On the once and future history of clouds

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James Bridle (previously) honors the The Cloud Index, "a tool for actionable weather forecasts" at London's Serpentine Gallery, with a lyrical longread about the history of clouds, science, war and computation. Read the rest

Thomas Jefferson, the great importer of mac 'n cheese

Thank you to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, for recognizing the greatness of French food and imported macaroni and cheese where it has (d)evolved into its own food group.

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New York Deaf Theater performs Hamilton's Cabinet Battle #2

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The cast of Hamilton joined with the New York Deaf theater in a video that is pure amazeballs. Read the rest

The history and future of Lemmings, and a proposal

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Lemmings is one of the best video games of all time, and seemed in the 90s to be on the verge of becoming an explosive media phenomenon. Its tiny animated characters are fab: adorable yet down-to-earth, capable yet doomed, a smorgasbord of sarcastic bite and hurt/comfort neediness. After publisher Psygnosis was bought by Sony, though, the Lemmings soon vanished into the corporate archives. The creators went on to make the Grand Theft Auto series. But perhaps their first mega-hit could have its day again.

‘I would have loved to take the characters and do something different with them,’ says [co-creator Mike] Dailly. ‘But we never got the chance. When you get down to it the original game was brilliant, and the sequel had brilliant tech. But the characters themselves are what makes the game. And they should be used for more, for far more.’

In today’s nostalgia-hungry industry the return of Lemmings is hopefully a matter of time. Updating a classic is never easy, of course, but the game is so original and well-loved it’s amazing no-one has tried to do what Championship Edition did for Pac-Man. That may be Lemmings’ beauty and its curse. There is not a single element of the game that could be removed without changing the whole thing. Adding more stuff, as with the sequel, doesn’t make it better. And how can you update visuals that are iconic because they’re 8×10 sprites?

In the leap from cult hit to world-spanning franchise, there are hard marketing problems when your entire premise is "100 literally identical characters, constantly and comically brutalized". Read the rest

When "computers" were young, brilliant black women mathematicians

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Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures recovers the lost history of the young African American women who did the heavy computational work of the Apollo missions, given the job title of "computer" -- her compelling book has been made into a new motion picture. Read the rest

A socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, which used to be accompanied by Nazi salutes

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Socialist minister Francis J. Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1890s in an effort to paper over the post-Civil War divisions; to accompany it, he devised the "Bellamy Salute": "raise your right hand, flip your palm down, point it toward the flag in a salute and recite the words." Read the rest

Watch artisans make Freddie Mercury's Blue Plaque

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Freddie Mercury's childhood home in London will now have a blue plaque, the UK's acknowledgement of a significant historical person or place. This endearing film chronicles how it was made. Read the rest

Priceless 170-year-old Japanese fart scroll digitized

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About 170 years ago, during Japan's Edo period, a 34-foot scroll called Fart Battle (He-gassen) was created by unknown artisan(s). The work lives on in glorious hi-res digitized collection at Waseda University. Read the rest

Satirist Paul Thomas mixes fiction with facts in An Unreliable History of Tattoos

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

An Unreliable History of Tattoos by Paul Thomas Nobrow Press 2016, 96 pages, 7.9 x 10.6 x 0.7 inches (hardcover) $3 Buy a copy on Amazon

A minor celebrity/reality star, whose name I can’t remember, said in a recent interview that she thinks of people without tattoos as being “unicorns” because they are so rare. It’s true that today tattoos are much more popular than when I was a kid. In my day, only sailors or criminals had dye permanently etched into their bodies, but according to the graphic novel, An Unreliable History of Tattoos, inking people has been around since Day 1 (think Adam and Eve).

In his first book, award-winning British political cartoonist Paul Thomas loosely traces the origins of body art. There’s definitely a focus on European (and specifically British) history in this book, but Thomas also pokes fun at a few famous Americans. Mixing fiction with facts, (honestly sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up) this book is interesting, humorous, and very unusual!

I don’t know if the Upper Paleolithic man really punctured his skin with blunt twigs, nor do I know if King Harold II had his wife Edith’s name tattooed on his chest way back in 1066. Should I believe Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, had her knuckles tattooed? Was Kings Charles II’s chest covered in permanent ink with names of all his many bedroom conquests? According to this parody, Queen Victoria, Sir Winston Churchill, and even President Obama love body art too. Read the rest

Robert Moses wove enduring racism into New York's urban fabric

Robert Moses gets remembered as the father of New York's modern urban plan, the "master builder" who led the proliferation of public benefit corporations, gave NYC its UN buildings and World's Fairs, and the New Deal renaissance of the city: he was also an avowed racist who did everything he could to punish and exclude people of color who lived in New York, and the legacy of his architecture-level discrimination lives on in the city today. Read the rest

Funklet: drum sequences from classic tracks

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Funklet is a new archive of drum patterns (not sampled loops) from classic funk songs, complete with brief histories and musical context. Each can be edited in a simple embedded sequencer and shared. [via r/InternetIsBeautiful] Read the rest

The surprising spryness of fighters in 15th C armor

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Paris's Musée national du Moyen Âge teamed up with The University of Geneva to make this video demonstrating the fighting techniques available to people in 15th century armor, which are much more fluid and athletic that I had presumed -- turns out you can really move in those tin cans. (via We Make Money Not Art) Read the rest

People being stabbed in medieval art and lovin' it

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Medieval manuscripts were the imageboards of their day, full of murderous rabbits and lewd butts, a new (to me) subgenre is "people who don't seem to mind that they've just been stabbed" -- perhaps the origin of the Black Knight? Read the rest

The story of the story of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

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The LA Times investigates the many, fragmentary, much-revised storyline of the Haunted Mansion, the greatest ride that Disney ever built (though Walt himself had to die before the constraints he imposed on the ride could be set aside and the ride finished). Read the rest

The most common job in every state

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Most states being large and empty, the most frequent answer to the question "what is the most common job in your state?" is "truck driver." For everywhere else, teachers and software developers prevail. And where even roads are rare, farmers. Hawaii, though...

NPR's map is fascinating, though, in that you can jump back to earlier days. In 1978s, what did we all do before software development was the day job of millions?

What's with all the truck drivers? Truck drivers dominate the map for a few reasons.

Driving a truck has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation. A worker in China can't drive a truck in Ohio, and machines can't drive cars (yet).

Let's see about that in a decade. Read the rest

Alec Baldwin Is President Millard Fillmore's Doppelgänger

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When Lillian Cunningham, host of the podcast Presidential, offhandedly mentioned that Alec Baldwin resembles 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, it didn't prepare me to find a photograph that looked like Jack from 30 Rock had been subjected to an old-west photo booth.

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Two teens carve into 5,000-year-old rock carving, just trying to help

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This famed 5,000-year-old rock carving on the island of Tro, near Nordland, Norway, depicting a figure on skis, is one of the most important historical sites in the country. Two teenagers may be prosecuted for scratching into the stone to make the artwork clearer. (Above: image at left is before, right is after.)

The boys came forward last week, and apologized for their actions.

“It was done out of good intentions," said local mayor Bård Anders Langø. "They were trying to make it more visible actually, and I don’t think they understood how serious it was."

According to The Telegraph, the teens may still face prosecution under Norway’s Cultural Heritage Act.

“It’s a sad, sad story,” Nordland Country archaeologist Tor-Kristian Storvik said. “The new lines are both in and outside where the old marks had been. We will never again be able to experience these carvings again the way we have for the last 5,000 years.”

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