kottke.org posts about best of
From John Horgan, a list of 25 Terrific Science(y) Books. There are some unorthodox picks here (next to some no-brainers):
Ulysses, by James Joyce, 1922. Yeah, it's a work of fiction, but as I argued a few years ago, Joyce was a more astute observer of the mind than anyone before or since. He exemplifies Noam Chomsky's dictum that we will always learn more about ourselves from literature than from science.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, 1962. This sneaky, subversive assault on conventional notions of scientific truth and progress triggered a revolution itself within the philosophy of science. Be sure to note where Kuhn compares scientists with drug addicts.
From Steven Weinberg, a list of the 13 best science books for the general reader. Solid list. But The Origin of Species is more than a little tough for the lay reader; I tried reading it a few years ago and it was a slog. I recommend The Elegant Universe and The Making of the Atomic Bomb w/o reservation.
Brown Bunny, Cannibal Holocaust, The 120 Days of Sodom, and The Last Temptation of Christ... they are among the most controversial movies of all time.
Perhaps a little NSFW. (via devour)
Tim Grierson and Will Leitch did a pretty good job in this list of All 15 Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best.
We went back-and-forth on the top two here, but we ultimately had to go with [Wall-E], the most original and ambitious of all the Pixar movies. The first half-hour, which basically tells the story of the destruction of the planet and the devolution of the human race without a single line of dialogue, is total perfection: It's almost Kubrickian in its attention to detail and perspective, though it never feels cold or ungenerous.
Piece-of-shit Cars 2 is rightly parked at the bottom of the heap, Wall-E is obviously #1, and they correctly acknowledged Up as overrated. I would have rated the original Toy Story lower and Ratatouille higher, but overall: well done.
While researching this post on some weekend reading from David Foster Wallace, I stumbled across Way More than Luck, an anthology of notable commencement speeches.
Here, in an anthology of some of the finest of the genre, brilliant creative minds in every sector offer their wisdom: David Foster Wallace on living a compassionate life, Debbie Millman on the importance of taking risks, Michael Lewis on the responsibility that good fortune merits -- and so many other greats. Some of this advice is grand (believe in the impossible), and some of it is granular enough to check off a life list (donate five percent of your money or your time).
See also The Top 7 Commencement Speeches of All Time.
For the 30th anniversary of Spin, the editors compiled a list of the 300 best albums released in the past 30 years. The top 20 includes albums by Nirvana, Pixies, Bjork, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, and DJ Shadow. The #1 album is........ nevermind, you should go find out for yourself. (via @jblanton)
From the AV Club, a publication by The Onion, a list of the 100 best films of the decade (so far). Good to see Her, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Tree of Life, and Upstream Color on there, among others.
From the Oyster Review, a publication by online bookseller Oyster, a list of the 100 Best Books of the Decade So Far. Good to see The Emperor of All Maladies, Cleopatra: A Life, Bring Up the Bodies, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore on there, among others.
From Jon Bois at SBNation, The Worst Internet Things bracket. Some of the worst things and their seedings include:
(16) Person who types "wow" in front of retweet
(9) Atheists who love to argue
(7) All internet discourse about bacon
(8) People who complain about BuzzFeed
(5) Kickstarters for weddings
Although I am slowly coming around1 to Massimo Vignelli's assertion that designers should only use a handful of typefaces, I enjoyed seeing Typographica's list of their favorite typefaces of 2014.
Typeface design and distribution is in a state of rapid change. Last year we noted its diffusion around the globe, and that trend persists. The majority of font production is no longer concentrated in a few regional epicenters.
That goes for corporate epicenters as well. The independence of type designers themselves is increasingly evident. Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm. Only a handful of the selections in this year's list were published by companies with more than ten employees.
I discovered that one of the selections, a beautiful custom typeface made for the reopening/rebranding of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (sample shown above), has been made available by the museum for free download (including a web fonts version).
Oh my, I had forgotten about the Name of the Year site and how amazing it is. Each year, they collect the most unusual names in the world and pit them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. Here are some of the names in the running for the 2015 Name of the Year:
Dr. Electron Kebebew
Lancelot Supersad Jr.
Jazznique St. Junious
(A reminder...these are actual names of actual people. Somehow.)
Dr. Wallop Promthong
Amanda Miranda Panda
Some Hall of Name inductees include Tokyo Sexwale, Nimrod Weiselfish, Doby Chrotchtangle, Tanqueray Beavers, and Vanilla Dong.
From the Motion Picture Editors Guild, a list of the 75 best-edited movies of all time.
As for directors, Alfred Hitchcock is the most often cited, making the list 5 times (although not placing in the top 10), and spanning 3 decades. Right behind him are Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, both of whom made the list 4 times. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg's pictures were released over 3 decades. Coppola's pictures, however, were all released in the 1970s - with 2 in 1974 (the only director with 2 films in a single year). All of his pictures placed in the top 22 films, with 3 of them in the top 11. At the other end of the continuum, there were 33 years between Terrence Malick's 2 films on the list.
Directors Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese follow, with 3 films each making the cut. Tied with Malick for 2 pictures are Bob Fosse, William Friedkin, Akira Kurosawa, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Orson Welles and Bob Wise; all others received 1 mention.
The top ten:
1. "Raging Bull" (Thelma Schoonmaker, 1980)
2. "Citizen Kane" (Robert Wise, 1941)
3. "Apocalypse Now" (Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald B. Greenberg, Walter Murch, 1979)
4. "All That Jazz" (Alan Heim, 1979)
5. "Bonnie And Clyde" (Dede Allen, 1967)
6. "The Godfather" (William H. Reynolds, Peter Zinner, 1972)
7. "Lawrence of Arabia" (Anne V. Coates, 1962)
8. "Jaws" (Verna Fields, 1975)
9. "JFK" (Pietro Scalia, Joe Hutshing, 1991)
10. "The French Connection" (Gerald B. Greenberg, 1971)
You think of filmmaking as male dominated, but one thing I noticed about that top 10 right away: five women in the list, including three in the top five. (via hitfix)
Update: Women have been well-represented in film editing in part because the job began as menial labor.
For much of Hollywood history, there were virtually no filmmaking opportunities available to women other than screenwriting and acting -- with one major exception. Women have always been welcomed -- and in many quarters preferred by male directors -- as film editors, or "cutters," as they were originally known. In the early days, the job was regarded as menial labor, and it largely was. Cutters worked by hand, running film on reels with hand cranks and manually cutting and gluing together strips of it. (Moreover, they almost never received screen credit.) After the advent of the Moviola editing machine in 1924, the process became faster and easier, but was still tedious and low paying, which is why most cutters remained young, working-class women.
It was around this time that the job of cutting films became less about just maintaining proper continuity and more about being creative. The Russian films of Sergei Eisenstein introduced the concept of montage -- how "colliding" separate pieces of film together could advance a storyline and manipulate viewers' emotions -- and this approach became widely discussed and imitated the world over, not least of all by some of the more enterprising female cutters in America, some of whom, like Margaret Booth, began to experiment with leftover footage on the cutting room floor and proved to be quite inventive.
More on the early history here. (via @ironicsans)
The Dissolve picks the 50 best films of the current decade. Picks 50-26, and picks 25-1. Boyhood, The Social Network, Under the Skin, and Inside Llewyn Davis all rank high. (via @khoi)
David Ehrlich returns with a video montage of his 25 favorite movies of 2014. (Here's his 2013 video.)
His top 5:
5. Gone Girl
3. Under The Skin
2. Inherent Vice
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
These year-end videos by Ehrlich are incredibly effective trailers for movies. Not just the individual films, but the whole idea of cinema itself. Having just watched this, I want to leave my office, head to the nearest theater and just watch movies all day.
After he died, a book containing legendary movie director Akira Kurosawa's 100 favorite films was published. The list was made by his daughter, arranged chronologically, and limited to one film per director. His daughter describes the selection process:
The principle of the choice is: one film for one director, entry of the unforgettable films about which I and my father had a lovely talk, and of some ideas on cinema that he had cherished but did not express in public.
Some of Kurosawa's choices: My Neighbor Totoro for Miyazaki, The King of Comedy for Scorsese (?), Annie Hall for Woody Allen, Fitzcarraldo for Herzog, Barry Lyndon for Kubrick (??), and The Birds for Hitchcock. No Orson Welles, Coens, David Lynch, or Malick.
From The Nerdwriter, some of the best uses of slow motion in movies, TV, and music in 2014.
Good stuff. But they missed one. :) (via devour)
From the excellent Art of the Title (which had a great year), the top 10 title sequences of 2014. So awesome to see Halt and Catch Fire take the top spot. And Too Many Cooks!
Photos by AP Photo/UNRWA, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Robert Cohen/MCT/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Andrew Hara/Getty Images, Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse, and ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team, respectively.
Many many more photos of the year at In Focus, Reuters, Buzzfeed, Agence France-Presse, the NY Times, Time, and The Big Picture.
Hiro teaching Baymax how to fist bump in Big Hero 6.
Update: Jason Porath smartly speculates that Big Hero 6's fist bump scene was a social media snack sized moment inserted into the movie for marketing purposes, which is part of a larger industry trend.
I don't have a good word to describe this phenomenon, so I'm going to term it "hashgags." This is a joke in an animated movie, usually input at the behest of marketing forces, that is used to sell the movie. It's usually inserted late into production and test screened to within an inch of its life. Some are used repeatedly, some are one-offs that do well with trailers. And it is crippling the entire industry.
The Pew Research Center shares some of the most interesting findings from the reports they published in 2014. The increasing gap in wealth between white and non-white households since the 2007 recession was the most shocking to me.
Over the past 10 years, the net worth of black households has been cut in half.
The picks for the finest magazine covers of the year are starting to trickle out. Coverjunkie is running a reader poll to pick the most creative cover of 2014. Folio didn't pick individual covers but honored publications that consistently delivered memorable covers throughout the year; no surprise that The New York Times Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek were at the top of the heap.
See also the best book covers of 2014.
Legal scholar Cass Sunstein presents his annual list of the movies that best showcased behavioral economics for 2014.
Best actor: In 1986, behavioral scientists Daniel Kahneman and Dale Miller developed "norm theory," which suggests that humans engage in a lot of counterfactual thinking: We evaluate our experiences by asking about what might have happened instead. If you miss a train by two minutes, you're likely to be more upset than if you miss it by an hour, and if you finish second in some competition, you might well be less happy than if you had come in third.
"Edge of Tomorrow" spends every one of its 113 minutes on norm theory. It's all about counterfactuals -- how small differences in people's actions produce big changes, at least for those privileged to relive life again (and again, and again). Tom Cruise doesn't get many awards these days, or a lot of respect, and we're a bit terrified to say this -- but imagine how terrible we'd feel if we didn't: The Top Gun wins the Becon.
At the NY Times, Nicholas Blechman weighs in with his picks for the best book covers of 2014.
Dan Wagstaff, aka The Casual Optimist, picked 50 Covers for 2014.
From Jarry Lee at Buzzfeed, 32 Of The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2014.
Paste's Liz Shinn and Alisan Lemay present their 30 Best Book Covers of 2014.
And from much earlier in the year (for some reason), Zachary Petit's 19 of the Best Book Covers of 2014 at Print.
Adrian Curry selects his favorites for the best movie posters of 2014. This one, for Gabe Polsky's Red Army, caught my eye:
See also the best poster lists from Empire, Entertainment Weekly, and Indiewire. (via subtraction)
Jordan Hoffman is a huge huge huge Star Trek fan. So great is his fandom that he is able to rank every single episode from every single Star Trek series from #695 to #1. Several TNG episodes make it into the top 10, including Yesterday's Enterprise, Darmok, and The Best of Both Worlds.
Physics World, the magazine of the Institute of Physics, has named their 2014 Breakthrough of the Year and nine runners-up. The top spot goes to the ESA's Rosetta mission for landing on a comet.
By landing the Philae probe on a distant comet, the Rosetta team has begun a new chapter in our understanding of how the solar system formed and evolved -- and ultimately how life was able to emerge on Earth. As well as looking forward to the fascinating science that will be forthcoming from Rosetta scientists, we also acknowledge the technological tour de force of chasing a comet for 10 years and then placing an advanced laboratory on its surface.
The other nine achievements, which you can click through to read about, are:
Quasar shines a bright light on cosmic web
Neutrinos spotted from Sun's main nuclear reaction
Laser fusion passes milestone
Electrons' magnetic interactions isolated at long last
Disorder sharpens optical-fibre images
Data stored in magnetic holograms
Lasers ignite 'supernovae' in the lab
Quantum data are compressed for the first time
Physicists sound-out acoustic tractor beam
Rolling Stone lists the 40 most groundbreaking music albums in history. Kanye West makes the list with 808s and Heartbreaks, Dr. Dre with The Chronic, Nirvana with Nevermind, and the Beatles with Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper's. About The Chronic:
The album sold a world to white America that it had never really seen before, and packaged it with a soundtrack so funky there was no avoiding it. It was both raw, uncut underground and carefully composed pop. If Public Enemy confronted white America, The Chronic seduced it. For the first time ever, hip-hop's mainstream and America's were one.
I counted only four women artists though: Mary J. Blige, Loretta Lynn, Nico, and Carole King.
kottke.org favorite Matt Zoller Seitz weighs in on his top 10 best TV shows for 2014. For someone who doesn't watch a ton of TV, I have seen a surprising number of these.
My friend David has been trying to tell me about Hannibal, but I haven't been listening. Maybe I should start? Olive Kitteridge was great; Frances McDormand was incredible. True Detective was pretty good and I was lukewarm on Cosmos (I have NDT issues). Mad Men continues to be great...I keep waiting for it to fall off in quality, but it hasn't happened. The Roosevelts was really interesting and like Seitz, I find myself thinking about it often. I've seen bits and pieces of John Oliver but I get enough of the "humans are awful ha ha" news on Twitter to become a regular viewer.
Other shows I've watched that aren't on the list: Downton Abbey (my favorite soap), Game of Thrones (tied w/ Mad Men for my fave current show, although MM is better), Boardwalk Empire (strong finish), Sherlock (still fun, tho got a bit too self referential there), and Girls (gave up after s03e04 when it was airing but recently powered through rest of the 3rd season and is back in my good graces).
The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 is a recent book chronicling the best games from the first golden era in console video games, from the Intellivision1 to the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo.
Businessweek is 85 years old and to celebrate, they've listed the 85 most disruptive ideas created during that time. They include kitty litter, Air Jordans, information theory, refrigeration, the jet engine, and the Polaroid camera.
Polaroids were the first social network. You'd take a picture, and someone would say, "I want one, too," so you'd give it away and take another. People shared Polaroids the way they now share information on social media. Of course, it was more personal, because you were sharing with just one person, not the entire world.
I met Andy Warhol in the '70s at the Whitney Museum and started doing projects with him because he loved my photographs. He'd never had a pal who was a photographer, so I was his guru, showing him what cameras to buy, what pictures to take. When Polaroid came out with its SX-70 model, the company sent big boxes of film and cameras to the Factory, which was at 860 Broadway (it's now a Petco). Andy loved Polaroid. Everything was "gee whiz"; it was brand-new. So immediate. I took photos of him with his new toy.
From Silence of the Lambs (#1) to To Kill A Mocking Bird (#9) to Blade Runner (#28), these are the 50 best book-to-movie adaptations ever, compiled by Total Film.
Somehow absent is Spike Jonze's Adaptation and I guess 2001 was not technically based on a book, but whatevs. The commenters additionally lament the lack of Requiem for a Dream, Gone with the Wind, The French Connection, Rosemary's Baby, Last of the Mohicans, and The Wizard of Oz.
From CineFix, their top ten slow motion sequences of all time.
Includes scenes from The Matrix, Hard Boiled, Reservoir Dogs, and The Shining. But no Wes Anderson!?! *burns down internet* (via @DavidGrann)
Bill Rankin of radicalcartography picks his five favorite maps. The historical meanderings of the Mississippi River map from an Army Corps of Engineers report is a favorite of mine too:
How do you pick just 10 essays for a list of the best essays since 1950? You exclude any New Journalism, non-American writers, and even so, it must have been difficult. Here's Robert Atwan's full list and a few of his choices:
Susan Sontag, "Notes on 'Camp'"
David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster"
Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse"
John McPhee, "The Search for Marvin Gardens"
Many of the essays are available online...ladies and gentlemen, start your Instapapers.
According to Rolling Stone, 1984 was the greatest year in pop music history. And they made a list of the top 100 singles from that year; here's the top 5:
5. Thriller, Michael Jackson
4. Let's Go Crazy, Prince
3. I Feel for You, Chaka Khan
2. Borderline, Madonna
1. When Doves Cry, Prince
1984 was also a fine year for movies and the most 1980s year of the 1980s. Both Bill Simmons and Aaron Cohen agree, 1984 was the best year.
From Cinefix, the 100 most iconic shots in film.
Skews heavily toward pop culture favorites, but still worth a look. Here's a video with annotations of each scene. (via digg)
From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.
The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.
Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.
Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)
The IPPAWARDS has been judging an iPhone photography competition since 2007 and they recently announced the winners of their 2014 competition.
Impressive stuff. I've been saying recently that the iPhone 5s is the best camera in the world. Looking back on the 2008 winners, it becomes apparent how much more comfortable photographers have become wielding this increasingly powerful device. (via the verge)
Apple recently announced their annual design awards for 2014. Some nice work there.
From NPR, a searchable sortable archive of the best commencement speeches, from 1774 to the present. What a resource. Two of my favorites, by David Foster Wallace and Steve Jobs, are represented.
Each speech is tagged by "theme or take-home message", basically a taxonomy of commencement speech messaging. The most popular themes are:
12. Be kind
10. Make art
7. Remember history
6. Embrace failure
5. Work hard
4. Don't give up
3. Inner voice
1. Change the world
Trite stuff perhaps, but delivered in the right way and by the right person, it makes people wanna run through walls. Let's go! (via @tcarmody)
Conor Friedersdorf has published his picks for the best journalism of 2013. This is always a great list. And you're smart enough not to pooh-pooh it just because everyone else's best of 2013 list came out in late November, right? Because the stuff on this list is evergreen? Good.
From the editors of The American Scholar, the ten best sentences. Presumably in all of literature? Here's one of them, from James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
Why are these the ten best sentences?
Paul Ford set himself the task of picking five great works of software and he came up with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Pac-Man, Unix, and Emacs.
I propose a different kind of software canon: Not about specific moments in time, or about a specific product, but rather about works of technology that transcend the upgrade cycle, adapting to changing rhythms and new ideas, often over decades.
As with everything Paul writes, it's worth clicking through to read the rest.
Time Out polled more than 100 experts to find the 100 best animated movies. Here's the top 10 (minus the top pick...you'll have to click through for that):
10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
7. The Iron Giant
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story
3. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away
I'm delighted to see Fantastic Mr Fox on the list...it's an underrated effort by Wes Anderson that will continue to grow in esteem as the years pass. No Wall-E in the top 10 though? I don't know about that. It clocks in at #36, behind Chicken Run (the least of Aardman's efforts in my mind) and Up, which is maybe my least favorite Pixar film. (via @garymross)
From Typographica, a list of their favorite typefaces from 2013. As you'll see, good type design is happening all over the globe.
As evidence of that diversity, the 53 typefaces selected from 2013 were created by designers from at least 20 countries. [...] This new phase of globalization and democratization of the font market began in earnest about a decade ago, propelled by newly accessible digital tools, online commerce, and post-graduate education in type design. It is a sea change. For centuries, places like Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Lebanon, and New Zealand were vastly underrepresented in a type design community that was dominated by western Europe and North America. (And this only goes for Latin-based type. The burgeoning production of fonts in other scripts tells another fascinating story.) We will have much more detail about these changes in an upcoming report by Ruxandra Duru on the current state of typefounding around the world.
One that caught my eye is Clear Sans.
I was just wondering this the other day...where can you get good nachos in NYC? Serious Eats investigates.
Not only are they delicious (when made right, and we'll get to that), but they practically create their own conversation. Everybody has an opinion on how chunky the guacamole should be. We all have feelings about whether chili or beans make a better topping. Who hasn't considered whether or not they'd ever prefer a fresh jalape~no to a pickled one, and who hasn't considered de-friending a friend who dares to express a preference for fresh over pickled? And then there's the ever-raging debate of cheese sauce vs. melted cheese, a subject you might actually consider not broaching in mixed company.
I know we're past the point of saying "happy new year" and lingering on last year, but this is my favorite annual best of list: Regret the Error's The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013. This correction from Marie Claire is pretty good:
In our July issue we wrongly described Tina Cutler as a journalist. In fact she is a practitioner of vibrational energy medicine.
And some quality historical truthiness from The Huffington Post:
An earlier version of this story indicated that the Berlin Wall was built by Nazi Germany. In fact, it was built by the Communists during the Cold War.
And Slate, get your Girls on some more in 2014 please:
This review misspelled basically everyone's name. It's Hannah Horvath, not Hannah Hovrath; Marnie is played by Allison Williams, not Alison Williams; and Ray is played by Alex Karpovsky, not Zosia Mamet.
Quora user Murali Krishnan sifted through Q&A site Quora for the best answers and found 270 of them. Among the topics covered are technology, gender, the meaning of life, mathematics, travel, and looks like almost everything else, including some fascinating examples of ancient technology. Looks like one of my favorites didn't make the cut: Domhnall O'Huigin's answer to What is the political situation in the Mario universe?
Magazine covers, movie posters, and book covers all have the same basic job, so it seemed proper to group these lists together: 50 [Book] Covers for 2013, The 20 best magazine covers of 2013, The 50 Best Posters Of 2013, Top [Magazine] Covers 2013, The Best Book Covers of 2013, The 30 Best Movie Posters of 2013, Best Book Covers of 2013. Lots of great work here. I still can't figure out whether I love or hate this cover of W with George Clooney on it:
This morning, Time magazine named Pope Francis their Person of the Year.
He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.
On Monday, The New Yorker's John Cassidy argued that Edward Snowden deserved the honor.
According to Time, its award, which will be bestowed on Wednesday, goes to the person who, in the opinion of the magazine's editors, had the most influence on the news. By this metric, it's no contest. In downloading thousands of files from the computers of the electronic spying agency and handing them over to journalists like Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman, Snowden unleashed a torrent of news stories that began in May, when the Guardian and the Washington Post published a series of articles about the N.S.A.'s surveillance activities. Seven months later, the gusher is still open. Just last week, we learned that the agency is tracking the whereabouts of hundreds of millions of cell phones, gathering nearly five billion records a day.
In the early 1960s, French director Jean-Luc Godard put together a list of the Ten Best American Sound Films. The list included:
The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Singin' in the Rain (Kelly-Donen)
The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles)
The list appeared as one of a series in Cahiers du Cinema, the influential French film magazine. (via @DavidGrann)
From Pitchfork, a list of the best album covers from 2013. My favorite is this one from Tyler, The Creator, which looks more or less like the opposite of a rap album.
I also liked Michael Cina's cover for Fort Romeau (which he adapted from his very fetching art) and of course Yeezus, which is this year's unignorable album in every way. (via @pieratt)
In celebration of his 44th birthday, Jay Z ranked his solo albums:
Here's the annotated list:
1. Reasonable Doubt (Classic)
2. The Blueprint (Classic)
3. The Black Album (Classic)
4. Vol. 2 (Classic)
5. American Gangster (4 1/2, cohesive)
6. Magna Carta (Fuckwit, Tom Ford, Oceans, Beach, On the Run, Grail)
7. Vol. 1 (Sunshine kills this album... fuck... Streets, Where I'm from, You Must Love Me...)
8. BP3 (Sorry critics, it's good. Empire (Gave Frank a run for his money))
9. Dynasty (Intro alone...)
10. Vol. 3 (Pimp C verse alone... oh, So Ghetto)
11. BP2 (Too many songs. Fucking Guru and Hip Hop, ha)
12. Kingdom Come (First game back, don't shoot me)
As I said last year, the photos are always my favorite end-of-the-year media to check out. It's only early December, but a few media outlets are out of the gate already with their year-end lists.
Best photos of the year 2013 from Reuters.
The Top 10 Photos of 2013 from Time.
2013 Pictures of the Year from Agence France Presse.
The 80 Most Powerful Photos of 2013 from The Roosevelts.
Las mejores fotos del 2013 from Yahoo En Español.
The 45 Most Powerful Photos Of 2013 from BuzzFeed.
2013: The Year in Photos from In Focus. Here are parts two and three.
2013 Year in Pictures from Big Picture. Here are parts two and three.
Year in Focus 2013 from Getty Images.
Year in Photos 2013 from The Wall Street Journal.
The Year in Pictures from The New York Times.
Do you have a list for this list? Send it along!
In a masterfully edited video, David Ehrlich presents his 25 favorite films of 2013.
Fantastic. This video makes me want to stop what I'm doing and watch movies for a week. It's a good year for it apparently...both Tyler Cowen and Bruce Handy argue that 2013 is an exceptional year for movies. I'm still fond of 1999... (via @brillhart)
In 1898, an editor named Clement K. Shorter made a list of the 100 best novels (with an additional limit of one/author).
1. Don Quixote - 1604 - Miguel de Cervantes
2. The Holy War - 1682 - John Bunyan
3. Gil Blas - 1715 - Alain René le Sage
4. Robinson Crusoe - 1719 - Daniel Defoe
5. Gulliver's Travels - 1726 - Jonathan Swift
6. Roderick Random - 1748 - Tobias Smollett
7. Clarissa - 1749 - Samuel Richardson
8. Tom Jones - 1749 - Henry Fielding
9. Candide - 1756 - Françoise de Voltaire
10. Rasselas - 1759 - Samuel Johnson
So much on there I've never even heard of. Compare this list with that of the best novels of the 20th century...how many of those novels and authors will readers be scratching their heads over in 2113? See also a contemporary list of the best books from before 1900. (via mr)
In Focus has a selection of winning photos from Nikon's Small World Photomicrography Competition. The award for most terrifying goes to Dimitri Seeboruth for his shot of a worker ant:
I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.
The Atlantic asked a group of historians, scientists, and engineers to rank the 50 greatest innovations since the invention of the wheel. Here they are.
21. Nuclear fission, 1939
Gave humans new power for destruction, and creation
22. The green revolution, mid-20th century
Combining technologies like synthetic fertilizers (No. 11) and scientific plant breeding (No. 38) hugely increased the world's food output. Norman Borlaug, the agricultural economist who devised this approach, has been credited with saving more than 1 billion people from starvation.
23. The sextant, 1757
It made maps out of stars.
Sadly, most infographics these days look like this, functioning as a cheap and easy way to gussy up numbers. But when done properly, infographics are very effective in communicating a lot of information in a short period of time and can help you see data in new ways. In The Best American Infographics 2013, Gareth Cook collects some of the best ones from over the past year. Wired has a look at some of the selections.
Another excellent link from Quora's weekly newsletter: What is the best sacrifice in the history of chess? A game played in 1934 featured the sacrifice of the queen & both rooks and was over so quickly (14 moves) that it's referred to as The Peruvian Immortal. I found it easier to follow the game by watching it:
This compilation of videos shot with Vine is surprisingly good and a nice illustration of what Mat Honan is getting at in Why Vine Just Won't Die.
Vine started from scratch. It built a ground up culture that feels loose, informal, and -- frankly -- really fucking weird. Moreover, most of what you see there feels very of-the-moment. Sure, there's plenty of artistry that goes into making six second loops, and there are volumes of videos with high production values. But far more common are Vines that serve as windows into what people are doing right now. Many of the most popular Vines appear to be completely off the cuff. They don't have to be great or slick or well produced. In some ways, its better that they're not, because it creates a lower threshold if you just want to, you know, share a video of your cat. They have something that trumps quality, which is authenticity.
That authenticity is driving a distinct emerging culture. One that stars people like Riff Raff and Tyler, the Creator, and an army of kids whose names you've never heard of but who can still generate hundreds of thousands of likes and re-Vines, and even large scale in-person meetups. It's the triumph of the loop, yes, but it's also the triumph of youth.
Take a moment to stroll through Vine's "Popular Now" videos, and you'd have to be willfully ignorant to not notice that those on Vine are distinctly younger, distinctly blacker, and distinctly, well, gayer than society in general. In short, it's cool. It's hip. It's a scene. If Instagram is an art museum, Vine is a block party.
I was going to make a joke about this being what TV is going to look like in five years, but I think you could put 30 minutes of this on MTV2 or whatever, with six-second Vine-style ads placed seamlessly in the mix, and you'd have yourself a hit show. (via ★interesting)
Compiled from a bunch of different sources, here's an attempt at an exhaustive list of movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. Among them:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Harold and Maude
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
By far the weirdest entry on the list is White Men Can't Jump. Then again, Terrence Malick loves Zoolander and David Foster Wallace once listed a Tom Clancy novel as a favorite. (via @DavidGrann)
Lena Dunham shares her fifteen favorite Criterion films, saying she's embarrassed that "so many of these films are in English, but I just love speaking English".
The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year investigating bad charities and this is what they found.
The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday.
Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.
Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.
Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity's operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.
In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's founder and his own consulting firms.
No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.
But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000 charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their donations.
Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on the 50 worst -- based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and other solicitors over a decade.
These nonprofits adopt popular causes or mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year after year.
The nation's 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.
Despicable. And a reminder that before you give, you should check on a site like Charity Navigator or GiveWell for organizations where a sizable portion of your contribution is going to the actual cause. For instance, the aforementioned Kids Wish charity currently has a "donor advisory" notice on their Charity Navigator page. (via @ptak)
The Writers Guild of America recently selected their list of the 101 best written TV series of all time. Here are the top 20:
1 The Sopranos
3 The Twilight Zone
4 All in the Family
6 The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7 Mad Men
9 The Wire
10 The West Wing
11 The Simpsons
12 I Love Lucy
13 Breaking Bad
14 The Dick Van Dyke Show
15 Hill Street Blues
16 Arrested Development
17 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18 Six Feet Under
20 The Larry Sanders Show
The full list is here in PDF form. Lost above Deadwood? And Homicide? And several other more? Maybe they ignored everything after the first couple seasons?
Stephen Coles of Typographica says that 2012 was "a strong year" for new typefaces. He asked dozens of designers and font makers to nominate their favorite 2012 typefaces and here's what they had to say.
The independent foundry has also cemented its place as the new foundation of the industry. Most of this year's selections are from very small shops, several of which are entirely new to the market. It's also significant that, in addition to offering their fonts through retailers like FontShop, MyFonts, and the newly revived Fonts.com, most of these indie foundries now sell directly to customers through their own sites. In some cases they have eschewed outside distribution altogether. The "majors" have not simply laid down, however. Monotype, Linotype, Font Bureau, FontFont, and H&FJ are all represented in this year's list, each with releases that are remarkably characteristic of their respective brands.
Matt Kahn is reading every bestselling novel from each of the past 100 years.
For this blog I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.
A few things. The Silmarillion?! Was the top selling book in 1977? John Grisham appears on the list 11 different times; the guy is a machine. And it's interesting to see when popularity and critical acclaim part ways, when the Roths, le Carrés, and E.L. Doctorows give way to the Clancys, Grishams, and Dan Browns.
Photos from the shortlist of winners of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards. Some stunning shots in there.
Edith, Hellrider, and Dadmonster pose for a photograph. In Botswana, heavy metal music has landed. Metal groups are now performing in nightclubs, concerts, festivals. The ranks of their fans have expanded dramatically. These fans wear black leather pants and jackets, studded belts, boots and cowboy hats. On their t-shirts stand out skulls, obscenities, historical covers of hard-rock groups popular in the seventies and eighties, such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, and AC/DC. They have created their own style, inspired by classic metal symbolism, but also borrowing heavily from the iconography of western films and the traditional rural world of Botswana. Their nicknames, Gunsmoke, Rockfather, Carrott Warmachine, Hellrider, Hardcore, Dignified Queen, may appear subversive and disturbing as their clothing, but they are peaceful and gentle. "We like to get dressed,, drink meet friends and feel free , this music is so powerful . We are lucky to live in a country tolerant and open" argues one of the leaders. A precious rarity for Africa.
Botswanian heavy metal fans and other great selections from the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards
Conor Friedersdorf's annual round-up of the best non-fiction journalism is one of the best best-ofs out there...and the 2012 edition is no exception.
There are, of course, worthy pieces of writing and reporting that escaped my attention in 2012, but I can assure you that all of the 102 stories listed below deserve wider attention-as do the authors of these stories. The featured bylines are linked to the authors' Byliner writer pages, which makes it easy to discover and read more of their excellent work. The stories are listed alphabetically by writer.
Gird your loins, Instapaper...so much good stuff to save here.
Martyn Cornell took issue with First We Feast's list of the 20 most influential beers of all time and came up with his own list.
I mean, Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye is more influential in the history of beer than Bass Pale Ale or Barclay Perkins porter? Don't make me weep. Allagash White trumps Hoegaarden and Schneider Weisse? (You may not like Hoegaarden or Schneider Weisse, but I hope you won't try to deny their influence.) Gueuze, Saison and Kolsch are such important styles they deserve a representative each in a "most influential beers of all time" list, while IPA and porter are left out? I don't think so. And the same goes for Schneider Aventinus: where are the hordes of Weissebockalikes? Sam Adams Utopias has influenced who, exactly? "Generic lager"? I see where you're coming from, in that much of what has happened over the past 40 years in the beer world is a reaction against generic lager, but still ... And I love London Pride, but it's not even the third most influential beer that Fuller's brews.
I like arguments about beer way more than drinking beer.
The NY Times asked a bunch of designers for their favorite book cover designs of 2012. Lots of nice work here.
This is one of my favorite annual lists: Regret the Error's best (and worst) media errors and corrections. Here, for example, is the correction of the year from the Economist:
Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed that journalists at Bloomberg Businessweek could be disciplined for sipping a spritzer at work. This is not true. Sorry. We must have been drunk on the job.
And this one, from The Atlantic:
This post originally referred to Jennifer Grey as "Ferris Bueller's sister." As commenters have pointed out, her role alongside Swayze in Dirty Dancing is clearly the more relevant. We regret putting Baby in a corner.
And from Slate:
In an April 30 "TV Club," Julia Turner misstated when Sally Draper ate the fish in Mad Men. It was before she saw the blow job.
The Atlantic has a similar list that casts a wider net outside of news media.
Rolling Stone asked a panel of experts (Busta Rhymes, Questlove, Rick Rubin, etc.) to vote on the best hip-songs ever produced. Here's the list of their top 50 picks. Dre and Snoop's Nuthin' But a "G" Thang comes in at #6.
Climbing to Number Two on the singles chart in early 1993, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" made Dr. Dre the undisputed flag bearer of West Coast rap, while also ushering that genre into the pop mainstream. The song's secret weapon was a relatively unknown pup named Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose verses are packed with effortless quotables. The song also introduced Dre's masterful "G-Funk" style of production, which updated George Clinton's legacy with slow, rubbery funk and layered synth hooks. "We made records during the crack era, where everything was hyped up, sped up and zoned out," Chuck D explained. "Dre came with ' "G" Thang' and slowed the whole genre down. He took hip-hop from the crack era to the weed era."
Listen to the entire list on Spotify. (via @gavinpurcell)
My favorite end-of-the-year lists are always the photos. Here are a few that have made their way online so far; I'll be updating this list throughout the month so send me your lists.
2012: The Year in Photos from In Focus: Alan Taylor is still my favorite picker of photos. Here's part two.
Best Photos of the Year 2012 from Reuters: Almost a hundred photos, heavy on hard news.
The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2012 from Buzzfeed: A wide-ranging selection of photos designed to tug at the heartstrings. See also The Best Animal Photos of 2012.
Pictures of the Year 2012 from AFP (Agence France-Presse): Not an official list but a nice selection of AFP photos nonetheless.
2012: The year in pictures from CNN: A good selection from the cable network.
Year in Photos 2012 from the Wall Street Journal: A massive selection of photos organized by month, region, category, and rating.
The best photographs of 2012 from The Guardian: Photographs and interviews with the photographers who took them.
Photos Of The Year 2012 from the Associated Press: Photos are great but the way they're displayed isn't.
2012 Year in Pictures from The Big Picture: About 150 images chosen from a number of different sources. Here's part two and part three.
And so it begins, the end of the year lists. Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to, um, ... I've got nothing here. You either love them or hate them. Anyway, the NY Times' list of the 100 notable books of the year is predictably solid and Timesish.
BRING UP THE BODIES. By Hilary Mantel. (Macrae/Holt, $28.) Mantel's sequel to "Wolf Hall" traces the fall of Anne Boleyn, and makes the familiar story fascinating and suspenseful again.
BUILDING STORIES. By Chris Ware. (Pantheon, $50.) A big, sturdy box containing hard-bound volumes, pamphlets and a tabloid houses Ware's demanding, melancholy and magnificent graphic novel about the inhabitants of a Chicago building.
I absolutely demolished Bring Up the Bodies over Thanksgiving break and loved it. I haven't had a chance to sit down with Building Stories yet, but that massive and gorgeous collection is a steal at $28 from Amazon. And as far as lists go, another early favorite is Tyler Cowen's list of his favorite non-fiction books of the year. Cowen is a demanding reader and I always find something worth reading there. (via @DavidGrann)
From Kurt Cobain's journals, a handwritten list of the late Nirvana frontman's 50 favorite albums, including those from Sonic Youth (duh), Pixies (double duh), and Mazzy Star.
Motor Trend chose the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Car of the Year, the first time their top prize has gone to an electric car.
The 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year is one of the quickest American four-doors ever built. It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it's also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Oh, and it'll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk. By any measure, the Tesla Model S is a truly remarkable automobile, perhaps the most accomplished all-new luxury car since the original Lexus LS 400. That's why it's our 2013 Car of the Year.
The magazine went on to say that "the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel". This is how environmentally friendly products win, by being better than the less green products they replace.
I cannot believe these are some of the passwords people actually use:
I feel more secure than ever with my "password2" password.
From a site called Celebrity Net Worth (I know, blech), a list of the 25 richest people of all time, adjusted for inflation. Gates, Buffett, and Rockefeller all make the list but the big cheese is Malian emperor Mansa Musa I, with a net worth of $400 billion in today's dollars.
Mansa Musa I of Mali is the richest human being in history with a personal net worth of $400 billion! Mansa Musa lived from 1280 - 1337 and ruled the Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali in West Africa. Mansa Musa's shocking wealth came from his country's vast production of more than half the world's supply of salt and gold.
This is a really interesting and eclectic list of 25 TV shows that have had an impact on society beyond the water cooler. There are a few obvious choices, but most of these I hadn't heard of.
In 2003, 24-year-old machinist Juan Catalan faced the death penalty for allegedly shooting a key witness in a murder case. Catalan told police that he couldn't have committed the crime -- he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game at the time. He had the ticket stubs and everything!
When police didn't buy his alibi, Catalan contacted the Dodgers, who pointed him to an unlikely hero: misanthropic comedian Larry David. On the day in question, David had been filming an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in Dodger Stadium. It was a long shot, but maybe Catalan could be seen in the background. When his attorney watched the outtakes, it took just 20 minutes to find shots of Catalan and his daughter chowing down on ballpark dogs while watching from the stands.
Thanks to the footage, Catalan walked free after five months behind bars. And Larry David found one more thing to be self-deprecating about. "I tell people that I've done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently," joked David.
The AV Club has compiled a list of the 50 best films of the 1990s, which decade, when you look at this list, is starting to feel like a bit of a film golden age compared to now. Here's part one, part two, and part three.
Few talk about the '90s as a filmmaking renaissance on par with the late '60s and early '70s, but for many of the film critics at The A.V. Club, it was the decade when we were coming of age as cinephiles and writers, and we remember it with considerable affection. Those '70s warhorses like Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman posted some of the strongest work of their careers, and an exciting new generation of filmmakers -- Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen, Wong Kar-Wai, Olivier Assayas, David Fincher, and Wes Anderson among them -- were staking out territory of their own.
I've seen 35 of the 50 films and some of my favorites are Election, Eyes Wide Shut, Fargo, Groundhog Day, Boogie Nights, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore, Reservoir Dogs, Dazed and Confused, and Pulp Fiction. Some films I'm surprised didn't make the list: Iron Giant, Three Kings, Babe: Pig in the City, and The Insider.
Adweek has a list of some of the best commercials Wes Anderson has made. It's tough to beat his two-minute spot for American Express.
"Can I get my snack?"
"You're eating it."
For Sight & Sound magazine, Roger Ebert came up with his picks for ten best films ever.
"Citizen Kane" speaks for itself. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is likewise a stand-along monument, a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe. It was a statement that came at a time which now looks something like the peak of humanity's technological optimism. Many would choose "Taxi Driver" as Scorsese's greatest film, but I believe "Raging Bull" is his best and most personal, a film he says in some ways saved his life. It is the greatest cinematic expression of the torture of jealousy -- his "Othello."
Conor Friedersdorf has published his annual list of the best nonfiction writing from the past year.
Each year, I keep a running list of the most exceptional nonfiction that I encounter while publishing my twice-weekly newsletter The Best of Journalism. Along with my curating work for Byliner, this hoovering of great stories affords me the opportunity to read as many impressive narratives as any single person possibly can. The annual result is my Best of Journalism List, now in its fourth year. I could not, of course, read every worthy piece published during the year. But everything that follows deserves wider attention.
A book written by Jerry Beck in 1994 called The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals does indeed contain a list of the 50 greatest cartoons as chosen by industry professionals. The list is filthy with Warner Bros cartoons, particularly by the recently aforementioned Chuck Jones (four of the top five are by Jones). I don't know how many are available on YouTube, but I tracked down a couple to show my 4-year-old son, Ollie: Duck Amuck and Rabbit of Seville.
By the time we were finished with Rabbit of Seville, Ollie had literally peed his pants from laughing so hard. I think I'm gonna get the Looney Tunes collection on Blu-ray so we can watch more but I'm a bit afraid of what the hijinks of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner might do to my boy's pants.
Taken by some of the world's most iconic photographers, a selection of the best photographs ever published in Life magazine from 1936 to 1972. Here's a photo of Mickey Mantle from 1965:
The caption reads:
In one of the most eloquent photographs ever made of a great athlete in decline, Yankee star Mickey Mantle flings his batting helmet away in disgust after another terrible at-bat near the end of his storied, injury-plagued career.
Mantle was only 33 when that photo was taken but he'd already had 13 extremely productive seasons under his belt and his last four seasons from '65 to '68 were not nearly as good.
Buzzfeed has a collection of every World Press Photo Contest winner from 1955 to the present. Some amazing photos but in general they do not paint a very kind picture of humanity.
A list of all the winners of the 2012 World Press Photo Photo Contest. I'm not particularly fond of the overall winner but there's lots of great photography here.
From MUBI notebook, a selection of great movies posters from 2011, including Chris Ware's lovely one for Uncle Boonmee.
Typographica shares their favorite typefaces of 2011.
The idea is simple: I invite a group of writers, educators, type makers and type users to look back at 2011 and pick the release that excited them most.
Quentin Tarantino released a list of his favorite films of last year. His number one choice? Midnight in Paris. Here's his top five...click through for his other choices:
1. Midnight In Paris
2. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
4. The Skin I Live In
5. X-Men: First Class
Tom Standage argues that civilization's best invention is writing.
It is not just one of the foundations of civilisation: it underpins the steady accumulation of intellectual achievement. By capturing ideas in physical form, it allows them to travel across space and time without distortion, and thus slip the bonds of human memory and oral transmission, not to mention the whims of tyrants and the vicissitudes of history.
Still cleaning out some tabs from over the break...this list of the best "best of 2011" lists is worth looking at, even if you've got list fatigue. It includes lists like "10 Films Hypothetically Starring Ryan Gosling", "Top 10 Classical Performances", and "Top 10 Films of John Waters".
The Morning News got a bunch of writers and thinkers to name the most important event of 2011.
While they may not yet have a common name, and their causes overlap but are hardly identical, the worldwide protests that began in December 2010 in Tunisia and swept through Egypt, the Middle East, Spain, Greece, the United Kingdom, every state in the U.S then thousands of worldwide cities -- these, collectively, are the single most important event of 2011. It was so significant that the year itself may be the only possible name for these people's revolutions and protests: the same way we talk about 1968 or Sept. 11 or Feb. 15, 2003: perhaps just "2011."
As Joanne McNeil noted, hindsight provides clarity with questions like this. Events that are invisible at the time become important five or ten years later. Take 1993 for instance. At the time, the European Community eliminating customs barriers or Bill Clinton's swearing-in or the first bombing of the WTC might have seemed most significant, but with hindsight, Tim Berners-Lee's quiet invention of the World Wide Web in an office at CERN is clearly the year's most significant and far-reaching happening.
Update: TBL invented the WWW in 1991, not 1993. '91 was a bit busier news-wise, what with the first Iraq war and Gorbachev's resignation, but the Web's invention ranks right up there in hindsight. (thx, sean)
If I made New Year's resolutions, one of them would be to play more table tennis. (via stellar)
The Millions presents their annual A Year in Reading for 2011, where they ask a bunch of people their favorite reads of the year.
With this in mind, for an eighth year, we asked some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to look back, reflect, and share. Their charge was to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2012 a fruitful one.
Contributors include Duff McKagan, Mayim Bialik, Jennifer Egan, Colum McCann, and Rosecrans Baldwin.
These are from the Longreads Tumblr. You'll never want for 3000-word reading material ever again.
In Focus delivers part one of an eventual three-part look at 2011 in photography. 2011 was a remarkably eventful year.
Here's part two. See also Buzzfeed's list of the 45 most powerful images of 2011.
Jonathan Liu over at GeekDad compiled a list of the five best toys of all time.
Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.
Love it. (via @jsnell)
Current TV has compiled a list of the fifty contemporary documentaries that you must see before you die. Lots of familiar names on the list...here are my personal favorites:
The Kid Stays in the Picture
When We Were Kings
Dogtown and Z-Boys
Man on Wire
Capturing the Friedmans
Touching the Void
The Fog of War
The Thin Blue Line
A site that provides the best introductory books for dozens of topics. (thx, david)
Conor Friedersdorf, an associate editor of The Atlantic, has compiled his list of the best journalism of 2010. Sure, it comes six months after everyone else's list, but this is a good one and annotated to boot.
...is a newspaper from Portugal called i.
Designers are clearly thinking about the way two facing pages work together, whether the stories are related or not. This creates a flow that encourages reading without interruption.
i is composed like a beautiful piece of music. It has the discipline to play only the high notes that matter most. For example, it uses its full bleed capability sparingly. It creates strong impact, even with small things. The surprise of occasional whimsy makes the content inviting.
A.A. Gill has a hilarious and epic review of L'Ami Louis in Paris, which he dubs "the worst restaurant in the world".
What you actually find when you arrive at L'Ami Louis is singularly unprepossessing. It's a long, dark corridor with luggage racks stretching the length of the room. It gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. It's painted a shiny, distressed dung brown. The cramped tables are set with labially pink cloths, which give it a colonic appeal and the awkward sense that you might be a suppository. In the middle of the room is a stubby stove that also looks vaguely proctological.
Always a fun read: The Beast's list of the 50 most loathsome Americans of 2010. The idiot Alaskan lady is a mere sixth on the list; #1 is "you":
Your brain's been cobbled together over millions of years of blind evolution and it shows. You're clumsy, stupid, weak and motivated by the basest of urges. Your MO is both grotesquely selfish and unquestionably deferential to questionable authority. You're not in control of your life. You wear your ignorance like a badge of honor and gleefully submit to oppression, malfeasance and kleptocracy. You will buy anything. You will believe anything. You believe that evolution is a matter of belief. You likely scrolled down to #1, without reading the rest, because you're an impatient, semi-literate Philistine who's either unable or unwilling to digest more than 140 characters at a time.
1. Toy Story 3
2. The Social Network
3. Animal Kingdom
4. I Am Love
6. True Grit
7. The Town
10. Enter The Void
The rest of the list is here.
Two very different lists of the best movie posters from last year: the more indie-oriented list from Mubi and the mainstream one from FirstShowing. The Mubi list is better but you may recognize more of the films from the FirstShowing list.