The train station jingle composer

While most train stations alert passengers with basic dings and dongs, metro riders in Japan are treated to uniquely crafted melodies. Minoru Mukaiya is the mastermind behind these jingles—he’s made around 200 distinct chimes for over 110 stations. For Minoru, there’s no greater joy than bringing a little bit of music to millions across Japan every day.

Great Big Story

Hobo Code

The problem is: all this information came from hobos, a group that took pride in their elusiveness and embellished storytelling. The truth is, there really isn’t any evidence that these signs were as widely used as the literature suggests.


Related #longread: Twilight Of The Hobos (Buzzfeed):

Minnesota Jim, meanwhile, seems a little confused by the proceedings. His victory seemed, at least in part, based on his age. At 83, he’s one of the few surviving bridgers — hoboes that rode on both steam- and diesel-powered trains during their time — and winning seemed to be a kind of lifetime achievement award. But he cautiously told the local paper that kids today shouldn’t ride the rails. “The trains show no mercy.”

A Buddhist Funeral Service for Robot Dogs

James Burch for NatGeo:

Hiroshi Funabashi, A-Fun’s repairs supervisor, observes that the company’s clients describe their pets’ complaints in such terms as “aching joints.” Funabashi realized that they were not seeing a piece of electronic equipment, but a family member.

And [former Sony employee] Nobuyuki Norimatsu came to regard the broken AIBOs his company received as “organ donors.” Out of respect for the owners’ emotional connection to the “deceased” devices, Norimatsu and his colleagues decided to hold funerals.

We haven’t found red (long read)

The Quest for the Next Billion Dollar Color:

Mas Subramanian, the biggest celebrity in the uncelebrated world of pigment research, glances at a cluster of widemouthed jars containing powders in every color of the rainbow, save one.

During his nine-year sojourn into the strange, finicky realm of color, Subramanian, a materials science professor at Oregon State University at Corvallis, has grown infatuated with a form of chemistry that he, like many of his peers, once considered decidedly low-tech. His renown derives from his accidental creation, in 2009, of a new pigment, a substance capable of imparting color onto another material. YInMn was the first blue pigment discovered in more than 200 years.

It isn’t only the exotic blueness that has excited the color industry, but also the other hues the pigment can generate. Subramanian soon realized that by adding copper, he could make a green. With iron, he got orange. Zinc and titanium, a muted purple.

Scanning these creations, scattered across his workbench like evidence of a Willy Wonka bender, he frowns. “We’ve made other colors,” he says. “But we haven’t found red.”


Listen to the story here.


More long reads here.

The Orchestra Hit

Ear Worm is an excellent series, but this episode in particular is just bonkers good.

Learn about how the “ORCH2/ORCH5” stab became so popular by way of a modern music history lesson.

1984 Dave Letterman losing his shit watching someone program a sequencer with a light-pen on a CRT display? I’m in.

Online ads are stuck in the ’90s

The Outline’s Josh Topolsky waxing eloquent on Recode Media podcast:

The TV ad works because it’s good for TV. The magazine ad works because it’s good for magazines. You know what Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook (to some degree) and Pinterest figured out? There’s an internet ad that works really well, it just isn’t the box that is on every website.

Figuring that out is the key to unlocking what advertising should be on the internet, and the key to unlocking what good advertising looks like, and very few people have done it well. Almost no one – I would say zero – publications have built a system that is holistically, like from the ground up, designed around the marriage of both interesting, digital-first content and interesting, digital-first advertising.

Nailed it.

The Outline isn’t for everyone, and that’s by design. Their content/ad strategy has been super fascinating to watch, especially in connection to the media manifesto Topolsky published in 2016.

It’s been doubly interesting to compare The Outline to the launch of The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ media company, which he spun up after breaking from ESPN. The Ringer launched on Medium first to minimise their launch runway, but moved to the Vox media stack less than a year later. The Ringer is a heavily staffed blog, and I think it can be safely argued that their written content is not particularly compelling or well presented, and there has certainly been very “bog-standard” approach to advertising (with Vox handling the ad sales after the move).

Now – all that said – in addition to the site, The Ringer has a hugely successful podcast network with Bill’s podcast alone estimated to be bringing in around $50,000 per episode. Simmons is clearly leaning heavily into podcasting (as well as experimenting with a variety of video stream/show formats), with the development of the site and it’s associated ad strategy taking a relative back seat.

None of this is zero-sum, of course. There’s room for a lot of ‘winners’ in the online media space. But watching it all unfold is a great spectator sport.


The Pod Pod is a selection of recommended single podcast episodes.

700 Sharks In The Dark

A single shark is too clumsy to catch even a somnolent grouper. A pack of them is more likely to flush the fish from its hiding place and encircle it. Then they tear it apart. Seen live, the attack is a frenzy that explodes before us. Only later, thanks to a special camera that captures a thousand images a second, are we able to watch the sharks in slow motion and appreciate their efficiency and precision.

Incredible pictures and story from Laurent Ballesta and his team.

Red Dead 4K: The Redemptioning

In the midst of announcing a massive drop of backwards compatible and enhanced games, Microsoft released a 500MB update to Red Dead Redemption enabling 4K on the world’s most powerful console.

Yes, this is a 4K screencap of a 2010 console game.

This. Is. Fucking. Amazing.

Most observers reckoned 4K for RDR would never come due to the engineering of the game – many thought the resolution was baked-in for performance reasons. But it seems the Back Compat team at Microsoft are wizards indeed.

So how does it look?

Stunning.

I mean, it’s ridiculous how good it looks. The 360 version (which is also what ran on the initial Back Compat version) was noticeably blurry and shimmery, especially in motion. It still looked great though, and you did get the impression that R* had put a lot more under the hood than the hardware was capable of displaying. And now we know that’s the case.

The result is that Read Dead Redemption is now – again – a joy to play.


More Red Dead:

Finding John Marsden – A wonderful short doc from Polygon about Rob Weithoff, the voice of John Marsden

In depth review (thinreaper) – One of the best game reviews/critiques I’ve ever invested an hour and a half in

Watch Dogs 2 – A Tale Told Before Its Time

David Rayfield:

But let’s turn the clock back to 8th November 2016 again. Trump is elected as US President because of three things: 25% of America votes for him, 25% of America votes for Hillary and 50% of America chose not to vote at all. The world’s jaw drops to the floor. Everyone underestimated this gibbering, damaged man-child and now he’s got his finger on the button. Nobody is in a state to comprehend everyday life because nobody is talking about anything else.

Every conversation inevitably turned to Trump and how this could have happened. What do we do now? What could we have done differently? How badly will this affect everyone outside of America even though the rest of the world had no say in this catastrophe? What we took as normal is thrown out the window and we begin to contemplate just how crazy everything will become. The entire world has changed.

One week later, Watch Dogs 2 is released.

I loved Watch Dogs 2. Loved it. It’s fascinating to revisit it as a piece of art, and examine the themes and narrative in the context of today’s techno-political climate.

PS, Ubisoft, please give this game the 4K update for Xbox that it so obviously deserves. y u no

Atari VCS

The “VCS” stands for Very Cool and Sexy, surely.

Worth it, just for the looks?

I have a real affinity for this 2600 retro styling – it was the first gaming machine I ever owned (the Jr to be specific). Months and months of mindlessly delivering leaflets around the neighbourhood was all worth it!

And yes, in case you were wondering, I achieved ‘Neo at the end of the Matrix’ level zen-skills at Enduro.


The Atari VCS will be available later this year for between $250-300. That seems expensive.