saddest album. You can play with this interactive chart to see all of the results. I thought Videotape would score lower on the Gloom Index…along with True Love Waits, it’s my go-to Radiohead song for wallowing in the darkness of my life. (via @RichardWestenra)

Tags: Charlie Thompson   music   Radiohead

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