• Gary, Indiana is "The Most Miserable City in America" — but don't count it out

    This video about how run down Gary, Indiana is begins with a remarkable image: the main road to it from a neighboring suburb has been bricked up. Welcome to The Most Miserable City in America! Formerly the murder capital of the U.S., it's now not even in Indiana's top 10, so depopulated and blighted has it become. But it does have its history, excellent connections to Chicago, and the Indiana Dunes National Park. And the rewilding has a certain charm of its own, especially given the monumental grandeur of much of Gary's architecture (cf. Albert Speer's1 Theory of Ruin Value)

    1Better known for other work

  • Do "distraction-free" writing gadgets and apps work?

    Julian Lucas supplies today's illustration of Betteridge's Law of Headlines, on the subject of writing itself: "Can "Distraction-Free" Devices Change the Way We Write?"

    I tried "distraction-free" writing apps that encouraged mindfulness, disabled the backspace key, or, in a few extreme cases, threatened to delete everything if I took my hands off the keyboard (Write or Die). Later, I tried coding my own writing tools, a hobby as rewarding as it was ineffective. The experiments gradually meshed into a literary Rube Goldberg machine, a teetering assemblage of Scriveners and SimpleTexts that left me perpetually uncertain of which thought I'd written down where. Longhand was a luxury I couldn't afford: Wendell Berry boasted in Harper's that he didn't need a computer, because he had a wife, but I was a mere urban freelancer, whose boyfriend had a job. So I continued the search for word processing's Excalibur, a perfect union of consciousness and composition.

    A very well-written article! Gentle yet sharp: "focus mode on an everything device is a meditation room in a casino". If you (like me) are a frequent flyer with all this nonsense, see if you can guess which popular focus-writing app Lucas describes as "being trapped inside an inspirational quote" and which device he describes as "a console torn from the cockpit of a steampunk biplane."

    At the risk of spoiling the story, I can't help myself: Lucas's endgame, after trying everything, turned out to be the AlphaSmart.

  • Paleoborrows: tunnels left by giant sloths or armadillos

    Paleoburrows are the vernacular architecture of extinct megafauna. With enough headroom for the average-height human, the giant sloth tunnels of Brazil speak to the industry of their creators.

    Once Professor Frank got a taste of one tunnel, he went looking for more and was shocked to see just how many were laying in plain sight. By using Google and examining photos people post, he's been able to document over 1,500 paleoburrows. But, now that these areas have been discovered, researchers are in a race against time. Once the tunnels are exposed, they run the risk of being ruined by the elements—or by humans who deface them. Projeto Paleotocas, which was started by Frank, aims to document as many of these tunnels as possible and also raise awareness about the need to preserve them. As construction goes up—whether it's residential buildings or highways—there's a great risk of losing these sites. And while there is still so much mystery surrounding them, including their exact age and what animal dug them, that is part of what makes the field so exciting.

    Welcome to my new blog, "Megafauna Burrow or Alarming Colonoscopy?"

  • Sega Saturn Devouring His Son

    Yours for $500 is this remarkable work of art crafted in the unusual medium of hacked-up game consoles. "Sega Saturn Devouring His Son" is by Josh Oliver and a perfect accompaniment for a story today about how Sega exective Yuji Naka helped kill the Dreamcast by killing one of its most promising exclusive titles. He did so in spectacular and previously unreported fashion, as recalled by former Sega America employee Mark Subotnick: by blathering in Japanese that he was going to fire everyone on the American team working on it as soon as it was done, not realizing that they could understand him. Many fled the company as soon as they could find work elsewhere, dooming the hard-deadlined project.

    Years of amorphous, complex explanations for why Sega failed so hard at the end of the 1990s! Sometimes simple ones will do.

    (via Christa Lee)

  • Nurdles: the plastic pellets toxifying the oceans

    Nurdles are lentil-sized pellets of plastics—polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, and so on—that are used to make everything from consumer goods to the containers we ship them in. They're an environmental terror, not least because they look like food to aquatic life. Some 230,000 tons of them are set afloat on the high seas every year.

    Like crude oil, nurdles are highly persistent pollutants, and will continue to circulate in ocean currents and wash ashore for decades. They are also "toxic sponges," which attract chemical toxins and other pollutants on to their surfaces.

    "The pellets themselves are a mixture of chemicals—they are fossil fuels," says Tom Gammage, at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaign group. "But they act as toxic sponges. A lot of toxic chemicals—which in the case of Sri Lanka are already in the water—are hydrophobic [repel water], so they gather on the surface of microplastics.

    See also the Wikipedia article on plastic resin pellet pollution and The Great Nurdle Hunt.

  • Relax to this 1-hour dumpster fire ambience video

    "Fall asleep to the sounds of the world around us," promises Real Life Ambience, "1 Hour of fire sounds for the whole family."

    My own contribution to this satirical genre was 10 HOURS HENRY KISSINGER ULTIMATE RELAXATION, featuring 10 hours of gently panning and fading footage of Dr. Kissinger, napalmed villages, futile protests, etc., to becalmed New Age library music. Alas, one of America's illustrious broadcast news agencies copyright-striked it.

  • Behold the Lego tapas factory

    My young son has become transfixed by videos of Lego robots moving bread around and preparing meals. Here's one of them, now watched perhaps thirty times.

    There's something slightly uncanny about watching bread sail elegantly though a Lego production line, to be sliced and combined with meat and condiments, ermerging as neat if not entirely appetizing tapas. Here is what history has led us to: the lego tapas factory, Borgesian snacks in the twilight of liberal democracy, accompanied by the ContentID music library's best imitation of a band named for unemployment benefit application forms.

  • Kanye West's presidential campaign was run by GOP

    When footage emerged of Kanye West's "publicist" threatening an election worker after Trump's 2020 election defeat, it was a reminder that Kanye himself had launched his own presidential campaign. Why were his people still batting for Trump? The cynical answer is that Kanye's presidential campaign was merely a stalking horse for Trump, its only purpose to peel black votes away from Joe Biden. The cynical answer was the correct one: newly-released documents show that Republican Party insiders financed and operated Kanye's campaign.

    New documents show Kanye West's doomed White House campaign—styled as an "independent" third-party effort—appears to have disguised potentially millions of dollars in services it received from a secretive network of Republican Party operatives, including advisers to the GOP elite and a managing partner at one of the top conservative political firms in the country.

    Potentially even more alarming? The Kanye 2020 campaign committee did not even report paying some of these advisers, and used an odd abbreviation for another—moves which campaign finance experts say appear designed to mask the association between known GOP operatives and the campaign, and could constitute a violation of federal laws.

    Kanye's personal problems and his diagnosis mean he is a vulnerable person. The menacing pseudo-cop speech patterns of his "publicist" was cult talk and her behavior implied that he was surrounded by similar minders. This isn't to say that Kanye isn't responsible for the things he does or says, but it does suggest that his involvement in the campaign was as cursory as the campaign itself.

  • Limited edition color-shifting turntable designed by Brian Eno

    It's already too late to sign up for Brian Eno's colorful, glowing turntable: the limited edition sold out almost as soon as it became available. No price was made public, but Eno prints offered by the same gallery were 1,440 euros ($1,630) a pop. If you have to ask…

    Eno collaborated again with the Paul Stolper Gallery in London, this time releasing 50 turntables whose plinth and platter morph into different colors and add a psychedelically visual layer of listening to music. Like the music he pioneered, the turntables create the perfect vibe for a meditative or contemplative atmosphere.

    Specs:

    acrylic, LED lights · 420mm x 420mm x 76mm case on 16mm feet with an 18mm clear platter · Total height from top of platter to base 110mm · Edition of 50 · signature and edition number engraved on the back right-hand side · Copyright The Artist

  • Bruce Springsteen sells his back catalog to Sony for half a billion dollars

    Bruce Springsteen has sold his song catalog to Sony, including master recordings, for $500m. CNN:

    The deal would be the largest ever transaction for a single artist's catalog, according to the Times, and would include his work as both a singer and songwriter… Billboard was first to report the sale [paywall].

    A big outright sale. Compare to Neil Young, who recently sold a 50% stake in his back catalog for $150m, and David Bowie, who sold a decade of royalty payments with his back catalog as security, making $100m in today's money without selling so much as a b-side.

  • Reddit files to go public, karma to vest at $0

    Reddit, the last social media site that isn't entirely given over to an algorithmic hell of engagement metrics (so long as you stay away from whatever it feeds logged-out visitors), is to go public with a traditional IPO.

    The social media company did not make the filing publicly available. The company also did not say how many shares would be offered nor the price range for the proposed offering.

    Although Reddit was created in 2005, it has taken a unique road toward going public.

    Conde Nast Publications acquired Reddit in 2006. The social media services remained a part of the publication company until it was made an independent subsidiary in 2011. Since then, it raised a series of funding rounds from venture capital firms.

    Reddit was always famous for two problems: its low advertising revenues given the enormous volume of traffic, and the brokenness of the website itself ("something went wrong!"). One of these problems has finally been solved.

  • Autonomous sonar boat searches for sunken treasure

    Red Maniac devised and made an autonomous sonar drone—a boat!—that tools around lakes looking for signs of sunken treasure under the waves.

    The parts list is specialized, to say the least. An afternoon at Home Depot will not cut it!

    36" wam-o brand boogie board
    560kv 24v underwater thruster
    Spedix 30A HV 3-6s esc (set to bidirectional)
    Matek F405 Wing flight controller (running Ardupilot/Rover 4.1)
    Holybro M9n GPS/Compass module
    X-Rock 915mhz 1000mw telemetry radio
    TBS Crossfire Full Module
    Taranis X9D radioMultistar 4s 6,600mah (X3 parallel)
    Humminbird Helix 7
    Mega SI G3 sonar

  • Tokyo concept apartment building offers extremely tiny and odd living spaces

    Tokyo Lens explores a Tokyo building with incredibly tiny and odd studio apartments—think toilets beside beds—but a degree of clever optimization you don't get with, say, New York City's hacked up and illegal bedsits. The residents, says Norm Nakamura, sought the place out.

    It strikes me as a good example of "tiny house living" that declines in appeal when the fittings aren't brand new anymore and life in the box loses its veneer of freshly-consumed intentionality. In fairness, though, some of these are cool single-occupant rooms for undergrads, assuming there's cheap eating nearby. Bathed in natural light, they're a counterpoint to this more concrete hell now offered in the West.

  • Brilliant shot of drone swooping through campus

    I was wondering why it was clever that a drone video was shot in a single take. Then I watched it!

    One of our most spectacular films with extremely precise planning and zero tolerance for any mistakes. We developed the idea to show in one single shot the everyday life in a school for further education in St.Gallen, Switzerland. Our client, the Akademie St.Gallen believed in our skills and this absolutely unique concept.

  • George Floyd murderer Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to federal charge

    Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who choked George Floyd to death and was convicted of his murder in April, pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating George Floyd's civil rights. Conviction on the Federal charge could have extended Chauvin's nearly 23-year sentence while aquittal could not have shortened it; by pleading guilty, Chauvin avoids a trial and increases his chance of receiving a shorter concurrent sentence. No date was set for sentencing.

    Chauvin appeared in person Wednesday for the change of plea hearing in an orange short-sleeve prison shirt and was led into and out of the court in handcuffs. He said "Guilty, your honor" to confirm his pleas in Floyd's death and an unrelated 2017 case, and acknowledged that he was guilty of the acts alleged.

    With parole and presuming good behavior, Chauvin is expected to actually serve about 15 years of his state sentence behind bars. Any federal sentence would run at the same time as the state sentence, and defendants serve about 85 percent of federal sentences presuming good behavior. That means if the judge gives Chauvin the maximum 25 years requested, he would likely serve about six years and three months beyond his state sentence.

  • Charges for ex-cop who rammed van driver while investigating "election fraud"

    Mark Aguirre, formerly a Houston police captain, was paid by wealthy Republican donor and deranged quack Steve Hotze to "investigate" voter fraud. Aguirre rammed a van he "thought" was loaded with "illegal" ballots, but it was not and he was arrested in 2020. He has finally been indicted, reports Cory McGinnis.

    Mark Aguirre is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and could face up to 20 years in prison. Aguirre was arrested last December after prosecutors say he ran his SUV into the back of the truck of an air conditioning technician. Aguirre allegedly told police he believed the victim was behind a massive voter fraud scheme and that there were 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck. After the victim got out of his vehicle, Aguirre allegedly aimed a pistol at his head and ordered the man to get on the ground, according to the DA. Two additional vehicles then pulled up, with Aguirre ordering an unidentified person to search the truck, according to previously filed court documents.

    According to Ogg, Aguirre was allegedly paid more than $250,000 by conservative activist Steve Hotze to investigate voter fraud through Hotze's group Liberty Center for God and Country. "Aguirre victimized an innocent guy," Ogg said. "He made this victim feel like he was going to die. And the fellow was not involved in any type of voter fraud, but instead was just an air conditioning repairman with a box truck."

    Some coverage of this has a subtly exonerative note, implying that if there were ballots in the van, it would have been reasonable for far-right goons to ram it off the road, put the driver on his knees at gunpoint, and maybe worse.

    When you spot uncanny bullshit like that lurking in the tone or content of coverage, remember that the best thing that could happen to the media business is Trump smirkingly emceeing as things get… worse.