A depressed, laconic Luigi

1: Ennuigi

Spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother have made.

2: I’m You, Dickhead

Another great time-travel short.

In a world where time travel is a simple hospital procedure, a man jumps back in time to force his 10-year-old self to learn guitar so that he can get more action with the ladies in the present day.

3: The earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest

I have some thoughts on this but they mostly echo my Twitter pal Charlie Loyd’s, who repeatedly brings so much more considered thought to everything, it’s unfair on the rest of us.

When the Cascadia fault line ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster in recorded history.

4: Briefly

I thought twice about including this as I read something similar most days. But the point of this blog is that not everyone reads what I read and, anyway, I’m such fan of brevity (stop laughing, Twitter followers and Facebook friends) that I want to press this home to everyone. Omit needless words!

Getting things into 140 characters might be teaching young writers one of the most cherished virtues among those who deal professionally with writing: brevity.

5: Haruki Murakami: The moment I became a novelist

If you’ve read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running then you’ve heard a version of this story before, but it’s supremely interesting anyway.

I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.

6: The persistence of vinyl

I hadn’t ever heard of this site before (Stories from the American South) but, boy howdy, is it ever good.

For almost 70 years, United Record Pressing has been in the business of pressing vinyl records. A quarter century ago, everyone thought those old black disks were going the way of the dodo. Then a few years ago, a funny thing happened: The kids started buying vinyl again. And now, one of Nashville’s oldest manufacturing businesses is growing to beat the band.

7: Joanna Newsom announces new album, Divers, shares “Sapokanikan”

Joanna Newsom has announced her first new album in five years. Entitled Divers, the follow-up to 2010’s Have One on Me is due from Drag City on October 23rd.

8: The Proclaimers: how we made I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

When I first learned to play the guitar I would often ‘entertain’ people, half-joking/half-serious, with a slow, angsty, fingerpicked version of this song. People laugh about the track but as far as I can see, it’s completely truly objectively brilliant.

I begin to hate their smiling faces

1: Grimes in reality

Grimes started as a fantasy project, then became too real. Now Claire Boucher is taking back control and showing the world that pop stars can be producers too.

2: Happy Birthday copyright bombshell: New evidence Warner Music previously hid shows song is public domain

Last minute evidence that completely turns a legal case on its head doesn’t come about all that often—despite what you see in Hollywood movies and TV shows. The discovery process in a lawsuit generally reveals most of the evidence revealed to everyone pretty early on. And yet… in the high profile lawsuit over the copyright status of the song “Happy Birthday,” the plaintiffs “Good Morning to You Productions” (who are making a documentary about the song and are arguing that the song is in the public domain) have popped up with a last minute filing, saying they have just come across evidence that the song is absolutely in the public domain.

3: No. 32: Who’s your daddy?

I could read burger blogs all day every day.

4: I Poked all of my 615 Facebook friends. Here’s what happened

At first, it is delightful. I don’t know Facebook’s algorithm – if there is a rhyme or reason to why people appear in the list the way they do. But in the beginning they are all dear friends, and I flick through their pages, seeing profile pictures of them with loving spouses or beautiful children. The messages on their homepages vary – from inspirational quotes to cartoons to outrage over Sandra Bland’s death. I am proud of my friends. They care about people. They are politically aware. I love them. After 108 pokes, barely scratching the surface of my list of more than 600 friends, I begin to hate their smiling faces. I start poking out of spite.

5: Prune for iPhone

A lovely relaxing puzzle game in the same mould as Monument Valley.

Prune is a love letter to trees. A game about the beauty and joy of cultivation. With a swipe of a finger, grow and shape your tree into the sunlight while avoiding the dangers of a hostile world. Bring life to a forgotten landscape, and uncover a story hidden deep beneath the soil.

6: Spaghetti in cones might be NYC’s most loved street food

But however frivolous and gimmicky it might seem, the spaghetti cone is a highly utilitarian innovation. A cardboard cone, it turns out, is an ideal delivery system for spaghetti […] The cone shape facilitates the trick by giving natural purchase to the tines of the fork as they twist. The curved sides of the cone help guide the strands of spaghetti into a ball around the fork. The twirl excludes the need for spearing any bit of food with the fork.

7: Domain stories: Citizen Ex

Tales of techno-geo-socio-politics.

Behind each domain you visit are other stories, that might happen to other people. As part of Citizen Ex, James Bridle explores six of these domains: Libya, Syria, Scotland, Wales, Yugoslavia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory, all of which are available to read online.

8: Reading War and Peace on my iPhone

Will our flighty brains ever get as much out of phone screens as paper? Are the great works of literature doomed to fade away like ghosts? I wanted to find out. So I did an experiment. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the hugest, weightiest tome I could think of. War and Peace.

They pay in faeces

1: A/B tests are destroying your conversion rate

Have I heard clients tell me that they incur performance slowdowns due to their use of A/B tests? Absolutely. But when I hear that, I don’t hear “A/B tests are the problem.” I hear “maybe you need to put in a bit more work until you get it right.”

2: Ultimate steak sandwich: rib-eye, Boursin & watercress

This really does look excellent.

3: The 33 best 33 1/3 books

The 33 1/3 series has revealed a way that we can save the album: by dislocating it from history and letting a new generation develop their own canon. Recently announced titles suggest this trend will continue, but while we wait for new editions on Beat Happening, the Raincoats, and the Geto Boys, here are the 33 best 33 1/3 titles in alphabetical order by artist.

4: Incubus on Instagram

The mostly-forgotten band Incubus are doing something extremely interesting with their Instagram feed. (This looks much better in the app as there is less padding between posts.)

5: A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)

Yes, I am still re-reading this goddamn novel.

6: When you give a tree an email address

This is wonderful:

The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

7: leejohnphillips on Instagram

Spending the next 4 years of my life drawing every item in my late grandfather’s tool shed.

8: lightyear.fm

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there—and the older the music you’ll hear.

9: My burger manifesto

10: One-minute time machine

A great short film.

11: God tier: Facebook moms run the meme game

The advice meme as we knew it (original characters captioned in Impact) is dead. But while the internet cultural vanguard moved on, a newer class of internet user, the well-connected mainstreamer, reinvented it. We live in the age of the post-meme.

12: This plant is a hotel for bats, and they pay in faeces.

13: Archeologists have found 2,000 ancient golden spirals and they have no idea what they are

I was also surprised to find out that I live about 1 mile away from one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Great Britain, valued at £290,000.

14: Species in pieces

30 species. 30 pieces. 1 fragmented survival. A CSS-based interactive exhibition celebrating evolutionary distinction.

Quick tip: auditioning albums in Apple Music

For the past few years I’ve had a Spotify account that I used to collect albums to try out based on friends’ recommendations or strong reviews. I’d star them in Spotify, give them a spin or two, decide whether or not to buy them (in the iTunes store), then unstar to get rid of them. iTunes was always my permanent collection, Spotify was my ‘listen later’ service.

I thought about doing the same with Apple Music but I was concerned it might be a bit tricky to remember what I was ‘auditioning’ and what I owned. Sure, there are visual cues, but I’d have to scan my whole library to see everything.

The answer ended up being completely obvious: make a smart playlist. Simply choose ‘iCloud Status’ is ‘Apple Music’ and ensure ‘Live updating’ remains checked.

It’s early days but I like Apple Music and I think I’ll stop using Spotify. For the most part, anyway—a couple of the ‘Spotify Sessions’ releases have been very good. Transferring my large list of starred albums will be time-consuming but I’ve already downgraded my account to the free version for the duration of the 3-month Apple Music trial.

Piano faces

1: Can Wikipedia survive?

A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code.

2: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the gendering of martyrdom

The way media dotes over its tortured male artists while undermining the personal struggles of women who suffer the same is nuanced, but a look into the archive suggests the phenomenon is well documented across race, genre, and generation. When Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 the New York Times called her a “misfit” whose “behavior was explosive” and remembers her as “drinking from a bottle at her concerts” and “screaming obscenities at a policeman in the audience”. Two weeks prior when Jimi Hendrix died— also at the age of 27— the same paper’s headline referred to him as a “Top of Music World Flamboyant Performer Noted for Sensuous Style” above an article that failed to highlight his fabled and widely-acknowledged affinity for mixing drugs with alcohol, even as new evidence emerged that he was wildly out of control during his final days.

3: Headline writing with NYT guru

Podcast: Kyle Massey on what catches readers’ attention, and why the “paper of record” never would have written, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

4: Tobias Jesso Jr. stars in new Pitchfork.tv documentary

Tobias Jesso Jr. is the subject of Pitchfork.tv’s latest documentary, “Goon”. Directed by Jon Leone, the film follows Jesso around New York City and Hollywood as he prepares for the release of Goon earlier this year. He discusses why he makes those “piano faces,” covers Ray Charles with help from his manager’s dog, and performs with Danielle Haim, Ariel Rechtshaid, and a string section on “Conan”.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far.

5: Why I answered my dad’s gay sex ad

In the Christian parenting books my dad wrote, we were always the most perfect devout family. When I found out he was secretly trolling for gay sex online, I became obsessed with unmasking the truth.

6:. A linguist explains how we write sarcasm on the internet

In context, sarcastic typography is part of a larger ecosystem of ways to convey emotional nuance and textual tone of voice — and it’s anything but random. Compared with all these subtle distinctions, a single sarcasm punctuation mark is too blunt an instrument: it defeats the entire saying-without-saying part of sarcasm that makes it engaging in the first place. Using a a percontation point or a SarcMark™ is like explaining why a joke is funny — if you have to bother, you’ve just ruined it anyway.

6a: See also: Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems, and What part of “No, totally” don’t you understand?.

Seems to be made at least partially of dogs

1: This mystery photo haunting Reddit appears to be image recognition gone very weird

Ok, look again, closer this time. This squirrel has a weird amount of eyes, yeah? And seems to be made at least partially of dogs? Check out its weird rear appendage, which is composed of slug tentacles that are themselves composed of birds. A two-headed fish lurks in the foreground, and upon reexamination the background is not mere swirls, but a warped, repetitive city, like a long lost Borges story illustrated by a hungover chalk artist. What is going on?

2: A special feature

We’ve worked hard to make Twitterrific work well with the accessibility features in iOS. Hearing that these efforts make things easier for customers with disabilities is rewarding beyond words. […] But now there’s another incentive for thinking about accessibility: helping others also helps your downloads.

3: How to be amazing

Slightly strange to listen to Black in serious mode, when he’s spent so long honing a comedic personality based around insincerity. My favourite episode so far is with Bob Odenkirk.

How to Be Amazing is an in-depth interview show, hosted by comedian, author and actor Michael Ian Black. Black sits down with some of today’s most provocative writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians for humorous, thought-provoking conversations that dive into the creative process and the intricate minds of some of the most influential voices of our time.

4: I once tried to cheat sleep, and for a year I succeeded

An experiment with polyphasic sleep, which requires you to take short naps multiple times per day.

5: I made a linguistics professor listen to a Blink-182 song and analyse the accent

But there are some more complex things going on in the pop-punk voice. Eckert walked me through the Blink-182 song word by word, pointing out places where DeLonge was playing around with accent. “When they say ‘to pick you up on our very first date,’ the interesting thing about ‘date’ is that he renders it as a monophthong ‘dehhht’ instead of ‘date,’ says Eckert. “In most American English it’s a diphthong.” A diphthong is a vowel sound with two simpler sounds in it; for most Americans, “date” is a kind of compound vowel made up of the “eh” sound and the “ee” sound. Not so much for Tom DeLonge, who eliminates all but the “eh,” making it a single sound, or a monophthong.

6: The Byrds’ isolated vocals on Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!

For his part, Crosby applied his skills as a harmony singer in unconventional ways. Rather than attempting three-part harmonies like the Beatles (or five-part harmonies like the Beach Boys), the Byrds almost always employed the two-part harmony strategy of the Everly Brothers. But Crosby took the two-part approach a step further, based on his understanding of jazz and Indian modes. While McGuinn and Gene Clark sang the same notes in tandem, Crosby would move freely between a perfect fifth, flatted fifth, third, or seventh, resulting in an unusual sound that ranged from haunting to ethereal.

7: Helen Rosner: On chicken tenders

(AKA goujons, or fingers, or strippers, or dippers.)

It’s true that ribeyes and oysters and even pizza and tacos share a soothing simplicity, but nothing is more nothing than a chicken tender. A roast chicken has a certain dinner-party elegance to it, and you know at least the sketch of an origin story for your pizza or your taco—but a chicken tender is a chicken tender is a chicken tender. Some restaurants might try to gussy them up, gently carve each tender from the breast of a bird that lived a happy life and lovingly dust them in a custom spice blend, but a true chicken tender comes out of a five-hundred-count freezer bag. They come from nowhere in particular—when you eat them, you could be anywhere.

8: I was a teenage Little Chef supervisor

A service station is not the type of place you’d expect to have regulars, but there were plenty at our Little Chef. The toast lady who came in at 10am every day and wanted two slices of brown toast, no butter. And the handsome coffee man who came in at 11am every weekday, occasionally on Sundays. He looked a little like Kevin Spacey. There was also the guy who would come in late at night, order half a bottle of wine with his dinner and spend ages filling out the Daily Mail crossword, but mostly he was perving on the staff. And he never left a tip. A transvestite would frequent about once a month. One time a young businessman left me his number on a napkin.

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.

How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

A planned hiatus was followed by an unplanned hiatus. Anway:

No sign of love

One of the song’s striking characteristics is the way in which it dispenses with pleasantries. There is no attempt to break you in gently. No easy introduction. No burying of the lede. It’s more a case of a lyrical fist buried in your solar plexus.

My pal Phil is writing, with a friend, A Longing Look, a series of love letters to lyrics. This is about every right-minded person’s favourite Beatles song, ‘For No One’.

The best icon is a text label

Let’s talk about icons now. They’re an essential part of many user interfaces. The thing is: more often than not, they break clarity.

A dive into icons as a UI element and how they are usually pretty shit.

Have you eaten your last avocado?

In California, farmers pay dearly for water — or, more precisely, they pay for the delivery of water — and water is getting very, very expensive. “The avocado’s native environment is tropical,” Wolk says to me in his office, which overlooks his own modest avocado grove, “and we’re growing them in a desert.” It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes.

The near and far future of emoji

While these nuances are groundbreaking in an esperanto sense—an eggplant is an eggplant is an eggplant, after all—they also create a huge margin for error and a demand for a larger emoji vocabulary for a quickly evolving future. To help us navigate the smiley-laced times ahead, we consulted the cutting edge in type technology to see what’s in store for a future of keyboard-as-canvas.

Love will…

… keep us together, and tear us apart.

The man who broke the music business

At work, Glover manufactured CDs for mass consumption. At home, he had spent more than two thousand dollars on burners and other hardware to produce them individually. His livelihood depended on continued demand for the product. But Glover had to wonder: if the MP3 could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?

Casually and routinely ignored

Sans Bullshit Sans — Leveraging the synergy of ligatures. “The font that replaces every buzzword by a Comic Sans-styled censorship bar.”

My year ripping off the web with the Daily Mail Online. “Yes, most outlets regularly aggregate other publications’ work in the quest for readership and material, and yes, papers throughout history have strived for the grabbiest headlines facts will allow. But what DailyMail.com does goes beyond anything practiced by anything else calling itself a newspaper. In a little more than a year of working in the Mail’s New York newsroom, I saw basic journalism standards and ethics casually and routinely ignored. I saw other publications’ work lifted wholesale. I watched editors at the most highly trafficked English-language online newspaper in the world publish information they knew to be inaccurate.”

Tone of voice guidelines by the University of Leeds (pdf)

Internet slang meets American Sign Language. “How do you sign ‘new’ words? The Deaf community works as a network, collectively brainstorming new sign language terms over the web, until dominant signs emerge.”

The Gary Glitter fans who still follow the leader. “Perhaps understandably, not everyone was terribly enamoured of Thomas’s renewed interest in, arguably, one of the most reviled figures in British pop history. ‘I started getting a bit of shit,’ he says. ‘A lot of my mates started getting a bit funny about things when they saw Gary Glitter videos on my Facebook page.’ ”

Vince Vaughn and co-stars pose for idiotic stock photos you can have for free. “Enter the new Vince Vaughn movie Unfinished Business, which comes out Friday. Twentieth Century Fox has teamed up with iStock by Getty Images to create a set of stock photos featuring Vaughn along with co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco and others.”

The iron lungs of the city. Looking at street tree grates in New York.

Silicon Valley and the end of architecture. “The public architecture of Silicon Valley is like the interior design of a hotel that rents by the hour.”

This guy probably engineered your favorite DIY rock record. “Kyle Gilbride [of Swearin’] recorded Waxahatchee, Girlpool, Quarterbacks, and more. Here, he shares the stories behind six songs.”

Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris lives by his own code. “The truth is even stranger: The Van Man has a consistent 92-mile-an-hour fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a deal with Nike and a growing fan club, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a 162-game season is to live here, in the back of a 1978 Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000. The van is his escape from the pressures of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analyzed. If a baseball life requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion.”

Futures of text. A survey of all the current innovation in text as a medium.

Walmart has sent me a C&D order about http://t.co/cwz8qGVbru http://t.co/ROSdTmUy36

— Jacques Frost (@jephjacques) March 8, 2015

A walking anachronism

Inside Adobe’s innovation kit. I can’t work out if this is douchebaggery of the highest order, or will genuinely inspire better ideas: “The Kickbox is a small, red cardboard box containing everything an employee needs to generate, prototype, and test a new idea […] you’ll find instruction cards, a pen, two Post-It note pads, two notebooks, a Starbucks gift card, a bar of chocolate and (mostly importantly) a $1,000 prepaid credit card. The card can be used on anything the employee would like or need without ever having to justify it or fill out an expense report.”

The age of the super-subscriber. “With newsstand and ad page sales ever on the decline, magazine companies looking to monetize the influence of their brands are test driving tiered-subscription models that offer the most loyal readers increased access to the editors who create the glossies they read and the celebrities who appear in them.” I’m surprised this isn’t already the standard approach. Kickstarter and Patreon (to name only two) have tiered support at their hearts. Surely this is more valuable $-wise than the one-size-fits-none, ad-saturated but untargeted approach of most publications. Slightly related: Stack is a great way to read and support interesting, less-popular publications. (And you can thank Phil for that recommendation.)

When it’s ok to use word clouds. I’d say never, but: “It’s ok to use word clouds if your goal is to encourage reading of a large set of otherwise unrelated words that are connected to one or two interesting values (and word count in a text doesn’t qualify as interesting).” I had a meeting in a colleague’s office a few days ago and I put my glass of water down on a coaster emblazoned with a cloud of ‘engage’, ‘solutions’, ‘energise’ and the like. I nearly vomited.

Trying to keep a ‘celebrity class of commenters’ happy. Some of the challenges of allowing comments on a large site. “ ‘We’re lucky to have a celebrity class of commenters,’ [NYT community editor Bassey Etim] said, referring to the generally high quality of the discourse he sees, ‘and we want to elevate and recognize them in new ways.’ Just how to do that, with limited resources, is a current topic of discussion among audience development people at The Times.” I can really only think of one site where the comments even approach the quality of the posts, and it’s rarely updated these days.

The last of the typewriter men. “Well aware of his status as a walking anachronism, Schweitzer, 76, now fixes approximately 20 typewriters a week. Some of them are used as props for movies or television shows recreating eras he was a part of, a fact that makes him laugh when he happens to see his machines while flipping through reruns. Schweitzer’s clientele, recorded in two boxes of handwritten notecards behind his desk, includes several high-profile names, including noted typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks.”

Conspiracy revealed: The Simpsons has been lying to you. “Springfield is not in the United States at all. It’s not even in our half of the world. Springfield is in the Southern Hemisphere!”

Editor in Chief of The Guardian: indicative ballot. Who will replace Rusbridger?

Father John Misty: “Bored in the USA” – David Letterman. An album that gets better with each listen. A friend couldn’t understand why I was smiling all the way through this—“why is the audience laughing?”—so I hope the source is obvious. Misty (well, J. Tillman) seems to be one of the few that realises you can combine wit with chops and showmanship. I suppose as a Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson fan I was always going to like this.

You’re wearing a dustbin liner

When the NME was the best place in the world to be. Harking back to the glory days. “Like many titles, the NME is under pressure. Britain’s last-remaining weekly music magazine, the champion of new bands for generations, has just denied reports of staff discussions about plans to become a free publication as its circulation nears the 15,000 mark and threatens its value to the industry—and its existence.” For context, a few magazines and their circulations: Q (50,161), Mojo (70,693), Uncut (53,282), Kerrang (30,300), Metal Hammer (24,552). The current NME circulation is less than half that of the Melody Maker when it folded in 2000. The fat lady may not be singing yet, but she’s doing a very thorough soundcheck.

Don’t call it a Britpop comeback. “Call it what you will, stoke the flames of a no longer existing feud, but this ‘comeback’ isn’t really a return of Britpop; it’s a return of bands that used to be Britpop. Neither Blur nor Oasis is going to stir the nation, or young music fans, the same way they once did. Part of why a ‘Battle of Britpop’ won’t work this time around is that Blur hasn’t been very ‘British’ in about 20 years. These aren’t the same chaps who made ‘Parklife’—nothing from Blur (or anyone, for that matter) will ever sound as British as that. The sound of guitar pop cum middle-class hedonism that once defined them is lost in the past. Albarn’s other, far less British projects have made that kind of stylistic cloister impossible.”

Booze, Blood and Noise: The Violent Roots of Manchester Punk. A fantastic retrospective. “Still, that didn’t stop me the next week from chopping off my Bryan Ferry-style hairdo, buying a dog collar and black garbage bag on which I stenciled ‘I Hate Pink Floyd,’ much to the amusement of my poor Irish mom. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, just look at yourself,’ she said between gales of laughter. ‘You’re wearing a dustbin liner.’ ”

A new lease of life for Italy’s aqua vitae? “The French have brandy, the Scots and the Irish have whisk(e)y and the Italians have… grappa. Outside Italy it’s often been seen as a rough old stomach-burner, and even inside Italy it’s not exactly fashionable. But could this ancient drink be on the verge of a revival?” I haven’t had enough grappa in my life to say that I love it, but a few post-prandial sips during an Italian holiday a few years ago told me I’m going to be a fan, long-term. (Incidentally, the BBC’s new responsive site serves m.bbc.co.uk URLs, even full-screen on my desktop Mac. How odd.)

Magazine apps are about to get better, but will anyone use them? “With this new suite, Adobe is softening its all-in approach to putting magazines on mobile devices and creating a publication that is a smarter halfway point between the static traditionalism of print and the ephemeral rush of the web. This means that the publications you currently subscribe to on mobile devices and download month-to-month will now update constantly instead of periodically. In other words, they’ll be more like websites and less like print magazines.”

It is expected that passive voice will continue to annoy me. “To me, someone who writes ‘snowfall is expected to end about lunchtime’ just doesn’t sound all warm and fuzzy that what they’re saying is true. Passive voice is the unconfident, if subconscious, mind’s trick of deflecting responsibility from itself into abstract nothingness. I mean, who expects snowfall to end about lunchtime? The writer? The local news station meteorologist? Dark Sky? Nostradamus?”

Amplitude of the mouth may be limited

Incredible photos from the construction site of the new Bay Bridge. “A photographer spent more than a decade shooting from hellish, confined spaces and fog-shrouded eagles’ nests.”

Jim Gordon’s answer to ‘What are the big problems of sandwiches and how do you solve them?’. “The ideal ingredient has a nice flat shape, a structural consistency and cohesiveness, and conforms to the adjacent ingredients. Thin is indeed a highly useful characteristic that enhances the tongue’s access to flavors. An ingredient should also have some moisture to aid chewing and flavor sensing, but with a minimum of surface wetness/lubrication or leakage — this is why tomato slices are so dangerous. Thick bread, as Bob suggests, has its attraction, but it steals space when the amplitude of the mouth may be limited.”

The beginner’s field guide to dim sum.

64 ways to think about a news homepage. Information architecture and design ideas to steal.

Human data. Cities visualised by human movement. “Human helps people move almost twice as much in six weeks. Every day, people track millions of activities with our app. We visualized 7.5 Million miles of activity in major cities all across the globe to get an insight into Human activity. Walking, running, cycling, and motorized transportation data tell us different stories.”

Under the covers: second hand songs that matter. An extremely comprehensive overview of cover versions. “Artists have performed other people’s music since the beginning. Here we salute the best and worst, the career-making, the career-breaking and other highlights from the wide world of borrowed sounds.”

“My friends are holding their official band meetings in Shane Warne’s Instagram comments.”

The amazing life of sand. “There’s a story in every grain of sand: tales of life and death, fire and water. If you scooped up a handful of sand from every beach, you’d have a history of the world sifting through your fingers. From mountain boulders to the shells of tiny ocean creatures, follow the journey that sand takes through thousands of years across entire continents to wind up stuck between your toes.”

20th century composers: making the connections

This week we published a new connections tool on OpenLearn that looks at some of the most prominent 20th century classical and avant-garde composers and the connections that exist between them.

The work was commissioned as part of a wider partnership with the BBC and London’s Southbank Centre. Next Tuesday sees the start of a three-part BBC Four documentary series, The Sound and the Fury, that looks at 20th century composers and the broader cultural impact of their work. The Southbank Centre is part-way through The Rest Is Noise, a year-long festival of weekend events, with concerts, films, interviews and talks by prominent critics, commentators and academics.

The common thread that binds all these projects together is Alex Ross’s 2007 book, also called The Rest Is Noise.

Research and writing for the connection tool was done by the OU’s Ben Winters, with support from colleagues Jonathan Rees and Naomi Barker.

The technical work and illustrations were handled by the excellent Stardotstar, who previously built some other connection tools for OpenLearn.

This was a really nice project to work on. It’s a subject I have an interest in, but not a great understanding of, so I spent the duration of the project reading about the composers and listening to their music. It was fascinating (but not a total surprise) to find out that some of this music comes from maths: Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis have used the Fibonacci series to structure pitches and rhythm, for example, while George Benjamin and Kaija Saariaho have undertaken mathematical analysis of sound spectra as the basis for their compositional decisions.

It’s also interesting to see the way someone like Hans Werner Henze is linked through a real spider’s web of connections to so many of the other composers through his background, styles, techniques and personal relationships. Whereas names that are more famous to me, like Leoš Janáček, have less in common with the other composers that are profiled.

Of course, this is just one lens through which to view these composers. Their work is so broad and varied that it’s difficult to summarise—there’s so much still to explore. Still, I think this is a great way to introduce yourself to a type of music that is generally considered to be quite aloof and difficult, and to find points where you can jump off and do more of your own digging around.

Recent links: October 2012

A few links, taken from my Pinboard account.

Social login buttons aren’t worth it

Call us control freaks, but we built this brand and we “feel strongly” about shaping its direction ourselves. One logo on our login page is enough. Who the hell wants their app to look like it was designed by NASCAR?

I dislike the proliferation of social sharing and login buttons on websites.

Sure, the login buttons help users sign up for your service quickly and easily. But the user has to remember which service they signed in with, and they look ugly. By their nature, they tend to be brightly coloured and eye-catching—the eye is drawn to them rather than what the website or service is or does. I’d rather people used this space to give me more reasons why I should sign up in the first place. If I’m eager, I’ll find a way to sign up.

The sharing buttons are more irritating to me. Their intention is obvious: get more people to the site who wouldn’t otherwise have noticed it. My hugely anecdotal experience is that their primary use is for a small and relatively unimportant minority of users: those who don’t know how to copy and paste. These people aren’t likely to be socially ‘influential’, for want of a better phrase—is it going to be a huge boon for your site if Joe Bloggs, who tweets once every three months and has only a handful of equally unengaged followers, shares a link to an article?

This is vital screen space. Wouldn’t it be better to remove these buttons (or consolidate them under a single ‘share’ button, which pops up the myriad social services) and give more room to services that help users find reasons to stick around? Like links to other content in the same category (hand-picked, not just autogenerated WordPress bullshit), or perhaps more by the same author? Even if you don’t replace them with anything, you just made your content stand out that tiny bit more.

The site I work on has a curious policy of putting the sharing buttons before the article, as a way of suggesting that what you’re about to read is worthy of sharing. Look—all these other people have already done it. I certainly don’t like this any better. We’re giving people decisions to make and opportunities to do something other than reading the article, and I hope we change it.

Read the update after the article too: there are some good counter-points made by commenters.

The No Homophobes guide to language on Twitter

What kind of language do you use on twitter? Are you unconsciously using homophobic words? Did you even know that #NoHomo was a real hashtag on Twitter?

Look at all those morons that throw the word ‘faggot’ around on Twitter.

Stop Pagination Now

Does anyone really think breaking up articles into several pages is a good idea? No, they don’t.

Grizzly Bear Members Are Indie-Rock Royalty, But What Does That Buy Them in 2012?

For much of the late-twentieth century, you might have assumed that musicians with a top-twenty sales week and a Radio City show—say, the U2 tour in 1984, after The Unforgettable Fire—made at least as much as their dentists. Those days are long and irretrievably gone, but some of the mental habits linger. “People probably have an inflated idea of what we make,” says Droste. “Bands appear so much bigger than they really are now, because no one’s buying records. But they’ll go to giant shows.” Grizzly Bear tours for the bulk of its income, like most bands; licensing a song might provide each member with “a nice little ‘Yay, I don’t have to pay rent for two months.’ ” They don’t all have health insurance.

The Grizzly Bear album is terrific, so you should buy it and see them live.

Related: Corin Tucker, formerly of the amazing Sleater-Kinney and now the Corin Tucker Band, has a day job.

The Brief

My pal Richard has an easier way to cope with the onslaught of tech-related news. He reads it for you, and selects the most important stuff.

Cheers: an Oral History

This article is interesting on its own terms—if you didn’t know, Kelsey Grammar is nothing like his character Frasier, and Shelley Long was kinda hard work—but more interesting to me is the suggestion that Cheers, for so long the pinnacle of TV comedy, doesn’t get enough respect. The last episode aired twenty years ago: enough for a generation to grow up and not know what it is.

Breaking the seal

There is no seal to break, either in a literal or metaphorical sense. Urine production isn’t regulated by how long you wait or how often you go.

Learn about ADH and impress your friends!

The Old-Fashioned

The old-fashioned is at once “the manliest cocktail order” and “something your grandmother drank,” and between those poles we discover countless simple delights, evolutionary wonders, and captivating abominations. Because of its core simplicity and its elasticity—because it is primordial booze—ideas about the old-fashioned exist in a realm where gastronomical notions shade into ideological tenets. It is a platform for a bar to make a statement, a surface on which every bartender leaves a thumbprint, and a solution that many a picky drinker dips his litmus paper in. You are a free man. Drink your drink as you please. But know that your interpretation of the recipe says something serious about your philosophy of fun.

What more needs to be said and read about this drink? Plenty more, it seems.