The Life & Death of an Espresso Shot in Super Slow Motion

Some YouTuber posted online a pretty nice clip of an espresso shot being pulled from a La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine at 120 frames per second. They recommend muting the sound, then putting on your own music. I gave it a quick shot with the famous soundtrack for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I’ll be damned, it syncs up pretty well. Have a better soundtrack to recommend? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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Wired Co-Founder Kevin Kelly Gives 36 Lectures on Our Future World: Education, Movies, Robots, Autonomous Cars & More

Given recent events, 2019 may now seem to us like the distant past. But to those who were thinking hard about the future the year before last, nothing that has happened since has been wholly unexpected — and especially not to those who’d already been thinking hard about the future for decades. Take Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and writer on technology as well as a host of other subjects. It was in 2019 that state telecommunications company China Mobile commissioned him to give a series of 36 short video lectures on the “Future of X”: not the future of the internet in China and the future of India in competition with China, but a range of topics that will surely affect us all, no matter our part of the world.

Self-driving cars, virtual reality, 5G, robots: Kelly has given consideration to all these much-discussed technologies and the roles they may come to play in our lives. But the important thing about them isn’t to know what form they’ll take in the future, since by definition no one can, but to develop habits of mind that allow you to grasp as wide a variety of their possibilities as you can right now.




The future, as Kelly frames it in his talk on uncertainties, consists of “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns.” Those last, better known as “black swans,” are events “completely unexpected by anybody” that “change the world forever.” As examples of possible black swans to come he names World War Three, the discovery of cheap fusion energy, and, yes, a pandemic.

Societal preparation for the future, to Kelly’s mind, will involve developing “a very systematic way of collecting these unknown unknowns and turning them into known unknowns.” Personal preparation for the future, according to his talk on schools and learning, will involve ceaseless acquisition and refinement of knowledge and understanding.

If we want to thrive in an uncertain future, he argues, we should “adopt a method of learning called deliberate practice, falling forward or failing forward,” in which we keep pushing ourselves into unknown intellectual territory, always remaining “newbies” at something, assisted all the while by technology.

Just a couple of decades into the 21st century, we’ve already caught a glimpse of what technology can do to optimize our learning process — or simply to enable learning where it wouldn’t happen otherwise. “I don’t imagine that we’re going to go away from a classroom,” Kelly says, but we also “have the online video world, and more and more people today are learning how to do an amazing variety of things, that we wouldn’t have thought would work on video.”

Of course, since he spoke those words, one black swan in particular has pushed much of humanity away from the classroom, and we’ve found out a good deal more about what kind of learning works (and doesn’t) over the internet. The future, it seems, is now.

You can watch the full playlist of videos, all 36 of them, below. We also recommend his very insightful book, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How the Internet Archive Digitizes 3,500 Books a Day–the Hard Way, One Page at a Time

Does turning the pages of an old book excite you? How about 3 million pages? That’s how many pages Eliza Zhang has scanned over her ten years with the Internet Archive, using Scribe, a specialized scanning machine invented by Archive engineers over 15 years ago. “Listening to 70s and 80s R&B while she works,” Wendy Hanamura writes at the Internet Archive blog, “Eliza spends a little time each day reading the dozens of books she handles. The most challenging part of her job? ‘Working with very old, fragile books.”

The fragile state and wide variety of the millions of books scanned by Zhang and the seventy-or-so other Scribe operators explains why this work has not been automated. “Clean, dry human hands are the best way to turn pages,” says Andrea Mills, one of the leaders of the digitization team. “Our goal is to handle the book once and to care for the original as we work with it.”

Raising the glass with a foot pedal, adjusting the two cameras, and shooting the page images are just the beginning of Eliza’s work. Some books, like the Bureau of Land Management publication featured in the video, have myriad fold-outs. Eliza must insert a slip of paper to remind her to go back and shoot each fold-out page, while at the same time inputting the page numbers into the item record. The job requires keen concentration.

If this experienced digitizer accidentally skips a page, or if an image is blurry, the publishing software created by our engineers will send her a message to return to the Scribe and scan it again.

It’s not a job for the easily bored; “It takes concentration and a love of books,” says Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. The painstaking process allows digitizers to preserve valuable books online while maintaining the integrity of physical copies. “We do not disbind the books,” says Kahle, a method that has allowed them to partner with hundreds of institutions around the world, digitizing 28 million texts over two decades. Many of those books are rare and valuable, and many have been deemed of little or no value. “Increasingly,” writes the Archive’s Chris Freeland, “the Archive is preserving many books that would otherwise be lost to history or the trash bin.”

In one example, Freeland cites The dictionary of costume, “one of the millions of titles that reached the end of its publishing lifecycle in the 20th century.” It is also a work cited in Wikipedia, a key source for “students of all ages… in our connected world.” The Internet Archive has preserved the only copy of the book available online, making sure Wikipedia editors can verify the citation and researchers can use the book in perpetuity. If looking up the definition of “petticoat” in an out-of-print reference work seems trivial, consider that the Archive digitizes about 3,500 books every day in its 18 digitization centers. (The dictionary of costume was identified as the Archive’s 2 millionth “modern book.”)

Libraries “have been vital in times of crisis,” writes Alistair Black, emeritus professor of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, and “the coronavirus pandemic may prove to be a challenge that dwarfs the many episodes of anxiety and crisis through which the public library has lived in the past.” A huge part of our combined global crises involves access to reliable information, and book scanners at the Internet Archive are key agents in preserving knowledge. The collections they digitize “are critical to educating an informed populace at a time of massive disinformation and misinformation,” says Kahle. When asked what she liked best about her job, Zhang replied, “Everything! I find everything interesting…. Every collection is important to me.”

The Internet Archive offers over 20,000,000 freely downloadable books and texts. Enter the collection here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

De-Stress with 30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals from Director Hayao Miyazaki

What does it mean to describe something as relaxing?

Most of us would agree that a relaxing thing is one that quiets both mind and body.

There’s scientific evidence to support the stress-relieving, restorative effects of spending time in nature.

Even go-go-go city slickers with a hankering for excitement and adventure tend to understand the concept of “relaxing” as something slow-paced and surprise-free.

HBO Max is touting its collection of animation master Hayao Miyazaki‘s films with 30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals from Studio Ghibli, above.




Will all of us experience those 30 minutes as “relaxing”?

Maybe not.

Studio Ghibli fans may find themselves gripped by a sort of trivia contest competitiveness, shouting the names of the films that supply these pastoral visions—PonyoGrave of the Fireflies!! Howl’s Moving Castle!!! 

Fledgling animators may feel as if they’ve swallowed a stone—no matter how hard I try, nothing I make will approach the beauty on display here.

Sticklers—and there are plenty leaving comments on YouTube—may be irritated to realize that it’s actually not 30 but 6 minutes of visuals, looped 5 times.

Insomniacs (such as this reporter) may wish there was more looping and less content. The selected scenery is tranquil enough, but the clips themselves are brief, leading to some jarring transitions.

(One possible workaround for those hoping to lull themselves to sleep: fiddle with the speed settings. Played at .25 and muted, this compilation becomes very relaxing, much like artist Douglas Gordon’s video installation, 24 Hour Psycho. Leave the sound up and the lapping waves, gentle winds, and chuffing trains turn into something worthy of a slasher flick.

Finally, with so much attention focussed on Mars these days, we can’t help imagining what alien life forms might make of these earthly visions—ahh, this green, sheep-dotted pasture does lower my stress level… waitWTF was THAT!? Nothing on my home planet prepared me for the possibility of a monstrous winged house comprised of overgrown bagpipes and chicken legs lumbering through the countryside!

We concede that 30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals from Studio Ghibli is a pleasant thing to have playing in the background as we wait for COVID restrictions to be lifted… but ultimately, you may find these 36 minutes of music from Studio Ghibli films more genuinely relaxing.

via Kottke

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Witness the Birth of Kermit the Frog in Jim Henson’s Live TV Show, Sam and Friends (1955)

Long before “green” became synonymous with eco-friendly products and production, an 18-year-old Jim Henson created a puppet who would go on to become the color’s most celebrated face from his mother’s cast-off green felt coat and a single ping pong ball.

Kermit debuted in black and white in the spring of 1955 as an ensemble member of Sam and Friendsa live television show comprised of five-minute episodes that the talented Henson had been tapped to write and perform, following some earlier success as a teen puppeteer.




Airing on the Washington DC-area NBC affiliate between the evening news and The Tonight ShowSam and Friends was an immediate hit with viewers, even if they ranked Kermit, originally more lizard than frog, fourth in terms of popularity. (Top spot went to a skull puppet named Yorick.)

Watching the surviving clips of Sam and Friends, it’s easy to catch glimpses of where both Kermit and Henson were headed.

While Henson voiced Sam and all of his puppet friends, Kermit wound up sounding the closest to Henson himself.

Kermit’s signature face-crumpling reactions were by design. Whereas other puppets of the period, like the titular Sam, had stiff heads with the occasional moving jaw, Kermit’s was as soft as a footless sock, allowing for far greater expressiveness.

Henson honed Kermit’s expressions by placing live feed monitors on the floor so he and his puppeteer bride-to-be Jane, could see the puppets from the audience perspective.

Unlike previously televised puppet performances, which preserved the existing prosceniums of the theaters to which the players had always been confined, Henson considered the TV set frame enough. Liberating the puppets thusly gave more of a sketch comedy feel to the proceedings, something that would carry over to Sesame Street and later, The Muppet Show.

By the 12th episode, Kermit has found a niche as wry straight man for wackier characters like jazz aficionado Harry the Hipster who introduced an element of musical notation to the animated letters and numbers that would become a Sesame Street staple.

And surely we’re not the only ones who think the Muppets’ recent appearance in a Super Bowl ad pales in comparison to Kermit and Harry’s live commercial for Sam and Friends’ sponsor, a regional brand of bacon and lunch meat.

Sam and Friends ran from 1955 to 1961, but Kermit’s first performance on The Tonight Show in 1956, lip syncing to Rosemary Clooney’s recording of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” and mugging in a blonde braided wig, hinted that he and Henson would soon outgrow the local television pond.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, current issue #63. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Paul Simon Deconstructs “Mrs. Robinson” (1970)

There’s nothing like having a deadline. When Simon and Garfunkel were called on by director Mike Nichols to provide music for his 1967 comedy The Graduate, the film was already being edited, and the duo were working on the movie studio clock. To hear Simon tell it in this interview with Dick Cavett (from the same interview we featured earlier this week), it was that crunch time that produced one of their best songs, and their biggest hit, “Mrs. Robinson.”

In fact, the song stitched together two unrelated sketches. The first was the guitar fill that starts the song, which was Simon just riffing over a chase scene. “But it wasn’t working,” he says. The other, the chorus, was a fragment: “And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know.”




“For no particular reason, the words just came into my head,” Simon tells Cavett. The next line mentioned Mrs. Roosevelt, and who knows where Simon might have gone with the song if Mike Nichols hadn’t told him to ditch anything political and keep with just the one character.

If you have the soundtrack to The Graduate, you’ll notice that the version of “Mrs. Robinson” only has scat singing in the verses, just making it up as they went along. There was no time to flesh out the track, and it fit in the movie better than any of the songs Mike Nichols had licensed already from the duo. It would be one of many prescient choices for the classic comedy, including casting the unknown Jewish 30-year-old Dustin Hoffman for the main role instead of the very white choices the studio was trying to push on the director.

It was only three months after the film came out that Simon and Garfunkel recorded the full version with the lyrics in the verses. It became their second number one single in 1968 and was the first rock song to win a Grammy for Record of the Year. But true to the original soundtrack version, it keeps its opening verse word-free.

And it’s an odd song. Simon describes the writing as stream of consciousness. Though Mrs. Robinson is indeed a character in the film, played by Anne Bancroft, the lyrics rarely reference the film, except for “It’s a little secret just the Robinson’s affair/Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids.” (And even here Simon seems to be singing about hiding prescription drugs). Instead Simon creates an elliptical narrative for Mrs. Robinson, placing her at the center of a story set…at a sanitarium, perhaps? The story jumps all around, but Mrs. Robinson remains confused, out of sorts, suffering the alienation of the suburban wife, nostalgic for an imaginary past. It’s where Joe DiMaggio comes in, called out like a savior (“a nation turns its lonely eyes to you”) when the “Jesus loves you” exhortations don’t work. Later, Simon would explain the DiMaggio reference as, “I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply.” (Simon was more of a Mickey Mantle fan, but DiMaggio had better syllables).

The good thing about writing in this stream of consciousness, Simon tells Cavett, is “You find out what was in your mind was relevant even though at the time it didn’t seem so.” The song sounds chipper, but those lyrics are the story of a society about to come apart, which it would do several months later in 1968. Like The Graduate, with its satire about suburbia, loosening morals, hypocrisy, and “plastics” both as a career choice and a way of describing society, the song is a revelation of a world to come.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

4,000 Priceless Scrolls, Texts & Papers From the University of Tokyo Have Been Digitized & Put Online

The phrase “opening of Japan” is a euphemism that has outlived its purpose, serving to cloud rather than explain how a country closed to outsiders suddenly, in the mid-19th century, became a major influence in art and design worldwide. Negotiations were carried out at gunpoint. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry presented the Japanese with two white flags to raise when they were ready to surrender. (The Japanese called Perry’s fleet the “black ships of evil men.”) In one of innumerable historical ironies, we have this ugliness to thank for the explosion of Impressionist art (van Gogh was obsessed with Japanese prints and owned a large collection) as well as much of the beauty of Art Nouveau and modernist architecture at the turn of the century.

We may know versions of this already, but we probably don’t know it from a Japanese point of view. “As our global society grows ever more connected,” writes Katie Barrett at the Internet Archive blog, “it can be easy to assume that all of human history is just one click away. Yet language barriers and physical access still present major obstacles to deeper knowledge and understanding of other cultures.”




Unless we can read Japanese, our understanding of its history will always be informed by specialist scholars and translators. Now, at least, thanks to cooperation between the University of Tokyo General Library and the Internet Archive, we can access thousands more primary sources previously unavailable to “outsiders.”

“Since June 2020,” notes Barrett, “our Collections team has worked in tandem with library staff to ingest thousands of digital files from the General Library’s servers, mapping the metadata for over 4,000 priceless scrolls, texts, and papers.” This material has been digitized over decades by Japanese scholars and “showcases hundreds of years of rich Japanese history expressed through prose, poetry, and artwork.” It will be primarily the artwork that concerns non-Japanese speakers, as it primarily concerned 19th-century Europeans and Americans who first encountered the country’s cultural products. Artwork like the humorous print above. Barrett provides context: 

In one satirical illustration, thought to date from shortly after the 1855 Edo earthquake, courtesans and others from the demimonde, who suffered greatly in the disaster, are shown beating the giant catfish that was believed to cause earthquakes. The men in the upper left-hand corner represent the construction trades; they are trying to stop the attack on the fish, as rebuilding from earthquakes was a profitable business for them.

There are many such depictions of “seismic destruction” in ukiyo-e prints dating from the same period and the later Mino-Owari earthquake of 1891: “They are a sobering reminder of the role that natural disasters have played in Japanese life.” 

You can see many more digitized artifacts, such as the charming book of Japanese ephemera above, at the Internet Archive’s University of Tokyo collection. Among the 4180 items currently available, you’ll also find many European prints and engravings held in the library’s 25 collections. All of this material “can be used freely without prior permission,” writes the University of Tokyo Library. “Among the highlights,” Barrett writes, “are manuscripts and annotated books from the personal collection of the novelist Mori Ōgai (1862–1922), an early manuscript of the Tale of Genji, [below] and a unique collection of Chinese legal records from the Ming Dynasty.” Enter the collection here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Surface of Mars Shown in Stunning 4K Resolution

Could you use a mental escape? Something that transports you beyond the confines of your pandemic-narrowed world? Maybe a trip to Mars will do the trick. Above and below, you can find high definition footage captured by NASA’s three Mars rovers–Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. The footage (also contributed by JPL-CaltechMSSSCornell University and ASU) was stitched together by ElderFox Documentaries, creating what they call the most lifelike experience of being on Mars.

Safe travels.

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via Laughing Squid

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