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kottke.org posts about video

Reggie Jackson’s Brutal Honesty About Playing Baseball in Alabama in the 60s

As part of the effort to incorporate the Negro Leagues into MLB history, MLB held a pair of games at Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field, “the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and former home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues”. During the pregame show Fox Sports invited Reggie Jackson, who played on a minor league team at the ballpark, to offer his perspective on the event. (Content note: Jackson says the n-word twice during his remarks.)

About halfway through this clip (the 4:35 mark), Alex Rodriguez asks him a softball question designed to elicit some fond memories about baseball and some gauzy reflections on the impact of the Negro Leagues:

How emotional is it for you to come back to a [place] that you played with one of the greatest teams around?

Jackson, as he did so many times during his career, knocked it out of the park with the brutal truth about what it was like to play baseball in the South as a Black man in the 60s (transcript):

Coming back here is not easy. The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled. Fortunately, I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it. But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. People said to me today, I spoke and they said, ‘Do you think you’re a better person, do you think you won when you played here and conquered?’ I said ‘You know, I would never want to do it again.’

“I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, ‘The n***** can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘The n***** can’t stay here.’ We went to [Oakland Athletics owner] Charlie Finley’s country club for a welcome home dinner and they pointed me out with the n-word, ‘He can’t come in here.’ Finley marched the whole team out. Finally, they let me in there. He said ‘We’re going to go the diner and eat hamburgers. We’ll go where we’re wanted.’”

“Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnny McNamara that, if I couldn’t eat in the place, nobody would eat. We’d get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay in a hotel, they’d drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay. Joe and Sharon Rudi, I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn our apartment complex down unless I got out.

The year I came here, Bull Connor was the sheriff the year before, and they took minor league baseball out of here because in 1963, the Klan murdered four Black girls - children 11, 12, 14 years old - at a church here and never got indicted. The Klan, Life Magazine did a story on them like they were being honored.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At the same time, had it not been for my white friends, had it not been for a white manager, and Rudi, Fingers and Duncan, and Lee Meyers, I would never have made it. I was too physically violent. I was ready to physically fight some - I would have got killed here because I would have beat someone’s ass and you would have saw me in an oak tree somewhere.”

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80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory

In this video, pianist David Bennett plays 80 of the best piano intros from the past 120 years, back-to-back and all from memory. This was lovely to listen to while I was eating my lunch.

Some of the intros I particularly enjoyed were Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, Let It Be by The Beatles, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Children by Robert Miles, Clocks by Coldplay, A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, and Breathe Me by Sia. a song I still cannot listen to without tearing up because of the series finale of Six Feet Under.

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A Few Lessons from Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech

Two weeks ago, Roger Federer gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth. After asserting that he’d graduated (and not retired) from professional tennis, Federer shared what he learned from his years on the pro circuit. Some excerpts from the transcript:

“Effortless”… is a myth.

I mean it.

I say that as someone who has heard that word a lot. “Effortless.”

People would say my play was effortless. Most of the time, they meant it as a compliment… But it used to frustrate me when they would say, “He barely broke a sweat!”

Or “Is he even trying?”

The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy.

I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool.

The wakeup call came early in my career, when an opponent at the Italian Open publicly questioned my mental discipline. He said, “Roger will be the favorite for the first two hours, and then I’ll be the favorite after that.”

I was puzzled at first. But eventually, I realized what he was trying to say. Everybody can play well the first two hours. You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re clear… and after two hours, your legs get wobbly, your mind starts wandering, and your discipline starts to fade.

It made me understand… I have so much work ahead of me, and I’m ready to go on this journey now. I get it.

On talent:

Yes, talent matters. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it doesn’t.

But talent has a broad definition.

Most of the time, it’s not about having a gift. It’s about having grit.

In tennis, a great forehand with sick racquet head speed can be called a talent.

But in tennis… like in life… discipline is also a talent. And so is patience.

Trusting yourself is a talent. Embracing the process, loving the process, is a talent.

Managing your life, managing yourself… these can be talents, too.

Some people are born with them. Everybody has to work at them.

On “it’s only a point”:

In tennis, perfection is impossible… In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches… Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches?

Only 54%.

In other words, even top-ranked tennis players win barely more than half of the points they play.

When you lose every second point, on average, you learn not to dwell on every shot.

You teach yourself to think: OK, I double-faulted. It’s only a point.

OK, I came to the net and I got passed again. It’s only a point.

Even a great shot, an overhead backhand smash that ends up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays: that, too, is just a point.

Here’s why I am telling you this.

When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world.

But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you… This mindset is really crucial, because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… with intensity, clarity and focus.

The truth is, whatever game you play in life… sometimes you’re going to lose. A point, a match, a season, a job… it’s a roller coaster, with many ups and downs.

And it’s natural, when you’re down, to doubt yourself. To feel sorry for yourself.

And by the way, your opponents have self-doubt, too. Don’t ever forget that.

But negative energy is wasted energy.

And “life is bigger than the court”:

I worked a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot of miles in that small space… But the world is a whole lot bigger than that… Even when I was just starting out, I knew that tennis could show me the world… but tennis could never be the world.

I knew that if I was lucky, maybe I could play competitively until my late 30s. Maybe even… 41!

But even when I was in the top five… it was important to me to have a life… a rewarding life, full of travel, culture, friendships, and especially family… I never abandoned my roots, and I never forgot where I came from… but I also never lost my appetite to see this very big world.

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Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl

Wallace & Gromit are returning for a feature-length film later this year — and so is Feathers McGraw, the scofflaw penguin that made off with the wrong trousers in, um, The Wrong Trousers. Here’s the premise of Vengeance Most Fowl:

In this next installment, Gromit’s concern that Wallace is becoming too dependent on his inventions proves justified, when Wallace invents a “smart” gnome that seems to develop a mind of its own. When it emerges that a vengeful figure from the past might be masterminding things, it falls to Gromit to battle sinister forces and save his master … or Wallace may never be able to invent again!

Timely! Vengeance Most Fowl will debut on BBC in the UK in late December and at some later date on Netflix in the US and elsewhere.

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How Tennis Balls Became Yellow, Feat. David Attenborough

Somehow, I didn’t know that until quite recently, tennis balls were white instead of yellow (Wimbledon used white balls until 1985). Here’s a British Pathé film from 1961 that shows how tennis balls were made, along with Wimbledon ball boy training:

I also didn’t know that many people think tennis balls are green when they are actually a color called “optic yellow”. Oh and that David Attenborough had a hand in the switch from white to yellow.

The change in color happened due to the demands of television transmissions. In 1972 television was already in color all over the world (although in Spain it was not generalized until five or six years later). At the end of the 1960s, the person in charge of the BBC broadcasts (which, of course, was in charge of Wimbledon) was the renowned documentary filmmaker David Attenborough. And he noticed that the visibility of the traditional white ball was not perfect, especially if it approached the lines of the rectangle of play.

In that year of 1972, tennis was in full growth: the professional and amateur circuits had unified and women’s professional tennis was also growing. Tennis was becoming a great world spectacle and in this context television was fundamental. The International Tennis Federation, in charge of the rules, commissioned a study which showed that the yellow ball was more visible and therefore easier for viewers to follow. The courts, moreover, began to be multicolored once the use of synthetic materials in official tournaments was approved.

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Are You an NPC? (Or Do You Have Free Will?)

Kurzgesagt attempts to answer the question (from the perspective of physics): Do we have free will? Here’s the deterministic perspective (from the show notes):

Now imagine that if right after the Big Bang, a supersmart supercomputer looked at every single particle in the universe and noted all their properties. Just by applying the deterministic laws of physics, it should be able to predict what all the particles in existence would be doing until the end of time.

But if you are made of particles and it’s technically possible to calculate what particles will do forever, then you never decided anything. Your past, present and future were already predetermined and decided at the Big Bang. This would mean there is a kind of fate and you are not free to decide anything.

You may feel like you make decisions, but you are on autopilot. The motions of the particles that make up your brain cells that made you watch this video were decided 14 billion years ago. You are just in the room when it happens. You are only witnessing how the universe inside you unfolds in real time.

And the other side of the argument (in favor of free will):

We know that we can reduce everything that exists to its basic particles and the laws that guide them. While this makes physics feel like the only scientific discipline that actually matters, there is a problem: You can’t explain everything in our universe only from particles.

One key fact about reality that we can’t explain by looking just at electrons and quantum stuff is emergence. Emergence is when many small things together create new fundamental traits that didn’t exist before.

Emergence occurs at all levels of reality, and reality seems to be organized in layers: atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, you, society. Put many things in one layer together and they’ll create the next layer up. Every time they do, entirely new properties emerge.

Having thought about this for all of 20 minutes (or, practically all of my life), the emergence argument against determinism makes a lot of sense to me. Then again, James Gleick’s Chaos and Steven Johnson’s Emergence both made a huge impression on me when I read it more than 20 years ago.

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What’s the Rarest Move in Chess?

YouTuber Paralogical downloaded data from over 5 billion chess games to find the rarest move in chess. Slight spoiler: there are many possible moves that weren’t played in any of the games analyzed. The data and analysis programs used are available on Github:

This is a lil’ code to analyze chess .pgn files, with the goal of finding the “rarest” move in chess.

That is, the rarest move notation (standard algebraic notation) given a large number of input games (e.g. every rated game from lichess) in pgn format.

However, since there are many moves that never happen, this is moreso counting and categorizing moves of various types rather than finding one specific rare move.

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Chaka Khan’s Tiny Desk Concert

NPR recently welcomed Chaka Khan into the office for a Tiny Desk Concert.

When the “Queen of Funk,” Chaka Khan, began to sing her hit “Sweet Thing” at the Tiny Desk, she seemed surprised at how the audience enthusiastically joined in. It’s just one example of how ingrained her work is in the fabric of music history. Since she emerged in the 1970s with the funk band Rufus, Khan has crafted a legacy that includes 22 albums, 10 Grammys, forays into jazz and theater and collaborations with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Quincy Jones. Her 50 years in the music industry recently culminated in a long overdue 2023 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This was great right from the jump…one of my favorite Tiny Desks for sure.

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The Cookie Monster Alphabet

In case you or someone you know needs a little levity or pick-me-up today, might I suggest what might be the cutest thing that’s ever aired on television: a little girl named Joey and Kermit the Frog saying the alphabet.

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AI Can Ruin Movies Now, Too

YouTuber Nerrel takes James Cameron to task for releasing 4K remasters of Aliens and True Lies that have been, well, ruined by using AI to clean them up.

The best 4k releases tend to follow a pretty simple template: clean and scan the negative, repair any obvious signs of damage, and restore the colors to match the original grading, with as little meddling beyond that as possible. The process should not be about modernizing the style or forcing film to look like digital video. 35mm film was capable of incredible picture quality, and 4k is the first home format capable of delivering most of that detail — that should be enough. A well done 4k is like having a pristine copy of the original negative to watch in your own home, with the full data from that celluloid — grain and detail alike — digitally preserved forever. And that’s the problem with deep learning algorithms — they can’t preserve details. They make their best guess about what an object is supposed to be, then pull new details out of their digital assholes and smear them across the screen.

If Hollywood and one of its best directors don’t care enough about their movies to do them right, how are they supposed to convince us to care about their movies?

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Every Kind of Bridge Explained in 15 Minutes

From Practical Engineering, this is a video explaining every type of bridge in just 15 minutes…or at least attempts to.

Without listing every bridge, there’s no true way to list every type of bridge. There’s too much nuance, creativity, and mixing and matching designs. But that’s part of the joy of paying attention to bridges. Once you understand the basics, you can start to puzzle out the more interesting details.

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The Trailer for Black Barbie

The first Black Barbie doll was created and sold in 1980. Black Barbie, a documentary streaming on Netflix later this month, tells the story of how the doll came to be and the impact it had on a generation of young people who were able to see themselves in a doll with the same color skin, perhaps for the first time.

The trailer opens with this line: “If you’ve gone your whole life and you’ve never seen anything made in your own image, there is damage done.” Which is then echoed later in the trailer when a little girl is describing her Barbie: “Really pretty, and has lochs, just like me”.

Shonda Rhimes produced the film and was recently on the Today show talking about the importance of representation. And here’s a tour of Sonya Larson’s collection of 1000+ Black Barbie dolls.

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Brats, a Documentary Film About the 80s Hollywood Brat Pack

I was a little too young (and culturally sheltered — like I’d never heard of New York magazine) in 1985 to really understand what the heck the Brat Pack was (not to mention what the name was referencing), but as a child of the 80s, I obviously grew up watching movies and TV shows that featured these actors. According to Wikipedia (which is a good read if you’re unfamiliar with the whole thing), here are some of the actors that were in the Brat Pack (or Brat Pack-adjacent): Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, James Spader, Robert Downey Jr., John Cusack, and Matthew Broderick.

The Brat Pack moniker was coined in a 1985 New York magazine article and it stuck. And according to some of the members, it ruined lives, careers, and friendships. Now one of the group members, Andrew McCarthy, has directed a documentary about the group: Brats. From Deadline:

Brats looks at the iconic films of the 1980s that shaped a generation and the narrative that took hold when their young stars were branded the “Brat Pack.” McCarthy reunites with his fellow Brat Packers — friends, colleagues and former foes, including Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Jon Cryer, Lea Thompson and Timothy Hutton, many of whom he had not seen for over 30 years — to answer the question: What did it mean to be part of the Brat Pack? The actor-filmmaker also sits down for a first-time conversation with writer David Blum, who fatefully coined the term Brat Pack in a 1985 New York Magazine cover story.

That trailer definitely hooked me in. Brats will be available on Hulu on June 13.

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The Canine Rainbow and How Dogs See the World

How do we know how dogs see? Are they colorblind? Nearsighted? How do they perceive movement? Does their excellent sense of smell help dogs see? The first episode of Howtown from Adam Cole & Joss Fong is all about dog vision and is predictably fascinating.

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Arisa Trew Nails a 900

14-year-old Arisa Trew just became the first female skater to land a 900. She calls it “a dream come true” on Instagram.

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The Talking Piano

Ok, this is super freaky: this is a regular analog piano being played by a computer-controlled mechanical machine and it sounds like a person speaking. If you hadn’t seen this before, (it’s from 2009) take a listen:

Deus Cantando is the work of artist Peter Ablinger. He recorded a German school student reciting some text and then composed a tune for the mechanical player to sound like the recitation. I cannot improve upon Jason Noble’s description of the work:

This is not digital manipulation, nor a digitally programmed piano like a Disklavier. This is a normal, acoustic piano, any old piano. The mechanism performing it consists of 88 electronically controlled, mechanical “fingers,” synchronized with superhuman speed and accuracy to replicate the spectral content of a child’s voice. Watching the above-linked video, it may seem that the speech is completely intelligible, but this is partially an illusion. The visual prompt of the words on the screen are an essential cue: take them away, and it becomes much harder to understand the words. But it is still remarkable that the auditory system is able to group discrete notes from a piano into such a close approximation of a continuous human voice, and that Ablinger was able to do this so convincingly using a conventional instrument (albeit, played robotically).

This is so cool, I can’t believe I’d never seen it before. (via @roberthodgin)

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Trailer for Season Three of The Bear

I have to admit, The Bear is a little up and down for me. But the highs (Forks, Fishes, Honeydew) are so high that it’s well worth the effort. Anyway, the trailer for season three dropped yesterday and, no surprise, it looks intense.

So. Much. Unaddressed. Trauma. That these people are inflicting upon one another. (Men will literally open a Michelin-starred restaurant instead of going to therapy.) It seems like Carmy, not the restaurant, is the titular Bear. (via laura olin)

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A Documentary Film About Jim Henson

Two of my biggest childhood touchstones were Sesame Street and the Muppet Show. The creative spark behind both shows was Jim Henson, the subject of a forthcoming documentary directed by Ron Howard. From the press release:

Produced with the full participation and cooperation of the Henson family, “Jim Henson Idea Man” is an unprecedented, intimate look at Henson’s illustrious, revolutionary career and complex personal life. Using never-before-seen personal archival home movies, photographs, sketches, and Henson’s personal diaries, as well as interviews with those who knew him best, the film is the definitive portrait of one of the world’s most inspiring and iconoclastic creators.

Jim Henson Idea Man will be available to stream on Disney+ on Friday. (via the kid should see this)

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Listening to Sand: The Sound Design of Dune

From the SoundWorks Collection, this is a 30-minute featurette on the sound design of Dune, in which the film’s sound teams talks about how they created the sounds of the Arrakis desert, the sandworm, ornithopters, spice, and the voice of the Bene Gesserit.

That’s something which - I learned a trick from Lee Scratch Perry, who I worked with in Switzerland about 10 years ago. He’s the pioneer of dub reggae, which must be the genre of music with the most bass. And one of the tricks that he used was to record a bass line and then to play it back through a huge speaker in a room that’s resonant…and record that. So it enhances the resonance of the bass. You also hear something of the shaking of the room. So that was one of the tricks that we used to give a sort of a very tactile sense to this spiritual adventure that Paul’s going on.

There are several other videos on this topic should you desire to rabbit-hole: The Sounds of Dune, How The Sounds of Dune Were Made, Dune Sound Design Explained, Director Denis Villeneuve and Sound Team on Dune, and Dune: Part Two | Deeper into the Desert: The Sounds of the Dune:

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Slow Publishing With Arion Press

San Francisco’s Arion Press still uses decades-old machines to make beautiful books by hand. They’re one of the few remaining presses in the world that do everything from start to finish — they even cast their own type.

Arion dwells in an almost extinct corner of the book world: Call it Slow Publishing. It produces only three books a year, each a unique art object reproduced in editions of less than 300. Art is so important, in fact, that the illustrators-art-world luminaries-drive the title selection process.

“We learned that the projects went a lot more smoothly when we said to the artist, ‘What do you want to do?’” Blythe said.

Anthony Bourdain visited Arion in 2015 for a online series called Raw Craft — it’s a great look at how and why they produce books this way:

Business Insider’s Still Standing series recently profiled Arion as well:

(thx, stephen)

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The Budapest Children’s Railway

The Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway) is a 7-mile-long rail line in Budapest that’s operated by children aged 10-14 (aside from the train’s driver).

Children’s Railway, Budapest is one of Budapest’s most unique attractions. Like any other railway, it has ticket offices, diesel locomotives, signals, switches and a timetable. Unlike other railways though, this one is run by children. The line stretches among the Buda hills from Széchenyihegy to Hűvösvölgy, crossing the Cogwheel Railway and serving Normafa as well as the highest point of Budapest: Jánoshegy.

The project, then called the Pioneer’s Railway, was started in 1947 as a part of a three-year Communist plan. This video shows how the railway operates and includes interviews with current workers as well as former workers from the Communist era:

Seems like all the kids are big train nerds…adorable.

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Do We Live in an Infinite Nesting Doll of Black Hole Universes?

Kurzgesagt is back with another video about black holes; it has the innocuous-seeming title of The Easiest Way To Build a Black Hole. But the main topic of the video is the speculation that universes (like ours!) might exist within black holes.

Black holes might create infinite universes while destroying time and space. Everything in existence could be black holes, all the way down. We might live inside a black hole that is inside a black hole, that is inside a black hole. But let’s start at the beginning and build a black hole out of air.

This one is a bit of a brain-bender. From the show notes:

The first part of the script is based on the empirical fact that, somewhat intriguingly, the observable universe seems to have the exact size and mass that would be required to make a black hole as big as the observable universe itself.

The second, completely independent proposal we explore is the idea that our Universe could be born from the singularity of a black hole, and that in turn the universe that contains that black hole could be born from a black hole itself. If so, universes in later generations of this process could be better fitted to produce an abundance of black holes, in a sort of “natural selection” towards efficient black hole production.

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Jon Stewart on Cancel Culture

Jon Stewart is back on The Daily Show on a regular basis and the other day he took on the manufactured outrage that is cancel culture.

Nothing about the right wing reaction is surprising because the idea that there is an all pervasive, all powerful threat to free speech called cancel culture has become a central tenet of modern conservatism. They celebrate their being silenced at conferences. They celebrate their being silenced on podcasts and streaming outlets. They celebrate their being silenced with over 700 book titles about being canceled. Why are there so many of these fucking books?

Conservatives have an entire industry devoted to complaining about not being allowed to say the things they say all the time. Their victimhood is the entire brand.

And:

We are not censored or silenced. We are surrounded by and inundated with more speech than has ever existed in the history of communication.


The Lost Typeface Recovered From the Thames River

This is such a wild story. Two men, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson & Emery Walker, founded the Doves Press in London in 1900. They made a typeface called Doves Roman:

During its short life early last century, the Doves Press printed and bound some of the finest books ever produced in England and its approach to typography and printing subsequently exerted a major influence over book design in Europe and the United States. Many of Cobden-Sanderson’s ideas would, decades later, find expression or adaptation in both Traditionalist and Modernist circles respectively.

The partnership busted up and Cobden-Sanderson eventually took all of the lead type and dumped it in the Thames River. No more typeface.

The thought of ‘his’ typeface being used by anyone else, and in a manner beyond his control, prompted Cobden-Sanderson’s now infamous course of action. Only the Doves Press, run exclusively by him, could be bestowed the honour of printing his type. And so the mission to destroy it, beginning with the punches and matrices on Good Friday 1913, began. On an almost nightly basis from August 1916 the ailing septuagenarian dumped the type into the Thames, wrapped in paper parcels and tied with string; “bequeathed to the river” as he put it in his personal diary. Every piece of this beautiful typeface, more than a ton of metal, was destroyed in a prolonged ritual sacrifice.

Type designer Robert Green, working from printed materials, made a digital facsimile font of Doves Roman. In a bid to improve the font, he set out to find the lead type dumped in the river, aided by Cobden-Sanderson’s diary entries of the type-destroying mission. He found a few of the metal sorts (i.e. pieces of lead type) and with assistance from the Port of London Authority’s diving team, ended up retrieving 151 metal sorts in all, “out of a possible 500,000”.

a collection of metal sorts from a typeface that's been at the bottom of a river for over a century

Here’s a short film about the recovery of the type:

You can testdrive and buy the text and headline typefaces that Green created using the recovered sorts. (via colossal)

a letter printed in Doves Type

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Three Pieces That Prove Bach’s Genius

In this video, pianist David Bennett explains three pieces composed by Johann Sebastian Bach that show how much of a musical genius he was. Two of the compositions are puzzle canons, “a piece of music where the performer has to decode what the composer wants in order to perform the music”.

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Ayo Edebiri Settles Your Petty Disputes

Well this is delightful: Vanity Fair set up Ayo Edebiri with a selection of personal beefs and several gavels (and maybe there’s a meat tenderizer in there, I don’t know), she listened to both sides of each argument, and then passed judgment. Listen until at least the second case before you pass judgment on watching the whole thing (verdict: you should)…it involves someone stealing a french fry from a room service tray.

I don’t know how to tell you this…but your father has murdered people before. There are bodies in the ground. ‘I don’t know what she’s so upset about. It’s a victimless crime. Nobody’s gonna miss that fry. Nobody’s gonna miss THAT KID!’

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