I didn’t watch a lot of TV last year but Todd VanDerWerff’s review of 2008’s television season makes me feel like I did.
I mean, not ALL television was bleak — Mad Men ignored the industry-wide memo and gave us one of the best seasons of television ever, while Lost and Battlestar Galactica each hit new creative highs — but the fact that The Wire and The Shield both wrapped up, with BSG and Lost soon to follow, made things SEEM that much bleaker.
I especially liked his definition of “socks folding TV”:
A good socks-folding show is one that you can sort of pay attention to and enjoy. It’s generally well-crafted, but not especially ambitious.
My all-time fave socks folding show is Star Trek: TNG. Even if you fold only when Troi is chattering away pointlessly, you can get a whole basket of clothes done before the second commercial.
This is the fifth annual selection of my favorite things I’ve linked to on kottke.org. This year’s list includes games, photography, top-notch journalism, time-related material, architecture, design, and even politics, about 100 links in all. The format of the list is a bit different this year. Sprinkled amongst the usual high quality links are collections of links which fit into accidental categories that sprang up while going over the material, including my picks for the sites/blogs of the year. Enjoy.
Passage is a game that takes 5-minutes to play which possesses a poignancy that you wouldn’t expect from such a simple game.
Beautiful slow-motion skateboarding with explosions. Directed by Spike Jonze. See also this video of slow-mo skateboarding tricks filmed with an ultra high resolution camera.
An extensive history of visual communication, from cave paintings on up to the present-day computer.
The NY Times published a stacked graph of movie box office receipts from 1986 to Feb 2008. More about stacked graphs.
Sites/blogs of the year: The growing cache of vintage photos from museums and other public institutions on The Commons project on Flickr barely edges out excellently edited superb photography of The Big Picture for the site of the year.
On the final episode of St. Elsewhere, it was revealed that an autistic child named Tommy Westphall had dreamt the whole show. Since St. Elsewhere had a number of connections to other shows, it turns out that a surprising number of other popular TV programs all took place in Tommy’s mind too.
Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris article on Sabrina Harmon, one of the camera-wielding US soldiers at Abu Ghraib.
From The Onion: Pornography-Desensitized Populace Demands New Orifice To Look At and Researchers Discover Massive Asshole In Blogosphere.
Big Dog is a large robotic dog that can walk in snow and cannot be knocked down, even when kicked.
A 2104 messageboard about time travel reveals that you can’t just go and kill Hitler whenever you’d like.
Maps of the Apollo 11 moon walks superimposed on a soccer pitch and a baseball diamond. They sure didn’t walk very far.
This peeping shrubbery photo taken at a wedding by Mindy Meyers still makes me laugh.
David Attenborough narrates while two leopard slugs mate while hanging off of a tree branch.
An obituary recounting the almost unbelievable life of Charles Fawcett, actor, filmmaker, and adventurer.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Backed by two huge and clueless media conglomerates, Hulu was never supposed to succeed but NBC and Fox managed to create a simple and compelling site for watching TV and movies online.
Matthew Dent’s awesome designs for the new UK coinage.
Sentence Drawings and other literary visualizations from Stefanie Posavec.
2008 video for Something Good by The Utah Saints. Don’t know why, but this makes me smile.
Elevators and stories about elevators, including an account of Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Includes security camera footage of White’s ordeal.
The interesting and extensively documented story behind that famous photo of Elvis Presley with Richard Nixon.
A map of all the streets in the lower 48 United States by Ben Fry.
An account of when Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator segment goes wrong and someone dies.
The financial mess of 2008: Early in the year before the full extent of the chaos was known, n+1 had a lengthy interview with a hedge fund manager and followed up with him a couple months later. This American Life aired two radio programs that did an excellent job of explaining what caused the crisis: The Giant Pool of Money and Another Frightening Show about the Economy. After much of the smoke had cleared, former bond salesman and current bestselling author Michael Lewis sums up what happened in The End of Wall Street’s Boom.
City of Shadows, timelapse photos of people in St. Petersburg taken by Alexey Titarenko. Particularly this one.
Stunning photos of the electrified plume of the Chaitén volcano in Chile. Some bigger photos at The Big Picture.
Photos of a wedding and then an earthquake in Sichuan, China.
A retrospective of the NYC restaurant Florent by Frank Bruni for the NY Times doubles as a history of Manhattan’s ebbs and flows over the past 20 years.
US political election logos from 1960 to 2008.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: It technically launched in 2007, but this was the year that many people realized that Amazon’s MP3 store finally made it easier and more convenient to search for and buy DRM-free music than getting it for free and illegally elsewhere (Bittorrent, etc.). And I haven’t bought a single mp3 on iTunes since Amazon’s MP3 store opened.
Unbeknownst to the family who hired him to renovate their house, architect Eric Clough hid a puzzle in their apartment that remained unsolved for more than a year.
Atul Gawande writes about itching in the New Yorker. Really, really interesting.
Urban prankster Remi Gaillard kicks soccer balls into all sorts of unlikely goals, such as garbage cans, drive-thru windows, and police station entrances. The AC/DC soundtrack makes it perfect.
The covers for the books in Volume III of Penguin’s Great Ideas series, most notably the brilliant cover for The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
A classic text on the economics of POW camps in Europe during WWII.
A 1985 BBC documentary about the painter Francis Bacon. Entertaining and enlightening even if you don’t care about painting.
Sports: Three 2008 sports happenings stick out for me. 1. The epic Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon. It was almost 5 hours long (not including the rain delay) and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. 2. Usain Bolt winning both the 100m and 200m in world record time at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt celebrating so early before crossing the finish in the 100m was impressive but the margin of victory in the 200m was an astounding athletic feat. 3. The Michael Phelps / Milorad Cavic photo finish in the men’s 100m butterfly final provoked much discussion and some of the only excitement on the way to Phelps winning a record eight golds at the Beijing games.
Christopher Hitchens writes about being waterboarded. Here’s the video of his experience.
This Lego version of Stephen Hawking is uncanny.
A selection of thirty stunning satellite photos of the Earth that appear abstract.
David Carr recounts his time as a single parent and crackhead in Minneapolis.
Dorothy Gambrell documents a trip around the world, part of which happened aboard a cargo ship. Read from the bottom and keep clicking “Next Entries”.
Things which aren’t so much links as products:The Apple keyboard is the best keyboard ever made. RjDj is an iPhone app that samples sounds from your immediate environment and plays them back to you with music.
On June 19th, the Mars Phoenix Lander twittered that it had discovered evidence of ice on Mars.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats showcases vintage photography in categories such as The Cool Hall of Fame, The Heretofore Unmentioned, and When Legends Gather.
Frédéric Bourdin is a French con man who made his way to the United States posing as an abducted teenager even though he was in his mid-20s at the time.
Brain researcher Jill Boyte Taylor tells the audience at TED about the time she had a massive stroke and how the experience informed her later research.
Bill Sizemore, a long-time observer of Pat Robertson’s activities, pens a lengthy profile of the fundamentalist Christian for VQR.
Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, former Met and Philly, is faring well in the business world and remains highly entertaining.
Fantastic Contraption, an incredibly addictive Flash game where you build machines out of seemingly simple parts to solve increasingly difficult puzzles.
Switched at Birth tells the tale of two girls who were swapped for one another at the hospital and didn’t find out more than 40 years later even though one of the mothers knew the whole time. See also The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Roger Ebert’s blog demonstrates that he might be a better cultural commentator than film critic. Either way, he’s never been better.
Some well-meaning kids show off their unintentionally hilarious science project posters.
Dyna Moe’s excellent illustrated moments from Mad Men.
Merlin Mann wants to do Better.
Improv Everywhere used a Jumbotron, dozens of crazy fans, color programs, mascots, NBC sportscaster Jim Gray, and the Goodyear blimp to make a typical Little League game between the Lugnuts and Mudcats into The Best Game Ever.
Dan Hill explains extensively about the process for designing the web site for Monocle magazine.
Footage from a 1975 CBS News report about the final flight out of Da Nang near the end of the Vietnam War.
The literal version of A Ha’s Take On Me video.
R.I.P. David Foster Wallace: Wallace gave what I think is his final interview to the WSJ’s Christopher Farley about Wallace’s book about John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. After Wallace died, I collected a number of online remembrances. David Lipsky’s The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace for Rolling Stone and McSweeney’s reprint of a 1987 profile of Wallace both capture who Wallace was and how much he gave of himself to his family, friends, and the world.
Test your visual geometric accuracy with the eyeballing game.
Michael Pollan’s letter to the next President of the United States: “we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine”.
Filip Dujardin stitches together parts of different photographs of buildings to make pictures of new and sometimes crazy & impossible buildings. This one of those “I wish I’d thought of that” projects.
A segment from the This American Life TV show about a Chicago restaurant called The Wieners Circle which turns into a sexually and racially charged free-for-all on weekend nights, much to the delight of the patrons, the heavily tipped workers, and the owners.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: The Art of the Title blog obsesses over the increasingly elaborate and celebrated craft of movie title sequences.
Steward Brand posted the entirety of How Buildings Learn online. The 1997 BBC documentary was based on Brand’s excellent book of the same name.
Charles Mann on the Earth’s soil for National Geographic Magazine.
Google’s archive of millions of photographs from Life magazine.
Barack Obama (and the other guy): Since meeting him more than four years ago, photojournalist Callie Shell has taken a number of great photos of Obama. Just after the election, Newsweek posted an epic seven-part series about the Obama, McCain, and Clinton campaigns resulting from a year of behind-the-scenes reporting. David Remnick weighed in on Obama and race in America. And a March 2008 interview with rapper DMX reveals that he has no idea who Barack Obama is. “The nigga’s name is Barack. Barack? Nigga named Barack Obama. What the fuck, man?! Is he serious? That ain’t his fuckin’ name.”
An exploration of the link between the 2008 Presidential election results and the rich loamy soils left by the shallow seas of the late Cretaceous period some 85 million years ago.
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway.
Video showing how to build an igloo, a must-see for those interested in architecture.
William Langewiesche tells the story of the midair collision in Brazil that resulted in the deaths of 154 people on Gol Flight 1907 in September 2006.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: I couldn’t leave this one off. Christoph Niemann doesn’t post to his NY Times blog very often, but each entry is a gem. I love his kids’ obsession with the NYC subway.
Vanity Fair constructs several menus for George W. Bush’s final days in the White House. Includes such dishes as Gored hearts of Palm Beach, with hanging chad; Deep-fried Halliburton, in Saddam Hoisin Sauce; and New Orleans flounder.
If you’re still information deprived after all that, you can check out the lists from 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.
As an appetizer before my annual best links of the year post (coming Monday, I hope), I put together a list of kottke.org posts from 2008 that I liked the most and that may be worth a look if you missed them the first time around.
In January, I liveblogged the Mythbusters episode about the airplane on the conveyor belt. I still get email telling me that the plane won’t take off.
Time merge media is a collection of video and photographic works which display multiple time periods at once.
A collection of single serving sites, single-page sites like Barack Obama Is My New Bicycle, Khaaan!, and Is Lost A Repeat?
A liveblog of the Oscars written without actually watching them.
A post about the end of The Wire.
In March, kottke.org turned 10 years old and I collected a bunch of the previous designs together.
One of my all-time favorite threads on kottke.org: saying words wrong on purpose.
My favorite graph which doubles as a picture of my son.
Stanley Kubrick, Pablo Ferro, and Arthur Lipsett.
A photo of Ollie attempting to walk in Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern.
A collection of early movie reviews, including one by Maxim Gorky from 1896.
Survival tips for the Middle Ages, another great thread about how a contemporary person might fend for themselves in 1000 AD.
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is a book printed in 1499 but which looks quite contemporary.
The most beautiful suicide, a photo of Evelyn Hale taken by Robert Wiles a few minutes after she jumped from the Empire State Building
A pair of posts about the Metropolitan Life Tower: the tower’s past and future and an unusual death that occurred in the building shortly after it opened.
A collection of election maps from the 2008 US Presidential election.
And finally, the opening space scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey with chickens from The Muppet Show clucking the Blue Danube waltz.
Paul Goldberger, the New Yorker’s architecture critic, lists his ten favorite buildings of 2008.
In time for the 2008 Olympics, the world saw the fruits of China’s decision to put aside nationalism, hire the greatest architects from around the world, and let them do the kind of things they could never afford to do at home. That brought us two of the greatest buildings of the year, Herzog and de Meuron’s extraordinary Olympic Stadium, the stunning steel latticework structure widely known as the Bird’s Nest; and Norman Foster’s Beijing Airport, a project that was not only bigger than any other airport in the world, but more beautiful, more logically laid out, and more quickly built. And the headquarters of CCTV, the Chinese television network, by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture — a building which I had thought was going to be a pretentious piece of structural exhibitionism — turned out to be a compelling and exciting piece of structural exhibitionism.
Big disagree on Eliasson’s NYC waterfalls…they were underwhelming.