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09 Sep 16:06

Wander Over Yonder Is a Gift to Your Inner ’90s Kid - The OTHER amazing Disney cartoon with a stupid airing schedule.

by Vrai Kaiser

westley b

Imagine: 30 Rock‘s Kenneth Parcell as an adorable, fuzzy lollipop alien, traveling the galaxy to help people alongside his grumbly best friend (think Amethyst with a side of Turanga Leela), never visiting the same planet twice, and constantly thwarting the fairly inept galactic conquest of a hulking, bratty skeleton overlord and his halfway-between-Spongebob-and-Ice-King right hand eyeball—all imagined through the lens of the guy behind The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. With Disney’s animation budget behind it as a trade-off for the equally Disney diabolical airing schedule. That’s Wander Over Yonder, an absolute treat for any longtime fan of animation.

bored hater

One of the side effects of modern animation’s current exploration of serialized narrative, visual storytelling, and often heady surrealism and gravitas (an exploration I’m all for, you may’ve noticed) is a corresponding backlash against silliness. I don’t mean a discarding of comedy – Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, and Adventure Time are all very funny shows – but there’s almost a sense of justification behind all of them. They all have a sense of grounding to them, and while magical or outlandish things might happen the casts are still bound by a consistent set of rules with corresponding consequences. They are, in their way, grounded.

It feels like the growing pains of a medium that’s always been treated as disposable trying to justify itself as art (and going about it with a lot more dignity than comics and videogames, as a general note). And it’s led to beautiful, wonderful art that I have been known to shout about loudly and with great joy. But cartoons are such an endlessly versatile thing, that it seems a shame to risk discarding part of their identity – or at least, to relegate some of its components to “disposable” cartoons (no one can deny, I think, that in nerd culture there are Cartoons We Talk About and The Rest of Them, and the divide is distinct indeed).

what is happiness

And then along came Wander Over Yonder with an Emmy nomination, a newfangled spot on the AV Club’s review roster, and not a single doubt that the show is a capital-C cartoon. It embraces old fashioned sound effects (slide whistles! Trombones!), goofy slapstick and at times the loosest sense of storytelling with earnest enthusiasm. I started this essay with more than a few references, and not just to give a sense of the juggernaut amount of talent going on behind the scenes (just for the record, ’90s kids will recognize Wander’s pal Sylvia, aka Apil Winchell, as Recess’s Miss Finster; Lord Hater VA Keith Ferguson previously popped up in creator Craig McCracken’s work as Bloo, not to mention guest star heavy hitters like Jennifer Hale and James Marsden).

The show as a whole often feels like a love letter to classic animation, taking up the baton from Animaniacs in terms of Warner Brothers homages and nodding all the way back to Fleischer and classic MGM (a show after my own heart, as someone who grew up on Tex Avery). There’s a sense in every frame of wanting to honor the cleverness and innovation of the old while mixing in elements of the new. “Dare to be stupid,” as McCracken himself homaged.

Its design mixes almost harsh color contrasts with thick lineart and loose animation that’s both sharply aware of how to creatively save costs and bust out the big guns for a truly spectacular showstopper chase or musical number. And such music! Folksy banjo tunes from Wander himself, played with such warmth by Jack McBrayer that I’m only sad I’ve not heard him sing before now; narrating-the-onscreen-action montage songs that are both on the nose and yet varied and light enough (the lyrics often take active attention to discern), and a few well-chosen leitmotifs for the central cast that serve the comedy as well as the heart.

As much as the classic animation nods and visual flair make the show stand out at a glance, it’s the show’s sentimental core that makes it worth staying for. Despite the amount of physical punishment an episode might give out, there are a set of bonds that the main cast values and is willing to fight for, which becomes the grounding element even when physical cause and effect go out the window.

op image

And core to it all is Wander himself, who at first glance is the typical naïve optimist heart a la Steven or Mabel. But that’s not quite true, and the distinction is part of what makes the show so refreshing: Wander is an adult, someone who’s seen the worst of the universe and is actively choosing to embrace hope, rather than a child whose big heart hasn’t been hurt yet; there’s a depth to him that the story touches on but allows to remain a touch “magical,” and enough flaws to keep his character from falling flat.

Perhaps most importantly, his Bugs Bunny-inspired hijinks lack the cruelty of some of his predecessors, forsaking the sense of karmic retribution (Hater particularly has been named as the “real” protagonist of the series, and he has his endearing little Team Rocket-esque victories) for an escape plan that lasts only until the pursuer is willing to slow down and make friends instead. There is something viscerally endearing about seeing that kind of knowing, zen positivity in an adult protagonist, and it sets Wander apart as something special.

The show has one completed season comprised of 39 episodes (mostly 11 minutes in length, excepting “The Little Guy”), and has currently aired seven episodes (one half hour, six 11 minute) of its second season. Said second season is split into four quarters each kicked off by a status quo changing half hour segment, and so far it’s been going from strength to strength. But if you’re thinking of jumping straight into the new material, let me give you some choice selections from the (episodic) first season to check out. For the sake of ease, and because all shows start out with growing pains, I’ve put them in airing order rather than trying to rank them (if you’re curious about the episodes I haven’t linked here, I’ve been livetweeting my way through the series).

SD in a nutshell

  1. The Prisoner – Hater’s second in command, Commander Peepers, successfully captures Wander. Kinda. Almost pure slapstick, but madcap in a raw and enjoyable way; the chase sequence heavily reminiscent of The Thief and the Cobbler basically guaranteed it a spot here.
  2. The Box – Wander and Sylvia are tasked to deliver a package, unopened. Wander really wants to know what’s inside. The first real glimpse of Wander as a flawed character and all the endearment that comes with it, with some downright Pink Elephants surrealism. My absolute favorite of the first dozen episodes.
  3. The Little Guy – One of Hater’s smallest watchdogs (voiced by Aziz Ansari) gets stranded with – er, “captures” Wander and Sylvia. A very rare full length episode for season one, easygoing and gentle with both the gags and the heartmelting ending.
  4. The Hero – HEROIC BRAD STARLIGHT sets out to fulfill his totally destined prophesy and enlists Wander as his sidekick. Because I wasn’t going to NOT include James Marsden basically playing a jerkier version of his character from Enchanted, or anything involving Jennifer Hale.
  5. The Tourist – Wander meets a fellow nomad and gets sucked into a competition over who’s been to more places. Episodes concentrating on Wander’s flaws tend to be my favorite – rather than detracting, they round out his sweet and gentle character to a wonderful whole.
  6. The Brainstorm – Peepers tries to successfully pitch an invasion plan to Hater. Or “the episode born from many frustrated writer room pitches.” The fantasy segments let the animators cut loose and have some fun at the expense of their own formula, and both this episode and “The Funk” do great work in highlighting the weird, dependent bond between Hatere and C. Peeps.
  7. The Void – Wander and Sylvia find a door into an empty dimension that can create anything. An absolute must for any fan of surreal animation, and a mad showcase of what the show can do at the furthest limits of its restraints (and also, a little bit, WOY’s response to the seminal “Duck Amok”). Fantastic start to finish.
  8. The Gift 2: the Giftening – Hater and Peepers try to figure out who’s been giving the watchdogs presents, spreading an infection of “happiness” across the ship. A brilliant tone piece that elevates Wander’s usual joy spreading to the full zombie plague treatment. This one’s the Emmy nod, and it couldn’t have deserved it more.
  9. The Buddies – Wander and Hater get dropped into a prison dimension, where Hater must pretend to be Wander’s friend. Any time Wander’s tireless attempts to warm up to Hater (and Hater’s downright tsundere response) get spotlighted is guaranteed to be a delight, with this having the distinction of getting a full episode focus.
  10. The Enemies – Brad and Hater team up to destroy Wander. Just when the chase pattern of the usual Hater episode threatened to grow stale, throwing in Brad’s unique brand of egoism makes it fresh again, with Wander’s unfailing cheeriness making this an electric clash of personalities.
  11. The Gift – The Wander-and-Sylvia side of “The Giftening.” A great exercise in how non-diegetic elements such as music, framing, and lighting can completely change an identical script. Also just a sweet cap to the season.

screwball jones

If you find yourself hooked, I’d recommend blowing straight through season 2 (speaking of, dear readers, would you be interested in following along with season 2 alongside yours truly?). As I said, there’s not been a bad episode yet. And it has Weird Al as an evil singing banana. What more could you want?

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Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they never thought they shed tears over a fuzzy space spoon, but here we are. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.

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09 Sep 16:30

An Open Letter to Aimee Nezhukumatathil

by Kazim Ali

Dear Aimee,

So the latest thing (why is there always a latest thing) is that a white man used a Chinese name to submit poems that were then chosen for Prairie Schooner and then included in Best American Poetry 2015 which of course has a lovely poem of yours in it too! Your first appearance, you said. The scandal no one is talking about (because they are talking about Michael Derrick Hudson’s appropriation of the name Yi-Fen Chou and judge Sherman Alexie’s ridiculous justification for including the poem) is that somehow this is your first time in that book? When you’ve been producing some of the most beautiful (and widely read) books of contemporary poetry now for more than ten years?

It calls into question of course, the notion of “best,” everyone knows that. Everyone knows these anthologies are subjective but you cannot argue with the general underrepresentation of women and people of color in all of these gatekeeping, canon-making structures. In a letter a long time ago, Annie Finch argued that women and people of color (and other marginalized writers) needed to participate in canon-making structures by reviewing, writing critically, curating events, translating, editing and publishing. I’ve taken that very much to heart and I know you have too. I think just looking at the landscape of contemporary writing the radically increased presence of Asian-American poets seems directly in relationship to Kundiman’s arrival on the scene ten years ago.

We have many such organizations now like VIDA and Cave Canem and VONA and the Lambda Literary Foundation. And yet organizations like AWPBest American Poetry, and other established national organizations have a long way to go. From the Undocupoets to the Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, there has also been a new commitment on the part of younger and less established writers to definitive action at creating space for themselves in the literary world. That world—like most others—operates by a system of gatekeeping, curating and defining that purports to be based on the nebulous idea of “literary merit.” No one has really been able to define “good writing” since, well, ever. And the notion of “merit” is predicated on a system of privileges based on race, class, gender, physical and mental abilities, sexuality and other factors.

Students with access to the best secondary education receive opportunities and support to enroll in the best colleges. I haven’t seen the numbers but I will wager that students who enroll in the best colleges have a better than average chance of getting into the best graduate programs. Sure, there are probably exceptions to the rule, but the “exception” proves the rule, as they say. I know many writers (maybe the best ones, I don’t know) are not coming through the academic route but from my perspective (from inside said academy) I know the advantages that sustained study and time to focus can offer writers of color.

Whose books are getting published? Who is getting chosen to be on the committees and boards that set the agendas for professional conferences? Who is “curating?” Sherman Alexie disappointed me so much when he characterized his very correct instinct toward inclusivity as “racial nepotism.” He compounded that disappointment by arguing that “most” white writers who benefited from nepotism were good writers, so why complain? And then of course the worst part: even after discovering that Hudson has adopted a Chinese pseudonym he allowed the poem to be published, thus cinching for me the irrelevance of his particular kind of editorial acumen. There’s no such thing as reading “blind.” Context always matters.

Which hurts of course because he chose your poem also and I celebrate your work. Maybe we need a different approach. Maybe we don’t need a “Best,” especially not one published by a corporate publisher with guest editors chosen through some nebulous process. The most interesting volume of that series (in which I also appeared once) is the one from 1996 whose editor, Adrienne Rich, spent her introduction arguing precisely against the notion of “literary merit.” It was the only volume whose contents were excluded from the Best of the Best American Poetry edited by Harold Bloom. Which is enough to recommend it to me.

You and I are both poets who are experiencing a measure (a large measure, some would say) of success in publishing and “mainstream” (whatever in the world that could mean in relationship to poetry, but still–) exposure in the poetry world. We publish with established presses, in big journals, are tenured in academic institutions. Hey, we have both now been in Best American Poetry!

But you know something? This Yi-Fen Chou thing makes me wonder if to gatekeepers my life, my experiences, my writing are just decoration in the larger white narrative. Maybe the fact of what relative success I do enjoy means I am a “safe” writer, unthreatening. Did I get this far because I am a queer writer, a Muslim writer, a South Asian writer? Now I am filled with doubts because all of those things are precisely what made me feel marginalized.

Aimee, I’ve haven’t just been in American Poetry Review, I’ve been on its cover. So if someone like me, having been in that position, could be afflicted by this kind of doubt, imagine what it is like for our younger peers, the young Kazim and the young Aimee out there who are constantly being told that their kind of English, their kind of poetry isn’t right, plus their parents don’t want them to major in English or Creative Writing in the first place or they couldn’t go to college for economic or social reasons, plus even if they got in they were unable to get accepted into a Creative Writing workshop anyhow.

I remember huddling up in the hotel bar with you at the last AWP, talking about how difficult it is to teach at all—that we have to turn away so many students you want to work with. And we talked about how we ourselves are seen as writers and teachers of color—that being Asian/Pacific does not help you that much when programs are looking to diversify their faculties because for the majority of them, there is a hierarchy of inclusion. I can tell you this: when you talked about how hard it is to walk through the world with the name “Nezhukumatathil” is struck a chord in me. Not just because our names are hard to “say” properly but because that is just a metaphor for our lives. Our lives are hard to “say” properly. That is what we do in literature. And you and I have comparatively easy. We had some level of class privilege, we got educations; we also had the protection that our skin (i.e. not Black) afforded us in the larger world. But for all of that, we both know how hard it was to get everything we’ve gotten—how hard to get attention paid to us in a workshop, how difficult to beat the odds and get into a good graduate school to get the jobs we have, to be taken seriously by our colleagues in the jobs we have! Our challenge continues.

I had a friend—a friend—tell me I was lucky because being a Muslim poet was “hot,” i.e. it would help me get published. Do you know how lovely it has been to be a Muslim, a gay one at that, in post-2001 America? So very lovely, let me tell you. And if there is an editor out there who is forward thinking and wants to pay a little more attention to my poems because that person thinks a Muslim perspective would be valuable and interesting then I’ll take it. Unapologetically.

But the transformation can’t just be curatorial within existing institutions; it has to be structural. Those institutions—academic programs, journals, presses, anthologies, associations, what Mark Nowak used to call “the neo-liberal language industry”—have to make real and concrete transformations toward serving writers of color, lower income writers and so on.

The issue of transforming the landscape of literature is huge and complicated. I get that. But I know a couple of things—writers and teachers of color who have access to broader platforms can contribute to structural changes that allow more diverse voices to develop and be heard. The notion of an unbiased concept “literary merit” is an inherently and inescapably racist principle. An institution that relies on it is by definition a white supremacist institution.

The institutions are racist because by not taking into account issues of cultural and national and sexual and other kinds of “difference,” they are proactively promoting types of poetry and writing that supports established political and economic systems. An organization like AWP can prove its relevance by seriously and structurally addressing issues of inclusion. Every publisher, every series like Best American Poetry, should be doing the same. And if organizations like these ones can’t change or refuse structural change (not just inviting or including more writers of color into their halls or pages) then they are actually doing harm and ought to be done away with.

In the meantime, I have to support and laud organizations like Kundiman and the Lambda Literary Foundation, both of whom I have taught for, for creating spaces in which writers from marginalized communities can develop and grow. Publishers like Alice James Books, who have done so much to bring emerging Asian-American poets to publication and Sibling Rivalry Press who have done the same for queer voices, also deserve praise and support. The model’s not perfect and there are still access issues to work through but these are the kinds of organizations that are doing the work in poetry I want to be involved with and support.

I know a lot of your friends are sending you notes of support on social media telling you how much your poem in Best American Poetry deserves the attention it gets there and that they (we) hope that the Yi-Fen Chou thing doesn’t detract from that. But what I really want to tell you is that your poetry has always been the best of American poetry to me. And you’ve been an incredible teacher and role model for many younger poems, including (especially?) Asian/Pacific diaspora poets. Your worth was neither validated nor compromised by your appearance in the Best American Poetry anthology.

We are all working toward making contact with our readers who are out there, no matter many or few they are. These kinds of anthologies and institutions can help us reach more of them and so I do advocate the building and supporting of literary institutions. I believe in a broad and comprehensive contextual understanding of poetic “craft;” I believe in editing and curating but not the kind that relies on old and unquestioned ideas. I believe in creative writing workshops but not the kind that exclude students based on outdated notions of “talent” or “skill.” I am looking forward to a different and more inclusive future.

And in the meantime I want to tell you that I honor your work so much. And you—everything about you: your poetry, your way of presenting yourself in the community, your kindness, your STYLE, your life as a teacher and mother and mentor, your role in Kundiman—have always been a major source of inspiration to me. I want to be more like you, devoted to the human and devoted to poetry. And the way you exist as a poet is a comfort to me because you make space in the world for me, you make it safe for me to be the kind of human and poet I want and need to be.

Your friend and supporter and reader,
Kazim Ali

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28 Jul 17:41

Facebook Publishes Its Managing Bias Course For All

by Issie Lapowsky
Facebook Publishes Its Managing Bias Course For All

The social network is positioning itself as a leader in diversity efforts, even though it still has a lot to learn.

The post Facebook Publishes Its Managing Bias Course For All appeared first on WIRED.

24 Jul 17:04

There’s a Volcano Called Kick ‘Em Jenny, and It’s Angry

by Erik Klemetti
There’s a Volcano Called Kick ‘Em Jenny, and It’s Angry

Earthquakes and bubbles in the sea suggest Kick 'Em Jenny off Grenada is going to erupt soon.

The post There’s a Volcano Called Kick ‘Em Jenny, and It’s Angry appeared first on WIRED.

23 Jul 05:00

Primer: A beginner’s guide to the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe

by Caroline Siede

Primer is The A.V. Club’s ongoing series of beginners’ guides to pop culture’s most notable subjects: filmmakers, music styles, literary genres, and whatever else interests us—and hopefully you. This installment: the sprawling expanse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Prerequisites: A History Lesson

Back in 2005, the idea of superheroes hanging out together on-screen was as absurd as the thought of someone making another Star Wars trilogy. While superheroes often team up on the pages of comic books, movie licensing deals limited specific characters to specific studios for specific franchises. On the big screen, Superman stayed in Metropolis, Batman in Gotham City, and the X-Men and Spider-Man lived in two separate versions of New York produced, respectively, by 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.

But around that time Marvel Comics was growing dissatisfied with the way its characters were being presented on-screen in critical flops like 2003 ...

19 Jul 19:30

Jamie Lee Curtis Pulls an Adam Savage and Attends EVO 2015 Disguised as Vega from Street Fighter - Oh, Jamie Lee Curtis, you are just grand.

by Jessica Lachenal

Grad trip to @evo2k. 2 stay incognito was Vega who wears a mask. @StreetFighter family. DJ, Dr. Bosconovich, Makoto.

— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) July 18, 2015

This weekend was EVO 2015, and paying a visit was none other than Jamie Lee Curtis along with her entire family. Of course, as one does at EVO, she went in disguise as Vega, one of the Street Fighter characters. In fact, her entire family went in costume, including her husband Christopher Guest who was dressed as Dr. Bosconovitch, from Tekken. They were all there for her son’s graduation trip.

No word yet on whether anyone spotted her or her family. How cool would it be to realize you were sitting next to Curtis after you got home and saw the news?

Don’t forget that Curtis has some of her own fighting game chops. In an interview she did for Spare Parts, she mentioned that she’s all about fighting games, especially Street Fighter. Her main? Cammy. Who else?

(via Vulture)

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20 Jul 15:24

High-resolution, deliberately "inaccurate" maps

by Rob Beschizza


Project Linework posts maps in a variety of loosey-goosey styles, for people who want things almost right. Read the rest

07 Jul 19:47

Great Job, Internet!: The visual effects in Game Of Thrones’ battle of Hardhome, deconstructed

by Lisa Rabasca Roepe

Game Of Thrones’ Battle Of Hardhome was, without a doubt, the biggest throwdown in the fifth season of the HBO show. And now, Spanish VFX company El Ranchito has deconstructed the whole thing, demonstrating how the show used green screens, neon spandex, and other effects magic to convince viewers that nothing is more terrifying than thousands of wights attacking the Wildlings and the Night’s Watch as the White Walkers watch atop their undead horses.

El Ranchito released a five-minute video that breaks down the most chilling moments from “Hardhome,” including the invasion of the wight army, Jon Snow shattering a White Walker with Longclaw, and Wun Wun the giant tearing a wight in half.

[Via The Daily Dot]

30 Jun 22:40

Sugary drinks kill 184,000 people each year through diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according t

by George Dvorsky

Sugary drinks kill 184,000 people each year through diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according to new research from Tufts University. “It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” notes lead researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, who says these drinks have no health benefits.


22 Jun 15:17

Zoe Saldana Says Hollywood Had an Issue with Her Getting Pregnant, Thinks They Should Pay for Childcare

by Jill Pantozzi

ZoeSaldanaI don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mess with Zoe Saldana.

Speaking with USA Today, Saldana expressed her… frustrations with the reactions to her recent pregnancy (she had twins!).

“Let me tell you something, it will never be the right time for anybody in your life that you get pregnant,” says Saldana, noting that last year, “the productions I was slated to work on sort of had a panic. I heard through the grapevine there was even a conversation of me being written off of one of the projects.”

Her reaction?

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, are you kidding me? It’s this bad?’ Right when I just feel super-duper happy, is that inconvenient for you? That me, as a woman in my thirties, I finally am in love and I am finally starting my life? And it’s (screwing) your schedule up? Really?”

Yes, really. And of course it’s not an issue that belongs to Hollywood alone. Countless employers are wary of hiring women they believe are about to start a family and some will even straight up discriminate against them. Then of course there’s the paid leave issue for after employees have a baby and USA Today mentions a 2014 study from the Families and Work Institute, writing “only 20% of large employers (with 1,000 or more employees) provide child care at the workplace, and just 5% contribute financially toward it.”

Saldana thinks there’s an imbalance considering studios will

“spend more money sometimes ‘perking’ up male superstars in a movie,” she says, paying for private jets, a coterie of assistants and bodyguards or booking “a really phat penthouse or them staying in a yacht instead of them staying on land.”

“But then a woman comes in going, ‘OK, I have a child. You’re taking me away from my home. You’re taking my children away from their home. And you’re going to make me work a lot more hours than I usually would if I was home. Therefore, I would have to pay for this nanny for more hours — so I kind of need that. And they go, ‘Nope, we don’t pay for nannies.’ “

More and more actors are speaking out every day about the sexism inherent in the industry, both behind the scenes and in front. It took Sony’s recent email hack to get Jennifer Lawrence paid more than her male co-star Chris Pratt — what will it take to help fix Saldana, and others’, issues?

Feliz dia de los Padres a mi compañero de todo. Mi Marco. Happy Father’s Day to my everything. My Marco

A photo posted by Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) on

(via US Weekly)

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22 Jun 16:38

Listen to Marc Maron's WTF interview with President Obama

by Mark Frauenfelder

Marc Maron and President Obama had a relaxed and fascinating one-hour conversation in Maron's Pasadena, California garage, where Maron produces his popular WTF Podcast.

Read the rest
23 Jun 17:14

Fascinating guide to antique space maps (Also, the Earth is square)

by David Pescovitz

Above, a map of the "Square and Stationary Earth" (1893) by a Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Read the rest

24 Jun 11:00

Op-ed: Why Houston employers must support STEM education

by Gabriella Rowe
Houston is in line to create hundreds of thousands of STEM jobs in the coming years, but we won't have the workers to fill them unless several things change. By the year 2018, more than 715,000 STEM-related jobs are projected in Texas, according to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a 9 percent growth in engineering professions from 2012 to 2022. While that’s promising news for Houston’s economy, and in…
24 Jun 12:00

How To Turn Off Gmail's Sucky Hangouts And Get The Old Chat

by John Brownlee

Notice a change to your Gchat? Hate it? Don't panic.

After two years of gently suggesting that users switch from the classic Gchat UI to the newer Hangouts platform, Google surprised Gmail users around the world this week by automatically switching everyone over. Luckily, there's an easy way to get the old Gchat back. Which is a good thing, because Hangouts in Gmail just sucks compared to Gchat.

Read Full Story

15 Jun 09:25

How Do I Get People To Speak Up In Brainstorming Meetings?

by Art Markman

"Anybody have any ideas?" . . . Anybody? . . . We tackle how to get people talking.

We've all been in that brainstorming meeting: the one where you could hear a pin drop, and the white board of "great ideas" remains blank. It's awkward for participants and downright excruciating for the person leading the meeting.

Read Full Story

16 Jun 18:22

Christopher Lee Reads “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 Classic

by Dan Colman

Last Friday, after we marked the passing of Christopher Lee by featuring his reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 narrative poem “The Raven,” we stumbled, by chance, upon Lee’s reading of another Poe classic–“The Tell-Tale Heart.” Operating with the theory that there’s no such thing as too much Edgar Allan Poe, and certainly no such thing as too much Christopher Lee reading Edgar Allan Poe, we’ve featured that second reading above. It’ll be added to our collection of 630 Free Audio Books

via the Edgar Allan Poe Facebook Page

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

17 Jun 07:00

My Awesome Solar Boost Purse #WearableWednesday

by Leslie Birch


I try to journey once a month from Philly to New York, and on those days, especially in winter, my phone tends to die. I remember carefully planning my afternoon between coffee shops and train stations where I might find an outlet to plug my phone. One of the most frustrating times was trying to visit a wearable tech show in Brooklyn with no power. I made it there, but I knew there was no way I was going to navigate back to my Bolt Bus stop without my trusty subway app. Luckily, Becky Stern was there and gave me a spare power box from her Solar Boost Bag project. I remember liking that project, and it was that moment when I figured out it was the perfect New York solution. So, I set about putting one together.

Choosing the Right Purse/Bag

Although I liked Becky’s bag shown in the tutorial for this project, I really wanted something that would look nice in a business situation, or something more casual. A black purse just seemed right. Here’s what you should be looking for:

  • Sturdy Material – I opted for a medium vinyl, but a heavy canvas also works well. You want it to support the solar panel without caving in.
  • A Front Pocket – this is crucial for the storage of the power pack, hiding the cable and accessing the interior of the purse behind the lining
  • Comfort/Placement – You want to be able to hold the bag, but have a good part of the solar panel exposed while you are walking

Lets’s get down to the details here. First, the material has to be sturdy, but it also can’t be too thick. The screws that come mounted on the solar panel are quite short, so my purse made of vinyl backed with thin foam was just thick enough. Any more would not have allowed the bolt to be tightened on the screw. As for the front pocket, you’ll need to cut open the lining of that pocket in order to get directly behind the fabric on the outside of the bag without compromising the inside fabric. Granted, I could have chosen to puncture holes entirely through the wall of vinyl and the inside layers, but then it would have maxed out the screw length anyway. That front pocket is also handy because it allows you to store the cord for the solar panel, and it also is big enough for the power box when in charging mode.


Construction Tips

Here are some things that made the project easier:

  • A Nice Wire Stripper/Cutter – For cutting the cable on the solar panel to replace the barrel jack
  • White Grease Pencil – I used this on the tips of the screws to mark the placement on the purse
  • Jeweler’s Screwdriver – I didn’t have an awl, so this is what I used to create holes for the solar panel
  • Hair Dryer – Replaces a heat gun for the heat shrink tubing on the cable

Probably the only tricky thing in this project is snipping off the barrel jack on the solar panel since you have to replace it with a different size jack for the power box. The cable is quite thick and my combination of mini-Leatherman stripper and small nippy cutters took three attempts until I got it right. You really want to have the black and red protective casing exposed on those small wires when you go to solder the new jack. That way when you apply the heat shrink tube you will be sure to have no shorts.


Why I Love It

  • Power When You Need It- Keep the power box charged and you can keep it in any purse
  • Good all year round-Even when the sun isn’t shining, you can also charge the power box through an AC outlet
  • Meets My Specs-This purse is practical and good looking

I’ve had fun taking this purse to a park where it charges nicely laying on it’s side. I’ve also been able to charge it on my windowsill, although the glass window does make the process slower. The cool thing is that wherever you take it, people definitely notice it, and it’s a reminder that alternative power can be incorporated into our lives. So,take advantage of this sunny weather and follow our Solar Boost Bag tutorial. You’ll have something useful for the beach and definitely a good traveling companion.

Flora breadboard is Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!

17 Jun 07:57

A Proportional Visualization of the World’s Most Popular Languages

by Dan Colman


Click to view in a big, high-res format

Last week we highlighted for you a beautiful Tree of Languages infographic, created by Minna Sundberg using data from This week, we present another visualization of world languages, this one produced by Alberto Lucas Lopéz, on behalf of the South China Morning Post. And, once again, the underlying data comes from, a research project that catalogues all of the world’s known living languages.

Today’s graphic — click here to view it in a large format — takes the world’s 23 most popular languages, and then gives you a visual sense of how many people actually speak those languages overall, and where geographically those languages are spoken. The more a language is spoken, the more space it gets in the visual.

When you view the original graphic, you’ll note that Chinese speakers outnumber English speakers by a factor of four. And yet English is spoken in 110 countries, as compared to 33 for Chinese. And the number of people learning English worldwide dwarfs the number learning Mandarin.

As you look through Lopéz’s visual, you’ll want to keep one thing in mind: Although the 23 languages visualized above are collectively spoken by 4.1 billion people, there are at least another 6700 known languages alive in the world today. Someone has to cook up a proportional visualization of those. Any takers?

Speaking of learning popular languages, don’t miss our collection: Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More.

via Mental Floss

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Related Content:

The Tree of Languages Illustrated in a Big, Beautiful Infographic

The History of the English Language in Ten Animated Minutes

Noam Chomsky Talks About How Kids Acquire Language & Ideas in an Animated Video by Michel Gondry

17 Jun 11:50

Image: Tropical Storm Bill from the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly), currently on a one-year mission to the International Space Station, took this photograph of Tropical Storm Bill in the Gulf of Mexico as it approached the coast of Texas, on June 15, 2015.
17 Jun 11:44

Research on The Trade-off Between Free Services and Personal Data

by schneier

New report: "The Tradeoff Fallacy: How marketers are misrepresenting American consumers and opening them up to exploitation."

New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americas give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. To the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that 'data for discounts' is a square deal.

The findings also suggest, in contrast to other academics' claims, that Americans' willingness to provide personal information to marketers cannot be explained by the public's poor knowledge of the ins and outs of digital commerce. In fact, people who know more about ways marketers can use their personal information are more likely rather than less likely to accept discounts in exchange for data when presented with a real-life scenario.

Our findings, instead, support a new explanation: a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data­ -- and that is why many appear to be engaging in tradeoffs. Resignation occurs when a person believes an undesirable outcome is inevitable and feels powerless to stop it. Rather than feeling able to make choices, Americans believe it is futile to manage what companies can learn about them. Our study reveals that more than half do not want to lose control over their information but also believe this loss of control has already happened.

By misrepresenting the American people and championing the tradeoff argument, marketers give policymakers false justifications for allowing the collection and use of all kinds of consumer data often in ways that the public find objectionable. Moreover, the futility we found, combined with a broad public fear about what companies can do with the data, portends serious difficulties not just for individuals but also -- over time -- for the institution of consumer commerce.

Some news articles.

17 Jun 13:10

What is the Kuiper Belt?

Dr. Mike Brown is a professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech. He's best known as the man who killed Pluto, thanks to his team's discovery of Eris and other Kuiper Belt Objects. We asked him to help us explain this unusual region of our solar system.
15 Jun 15:00

On Game Of Thrones, Revenge Is Best Served With A Twist

by Charlie Jane Anders

The season finale of Game of Thrones was basically a series of vignettes where various characters got their revenge... usually with an ironic twist. It was a lot to take in. But it did disprove once and for all the idea that Littlefinger is a brilliant mastermind. Spoilers avaunt!


11 Jun 14:30

Celebrate Sir Christopher Lee's Career With His Many Cinematic Deaths

by Rob Bricken

I’m devastated at the loss of the great Sir Christopher Lee, arguably cinema’s finest screen villain and certainly one of its most prolific. But as we mourn the man, we should also celebrate his incredible body of work — including this compilation of his many, many fantastic death scenes.


04 Jun 18:05

Presidential Candidate Lincoln Chaffee Proposes That US Go Metric

by timothy
New submitter Applehu Akbar writes: The good news is that for the first time in years, a candidate in the next presidential cycle has proposed completing our transition to the metric system. Though unfortunately it's Lincoln Chaffee, let's all hope that this long-standing nerd issue gets into the 2016 debate because of this. Warning: Lame CNN autoplaying video.

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Read more of this story at Slashdot.

04 Jun 19:35

Why Facebook Is Evil, According To Mindblowing New Series Mr. Robot

by Annalee Newitz on Gizmodo, shared by Annalee Newitz to io9

The dark, psychological hacker drama Mr. Robot slayed audiences at South by Southwest, and now it’s become a series on USA. It’s one of those rare shows that actually seems to understand what’s corrupt and rotten at the heart of the tech industry — and wants to burn it all down. We talked to the show creator.


02 Jun 19:27

The Onion on NSA Surveillance

by schneier

Funny, and true.

More seriously.

02 Jun 10:30

The Psychology Of Why So Many People Are Anti-GMO

by Adele Peters

Scientists say that GMOs are just fine. But the public thinks otherwise. Are our fears rational?

Think of a science denier, and you might picture someone arguing that climate change isn't real or vaccines cause autism. But the biggest chasm between scientists and the public is actually over GMOs: 88% of U.S. scientists say genetically modified foods are safe to eat, and only 37% of Americans agree.

Read Full Story

03 Jun 11:51

The Staggering Human Cost of World War II Visualized in a Creative, New Animated Documentary

by Dan Colman

“More people died in World War II than any other war in history,” explains Neil Halloran in The Fallen of World War II. In his 15-minute film, Halloran uses innovative data visualization techniques to put the human cost of WW II into perspective, showing how some 70 million lives were lost within civilian and military populations across Europe and Asia, from 1939 to 1945. As one commenter put it, “One million, six million, seventy million. Spoken or written, these numbers become … incomprehensible. Presented graphically, they hit closer to the heart. As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had become frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought.” He’s referring to the staggering number of Soviets who died fighting the Nazis. If you fast forward to the 6-minute mark above, you can see what he means.

The video comes accompanied by an interactive website, where users can “pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.” To use this interactive website, you will need a fairly new computer and a modern browser.

You can contribute money and support the ongoing Fallen of World War II project here.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Related Content:

Free Online History Courses

Watch World War II Rage Across Europe in a 7 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1939 to 1945

31 Rolls of Film Taken by a World War II Soldier Get Discovered & Developed Before Your Eyes

Dramatic Color Footage Shows a Bombed-Out Berlin a Month After Germany’s WWII Defeat (1945)

02 Jun 14:14

Neal Stephenson's Seveneves: five thousand years of apocalypse and rebirth

by Cory Doctorow
Neal Stephenson's no stranger to ambition, but his new novel Seveneves stretches to lengths (and heights) that beggar the imagination. Read the rest
03 Jun 14:20

Image: How liquids of different densities behave in weightlessness

In space everything is different. In a world with no up or down, hot air does not rise and liquids behave differently, too. In your kitchen, salad dressings will separate into the heavier vinegar on the bottom and the lighter oil on top. This separation does not occur without weight and liquids stay in suspension indefinitely.