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The Pipwick Papers

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I haven't done a Pipwick Papers in ages! It's because I've not really had as much downtime for reading and sharing articles. I've been leaning more towards books because of long journeys on the train or binge-watching shows before they get booted from various subscription services. But last night I went through a lot of feeds and emails and bookmarks and I have things I think are worthy of sharing:

Killer, kleptocrat, genius, spy: the many myths of Vladimir Putin by Keith Gessen

I read this a couple of months ago while walking through a really long tunnel - it's over a mile long and contains a lovely art installation, but I was so interested in this piece about Putin that I ambled and read instead of my usual meditation walking. It's this really interesting and thorough unpicking of a bunch of ways of thinking about Putin and how the assumptions or lazy conceptualisations probably say more about the people putting them forward than they do about Putin or Russian politics in general.

The Challenges of Keeping it Real by Nickolas Peter Chelyapov

This one is about the difficulty of using video to explain an optical illusion online where a still object looks like it's in motion:

Here’s the tricky part. The slow motion effect that happens is a real life optical illusion. It’s hard to believe when you are looking at it with your eyes. So how do you make a video of such a thing. Video is by nature a medium where we’re used to seeing unreal things.

And this is the part which explains the basic idea behind the product:

Imagine someone jumping rope inside a night club with a strobe light. If the strobes hit at the same exact point every time, the person would appear to be frozen in mid air. Now vary the offset a little and they’re moving in slow motion.

It's interesting both in terms of advertising decisions and in terms of how to express something that is maybe easy to do using film trickery but innovative and magical IRL. It's also what I'll need to settle for given the product itself is $299 (down from $399 but still nowhere near my budget for cool optical trickery).

Pokemon Go is a mass demon summoning that's destroying our reality by John Brindle

John Brindle is always worth a listen or a read, I've found. In this the headline is not exactly misleading but it's an extreme version of a point he unpacks really well about how we negotiate space as this multi-layered set of invisible boundaries, often without knowing exactly what they are but still being able to feel their presence and absence as well as the points where we can choose to cross them. Read this and then take a little walk and see how the world feels.

How Bachelor Contestants Cash In After the Show Is Over by Allie Jones

I'm always interested in how much or how little of the processes by which reality TV creates celebrity and its own attendant mini industries of sponsorship and lifestyle monetisation are actually understood by people who dip in and out. I know them partly because I read a lot and it fascinates me, but also because I worked in the strand of journalism that covers this stuff so you become really familiar with how the relationship with press and brands works. This isn't a meditation on the whys and wherefores, more of an outline as to how the timeline works and the demands of particular contracts as well as the sources you turn to for cash. It's so strange, though. I've been away from that side of the industry for a while now so things which had become the norm now strike me as bizarre or sad or capitalism ad absurdum.

Pavilion made from 300 pairs of blue jeans just popped up in Milan by Maria Novozhilova

I just really like the pictures here. The jeans end up as modular units of temporary architecture, creating this flexible mesh that marks out a kind of pavilion canopy of sorts.

Cassini's Grand Finale by NASA

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Between April and September 2017, Cassini will undertake a daring set of orbits that is, in many ways, like a whole new mission. Following a final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, Cassini will leap over the planet's icy rings and begin a series of 22 weekly dives between the planet and the rings.

No other mission has ever explored this unique region. What we learn from these final orbits will help to improve our understanding of how giant planets – and planetary systems everywhere – form and evolve.


At times, the spacecraft will skirt the very inner edge of the rings; at other times, it will skim the outer edges of the atmosphere. While the mission team is confident the risks are well understood, there could still be surprises. It's the kind of bold adventure that could only be undertaken at the end of the mission.

<3 ;_; <3

RIP Cassini: A Look Back At the Doomed Probe's Most Stunning Saturn Pictures by Rae Paoletta

I don't think I've ever looked at the various image streams NASA put out and not been rendered speechless. This selection is no exception.

My Father's Garden by Mary Ann P

The Smithsonian Gardens and Archives of American Gardens' Community of Gardens microsite is a true pleasure. The idea is that the site contains this kind of communal memory and transcribed oral history of garden spaces, so it's a participatory archive and the random garden button lets you surface one of the stories at a time, sinking into someone else's memory and sharing it for a brief while. My Father's Garden is the first piece I read on the site. Right now I'm reading about Prince Albert Leopold of Belgium visiting America incognito and posing as a door-to-door salesman while he stayed with his former florist. There's also this one - it's far simpler as tales go, and shorter, but as someone who goes for walks and finds the names of plants suddenly on the tip of my tongue thanks to my mother and grandmother I loved seeing that familial strand appear in someone else's writing.

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