kottke.org posts about lists

Best fiction of 2015Nov 24 2015

The person I listen to the most regarding books I should be reading is Tyler Cowen...he has never once steered me wrong. So when he wrote about the best fiction of 2015, I perked up. I've been hearing many good things about Elena Ferrante's series (Cowen himself flagged her The Lost Daughter as a favorite back in 2008) but his assertion that her recent series of novels ranks as "one of the prime literary achievements of the last twenty years" puts it solidly on my holiday beach reads list. The New World by Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz and Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty also sound particularly interesting.

Picks and lists from others will start appearing online soon...I'll update this post as necessary.

How do you pick the 50 best restaurants in the world?Nov 05 2015

From the New Yorker Food Issue,1Lauren Collins examines how the World's 50 Best Restaurants list comes together. I haven't eaten at any of these sorts of restaurants in years (for a lot of reasons), and this bit gets to part of the reason why:

The restaurants in the upper reaches of the list tend to fall into a certain mode. They are all the same place, Giles Coren once conjectured in the London Times, "only the face changes, like Doctor Who." Just as there is Oscar bait, there is 50 Best bait. "It's opening up in Beijing," David Chang said, imagining the archetypal 50 Best restaurant. "It's a Chinese restaurant by a guy who worked for Adrià, Redzepi, and Keller. He cooks over fire. Everything is a story of his terroir. He has his own farm and hand-dives for his own sea urchins." Hearing about 50 Best winners, and having eaten at a few of them, I started to think of them as icebreaker restaurants -- places that create moments, that give you prompts. This can be exhilarating, or it can be infantilizing. It is the dining experience as Cards Against Humanity.

  1. Not to be confused with the NY Times' Food Issue, which was out this past weekend.

The 50 best non-fiction podcastsOct 20 2015

Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder polled 1600 people to find a list of the 50 best non-fiction podcasts. The list skews nerdy, science, and tech. The top 5 is unsurprising:

1. This American Life
2. Radiolab
3. Serial
4. 99% Invisible
5. WTF with Marc Maron

2015 status symbolsSep 29 2015

I wasn't expecting much, but this list of status items from The Cut is pretty interesting reading. Status is often equated with money, but this list goes beyond that with picks like Japanese chalk for lecturing professors, the proper throat balm for theater people, watches for bankers1, weed for High Times editors, and the best canned tomatoes.

  1. You might think that the watches get more expensive as you climb the corporate ladder, but that's not how status symbols work sometimes. For instance, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein wears a Swatch that can't have cost him more than a couple hundred bucks.

BLDGBLOG's end-of-summer reading listAug 25 2015

From the always excellent BLDGBLOG, a list of recommended books for your end-of-summer reading. Included on the list are a novel about drug cartels, a book about crime in the future, a history of Nazi concentration camps, and a book on rust, about which I have personally heard good things.

The speed of sci-fi ships, rankedAug 05 2015

From Back to the Future's DeLorean to Dr. Who's Tardis, here's a listing of sci-fi vehicles ranked from slowest to fastest.

Sci-fi spaceships speed

In the ongoing struggle of Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Wars is the clear winner in the speed category: the Millennium Falcon is thousands of times faster than the Enterprise. Also, I didn't know the Death Star was so fast!

The top 10 most beautiful movies of all timeJul 23 2015

Ok, so narrowing down all of the beautifully shot movies in the world to a list of just 10 is absurd, but to their credit, the gang at Cinefix manage to mention more than 50 or 60 movies in their top 10 review. If you've only seen even a few of these, you're doing well.

Manhattan, Citizen Kane, The Fall, 2001, Hero, The Tree of Life. Damn.

The top 10 best running gags on Arrested DevelopmentJul 21 2015

Still, where did the lighter fluid come from?

Sister is my new mother, Mother.

I'm afraid I just blue myself.

I'm about halfway through season two of Arrested Development again on Netflix and it might be the best show ever on television. I'm not even kidding.

Update: NPR has been obsessively cataloging the show's running gags here. Holy shit, the extensive foreshadowing of Buster losing his hand! This show is amazing. (via @Nick__Vance)

A guide to Don DeLillo's booksJul 03 2015

This list ranking Don DeLillo's novels into categories ranging from "Classic" to "Avoid" from 2007 excludes his two most recent novels, but if you have little exposure to the author, it's a good place to start.

White Noise. DeLillo's breakthrough success, arguably still his quintessential masterpiece, and the funniest and most sustained example of his talent. Jack Gladney, professor of Hitler Studies, struggles with information overload, simulated disasters, an "airborne toxic event," the most photographed barn in America, and a drug that neutralizes the fear of death. If you're going to like DeLillo, this is the book that will make it happen.

Confession: aside from attempting to tackle Underworld1 more than 10 years ago, I have not read any DeLillo. I should probably fix that? (via @davidgrann)

  1. I bought my copy of Underworld at a San Francisco used book store at the same time I bought Infinite Jest. Like I said, Underworld didn't do it for me, but reading IJ became an odd sort of turning point in my life.

How people respond to life-changing inventionsJul 02 2015

Near the end of a piece by Morgan Housel called Innovation Isn't Dead, appears "the typical path of how people respond to life-changing inventions":

1. I've never heard of it.
2. I've heard of it but don't understand it.
3. I understand it, but I don't see how it's useful.
4. I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
5. I use it, but it's just a toy.
6. It's becoming more useful for me.
7. I use it all the time.
8. I could not imagine life without it.
9. Seriously, people lived without it?

That's about right. I can only recall a couple of instances where I've skipped from step 1 to step 8 or 9: when I first used the Web1 and when Jobs introduced the iPhone at MacWorld. Everything else -- Google, HD TV, Twitter, personal computers, streaming music services, wifi, laptops, Instagram, mobile phones -- went through most of the 9 phases. (via @cdixon)

  1. Not the Internet, the Web. I used the Internet before I used the Web (Usenet, FTP, and Gopher mostly) and I never got the "OMG this is going to change everything" vibe I got after using the Web for five minutes.

Some science book reading listsJun 30 2015

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.

Beyond TufteJun 25 2015

From designer Karl Sluis, a list of nine great book about information visualization not written by Edward Tufte. Gonna keep my eye out for Stephen Few's Now You See It and David McCandless' The Visual Miscellaneum, but Herbert Bayer's World Geographic Atlas is a little too rich for my blood.

Photographic firsts and the earliest born person ever to be photographedJun 24 2015

From Petapixel, a list of photographic firsts, including the first photograph (1826), the first digital photograph (1957), the first photo of the Sun (1845), and the first photograph of a US President (1843).

John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, was the first president to have his photograph taken. The daguerreotype was shot in 1843, a good number of years after Adams left office in 1829. The first to have his picture taken in office was James Polk, the 11th President, who was photographed in 1849.

Adams was born in 1767, which got me thinking about a long-standing interest of mine: who was the earliest born person ever photographed? The Maine Historical Society believes Revolutionary War vet Conrad Heyer was the earliest born. Born in 1749, he crossed the Delaware with Washington before sitting for this portrait in 1852.

Conrad Heyer

But according to the Susquehanna County Historical Society, John Adams (no apparent relation to the above Adams) was born in 1745 and was photographed at some point before he died in 1849. Other contenders with unverified ages include Revolutionary War vet Baltus Stone (born somewhere between 1744 and 1754 according to various sources) and a former slave named Caesar, photographed in 1851 at the alleged age of 114, which would mean he was born around 1737.

Still, that's photographs of at least two people who were born in the 1740s, at least five years before the start of the French and Indian War. As children, it's possible they could have interacted with people who lived through England's Glorious Revolution in 1688 or even the English Civil War (1642-1651). The Great Span lives on.

10 most controversial movies of all timeJun 24 2015

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)

All 15 Pixar movies rankedJun 18 2015

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.

Reasons people shoot other peopleJun 04 2015

From Parents Against Gun Violence, a few of the reasons people shot people in May 2015.

My fiancee and I had an argument, so I open-carried my gun to a park and shot four random people.

The bartender put Clamato in my beer when I wanted tomato juice, so I shot him and his dog.

I found suspicious calls on my boyfriend's phone, so I shot him. He was armed at the time too.

Rather than let my ex-wife win custody, I shot my own daughter to death.

Click through for the whole depressing list and links to news articles about each incident.

Some odd things about self-driving carsJun 01 2015

Jan Chipchase writes about Twelve Concepts in Autonomous Mobility, aka behavioral and design considerations of self-driving vehicles. You may not have thought of some of these.

Nanny mode: vehicles that are assigned to pick up young children from school, but end up trailing them at a discreet distance because the kids prefer to walk home alone.

Car surprise: when you come across your car somewhere where you didn't expect it to be and witness your vehicle engaging in unexpected activities e.g. pickup up flowers at the mall: the equivalent of catching your parent or kid smoking or shoplifting.

And why is Google, an advertising company, interested in self-driving cars? Perhaps this:

Trailer trashing: where dodgy looking vehicles are assigned to trail an otherwise apparent owner either as a joke or to send a message e.g. a hearse sent by a debt collection agency to scare-up payment. You'll also see this happen with more aggressive companies who send a vehicle around to their competitors to send a message, recruit their staff or to gather intelligence. Task Rabbit or San Da ha + autonomous mobility + intent. The most obvious market for this will be straight-up advertising.

In 2015, you can follow brands on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In 2023, the brands follow you! Around town!

Way More than LuckMay 29 2015

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.

Ten things you'll learn in your first year of business schoolMay 22 2015

I've never had the desire to go to business school or get an MBA, but I found this post by Ellen Chisa about what she learned during her first year at Harvard Business School fascinating. It almost nearly sort of makes me want to think about maybe applying to business school.

People often know what they're good at (it got them where they are!) Unfortunately, things won't always go well in your career. How you react and recover impacts everyone around you.

One of the best things I did this year was answering these two questions honestly, for myself:

What is my worst self?

When does my worst self come out?

My worst self: critical, impatient, stubborn, cynical, and sarcastic. It comes out when I feel like I'm not in a position to make an impact, and when I feel undervalued in a situation. It also happens if I think I'm fundamentally "right" and someone disagrees. If it goes on for too long I become incredibly apathetic and don't do anything.

I have a hard time avoiding this, but I am better at catching it now. When I do catch it, I attempt to apologize to the group, move on, and catch it faster the next time.

Knowing yourself wasn't really something I was taught in school, nor was it emphasized at home, so I was slow to learn my strengths and weaknesses and how to properly apply them to situations in my life. That struggle continues even today.

The best 300 albums of the past 30 yearsMay 19 2015

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)

What's the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you've ever read?May 15 2015

From Reddit, dozens of people share their favorite lines from literature, from Nabokov to Milne to Dante. Here are a few of my favorites:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh?" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's hand. "I just wanted to be sure of you." -- A.A. Milne

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. -- Carl Sagan

Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was. -- Joseph Heller

'Happy,' I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don't have much faith in them and I am no exception - especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they're scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence. -- Hunter S. Thompson

If you need more, try your luck with these. (via @eqx1979)

2015 Pulitzer Prize winnersApr 21 2015

Sixth Extinction

Vox has a list of all the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners. I am especially pleased to see Elizabeth Kolbert win the general nonfiction category for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History...I've been reading her writing on climate change and environmental issues in the New Yorker for years now.

Simple rules for healthy eatingApr 20 2015

From pediatrics professor Aaron Carroll, a list of guidelines for sensible & healthy eating.

1. Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods. These include fruits and vegetables. But they also include meat, fish, poultry and eggs that haven't been processed. In other words, try to buy food that hasn't been cooked, prepared or altered in any way. Brown rice over white rice. Whole grains over refined grains. You're far better off eating two apples than drinking the same 27 grams of sugar in an eight-ounce glass of apple juice.

What's more interesting than the guidelines is the admission up front that they're not supported by rigorous science...and neither is nutrition in general. In the absence of science, "everything in moderation" seems to be the recommended course. (via @jimray)

Update: Julia Belluz recently interviewed Surgeon General1 Vivek Murthy for Vox and within, Murthy shares his four basic rules for health:

One is to eat healthy. I tend to avoid salt, added sugar, and processed foods whenever possible, and try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as part of all my meals whenever possible.

Second is to stay physically active. That means not just going to gym but incorporating activity into whatever I do, whether that's taking the stairs or converting sitting meetings to walking meetings whenever possible.

Third is making sure I'm focusing on my emotional and mental well-being. For me, an important part of that is the meditation practice that I do every morning. It's a chance for me to center myself, a chance for me to remember who I want to be every day.

The fourth thing is I remind myself to stay away from toxic substances like tobacco and drugs.

  1. What an odd antiquated governmental post, Surgeon General of the United States. The US government needs a robust advocate for the health of its citizens, but maybe not a 3-star admiral in the uniformed services you refer to as a surgeon? And while we're on the topic, sort of, why not a Filmmaker Laureate, Musician Laureate, YouTube Star Laureate, TV Showrunner Laureate, iOS App Programmer Laureate, and Blogger Laureate in addition to Poet Laureate?

The 100 best films of the decade (so far)Apr 09 2015

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.

The 100 Best Books of the Decade So FarApr 09 2015

Best Books 2010s

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.

The 2015 names of the yearMar 25 2015

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:

Swindly Lint
Dr. Electron Kebebew
Flavious Coffee
Lancelot Supersad Jr.
Jazznique St. Junious

(A reminder...these are actual names of actual people. Somehow.)

Littice Bacon-Blood
Dr. Wallop Promthong
Infinite Grover
Genghis Muskox
Malvina Complainville
Beethoven Bong
Amanda Miranda Panda

Some Hall of Name inductees include Tokyo Sexwale, Nimrod Weiselfish, Doby Chrotchtangle, Tanqueray Beavers, and Vanilla Dong.

The 75 best-edited movies of all timeFeb 09 2015

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 50 best films of the 2010s (so far)Feb 03 2015

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)

100 bucket list booksJan 23 2015

Amazon has compiled a list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime "to create a well-read life". Lots of the usual suspects here, including Lolita, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird. But there are also some quirkier and more recent picks like A Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Fault in Our Stars, and Unbroken. Went through and counted...I've read 29 of these.

David Ehrlich's top 25 films of 2014Jan 15 2015

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
4. Nymphomaniac
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.

24 pieces of life advice from Werner HerzogJan 14 2015

Werner Herzog Bear

Paul Cronin's book of conversations with filmmaker Werner Herzog is called Werner Herzog - A Guide for the Perplexed. On the back cover of the book, Herzog offers a list of advice for filmmakers that doubles as general purpose life advice.

1. Always take the initiative.
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief.
5. Learn to live with your mistakes.
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern.
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it.
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film.
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere.
10. Thwart institutional cowardice.
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
12. Take your fate into your own hands.
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory.
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour.
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver.
17. Don't be fearful of rejection.
18. Develop your own voice.
19. Day one is the point of no return.
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class.
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema.
22. Guerrilla tactics are best.
23. Take revenge if need be.
24. Get used to the bear behind you.

I bet this is some of the stuff you learn at Herzog's Rogue Film School:

The Rogue Film School is not for the faint-hearted; it is for those who have travelled on foot, who have worked as bouncers in sex clubs or as wardens in a lunatic asylum, for those who are willing to learn about lockpicking or forging shooting permits in countries not favoring their projects. In short: for those who have a sense of poetry. For those who are pilgrims. For those who can tell a story to four year old children and hold their attention. For those who have a fire burning within. For those who have a dream.

Akira Kurosawa's 100 favorite moviesJan 12 2015

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.

Steven Soderbergh's 2014 media dietJan 09 2015

Once again, Steven Soderbergh kept track of every book, TV show, movie, play, and short story he read or watched in 2014. A sampling: Girls, True Detective, Gone Girl, 2001 (3 times), Dr. Strangelove, Olive Kitteridge, My Struggle: Book One, Boardwalk Empire, and his black & white version of Raiders of the Lost Ark (twice).

Here are his lists for 2013 (House of Cards, Koyaanisqatsi), 2012 (This is Spinal Tap, The Lady in the Lake), 2011 (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Senna), 2010 (Mad Men, Where Good Ideas Come From), and 2009 (Breaking Bad, Slap Shot). (via @khoi)

The top 10 film/TV title sequences of 2014Dec 31 2014

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!

86 viral images that are actually fakeDec 31 2014

You've probably seen many of these images pop up on FB and Twitter this year. And they are amazing! But actually totally fake!

Fake Eclipse Photo

No, this isn't a solar eclipse as seen from the International Space Station.

Space photo researcher @FakeAstropix keeps debunking this one, but it keeps popping up in every corner of the internet. Which is why it's earned our top spot today. It's actually a rendering from DeviantArt user A4size-ska. Beautiful, but totally fake.

Does "even if it's fake it's real" apply here? (via @john_overholt)

22 animals that went extinct in 2014Dec 29 2014

2014 was a year that humans treated each other horribly. But we continue to treat the natural world even worse. Living Alongside Wildlife has a list of 22 species of animal declared extinct in 2014, extending humanity's long streak of causing plant and animal extinctions.

The last known Christmas Island Forest Skink (Emoia nativitatis) died alone in a zoo on May 31st, 2014. It is unknown why the species disappeared from its natural habitat of Christmas Island (an Australian territory) but invasive species may have played a key role.

The St. Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) is extinct. This species is notable for being fairly large (over three inches) and was found on the island of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Plectostoma sciaphilum was a snail that lived entirely on one Malaysian hill. A cement company wiped them all out.

Earlier this month, one of the last remaining northern white rhinos died; only 5 remain. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011, wiped out by poaching.

14 striking findings from 2014Dec 26 2014

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.

Ethnic Wealth 2014

Over the past 10 years, the net worth of black households has been cut in half.

The Most Amazing Science Images Of 2014Dec 22 2014

io9 collected a bunch of the most amazing science images of 2014. I posted several of these this year, including the monkey selfie, the marble harvesting video, the volcanic blast, the giant red leech eating a worm, feather vs. bowling ball in a vacuum, and beautiful chemistry. One they missed that I would have included: 4K time lapse video of the Sun.

The best magazine covers of 2014Dec 19 2014

Piketty Bw Cover

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.

The best behavioral economics of 2014 moviesDec 17 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.

(via @tylercowen)

The best book covers of 2014Dec 16 2014

At the NY Times, Nicholas Blechman weighs in with his picks for the best book covers of 2014.

Area X Book Cover

Dan Wagstaff, aka The Casual Optimist, picked 50 Covers for 2014.

Napoleon The Great Book Cover

From Jarry Lee at Buzzfeed, 32 Of The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2014.

Strange New Things Book Cover

Paste's Liz Shinn and Alisan Lemay present their 30 Best Book Covers of 2014.

Wolf In White Van

And from much earlier in the year (for some reason), Zachary Petit's 19 of the Best Book Covers of 2014 at Print.

On Such A Full Sea Book Cover

Michael Lewis' Wall Street wish listDec 16 2014

Michael Lewis has Eight Things I Wish for Wall Street.

2. No person under the age of 35 will be allowed to work on Wall Street.

Upon leaving school, young people, no matter how persuasively dimwitted, will be required to earn their living in the so-called real economy. Any job will do: fracker, street performer, chief of marketing for a medical marijuana dispensary. If and when Americans turn 35, and still wish to work in finance, they will carry with them memories of ordinary market forces, and perhaps be grateful to our society for having created an industry that is not subjected to them. At the very least, they will know that some huge number of people -- their former fellow street performers, say -- will be seriously pissed off at them if they do risky things on Wall Street to undermine the real economy. No one wants a bunch of pissed-off street performers coming after them.

(via nextdraft)

The best movie posters of 2014Dec 16 2014

Adrian Curry selects his favorites for the best movie posters of 2014. This one, for Gabe Polsky's Red Army, caught my eye:

Red Army Poster

See also the best poster lists from Empire, Entertainment Weekly, and Indiewire. (via subtraction)

How to care for introvertsDec 15 2014

I've read a lot about introverts and extroverts over the years (posted this back in Feb 2003 for example), but this list (found here) of how to care for introverts still hit me like a pile of bricks.

1. Respect their need for privacy.
2. Never embarrass them in public.
3. Let them observe first in new situations.
4. Give them time to think; don't demand instant answers.
5. Don't interrupt them.
6. Give them advance notice of expected changes in their lives.
7. Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing.
8. Reprimand them privately.
9. Teach them new skills privately.
10. Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests & abilities.
11. Don't push them to make lots of friends.
12. Respect their introversion; don't try to remake them into extroverts.

It's just dawned on me that when something goes wrong in my life, it's often one of the things on this list that's the culprit, especially #4 and #6. And #2 pretty much explains my middle and high school experience. Has anyone read Susan Caine's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking? I've heard great things about it, but haven't had a chance to read yet. Thinking I should bump it to the top of my queue. Holy crap, it's only $2.99 for Kindle...BOUGHT. (via @arainert)

Every episode of every Star Trek series rankedDec 15 2014

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.

The best longreads of 2014Dec 12 2014

Longreads is sharing some of their best, favorite, and most read long-form nonfiction articles of the year. So far, they've highlighted their weekly email picks and their most read exclusives, but they will be adding more as the month goes on. Some notable pieces include Ghosts of the Tsunami, You're 16. You're a Pedophile. You Don't Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now?, and David Foster Wallace and the Nature of Fact.

Update: Longform picked their favorite long articles in a number of different categories. #1 on their best of the year is Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Case for Reparations.

Update: And here is Digg's list.

Update: The New Yorker has a list of their most-read stories of 2014.

2014 Physics Breakthrough of the YearDec 12 2014

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

The 40 most groundbreaking albums of all timeDec 09 2014

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.

Best TV shows of 2014Dec 08 2014

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 most disruptive ideas from the past 85 yearsDec 04 2014

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.

The 10 greatest changes of the past 1000 yearsOct 31 2014

From the emergence of markets in the 13th century to the scientific revolution of the 17th century to castles in the 11th century, this is a list of historian Ian Mortimer's 10 biggest changes of the past 1000 years.

Most people think of castles as representative of conflict. However, they should be seen as bastions of peace as much as war. In 1000 there were very few castles in Europe -- and none in England. This absence of local defences meant that lands were relatively easy to conquer -- William the Conqueror's invasion of England was greatly assisted by the lack of castles here. Over the 11th century, all across Europe, lords built defensive structures to defend them and their land. It thus became much harder for kings to simply conquer their neighbours. In this way, lords tightened their grip on their estates, and their masters started to think of themselves as kings of territories, not of tribes. Political leaders were thus bound to defend their borders -- and govern everyone within those borders, not just their own people. That's a pretty enormous change by anyone's standards.

The list is adapted from Mortimer's recent book, Centuries of Change.

25 awesome photos of Muhammad AliOct 31 2014

From the Guardian's photo editor, an annotated list of the 25 best photographs of Muhammad Ali. My favorite is by Neil Leifer:

Ali Leifer Overhead

(via @DavidGrann)

The 50 best movie adaptations of booksOct 20 2014

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.

Top 10 slo-mo movie momentsOct 14 2014

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)

50 cultural icons and their favorite booksOct 07 2014

Flavorwire collected a list of the favorite books of 50 well-known people, including Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Ayn Rand, and Caroline Kennedy. Here are some of the picks:

Bill Murray: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Dolly Parton: The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.
Joan Didion: Victory by Joseph Conrad.
Robin Williams: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov.
Michelle Obama: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.
Nikola Tesla: Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.

(via @davidgrann)

Five favorite mapsSep 29 2014

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:

Mississippi Meandering

Top 10 essays since 1950Sep 29 2014

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.

A list of 50 books that influenced Leo TolstoySep 23 2014

Tolstoy List Books

When Russian author Leo Tolstoy was in his 60s, he was asked to list the books which influenced him the most in his career. He responded by grouping the books into three main categories by level of impact: great, v. great, and enormous. Some of his picks:

Matthew's Gospel: Sermon on the Mount - Enormous
Dickens' David Copperfield - Enormous
Victor Hugo. Les Misérables - Enormous
Pushkin's Yevgeny Onegin - V. great
George Eliot. Novels - Great

The NY Times reprinted the list in 1978; here's the original listing.

1984, pop culture's best year everSep 18 2014

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.

Common misconceptionsSep 05 2014

From Wikipedia, a list of common misconceptions, including a recent favorite about life expectancy in the Middle Ages:

It is true that life expectancy in the Middle Ages and earlier was low; however, one should not infer that people usually died around the age of 30. In fact, the low life expectancy is an average very strongly influenced by high infant mortality, and the life expectancy of people who lived to adulthood was much higher. A 21-year-old man in medieval England, for example, could by one estimate expect to live to the age of 64.

Also, Vikings didn't wear horned helmets, Romans didn't puke in vomitoriums after rich meals, the average housefly lives for 20 to 30 days, medieval Europeans didn't believe the Earth was flat, Napoleon was taller than average, the Bible's forbidden fruit was not explicitly an apple, and humans have more than 20 senses. (via @linuz90)

The Perfect RecordingsSep 05 2014

New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones recently compiled a series of five playlists on Spotify of "perfect" songs: vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4, vol 5. Among the songs found on the playlists are Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blue Moon by Elvis, Pony by Ginuwine, Transmission by Joy Division, Tennis Court by Lorde, No Scrubs by TLC, and Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin. The playlists are also available on Rdio, courtesy of my friend Matt: vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4, and vol 5.

Update: And here's an Rdio playlist with all five volumes of Perfect Recordings. This will be on shuffle at my place for months to come.

The weather taketh awaySep 02 2014

From Matter, a list of things to enjoy now before climate change takes them away or makes them more difficult to procure. Like Joshua trees:

The Joshua trees of Joshua Tree National Park need periods of cold temperatures before they can flower. Young trees are now rare in the park.

And chocolate:

Steep projected declines in yields of maize, sorghum, and other staples portend a coming food crisis for parts of sub-Saharan Africa. But here's what will probably get everyone's attention in the developed world: Studies suggest cacao production will begin to decline in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the source of half of the world's chocolate, by 2030.

And cherries:

Eighty percent of tart cherries come from a single five-county area in Michigan, all of which is threatened.

But as noted previously, we've got plenty of time to enjoy jellyfish:

Important cold-water fish species, including cod, pollock, and Atlantic Salmon, face a growing threat of population collapse as the oceans heat up. Studies suggest a radical fix: Eat lots of jellyfish, which will thrive in our new climate.

Also, The Kennedy Space Center, Havana, Coney Island, the Easter Island statues, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa will all be underwater sooner than you think.

List of lists of listsAug 26 2014

Holy informational rabbit hole, Batman! Wikipedia has a page that is a List of lists of lists.

This article is a list of articles comprising a list of things that are themselves lists of things, such as the lists of lists listed below.

Inception horn! Includes such lists of lists as Lists of fictional Presidents of the United States, Ranked lists of Chilean regions, Lists of black people, and Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents. (via @sampotts)

Physics paradoxesAug 21 2014

Today's brain-melter: Every Insanely Mystifying Paradox in Physics. It's all there, from the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin limit to quantum immortality to, of course, the tachyonic antitelephone.

A tachyonic antitelephone is a hypothetical device in theoretical physics that could be used to send signals into one's own past. Albert Einstein in 1907 presented a thought experiment of how faster-than-light signals can lead to a paradox of causality, which was described by Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld in 1910 as a means "to telegraph into the past".

If you emerge with your brain intact, at the very least, you'll have lost a couple of hours to the list.

Policing by consentAug 18 2014

In light of the ongoing policing situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer and how the response to the community protests is highlighting the militarization of US police departments since 9/11, it's instructive to look at one of the first and most successful attempts at the formation of a professional police force.

The UK Parliament passed the first Metropolitan Police Act in 1829. The act was introduced by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who undertook a study of crime and policing, which resulted in his belief that the keys to building an effective police force were to 1) make it professional (most prior policing had been volunteer in nature); 2) organize as a civilian force, not as a paramilitary force; and 3) make the police accountable to the public. The Metropolitan Police, whose officers were referred to as "bobbies" after Peel, was extremely successful and became the model for the modern urban police force, both in the UK and around the world, including in the United States.

At the heart of the Metropolitan Police's charter were a set of rules either written by Peel or drawn up at some later date by the two founding Commissioners: The Nine Principles of Policing. They are as follows:

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

As police historian Charles Reith noted in 1956, this philosophy was radical when implemented in London in the 1830s and "unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public". Apparently, it remains radical in the United States in 2014. (thx, peter)

The greatest documentaries of all timeAug 05 2014

Sight and Sound polled 340 critics and filmmakers in search of the world's best documentary films. Here are their top 50. From the list, the top five:

A Man with a Movie Camera
Sans soleil
Night and Fog
The Thin Blue Line

Unless you went to film school or are a big film nerd, you probably haven't seen (or even heard of) the top choice, A Man with a Movie Camera. Roger Ebert reviewed the film several years ago as part of his Great Movies Collection.

Born in 1896 and coming of age during the Russian Revolution, Vertov considered himself a radical artist in a decade where modernism and surrealism were gaining stature in all the arts. He began by editing official newsreels, which he assembled into montages that must have appeared rather surprising to some audiences, and then started making his own films. He would invent an entirely new style. Perhaps he did. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard's 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov's dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.

If you're curious, the film is available on YouTube in its entirety:

(via open culture)

Digital Atlas of the Roman EmpireAug 04 2014

Digital Map Ancient RomeThe Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire lets you explore ancient Rome in a Google Maps interface. (via @pbump)

Update: From Vox, 40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire.

Two thousand years ago, on August 19, 14 AD, Caesar Augustus died. He was Rome's first emperor, having won a civil war more than 40 years earlier that transformed the dysfunctional Roman Republic into an empire. Under Augustus and his successors, the empire experienced 200 years of relative peace and prosperity. Here are 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire -- its rise and fall, its culture and economy, and how it laid the foundations of the modern world.

Clickbaiting the 10 CommandmentsJul 25 2014

Over at McSweeney's, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won't believe what God said to this man...

At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn't Have Other Gods.

37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.

Maps don't love you like I love youJul 18 2014

From Flowing Data, 19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won't Believe Your Eyes. Watch. It's the maps listicle to end all maps listicles.

Useless maps

Ten most memorable film editsJul 11 2014

From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.

(via @brillhart)

The 50 greatest summer blockbustersJul 07 2014

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)

Scientist biography recommendationsJul 02 2014

Earlier today I asked my Twitter followers for recommendations for "really good" biographies about scientists. I gave Genius (James Gleick's bio of Richard Feynman) and Cleopatra, A Life (not about a scientist but was super interesting and well-written) as examples of what I was looking for. You can see the responses here and I've pulled out a few of the most interesting ones below:

- Isaac Newton by James Gleick. Gleick wrote the aforementioned Genius and Chaos, another favorite of mine. I tried to read The Information last year after many glowing recommendations from friends but couldn't get into it. Someone suggested Never at Rest is a superior Newton bio.

- The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman. I've read this biography of mathematician Paul Erdos; highly recommended.

- Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I've never read anything by Sobel; I'll have to rectify that.

- Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. I enjoyed his problematic Jobs biography and I notice that he's written one on Ben Franklin as well.

- Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

- American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Bio of J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project. See also: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, one of my favorite books ever.

- Everything and More by David Foster Wallace. I've heard Wallace was bit handwavy with the math in this one, but I still enjoyed it.

- Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson. Newton was a detective?

- The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura Snyder. Four-way bio of a group of school friends (Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones) who changed the world.

- The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen. How Charles Darwin devised his theory of evolution and then sat on it for years is one of science's most fascinating stories.

- T. rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez. Not a biography of a person but of a theory: that a meteor impact 65 million years ago caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

- Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Disney isn't a scientist, but when you ask for book recommendations and Steven Johnson tells you to read something, it goes on the list.

- The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel. Bio of brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

- Edge of Objectivity by Charles Gillispie. A biography of modern science published in 1966, all but out of print at this point unfortunately.

- Galileo at Work by Stillman Drake.

- The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes.

And many more here. Thanks to everyone who suggested books.

Update: Because this came up on Twitter, some biographies specifically about women in science: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Hedy's Folly, On a Farther Shore, Marie Curie: A Life, A Feeling for the Organism, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, and Radioactive.

Eleven great books about soccerJun 26 2014

There haven't been many good books written about soccer, but here are eleven of them worth your time. Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization looks especially interesting.

A groundbreaking work -- named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated -- How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world's most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.

Foer is one of the contributors, alongside authors Aleksandar Hemon and Karl Ove Knausgaard, to the New Republic's excellent World Cup coverage.

Mixed signals vs. noiseJun 19 2014

Over the course of his 3000 columns at The Motley Fool, Morgan Housel has learned a few things:

I've learned that short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, whether it's in business, politics, investing, or work.

I've learned that debt can cause more social problems than some drugs, yet drugs are illegal and debt is tax deductible.

I've learned that finance is actually very simple, but it's made to look complicated to justify fees.

Unfortunately, the list is undermined almost completely by the get-rich-quick advertising on the site, including this bit at the end of the article, which I can't even tell is an ad or just a promotion:

Opportunities to get wealthy from a single investment don't come around often, but they do exist, and our chief technology officer believes he's found one. In this free report, Jeremy Phillips shares the single company that he believes could transform not only your portfolio, but your entire life. To learn the identity of this stock for free and see why Jeremy is putting more than $100,000 of his own money into it, all you have to do is click here now.

Short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, click here now. Now!

20 outdoor survival tipsJun 17 2014

From Popular Mechanics, a list of survival tips covering a variety of outdoor situations, from watching a baseball game to cutting down trees to drinking too much water during exercise.

We all know that dehydration can be dangerous, leading to dizziness, seizures, and death, but drinking too much water can be just as bad. In 2002, 28-year-old runner Cynthia Lucero collapsed midway through the Boston Marathon. Rushed to a hospital, she fell into a coma and died. In the aftermath it emerged that she had drunk large amounts along the run. The excess liquid in her system induced a syndrome called exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), in which an imbalance in the body's sodium levels creates a dangerous swelling of the brain.

The best commencement speeches everMay 19 2014

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
11. Yolo
10. Make art
9. Balance
8. Dream
7. Remember history
6. Embrace failure
5. Work hard
4. Don't give up
3. Inner voice
2. Tips
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)

Best longform journalism of 2013May 19 2014

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.

101 things to love about NYCMay 12 2014

101 Things NYC

From the NY Times Magazine in June 1976, a list of 101 things to love about New York City. Some of the list is evergreen:

1. Being nostalgic about things in New York that were never so great.
11. Hating Con Edison.
25. The best water-supply system in the nation.
42. The little red lighthouse still under the great gray bridge.

And other items on the list, not so much:

8. Dialing 873-0404.
24. A broken parking meter.
43. Page 1,029 of the Manhattan telephone directory under "Ng."
57. The personals in The Irish Echo.

Scouting New York has an explanation of some of the items on the list. Apparently 873-0404 was the number for the Dial-A-Satellite hotline; you could call it to get information about satellites passing overhead. (via @mkonnikova)

Worse than Jar JarMay 07 2014

In an item on Ain't It Cool News about the working title for Star Wars VII (The Ancient Fear!), a pair of comments list fourteen things about the Star Wars movies as bad as or worse than Jar Jar Binks:

1. Dance number added to Jedi
2. CGI Jabba added to A New Hope
3. Han/Greedo scene changed in A New Hope
4. Horrible acting in the prequels even by the good actors
5. Obi-Wan riding around on Yoshi in Revenge of the Sith
6. Anakin/Padme love story
7. Jake Lloyd
8. R2-D2 flying
9. Hayden's ghost added to end of Jedi
10. Rick McCallum
11. Midichlorians
12. Virgin birth of Anakin
13. Vader as C-3POs maker and R2's buddy
14. Han/Jabba scene added in ANH

Meesa agree with most of this list.

The ten best sentencesMay 06 2014

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?

40 maps that explain the Middle EastMay 05 2014

Middle East Maps

From Max Fisher at Vox, 40 maps that explain the Middle East.

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East -- its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.

(via @jbenton)

A software canonApr 30 2014

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.

The new Ten CommandmentsApr 20 2014

From God's Twitter account, a new set of ten commandments:

1 Laugh.

2 Read.

3 Say please.

4 Floss.

5 Doubt.

6 Exercise.

7 Learn.

8 Don't hate.

9 Cut the bullshit.

10 Chill.


The top 100 animated moviesApr 17 2014

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
6. Dumbo
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)

Five word usage tips from David Foster WallaceApr 10 2014

Farnam Street is featuring a handout given by the late David Foster Wallace to his fiction writing class in 2002. It's titled YOUR LIBERAL-ARTS $ AT WORK and covers five common usages gotchas.

2. And is a conjunction; so is so. Except in dialogue between particular kinds of characters, you never need both conjunctions. "He needed to eat, and so he bought food" is incorrect. In 95% of cases like this, what you want to do is cut the and.

Best typefaces of 2013Mar 12 2014

Best Of 2013 Type

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.

Ten World War I mythsJan 22 2014

Historian Dan Snow collects and debunks ten myths about World War I. Including:

7. Tactics on the Western Front remained unchanged despite repeated failure

Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback galloped across battlefields as men in cloth caps charged the enemy without the necessary covering fire. Both sides were overwhelmingly armed with rifles. Four years later, steel-helmeted combat teams dashed forward protected by a curtain of artillery shells.

They were now armed with flame throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes, that in 1914 would have appeared unimaginably sophisticated, duelled in the skies, some carrying experimental wireless radio sets, reporting real-time reconnaissance.

Huge artillery pieces fired with pinpoint accuracy - using only aerial photos and maths they could score a hit on the first shot. Tanks had gone from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, also changing war forever.

(via @daveg)

Famous punctuation marks in literatureJan 21 2014

Kathryn Schulz went looking for those rare moments in literature where "punctuation pops its head up over the prose" and found five noteworthy uses. For instance, a period at the end of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table (spoilers?):

"It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one."

And Nabokov's Lolita made the list, but I expected this bit:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

rather than:

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three..."

(via df)

80 maps that explain the worldJan 15 2014

From the Washington Post, an interesting collection of 80 maps (in two parts: one and two) that explain the world and how it works. One of my favorites is this map of actual European discoveries of land previously unknown by humans.

Actual Euro Discv

Antarctica is all stripey on that map and I realized I didn't know who had first clapped their peepers on the only continent discovered in the last millennia, so I did some reading on the subject. From the Holy Book of Wikipedia:

The first land south of the parallel 60° south latitude was discovered by the Englishman William Smith, who sighted Livingston Island on 19 February 1819. A few months later Smith returned to explore the other islands of the South Shetlands archipelago, landed on King George Island, and claimed the new territories for Britain.

In the meantime, the Spanish Navy ship San Telmo sank in September 1819 when trying to cross Cape Horn. Parts of her wreckage were found months later by sealers on the north coast of Livingston Island (South Shetlands). It is unknown if some survivor managed to be the first setting foot on these Antarctic islands.

The first confirmed sighting of mainland Antarctica cannot be accurately attributed to one single person. It can, however, be narrowed down to three individuals. According to various sources, three men all sighted the ice shelf or the continent within days or months of each other: von Bellingshausen, a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy; Edward Bransfield, a captain in the British navy; and Nathaniel Palmer, an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut. It is certain that the expedition, led by von Bellingshausen and Lazarev on the ships Vostok and Mirny, reached a point within 32 km (20 mi) from Princess Martha Coast and recorded the sight of an ice shelf at 69°21′28″S 2°14′50″W that became known as the Fimbul ice shelf. On 30 January 1820, Bransfield sighted Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Antarctic mainland, while Palmer sighted the mainland in the area south of Trinity Peninsula in November 1820. Von Bellingshausen's expedition also discovered Peter I Island and Alexander I Island, the first islands to be discovered south of the circle.

(via @daveg)

Bret Victor's 2013 reading listJan 09 2014

From Bret Victor, a reading list of meaty material from the past year. His Reading Tip #1 in the sidebar is how I'd like my ideal self to read:

It's tempting to judge what you read:

I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those.

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It's almost certainly the case that you don't fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say:

I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent.

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Fantastic tip.

The best Quora answers of 2013Dec 31 2013

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?

Gift guides for millionairesDec 16 2013

For the Oobject gift guide this year, "almost nothing is affordable". Items include a bank vault door from the 1920s ($50,000), JFK's chess set ($475,000), and a console for the Hubble Space Telescope ($75,000).

Hubble Console

It's more a nerd wish list than gift guide, the opposite of Tyler Brûlé's effort, penned from the empty upper deck (first class, naturally) of a flight to Singapore. Brûlé's earnest advice for your holiday shopping? Build a house in Australia for next year's holidaymaking:

With a bit of planning and a good construction team you could surprise friends and family by commissioning Brisbane-based architects Richards & Spence to build you a little beachside compound somewhere in Queensland. This year you could roll up a set of plans to place under the tree with a promise that this time next year you'll all be wandering around in kaftans and low-slung trunks drinking fancy, fruity cocktails.

Sounds brill.

A History of the Future in 100 ObjectsDec 09 2013

Inspired by the A History of the World in 100 Objects project done by the BBC and the British Museum, Adrian Hon presents A History of the Future in 100 Objects, presented from the perspective of someone writing in 2082. From the introduction:

Every century is extraordinary, of course. Some may be the bloodiest or the darkest; others encompass momentous social revolutions, or scientific advances, or religious and philosophical movements. The 21st century is different: it represents the first time in our history that we have truly had to question what it means to be human. It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book.

I tell the story of how we became more connected than ever before, with objects like Babel, Silent Messaging, the Nautilus-3, and the Brain Bubble - and how we became fragmented, both physically and culturally, with the Fourth Great Awakening, and the Biomes.

With the Braid Collective, the Loop, the Steward Medal, and the Rechartered Cities, we made tremendous steps forward on our long pursuit of greater equality and enlightenment -- but the Locked Simulation Interrogations, the Sudan-Shanghai Letter, the Collingwood Meteor, and the Downvoted all showed how easy it was for us to lapse back into horror and atrocity.

We automated our economy with the UCS Deliverbots, the Mimic Scripts, the Negotiation Agents, and the Old Drones, destroying the entire notion of work and employment in the process; and we transformed our politics with Jorge Alvarez's Presidential Campaign, and the Constitutional Blueprints.

The book is available on the Kindle.

Godard's list of best American filmsDec 09 2013

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)

Top 25 album covers of 2013Dec 06 2013

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.

Tyler The Creator 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)

Jay Z's albums ranked by Jay ZDec 05 2013

In celebration of his 44th birthday, Jay Z ranked his solo albums:

Jay Z Ranked

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)

(via @anildash)

List from 1898 of the 100 best novelsNov 12 2013

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)

101 objects that made AmericaOct 31 2013

This month, Smithsonian magazine tells the story of America using 101 objects drawn from the 19 musuems and research centers of the Smithsonian Institution. Among the objects are the original Star Spangled Banner flag, the passenger pigeon, the polio vaccine, the pill, and Benjamin Franklin's Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

Franklins Experiments

A companion book, The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects, is available.

50 greatest innovations since the wheelOct 28 2013

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.

Kareem's advice for boysOct 23 2013

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written a list of 20 things boys can do to become men.

6. Fight your fear of the unknown.

We all have a tendency to hate what we don't understand, whether it comes in the form of different food, different cultures, or different ideas. There was a Yale study in which researchers examined the brains of people as they were presented with proof that an opinion they held was wrong. MRIs showed that when those people immediately rejected the new evidence, their brains released an addictive chemical that made them feel good. In that way our own bodies are actually encouraging our ignorance and fear. Fight that impulse. Becoming a man means growing, learning, and understanding-not cowering under a blanket with a handful of comforting notions.

(By the way, don't confuse physical bravery with intellectual bravery. It's easier to jump out of a plane-hopefully with a parachute-than it is to change your mind about an opinion. Acts of physical bravado will give you an initial rush, but exploring a new culture or examining a new idea will mature you and make you the kind of person others will be interested in.)

How to be a manOct 09 2013

This list of rules for the contemporary American male is both awesome and awful, seemingly written by a douchebag Dalai Lama. Some of the rules are thoughtful:

Measure yourself only against your previous self.

Staying angry is a waste of energy.

If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.

And some are not:

Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don't mind that she's eating yours.

Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.

Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.

The top 100 things you don't need to do before you dieOct 07 2013

The internet these days is chock full of must-reads, must-sees, can't-live-withouts, and lists (oh, the lists!) of things you need to do before you die.

As I understand it, we are now all legally obliged to watch Breaking Bad by the end of 2013. Our prisons are already full to bursting with people who failed to watch The West Wing or The Wire when they were expressly told to. I even saw a woman prosecuted last week for not having read Gone Girl. What was she thinking?

Richard Osman offers a way out of the must-see mess so that you can enjoy life again.

Of 100 Greatest Novels, you can happily ignore all of them except Scoop and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I am assuming you've already read To Kill a Mockingbird for O-level. Read Shakespeare if you want to, but you don't have to. (Though if you don't ever read him, you're not allowed to say he's rubbish. Deal?) You should probably read Great Expectations, but feel free to leave Dickens there. And I think Wuthering Heights is the only Emily Brontë novel worth reading (someone will rise to this, just you wait and see).

20 smart business notions from Jeff BezosSep 23 2013

The Motley Fool collected 20 snippets of business wisdom uttered by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over the years.

All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's.

Totes agree with this, which is why I use words like "totes". (Obvs.)

The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff DoneSep 10 2013

This is a presentation and therefore missing a bunch of key context, but Michael Dearing's The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done is interesting reading nonetheless. The five distortions are:

1. Personal exceptionalism
2. Dichotomous thinking
3. Correct overgeneralization
4. Blank canvas thinking
5. Schumpeterianism

That last one is likely a head-scratcher to those of us without economics backgrounds; here's what Dearing has to say about it:

Definition - sees creative destruction as natural, necessary, and as their vocation

Benefits - fearlessness, tolerance for destruction and pain

Deadly risk - heartless ambition, alienation

(via ★interesting)

Best special effects momentsAug 22 2013

Empire asked a group of visual effects specialists about their favorite special effect movie moments...here's what they had to say. Tim Webber (The Dark Knight, Gravity, Children of Men) picked the warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

I love Davy Jones in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the T-1000 walking out of the flames in Terminator 2, but my pick is the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It's just a simple matte painting, not a very complicated visual effects shot, but it was done brilliantly. A lot of the visual effects from that period look terrible now -- there are lines around things or you can see the joins on matte paintings, but that one was immaculate. I was pretty young when I watched it, but I was so impressed by the way it slowly revealed the size of the place. It's not your big, crash-bang-wallop modern visual effects shot but it has real dramatic effect.

The surprising ages of the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776Aug 13 2013

For the Journal of the American Revolution, Todd Andrlik compiled a list of the ages of the key participants in the Revolutionary War as of July 4, 1776. Many of them were surprisingly young:

Marquis de Lafayette, 18
James Monroe, 18
Gilbert Stuart, 20
Aaron Burr, 20
Alexander Hamilton, 21
Betsy Ross, 24
James Madison, 25

This is kind of blowing my mind...because of the compression of history, I'd always assumed all these people were around the same age. But in thinking about it, all startups need young people...Hamilton, Lafayette, and Burr were perhaps the Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg of the War. Some more ages, just for reference:

Thomas Jefferson, 33
John Adams, 40
Paul Revere, 41
George Washington, 44
Samuel Adams, 53

The oldest prominent participant in the Revolution, by a wide margin, was Benjamin Franklin, who was 70 years old on July 4, 1776. Franklin was a full two generations removed from the likes of Madison and Hamilton. But the oldest participant in the war was Samuel Whittemore, who fought in an early skirmish at the age of 80. I'll let Wikipedia take it from here:

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 98.


List of Stanley Kubrick's favorite moviesJul 30 2013

Compiled from a bunch of different sources, here's an attempt at an exhaustive list of movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. Among them:

Citizen Kane
The Godfather
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)

This American Life newbies: where to start?Jul 12 2013

The 500th episode of This American Life airs this weekend, and to celebrate, David Haglund picked 10 episodes you should listen to if you've never heard the show before.

Intellectual jokesJul 01 2013

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution picks up on a Reddit thread that asks "What's the most intellectual joke you know?" I've always been fond of this one:

Q: What does the "B" in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for?

A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot.

And this one:

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Phillip Glass

Two of the current favorites in the Reddit thread are:

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?"


It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

The Dunham CollectionJun 26 2013

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".

Video art you can watch onlineJun 25 2013

Flavorwire has collected 50 notable works of video art that are available to watch online for free, mostly on YouTube and Vimeo. Here's a piece from Chris Burden where he has a friend shoot him in the arm with a .22 rifle.

Other artists represented are Christian Marclay, Cory Arcangel, Marina Abramovic, and Andy Warhol.

The worst charities in AmericaJun 14 2013

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)

Seven myths about cooking steakJun 12 2013

For the Food Lab, Kenji Lopez-Alt debunks some old wives' tales related to cooking steak.

Myth #2: "Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices."

The Theory: Searing the surface of a cut piece of meat will precipitate the formation of an impenetrable barrier, allowing your meat to retain more juices as it cooks.

The Reality: Searing produces no such barrier-liquid can still pass freely in and out of the surface of a seared steak. To prove this, I cooked two steaks to the exact same internal temperature (130^0F). One steak I seared first over hot coals and finished over the cooler side of the grill. The second steak I started on the cooler side, let it come to about ten degrees below its final target temperature, then finished it by giving it a sear over the hot side of a grill. If there is any truth to the searing story, then the steak that was seared first should retain more moisture.

What I found is actually the exact opposite: the steak that is cooked gently first and finished with a sear will not only develop a deeper, darker crust (due to slightly drier outer layers-see Myth #1), but it also cooks more evenly from center to edge, thus limiting the amount of overcooked meat and producing a finished product that is juicier and more flavorful.

If you're serious about home-cooked steak, the "Further Reading" section at the bottom of this piece is your new best friend.

Tools for thinkingJun 11 2013

An excerpt from Daniel Dennett's new book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, outlines seven of Dennett's tools for thinking. His second tool is "respect your opponent":

The best antidote I know for this tendency to caricature one's opponent is a list of rules promulgated many years ago by social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport.

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. Attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way."

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

101 best written TV showsJun 04 2013

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
2 Seinfeld
3 The Twilight Zone
4 All in the Family
5 M*A*S*H
6 The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7 Mad Men
8 Cheers
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
19 Taxi
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?

A list of common misconceptionsMay 23 2013

Hey there. You didn't have stuff to do today, right? Because this list of common misconceptions on Wikipedia will keep you busy for perhaps the rest of your life.

There is a legend that Marco Polo imported pasta from China which originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States. Marco Polo describes a food similar to "lagana" in his Travels, but he uses a term with which he was already familiar. Durum wheat, and thus pasta as it is known today, was introduced by Arabs from Libya, during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century, according to the newsletter of the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association, thus predating Marco Polo's travels to China by about six centuries.

The notion that goldfish have a memory span of just a few seconds is false. It is much longer, counted in months.

(via @jakedobkin)

Restaurant rankings vs. ratingsMay 22 2013

Interesting piece about how the shift in influence from the Michelin Guide to the World's 50 Best Restaurants list has changed the approach of elite restaurants.

Just look at Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant that has over the past few years steadily risen the ranks of the World's 50 Best list (it's currently ranked No. 5). As recently as four years ago, it was just an expertly run restaurant, specializing in luxe ingredients, disarmingly warm service, and lovely meals. It got as many stars as it could from every venue that gave them out, but as a New Yorker story last September made clear, to get a high ranking on the World's 50 Best list, the restaurant had to do something different, so they moved from a standard menu to a "grid" menu in 2010 that was designed to offer diners a greater sense of control over their meals. It ranked 50th on the 2010 list, 24th on the 2011 list, and 10th when the 2012 list was announced in April of that year. In July 2012, the restaurant announced they'd be switching formats yet again, this time to a single tasting menu focused on New York terroir. (Some theatrical service elements that accompanied the meal -- long explanations of dish inspiration, for example -- got a negative reaction and have been more or less excised.) Did any of these changes make the restaurant "better"? Having eaten there a number of times over the years, this author would say that it's not really any better or worse -- it was and still is operating at the highest possible level a restaurant can. But it doesn't matter if the changes made the restaurant better: Every time the restaurant switched up its format, it got plenty of accompanying media coverage that let judges know they needed to return to see what was going on.

(via @Gachatz)

Better state birdsMay 21 2013

Surprisingly entertaining article about better choices for the state birds of each of the 50 US states.

4. Arkansas. Official state bird: northern mockingbird

Christ. What makes this even less funny is that there are like eight other states with mockingbird as their official bird. I'm convinced that the guy whose job it was to report to the state's legislature on what the official bird should be forgot until the day it was due and he was in line for a breakfast sandwich at Burger King. In a panic he walked outside and selected the first bird he could find, a dirty mockingbird singing its stupid head off on top of a dumpster.

What it should be: painted bunting

More hilarious science journalism, please. Yes, in addition to the excellent What If? (via @jessamyn)

List of NYC's outdoor summer moviesMay 15 2013

There are a lot of outdoor movies showing in NYC this summer: here's a listing of the whats, wheres, and whens. Movies include The Goonies, Jaws, Duck Soup, Moonrise Kingdom, Grease, and Blade Runner.

Extreme settlementsMay 03 2013

A list of the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost and westernmost cities/towns/villages in all 50 US states.

Vermont -- Northernmost: Derby Line. Southernmost: Vernon (specifically South Vernon area). Easternmost: Beecher Falls. Westernmost: Chimney Point.

California -- Northernmost: Tulelake (note: Fairport is more northerly but is considered a "former settlement") Southernmost: San Diego (San Ysidro District). Easternmost: Parker Dam. Westernmost: Ferndale.

New York -- Northernmost: Rouses Point. Southernmost: Staten Island-New York City (Tottenville Neighborhood) Easternmost: Montauk. Westernmost: Findley Lake.

(via @jessamyn)

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