Ethan Hawke's 20 rules on how to behave like a knightAUG 29

Rules For A Knight

Late last year, actor Ethan Hawke published a book called Rules for a Knight. The book consists of a letter from one of Hawke's ancestors, a 15th-century Cornish knight, written to his children outlining the rules for being a good person. The letter and ancestor are fictional, but Hawke wrote the book as a guide on living a virtuous life for his own children.

A knight, fearing he may not return from battle, writes a letter to his children in an attempt to leave a record of all he knows. In a series of ruminations on solitude, humility, forgiveness, honesty, courage, grace, pride, and patience, he draws on the ancient teachings of Eastern and Western philosophy, and on the great spiritual and political writings of our time. His intent: to give his children a compass for a journey they will have to make alone, a short guide to what gives life meaning and beauty.

I missed this when it came out, but I've run across it twice in the past two weeks, so it appears to be one of those books -- perhaps like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up -- that's hanging around and resonating with people. Shane Parrish of Farnam Street wrote about the book last week and shared the book's 20 rules for being a knight.

2. Humility. Never announce that you are a knight, simply behave as one. You are better than no one, and no one is better than you.

6. Friendship. The quality of your life will, to a large extent, be decided by with whom you elect to spend your time.

10. Grace. Grace is the ability to accept change. Be open and supple; the brittle break.

14. Discipline. In the field of battle, as in all things, you will perform as you practice. With practice, you build the road to accomplish your goals. Excellence lives in attention to detail. Give your all, all the time. Don't save anything for the walk home. The better a knight prepares, the less willing he will be to surrender.

"Don't save anything for the walk home." That's a nice little homage to Gattaca, in which Ethan Hawke's genetically flawed character is asked by his brother how he's been able to excel in society and Hawke answers, "I never saved anything for the swim back."

  quick links, updated constantly

Tolkien Influenced Rock More Than The Velvet Underground Did

Ssam Bar turns 10. I believe this undersells its larger influence. Anyone write a proper appreciation?

Gutted to hear that Three Lives bookstore might have to look for a new location. Love that place.

Nextdoor reduced racism on their forum by making users think about their possible bias at key points

D.A. Henderson, Doctor Who Helped End Smallpox Scourge, Dies at 87

Blank windows (somehow hours of fun)

There's no quick links archive yet. If you'd like to see 'em all, follow @kottke on Twitter.

The Millennial WhoopAUG 29

Patrick Metzger noticed that a huge number of pop songs from the past few years use a musical trope that Metzger has dubbed The Millennial Whoop. The video above contains a number of examples. Warning: once you hear it, you will perhaps not be able to enjoy listening to pop music without noticing it.1

I like to call this melodic snippet the "Millennial Whoop." It's a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight 8th-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an "Oh" phoneme, often in a "Wa-oh-wa-oh" pattern. And it is in so many pop songs it's criminal.

Some prominent Millennial Whoop songs include Katy Perry's California Gurls, Carly Rae Jepsen's Good Time, and even The Mother We Share by Chvrches.

  1. I first read about the Wilhelm Scream many years ago and now I hear it in every single action movie I see. It's distracting as shit. See also Hitchcock's distracting cameos.

The Kingdom of SpeechAUG 29

Kingdom Of Speech

In his new book The Kingdom of Speech, Tom Wolfe argues that speech and not evolution is responsible for the many achievements of humans. Wolfe, the author of The Right Stuff and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, went on NPR the other day to talk about the book. This comment about Darwin's view of speech stuck out (emphasis mine):

He could not figure out what it was. He assumed, because of his theory, that everything evolved from animals. And didn't even include it in his theory, language, until he decided that it came from our imitation of the cries of birds. And I think it's misleading to say that human beings evolved from animals -- actually, nobody knows whether they did or not. There are very few physical signs, aside from the general resemblance of apes and humans. The big evolution, if you want to call it that, is that this one species, Homo sapiens, came up with this ingenious trick, which is language.

It's one thing to say that speech did not evolve from the utterances of previous animals and was instead invented by humans, but it's quite another to assert that humans did not evolve from animals at all.1 Gonna be fun to sit back and watch the controversy roil on this one. (via @JossFong who said "lazy saturday, just listening to @NPR when ..... WHAT")

  1. Q: Where does Tom Wolfe get his water?

    A: From a "Well, actually..."

Our tiny autonomous killer drone futureAUG 29

The very beginning of Attack of the Killer Robots by Sarah Topol features this quote by Stuart Russell, a Berkeley computer science professor. It is terrifying:

A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: "Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target." A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone's head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don't have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.

There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don't matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted. They will be cowering underground in shelters and devising techniques so that they don't get detected. This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.

They could be here in two to three years.

Who needs a hug?

Star Wars album coversAUG 29

Star Wars Album Covers

Star Wars Album Covers

Star Wars Album Covers

I totally loved this...famous album covers modified to include Star Wars characters. The Bjork/Leia one is just perfect. More album/movie mashups on this Instagram account (like this Game of Thrones take on Sgt. Pepper's).

Time lapse video of ice cream bars and popsicles meltingAUG 26

As with many other ordinary everyday processes, if you film melting ice cream and popsicles up close and over time, it looks pretty damn cool. (No pun intended.) (Ok, pun intended, who are we kidding?)

"For the Colonel, It Was Finger-Lickin' Bad"AUG 26

KFC Finger Lickin Bad

Here's a gem from the archive of the NY Times. One day in September 1976, NY Times food critic Mimi Sheraton and Colonel Harland Sanders stopped into a Manhattan Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Colonel, then estranged from the company he founded, strolled into the kitchen after glad-handing some patrons and proceeded to tear into the quality of the food:

Once in the kitchen, the colonel walked over to a vat full of frying chicken pieces and announced, 'That's much too black. It should be golden brown. You're frying for 12 minutes -- that's six minutes too long. What's more, your frying fat should have been changed a week ago. That's the worst fried chicken I've ever seen. Let me see your mashed potatoes with gravy, and how do you make them?"

When Mr. Singleton explained that he first mixed boiling water into the instant powdered potatoes, the colonel interrupted. "And then you have wallpaper paste," he said. "Next suppose you add some of this brown gravy stuff and then you have sludge." "There's no way anyone can get me to swallow those potatoes," he said after tasting some. "And this cole slaw. This cole slaw! They just won't listen to me. It should he chopped, not shredded, and it should be made with Miracle Whip. Anything else turns gray. And there should be nothing in it but cabbage. No carrots!"

Sanders sold his company to an investment group in 1964, which took the company public two years later and eventually sold to a company called Heublein. After selling, Sanders officially still worked for the company as an advisor but grew more and more dissatisfied with it, as evidenced by the story above. When the company HQ moved to Tennessee, the Colonel was quoted as saying:

This ain't no goddam Tennessee Fried Chicken, no matter what some slick, silk-suited son-of-a-bitch says.

And he got sued by a KFC franchisee after he commented:

My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and then mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste. And I know wallpaper paste, by God, because I've seen my mother make it.

To the "wallpaper paste" they add some sludge and sell it for 65 or 75 cents a pint. There's no nutrition in it and the ought not to be allowed to sell it.

And another thing. That new crispy chicken is nothing in the world but a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken.

Colonel Sanders: serving up chicken and sick burns with equal spiciness. (via @mccanner)

Boston Dynamics tests new swearing robotAUG 26

In addition to robots that run fast, can't be knocked over, launch themselves 30 feet into the air, and climb up walls, Boston Dynamics also makes robots who move like people. Now, imagine if that robot swore like a longshoreman while going about its duties. This made me laugh super hard. (via @nickkokonas)

Amazon is doing vehicles nowAUG 26

Amazon Vehicles

Amazon just launched Amazon Vehicles. I immediately went to see if their one-click ordering worked with $58,000 cars, but Vehicles is not a store but a shopping guide. (Amazon calls it a "car research destination and automotive community".) You can sort by make, model, year, body style, MPG, etc. Here are all the electric vehicles, including the 2016 Tesla X. They have older cars too, like this 1965 Mustang Shelby GT-350 convertible, this 1961 Corvette and this 1972 El Camino. You can't sort by price, but this Mercedes-Benz S65 was one of the most expensive cars I found ($234,050).

Having purchased a car in the last six months, I can see the appeal of being able to browse through all the different brands and makes of cars in a familiar interface. This will be a full-fledged store before too long, yes?

New Errol Morris film: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait PhotographyAUG 25

Dorfman Ginsberg

I had heard months ago that Errol Morris was releasing a new documentary called The B-Side but couldn't really find any information about it (it's not even listed on Wikipedia). But the film is being screened soon at both the Toronto and New York film festivals, so some information is filtering out there. The film is about photographer Elsa Dorfman, who is known for her use of the large-format Polaroid 20" x 24" camera. From the description of the film on the New York film festival site:

Errol Morris's surprising new film is simplicity itself: a visit to the Cambridge, Massachusetts studio of his friend, the 20x24 Polaroid portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman, who specifies on her website that she likes her subjects "to wear clothes (and to bring toys, skis, books, tennis racquets, musical instruments, and particularly pets...)." As this charming, articulate, and calmly uncompromising woman takes us through her fifty-plus years of remarkable but fragile images of paying customers, commissioned subjects, family, and close friends (including the poet Allen Ginsberg), the sense of time passing grows more and more acute. This is a masterful film.

And from the Toronto festival:

"My style of photography is very literary," she says, "influenced by Ginsberg's poetry in the acceptance of detail, everydayness. What you're wearing is okay and who you are is okay. You don't have to be cosmeticized." For her portrait clients, she took two pictures. The client got one and she kept "the B-side." For music fans, the B-sides of vinyl singles had a reputation for being unpredictable and extra precious. The same can be said for Morris' touching portrait of Dorfman.

Sounds great...I'm definitely keeping an eye out for a trailer and release dates.

Frank Ocean's 100 favorite filmsAUG 25

In addition to Kanye West's poem about McDonald's, Frank Ocean also published a list of his 100 favorite films in his popup magazine, Boys Don't Cry. Here's a sampling:

ATL (ATL is not the best movie lol but ok)
Un Chien Andalou
Blue Velvet
Barry Lyndon
Battleship Potemkin
Eraserhead
Chungking Express
Raging Bull
The Conformist
The Bicycle Thief
Taxi Driver
A Clockwork Orange

Overall, a very solid list. Ocean and I could definitely go to the cinema together.

DJ Shadow Essential Mix 07/02/2016AUG 25

Speaking of DJ Shadow, his 2-hour Essential Mix that aired in early July is really hitting the spot right now.

Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow feat. Run The JewelsAUG 25

This video for Nobody Speak by DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels is one of the best music videos I've seen in a long time.

Says DJ Shadow: "We wanted to make a positive, life-affirming video that captures politicians at their election-year best. We got this instead."

Says Run The Jewels' Killer Mike: "It's such a dope video. It's what I really wish Trump and Hillary would just do and get it over with...And even in that fight I think Hillary would win -- and that's not an endorsement."

The album is one of my faves so far...you get listen to it here or here.

Floor maps of iconic NYC fast food jointsAUG 25

When he was asked to design a new outpost of iconic NYC hot dog joint Papaya King in the East Village, Andrew Bernheimer went around to several other establishments in the city built to serve food quickly -- Chipotle, Russ & Daughters, Katz's, Shake Shack, Gray's Papaya -- and looked at their floor plans and flow of customers through their spaces. Mark Lamster talked to Bernheimer about the survey.

Grays Papaya Floor

Katz Floor

ML: I think at fast food joints we're conscious that we're in a very controlled environment, but perhaps don't realize (because we are in a rush), just how manipulative that space can be. How did you see this playing out in the places you looked at?

AB: It ranged. Artisanal places (like Russ & Daughters) don't feel manipulative in an insidious way at all (other than showing off some great food and triggering all sorts of synaptic response), while others do (Five Guys and their peanuts, a pretty nasty and obvious trigger to go order soda or spend money on WATER). We didn't just look at fast food joints, but also icons of New York (R&D, Katz's) that do try to serve people quickly but I don't think qualify as "fast food joints." In these cases the manipulation is either entirely subliminal and beyond recognition, or it has been rendered unnecessary because a place has become iconic, the domain of the "regular."

Speaking as a customer, places like Katz's and Russ & Daughters always felt like a total mess to me. Katz's in particular is the worst: the whole thing with the tickets, paying on the way out, the complete lack of a single line, separate ordering locations for different types of food, etc.

That Gray's Papaya that used to be on the corner of 8th St and 6th Ave, however, was fantastic. It had the huge benefit of being situated on the corner, but when you walked in, there was the food being cooked right in front of you. It was obvious where the line was and what direction it was moving. And after getting your food, you could exit immediately out the "back" door or circle back against the line to find a counter spot to quickly eat your meal.

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