kottke.org posts about video

All the Ways Mt. Everest Can Kill You

A doctor trained in wilderness emergencies (and who has summited Everest three times) explains all the different ways Mt. Everest can kill you — in a refreshingly no-nonsense way.

Mt. Everest is a famously inhospitable environment for humans — if someone from sea level was dropped at the very top they’d be unconscious within minutes. Many dangers await those brave enough to make an attempt at the summit, and Dr. Emily Johnston visits WIRED to break down each and every way Mt. Everest can prove fatal.

Avalanches, ice axes on the loose, high-altitude edemas, “this is what people call ‘the death zone’” — sounds fun, let’s go! 🫠 (via @thenoodleator)

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Join or Die

Join or Die is a documentary about the life, work, and ideas of Robert Putnam, popularizer of the concept of social capital and author of the prescient Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

How many times last year did you go to church? How many times did you go to a dinner party? How many times last year did you go to club meeting? In barely a couple of decades, half of all the civic infrastructure in America has simply vanished. It’s equivalent to say half of all the roads in America just disappeared.

(via colossal)

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‘Visible Mending,’ on Love, Death, and Knitting

Beautiful stop-frame animated documentary about why people knit and mend. “When your life is sort of falling apart, you need to create a purpose in it for yourself, and if that purpose is quite small, it doesn’t matter.” Directed by Samantha Moore.

I’ve also been enjoying Arounna Khounnoraj’s visible mending and other handmade projects, on Instagram at bookhou.

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Finnish Bluegrass Band Covers AC/DC’s Thunderstruck

This video is 9 years old and has 169 million views so I’m possibly the last person on Earth to see it,1 but I ran across a clip of it on Instagram the other day and just had to share. Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a country band from Finland that went viral for their covers of classic rock tunes, including AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”:

I love the way this starts off — and it seems to have become somewhat of a bit in subsequent videos. Open Culture has more in a post from August 2014. Kottke.org: only the freshest viral content for you!

See also AC/DC’s Thunderstruck on the bagpipes, ukelele cover of Thunderstruck, and Thunderstruck accompanied by a washing machine. (Does the internet get any better than this?)

  1. The Earth’s present population being, of course, 169,000,001.
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Man in Backyard Talks to Orbiting Astronaut Using Homemade Antenna

A Michigan ham radio operator used a homemade setup with a handheld antenna to talk to an astronaut orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station. I didn’t know this was a thing! The astronaut even sent him a QSL card acknowledging the conversation (included at the end of the video). There’s more info on Reddit about the radio, antenna, and conversation.

The ISS even has an unofficial program that allows students to talk to astronauts on the station via ham radio.

An almost-all-volunteer organization called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, now helps arrange contact between students and astronauts on the space station. Students prepare to ask questions rapid-fire, one after another, into the ham radio microphone for the brief 10-minute window before the space station flies out of range.

“We try to think of ourselves as planting seeds and hoping that we get some mighty oaks to grow,” said Kenneth G. Ransom, the ISS Ham project coordinator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

That this is even possible with low-powered communication devices underscores just how close the ISS is to Earth: 200-250 miles above the surface. That’s the distance between Dallas & Houston or NYC to Boston.

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Mr. Bean, to the Tune of Bush’s Glycerine

Ok, this video is targeted at a pretty small audience and is super goofy, but it hit me square in the forehead and so I can’t help but post it here: it’s footage from Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean with Bush’s 1994 alternative rock hit Glycerine playing over it. And yes, there is a change of lyrics at a critical point. 100/100, no notes. (via @jamesjm)

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Another Tetris World Record Completely Demolished! What Is Going On?!

Tetris was created by Alexey Pajitnov 40 years ago. The NES version has been out since 1989. You’d think that people would have “solved” the game long ago. But humans, properly motivated, are relentlessly inventive, and the past few months have seen a flurry of record-setting activity that is remarkable for a 35-year-old game.

It’s only been a little more than a month since a 13-year-old player named Blue Scuti reached the kill screen for the first time in history, a feat only performed previously by an AI. Now it’s been done twice more and the world record for points changed hands three times in three days.

And then just three weeks later, in mid-January, a player named PixelAndy absolutely destroyed the highest score world record. Here’s the engaging story about how he did it, including a surprising family rivalry and a clever strategic innovation:

I’ve written before about how great these video game analysis videos are at communicating how innovation works:

This is a great illustration of innovation in action. There’s a clearly new invention, based on prior effort (standing on the shoulders of giants), that allows for greater capabilities and, though it’s still too early to tell in this case, seems likely to shift power to people who utilize it. And it all takes place inside a small and contained world where we can easily observe the effects.

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The Pixel Painter

This is an image created by Hal Lasko in Microsoft Paint:

”a

Lasko was a retired graphic designer & typographer who found a new passion when he received a computer for his 85th birthday, which came preloaded with Microsoft Paint. This short film tells the story of The Pixel Painter:

That all changed for Hal when his family gave him a computer as an 85th birthday present. His new PC came loaded with Microsoft Paint software, a program developed in the 1980’s. The program is more kitsch than cutting edge, but it’s easy interface and pixel precision allowed Hal to journey down a new artistic path with a style many consider “retro cool”.

In his last year of life, he had his first solo gallery show, spoke at a conference and was featured in a Super Bowl commercial. He passed away just shy of his 99th birthday in 2014, leaving us with a legacy that passion knows no age, and for Hal, the proof of that is surely in the pixels.

You can still buy prints of Lasko’s work on his website.

Fun fact: the short film uses my Silkscreen font in it. It’s fun to see it still popping up in places. (via @bw/111894669094307194)

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The Age of Realistic AI-Generated Video Is Here

OpenAI unveiled their prototype video generator called Sora. It does text-to-video and a ton more. Just check out the videos here and here — I literally cannot believe what I’m seeing.

For reference, this is what AI-generated video looked like a year ago. For more context and analysis, check out Marques Brownlee video about Sora:

(via waxy)

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Crowdsourced Time Lapses That Help Monitor the Environment

This is a cool thing I had not seen before: Chronolog. Since 2017, they’ve been helping organizations document environments over time by compiling photos taken by visitors, who then get sent information about the area they’ve visited. Here’s how it works:

Changes in our environment are difficult to see and understand because they happen gradually, but long term monitoring projects are expensive and complex. Chronolog solves this problem by connecting communities with land stewards to create crowd-sourced time lapses of important natural areas.

Chronolog’s mission is twofold: First, to engage people with nature in an interactive new way. Second, to keep a record of phenological change for scientific use. By making environmental conservation a collaborative activity, people become interested in participating and compelled by the findings.

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Chasing Impossible Dreams

YouTuber Casey Neistat has achieved a lot in life, including several “impossible goals” he set for himself. But one of his longest-running goals seemed to be slipping out of his reach and, well, I don’t want to spoil what happens.

I will say however that I think it’s good and healthy to let go of your goals and dreams if they do not serve the person you have become since setting them. I’ve never been much of a goal person, but I’ve definitely had thoughts about directions I’ve wanted to head or things I’d like to have had happen that just aren’t relevant for what’s important to me right now. If it’s not working for you, chalk it up to sunk cost and let it go.

I got this link via Andy, who said, “I allow myself one link to a Casey Neistat video every ten years, and this is that video.” Lol.

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The Superb Owl Trailers

Here are all the cool new movie trailers that they played during The Big Game™. Or, the ones that I give a shit about anyway. First up, Deadpool and Wolverine:

Did I even see the second Deadpool movie? Does it matter? I’ll see this one. Next: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

Apes in charge, running down the humans? I’m in. There’s also Despicable Me 4 (a franchise I like more than I care to admit), The Fall Guy (based on the 80s TV show I very much didn’t watch; starring, somehow, Ryan Gosling & Emily Blunt — I hope this is a pleasant surprise), and Twisters (the Twister sequel no one asked for).

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Black History in Two Minutes (or so)

This video series written and narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents short 2-4 minute lessons about how Black people shaped American history. Here are a few videos to get you started:

There are almost 100 videos in all — what a treasure trove. I found this via The Kid Should See This, which has a great collection of entertaining and educational videos related to Black History Month.

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What Would a Magnitude 15 Earthquake Be Like?

I’d missed that Randall Munroe has been doing videos based on his What If? website and books. The one I ran across the other day is about earthquakes:

Since we usually hear about earthquakes with ratings somewhere between 3 and 9, a lot of people probably think of 10 as the top of the scale and 0 as the bottom. In fact, there is no top or bottom to the scale!

There are three more short videos on the channel so far: What if Earth suddenly stopped spinning?, What if NASCAR had no rules?, and What if we aimed the Hubble Telescope at Earth? Good stuff.

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Mars in 4K

This is a video slideshow of some of the best images from the Mars missions — Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance — presented in 4K resolution at 60fps. These look amazing on the biggest hi-res screen you can find. (via open culture)

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Ayo Edebiri Draws a New Yorker Cartoon

In June 2021 (pre The Bear), New Yorker cartoonist Zoe Si coached Ayo Edebiri through the process of drawing a New Yorker cartoon. The catch: neither of them could see the other’s work in progress. Super entertaining.

I don’t know about you, but Si’s initial description of the cartoon reminded me of an LLM prompt:

So the cartoon is two people in their apartment. One person has dug a hole in the floor, and he is standing in the hole and his head’s poking out. And the other person is kneeling on the floor beside the hole, kind of like looking at him in a concerned manner. There’ll be like a couch in the background just to signify that they’re in a house.

Just for funsies, I asked ChatGPT to generate a New Yorker-style cartoon using that prompt. Here’s what it came up with:

”A

Oh boy. And then I asked it for a funny caption and it hit me with: “I said I wanted more ‘open space’ in the living room, not an ‘open pit’!” Oof. ChatGPT, don’t quit your day job!

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Doom Runs on E. Coli Bacteria Now

Yeah, you heard me: the 1993 video game Doom, which has been ported to every platform imaginable (an Apple Pippin, a jailbroken John Deere tractor, a Peloton), can now run on a display made of phosphorescent E. coli bacteria.

Ramlan’s paper doesn’t go to the enormous trouble of actually encoding all of Doom to run in bacterial DNA, which the author describes as “a behemoth feat that I cannot even imagine approaching.” Instead, the game runs on a standard computer, with isolated E. coli cells in a standard 32x48 microwell grid serving as a crude low-res display.

After shrinking each game frame down to a 32x48 black-and-white bitmap, Ramlan describes a system whereby a display controller uses a well-known chemical repressor-operator pair to induce each individual cell in the grid to either express a fluorescent protein or not. The resulting grid of glowing bacteria (which is only simulated in Ramlan’s project) can technically be considered a display of Doom gameplay, though the lack of even grayscale shading makes the resulting image pretty indecipherable, to be honest.

Technicalities aside, that’s still pretty cool.

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Groundhog Day, But With Potato Chips

I don’t know exactly what this is, but it appears to be an ad for Lay’s potato chips made by Jimmy Kimmel Live? But whatever, it’s great: a Groundhog Day-inspired clip starring Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) himself that’s perfect for hawking a bajillion different flavors of potato chips. (via @ironicsans)

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How France’s Film Industry Works

The film industry in France works a little differently that the American film industry. In this video, Evan Puschak explains how France treats filmmaking as a public good to be invested in at all levels.

One of the most interesting things is that the government gives grants to filmmakers that are specifically untethered to box office success in order “to support an independent cinema that is bold in terms of market standards and that cannot find its financial balance without public assistance”. Filmmakers who have made their early work with this public assistance include Agnes Varda, Celine Sciamma, and Claire Denis.

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Orion and the Dark

This is the trailer for Orion and the Dark, an animated kids movie written by Charlie Kaufman. Yes, the I’m Thinking of Ending Things; Synecdoche, New York; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman. And it’s getting pretty good reviews so far. The AV Club:

Orion And The Dark may look almost nothing like any Charlie Kaufman film to date, but it bears his personality. While that might be a bit much for the youngest kids, for 11-year-olds like those depicted in this story, it may strike a chord simply by refusing to underestimate their intelligence.

The movie is based on a book of the same name by Emma Yarlett and will be out on Netflix on Feb 2.

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Did The Future Already Happen?

Kurzgesagt’s latest video on the paradox of time is a bit more of a brain-bender than their usual videos. From the accompanying sources document:

This video summarizes in a narrative format two well-known theories about time: the so-called “block universe” and the “growing block”.

The block universe is an old theory of time which appears to be an unavoidable consequence of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. In philosophical contexts, basically the same idea is known as “eternalism”. Simplified, this theory posits that, although not apparent to our human perception, both the past and the future exist in the same way as the present does, and are therefore as real as the present is: The past still exists and the future exists already. As a consequence, time doesn’t “flow” (even if it looks so to us) and things in the universe don’t “happen” - the universe just “is”, hence the name “block universe”.

But then: “Quantum stuff is ruining everything again.” And so we have the growing block theory:

The Evolving/Growing Block: A relatively new alternative to the classical block universe theory, which asserts that the past may still exist but the present doesn’t yet, and all that in a way that is still compatible with Einstein’s relativity.

And there are still other theories about how time works:

Some scientists think that the idea of “now” only makes sense near you, but not in the universe as a whole. Others think that time itself doesn’t even exist — that the whole concept is an illusion of our human mind. And others think that time does exist, but that it’s not a fundamental feature of the universe. Rather, time may be something that emerges from a deeper level of reality, just like heat emerges from the motion of individual molecules or life emerges from the interactions of lifeless proteins.

Like I said, a brain-bender.


An Animated Timelapse of 200 Million Years of Continental Drift, From Pangea to Today

Millions of years ago, the supercontinent of Pangea slowly started to break apart into the continents we all live on today. In this video from the makers of ArcGIS mapping software, you can watch as the reconfiguration of the Earth’s land happens over 200 million years.

Damn, India slammed into Asia like the Kool-aid Man — no wonder the Himalayas are so tall!

Once, the craggy limestone peaks that skim the sky of Everest were on the ocean floor. Scientists believe it all began to change about 200 million years ago — at around the time the Jurassic dinosaurs were beginning to emerge — when the supercontinent of Pangea cracked into pieces. The Indian continent eventually broke free, journeying north across the vast swathe of Tethys Ocean for 150 million years until it smacked into a fellow continent — the one we now know as Asia — around 45 million years ago.

The crushing force of one continent hitting another caused the plate beneath the Tethys Ocean, made of oceanic crust, to slide under the Eurasian plate. This created what is known as a subduction zone. Then the oceanic plate slipped deeper and deeper into the Earth’s mantle, scraping off folds limestone as it did so, until the Indian and Eurasian plates started compressing together. India began sliding under Asia, but because it’s made of tougher stuff than the oceanic plate it didn’t just descend. The surface started to buckle, pushing the crust and crumples of limestone upwards.

And so the Himalayan mountain range began to rise skyward. By around 15-17 million years ago, the summit of Everest had reached about 5,000m (16,404ft) and it continued to grow. The collision between the two continental plates is still happening today. India continues to creep north by 5cm (2in) a year, causing Everest to grow by about 4mm (0.16in) per year (although other parts of the Himalayas are rising at around 10mm per year [0.4in]).

See also Map of Pangaea with Modern-Day Borders, How the Earth’s Continents Will Look 250 Million Years From Now, and Locate Modern Addresses on Earth 240 Million Years Ago. (via open culture)

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What’s Inside This Crater in Madagascar?

The Vox video team spotted a small village in the middle of huge crater in Madagascar. They decided to investigate.

Right in the center of the island nation of Madagascar there’s a strange, almost perfectly circular geological structure. It covers a bigger area than the city of Paris — and at first glance, it looks completely empty. But right in the center of that structure, there’s a single, isolated village: a few dozen houses, some fields of crops, and dirt roads stretching out in every direction.

When we first saw this village on Google Earth, its extreme remoteness fascinated us. Was the village full of people? How did they wind up there?

This video is great for so many reasons. It’s a story about geology, cartography, globalization, the supply chain, infrastructure, and the surveillance state told through the framework of falling down (waaaay down) an online rabbit hole. It reinforces the value of academics and the editing is top shelf.

Though, I wonder if profiling this village on the internet is a good thing to do. This isn’t some YouTube bro helicoptering into the village unannounced — the Vox team worked with locals, received permission, etc. — but these villagers are a minority group who have chosen to live in a remote area with particularly good natural resources…and now their secret is out. And maybe their neighbors (or Mr. Beast) will choose to pay them a visit sometime soon. (via waxy)

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A Blind Teacher Using Echolocation to Navigate the World

Echo is a fascinating and poignant short film about Daniel Kish, a blind man who uses echolocation to move about in the world and teaches others how to do the same. Using clicks, he and his students can go on hikes, ride bikes, and skateboard down the sidewalk.

If I click at a surface, it answers back. It’s like asking a question: what are you and where are you? I can get through echolocation a really rich, palpable, satisfying, 3-dimensional, fuzzy geometry.

The filmmakers worked with Kish to record the sound as a person would hear it in real life and make visualizations to help us see what Kish is hearing.

During the early production stages of the filmmakers Ben Wolin and Michael Minahan’s short documentary, “Echo,” they wanted their audience to understand what this skill truly meant. They worked closely with Daniel, a self-described audiophile, to record sound for the documentary through a special microphone that works similarly to a pair of human ears — a tool that Daniel also uses for teaching. “You record the audio like you would hear it,” Minahan told me. Because of this process, the sound design and auditory experience has a vivid, spatial quality that’s rare with a film of this scale. The gears on Daniel’s bike creak and whine with a closeness that makes it feel like we’re riding right next to him, while dogs bark, wind blows, and cars pass in the background. It’s through these rich sounds that we’re immersed in and transported to Daniel’s world.

Make some time for this short film…it’s really great.

See also The Blind Skateboarder.

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Therapy Gecko: The Internet’s Unofficial Therapist

During the pandemic, Lyle Drescher started dressing up as a gecko and doing a live call-in show as Lyle the Therapy Gecko. Drescher is obviously not a therapist (more like an advice columnist?) but he does seem like a generous listener, which is a bit of a rarity online. This video is also a meditation about online identity and the unusual sort of performance art that is familiar to anyone who publishes online (even those of us who work in text & links). (via waxy)

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“Show Me Your Favorite Dance Move”

These compilation videos of Ed People asking folks from around the world to teach him how to do their favorite dance moves has been going around social media for awhile. I finally sat down to watch them and they are as wonderful, charming, and happy-making as everyone says they are. (thx, caroline)

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Numberphile: “A Sudoku Secret to Blow Your Mind”

I am not a sudoku player but I do appreciate the logical nature of the game, so Numberphile’s explanation of a simple pattern hidden in every single sudoku puzzle was pretty satisfying.

But really, it’s just an excuse to revisit this other video about solving “The Miracle Sudoku”:

Every once in a while during my internet travels, I run across something like this video: something impossibly mundane and niche (a ~26-minute video of someone solving a sudoku puzzle) that turns out to be ludicrously entertaining.

Oh and this perfect explanation of cryptocurrency is always worth another look:

imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin

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Gathering Ice for a Hot Mongolian Breakfast

In this video, a pair of YouTubers from Mongolia show us a glimpse of the nomadic lifestyle in their country as they gather ice from the river to make their hearty breakfast, a hot milk tea combined with meat, flatbread, and clotted cream.

The Kid Should See This has more information about the creators and some of the other videos they’ve done.

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The Last Repair Shop

The Los Angeles school district runs a shop that maintains and repairs the 80,000 musical instruments used by students in the district. Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot made this short documentary about the shop and the people who work there, some of whom have been broken and repaired themselves.

In making “The Last Repair Shop,” my directing partner Ben Proudfoot and I got the chance to tell the tale of four extraordinary master craftspeople who ensure, day in and day out, that L.A.’s schoolchildren have playable instruments in their hands. We were floored and proud to find out that our city, Los Angeles, was home to the last shop of this kind in the country.

Bowers and Proudfoot previously collaborated on A Concerto Is a Conversation, an Oscar-nominated short documentary about Bowers’ grandfather, who was part of the Great Migration.

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What If The Bear, But a Commercial for Coke?

If the vibe of this commercial for the Coca-Cola Company seems familiar, perhaps it’s because Christopher Storer directed it — Storer is the creator of The Bear and wrote & directed Fishes, the intense season two Christmas episode. No homemade Sprite in this video though…they got to use the real stuff! (via matt)

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