In Letterspace, No One Can Hear You Kern

We spent $2.5 billion to put Helvetica Arial on Mars (and incidentally, an SUV-sized robotic science rover), and yet not a cent was devoted to kerning. The Curiosity rover carries a calibration target for its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), an adjustable focus camera designed to take close-up pictures. It's one of 17 cameras on the rover, but it's the only one that has its own target for testing a photo against known colors, brightness, and scale. (​Update: ​The sundial on top of the rover has color swatches for the mast cameras.)

But as a former typesetter, I had to poke fun at the kerning in the word "Target", where the "a" in any design software would be neatly tucked underneath the "T". NASA is old-school in type, too, as this is Helvetica, not Helvetica Neue.​ (Update! Readers note this is Arial, as the angle terminators on the upper-case C give it away! Go, go, Microsoft fonts!)

The calibration target includes a 1909 penny as a homage to the practice of using a coin for scale in images. One of the scientists bought the penny from the first year Lincoln appeared on its front, and sent it on its merry mission. The target is now lightly dusted with Martian soil, but still useful for its purpose.

A full size image is available from NASA.

Hacks that never happened

Yesterday, GoDaddy went down, taking with it countless hosted sites. A hacker claimed credit, gaining the attention of the entire tech press. But his story was soon debunked: a DNS configuration mistake was the real cause. At Threat Level, Robert McMillan recounts the greatest hacks that never were.

Nasty smell explained

A peculiar rotten-egg smell covering the Los Angeles region has an explanation: it was brought in by winds blowing in from Salton Sea, a saline lake in Southern California, where a recent massive fish die-off occured. [Examiner]

The iconic M*A*S*H still

Earlier I stumbled across this fantastic history of the iconic M*A*S*H still. It is beautiful and evokes such great memories of a phenomenal show. I have always wanted one in my home.

From M*A*S*H4077THTV.com's Prop Spotlight:

For eleven years, the cornerstone of the Swamp was the homemade distillery. Presumably, Hawkeye and Trapper built it together and it was a daily presence in their lives. Later, B.J. came to love the contraption just as much as Trapper. Over the years it was destroyed — once by Frank, once by B.J. — only to be rebuilt and returned to glory. Hawkeye called the gin it dispensed, often strong enough to curl your toes, the breakfast of champions.

Cupertino tech firm to announce new products tomorrow

On September 12 at 10:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET, Apple's big event kicks off. One never knows exactly what to expect, but all signs point to the iPhone 5 (or whatever they end up calling it). The revised smartphone is rumored to include a larger 4-inch screen, a smaller docking port, updated design, and iOS 6 (which in turn includes new features such as Facebook integration, and new Maps). For liveblog action, I'll be opening 5 browser tabs: GDGT, Verge, Gizmodo, Engadget, Ars.

The streets of Manhattan, transformed into song on 9/11 (music video)

[Video Link]

Joe Sabia of the Youtube CDZA project sends this week's musical video experiment: the streets of Lower Manhattan, turned into music. See a map of where they walked on Google Maps.

Featuring Sam Reider, accordion, Eddie Barbash, saxophone, Mark Johnson, guitar, and Allan Mednard, percussion.

Larry Flynt and Hustler offer $1 million bounty for Romney tax info

Mitt Romney’s personal tax history is exactly the kind of political mystery that porn mogul and free speech advocate Larry Flynt would like to uncover. So he and Hustler are offering $1 million in cash for information on the presidential candidate's “unreleased tax returns and/or details of his offshore assets, bank accounts and business partnerships” in full-page ads in USA Today and the Washington Post. “What is he hiding?” asks the ad. There's a larger scan here.

AT&T blocking iPhone FaceTime on its network is a big blow to Deaf people

Brendan Gramer, who is deaf, writes in Wired News today about how AT&T's recent announcement that it will block FaceTime on its networks affects deaf people, who use FaceTime to converse in sign language.

It’s disappointing that AT&T is standing in the way of innovation that addresses the needs of its deaf and hard-of-hearing customers. Sometimes it takes a while (and some prodding) for technology and technology companies to catch up to and embrace accessibility. In this case the technology is there, but it’s AT&T that’s throwing up the barrier.

A father's note, on 9/11

"84th floor / West Office / 12 people trapped. It is not these words alone that change the narrative of Randy Scott's final moments. The other content on the note is a dark spot, about the size of a thumbprint. It is Randy's blood, and the clue that eventually enabled the medical examiner's office to trace the source of the note through DNA tests and deliver it to his family a decade after he apparently tossed it from the 84th floor."

"The Sifr," a global Muslim jam session (music video)

[Video Link]

Aman Ali is one of the guys behind "30 Days Ramadan," a Muslim media project, and he writes:

This one one of our proudest creations. I got 12 of my music friends around the world to put together a collaborative music video. I got a drummer in Morrocco to jam on a cajon drum and sent the beat to MCs/Poets/Singers in Malaysia, Germany, Pakistan, England and a bunch of other places to put this bad boy together. I literally forgot today was 9/11 because I've been so giddy the past few days putting this video together. Hope you enjoy it!

A full list of musicians and crew here.

Mark Dery on "Aesthetics after 9/11"

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Over at Thought Catalog, the inimitable Mark Dery riffs somberly on terrorism, art, Hollywood, and the society of the spectacle where we all have a front row seat:

The reflexive habit — reflexive, at least, in these United States — of falling back on the mythic languages of Hollywood and Madison Avenue when we’re narrating our lives is a fact of life in the Society of the Spectacle. In his essay “This is Not a Movie,” the New Yorker critic Anthony Lane noted TV commentators’ tendency, on 9/11, to resort “to a phrase book culled from cinema: ‘It was like a movie.’ ‘It was like Independence Day. ‘It was like Die Hard.’ ‘No, Die Hard 2.’ ‘Armageddon.’”

Apparently, even the severe-clear horrors of 9/11 weren’t immune to the Stepfordization all around us — the replacement of the immediate by the mediated, the physical thing by its filmic image. Reversing the polarities of the real and the fake gives Americans a big, fat, Baudrillardian migraine because, while European philosophers seem to think of the United States as Disneyland with the death penalty, we pay lip service, at least, to the primacy of hard fact and harbor a romantic attachment to authenticity. (Umberto Eco maintains that our longstanding love affair with the simulacrum — Disneyland, Forest Lawn, Las Vegas — is borne, paradoxically, of the fact that “the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake.”

Yet the ontological vertigo caused by the destabilization of the Real is nothing compared to the moral nausea we feel when filmic images insinuate themselves between us and our visceral reactions to real-life horrors, refracting other peoples’ agonies — and, sometimes, our own — through an aesthetic prism.

"The Savage Eye: Aesthetics After 9/11"

Upcoming episode of Gravity Falls features animation by Paul Robertson (episode clip)


[Video Link] My daughter and I are hooked on Gravity Falls, a quirky new cartoon series on Disney about about the goings-on in an occult curio shack in the Pacific Northwest (see Jane's interview with show creator Alex Hirsch here). Now David and his son are hooked, too!

The next episode, which airs Friday, September 14, features Street Fighter style animation by the amazing pixel artist Paul Robertson (some of his art is NSFW).

Here's another clip:

Gravity Falls on The Disney Channel

Stan Lee reinterprets the best four-letter word in the English language for us

Marvel Generalissimo Stan Lee has taken the internet podium (via his YouTube channel, World of Heroes) to let us all know that we've all been taking the phrase "Fuck you" the wrong way this whole time. We should embrace this blunt, two-syllable phrase not as a curse, but a benediction! And if there's anything the world needs right now, it's a little positivity. (via Stan Lee on Facebook)

September 11, 2001 as experienced on the International Space Station

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On September 11, 2001, US astronaut Frank L. Culbertson watched the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks from the International Space Station. He wrote up his experience that day and the days following in a letter posted on NASA's site:

I glanced at the World Map on the computer to see where over the world we were and noticed that we were coming southeast out of Canada and would be passing over New England in a few minutes. I zipped around the station until I found a window that would give me a view of NYC and grabbed the nearest camera. It happened to be a video camera, and I was looking south from the window of Michael's cabin.

The smoke seemed to have an odd bloom to it at the base of the column that was streaming south of the city. After reading one of the news articles we just received, I believe we were looking at NY around the time of, or shortly after, the collapse of the second tower. How horrible…

I panned the camera all along the East Coast to the south to see if I could see any other smoke around Washington, or anywhere else, but nothing was visible.

It was pretty difficult to think about work after that, though we had some to do, but on the next orbit we crossed the US further south. All three of us were working one or two cameras to try to get views of New York or Washington. There was haze over Washington, but no specific source could be seen. It all looked incredible from two to three hundred miles away. I can't imagine the tragic scenes on the ground.

"Astronaut Frank Culbertson Letter from September 11, 2001" (Thanks, Ari Pescovitz!)

If you haven't been sold on Mindy Kaling yet, this New York Magazine profile should do the trick

If there is any one new show that I'm looking forward to watching this fall, it's The Mindy Project, featuring showrunner and star, Mindy Kaling. I've been a fan of Kaling for a long time, but I knew that when her show finally became part of Fox's primetime lineup, I'd probably forget to watch, because I am just not good at appointment television. But after reading this incredibly fun profile of Kaling that appeared in New York Magazine, I'm definitely going to have to make appointments with her and her fictional counterpart. (via Vulture)