Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Making of The Real World


New Yorker - "How “The Real World” Created Modern Reality TV"
By Emily Nussbaum

George Miller's Inspiration For 45 Years of Mad Max


Vikings Winter Warrior Helmet and Uniform



Building the US Olympic Trials Swimming Pool


Yahoo Sports - "A swimming pool in … an NFL stadium? Welcome to U.S. Olympic trials"

Joe Mazzulla's Training Tactics


"Every coach in the NBA scours game film of other basketball teams, looking for plays to steal and defenses to build up. But nobody watches tape the way the head coach of the Boston Celtics does.

Because where other coaches are watching the Bulls and Timberwolves, Joe Mazzulla prefers to study killer whales and hyenas.

Mazzulla, the 35-year-old coach who has the Celtics two wins away from the 18th championship in franchise history, has a fascination with the brutal beauty of the natural world. So when it’s time to inspire his team and instruct them in the ways of teamwork and self sacrifice, he turns to video of Planet Earth’s greatest predators, playing clips of orcas and other hunters as they circle their prey."

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Greatest Diss Tracks of All Time Ranked


The Ringer - "The Greatest Diss Tracks of All Time, Ranked"

Open AI's Library


New York Times - "The Old-Fashioned Library at the Heart of the A.I. Boom"

"Built at Mr. Altman’s request and stocked with titles suggested by his staff, the OpenAI library is an apt metaphor for the world’s hottest tech company, whose success was fueled by language — lots and lots of language. OpenAI’s chatbot was not built like the average internet app. ChatGPT learned its skills by analyzing huge amounts of text that was written, edited and curated by humans, including encyclopedia articles, news stories, poetry and, yes, books.

The library also represents the paradox at the heart of OpenAI’s technology. Authors and publishers, including The New York Times, are suing OpenAI, claiming the company illegally used their copyrighted content to build its A.I. systems. Many authors worry that the technology will ultimately take away their livelihood."

The WNBA's Newest Team - Golden State Valkyries


New York Times - "Give It Up for the Golden State Valkyries"

"The merch was her way of announcing her team’s name, colors and logo all at once. So give it up for the Golden State Valkyries, named for the powerful female warriors from Norse mythology.

They will play in violet and black uniforms with a V-shaped logo — for Valkyries — that shows a Bay Bridge tower head-on, forming the shape of a sword. Bridge cables flaring from the tower create five triangles on either side, representing teams of five women squaring off on the basketball court."


"“Valkyries are this bad-ass group of women making change happen, making the impossible possible,” Smith explained. “These are legends to be made.”"

The Marine Layer Holding Back Batters


Seattle Times - "Marine layer menace"

"The Seattle Mariners’ home, T-Mobile Park, opened July 15, 1999, as the crown jewel of the Sodo District. On vintage Seattle summer days, you won’t find a better environment anywhere in America to take in a ballgame. The scene can be truly stunning — baseball paradise for some — and that remains as true as ever as the stadium nears its 25th anniversary.

What also remains true: The place can be a hellhole for hitters.

No ballpark in Major League Baseball suppresses offense as much as T-Mobile Park. Players bemoaned that in its early days, and new technology over the past decade has validated that reputation.

Call it a pitcher-esque park.

What’s more: Through the first month of this season, offensive output in Seattle has reached a new low, with run production values at T-Mobile Park ranking dead last among all MLB venues.

There are many factors at play.

On-field talent is one, certainly. The scarcity of runs in Seattle over the past few years, in particular, has coincided with the rise of the Mariners pitching staff as one of the best in baseball, capable of shutting down any opposing lineup.

Environmental effects are factors too, of course. Climate, humidity and wind play a part in any park, and T-Mobile Park has one weather phenomenon — the dreaded marine layer — that has become as notorious as the boogeyman for some hitters."

The End of the Chuck E. Cheese Animatronic Band


New York Times - "Farewell, Chuck E. Cheese Animatronic Band"

"Chuck E. Cheese was started by Nolan Bushnell, a co-founder of the pioneering video game company Atari. In an interview with the Smithsonian Institution in 2017, Mr. Bushnell said his background in arcade games, which sold for about $1,500 to $2,000 per machine, sparked his desire to open a pizza joint with the games, each of which would collect up to $50,000 in coins in their lifetime.

Mr. Bushnell said he was also inspired by a family trip to Disneyland, and particularly the Tiki Room, an attraction with animatronic birds, tiki gods and flowers.

“We can do that,” Mr. Bushnell recalled thinking at the time. “But it’d be nice to have a mascot.”

At first, the mascot was supposed to be a coyote, and Mr. Bushnell was going to call his new business Coyote Pizza. Mr. Bushnell, who declined to be interviewed, told the Smithsonian that he went out and bought a costume of what he thought was a coyote.

“I took it to my engineers,” Mr. Bushnell said. “I said, ‘Make this guy talk.’”

But a problem arose: The costume Mr. Bushnell bought was not a coyote, but a rat with a tail."

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Young Mike


The Athletic - "Go ahead, say it: Anthony Edwards looks a lot like Michael Jordan right now"
By Marcus Thompson II

The Hockey Origins of Vikings and Wolverine Quarterback J.J. McCarthy


The Athletic - "How hockey helped make J.J. McCarthy one of NFL Draft’s most intriguing prospects"
By Adam Jahns



Dallas Cowboy Micah Parson vs. Sumo Wrestler

New NFL Looks


The Best Pizza in New York?


New Yorker - "Tables for Two: Scarr’s Pizza"

"The restaurant’s owner and founder, Scarr Pimentel, grew up in Hamilton Heights, in a sprawling Dominican family; as a teen, he landed a busboy job at the celeb-magnet Nolita restaurant Emilio’s Ballato, where he started learning the basics of turning flour, yeast, and water into dough. He moved on to pizzerias—Artichoke Basille’s, known for its gargantuan slices, and Lombardi’s, arguably the birthplace of New York pizza—and began to refine his own sense of pizza perfection. Scarr’s Pizza opened in 2016, in a narrow sliver of a space with brown wood-panelled walls, molded Formica booths, and kitschy late-seventies ambience. It was a deliberate aesthetic, both a play to nostalgia and a subversion of it. Pimentel, a Black Latino man making moves in the overwhelmingly white pizza world, wasn’t paying homage to the pizzerias of his youth; he was claiming them.

The original Scarr’s was a classic New York pizza shop, serving classic New York pizza, except for all the ways it wasn’t. The ingredients were organic. You could buy a can of Bud Light, but you could also get a bottle of natural wine. There was no pork in the kitchen—Pimentel doesn’t eat it—and a portion of the menu skewed plant-based and vegan. The pies were thoughtful and deliberate, not high-speed, high-volume gut bombs. Pimentel is an exacting sort of person, which is a good quality in the world of pizza: when he couldn’t figure out exactly the right blend of flour for the crust of his dreams, he started milling his own, a fresh batch daily, in the restaurant’s basement prep area. The slice shop’s Orchard Street location, and its whole vibey gestalt—aesthetic deliberateness, quasi-healthfulness, nerd-level gastronomic rigor, plus a tiny bar and dining room that felt a little bit like a secret—made it a default for the hip and artsy habitués of the lower end of the Lower East Side, an area that’s since become saddled with the name Dimes Square. Social-media buzz began to build. Bon Appétit declared it the best slice in the city. The lines were long, and getting longer.

In pizza, as in all things, trends come and go—everyone’s freaking out about sourdough crusts one minute and Detroit-style rectangular pies the next. When Pimentel opened Scarr’s, many of the city’s most lauded pizzerias were sit-down affairs that served whole pies: coal-fired, Italian American-style at old-school spots like Lombardi’s and John’s of Bleecker; minimalist, jewel-like Neapolitan pizzas from Una Pizza Napoletana; and cheffy, creative “New Brooklyn” pizzas at places like Lucali, Roberta’s, and Emily. Now, for some reason (credit the slumping economy, a collective wistfulness for a New York City that once was, or the success of Scarr’s itself), we are living in the golden age of the slice. It is the fundamental unit of New York pizza: a cheap, hot meal for a city short on time and money and space, consumed while standing, a food shovelled-in more than eaten. At places like Scarr’s (and similar new-wave slice shops, like L’Industrie and Mama’s Too), it is treated like a form of art."

Airbnb Icons


New York Times - "In Latest Stunt, Airbnb Lists the ‘Up’ House. It Floats."

"On Wednesday, Airbnb announced that it was expanding stunt promotions like these under a new permanent category called “Icons,” featuring unusual and ambitious partnerships with brands and celebrities

At a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, introduced the inaugural slate of Icons listings.

It was headlined by a replica of the floating house from “Up,” the 2009 animated Pixar film, balloons and all. With the help of a giant crane, the house will be suspended high in the air over the New Mexico desert.


Only a few people have been able to stay in Airbnb’s previous fantastical listings, but the company said it expected roughly 4,000 customers to book stays in Icons listings in 2024.

Another 10 listings are slated to go up by the end of the year. Booking periods will vary. Dates for the “Up” house are open through mid-September.

With Icons, Airbnb is hoping to capitalize on the success that earlier listings have achieved as promotional tools, ready-made for Instagram selfies and eye-catching headlines, Mr. Chesky said. (Yes, we fell for it.)

He pointed to the success of Airbnb’s collaboration with Mattel last summer, which brought the Malibu DreamHouse to life ahead of the release of the blockbuster “Barbie” film. The buzz interested other brands."

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Unreal Engine Powering Video Games, Movies/Shows, and Industry


New Yorker - "How Perfectly Can Reality Be Simulated?"
By Anna Wiener

"Yet certain things remain hard to simulate. There are multiple types of water renderers—an ocean demands a kind of simulation different from that of a river or a swimming pool—but buoyancy is challenging, as are waves and currents. “The Navier-Stokes equation for fluid simulation is one of the remaining six Millennium Prize Problems in mathematics—it’s unsolved,” Vladimir Mastilović, Epic’s vice-president of digital-humans technology, told me, referring to a set of math problems that have been impervious to human effort. Clouds are tricky. Fabric, which stretches, bends, wrinkles, and billows, often in unpredictable ways, is notoriously difficult to get right. It’s hard to simulate chain reactions. “If I chop down a tree in a forest, there’s a chance that it hits another tree and knocks over another tree, and that splinters and breaks,” Kim Libreri, Epic’s chief technology officer, said. “Getting that level of simulation is very, very hard right now.” Even the smallest human gestures can be headaches. “Putting your hand through your hair—that’s an unbelievably complicated problem to solve,” Libreri said. “We have physics simulation to make it wobble and stuff, but it’s almost at the molecular level.” (In some games, hair is simulated by using cloth sheets with hairlike texture.)


Mastilović suggested that MetaHumans could one day be used to create autonomous characters. “So it will not be a set of prerecorded animations—it will be a simulation of somebody’s personality,” he said. He suggested that a simulation of Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson could be fun, and that people could create digital copies of themselves and then license and monetize them. Mastilović’s team often talked about a concept called Magic Mirror: a way to visualize, alter, and explore oneself virtually. “What if I was ten kilos more, ten kilos less?” he said. “What if I was more confident? What if I was older or younger? How would this look on me?” He added, “When things become truly real, photo-real, and truly interactive, that is so much more than the medium we have right now. That’s not a game. That’s a simulation of alternate reality.”


In the past decade, Sweeney has become one of the largest private landowners in North Carolina, buying up thousands of acres for conservation. Land conservation struck me as an interesting project for someone in the business of immersive indoor entertainment—incongruous enough that I found it kind of moving. (In a 2007 MTV documentary, Sweeney showed off his garnet collection, some of which was acquired on eBay, and a “climbing tree” in his yard.) When we spoke, I asked Sweeney whether working in games had made him see nature differently. “Natural scenes tend to be the hardest to simulate,” he said. “When you’re standing on a mountaintop, looking out into the distance, you’re seeing the effect of trillions of leaves of trees. In the aggregate, they don’t behave as ordinary solid objects. At a certain distance, trees become sort of transparent. When you look at the real world and see all the areas where computer graphics are falling short of the real world, you tend to realize we have a lot of work yet to do.” He speculated that an efficient, realistic simulation of a forest would require a “geology simulator” and an “ecology simulator,” each with its own complex sets of rules.


My friend and I talked about Big Basin, a state park that was home to some of California’s oldest redwoods. A few years ago, it suffered a terrible wildfire. I toured the park shortly after the fires, and found it devastating. But the trees were now trucking along. There was an archival impulse to scanning that I found appealing, even as I wondered if there was an anxiety to it, too. Was there something bleak about creating virtual facsimiles of the natural world while we as a species were in the process of destroying it? Lind, the Quixel co-founder, told me that he had gone on a scanning trip to Malibu in 2018. His team spent a week scanning the Santa Monica Mountains, capturing the texture of the landscape. Two weeks later, the Woolsey fire burned almost a hundred thousand acres of land in the area. “That was actually fairly emotional,” Lind said. “Every scanning expedition, you develop a certain connection with that place.” Still, they had the scans. Today, those images could be scattered across games and movies, in jumbled pastiches of the real thing."

Fallout Television

Anthony Edwards and the 2024 Minnesota Timberwolves


(Photo via @CarlosGphoto)

The Athletic - "Anthony Edwards sets tone for Suns series, charming even childhood hero Kevin Durant"

Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z) - "A.P.I.D.T.A." (from March 2020)

Illmatic 30 Years Later


WIRED - "Nas’ Illmatic Was the Beginning of the End of the Album"

"WHICH BRINGS US back to Illmatic. It seems unlikely any LLM could produce the lyrical virtuosity and inventiveness of “N.Y. State of Mind,” but it also seems unlikely, in the TikTok age, that the album could have been made in such relative seclusion. In 1994, there were no Instagram Live videos from the recording studio with song snippets. There were no podcasts where Large Professor (one of Illmatic’s producers) could leak secrets about the project. Part of Illmatic’s legend was in how it came from out of nowhere, and slowly demanded everyone’s attention. Today, there is no such thing as coming out of nowhere and slowly doing anything. In milliseconds, everything is everywhere.

On the consumption side, while Illmatic did benefit from prerelease buzz, it was not an immediate commercial success. Its appeal grew over the span of years, slowly accumulating listeners and fans. This is out-of-step with models of today. Outside of a few artists at the very top of the industry (Beyoncé, Drake), artists who are trying to catch on must play the numbers game: Release music in a steady manner with the hope that something goes viral, around which they can build a fan base. In 1994 there was no virality. Playing the long game was a responsible, often effective business strategy.

Lastly, there is the manner that Illmatic was discussed in. This might be where the differences between 1994 and 2024 are most apparent. The early ’90s had no hip-hop message boards. There was no social media. The legend of Illmatic was built from street corner to street corner, person to person, party to party.

The arguments of 1994—whether Illmatic was better than Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), a pair of cherished debut albums from 1993—were intense. But they didn’t result in trolling or doxxing. Only bruised egos and exhausted vocal chords. And most critically, almost everyone we argued with was someone we knew: a neighbor, family member, classmate, or coworker.

Music debates now take place in front of an audience of billions, 99.9 percent of whom we don’t (and will never) share a conversation with. Music opinions are no longer slow-cooked over the course of multiple trips (and Walkman listens) on the 1 train. Now they’re fried and processed on the (often) toxic stoves of social media timelines. In this world, reverence for music looks and feels different, enough for us to doubt whether there’s breathing room for the sort of appreciation that made the legend of Illmatic."

Sunday, April 14, 2024

High-Low of LA Restaurant 'Chain'


"The chef Tim Hollingsworth made it for what he called “Pizza Haute,” one of the meticulous themed dinners he cooks at Chain in Los Angeles, a regular pop-up that considers American fast food with an almost scholarly attention, exalting the genre with rigorous cooking and presentation.

Chain doesn’t specialize in the forensic trompe l’oeils of fine dining — those baroque lemon-flavored desserts made to look like real lemons until you cut into them, revealing layers of cream and cake. No, this is pizza disguised as, well, also pizza.

It’s a different kind of illusion: a restaurant that isn’t really a restaurant, selling fast food that isn’t really fast food? And it sent me — a person who isn’t really a person? — into a spiral. Was Chain celebratory and nostalgic or cynical and manipulative? Was it a marketing stunt, a performance piece or a loving rewrite of our culinary vernacular? Was it an indulgent dip into the past or a glimpse into the future?


uth De Jong, a production designer who recently worked on “Nope” and “Oppenheimer,” helped devise the look, jumbling together a vintage Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders vibe with ’90s arcade and video games and slick original design: curvy green lettering and red banquettes, elaborate plastic menus and self-referential poster ads. The effect is both jarring and sumptuous — a fast-food multiverse that seems to have always existed.

Hollywood Script Doctor Scott Frank

Lana Del Rey - "Baby I'm a Gangster, Too"

Khruangbin (pronounced krung-bin)—"Thai for “engine fly” or, less literally, “airplane”"


New York Times - "How Khruangbin’s Sound Became the New Mood Music"

Larry David — Fashion Critic


New York Times - "Is Larry David the Most Unsung Fashion Critic of Our Time?"

"Often, he invokes fashion during awkward or painful situations. In an early episode, when a grieving widow shows him a treasured photo of her husband, Mr. David zeros in on the dead man’s attire. “I love this shirt,” he tells the widow. “Do you have any idea where he got it?” he asks, a query that attests less to his acquisitive nature than to his own unease.

On “Curb,” Mr. David reserves some of his sharpest zingers for people who are trying too hard. In a midseries episode, his housemate Leon (J.B. Smoove), doing his best impersonation of an accountant, wears a suit with a bow tie and spectacles. “What’s with this suit?” Mr. David asks. “You look like Farrakhan.”"

2024 Euro Kits


 - "Euro 2024 kits: England, France, Scotland & what every team is wearing at the European Championship in Germany"

Sky Sports - "Euro 2024 kits revealed: Home and away shirts for England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Spain, Belgium and more"