Of 2003 DEC 30
Presented with no guarantees, little explanation, and in no particular order:
Emerge, Fischerspooner - About 20 seconds into my first listen, I knew I'd never grow tired of this song.
Lost in Translation - Sweet, careful, and heartbreaking. I'm eagerly awaiting more like this from Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - When I first heard about the movie adaptation of LOTR, I did not have high hopes, considering Hollywood's track record with such things. Happy to be wrong on that one.
Give Up, The Postal Service - My favorite album of the year.
You Forgot It in People, Broken Social Scene - Wonderful, right up there with The Postal Service.
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond - A convincing thesis on how the world ended up being dominated by Western civilization (although, Diamond says, the jury is still out on China).
Nonzero, Robert Wright - Interesting view of world history through the lens of game theory.
Hey Ya!, OutKast - A great song that doesn't fit neatly into any musical genre. Could have easily been a rock song done by The Beatles (before you snicker, read the lyrics...they're good). Rock? R&B? Pop? Whatever. Song of the year.
The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players - Songs inspired by and sung to slideshows purchased at estate sales seem like an easy Gen-X crowd pleaser, but the Trachtenburgs do more here than just warble to PowerPoint...the songs are both smart and entertaining.
Gramercy Tavern birthday dinner - I don't normally eat fish, but the striped bass at the Gramercy Tavern may have been the tastiest dish I've ever had at a restaurant. The coffee cake they sent us home with was just the thing for breakfast the next morning.
Honorable mentions: Microcosmos, Radiohead @ MSG, Pop!Tech 2003, House of Leaves, Liar's Poker, Moneyball, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Get an umbrella for your pet DEC 30
Get an umbrella for your pet. Available with a matching People Umbrella
FBI: be on the lookout for almanac readers, they may be terrorists. Once information on the timing of the vernal equinox gets out, we're all doomed!
52 magazines or bust DEC 29
Starting the first week in January, I'm going to read a different magazine every week for the entire year (while reserving the right to quit after a couple of months if I feel like it). A variety of reasons for this, but mostly because 1) I'm hoping magazines will be a welcome change from books and weblogs, 2) I want to explore some new subjects/viewpoints, and 3) why the hell not? I may or may not write about the magazines I read on kottke.org, but I'd guess you'll probably be hearing something about them at some point. (Lucky you!)
So, any recommendations on what I should read? I'm going to be reading issues of many popular magazines (Newsweek, National Geographic, Wired, The Economist, Harper's, GQ, Rolling Stone, etc.), but what I'm really interested in is quality niche magazines containing good writing about a particular subject. Anything I should stay away from? Oh, and I know Manhattan is littered with magazine shops, but if you know of any particularly good ones, that would be helpful info to have.
The Glimpse DEC 26
The guy in front of me on the train is a writer of some sort. Peering over his shoulder at his laptop screen, I can see he's writing the synopsis of a novel. Or a screenplay. He's looking at screenplays (Big Fish, The Last Samurai) for reference or ideas or something. Anyway, it appears as though he's not making much progress, his laptop sits open on the tray while he reads the newspaper.
Then a burst of energy. Inspiration. The man flicks Ctrl-N in Word, a blank page. A new story called The Glimpse. He writes:
Man on a train. A fast one. The Acela from New York to Boston.
Coming soon to a multiplex near you.
Email your loved ones after The Rature has occurred. "After the rapture, there will be a lot of speculation as to why millions of people have just disappeared"
Cory Doctorow wrote a short piece for Warren Ellis's Statements of 2004 series:
The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy. It's about realizing that all the really hard problems -- free expression, copyright, due process, social networking -- may have technical dimensions, but they aren't technical problems. The next twenty years are about using our technology to affirm, deny and rewrite our social contracts: all the grandiose visions of e-democracy, universal access to human knowledge and (God help us all) the Semantic Web, are dependent on changes in the law, in the policy, in the sticky, non-quantifiable elements of the world. We can't solve them with technology: the best we can hope for is to use technology to enable the human interaction that will solve them.
A nice formulation, but, with all due respect, a wrong one. Technology and policy are always intertwined. Both of them always matter. Was the Napster saga "about" peer-to-peer technology, or the current state of copyright law and the music industry? Was the rapid growth of the commercial Internet in the US "about" advances in data networking or enlightened FCC policies? The danger lies in thinking about either element in a vacuum. Geeks and the technology industry love to think they can ignore policy battles, which is just as misguided as policy-makers thinking they can adopt laws without regard to technological reality.
Technology and policy are always intertwined, but policy often plays catch-up with technology. I think that's what Cory's on about here. The Internet, ubiquous & cheap data storage, portable & connected devices of all sorts, the digital abstraction of media...that's a lot of significant technology that our global society is being asked to handle and politics & culture are scrambling to catch up. Forward-thinking industries, companies, and countries have spurred the development of some of this technology (egged on by consumers in some cases), but my feeling is that in this instance, technology is definitely playing the horse to policy's cart.
Kinja is looking for a NYC-based sysadmin. Part-to-full time, job keywords include Linux, weblogs, Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, and fun!
This homosexual marriage poll on the AFA site seems to be backfiring on them. The AFA is strongly against legalizing marriage for gay/lesbian couples.
Apple's planning on releasing wee iPods. 2-4 GB of storage, 400-800 song capacity
User survey DEC 22
The post is a post is a post format has been live on the front page of kottke.org for over a month now. At the time, many people emailed, left comments, or wrote posts on their sites observing how well or poorly it worked for them. For those who are frequent readers, how is the new format working for you? Was it a worthwhile improvement or is it getting in your way? If you found it confusing at first, has it become less so? Or is it about the same?
The Wright Brothers, some pretenders to the throne, and patents. This is very high quality writing.
Sorry Sofia, but seeing ROTK was the best time I've had at the movies in a long, long time. I can't say if this is the year's best film or if you should go see it, but it was certainly my favorite.
AOL members can now use their AOL username to log into the iTunes Music Store. Maybe this is why a bunch of AOL Music people got canned a couple of weeks ago?
Mother Jones interviews Tony Kushner for their December issue. Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize for his play, Angels in America, which is currently showing as a two-part film on HBO. A bit of the interview that caught my attention:
There are a lot of politically active young people, but I feel that we've misled them. I have great admiration for the essayists and writers on the left, but the left decided at some point that government couldn't get it what it wanted. As a result, it's a movement of endless complaint and of a one-sided reading of American history, which misses the important point: Constitutional democracy has created astonishing and apparently irreversible social progress. All we're interested in is talking about when government doesn't work.
Kushner's comments remind me of a piece from earlier this year by Anil Dash, who asserts that the sociopolitical trend in the US has been toward the liberal. (Although I think one could make an equally convincing case that both the Democrat and the Republicans are essentially conservative...but I'll leave that for someone else.)
Metadazzle overfizzle DEC 16
Nothing takes the fun and personality out of writing like metadata. Josh Allen recently quoted Kevin Fanning as saying:
When I'm old, here's how I'm going to describe the early 21st century: We were always having to provide people with content.
As software developers, photographers, writers, and users struggle to organize creative work so that people can locate what they're after, the work itself has necessarily been de-emphasized. As an example, posts on weblogs can have categories, permalinks, post dates, post times, # of comments, # of new comments since your last visit, # of words, # of trackbacks, who last commented on a post, titles, authors, icons, prompts to read more, karma scores, # of versions, "email this" links, referers, and all sorts of other things:
The actual writing may be in there somewhere as well.
Photos (f-stop, shutter speed, location), wiki pages (DoNot GetMe StartedOnWikis...), online discussions (post filters, comment metadata), and Flash movies (4532 of 59103 bytes loaded) each have their own organizational accoutrements.
I wonder how Basho would have coped:
Somehow, all this makes me think of using Excel to write a love letter.
New York Film Critics Circle announces its awards for 2003. Return of the King is best picture
Google Print DEC 16
Looks like Google branching out into searching more than just web sites. The Google Print FAQ says they're experimenting with "publications" (books? magazines?):
Google's mission is to provide access to all the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. It turns out that not all the world's information is already on the Internet, so Google has been experimenting with a number of publishers to test their content online. During this trial, publishers' content is hosted by Google and is ranked in our search results according to the same technology we use to evaluate websites.
Google Print isn't referenced anywhere else on their web site so it's unclear as to whether it's a planned beta, an ongoing effort, or already over, but it sounds like an effort to counter Amazon's full-text book search efforts.
Update: Reader Xavier writes that Google Print is still working. A search for "1,000 knock knock jokes for kids" (with the results restricted to the print.google.com domain) yields this page for the book. A search for a common word like "the" reveals that around 8000 books are available, including Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Crime and Punishment, and Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines.
Nintendo emulator that shows how games handle loading graphics in and out of memory. Neat insight into old school game development
Toshiba makes coin-sized 3GB hard drive. Your iPod is about to get a whole lot smaller
Saddam captured DEC 14
If you haven't heard yet, Saddam Hussein has been captured alive in Iraq. He was found in a farmhouse near Tikrit, in a "spider hole" (basically a small cellar). At the press conference announcing the capture, L. Paul Bremer, the head US civilian administrator in Iraq, said, "We got him" and the assembled crowd cheered as Bremer held back tears.
Update: Unsurprisingly, the small but particularly vocal segment of the blogos-whatever that can be identified by their non-ironic use of the word anti-idiotarian, is asserting that there is only one right reaction to Saddam's capture and any other possible opinion is incorrect. It's a toss-up these days as to whose coverage of current events is worse, cable news or that of weblogs. Fox News may have Bill O'Reilly, but reading the weblog coverage lately is like watching 1000 cable channels at once, each with their own O'Reilly arguing with all the other O'Reillys. Warblogs, you've jumped the shark. Next!
Master and Commander DEC 13
Surprisingly good. I've been told the books on which the film is based are meticulous in adhering to historical accuracy w.r.t. what it was like serving aboard a naval ship in the early 19th century, and that's carried through to the film version.
More Google search features DEC 13
More Google search features. My favorite is the "I'm feeling sad" button
Skin your flowcharts in the style of the London Tube map. Includes Powerpoint templates so that you can make your own (no stencil files for Visio tho)
Remix of the London Tube map DEC 12
Remix of the London Tube map. Reminiscent of Simon Patterson's The Great Bear
Y Tu Mama Tambien DEC 11
Reminded me of Run Lola Run (and Amelie, says Meg) in how the filmmakers were interested in the stories tangential (and seemingly incidental) to the main narrative. The side stories have the potential to be distracting, but they actually strengthen each of the three films as a whole.
Here's my Mr. Picassohead painting. Make your own and post the URL in the comments
Tool for quickly creating timelines. Uses PHP, Flash, and XML
Mad lib the classics DEC 10
Customized Classics takes novels & stories that have passed into the public domain (A Christmas Carol, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Alice in Wonderland, among others) and prints personalized paperback versions of them on demand..."starring YOU!" Instead of "Call me Ishmael" or "Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?", you could get "Call me Jason" or even "Oh G. Gordon Liddy, G. Gordon Liddy! Wherefore art thou G. Gordon Liddy?" They've even modified Romeo and Juliet to make a "happy ending" version:
SCENE IV. IN THE SEPULCHRE.
[Romeo and Juliet awaken, rubbing their eyes]
Romeo: What uncommon commotion stirs these folk? Ah, blessed apothecary, whose potion miss'd its mark!
Juliet: And perhaps 'twas the keenness of mine love that hath dulled the dagger's blade.
Romeo: What sayest thou we hasten to Verona?
Juliet: Come, prince, love, husband, shining angel! Let's leave this cold sepulchre for Verona's warm embrace.
[Exeunt Romeo and Juliet hand in hand]
This is exactly the type of thing that gets Michael Eisner's panties in a wad w.r.t. Mickey Mouse, but I think it's fantastic. (thx Jenn)
A fucking brilliant cover DEC 09
I've been keen on book design lately, especially the covers. I love looking at all the new arrivals at the bookstore and have been following a few sites that talk about book design on a regular basis (Cheshire Dave's book cover reviews, Readerville's most coveted covers, Rebecky, etc.). When I IMed Lance about his book of stories from Glassdog (and other places) and related my book design preoccupation to him, he said, "well, why don't you design a cover for my book?" And I said, "holy crap, yes!" and here we are:
You probably can't tell from the smallish picture, but the cover is a cross stitch pattern (detail here). It doesn't look so nice thumbnailed on the web, but the design should be quite effective when observed on the real article held at arm's length. At least that's the hope since I haven't actually seen the book yet...Brown is on the case and it's being hurriedly UPSed to my present location.
Word Spy word of the day: uncanny valley. "n. Feelings of unease, fear, or revulsion created by a robot or robotic device that appears to be, but is not quite, human-like."
How you play the game DEC 09
It's a really unattractive sight to see an actor or actress who really wants an Oscar. And you often see it on the show, you see their faces and the desperation is so ugly.
Desperation is not a quality I long for. I'm over the Oscar. Sometimes people win it and you think, "This can't be true." It's a little bit of a popularity contest, too.
Sometimes it's right, but it's wrong just as often, so I don't care. I'd rather make movies that lots of people saw and liked. I'm happy with the results.
Rolling Stone interviews Steve Jobs. Jobs: "I don't know what hand-wringing is." What?
Rich folks fighting the horrors of food allergies. Rebecca Mead carefully takes the piss out of "even the most pampered New Yorkers"
The Last Samurai DEC 08
The Last Samurai reminded me a lot of Braveheart. Both starred actors that are hugely successful but who have audiences divided and sometimes puzzled over their genuine acting ability. The ending battle scenes were very similar, even down to the surprise battle tactics used against the superior forces. Both Mel and Cruise played the unlikely/unwilling hero of the underdog. And I liked both movies about the same.
Excellent fan-produced trailer for The Hobbit. The prequel that most everyone wants Peter Jackson to make
A vote for kotte.org is actually a vote for kottke.org (and freedom!). I'm no longer in the running
The Day After Tomorrow DEC 04
At the theater the other day, I saw a trailer for a movie called The Day After Tomorrow. The trailer doesn't give any of the plot away, but the movie is about the aftermath of global warming, basically an audiovisual depiction of the direst of effects of massive global climate changes. A flooded-and-then-frozen NYC seems to be one of the featured locations, as does a tornado-ravaged LA. I have a soft spot for this genre of movie (I don't know that the genre has a name...it's part sci-fi, part disaster flick, but not really entirely either). Take all of humanity, add a global catastrophe/event of some sort (the event doesn't have to be negative, just global), and see what happens.
Unfortunately for me, movies of this type are rarely done well. Off the top of my head, the only good representative film I can think of is Dr. Strangelove (ooh, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The not-so-good ones are easy to name: Independence Day, Godzilla, Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Core, etc. etc. It looks like The Day After Tomorrow will also be of the not-so-good variety. Schlockmeister Roland Emmerich is writing and directing, the guy behind such films as The Patriot and Stargate as well as the aforementioned Godzilla and Independence Day. I've (unfortunately) seen all of those movies and I haven't groaned that much since....well, you know.
Ethiopian Fossil Finds Elucidate Elephant Evolution. It's double alliteration day at Scientific American
Amazon stupidly breaks their wishlist URLs. but Paul has the solution for all you gift-hungry bloggers out there
The Simple Life DEC 02
Did anyone else watch The Simple Life? I just got done with it, and it wasn't half bad. There's debate about how real it actually is (did Paris really not know what Wal-Mart was or was she just kidding around?), but I don't think that actually matters too much. Either way Paris and Nicole will do whatever they want, setting up a "conflict" between the girls and the family: those who can and will do anything without fear of consequences vs. people who can't because of the consequences. Class clash, culture clash. Reminds me a bit of Frontier House and the Clune's difficulty in honestly dealing with the situation into which they were placed (and had agreed upon).
Substitution chart DEC 02
Substitution chart. car alarm = painful urination, 1 punch in jaw = 8 middle fingers
The Simple Life debuts tonight on Fox. Meg, crank up the TiVo!
Netscape to release new "toolcircle" software. I dunno...do you think it's big enough?
Democrats Go Off the Cliff DEC 02
Democrats Go Off the Cliff. This is the 4th or 5th "the Dems are acting irrationally" article I've read in the past couple of months...and I can't say I disagree
Catch Me If You Can DEC 01
A really fun movie, even better the second time around (I completely wasn't paying attention the first time around...I missed most of the abandonment, sense-of-belonging, father/son, etc. stuff in the film).
On the silver screen DEC 01
To no one's suprise, the writing on this site sounds even more ridiculous in screenplay format:
Go away, GEORGE CLOONEY. Don't you know that I took an instant dislike to you?
(whispering to KOTTKE.ORG)
What can I say to make her love me?
The only problem is with three books and four movies.
GEORGE CLOONEY shrugs and dutifully whispers this in KATE WINSLET's ear
I love you, GEORGE CLOONEY
I was just telling George the other day that we should work on a project together.