Playing with themselves

Remember that young guy with four saxophones playing the Wii theme tune? It seems the lockdown has provided an opportunity for others to have a go at similar recordings.

Bassoonist pulls off one-man “Thomas The Tank Engine” quartetInspireMore
Everyone deals with quarantine boredom differently. Maybe you deep cleaned your house, built a swing set for the kids, or finally beat that video game you’ve been working on forever. Michael Elderkin took a more musical approach.

You can join in, if you like, though I think I’d rather play along to this one.

Knight Rider for 8 cellosKottke
You’re either the type of person who can’t wait to click on a link that says “Knight Rider for 8 cellos” or you are not.

Get the facts, before it’s too late

Rather than bringing us together, social media can often pull us apart. We all know this, and it seems the platforms themselves know this too.

Facebook executives shut down efforts to make the site less divisiveWSJ
“Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” read a slide from a 2018 presentation. “If left unchecked,” it warned, Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.”

But of course the platforms aren’t solely to blame. The users have to take some responsibility for what they write and share. Take this user, for example, just your typical conspiracy theorist.

See those little ‘Get the facts’ warning labels, suggesting he’s spreading fake news making unsubstantiated claims?

Twitter labels Trump’s false claims with warning for first timeThe Guardian
The company’s decision on Tuesday afternoon to affix labels to a series of Trump tweets about California’s election planning is the result of a new policy debuted on 11 May. They were applied – hours after the tweets initially went out – because Trump’s tweets violated Twitter’s “civic integrity policy”, a company spokeswoman confirmed, which bars users from “manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”, such as by posting misleading information that could dissuade people from participating in an election.

He didn’t like that, as you can imagine, and is trying to retaliate.

Trump to sign executive order on social media on Thursday: White HouseReuters
The officials gave no further details. It was unclear how Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down privately owned companies including Twitter Inc. The dispute erupted after Twitter on Tuesday for the first time tagged Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact check the posts.

But is this just the beginning?

Trump sows doubt on voting. It keeps some people up at night.The New York Times
The anxiety has intensified in recent weeks as the president continues to attack the integrity of mail voting and insinuate that the election system is rigged, while his Republican allies ramp up efforts to control who can vote and how. Just last week, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold funding from states that defy his wishes on expanding mail voting, while also amplifying unfounded claims of voter fraud in battleground states. […]

The task force began with 65 possibilities before narrowing the list early this year to eight potential calamities, including natural disasters, a successful foreign hack of voting machines, a major candidate’s challenging the election and seeking to delegitimize the results, and a president who refuses to participate in a peaceful transfer of power. Among the scenarios they eliminated when making final cuts in January, ironically, was a killer pandemic that ravaged the country and kept people homebound before Election Day.

That election’s going to be interesting, to say the least.

Dining out, at a distance

Bars, cafes and restaurants are still closed here, but other countries are cautiously opening them back up, with some fun responses to the challenges they face.

This restaurant in Bangkok uses cartoon dragon dolls as space keepers for social distancingDesign You Trust
These guests look special! They are green, they have wings and they don’t say a word. The dragons are of course not living beings, but figures. The owner of a restaurant in the country of Thailand in Asia has placed them at the tables in his restaurant.

Restaurant finds a genius way to help their customers feel less lonely while social distancing using pandasBored Panda
Maison Saigon placed plush pandas in the restaurant so that people have to sit at a safe distance. Also, if you come to eat alone, you have some company. The rules and regulations are changing rapidly and most of us are confused about what to do and how to be safe, so this idea is a charming and smart way to make sure everyone is being protected from the virus.

Restaurant to reopen with cardboard customers to make diners comfortableSunrise
Five Dock Dining owner Frank Angeletta has placed cardboard customers in empty seats around the venue. He’s also prepared ambient background noise, including chatter and the sounds of clinking cutlery, to play in the background. “We really wanted to add some atmosphere and give diners that realistic dining experience,” he told Sunrise. “The cut outs and background noise are a bit eerie when you first walk in – but once you’re sitting down it’s a bit of fun.”

Cafe in Germany gives customers hats with pool noodles to keep them apartBored Panda
The owner of “Café Rothe Schwerin”, Jacqueline Rothe, went the extra mile and came up with an ingenious idea to make sure the patrons keep their distance—pool noodles! Yup, you read that right. The business is using pool noodles attached to customers’ hats to help them with social distancing! She also clarified that this was a one-time event only for the reopening of the cafe and the guests don’t wear the hats regularly.

Don’t quite know what to make of this, though.

Mask in a restaurant? This one can gobble like Pac-ManReuters
Israeli inventors have developed a coronavirus mask with a remote control mouth that lets diners eat food without taking it off, a device they say could make a visit to a restaurant less risky.

I think I’ll stick to takeaways for now…

Not going anywhere

At the start of all this, I hadn’t expected the economic impact to be so great. It was just a health crisis, right?

New analysis of the impact of lockdown on UK jobsISER
Estimates produced by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex suggest the lockdown can take more than 6.5m jobs out of the economy -around a quarter of the total.

We can only hope these losses are recovered in the bounceback (yes/no).

And I was assuming all those who have been furloughed will return to work, business as normal. Seems not.

Rolls-Royce to cut 9,000 jobs as Covid-19 takes toll on airlinesThe Guardian
The jet engine manufacturer said it was targeting £1.3bn in annual cost savings to weather the protracted downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that has grounded much of the world’s airlines. Head count cuts will account for about half the savings target. […]

[Rolls-Royce’s chief executive, Warren] East said the aim was to make “more than half” the job cuts this year. “We need to get on with it because we know it is a harsh reality about our future,” he said. “We hope to make a very good start on this in 2020, more than half at any rate.”

A “very good” start? I think he could have phrased that more sensitively.

These images of rows and rows of parked up planes were first shared a few weeks ago, and are very striking, but the sobering news from Rolls Royce and no doubt many other companies is quite a dampener.

Aerial photos of grounded jets across the USAPetapixel
Usually I’d be thrilled for this opportunity, but not today. The COVID-19 pandemic has functionally destroyed commercial aviation. Almost overnight air passenger demand plummeted 95%.

And what are the knock on effects for exciting projects like this one? Seems even more fanciful now.

Boeing’s colossal 777X is unlike any plane that’s gone beforeWired UK
Regardless of the speed they’re moving, the aviation sector has had a particular goal in mind for decades. According to Lone: “We want to get to a point where aircraft wings are like bird wings. When you look at the research and development projects from Boeing, Airbus, Nasa, all the technologies we are developing now, including this fold, are the initial steps towards what we call a bird-flight model,” he says. “We want a solution that’s similar to nature’s millions of years of evolution.”

Back to basics, perhaps?

Backyard aeronautics: Chinese farmers who also make flying machinesUrbanist
According to photographer Xiaoxiao Xu, the Chinese farmers and other rural hobbyists building flying machines from scratch are not in it for fame or fortune. Mostly working out of their own backyards, these creators are simply trying to find ways to lift themselves up into the air. Some build choppers, others build planes, and others hybrids and experimental aircraft that are tricky to classify.

As for why they do it, the answers vary — one sums the mystery of motivation up well: “I cannot give a reason for why I want to fly. Maybe this is just how human beings evolve: we ride horses, ride bicycles, drive cars, and then fly an airplane. I fly as best I can. It’s my dream, my joy. It’s pretty much my life.”

How is WFH working out for you?

The future has always been uncertain, in an abstract you-never-know-what’s-round-the-corner kind of way. But these days, goodness me — the very near future has never been so completely uncertain, unknown, and unsettled. For instance, what will our workplaces be like, after all this?

The office is deadMarker
“It’s not something I was even thinking about six weeks ago, but it’s definitely something I’ve been talking about now with my investors,” Haynie says. “Overall it’s a win-win.” This is just the tip of the iceberg. From startups and tech giants to more old-school Wall Street firms, businesses are rethinking the role of office space and whether they even need it. If, in the old world, an office was a form of corporate peacocking — a flashy location in some iconic building with a boutique-hotel level of design for clients, employees, customers, and investors— in the new world, it is becoming a very costly line item that could be reduced to the equivalent of a single flagship store.

Your boss is watching you: Work-from-home boom leads to more surveillanceNPR
Her employer has started using software called Time Doctor. It downloads videos of employees’ screens while they work. It also can enable a computer’s webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes. “If you’re idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or whatever, a pop-up will come up and it’ll say, ‘You have 60 seconds to start working again or we’re going to pause your time,’ ” the woman said.

Zoom fatigue is something the deaf community knows very wellQuartz
Posts about “Zoom fatigue” mention struggling with non-verbal cues. This frustration is relatable to how hard of hearing individuals have to accurately lipread, view sign language clearly, or get an unobstructed view of faces and body language. Others point out the stress in understanding what is said with choppy audio, time delays, or pixelated video. The deaf community encounters this difficulty in nearly every setting, like they’re piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.

Things are looking up #3

Find yourself staring blankly into space more often these days? Here’s how to do that properly.

The secrets to stargazing from your backyardThe Guardian
How to search the sky and what to see, from moon and stars to planets and the International Space Station. Go on a journey of billions of miles … from your garden.

This is something you won’t see, though.

New image captures ‘impossible’ view of the moon’s surfaceLive Science
McCarthy trained his camera on the craters closest to the lunar terminator every night for two weeks as the moon waxed toward complete illumination. By the time the moon was full, McCarthy had a series of high-contrast, high-definition photos of every crater on the moon’s Earth-facing side. Blending them into a single composite image was “exhausting,” he wrote, but ultimately resulted in the gorgeously detailed shot seen above — an image that McCarthy calls the “all terminator” moon.

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Whenever I look at a full moon I find it hard to remember it’s spherical. It’s just a flat white circle an inch or two across that someone’s pinned up there, surely, not a solid ball of rock, the size of the United States, that’s slowly drifting away from us. This image, whilst being incredibly detailed, doesn’t help—for all its deep shadows and highlights, the lack of a ‘proper’ lunar terminator still makes it look more disk-like than globe-like, I think. (I wonder if there’s a Flat Moon Society I could join.)

If the moon is a fundamentally strange and other-worldly object, what to make of black holes? This film, like the composite photograph above, might be bending the truth, but is nevertheless equally impactful.

An unnerving new film by Paul Trillo imagines Earth moments before it’s sucked into a black holeColossal
“Until There Was Nothing” considers how Earth’s natural landscapes and city life would look just moments before being consumed by a black hole. The surreal work shows massive waves suddenly crawling up the left side of the frame, the tops of taxi cabs shooting into the air, and an entire forest of trees ascending in an amorphous mass.

If contemplating our cosmic oblivion is all too much, let’s lighten the mood with this lockdown-inspired blast from the starry past.

Nebula-75, a new puppet lockdown drama from the folks that brought us Thunderbirds, Stingray, Fireball-XL5Boing Boing
Nebula-75 is a new “puppet lockdown drama” being made by some of the folks at Century 21, the Gerry Anderson studio that was responsible for “Supermarionation” programming in the 60s (and beyond), with such shows as Thunderbirds, Stingray, Supercar, and Fireball-XL5. Nebula-75 is also being filmed in “SuperIsolation” and Lo-Budget! […]

Nebula-75 feels so much like the show I wanted to make myself, with cardboard boxes, kitchen implements, and household junk, after watching these programs when I was a wee one. That was one of the things that made them so seductive to a young and over-active imagination — they seemed so doable. And here, lo these many years later, folks associated with the legacy of these shows are doing it. At home. With cardboard boxes and junk. I’m inspired all over again.

Thunderbirds! Captain Scarlet! They don’t make ’em like that anymore. It turns out, they do.

Missing music

Like no doubt many other homes up and down the land, music is always playing here, somewhere—the kitchen radio, the kids’ laptops or Alexas, the piano and tuba even (that damned thing is so loud). But it’s been a long time since we went out to hear live music. For music fans like Rob Sheffield, that’s becoming a problem.

Life without liveRolling Stone
This is the longest I’ve gone between live shows since . . . the Replacements broke up? I go see bands every chance I get, and I live in New York City, where there’s plenty of chances. Live music is how I measure out the next week, month, year of my life. But on a bigger scale, the shows are how we measure history. When you picture the past or the future, you imagine what musicians are doing in a room and who shows up to hear it. You can define any point in the arc of human history by who was in Fleetwood Mac at the time. (And whose hotel bed they were sharing.) So what does music fandom mean at a time when we can’t gather together to celebrate, discover, experiment?

Here’s an interesting take on the future of the kind of concerts I’ve been missing recently.

Coronavirus conditions make us rethink classical music for decade aheadVoice of OC
So far, we’ve been assuming that there will continue to be problems that, at least now and then, require social distancing and home quarantines. It’s definitely something all these groups are going to have to consider over the next decade. Something good could come out of it, though, and that would be the end of subscription seasons as we know them. Subscription seasons, designed to attract a particular kind of listener, older, moneyed, more conservative, able to fork out for a year’s worth of tickets in advance, have long been holding classical music back from its better, more exciting and interesting self.

But for now, we have to make do with streamed performances at home, the equivalent of those art gallery postcards.

Symphonies silenced, sonatas streamed: The state of classical music during COVID-19Los Angeles Review of Books
Notwithstanding the quality of the audio — piped through his iPhone — the music felt exuberant, and also demanding and manic. “The concert halls are empty,” Levit had tweeted earlier. “Listening and experiencing music together is not possible.” It was mid-March — what feels like eons ago — and on both sides of the Atlantic, governments were starting to roll out isolation measures, suddenly putting all of us into suspended animation. With so much uncertainty in the world, his joyous performance provided a half hour of reprieve, disassociating us from the fear of contagion. Three hundred and twenty thousand users on Twitter and Instagram tuned in — more than at any venue he’s ever performed.

The way we experience music is bound to change in unexpected ways, but the strength of our appreciation of music can already be a little peculiar.

The pandemic hasn’t dulled Japan’s special love for QueenAtlas Obscura
“Queen Day is an important occasion for Japanese fans to reaffirm the bond between Queen and Japan,” writes fan Yoko Doi of Tokyo in an email. In 2019, Doi—along with 300 others—marked Queen Day with an outdoor screening of the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, featuring band cosplay and plenty of Moet et Chandon, naturally (see the lyrics to “Killer Queen,” if you’re not an initiate).

Tracing Eastern Europe’s obsession with Depeche ModeDazed
Urbanovic, who has been a fan since 1986, runs the DM Bar in Riga, a nightclub completely dedicated to the band. There is another, non-affiliated and older club in Tallinn that has been visited by the band themselves. Both establishments are covered in Depeche Mode merchandise (from cardboard cutouts to tour scarves and lyrics scrawled on the walls in different languages) and both put on regular parties playing the band’s music as well as records by other ‘industrial’ bands. “Depeche Mode gigs in Latvia are very well-attended, especially when you take into account the relatively small population – and we get a lot of fans from other Eastern European countries who make a special trip to the bar,” Urbanovic adds.

Staying safe, then and now

Are things getting better? It doesn’t feel like it.

Paris salons, Shanghai Disney reopen despite global alarm over second coronavirus waveReuters
News that the “reproduction rate” – the number of people each person with the disease goes on to infect – had surged back to 1.1 in Germany cast a shadow over the reopening of businesses ranging from Paris hair salons to Shanghai Disneyland. A rate that stays above 1 means the virus is spreading exponentially.

Look at the numbers, they say. But I’ve seen so many I’m becoming curve-blind.

COVID-19 CoronaVirus infographic datapackInformation is Beautiful
COVID-19 #Coronavirus latest data visualized. Updated 11th May. Created by David McCandless, Omid Kashan, Fabio Bergamaschi, Dr Stephanie Starling, Univers Labs

staying-safe

Some are saying we’ve been here before, but this time’s different. Thankfully.

Coronavirus is very different from the Spanish Flu of 1918. Here’s how.The New York Times
In 1918, the world was a very different place, even without the disruptive influence of World War I. Doctors knew viruses existed but had never seen one — there were no electron microscopes, and the genetic material of viruses had not yet been discovered. Today, however, researchers not only know how to isolate a virus but can find its genetic sequence, test antiviral drugs and develop a vaccine.

Virus-afflicted 2020 looks like 1918 despite science’s marchAP News
As in 1918, people are again hearing hollow assurances at odds with the reality of hospitals and morgues filling up and bank accounts draining. The ancient common sense of quarantining is back. So is quackery: Rub raw onions on your chest, they said in 1918. How about disinfectant in your veins now? mused President Donald Trump, drawing gasps instead of laughs over what he weakly tried to pass off as a joke.

There are so many coronavirus myths that even Snopes can’t keep upThe Washington Post
“The fact-checking industry is so undervalued and underinvested,” he said, “that even with this traffic boom and the rise in prominence and responsibility at this moment when people are relying so heavily on fact-checkers for credible information, we have no hopes for scaling up our businesses.”

1918 feels too distant now, it’s hard to relate to it. But perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that we find it hard to relate to.

The 1918 flu pandemic killed millions. So why does its cultural memory feel so faint?Slate
Reading letters from survivors of the flu pandemic, one of the things that strikes me over and over again, that’s so moving, is that almost every one of them says, “I never forgot; I never forgot; I never forgot.” [Researching the book], I interviewed one 105-year-old woman who had the flu in Richmond, when she was 8. And in my cheery way, I said something like “Why do you think people forgot the flu?” And she looked at me like I was crazy. “We didn’t forget! We didn’t ignore it! We didn’t forget.” She’s 105, right? And she was like, “It never faded—not for us.”

Meet the 107-year-old woman who survived the coronavirus and Spanish fluThe Jerusalem Post
“It’s remarkable,” Shapiro said. “That’s all I can say. It’s just unbelievable. I think perhaps it’s because of her art that she’s still involved in.”

The numbers are crazy, “6 percent of the Earth’s population in just over a year,” according to this collection of images from the time.

Historical photos of the 1918 Spanish Flu that show what a global pandemic looked like in the 1910sDesign You Trust
The speed of the pandemic was shocking; the numbers of dead bodies overwhelmed hospitals and cemeteries. Quarantine centers, emergency hospitals, public use of gauze masks, and awareness campaigns were all undertaken swiftly to halt the spread. But as World War I was coming to a close, millions of soldiers were still traveling across the globe, aiding the spread of the disease.

staying-safe-2b

The flu was first observed in Europe, the US and parts of Asia before it quickly spread throughout the world. It was wrongly named the Spanish flu because it was first reported in the Madrid daily newspaper ABC. However, modern scientists now believe the virus could have started in Kansas, US.

Kansas, you say? Hmm.

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Face masks, then. So what are our options (apart from using socks)?

Face Shield: How do we encourage mass adoption of an unwanted necessity?Joe Doucet
To try and create a face shield that people would actually want to wear rather than simply put up with, Joe Doucet has designed a shield with integrated sunglass lenses and arms that make them more practical and feel less alien and intrusive on the wearer than a typical face shield would. It is hoped that improving the basic face shield design will encourage far greater uptake of its usage and help everyone adjust to the “new normal” that awaits us.

staying-safe-4

The Micrashell Futuresuit lets you party like it’s 2099Design Milk
Taking design cues from sportswear brands like Yohji Yamamoto and Nike Lab, the Production Club Micrashell wraps an array of speculative environmental technologies within a futuristic athleisure design straight out of the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer. The Micrashell is intended to allow for human-to-human interaction in group settings with a virus-shielded and disinfectable air-tight suit, specifically for attendees of “nightlife and entertainment industries”.

staying-safe-6

Plastique Fantastique’s iSphere mask is informed by 1950s sci-fi comicsDezeen
Berlin-based art collective Plastique Fantastique has created an open-source, retro-futuristic face shield shaped like a fish bowl to protect wearers against coronavirus. The helmet-like design, called the iSphere, comprises two transparent, hollow hemispheres that have been secured together and cut to create a hole for the user to fit their head through.

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Canevacci and Young wanted to bring an element of humour to a serious object for non-medical users.

Perfect!

It’s infected our language too

What to ask instead of ‘How are you ?’ during a pandemic – The Atlantic
How are we? People are sick and dying in alarming numbers all around us. Maybe we’re lucky enough not to be sick or dying, but any of us could be soon. Everyone we know is in danger. Our jobs, and really our entire financial futures, are in jeopardy. Are we really going to paper over these grim truths with the usual, compulsorily breezy “I’m good! You?”

(It feels a little stupid and pointless to be carrying on with this blog, with all this anxiety and stress swirling around us. The future is so uncertain—jobs, schools, buses even—and yet the view out of my window, as I type this, looks perfectly normal (the lack of traffic notwithstanding). Nothing has changed, everything has changed. But I’ve started now, so I may as well continue. I guess it’s just the Monday Blursday blues.)

Other questions might work better as a conversational warm-up or quick check-in. Tannen is partial to “What am I interrupting?” as a conversation starter for phone calls. Meanwhile, Butler recommends “Are you still holding up okay?,” which can work as a succinct check-in before moving the discussion to other matters: It tacitly acknowledges the circumstances but nudges the respondent toward a succinct yes-or-no (or “More or less!”) answer.

It’s not just how we speak to each other that’s changing, but the words themselves.

Coronavirus has led to an explosion of new words and phrases – and that helps us copeThe Conversation
Established terms such as “self-isolating”, “pandemic”, “quarantine”, “lockdown” and “key workers” have increased in use, while coronavirus/COVID-19 neologisms are being coined quicker than ever. These include “covidiot” (someone ignoring public health advice), “covideo party”(online parties via Zoom or Skype), and “covexit” (the strategy for exiting lockdown), while coronavirus has acquired new descriptors – including “the ‘rona” and “Miley Cyrus” (Cockney rhyming slang).

‘Iso’, ‘boomer remover’ and ‘quarantini’: how coronavirus is changing our languageThe Conversation
What is interesting about COVID-lingo is the large number of creations that are blended expressions formed by combining two existing words. The new portmanteau then incorporates meaningful characteristics from both. Newly spawned “coronials” (corona + millennials) has the predicted baby boom in late 2020 already covered.

Perhaps language is a virus after all?

It’s a little quieter now

So long then, Dave and Richard.

Stranglers’ Dave Greenfield Dead at 71, After Coronavirus BattleRolling Stone
The Stranglers became a force on the U.K. punk scene in 1977 with the release of their debut LP, Rattus Norvegicus, which featured the singles “Peaches” and “(Get a) Grip (on Yourself),” the latter of which boasted Greenfield’s intricate keyboard lines. The group, which always faired well on the U.K. singles chart, earned their biggest hit in 1982 with “Golden Brown,” a tune that almost exclusively featured Greenfield’s baroque keyboard playing to complement then-guitarist and vocalist Hugh Cornwell’s lyrics. The track won the group an Ivor Novello award.

Little Richard, rock’n’roll pioneer, dies aged 87The Guardian
Richard was known for his outrageous performance style at the piano – eyes lined with mascara, pompadour hair fixed with potato starch, ferocious eyes transfixing audiences – and infectious whoops, a style echoed by dozens of performers, Prince prominent among them.

Golden Brown takes me right back to my childhood, but I think my favourite Stanglers track is Keith Floyd’s theme tune, Waltzinblack. And whilst Little Richard doesn’t feature at all on any of my Spotify playlists, this next guy does.

Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider dead at 73Pitchfork
After meeting as classical music students at the Düsseldorf Conservator, Schneider and Ralf Hütter collaborated in a project called Organisation beginning in 1970. Schneider’s main instrument was flute, which he filtered through various effect pedals. In addition, he played violin, guitar, and a wide array of synthesizers.

The duo soon went on to form Kraftwerk and issued a debut album in 1970. They underwent a series of lineup shifts and, following 1973’s breakthrough Ralf und Florian, went on to release acclaimed and highly influential records like 1974’s Autobahn and 1977’s Trans-Europe Express. At the time, Schneider compared the group’s electronic technique to driving a car: “You have the control, but it’s your decision how much you want to control it. If you let the wheel go, the car will drive somewhere, maybe off the road.”

The case for why Kraftwerk may be the most influential band since The BeatlesOpen Culture
Kraftwerk began as two long-haired students, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, who met in Dusseldorf in 1969, playing experimental music with electric, acoustic, and electronic instruments and with a variety of musicians, including guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger. In Dinger’s pounding, repetitive drumming, they found their mekanik sound as early as 1970, but had not yet transitioned into pop, or the clean-cut suit and tie look, until fully absorbing the influence of British artists Gilbert and George and receiving the guidance of superproducer Conny Plank.

Kraftwerk: their 30 greatest songs, ranked!The Guardian
From cycling soundtracks to anti-nuclear protest music, we celebrate the work of the late Florian Schneider and the groundbreaking group he co-founded.

I’ve turned that Guardian article into a Spotify playlist, for three hours of “computerized industrial campiness”.

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With fans far and wide, young and old.

Kraftwerk songs performed by string quartetDangerous Minds
In 1992, the international chamber group Balanescu Quartet released a CD called Possessed. It contained three original works by the band’s eponymous leader Alexander Balanescu and a composition by Talking Heads’ artguy-in-chief David Byrne, but that didn’t really matter. Practically all the attention afforded the group was justifiably hogged by the five stunning Kraftwerk covers that led off the album.

Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” performed by German first graders in adorable cardboard robot outfitsOpen Culture
“Teach your children well” sang Crosby, Stills and Nash once upon a long ago, and that adage could be paraphrased as “make sure your students don’t grow up learning substandard pop songs. Give them a real education.” An enterprising elementary school teacher in Mombach, a district of the Rhineland city of Mainz, did so in 2015, dressing up his students from Lemmchen Elementary in their own handmade robot outfits and teaching them to sing the classic 1978 Kraftwerk hit “The Robots”.

Things are looking up #2

A cloud gazer’s guide to every fluffy thing in the skyAtlas Obscura
Cloud-gazing, Pretor-Pinney says, is a way of “being an explorer of the sky, where you don’t have to leave your lockdown space.” The only souvenirs you’ll have will be photos and memories, but in a lonely, uncertain time, it helps to have a little perspective.

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Spy hummingbird captures footage of a Monarch butterfly swarm as they magnificently take to the skyLaughing Squid
In an absolutely breathtaking clip from the PBS series Spy in the Wild, a mechanical hummingbird approaches a swarm of sleeping Monarch butterflies absorbing the warm sun of the Mexican mountains. As they wake from their sun-soaked slumber, they begin investigating their mechanical visitor.

Virtual libraries and enigmatic librarians

First museums and art galleries, now libraries.

7 spectacular libraries you can explore from your living roomAtlas Obscura
Regular visitors to libraries may be missing the hush of the stacks, the smell of old books, and the welcoming atmosphere of the local branch. Many of these public, private, and academic spaces have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But much like museums, libraries around the world have produced immersive, 360-degree tours of their interiors. These simulations can offer more than inspiring views of literary sanctuaries; often, they serve as interactive platforms that provide information about the library’s history and resources.

I particularly enjoyed wandering the ridiculously baroque Klementinum library in Prague, as well as Harvard University’s Widener Memorial Library, so grand it has its own Gutenburg Bible.

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From opulent libraries to perplexing librarians. Here’s an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the life and work of a man who knew his way around a library or two.

An Introduction to Borges with Henry EliotIdler
Jorge Luis Borges, the blind Argentinian writer and librarian, was a master of the short story. But despite their brevity, his genre-contorting tales can intimidate the first-time reader. How can we get to grips with the work of this giant of postmodern literature?

Join Penguin Classics Creative Editor Henry Eliot as he takes you through the life and work of Jorge Luis Borges. In this accessible and illuminating guide, Henry shows how Borges fundamentally challenged the way we think about space, time and identity. Beginning with Borges’s library desk in Buenos Aires and finishing at his grave in Geneva, Henry takes you through the span of the great writer’s biography and writing.

Is it a little pricey at £42 for about three hours of content? Whilst you’re deciding, you can read this for free, a collection of his books that you won’t find on any library’s shelves.

The Crimson Hexagon: Books Borges never wroteAllen Ruch (pdf)
The fiction of Borges is filled with references to encyclopedias that do not exist, reviews of imaginary books by fictional authors, and citations from monographs that have as much real existence as does the Necronomicon or the Books of Bokonon. As an intellectual exercise of pure whimsical uselessness, I have catalogued here all these “imaginary” books that I could find in the stories of the “real” Argentine. I am sure that Borges himself would fail to see much of a difference…

I remember reading about a few of these, including A First Encyclopaedia of Tlön and The Garden of Forking Paths, but many seem new to me. Perhaps I do need to shell out for Henry Eliot’s course after all.

But let’s end with a library that won’t require any kind of virtual tour, as the books it holds, like those in The Crimson Hexagon above, don’t actually exist except in other books.

The Borges Memorial Library: a brief survey of imaginary booksThe Paris Review
Which brings us to Borges himself, the patron saint of imagined books. Borges played every metafictional game imaginable, but what makes his bibliographic inventions so much fun is his interest in the books themselves. For Borges, whose translators collected his stories in a book called Labyrinths, what are a fictional footnote on A General History of Labyrinths and a fictional essay on “The God of the Labyrinth” except a wish list?

Curiouser and curiouser

Have you had a chance to promenade around any of the virtual galleries and museums I mentioned last week? Here’s another one to add to your list, the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. It’s definitely my favourite so far.

Virtually wander & weave through an enchanting odditorium of curiositiesMessy Nessy
It almost feels like you’ve clicked on something you shouldn’t have and suddenly, a door to internet Narnia has opened and you find yourself roaming the aisles of a huge maze of glass cabinets, overflowing with an insane amount of objects. You’ve stumbled into the cabinet of wonder that is the Pitt Rivers Museum. Indefinitely closed, like thousands of other cultural institutions around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, this 136 year-old Victorian museum hiding within another museum in Oxford, England, is free to roam at the click of your mouse – every glass cabinet, every last aisle, all to yourself. And what a beautiful sight it is to discover, even if only from behind your screen for now.

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Keeping yourself occupied?

What to do when you’ve got too much time on your hands? Play a video game? This one looks a little laggy.

Super Mario Rubik’s Cube stop motionBigWendy

Some people are just eating their way through this time of uncertainty.

Pass the pepper: Social distancing is nothing to sneeze AtJoseph’s Machines

Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll be expanding your vocabulary as well as your waistline.

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Do you speak corona? A guide to covid-19 slang1843

Coronaspeck

1. Coronavirus fat (noun)

German workers ordered to stay at home to help the government flatten one sort of curve have found themselves battling the emergence of another, just above the belt. Home workouts sound great, but the days are long and dull and your latest bout of Hamsterkäufe (panic-buying; lit. “hamster-purchase”) has left the fridge gloriously well-stocked. There’s always another variety of Ritter Sport to try, oder? Anyway, what’s a few kilos between socially distanced friends?

Coronaspeck is the helpful German word for the fat deposited by weeks of stay-at-home grazing. Shoppers in Germany may know Speck as a bacon-like foodstuff, perhaps found on a crisp Flammkuchen or inside hearty Swabian Maultaschen. But its broader meaning corresponds to something like the English “flab”.

Perhaps you need some exercise, but what if you can’t think of a routine or a soundtrack? No problem. This website will pair up a random move with a random piece of music.

Random workout generator

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I’ll pass on that, thanks. But speaking of music…

Plink, Plank, Plunk! virtual performanceChicago Sinfonietta

RPO trombones play Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ over ZoomRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra

Le Boléro de Ravel par l’Orchestre national de France en #confinement #ensembleàlamaisonFrance Musique

That sounds more like it.

Need something to read?

In this age of 24-hour, panic-driven, conflict-addictive news content designed just to be clicked on, glanced at and forgotten, here’s an archive of journalism worth spending some time with.

The Stacks Reader
The Stacks Reader is an online collection of classic journalism and writing about the arts that would otherwise be lost to history. Motivated less by nostalgia than by preservation, The Stacks Reader is a living archive of memorable storytelling—a museum for stories. We celebrate writers, highlight memorable publications, honor notable personalities, and produce interviews with writers and editors and illustrators in the hope of offering compelling insight into how journalism worked, particularly in the second half of the 20th Century.

For those of you with a little more time on your hands, perhaps you want to settle down with a good book.

Internet Archive’s ‘national emergency library’ has over a million books to read right nowCNET
The Internet Archive will suspend its waiting lists for digital copies of books, as part of its National Emergency Library. “Users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized,” the organization said in a blog post last week.

The decision comes as schools around the country are shut down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and as it’s become more difficult to get goods of all kinds. The post noted that many people can’t physically go to their local libraries these days.

More open eBooks: routinizing open access eBook workflowsThe Signal
We are excited to share that anyone anywhere can now access a growing online collection of contemporary open access eBooks from the Library of Congress website. For example, you can now directly access books such as Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks, and Youjeong Oh’s Pop City: Korean Popular Culture and the Selling of Place from the Library of Congress website. All of these books have been made broadly available online in keeping with the intent of their creators and publishers, which chose to publish these works under open access licenses.

Or if you fancy something older and more visual, check out this remarkable archive from the Cambridge Digital Library.

There’s so much in here, I’m having trouble deciding what to highlight.

Newton PapersCambridge Digital Library
Cambridge University Library is pleased to present the first items in its Foundations of Science collection: a selection from the Papers of Sir Isaac Newton. The Library holds the most important and substantial collection of Newton’s scientific and mathematical manuscripts and over the next few months we intend to make most of our Newton papers available on this site.

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Sassoon JournalsCambridge Digital Library
The notebooks kept by the soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) during his service in the British Army in the First World War are among the most remarkable documents of their kind, and provide an extraordinary insight into his participation in one of the defining conflicts of European history.

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It’s not all scans of historic documents, however.

Department of Engineering Photography competitionCambridge Digital Library
The annual Department of Engineering photo competition highlights the variety and beauty of engineering. For many people, engineering conjures up images of bridges, tunnels and buildings. But the annual University of Cambridge engineering photo competition shows that not only is engineering an incredibly diverse field, it’s a beautiful one too.

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Christian Hoecker – Carbon Nanotube WebCambridge Digital Library
This fibrous material is made of self-assembled carbon nanotubes. The diameter of each nanotube is more than a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

And then what?

So here in the UK we’re to have another three weeks of lockdown. I’m not sure what state I’ll be in after that, I’m already starting to fray at the edges. What’s keeping me up all night isn’t so much how we’ll get through these next few weeks, but what comes after?

Our pandemic summerThe Atlantic
The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”

Not a clue. We sit around and wait for a vaccine, but until then— what?

After social distancing, a strange purgatory awaitsThe Atlantic
We will get used to seeing temperature-screening stations at public venues. If America’s testing capacity improves and results come back quickly, don’t be surprised to see nose swabs at airports. Airlines may contemplate whether flights can be reserved for different groups of passengers—either high- or low-risk. Mass-transit systems will set new rules; don’t be surprised if they mandate masks too.

Can things just go back to how they were before?

Welcome to our new timelineKottke
I’m wondering — how many people are aware that this is going to be our reality for the next few years? There is no “normal” we’re going back to, only weird uncharted waters.

We’re all struggling with it. I know I am. Thankfully, help is still around.

Stephen Fry’s tips for managing virus-based anxietyBBC News
Stephen Fry has been giving advice on dealing with anxiety and stress whilst self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr “anxiety and stress are almost as virulent as this coronavirus”.

Some people, however, are less than helpful.

Facebook will add anti-misinformation posts to your News Feed if you liked fake coronavirus newsThe Verge
Today’s update follows a scathing report by nonprofit group Avaaz, which called the site an “epicenter of coronavirus misinformation” and cited numerous posts containing dangerous health advice and fake cures. The company pushed back on this accusation, saying it’s removed “hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation” in the past weeks.

Sweet dreams?

‘Edith Piaf sneezed on my cheesecake’ and other coronavirus dreamsThe Washington Post
The thing about dreams is, they’re so silly and so poignant. We have them alone in our beds and then we wake up — still safe in our beds, only now we’re thinking about what safety really means, and what we would do if a witch came around licking all of our windows (actual dream from a journalist who covers the military), or if the covid vaccine only worked when taken with milk and we’re lactose intolerant (actual dream from a Bostonian who works in tech sales), or we had a bar of soap that wouldn’t lather (actual dream from an Alberta-based artist), no matter how many times we sang Happy Birthday, and all we could do is scrub and scrub and feel the solid thing dissolve in our hands.

Having weird dreams in quarantine? You’re not alone.Vox
There is not a grand unified theory of dreams among researchers, but there are several different theories with some validity to them. You’ve probably heard of the continuity theory of dreams, which hypothesizes that people dream about the stuff they’re thinking about and doing while they’re awake. If we feel some degree of stress about the pandemic, or about work or family, then it’s normal for those types of themes to appear in our dream content.

Listening to the world sing

Via the occasionally very interesting Recomendo, something that has renewed my faith in the web and shown us a glimpse of what the internet should have been.

Radio Garden
Radio Garden is a website that presents you with a spinnable globe of the Earth. The green dots represent radio stations. Rotate the globe, click a dot and you are suddenly listening to live radio in that part of the world.

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Radio Garden invites you to tune into thousands of live radio stations across the globe. By bringing distant voices close, radio connects people and places. From its very beginning, radio signals have crossed borders. Radio makers and listeners have imagined both connecting with distant cultures, as well as re-connecting with people from ‘home’ from thousands of miles away.

This is such fun, just what we need about now. How about Nerds 4 God Radio, Orlando, Florida? ZM Online FM, Auckland, New Zealand? Radio Menhunt FM, Karanganyar, Indonesia? There’s just so much out there.

Free time? Free movies!

If you find yourself with some free time during these strange days, why not settle down with some of these free films.

Free movie of the weekOh You Pretty Things
Filmmaker Gary Hustwit is streaming his documentaries free worldwide during the global COVID-19 crisis. Each Tuesday we’ll be posting another film here. We hope you enjoy them, and please stay strong.

I’m a little annoyed I’ve missed Helvetica, but I’ve just watched and thoroughly enjoyed this documentary about Dieter Rams.

Rams Vimeo
“Rams” is the new documentary by filmmaker Gary Hustwit (Helvetica) about legendary designer Dieter Rams. For over fifty years, Rams has left an indelible mark on the field of product design with his iconic work at Braun and Vitsoe, and his influence on Apple. “Rams” is a design documentary, but it’s also a rumination on consumerism, materialism, and sustainability. Dieter’s philosophy is about more than just design, it’s about a way to live. The film also features an original score by pioneering musician Brian Eno.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s a collection of films of a different but equally charming kind. Yes I know it’s just directing you to YouTube, but I love the Netflixy interface.

Voleflix free movies
Cheaper than Netflix and Prime! Dozens of free public domain movies plus our Voleflix Originals. Includes films featuring Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, Roger Corman, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and more…

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Peter and the Typographic Wolf

Let’s have some more orchestral goodness.

Pierre et le loup, a stunning, typography-filled animated storyThe Kid Should See This
In 2014, Camera Lucida and Radio France teamed up to create a series of classical music-filled apps for children. One of these shared Sergei Prokofiev’s Pierre et le loup in a typography-filled adaptation by Gordon (Thierry Guernet), Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet, and Corentin Leconte. It’s a stunning version that mixes animation, musical symbols, and musicians, featuring the National Orchestra of France, conducted by the maestro Daniele Gatti.

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Classical music and typography, two of my favourite things!