What happens after Glasgow?

Despite what some people might think, the climate crisis is real and won’t go away by itself. The UN Climate Change Conference has been and gone — has anything changed? Yes and no.

The most impactful actions at COP26 point to progress on climate changeUN News
Ms. Donlon noted that the pact calls for a phase down of coal and a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, “two key issues that had never been explicitly mentioned in a decision at climate talks before – despite coal, oil and gas being the key drivers of global warming”. According to the UN official, Glasgow signaled “an accelerated shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy”.

Most City investors could not care less about ESG and sustainabilityCity A.M.
With COP26 only weeks behind us, more than half of UK investors admit sustainable investing is not a priority for them, with just under 45 per cent saying it is important and it is a priority in their investment portfolio. In fact, less than a third of British investors say COP26 and the UK government’s stance on climate change have accelerated their ESG investment plans to pump capital into sustainable assets.

The crisis continues, however.

New Delhi’s air turns toxic, and the finger-pointing beginsThe New York Times
The airborne murk and the towers stand as symbols of India’s deep political dysfunction. The choking pollution has become an annual phenomenon, and the country’s scientists can accurately predict the worst days. But deep partisanship and official intransigence have hindered steps that could help clear the air. […]

Broadly, India’s air quality suffers from its appetite for fossil fuels, which has only grown after two decades of rapid economic growth. Last year, India was home to 15 of the 20 cities with the most hazardous air globally, and health experts have detailed how such conditions can lead to brain damage, respiratory problems and early death.

Here’s a different take on the move to electric cars (complete with an unexpected reference to my sister’s favourite 80s boy band).

Norway is running out of gas-guzzling cars to taxWIRED UK
When it comes to sales of electric cars, Norway is in a league of its own. In September, battery-powered electric vehicles accounted for 77.5 percent of all new cars sold. That figure makes Norway a world leader by a long way—leapfrogging over the UK, where 15 percent of new car sales were electric as of October, and the US, where that number is just 2.6 percent. Norway’s electric dream has been credited to a series of tax breaks and other financial carrots that mean brands like Tesla can compete on price with combustion engines. But these incentives—and their success—have created a unique predicament: Norway is running out of dirty cars to tax.

Lots to unpack from COP26. Will subsequent generations see it as a decisive moment? It’s interesting to see how various aspects of the Climate Pact were strengthened and weakened through the first, second, third and final drafts.

Will the Glasgow climate pact curb emissions — or is it doomed for failure?Wake Up To Politics
Like the Montreal pact [the 1987 treaty that targeted substances responsible for degradation of the ozone layer], the Glasgow agreement also acknowledged these varying degrees of responsibility — but it did not provide any sort of financial incentive to follow reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The Montreal agreement was also made stronger because of the nature of the problem it addressed: with a focus on a specific type of emissions, it was easy to ensure adherence to the protocol with transfers. The Glasgow summit’s target — climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions — is much broader, and therefore harder to mitigate.

6 essential numbers to understand the Glasgow Climate PactWIRED UK
A noteworthy breakthrough at COP26 was the pledge from Scotland to give £2 million ($2.7 million) to vulnerable countries for loss and damage caused by the climate crisis. No developed country has ever offered up such money before, so while the amount is small in terms of the actual cash on offer, it is significant in terms of its politics.

Loss and damage refers to the harms done by climate change which can no longer simply be adapted to, such as climate migration due to droughts or island territory lost to rising sea levels. The Paris Agreement acknowledges it as an issue, but rich countries have been extremely hesitant to offer up any kind of finance for it, including at COP26.

So Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s comments last week that “the rich developed industrialized countries that have caused climate change … have a responsibility to step up, recognize that and address it” were a surprise breakthrough. Her use of the words “reparation” and “debt” in this context are also significant, considering the huge resistance from many developed countries, especially the US, to use this kind of language.

That line above, “island territory lost to rising sea levels,” can seem a little abstract from where I’m sitting. But it must be terrifying for those in the thick of it.

To hell with drowningThe Atlantic
In my corner, Micronesia, the facts are frightening. We are seeing a rate of sea-level rise two to three times the global average. Some scientists theorize that most of our low-lying coral-atoll nations may become uninhabitable as early as 2030. Faced with the prospect of climate-induced relocation, some leaders have contemplated buying land in other countries in anticipation of having to move some or all of their people.

Tuvalu looking at legal ways to be a state if it is submergedReuters
“We’re actually imagining a worst-case scenario where we are forced to relocate or our lands are submerged,” the minister, Simon Kofe, told Reuters in an interview. “We’re looking at legal avenues where we can retain our ownership of our maritime zones, retain our recognition as a state under international law. So those are steps that we are taking, looking into the future,” he said.

Twenty photographs of the weekThe Guardian
Bangkok, Thailand. Residents sit on the doorsteps of their flooded home as water from the Chao Praya river floods low lying areas around the district of Bang Phlat. […]

Chennai, India. People wade with their bicycles through a waterlogged road during incessant heavy rains in Chennai. According to the intergovernmental panel on climate change, major coastal cities like Mumbai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Chennai could go underwater by the end of the century.

Will we be seeing similar images next year, after COP27 in Egypt? And the year after, when the UAE hosts COP28?

Good news and mad news

It’s good to read some positive news about the pandemic.

Pfizer will allow its Covid pill to be made and sold cheaply in poor countriesThe New York Times
The agreement follows a similar arrangement negotiated by Merck last month, and together the deals have the potential to vastly expand global production of two simple antiviral pills that could alter the course of the pandemic by preventing severe illness from the coronavirus. The agreement follows a similar arrangement negotiated by Merck last month, and together the deals have the potential to vastly expand global production of two simple antiviral pills that could alter the course of the pandemic by preventing severe illness from the coronavirus.

But then you read things like this.

Covid denial to climate denial: How conspiracists are shifting focusBBC News
Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine Telegram groups, which once focused exclusively on the pandemic, are now injecting the climate change debate with the same conspiratorial narratives they use to explain the pandemic. The posts go far beyond political criticism and debate – they’re full of incorrect information, fake stories and pseudoscience. According to researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a think tank that researches global disinformation trends, some anti-lockdown groups have become polluted by misleading posts about climate change being overplayed, or even a so-called “hoax” designed to control people.

“Increasingly, terminology around Covid-19 measures is being used to stoke fear and mobilise against climate action,” says the ISD’s Jennie King. She says this isn’t really about climate as a policy issue. “It’s the fact that these are really neat vectors to get themes like power, personal freedom, agency, citizen against state, loss of traditional lifestyles – to get all of those ideas to a much broader audience.”

A young refugee’s giant footsteps

The refugee crisis is often in the news, and like other complex, global issues it can be hard to relate to. Perhaps focussing on the arduous journey of just one unaccompanied minor would help.

The Walk – One little girl. One BIG hope.
In 2021, from the Syria-Turkey border all the way to the UK, The Walk brought together celebrated artists, major cultural institutions, community groups and humanitarian organisations, creating one of the most innovative and adventurous public artworks ever attempted. At the heart of The Walk is ‘Little Amal’, a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young refugee girl, created by the acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company. Representing all displaced children, many separated from their families, Little Amal is travelling over 8,000km embodying the urgent message “Don’t forget about us”.

Four months, 5,000 miles: A refugee puppet looks for homeThe New York Times
The puppeteers were watching Tamara closely in order to mimic her behavior and create a 9-year-old Syrian refugee named Little Amal, the lead character in “The Walk,” one of the year’s most ambitious pieces of theater — and certainly the piece of theater with the biggest stage. The plot of “The Walk” was simple: Little Amal had lost her mother, and was looking to find her. But the logistics to pull off the almost $4 million project — a 5,000 mile journey from Turkey to England — were anything but.

She set off from Turkey in July.

Puppet of young Syrian refugee embarks on 5,000-mile journeyEuronews
Walking through the streets of Gaziantep, Turkey, a 12-foot-tall puppet of a 9-year-old Syrian refugee girl, called ‘Little Amal’, attracts the attention of passersby. Towering over crowds, it’s the beginning of a transcontinental trip that organisers hope will bring awareness to the refugee crisis, and the plight of millions of displaced children around the world.

And arrived in England in October.

Refugee puppet Little Amal welcomed at St Paul’s Cathedralindy100
The crowd cheered as Little Amal neared St Paul’s, and a group of children chanted “Amal! Amal! Amal!” The 3.5-metre tall puppet then climbed the cathedral’s steps before handing a gift – a wood carving of a ship at sea from St Paul’s birthplace at Tarsus in Turkey – to the dean, David Ison. Dr Ison addressed the puppet, saying: “The dome of St Paul’s is known around the world. Our doors are big enough to receive you. Our hope here for London is that it is big enough to receive all those who seek refuge in this city.”

The journey of Little AmalThe Atlantic
Amir Nizar Zuabi, the project’s artistic director, says, “The purpose of The Walk is to highlight the potential of the refugee, not just their dire circumstances. Little Amal is 3.5 meters tall because we want the world to grow big enough to greet her.”

Highlighting these journeys is a contentious issue, however.

Giant puppet ruffles some feathers on a long walk through GreeceThe New York Times
On Monday, the local council of Meteora, a municipality in central Greece, voted to ban Amal from walking through a village in the area, which is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its cluster of Orthodox monasteries built on towering rock formations. The objection raised by several council members was that a puppet depicting a Muslim refugee should not be permitted to perform in a space of such importance to Greek Orthodox believers. The local bishop opposed the project for that reason, while a local heritage group complained that the initiative could bring more refugees to a country that has already taken in tens of thousands.

The Walk: Little Amal puppet’s 8,000 km march across Europe to highlight refugee crisisWorld Socialist Web Site
If Amal was a real girl, she would not have made her way to Manchester so easily. Her way would have been blocked by barbed wire and national borders. Most likely, she would not have passed through Turkey, but would have been thrown into a concentration camp funded by the European Union (EU) as part of its Fortress Europe barring the way to asylum seekers. An EU deal signed in 2016 allows Greece to deport refugees that manage to reach its territory to Turkey. […]

Had Amal managed the journey across Europe, at the mercy of people smugglers, on reaching the port of Calais in northern France she would have joined 2,000 migrants, including 300 unaccompanied children stranded at the site of “The Jungle”—1.5 square miles (3.9 sq km) of refugee camps demolished in 2016. Police in Calais carry out daily evictions there, seizing tents, sleeping bags and blankets. They placed boulders to impede access to aid agency vehicles providing water, food and clothing.

But she did make it to Manchester, and then continued further north to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this week.

Migrant justice = Climate justiceUN Climate Change Conference (COP26)
The climate crisis is forcing people to move, and it will force millions more to move in the future. The issue of safe passage is an urgent one. Little Amal, a young refugee and 3.5m high puppet, has just completed a remarkable 8000km journey – The Walk, produced by Good Chance Theatre in association with Handspring Puppet Company. Along the way, Amal met with refugees like her, many affected directly by the consequences of the climate crisis. As borders are raised, how should we respond to this growing need to move to find safety?

Giant Syrian refugee puppet Amal attend COP26 in GlasgowThe Scotsman
The giant puppet’s visit comes at the Gender + Science and Innovation Day at the conference. The day focuses on not only the ways in which women, girls and marginalised people are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but also the importance of their leadership and participation in driving solutions.

Looking back in time

Last year I shared some “postinternet photography” from Google Street View, showing how it can transport us across the globe to strange, unfamiliar places and situations. But we can travel through time, too, with profound results.

Memory lanes: Google’s map of our livesThe Guardian
Street View traps the dead and the living alike between pages of cartography, like dried flowers. The dead may not be visible to us in the living world any more, but on Street View, they achieve permanence. “They keep updating the images for her street every few years,” Bell says, “but you go back to that year, and she’s still there. Sometimes I think about it and have a little look. I turn back the clock on the dial and she’s there again.”

But Street View does more than just capture our loved ones in candid moments. Because you can turn back the clock on earlier versions, Street View allows us to move through digital space in a non-temporal, non-linear way and connect with the past on an emotional level. “A sense of place is so important in memory,” says the photographer Nancy Forde, from Waterloo, Ontario. Her Addressing Loss project asks users to submit stories and images of loved ones they miss, and the comfort they’ve found remembering them via Street View images from when they were alive.

Judging a book by its 32 covers

After looking at collections of books all with the same cover, here’s news of a single book with a collection of covers.

Dave Eggers’ latest novel has 32 book covers, with even more on the wayPRINT Magazine
Never one to shy away from pushing boundaries, Eggers teamed up with art director Sunra Thompson for the project, who discovered that the dust jacket printer they were using could run several cover designs on one sheet of paper at once, providing the means to print dozens of different versions at the same time. Thompson decided to exploit this printing feature, enlisting a boatload of artists to design a completely new version of The Every cover, thanks to connections made by Noah Lang from the San Francisco gallery Electric Works.

It’s safe to say that Dave Egger is not a fan of Amazon.

You won’t find the hardcover of Dave Eggers’s next novel on AmazonThe New York Times
“I don’t like bullies,” Eggers wrote in an email. “Amazon has been kicking sand in the face of independent bookstores for decades now.”

The novel follows a former forest ranger and tech skeptic, Delaney Wells, as she tries to take down a dangerous monopoly from the inside: a company called The Every, formed when the world’s most powerful e-commerce site merged with the biggest social media company/search engine.

“One of the themes of the book is the power of monopolies to dictate our choices, so it seemed a good opportunity to push back a bit against the monopoly, Amazon, that currently rules the book world,” he said. “So we started looking into how feasible it would be to make the hardcover available only through independent bookstores. Turns out it is very, very hard.”

Think ahead, but not too far

It’s a good time for spaced-based sci-fi at the moment, with the latest Dune and Foundation adaptations on screens of various sizes. The former seems to be making a bigger impact than the latter, though. This article from the Long Now folks suggests a reason why.

“Dune,” “Foundation,” and the allure of science fiction that thinks long-termBlog of the Long Now
In a moment of broader cultural gloominess, Dune’s perspective may resonate more with the current movie-going public. Its themes of long-term ecological destruction, terraforming, and the specter of religious extremism seem in many ways ripped out of the headlines, while Asimov’s technocratic belief in scholarly wisdom as a shining light may be less in vogue. Ultimately, though, the core appeal of these works is not in how each matches with the fashion of today, but in how they look forward through thousands of years of human futures, keeping our imagination of long-term thinking alive.

Long-term thinking, that can only be a good thing, right? Longtermism, on the other hand…

Against longtermismAeon Essays
Why do I think this ideology is so dangerous? The short answer is that elevating the fulfilment of humanity’s supposed potential above all else could nontrivially increase the probability that actual people – those alive today and in the near future – suffer extreme harms, even death. Consider that, as I noted elsewhere, the longtermist ideology inclines its adherents to take an insouciant attitude towards climate change. Why? Because even if climate change causes island nations to disappear, triggers mass migrations and kills millions of people, it probably isn’t going to compromise our longterm potential over the coming trillions of years. If one takes a cosmic view of the situation, even a climate catastrophe that cuts the human population by 75 per cent for the next two millennia will, in the grand scheme of things, be nothing more than a small blip – the equivalent of a 90-year-old man having stubbed his toe when he was two.

Bringing Beethoven back

We’ve seen how AI can bring to life people that have never existed, as well as those that certainly have. And we’re familiar with the ridiculous surreal art it can churn out and the sublime Bach-like harmonies it can spin. But what about creating something much more substantial, like a whole symphony? And a Beethoven symphony, at that.

The project started in 2019 …

How a team of musicologists and computer scientists completed Beethoven’s unfinished 10th SymphonyThe Conversation
When Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, he was three years removed from the completion of his Ninth Symphony, a work heralded by many as his magnum opus. He had started work on his 10th Symphony but, due to deteriorating health, wasn’t able to make much headway: All he left behind were some musical sketches.

Ever since then, Beethoven fans and musicologists have puzzled and lamented over what could have been. His notes teased at some magnificent reward, albeit one that seemed forever out of reach.

Now, thanks to the work of a team of music historians, musicologists, composers and computer scientists, Beethoven’s vision will come to life.

Artificial intelligence to “complete” Beethoven’s tenth symphonyi24News: YouTube

… and earlier this month, they premiered the result.

After more than two centuries, Beethoven’s 10th Symphony has been completed by an AIEuronews
For Werzowa, it was exciting to discover variations of Beethoven’s work each morning, that had been sent overnight by his US colleagues from Rutgers University.

“Because of the time difference, in the morning, I got up early, quite excited and ran to my computer to find hundreds of possibilities which were formulated overnight, well during my night,” he said. “And it was always a beautiful morning occupation, drinking tea and coffee while listening and choosing those Beethoven inspirations”. […]

As for the master computer, no gigantic machine with tons of buttons and keyboards were involved: a simple laptop was used to finish to unfinishable.

“I asked him many times ‘please send me pictures’ and I was so curious, it’s like I imagined like this Star Trek, Star Wars kind of thing, with kilometres of computers,” Werzowa told AP. “He never sent it to me over the two years and finally he did after this whole thing was done. And what he showed me was basically a computer rig which looks like my son’s computer rig so it was actually disappointing: This is it? This made that amazing work?”

And the Beethoven goes on: Bonn premieres ‘new’ 10th symphonyIrish Times
No word on whether London’s Royal Philharmonic Society – who commissioned the symphony in 1817 – ever got its money back from the composer’s estate for services not rendered.

How an AI finished Beethoven’s last symphony and what that means for the future of musicBBC Science Focus Magazine
What has the response been like from musicians and composers? Their response is really mixed. There are people who loved this very much, and love the idea of having an AI that understands music and can help you finish your composition or have you explore different musical ideas.

But on the other side of the spectrum, there are people who just reject even the concept of being able to complete a Beethoven symphony using AI. They are afraid of AI taking their jobs and think that it has nothing to do with this kind of thing.

But enough of all the words — let’s hear the music!

Beethoven X: The AI Project: III Scherzo. Allegro – TrioModern Recordings: YouTube
Modern Recordings / BMG present as a foretaste of the album “Beethoven X – The AI Project” (release: 8.10.) the edit of the 3rd movement “Scherzo. Allegro – Trio” as a classical music video.

That was just a short edit of the third movement. Embedded within this next link is a video of the whole premiere, featuring movements 3 and 4.

World Premiere: Beethoven XMagentaMusic 360
It is done: Shortly before his death, Ludwig van Beethoven began to compose his 10th Symphony, but it remained unfinished. On the 250th birthday of the genius, Deutsche Telekom and an international team of music experts and artificial intelligence experts have dared to try to complete Beethoven’s 10th Symphony with the help of artificial intelligence. On 9 October, the 10th Symphony was premiered in Bonn by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under the direction of Dirk Kaftan.

I’m relying on Google Translate for the text of that link. The introductory speeches are in German too, though the little documentary they play that starts 12 minutes in is subtitled and worth a look. The performance itself is 16 minutes in.

It’s also been released on Spotify, together with a recording of the eighth symphony from the premiere.

Beethoven X: The AI ProjectSpotify
Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, Dirk Kaftan, Walter Werzowa 2021

It seems this is not the only version of Beethoven’s 10th symphony. There’s also this one, “realized” by Barry Cooper, plus documentary (ignore that crazy sax intro). But seriously, nothing — not even his fifth — matches his ninth. I mean, come on!

Welcome, but not too welcome

On one hand, you have giant violins floating down Venice’s Grand Canal drawing in the crowds. On the other, plans to use high-tech crowd control techniques designed to keep those crowds at bay.

Venice, overwhelmed by tourists, tries tracking themThe New York Times
The city’s leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding. Next summer, they plan to install long-debated gates at key entry points; visitors coming only for the day will have to book ahead and pay a fee to enter. If too many people want to come, some will be turned away. […]

But many residents see the plans to monitor, and control, people’s movements as dystopian — and either a publicity stunt or a way to attract wealthier tourists, who might be discouraged from coming by the crowds. “It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said Giorgio Santuzzo, 58, who works as a photographer and artist in the city.

Going to the movies — for a bit

Listening to people worry about how streaming services and mobile phones are changing how we watch movies, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in the past movie-going must have been a pretty straightforward affair. Not so, as this fascinating ramble through a long lunch with Orson Welles shows.

From the Time Capsule: Lunch conversations with Orson WellesVulture
H.J.: Warren Beatty was just saying that TV has changed movies, because for most of us, once you’re in a movie theater, you commit, whether you like it or not. You want to see what they’ve done, while at home …

O.W.: I’m the opposite. It’s a question of age. In my real moviegoing days, which were the thirties, you didn’t stand in line. You strolled down the street and sallied into the theater at any hour of the day or night. Like you’d go in to have a drink at a bar. Every movie theater was partially empty. We never asked what time the movie began. We used to go after we went to the theater.

H.J.: You didn’t feel you had to see a movie from the start?

O.W.: No. We’d leave when we’d realize, “This is where we came in.” Everybody said that. I loved movies for that reason. They didn’t cost that much, so if you didn’t like one, it was, “Let’s do something else. Go to another movie.” And that’s what made it habitual to such an extent that walking out of a movie was what for people now is like turning off the television set.

Fancy a cheese sarnie?

I thought these two recent links from Laughing Squid went together well.

How to properly cut and serve different cheesesLaughing Squid
Anne Saxelby, the resident turophile of Saxelby Cheesemongers in New York City, gave an informative Epicurious lesson on how to properly “cut the cheese”. All jokes aside, Saxelby, who has a long history working with artisanal cheese, offers helpful tips on not only cutting but appreciating and serving different varietals from all over the world.

How to make just about every shape of breadLaughing Squid
Peter Endriss, the head baker at Runner & Stone in Gowanus, Brooklyn partnered with Epicurious to offer a rather comprehensive tutorial in shaping a variety of different bread. Included in this list are simple loaves of bread and rolls along with such tasty treats as brioche à tête, pretzels, bagels, English muffins, challah, chapeau, and even a pizza crust.

Making a very slow splash

There’s slow TV, then there’s really slow TV.

The Slow Mo Guys usually shoot their videos at 1,000 frames a second and play them back at 25 frames a second, in effect stretching one second into 40 seconds. But in this video they’re using a camera that allows them to shoot a mind-boggling 90,000 frames a second. When that footage is played back at 25 frames a second, one second lasts one whole hour.

The Slow Mo Guys: What if every second lasted an hour?YouTube
Gav shows you the tranquil results of stretching every second to be an hour long.

At this speed, a minute would last two and a half days, an hour would last about five months, and a day would come in at just under a decade, at nine years and ten months. Shall we keep going? A month would last around three centuries, and a year would be about 3,597 years.

Interesting visuals, for sure, but that concept of experiencing time at different scales is captivating.

Does anyone else get slightly filled with dread imagining how bad it would be to be stuck at this speed. Even if you were surrounded by people you wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone. It would be so lonely. It would take you so long to move anywhere. You wouldn’t be able to let anyone know what was happening to you. To them you’d be moving at normal speed but acting strangely…

It immediately brought to mind one of my favourite Borges short stories, The Secret Miracle, with the playwright facing a firing squad.

Jorge Luis Borges: The Secret MiracleSCASD [pdf]
The rifles converged upon Hladik, but the men assigned to pull the triggers were immobile. The sergeant’s arm eternalized an inconclusive gesture. Upon a courtyard flag stone a bee cast a stationary shadow. The wind had halted, as in a painted picture. Hladik began a shriek, a syllable, a twist of the hand. He realised he was paralyzed. Not a sound reached him from the frozen world.
He thought: I’m in hell, I’m dead.
He thought: I’ve gone mad.
He thought: Time has come to a halt.

It’s a common enough device, but Borges does it most poetically, I would say. But going back to that video, here’s what falling into a pool for an hour looks like. The action really kicks off at the 26 minute mark.

Reminds me a little of Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Pyscho although that feels like watching a rollercoaster compared to this.

Misunderstanding our past, present and future

It’s obvious, when you think about it. Of course not all Neanderthals were ‘cavemen’ — half were women.

SheanderthalAeon Essays
Archaeology is no exception to biases against women’s interests across science and the humanities. Since the early days, a tendency to conceptualise humanity’s deep origins as populated literally by ‘cavemen’ has led to presumed male activities being presented as most visible and interesting. … In fact, for most of the subsequent 160 years, female Neanderthals – if featured at all – tend to be fewer in number, peripherally located, and limited to ‘domesticated’ activities including childcare and skin-working. They are essentially scenery, in the words of the anthropologist Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, rather than active providers working on stone knapping or hunting and, in addition, they’re often fearfully lurking, hidden in dark grottos.

The world is a very different place now.

Why eye-catching graphics are vital for getting to grips with climate changeThe Conversation
One misconception about the climate crisis is that warming will be uniform across the world. Deniers cite cold fronts or blizzards as evidence that warming is exaggerated, or hark back to past heatwaves – such as that experienced by the UK in 1976 when temperatures exceeded 35°C – as proof that the scientists have got it wrong. Apart from this misleading conflation of weather (daily conditions) and climate (long-term conditions), this kind of argument misses the complex patchwork of effects that interact to create what gets reported in the headline figures. Maps can be an invaluable weapon against this misunderstanding. … [W]hat is needed are more universally accessible visualisations that are able to show where we’re heading in no uncertain terms.

How on earth would you protect future generations from something with a half-life of over 700 million years? Use your imagination.

The art of pondering Earth’s distant futureScientific American
We do not, of course, live in these imagined worlds. In this sense, they are unreal—merely fictions. However, our capacities to envision potential futures, and to feel empathy for those who may inhabit them, are very real. Depictions of tomorrow can have powerful, concrete effects on the world today. This is why deep time thought experiments are not playful games, but serious acts of intellectual problem-solving. It is why the safety case experts’ models of far future nuclear waste risks are uniquely valuable, even if they are, at the end of the day, mere approximations.

Nothing on TV?

Similar to Voleflix but with less actual content, here’s a new streaming service for when you’re after something a little more meta.

Nestflix
Welcome to Nestflix, the platform for your favorite nested films and shows. Fictional movies within movies? Got ‘em. Fake shows within shows? You bet. Browse our selection of over 400 stories within stories.

Or you could relive some old pre-streaming memories and just watch this for a while.

It’s all over, you can rest now

So that’s that for another four three years. I didn’t watch that much of the Olympics, but here are some links about it I’ve enjoyed reading. Let’s start with some great photography very much in the style of Pelle Cass, I think.

Decisive moments from the Tokyo Games, frame by frameThe New York Times

Nine of the most memorable moments from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic GamesOlympics.com
Filippo Tortu of Team Italy beats Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake of Team Great Britain across the finish line to win the gold medal in the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

I love that photo, the matching poses several feet into the air.

Tokyo Olympics: Toughest Games? Decathletes and heptathletes say probablyStuff.co.nz
The last 18 months brought the pandemic, while Tokyo brought another new challenge, as if the multi-eventers needed it. The scorching heat and humidity at the Olympic Stadium had many of the competitors donning ice vests and dumping ice inside and over their hats to try stay cool.

A memorable Olympics, but for the right reasons?The New York Times
Pushing forth in a pandemic, these Games were meant to be, as the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said last year, “the light at the end of this dark tunnel the whole world is going through.” Yet they were often claustrophobic, cut off from society, with capacious venues across Tokyo repurposed into cloistered safe houses. They were, in this way, paradoxical, uncanny and hard to wholly comprehend. They were a feat of organizational planning and execution, even amid arguments about whether they should be happening in the first place. They were stubbornly called Tokyo 2020, a retrograde name that reminded everyone of the meandering path traveled to this point.

Such a shame about all those empty seats. All these athletes are incredible, though, in so many different ways.

There’s nothing Adam Ondra can’t climb, but is an Olympic medal out of reach?The New York Times
Ondra, 28, has completed more of the hardest outdoor routes than anyone, and on the competition walls that will be featured at the Games, he is the reigning world champion in lead climbing and the only one to win the world championship in lead and bouldering in the same year. But in Tokyo, equal weight will be given to speed climbing, a fringe event where Ondra’s considerable talents — creativity, problem solving, efficiency — are meaningless.

How Olympic divers make the perfect tiny splashYouTube
If you’ve watched any Olympics diving coverage, you may have noticed that the splashes athletes make are tiny. Divers spend years training to perform with minimal splash, in the same way that gymnasts train to stick their landings. In this video, Team USA’s head diving coach Drew Johansen explains the three major components he uses to guide his athletes towards smaller splashes: the above water position, the underwater swim, and the underwater pike. And while the sport of diving isn’t all about getting splashes, a small splash is the perfect punctuation to a job well done.

The Olympics are more than just a collection of sporting events, of course. Remember that floating head?

Giant inflatables and flying dancers: Olympic art has always turned headsThe Conversation
From Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Olympia, at the Berlin 1936 Games to Speed Skater, Andy Warhol’s print for Sarajevo 1984, artists have contributed to modern Olympic narratives in iconic ways. The purpose of these interventions, not to mention their desired audience, has varied considerably.

Celebrating the legacy of Kamekura Yusaku’s iconic Tokyo 1964 Olympics identityIt’s Nice That
“They were quite cutting-edge and challenged the process of photography in order to create the right look,” says Simon. The second poster, released in May 1962, was a full-bleed photograph depicting a line of athletes shooting off from the starting block against a sharp black background and that striking gold typeface emblazoned below. The photo used American servicemen who were stationed at the Tachikawa airbase as models, alongside amateur Japanese athletes. Its technical mastery is in the painstaking process it took to get the final dynamic image – at the time, blacking out the background digitally wasn’t an option (Photoshop had yet to be born). The shoot took place in the National Stadium on a cold February evening over three hours, with the six runners making around 80 staggered false starts before photographer Hayasaki Osamu captured the perfect shot.

The Yusaku Kamekura meme: From the Tokyo Olympics to Monster StrikeThe Olympians
I was on the Yamanote Line train when I looked up to see all in-car advertisements devoted to Japan’s #1 best-selling mobile game from 2016 – Monster Strike. I usually don’t care about mobile games, but the ad immediately caught my attention – animals in mid-stride racing together, on a dark black background. It is exactly the same concept as the second of designer Yusaku Kamekura‘s poster in 1962, marketing the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to come.

‘A stirring moment preserved forever through typography’: Morisawa, the official font provider for Tokyo 2020Olympics.com
Under our motto, “Enhancing society through typography,” we would like to see our UD fonts more widely adopted and used throughout society. Our ultimate goal is to use typography to contribute to the creation of an inclusive society where people with or without impairments live side by side. For humanity to maintain peace and growth, we cannot avoid embracing an inclusive society.

When ancient Greece banned women from Olympics, they started their ownAtlas Obscura
During these ancient times, women lived much shorter lives, were excluded from political decision-making and religious rites, were forced into early marriages, and then gave birth to several children. Despite the societal inequalities and oppression, women in Greece wanted to play—so they started their own Olympics called the Heraean Games.

Tokyo’s drones and their updating of Kamekura Yusaku’s pictograms were fantastic, and I know I’m biased, being both British and an Underworld fan, but I still think London 2012’s opening ceremony was the best.

And I Will KissWikipedia
His brief from Danny Boyle, the creative director of the Olympics opening ceremony was simple: “Danny wanted to frighten people. He was certain that by the end [of the Pandemonium section], people had to be going: ‘Christ, you can’t possibly do that to us for the next three hours.’ All the way along, he’d leave you with a sentence like that. That’s the kind of direction that leaves you empowered.” Smith also said of the track: “There was to be nothing half-hearted or polite about it.”

And you must check out this version of that footage, the view from the inside.

Martian music

How would a piano sound on Mars? Embark on an interplanetary sonic journeyAeon Videos
If the Universe is born and no one is present to hear it, does it still make a sound? Well, theoretically, yes. As this video from the US filmmaker John D Boswell explores, where a ‘thick soup of atoms’ is present, sound is possible. Made in collaboration with the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, this short documentary deploys dramatic CGI visuals, a pulsing score and the voices of prominent scientists to explore the sounds of space – from those humanity has recorded to those we can only speculate about.

The Sounds of Space: A sonic adventure to other worldsYouTube
Space is more than just a feast for the eyes. It’s a feast for the ears. You just have to know where — and when — to look. Floating in the silent void of space are trillions of islands of sound, each with their own sonic flavor — some eerily familiar, some wildly different than Earth’s. And even space itself was once brimming with sound.

Just floating by

First, something almost invisible drifting through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

A rare sighting of a glass octopus reveals its nearly transparent membrane in extraordinary detailColossal
With a speckled, iridescent membrane, the aquatic animal is almost entirely transparent—only its optic nerve, eyes, and digestive tract are visible to humans—and sightings like these are so infrequent that scientists previously resorted to studying the species only after pulling it from the stomachs of its predators.

And then, floating over over a park in Japan, an image seemingly straight out of the pages of a Junji Ito horror story.

A giant head hot air balloon floats over a Tokyo parkLaughing Squid
Japanese photographer Disc Yuri On used a Panasonic video camera from 1999 to capture the rather startling sight of a giant hot air balloon in the shape of a head that was trying to float high above Yoyogi Park in Tokyo but was hampered by the wind. When a siren sounded, however, the balloon spun around and faced the camera directly. The stuff of nightmares.

Think again

I still can’t get my head around Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, no matter how many explanatory videos I watch. Perhaps I need to move on to a different time-bending movie, like this one from Johan Grimonprez.

Double TakeThe Guardian
No better way to mark the 50th anniversary of Psycho … than with this bizarre and distinctly inspired mash-up by writer Tom McCarthy and film-maker Johan Grimonprez. Their ever so slightly mad cine-essay, based on a Borgès short story, and perhaps influenced by British film-maker Chris Petit, is a delirious bad trip, imagining that Alfred Hitchcock, working on the set of The Birds in 1962, is visited by his own double: the near-dead Hitchcock from 1980, who enigmatically hints at how cold war history may or may not turn out. (The older Hitchcock double is of course only slightly better informed on this subject than the younger.)

Double Take by Johan GrimonprezVimeo
Acclaimed director Johan Grimonprez casts Alfred Hitchcock as a paranoid history professor, unwittingly caught up in a double take on the cold war period. The master says all the wrong things at all the wrong times while politicians on both sides desperately clamor to say the right things, live on TV.

Double Take targets the global rise of ‘fear-as-a-commodity’, in a tale of odd couples and hilarious double deals. As television hijacks cinema, and the Khrushchev and Nixon kitchen debate rattles on, sexual politics quietly take off and Alfred himself emerges in a dandy new role on the TV, blackmailing housewives with brands they can’t refuse.

Whensday

I see another Monday had rolled around (‘Freedom day’, no less, hashtag eyeroll). But is Monday your Monday? Or do you have your Monday on another day, Thursday for instance?

The best day to go into the office is…WIRED UK
Many companies seem to be following the idea that people are most productive at the start of the week, and therefore should be in the office on those days. […] A scientific study of workplaces and behaviour in them found that people are least civil with colleagues at the start of the week. They gradually become more friendly and engaging with their peers as the week goes on, though become slightly less civil on Fridays than they were on Thursday.

What really happened in Iceland’s four-day week trialWIRED UK
[T]here are a few caveats to note about this research before everyone stops coming into work on Fridays. First, despite the headlines – including the one on this newsletter – Iceland didn’t trial a four-day work week. Instead, the two trials reduced hours from 40 each week to 35 or 36.

See also:

Neckties are the new bow tiesThe Atlantic
As America struggled to recover from a global pandemic, a shattered economy, and record unemployment levels, headlines despaired: “neckties doomed.” Men were “slashing their clothing bills” to retailers’ chagrin, the Associated Press reported. Those who continued to wear ties were downgrading from colorful, expensive silk to plain, cheap cotton. The year was 1921, and reports of the tie’s death were premature, to say the least.

A century later, as Americans begin to emerge from another financially devastating pandemic, another rash of headlines is predicting the tie’s imminent demise.