Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh

Elliott Smith documentary chronicles late singer’s musical journey:

Heaven Adores You director Nickolas Rossi, on why his new documentary focuses on the positive aspects of Smith’s life:

I didn’t feel like there was this need to tell the world what I thought was wrong with Elliott Smith. It seemed like he was a normal dude who had normal problems, and there wasn’t really anything exceptional about the fact that he did drugs or was depressed. And if I was going to try to tell you where it came from, I might be wrong. I wanted something that was less about ‘Let’s psychoanalyze Elliott Smith’ and more: Let’s hear stories from his friends and from his sister and from Elliott talking about his journey. Here’s all this great music, so let’s continue to keep it alive and relevant, because it was special and it’s amazing that we should still be sharing it. We may never know how bad or weird or hard it was for him. But do you really need to know, or can you just listen to this amazing stuff and appreciate it for what it was?

Age of Robots: How Marvel Is killing the popcorn movie:

So I don’t object to Marvel, or to Avengers: Age of Ultron, just because it’s not an artful, subtle little movie. That’s part of it: A pop-culture intake comprised of nothing but big spectacle is just as bad for you as an all-cheeseburger diet. But if I wanted to see something artful, I could have gone to watch Ex Machina or whatever that new David Cronenberg movie is supposed to be. I didn’t. I went to see Avengers on opening weekend. What I really dislike about Marvel is what they’re doing to stupid popcorn movies. This is a genre I care about, and they’re fucking it up.

Instagram account of University of Pennsylvania runner showed only part of story:

A heartbreaking account of how our public and private selves can differ enormously.

Machine-Learning Algorithm Mines Rap Lyrics, Then Writes Its Own:

These guys have trained a machine-learning algorithm to recognize the salient features of a few lines of rap and then choose another line that rhymes in the same way on the same topic. The result is an algorithm that produces rap lyrics that rival human-generated ones for their complexity of rhyme.

Fake shack burger:

How to make a Shake Shack-style smashed burger.

An Animated History of 20th Century Hairstyles

The trouble with reference rot:

The impermanance of scholarly literature.

Random dystopia generator:

Example: “In the year 2056, Airstrip One is patrolled by wealthy dinosaur apologists, patronized by the unlikely presdent with a German-sounding last name. Hunting artificial people is as American as Mom and Apple Pie and little girls paralyse across the earth.”

For two years, this Kanye West game has been hiding a disturbing secret:

Conspiracy theorists rejoice! Kanye’s JRPG contains something very weird.

Scroll back: The theory and practice of cameras in side-scrollers:

An exhaustive look at an aspect of game mechanics and design that is taken for granted by most people.

A pixel artist renounces pixel art:

A similarly comprehensive look at what is and isn’t pixel art.

Glengarry Glen Ross had the brass balls to ignore conventional film wisdom:

This is a phenomenally thought-through film. It’s remarkably simple and basic in its execution. It was scripted, designed, and acted to feel, as Foley puts it, “primal.” And yet it’s immaculately controlled, with each line, and each line delivery, adding to the story in tiny but measurable ways.

Love is strange: The multitudes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson:

An unusual love story that’s better read cold. But know that Nielson, as UMO, has recorded some of the best lo-fi indie-soul albums of the past few years.

London’s most mysterious mansion:

In May, 2008, I toured Witanhurst with a real-estate agent. There had been no parties there for half a century, and the house had not been occupied regularly since the seventies. The interiors were ravaged: water had leaked through holes in the roof, and, upstairs, the brittle floorboards cracked under our footsteps. The scale of the building lent it a vestigial grandeur, but it felt desolate and Ozymandian. A few weeks later, Witanhurst was sold for fifty million pounds, to a shell company named Safran Holdings Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands. No further information about the buyers was forthcoming.

The mysteries of London property ownership. Side note: A couple of my friends rent a flat in The Grove, and count Kate Moss et al as neighbours, if not quite acquaintances.

Everlasting speech:

It’s the tenth anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech to the students of Kenyon College.

Other people’s playlists:

[Spotify’s] Related Artists is actually a social network for people with extremely eccentric friends: You can get from Nazis to an album of Kurt Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse-Five in a few clicks. Here’s how: Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh. Take a left at Franklin D. Roosevelt, a hard left at Studs Terkel, and an even harder left at Ward Churchill. Veer slightly right (but you’re really still going left) to Howard Zinn, then Angela Davis. Enter a tunnel until you hit Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Next you’re at Gertrude Stein, who is unexpectedly close to Dorothy Parker. Head right until you see Rudyard Kipling, and after that you can’t miss Vonnegut.

Ta’izz:

Maciej Cegłowski is possibly best-known for his site Pinboard, the best bookmarking site around, and everything that Delicious once was and never will be again. I adore his travel writing just as much:

American drivers treat the car horn like a button marked EMERGENCY, to be used only at times of imminent danger or great injustice. A non-Bostonian can drive for weeks without touching the horn. If you disabled the car horns in Yemen, there would be an immediate nationwide car wreck. The horn is an essential part of Yemeni driving, and in skilled hands becomes an instrument of great subtlety. It can mean “I’m coming up behind you”, or “I’m about to turn left across five lanes of traffic”, or “I’m passing on this blind curve on a mountain road while digging with both my hands in a bag full of qat.” Drivers use it to communicate their intentions to the three-year-olds playing unsupervised in the street, and even to dogs and pack animals. Everyone speaks car horn.

Source code in TV and films

The hideous ecstasy of fear: Diamond Dogs 40 years on:

Probably my favourite Bowie album gets some well-earned coverage.

Shit readers give zero fucks about

The king of bullshit news

This is an excellent critical look into the veracity of CEN’s too-good-to-be-true stories, used by The Daily Mail, among (many) others:

How a small British news agency and its founder fill your Facebook feed with stories that are wonderful, wacky – and often wrong.

The words the media industry prefers

The scraping process and resulting visualisations are interesting; what got me more was Ford’s typically humorous style:

Does Bing care how I use it? I bet “nope.” After some testing, it seemed that was true. You can hit Bing tons of times and Microsoft is like, our milkshake brings all the bots to the cloud […] I exported the data to Excel because Google Spreadsheet charts look like they were made by color-blind eleven-year-olds. Excel charts, on the other hand, look like they were made by drunks who sell timeshares in Tampa […] In the far future, you might attend my wake. He did important work, you will think. His comparison of sexualized terms on websites changed America.

UX from hell

A couple [of] weeks ago a UX designer Twitter friend tweeted “Web peeps: Is there a particularly industry, segment, or niche that—generally speaking—has REALLY bad mobile web experiences?” I didn’t even have to have to think about it before replying: News sites.

I’m interested (personally and professionally) in news site UX, and have documented many similar things. I like the idea of “Shit the UX designer was forced to include” vs “Shit readers give zero fucks about”. Almost always a complete overlap.

A brief history of the # and the @, by Keith Houston

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Keith’s Shady Characters blog and book are both highly recommended.

Explore the trees

A terrifically detailed visualisation of all street trees in San Francisco. See also Matt Dance’s Trees of Edmonton.

A crowdsourced list of the top 50 cult movies

I asked my Twitter followers about their favorite cult films, and got some great responses (I also triggered a kind of Twitter war over whether quoting people’s tweets using the new embed feature is rude and/or noisy, but I will leave that for another day). Here’s a list of the top 50 suggestions — I didn’t include every one, but they all appear in the tweets I’ve embedded below.

Apple: ‘We do not accept fart apps on the Apple Watch’

A place for ugly kids to go

What news can do for Google (and itself). “Editors and publishers shouldn’t be surrendering their news judgment to Google. Shouldn’t they, the news professionals, be telling Google how Google should judge the news? Shouldn’t they be identifying the news that is original, relevant, and important and urging Google to point to that?”

That Guardian’s digital CMS is now producing content for the print version.

Ten years of Google Maps, from Slashdot to Ground Truth. “On the occasion of this 10th anniversary, Re/code spoke with the people who were there at the beginning, and brought back their stories of how something that now seems so fundamental came to be.”

Calendars, timelines, and collages: mapping the imaginary. “I got curious about the other visual aids that novelists create to manage their books, so I asked around and gathered a variety of notebook pages, diagrams, and timelines.”

Death to typewriters. “You see, I blame typewriters for double-handedly setting typography back by centuries. Type before typewriters was a beautiful world filled with hard-earned nuance and richness, a universe of tradition and craftsmanship where letters and their arrangement could tell as many stories as the words and passages they portrayed.“

I’m Brianna Wu, and I’m risking my life standing up to Gamergate. “This weekend, a man wearing a skull mask posted a video on YouTube outlining his plans to murder me. I know his real name. I documented it and sent it to law enforcement, praying something is finally done. I have received these death threats and 43 others in the last five months.”

Our hole in the wall: an oral history of the CBGB scene. “This was a place for ugly kids to go. It wasn’t the beautiful people; it was the dirty people.”

Jupiter Ascending (2015). Last night I fell asleep in the cinema for the first time in my life. It really is that bad.