The Quebec Simpsons and fore-edge painting

Plus: an artist's method, zines, and singing schools of fish

The Quebec Dub. I think anyone who grew up on television has wondered at one point or another this same thing: what are shows are like in translation all over the world? How good a job do they do, consistently, translating the idiom of jokes, moods, and references, so that they hit the same way in other places? And what about accents? Tone? Are we, like, even watching the same show at that point? And unless I gain full native (and sort of residential/cultural) fluency in another language, how will I ever know what the differences feel like?

This amazing Twitter thread breaks down the dub of The Simpsons made for French-speaking Quebec vs. the dub made for French-speaking France.

Fore-edge painting! No reason why this shouldn’t become a thing again. Video and tweet below the still photo:

8. I like to scream when I work. This interview with audio artist Sharon Mashihi has given me chills each time I read it. Often when you ask someone who is very good at something for pro tips on how they approach their work, you get either pretty dead prose or pretty rote advice, or both. It’s not their fault - insight into how you work may or may not come easy, and the way you do things may or may not be useful for a reader to follow. It has no connection to or bearing on you as an artist or creator; it’s just an incredible bonus when in addition to your output there’s something there that others can draw from relating to method.

This is that rare instance where it’s thrilling to peek in to the artist’s world. And it’s concrete. And it gives you things you could try on for size.

Things I’ve Learned: Sharon Mashihi

Bonus banana: Fish sing together like birds and sing dawn and dusk choruses. Listen! And here’s a convincing appeal to go back to zines.

These are the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” to send me something, and the email will go only to me. You can buy me a coffee for the troubles using coins, cash, or this handy site. If you are hungry to help this thing grow, you could also share it with a friend, colleague, or enemy, or send a tweet to the platform, Substack, to suggest that they could feature this newsletter in a shoutout. Thank you.

Work, magnetosense, and character

Work. A violin and cello duo at the 42nd st. station absolutely tore up the Rihanna classic “Work”. Found via @theferocity.

Maybe the magnetite found me/the sense field of magnetism. There’s pretty strong evidence that animals can sense magnetic fields. Some rely on it for navigation. And not just birds.

“…flieshoneybeesants and termitessnailsnewtsvarious fishfrogssea turtleslobsterspigeonsmicebatsmole ratsfoxescattle and deer all have a magnetosense.”

There’s mounting evidence and a fascinating history to the research around whether that same sense exists in some form in humans. You can read more in this great essay, Human Magnetism.

If you follow the narrative traced in this article, there was a pocket of good experimental evidence for that from the late 70’s through the late 80’s that was extremely compelling but resisted efforts at repeatability for a good long while. That and the inability to get financial backing for further experiments (it seemed like a pretty far out topic after all) stalled out exploration quite a bit. But just in the last several years, DARPA has supported new experimental approaches that confirmed the human brain’s reactivity to magnetic field changes.

“‘The alpha wave is the thing to look at in the brain – it’s the resting state. It monitors the senses. If a signal comes in, this alpha-wave hum sharply drops. That was the huge discovery.’ (-Joe Kirschvink, lead researcher) The magnetic field was the only signal the participants’ brains could be responding to – they were sensing it.

This new evidence for a human magnetosensory capacity implies that our early primate ancestors and even hunter-gatherers, our relatively more recent descendants, had access to magnetoreception because they needed it for survival. But if we had this mechanism so long ago, can we still use it or has it been phased out in antiquity?”

As a side note, one of the stepping stones in this story was figuring out what organ is the seat of magnetosensing in animals and humans. All the other senses we have tend to reside somewhere in the body. The search for what makes magnetosense work brought researchers like Joe Kirschvink to a magnetic iron ore called magnetite, which can be found in the kinds of creatures that react to magnetism, from bacteria to bees to…yep, human brains. Kirschvink confirmed that you can find magnetite in human brain samples by 1992.

When I came across the first mention of magnetite in this article, my own brain lit up. When I was a kid up to my early teenage years, as part our vacation car trips my parents took us to pan for gold in Northwestern Maine, on the Swift River. In the shovelsful of riverside dirt, we’d find the occasional fleck of gold, but we also found a bunch of magnetite. I hadn’t really thought about that stuff until I came across this article. Maybe I was drawn to it.

I found this article through Twitter friend who recently finished a book on the subject of magnets that seems like it’ll address some of this area of study and much more. It’s coming out in mid-September. It’s a part of a really great series of books called Object Lessons, which are extended and deeply researched essays on particular topics of everyday interest. The authors and their unique perspectives are always well-chosen. The book is called Magnet, by Eva Barbarossa. Please consider buying it direct from Bloomsbury or putting an order in at your local indie bookstore. Here’s a tool that may help with that. Consider this mode of purchase for many reasons, some of which Lucy Bellwood beautifully lays out here.

And do check out that essay on human magnetosensing.

Christopher McQuarrie’s method. I’m not sure if this was an answer given during a twitter film chat or just a random tweet, but it crossed my timeline somehow and caught my eye. It’s a rare glimpse into a master screenwriter’s technique. McQuarrie wrote one of my favorite low key action movies, The Way Of The Gun, which is also one of James Caan’s most enjoyable late career performances. This answer is simple, direct, and straightforward, and leaves you with something concrete to think about.

I’m turning it over again and again as I think about narrative podcast pacing and how to pick just the right moments and how to go from node to node on the path. He follows it up in the thread, too:

Bonus banana: The history of Soviet arcade games is fascinating, and very different from the same in the US. Check out this snippet: “The main producers of Soviet arcade machines were military factories, because they had funds and the skills to produce them, usually using leftover parts from real weapons, electronics and redundant pieces of industrial equipment.”

These are the bananas I found for you this week. If you like these, forward the email along to someone who might be in to it too. That’ll help us grow.

You can hit “reply” and drop me a note, and it’ll go only to me.

Thank you.

Missing Alien War, exploding books, a reverse payment model

And a few lagniappe bananas

Missed connections with Alien War. For the better part of an academic year from 1995-6, I lived as a student in Central London. I like to think I learned a whole lot about and experienced a lot of the culture there, but I was growing and evolving at the time too, and, well, some things seem to have painfully just passed me by completely. I hadn’t thought about the crazy entertainment complex at the Trocadero in Picadilly Circus for a long time, and then I came across this thread that gives a history of some very unique offerings that hit their peak during my time there. “Alien War” was a wild live adventure experience that was there for just a short time. From the thread:

“Guests who entered Alien War - similar to a haunted house, with live actors - found themselves in the dim halls of a Weyland-Yutani freighter. Sets/props from the Alien films were used in the building of the attraction, and key FX staff from the franchise worked on the project.”

Imagine this, but in 1996. There was just nothing around like it.

I remember a guy in my dorm, Francois, who it turns out was a super smart economics major visiting from the esteemed Sciences-Po in France, exclaiming “Alien War!” in endearing Franglish from time to time with excitement. I walked by this place a zillion times. Never went in. What was wrong with me?

According to this thread there was also a one-of-a-kind Segaworld/Sonic The Hedgehog exhibit over there, crazy cool light shows…A lot of stuff, none of which I saw. I think some of my dorm-mates did get there, and, well good for them. If any of y’all are reading this, please send your recollections and I’ll update the thread, or comment below.

Scroll through this amazing trip through Trocadero history. It’s chock full of photos and well worth your time. And reflect on how easy it is to miss things happening all around you all the time.

A complete thread on exploding books. A UK Primary school teacher tweeted to show off a very cool project he did with his class. They created these “exploding” books, that come to life by unfolding panels instead of by turning bound pages. The source material they used for the books was Robert Macfarlane’s “The Lost Words,” an illustrated book of spells about nature words (like bluebell, dandelion, acorn) that are disappearing from children’s lives and literature, which sounds like a book I need to own.

So first you see this spirit-lifting work by the kids. Then the first reply I see in the thread is from the author himself:

And you also get more than one link from other Twitter folk to the recipes for how to make these books. And lots of teachers sharing their work and excitement. And links to more works inspired by The Lost Words. And right before your eyes unfolds a whole world that a moment ago you knew nothing about. It would be easy to forget that complete threads like this exist on Twitter; they’re rarely celebrated or curated by the platform. Part of my mission with this newsletter is to keep my eye out for them, for us all to find and enjoy.

A super smart subscription idea. Mschf internet studios, which I feel a kinship with from my old Giantheads days, has a mailing list that’s sort of subscription in reverse. You give them your Venmo payment id, and every time they have a new project to announce, they make a micropayment in to your account to go with the email announcing it. I love the thinking, and it’s been rattling around in my brain ever since.

Bonus bananas: There are a few extras that hitched a ride in the bushel this week. Check out why pencils are traditionally yellow. Look at a graph of how people in the UK met over time, from 1940 to the present. And enjoy this thread of loose thoughts about cinema, thought, and the mechanics of seeing from a Twitter user I have really come to enjoy.’

Those are all the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it will go only to me. Thank you.

Cootie Catchers, Hair Metal, and GPS

And a visit from a very special onion

Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog in a Cootie Catcher. Sometimes new, non-strictly-linear approaches to storytelling feel like they are a whole lot of innovation for its own sake, and not a whole lot of user/reader value. Not so with this Kickstarter, which makes such amazing sense once you see it and read a bit about it.

“An eerie tale told through twenty-six paper fortune tellers.”

I *love* this idea, and the illustration style so beautifully fits the story and the mechanism.

“Each cootie catcher features eight possible endings—but the endings are also beginnings, complications, transformations, jumping-off points for other parts of the tale. Read them alone or with a partner, using any method you like: counting off bolded words and numbers, choosing panels that strike your fancy, or simply laying them flat. From jailbreaks to kissing practice, murders to museum heists, each trip through Lianna Fled the Cranberry Bog reveals new sides of this wild, multifaceted tale of wonder and terror.”

If you like this collaboration between author/creator GennaRose Nethercott and illustrator Bobby DiTrani, best get on it. It’s fully funded and it appears that you have only another day to back it and pick up either a pdf version or a physical edition of this really neat project. Once I get these bananas shipped I’m going to sign up for the latter for what it’s worth.

In case you need a boost at work, the Japanese trade unionists have you covered with well-named friend Unionion:

We’d see the lead singer working as a courier in Bala. He was always very nice.Apparently this improbable but real vintage Pats Chili Dogs commercial starring the hair metal band Cinderella made the rounds about five years ago. The first I saw of it was when TBT reader Jim D. shared it with me a few days ago. There are three salient parts here. First, the video itself, which is just a joy.

But as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a pretty good q & a from 2014 with the duo who produced and directed it. My favorite stretch of the interview is where you get a real sense of texture for the work and lives of these folks:

TK: Did you get more work as a result of the video?

BK: As a demo, it probably landed AdNet some nightclubs business. I know I shot Cahoots at the Airport and Pandora’s in Wilmington. Both were long night shoots. Cinderella was short and sweet once the band was ready…

TK: Did you ever see or speak to anyone from the band again?

BK: We’d see the lead singer working as a courier in Bala. He was always very nice.

RH: We would see him…dropping off and picking up film and prints for the local Kodak photo booths at the local mall. We would always chat a little. This was just before they made the big time on MTV. I always admired how down to earth they were, certainly keeping it real.

Read the interview.

And to finish off the trifecta, there’s a satisfying direct address video by Cinderella’s Tom Keifer himself, who explains the ad’s backstory. It was a clever advertising play by Pat’s, and the way Cinderella managed to “get on MTV” in those early days before they had impressed the VJ’s.

Seen, wondered, and answered.

GPS Is Wrong, Turn Around. This real, undoctored photo gets to what seems like a new and unique feeling of our time. There’s a dumb relentlessness of smart algorithms that can be an incredible source of frustration in the physical world sometimes.

Think about how hard it is to communicate with these devices and apps that dictate the behavior of large numbers of people all the time. There’s almost no feedback loop to the device/application itself, and certainly nothing that’s given any degree of priority. And this is the rule for big, popular, flagship apps, not the exception.

There are many more bananas, but these are the three-ish I picked for you this week. You can hit “reply” and it will go only to me. You can support #TBT by sharing this email or a link to it with someone you think might enjoy it. You can easily lay the blame on me if they don’t. You can also support the harvest by buying me a coffee like this or any which way.

Thank you.

The rhythms of speech, chance encounters, and The Luminaries

The rhythms of speech. Too much setup would probably lessen your experience with it. In the below YouTube video that you should click to watch, a great drummer accompanies a scene from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and in so doing illustrates the rhythms that are hiding all the time in our everyday speech.

For me, watching this was just pure joy. A gigglefest.

Chance encounters. The link here is to an amazing conversation that unfolded between two strangers on a subway in Singapore. It’s worth reading the whole thread. It starts like this:

This dude’s niece also makes an appearance in the twitter thread linked there.

More broadly, I want to speak in praise of the chance encounters public transportation creates. For the last couple of months, I’ve been taking the city bus to and from an office a couple of times each week. I hadn’t taken public transportation regularly for a good long while before that.

One of the things I quickly realized I’d been missing is sharing space with people who aren’t in the same behavioral targeting advertising profiles as me, and that aren’t (nor am I) in a moment motivated by a purchase or consumption. You tend to share the bus stop with a generally random sampling of people, especially when you get on the bus somewhere away from your home. It’s not a store, it’s not a restaurant, it’s not a bar, it’s not a sporting event. It’s a link in a journey. We’re all using the bus to get different things done and our lives look completely different from each other - they haven’t been invisibly selected like they have so often now at all of the destinations we end up at.

Today at the bus stop a man introduced himself to me and explained that he was on the way back from the clinic and has been getting kidney dialysis for the last 14 years. In the brief time we had we chatted about his experiences. Another time I sat in on a conversation between a laborer, a resident of a nearby senior center, and a former professional drummer all talking about unemployment and how anyone who wants a job should be able to find one right now. Another time I talked to a woman who is semi-retired but works part time on a hospital janitorial staff, who wanted to know about an upcoming music festival taking place near her apartment.

No other form of transportation gets you in front of such a wide swath of people like this. You can’t get it from driving, or walking, or cycling. Something about it feels like an essential thing to share in at least every now and then. Sometimes people are annoying, or troublesome, or not in a state in which they can offer or receive much interaction. But often people are just doing their thing, and it’s nice to be on the same journey for a brief moment.

Open the window. Fantasy and Sci-Fi author Susan Dennard is weaving a story on Twitter called #TheLuminaries, using Twitter polls to allow the audience to shape what happens. A piece of this crossed my timeline via retweet and I had no idea what it was, and had to hunt for a while to see that it was more than just a one day thing. On her Facebook page, she explains:

“The Luminaries was a project I tried to sell six years ago, but alas, wrong market, wrong time. Then, while bored at LaGuardia, I ended up turning the first part of it into an interactive story on Twitter. So far, we have #TeamPractical, #TeamPetty, and a lot of people who love #UghJay.”

What an ingenious way to tell a story. I’m not sure if this is the first installment, but it’s the first tweet I saw:

Because of the limitations of embedded tweets in emails like this one, you can’t see it but there’s a completed poll in there. Click in to see it and follow the story all the way through.

Those are the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and your email will go only to me. Thank you.

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