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The best of Kottke (August 2005)

I know some of you probably miss Jason. I miss him too. So I rooted around in the boxes he keeps in the garage to find stuff that probably meant a lot to him and gathered it together to share with you.

Do you remember how in the 1980s, on The Tonight Show when Johnny wasn’t hosting, and Jay Leno or Garry Shandling or whoever wasn’t pitching in, they’d show a rerun with little clips of Johnny and Ed McMahon’s voice gravely intoning “The Best of Carson”? That was as close as you got to YouTube back then. This is kind of like that.

This box from Jason’s garage is marked August 2005. I’m going to try to do this once each day while I’m guest-hosting this week. And I feel that I’m on solid ground here, since my favorite Kottke post that month is “Looking backward at the future,” a collection of long-past predictions of the future, little time capsules to open up and re-examine. Another, The present future, challenges readers to imagine the future of the web without using the following words:

Ajax, web services, weblogs, Google,, Flickr, folksonomy, tags, hacks, podcasting, wikis, bottom-up, RSS, citizen journalism, mobile, TiVo, the Long Tail, and convergence.

Terrific, revealing stuff in the comments on that one.

The structure of changed a lot that month. Jason changed the formatting of the shorter posts, which changed how the site was read and made:

It’s a subtle change, but in a lot of ways it’s a return for me to an older style of blogging: link-dense, off-the-cuff, linking for subtext and not reference (a practice pioneered by Suck). Not having to limit myself to one link (as with the old style of remaindered link) or feel like I need to write something of substance to justify a post with a title and it’s own archive page (as with my main posts…it’s kind of amazing how post titles and individual archives have made blog posts seem more like magazine or newspaper articles than, well, blog posts) has been great. There was a missing intermediate baby bear sort of post that was difficult for me to do easily and on a regular basis. With this switch, it’s just right.

I think I’m still stuck on justifying the title, but Jason’s practice definitely influenced the way I strung together multiple ideas into little constellations. Also, weird how the pull/comment + link style has been resurrected on Twitter.

Adding titles to posts (even shorter ones, eventually, got titles back) and largely moving away from comments changed how the site worked too โ€” see “A little less conversation and a little more philosophical voyeurism.” (Psst โ€” that title puns on an Elvis song that was remixed and re-released and became popular in 2002. See how you forget these things?) We’re still trying to figure out how comments on blogs are supposed to work. Maybe blogs have become more like a magazine, but a hyperconnected one. Magazines have definitely become more like blogs.

Peter Jennings died. Katrina and its aftermath devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We were trying to name what looked to become the tenth planet in our solar system.

The Aristocrats, which was culturally huge, is (I think) mostly forgotten. The Wedding Crashers has fared better, helping kick off a spree of neo-Caddyshack comedies. Anchorman, released the year before, only got one star from Jason (without review) has probably become better-remembered and more indicative of contemporary comedy than either of them.

It might seem navel-gazing (even if it isn’t my navel), but sometimes I think flattening out history (even if it’s the history of a blog) โ€” looking at everything simultaneously rather than following a narrative of how one big thing changed โ€” tells you more than you’d think, by making everything seem less familiar, and much less inevitable.