Entries for December 2023

How to Build a Small Solar Power System. “This guide explains everything you need to know to build stand-alone photovoltaic systems that can power almost anything you want.”

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Smithsonian magazine shares Thirteen Discoveries Made About Human Evolution in 2023, like “Homo sapiens were in southeast Asia thousands of years earlier than expected.”

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It’s time to ban ‘right-on-red’. “Right turns on red lights are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and yet they’re still widely allowed across the U.S.”

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A stone circle in Spain called the Dolmen of Guadalperal that dates back to 5000 BCE was flooded by a reservoir built by the Franco government in 1963 and has only been visible 4 times since. 🤦‍♂️

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Do syllables exist? “Although nearly everyone can identify syllables, almost nobody can define them.”

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How We Turned the Tide in the Roach Wars. “Forty years ago, scientists did the impossible. Why doesn’t anyone remember? […] The people who invented Combat are American heroes.” (Read/listen to the end…fascinating!)

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A single serving site that answers the question “Was the Civil War about slavery?” YES — and the site includes receipts.

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My Recent Media Diet, the End of 2023 Edition

Over the past few months, I’ve had some time away from the computer and have taken several very long plane trips and some shorter car rides, which means a bit more reading, TV & movie watching, and podcast listening than usual. Oh, and holiday movies.

But the main story is how many things I’m currently in the midst of but haven’t finished: the latest season of the Great British Bake Off, season 3 of The Great, season 4 of For All Mankind, season 2 of Reservation Dogs, season 2 of The Gilded Age, the Big Dig podcast, On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier by Kevin Kelly, and I’ve just dipped a toe into Craig Mod’s Things Become Other Things. That’s five TV shows, one podcast, and three books. I’m looking forward to tackling some of that (and maybe a new Star Trek series) over the upcoming holiday weekend.

Anyway, here’s my recent media diet — a roundup of what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and experiencing over the past few months.

The Killer. The excellent Michael Fassbender portrays a solitary, bored, and comfortable killer for hire who has a bit of a midlife crisis in fast forward when a job goes wrong. (A-)

Fortnite OG. I started playing Fortnite in earnest during Chapter 3, so it was fun to go back to Chapter 1 to see how the game worked back then. (B+)

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I’m going to write more soon but this was one of the best things I’ve ever done. (A+)

Edge of Tomorrow. Speaking of video games… Still love this under-appreciated film, despite a third act that falls a tiny bit flat. (A)

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff. I did not enjoy this quite as much as Matrix — especially the last third — but Groff is one hell of a writer. (B+)

New Blue Sun. Good on André 3000 for not doing the expected thing and instead releasing an instrumental album on which he plays the flute. (A-)

Songs of Silence. I can’t remember who clued me into this lovely instrumental album by Vince Clarke (Erasure, Depeche Mode), but it’s been heavily in the rotation lately. (B+)

Trifecta. A.L.I.S.O.N.’s Deep Space Archives is a favorite chill work album for me and this one is nearly as good. (B+)

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Entertaining but lacks the zip and coherence of the first film. (B)

Shoulda Been Dead. I had no idea that Kevin Kelly appeared on an early episode of This American Life until someone mentioned it offhand on our Thailand walk. What a story…listen all the way to the end. (A)

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Oh the writing here is exquisite. (A)

Avengers: Infinity War & Avengers: Endgame. These are endlessly rewatchable for me. (A)

Elemental. Good but not great Pixar. (B)

The Wrong Trousers. I watched this with my 16-year-old son, who hadn’t seen it in like 9 or 10 years. We both loved it — it still has one of the best action movie sequences ever. (A+)

The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler. Are AGI robots intelligent? Are octopuses? Are humans? This novel plays entertainingly with these ideas. (A-)

Myeongdong Kyoja. I stumbled upon this place, extremely cold and hungry, and after a brief wait in line, I was conducted to an open seat by the no-nonsense hostess running the dining room. The menu only has four items, conveniently pictured on the wall — I got the kalguksu and mandu. The hostess took my order and then, glancing at my frozen hands, reached down and briefly gave one of them a squeeze, accompanied by a concerned look that lasted barely half a second before she returned to bustling around the room. A delicious meal and a welcome moment of humanity in an unfamiliar land. (A)

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts. This made me want to give notice to my landlord and take off for somewhere else. (A-)

Barbie. Second viewing. Entertaining and funny, but this is a movie that has Something To Say and I still can’t figure out what that is. (B+)

Emily the Criminal. There were a few hiccups here and there, but I largely enjoyed this Aubrey Plaza vehicle. (A-)

Midnight in Paris. Not going to recommend a Woody Allen movie these days, but this is one of my comfort movies — I watch it every few months and love every second of it. (A)

Gran Turismo. Extremely predictable; they could have done more with this. (B)

The Rey/Ren Star Wars trilogy. I have lost any ability to determine if any of these movies are actually good — I just like them. 🤷‍♂️ (B+)

Loki (season two). This was kind of all over the place for me but finished pretty strong. Glorious purpose indeed. (B)

Die Hard. Still great. (A)

Home Alone. First time rewatching this in at least a decade? This movie would have worked just as well if Kevin were 15% less annoying. (B+)

The Grinch. My original review stands: “I wasn’t expecting to sympathize so much with The Grinch here. The social safety net constructed by the upper middle class Whos totally failed the most vulnerable member of their society in a particularly heartless way. Those Whos kinda had it coming.” (B+)

Past installments of my media diet are available here. What good things have you watched, read, or listened to lately?

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Great list from Kent Hendricks of 52 things he learned this year, including “mice don’t like cheese”, “most of the pasta made in Italy is from wheat grown in Yuma, Arizona”, and “human fingers can detect objects as small as 13 nanometers”.

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“Hawking stars” are theoretical stellar objects with small black holes inside them. “Our sun could even have a black hole as massive as the planet Mercury at its center without us noticing.”

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Barilla has a bunch of playlists on Spotify for timing how long to cook your pasta for, like 11 minutes of rap/hip hop for fusilli.

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Wes Anderson and his production company have launched a digital film club called Galerie. They call it “your guided journey through the world of film” and it’ll offer a “new curator every month, in-depth essays, original videos and exclusive live events”.

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From the science, tech, and health editors of The Atlantic: 81 Things That Blew Our Minds in 2023. Like: “You have two noses, and you can control them separately via your armpits.”

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Whoa, Eddie Murphy is coming back for a 4th Beverly Hills Cop movie?! And Judge Reinhold too. (Sorry, I’m catching up on some trailers I missed while I was away last month.)

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January 1, 2024 is Public Domain Day: Works from 1928 are open to all, as are sound recordings from 1923!” Includes Steamboat Willie and works by D.H. Lawrence, J.M. Barrie, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, and Cole Porter.

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The Best Movie Posters of 2023

movie poster for Barbenheimer

movie poster for John Wick 4

movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

movie poster for Asteroid City

movie poster for They Cloned Tyrone

movie poster for Poor Things

movie poster for John Wick 4

I am not in the habit of buying movie posters, but I bought one this year — for a movie that doesn’t even exist. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to snag one of Sean Longmore’s Barbenheimer posters. It’s still in the shipping canister, but I’m gonna get it framed and find a spot for it on my wall soon.

As for the rest of my favorite movie posters of 2023, I’ve included a few above that caught my eye. For more excellent picks, check out Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Movie posters of the year 2023, Mubi’s The Best Movie Posters of 2023, First Showing’s 10 Favorite Movie Posters from 2023, The Playlist’s The 20 Best Film Posters Of 2023, and IndieWire’s The Best Film and TV Posters of 2023.

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From the coiner of Godwin’s Law: Yes, it’s okay to compare Trump to Hitler. Don’t let me stop you. “Comparisons to Hitler or to Nazis need to take place when people are beginning to act like Hitler or like Nazis.”

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I need some Star Trek advice. I’m a moderate ST nerd: I’ve seen TNG 7x+, DS9 2x+, Voyager 2x+, Picard, all the movies 2x+ times (Khan + First Contact + 1st JJ film are my faves). What should I watch next? Lower Decks? Discovery? SNW? Prodigy? Convince me!

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The trailer for Civil War. Ok yes: A24, Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Devs), Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Nick Offerman. But! A movie about a new US civil war just cuts too close to the truth for me — watching that trailer was uncomfortable.

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Astonishing: A Wartime Zine Made in 1943-45 by a Jewish Man Hiding From the Nazis

cover of a zine made in occupied Netherlands by a German Jew in hiding

cover of a zine made in occupied Netherlands by a German Jew in hiding

cover of a zine made in occupied Netherlands by a German Jew in hiding

Kurt Bloch, a German Jew hiding in the crawl space of a Dutch attic, published 95 editions of a zine from 1943 to 1945.

Each issue included original art, poetry and songs that often took aim at the Nazis and their Dutch collaborators. Bloch, writing in both German and Dutch, mocked Nazi propaganda, responded to war news and offered personal perspectives on wartime deprivations.

Each edition consisted of a single copy that was passed around to trusted readers and, incredibly, all 95 copies have survived to the present day.

Each edition of Bloch’s magazine consisted of just a single copy. But it may have been read by as many as 20 to 30 people, Groeneveld estimated.

“There was huge organization behind him, which included couriers, who brought food, but who could also bring the magazine out, to share with other people in the group who could be trusted,” Groeneveld said. “The magazines are very small, you can easily put one in your pocket or hide it in a book. He got them all back. They must have also returned them in some way.”

(via open culture)

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Bloomberg Businessweek’s Jealousy List for 2023 of the stories they wish they’d written/published. Unsurprisingly, some great stuff in here.

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The 25 Best Podcasts of 2023. “These shows premiered fresh frameworks, experimented with sound design, and elevated underrepresented voices and stories.” A useful list for me — I’ve heard of almost none of these.

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Substack Turns On Its ‘Nazis Welcome!’ Sign. “The key point: your reputation as a private site is what you allow. If you allow garbage, you’re a garbage site. If you allow Nazis, you’re a Nazi site.”

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The Best Book Cover Designs of 2023

Book cover for Fire Rush

Book cover for The Nursery

Book cover for Yellowface

Book cover for Big Swiss

Book cover for Kairos

Book cover for The Employees

Book cover for Good Men

I love a good book cover design. As I wrote last year:

The book cover is one of my all-time favorite design objects and a big part of the reason I love going to bookstores is to visually feast on new covers. I don’t keep an explicit list of my favorites from those trips, but there are definitely those that stick in my mind, covers that I’ll instantly recognize from across the room on subsequent trips.

I used those bookshop trips and several year-end lists to compile my list of favorites, pictured above and listed here, along with their designers:

Fire Rush (French edition) by Jacqueline Crooks, designed by Jodi Hunt.
The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar, designed by Linda Huang.
Yellowface by R. F Kuang (couldn’t find the designer’s name).
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin, designed by Jaya Miceli.
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, designed by John Gall.
The Employees by Olga Ravn, designed by Paul Sahre.
Good Men by Arnon Grunberg, designed by Anna Jordan.

Do you have a particular favorite cover? Let me know in the comments!

The lists I consulted are Literary Hub’s The 139 Best Book Covers of 2023 (don’t be dissuaded by that big number…this is the best list bc they consult actual cover designers), The Casual Optimist’s Notable Book Covers of 2023 (always a great list from an indie site), the NY Times’ The Best Book Covers of 2023, The Book Designer’s 2023 Coolest Book Covers (that bucked the year’s trends), Print’s 50 of the Best Book Covers of 2023, Book covers designs of the year 2023 from Creative Review, and Spine’s 2023 Book Covers We Loved.

It’s fun to see how cover design changes throughout the years — here are my lists from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Note: When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

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20 Things That Happened for the First Time in 2023, including “scientists successfully extract rocks from Earth’s mantle”, “a man with paralysis walks again using his thoughts”, and “microplastics are found in the clouds”.

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Remembering Civil Rights Activist Fred Shuttlesworth

Sixty-seven years ago yesterday, on Dec 25, 1956, pioneering civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth survived a Ku Klux Klan bombing.

Fred Shuttlesworth somehow survived the KKK bombing that took out his home next to the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

An arriving policeman advised him to leave town fast. In the “Eyes on the Prize” documentary, Shuttlesworth quoted himself as replying, “Officer, you’re not me. You go back and tell your Klan brethren if God could keep me through this, then I’m here for the duration.’”

Months later, he and his family were beaten after trying to enroll his daughters in an all-white school.

They beat him with fists, chains and brass knuckles. His wife, Ruby, was stabbed in the hip, trying to get her daughters back in the car. His daughter, Ruby Fredericka, had her ankle broken. When the examining physician was amazed the pastor failed to suffer worse injuries, Shuttlesworth said, “Well, doctor, the Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South”. You can learn more about the bombing at the Equal Justice Initiative and about Shuttlesworth at the King Institute, in this hour-long documentary. and Andrew Manis’s 1999 biography of Shuttlesworth, A Fire You Can’t Put Out.

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From a piece on “charismatic megaprotein” prime rib: “Half of all the beef consumed in the US on a given day is eaten by just 12% of the population. And members of that 12% were most likely to be white men between the ages of 50 and 65.”

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We’ve Remodeled Our Bathroom, So Now You Have to Take a Dump Behind a Sliding Barn Door. “That five-inch chasm between the door and the wall is not a design flaw.”

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52 Interesting Things I Learned in 2023

Inspired by Tom Whitwell’s annual list, I kept track of some things I learned this year, one for each week. Here we go:

  1. Ciabatta was invented in 1982.
  2. “If our planet was 50% larger in diameter, we would not be able to venture into space, at least using rockets for transport.”
  3. Purple Heart medals that were made for the planned (and then cancelled) invasion of Japan in 1945 are still being given out to wounded US military personnel.
  4. More than 100,000 public school students in NYC were homeless during the 2021-22 school year.
  5. The San Francisco subway system still runs on 5 1/4-inch floppies.
  6. NYPL librarians have discovered that “up to 75 percent of books published before 1964 may now be in the public domain”.
  7. Gangkhar Puensum, a mountain in Bhutan with an elevation of 24,836 feet (7,570 m), is the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world. (Mountaineering has been banned in Bhutan since 2003.)
  8. The founder of Lululemon picked that name for the company because he thought it would be funny to hear Japanese speakers try to say it. What an asshole.
  9. Eigengrau is the name of the dark grey color people see in the absence of light.
  10. Bees can make green honey.
  11. Baby scorpions are called scorplings.
  12. Alaskan finishers of the Iditarod can get a custom license plate.
  13. Any Rubik’s Cube can be solved in 20 moves.
  14. Hurricanes don’t cross the equator.
  15. Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela sees almost 300 thunderstorms a year.
  16. Premier League referees are forbidden to work games played by their favorite teams (or their close rivals).
  17. The climate crisis has cost $16 million per hour in extreme weather damage over the past 20 years.
  18. The word for computer in Iceland translates to “prophetess of numbers”.
  19. All but two of the moons of Uranus are named after Shakespeare characters — the remaining two are from a poem by Alexander Pope.
  20. Bottled water has an expiration date — it’s the bottle not the water that expires.
  21. There are satellites that were launched in the early to mid 60s that are still operational.
  22. Multicellular life developed on Earth more than 25 separate times.
  23. US citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can get a free lifetime pass to US National Parks (and other federal lands).
  24. If you try to pack information on a hard drive more densely than 10^69 bits/m^2, the hard drive will collapse into a black hole.
  25. Queen Victoria had a dog named “Looty” that was stolen from China by a British soldier while looting a palace in Peking in 1860.
  26. Colorado is not a rectangle — it actually has 697 sides.
  27. Horseshoe crabs are older than Saturn’s rings.
  28. Inmate is the ninth most common household type in America.
  29. Humans have pumped so much groundwater out of the ground that it’s changed the tilt of the Earth’s axis 31.5 inches to the east.
  30. “By 1920, the network of interurbans in the US was so dense that a determined commuter could hop interlinked streetcars from Waterville, Maine, to Sheboygan, Wisconsin — a journey of 1,000 miles — exclusively by electric trolley.”
  31. The Great British Kettle Surge is the simultaneous putting-on of the kettle in British households during commercial breaks of particularly popular TV programs, resulting in electricity surges.
  32. The Parker Solar Probe is the fastest object ever built by humans — at its closest approach to the Sun, it will reach speeds of 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h), or 0.064% the speed of light.
  33. The top speed of zeppelins was about 80 mph (129 km/h).
  34. Ernest Hemingway only used 59 exclamation points across his entire collection of works.
  35. TIL there’s a whole genus of South American spiders whose species are named after people and things in the 1987 movie Predator, e.g. “Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri”.
  36. Robert Butler, who died this year aged 95, directed the initial episodes for Batman, Star Trek, Moonlighting, Hill Street Blues, Hogan’s Heroes, and Remington Steele.
  37. I cannot believe this is the first I’ve heard of this: in the original Super Mario Bros., you can continue where you left off in the last game by holding A down when you press Start. This would have saved me so much time as a kid.
  38. Thomas Smallwood, an African American shoemaker, coined the term “Underground Railroad” in 1842.
  39. Swedish criminal gangs are using fake Spotify streams to launder money.
  40. Human ancestors almost went extinct 900,000 years ago. “A new technique analysing modern genetic data suggests that pre-humans survived in a group of only 1,280 individuals.”
  41. “People who enroll in genetic studies are genetically predisposed to do so.”
  42. MLB broadcaster Vin Scully’s career lasted 67 seasons, during which he called a game managed by Connie Mack (born in 1862) and one Julio Urías (born in 1996) played in.
  43. When the Regimbartia attenuata beetle gets eaten by a frog, rather than accepting its fate to be digested, it crawls through the frog’s bowels and emerges through its butt. “The quickest run from mouth to anus was just six minutes.”
  44. The rarest single-game event in baseball is not the perfect game but hitting two grand slams in one inning, which has only been done once in more than 235,000 games.
  45. Crab-like bodies have evolved at least five separate times in the past 250 million years.
  46. Almost 800,000 Maryland licence plates include a URL that now points to an online casino in the Philippines because someone let the domain registration lapse.
  47. From 1999 to 2020, there were 1.63 million excess deaths among Black Americans (when compared to the death rates of white Americans).
  48. Almost 75% of all films from the golden age of silent films (1912-1929) have been lost.
  49. For years beginning in 2018, every copy of macOS has included a PDF copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper.
  50. This San Francisco barbershop has a “silent mode” for patrons who don’t want to chat with barbers.
  51. According to America’s Test Kitchen, you can use your SodaStream to double the life of your salad greens.
  52. Deadline’s chief film critic had never played or even heard of Tetris before seeing the film about the game’s genesis.
    1. Here are my lists from 2022 and 2021.

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How Big is YouTube? The methodology used to answer this question (in lieu of an official API mechanism) is pretty interesting: they “drunk dialed” a bunch of random video URLs and counted how many were valid.

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Trailer for Captains of the World, a 6-episode Netflix docuseries about the 2022 Men’s World Cup. It’s sanctioned by FIFA so there’s a limit on how critical it will be (esp of the host country & selection process) but I’ll still watch.

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The 10 Best TV Episodes of 2023, including Forks from The Bear, The Last of Us’s Long Long Time, and Escape from Shit Mountain from Poker Face.

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An Artist Creates the Family Xmas Card, From Age 3 to 36

Since he was a toddler, artist C.W. Moss has made the artwork for his family’s Christmas card. Here are some early installments from when he was three & seven:

two little kid drawings of Christmas cards

Some from when Moss was 17 and 29:

Two Christmas cards. The one on the left is a dense doodle-like drawing with a four-pointed star near the center. The right one is titled 'The 365 of 2016' and it repeats 'NOT CHRISTMAS' until it gets to 'MERRY CHRISTMAS'

And the most recent one from age 36 (you can watch how he draws it):

a Christmas card that says 'Joy or Else' on it

It’s fascinating to see his artistic sense grow and shift over the years, not only increasing in artistic skill as he gets older but also moving from simple depictions of holiday scenes to more conceptual creations.

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Watch the Newly Remastered Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988) on YouTube

The entire episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988) is on YouTube, fully remastered in 1080p HD. Special guests include Annette Funicello, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg, Magic Johnson, Grace Jones, Little Richard, and Joan Rivers. From a Vulture piece on the special:

Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the 1988 primetime CBS special from comedian and actor Paul Reubens, is one of the strangest, most glorious, most improbable, most confident pieces of entertainment to appear on television. Thirty-five years after it aired, and in a period of reconsideration after Paul Reubens’s death, the Pee-wee Herman Christmas special still looks like one of the major pinnacles of Reubens as an artist, full of silly delight and winking subversion, all framed inside the relative safety of a big sparkly Christmas extravaganza.

And after declaring “This special is one of the gayest things I’ve ever seen”:

What’s so brilliant about it as a piece of queer art is that it is presented so earnestly, and the iconography they’re playing with is Americana. It plays as camp to our modern view of over-the-top earnestness. But it’s a mix of camp aesthetic and an alternative comedy aesthetic of laughing at bad jokes, like the series of fruitcake jokes, which were at the time a cliché, that fruitcake was bad. Why are we going to make this joke about fruitcake over and over again? Because it’s stupid!

(via austin kleon)

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Hey everyone. Just a quick holiday note to let you know that recent guest editor Edith Zimmerman had her baby! Edith wanted me to let you know that mom, dad, and baby are doing well!

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Cute food art: butter sleigh rides down foods like pancakes and potatoes.

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Piano cover of MIA’s Paper Planes, complete with “live” cash register and video gunfire sounds.

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Richard Scarry Cars and Trucks and Things That Go tote bag! 😍

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Just How Rich Were the McCallisters in ‘Home Alone’? A: They were in the top 1%. But also: “One fan theory posits that Peter McCallister is involved with organized crime.”

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The 50 best TV shows of 2023, including Silo, Deadloch, Reservation Dogs, Jury Duty, Fleishman Is in Trouble, Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, Poker Face, Succession, and The Bear.

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After the Jan 6 attack on Congress, a woman went on Bumble to help the FBI identify rioters. “Her strategy…was saying ‘Wow, crazy, tell me more’ to guys on repeat until they gave her enough for her to send their information to the FBI.”

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Substack explains why they are paying Nazis to publish on their platform. Friends who publish on Substack, are you ok with this? If not, maybe try Buttondown or Wordpress or Ghost or literally anything fucking else.

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The Best Film Scores & Soundtracks of 2023, including those for The Boy and the Heron, Poor Things, Asteroid City, and Oppenheimer. Any favorites?

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The Drawings of Virginia Frances Sterrett

an illustration of a woman hugging a deer next to a cat

a small man in red cowers under a huge green man

I love these drawings by Virginia Frances Sterrett.

At fourteen, unthoughtful of achievement and ambition, friends persuaded her to send her drawings to the Kansas State Fair. To her surprise, she won first prize in three different categories. The originality of her drawings — which, throughout her life, came to her as visions she felt she was merely channeling onto the page with her pen and brush — captivated two successful local artists, who encouraged her to pursue formal study.


Perpetual Stew. Last summer, some folks kept a stew going for 60 days and invited people to come eat and add ingredients. “Internet people seem worried about the flavor. They tweet things like ‘this is how the next covid starts.’”

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How the Silk Dress cryptogram was cracked after a decade of effort. A Victorian-era silk dress found at an antique shop contained a pair of cryptic messages in a hidden pocket…

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From the Depths of Wikipedia: none of the phrasing from the 2003 “Ship of Theseus” page on Wikipedia remains in the current entry. 😂

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The Paris Métro is set to expand in a big way with “a new 200-kilometer (120-mile) system that will add four lines and 68 brand-new stations to the network.” I love the investments Paris is making in its non-car transportation infrastructure.

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Prompt-Brush is a non-AI generative model. If you suggest an image prompt, Pablo Delcan will make you a drawing with black ink and send it to you.

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The Fruit Shaped Bus Stops in Nagasaki, Japan

bus stop shaped like a strawberry

bus stop shaped like a melon

bus stop shaped like a tomato

The small town of Konagai in Nagasaki Prefecture has a number of whimsical bus stops shaped like fruits.

Today, there are 5 kinds of fruit-shaped bus stops; strawberry, watermelon, cantaloupe, orange and tomato. The area of the highway is now referred to as “Tokimeki Fruits Basutei Dori”, or “Tokimeki Fruit-shaped Bus Stop Avenue”.

(thx, caroline)

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Reporting on Long Covid Taught Me to Be a Better Journalist. “[It] solidified my view that science is not the objective, neutral force it is often misconstrued as. It is instead a human endeavor, relentlessly buffeted by our culture, values and politics.”

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The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2023. From Gary Shteyngart’s review of Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk bio: “I drove my espresso machine hard into the night to survive both craft and subject matter…”

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The Pudding announces its picks for the best visual and data-driven stories of 2023. Lots of great work here.

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A typology of eggnog cartons. “The peculiarities of the packaging range from festive to banal, minimal to ornate, and many seem to be printed with complete disregard for color alignment.”

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Archaeomagnetism is the study of the changes in the Earth’s magnetic field from markers in archaeological items, e.g. these 3,000-year-old Mesopotamian bricks.

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Last week, Halley’s comet reached its farthest point away from the Sun and has begun its journey back towards the center of our solar sytem. The comet last visited us in 1986 and will come again in 2061.

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Nearly last call: the 2023 Kottke Holiday Gift Guide, which is chock full of gift recommendations from kids to books to kitchen things to Richard Scarry temporary tattoos to my personal, perennial favorites. Take a look!


Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning

This is a quote I like that’s attributed to Alvin Toffler from his 1970 book, Future Shock:

The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

It turns out that’s not a direct quote — it’s been cobbled together from two separate passages in the book:

By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerful new dimension can be added to education.

and:

Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy of the Human Resources Research Organization phrases it simply: “The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself. Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.”

Somewhere along the line, someone combined Gerjuoy’s observation with Toffler’s phrasing to create, IMHO, a more insightful quote about the flexibility their future (and our present) requires.

For more misattributed quote debunking, see also “I Hate to Write, but I Love Having Written” and Where the Rich Use Public Transportation…


We raise 18 billion animals a year to die — and then we don’t even eat them. “Around 1 out of 4 animals raised for food end up as food waste.”

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Why do some geographic areas (Okinawa, Sardinia) produce lots of supercentenarians? Turns out it’s a combination of poor record-keeping, exaggeration, and pension fraud rather than diet, climate, or high-quality medical care.

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Highlights from Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

Wandering through the countryside of northern Thailand has rekindled my intermittent desire to live overseas…or at least to spend time travelling for an extended period. In order to learn more about what I’d be signing up for, I recently read Rolf Potts’ classic Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (Bookshop), the 2003 book that helped kickstart the digital nomad movement. Here’s everything I highlighted on my Kindle while reading it.

Page 15:

This book views long-term travel not as an escape but as an adventure and a passion — a way of overcoming your fears and living life to the fullest.

Page 20:

So, as you prepare to read the book, just keep in mind what martial arts master Bruce Lee said: “Research your own experiences for the truth… Absorb what is useful… Add what is specifically your own… The creating individual is more than any style or system.”

Page 24:

Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions.

Page 24:

Vagabonding is an attitude — a friendly interest in people, places, and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word.

Page 25:

Muir called these folks the “time-poor” — people who were so obsessed with tending their material wealth and social standing that they couldn’t spare the time to truly experience the splendor of California’s Sierra wilderness.

Page 29:

We’d love to drop all and explore the world outside, we tell ourselves, but the time never seems right. Thus, given an unlimited amount of choices, we make none.

Page 29:

Vagabonding is about gaining the courage to loosen your grip on the so-called certainties of this world. Vagabonding is about refusing to exile travel to some other, seemingly more appropriate, time of your life. Vagabonding is about taking control of your circumstances instead of passively waiting for them to decide your fate.

Page 29:

Vagabonding starts now. Even if the practical reality of travel is still months or years away, vagabonding begins the moment you stop making excuses, start saving money, and begin to look at maps with the narcotic tingle of possibility.

Page 32:

Work is how you settle your financial and emotional debts — so that your travels are not an escape from your real life but a discovery of your real life.

Page 33:

Many vagabonders don’t even maintain a steady job description, taking short-term work only as it serves to fund their travels and their passions. In Generation X, Douglas Coupland defined this kind of work as an “anti-sabbatical” — a job approached “with the sole intention of staying for a limited period of time (often one year)… to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity.”

Page 34:

We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis. —Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Page 35:

Regardless of how long it takes to earn your freedom, remember that you are laboring for more than just a vacation. A vacation, after all, merely rewards work. Vagabonding justifies it.

Page 35:

Ultimately, then, the first step of vagabonding is simply a matter of making work serve your interests, instead of the other way around.

Page 35:

As citizens of a prosperous democracy, any one of us has the power to create our own free time, outside the whims of federal laws and private-sector policies.

Page 36:

Many people are able to create vagabonding time through “constructive quitting” — that is, negotiating with their employers for special sabbaticals and long-term leaves of absence.

Page 36 (on updating your resume):

List the job skills travel has taught you: independence, flexibility, negotiation, planning, boldness, self — sufficiency, improvisation.

Page 37:

And so I stand among you as one that offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence. —Thomas Merton, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

Page 46:

For all the most important things in life, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? To have that kid? To take a dream trip? Sadly, the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” (“someday I’ll do this, someday I’ll do that”) is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. —Tim Ferriss

Page 53:

This notion — the notion that “riches” don’t necessarily make you wealthy — is as old as society itself. The ancient Hindu Upanishads refer disdainfully to “that chain of possessions wherewith men bind themselves, and beneath which they sink”; ancient Hebrew scriptures declare that “whoever loves money never has money enough.” Jesus noted that it’s pointless for a man to “gain the whole world, yet lose his very self,” and the Buddha whimsically pointed out that seeking happiness in one’s material desires is as absurd as “suffering because a banana tree will not bear mangoes.”

Page 54:

Money, of course, is still needed to survive, but time is what you need to live. So, save what little money you possess to meet basic survival requirements, but spend your time lavishly in order to create the life values that make the fire worth the candle.

Page 55:

Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words (or emancipation), from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide. —Pico Iyer, Why We Travel

Page 55:

On a basic level, there are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter.

Page 57:

As Laurel Lee wryly observed in Godspeed, “Cities are full of those who have been caught in monthly payments for avocado green furniture sets.”

Page 58:

As I’ve said before, vagabonding is not an ideology, a balm for societal ills, or a token of social status. Vagabonding is, was, and always will be a private undertaking — and its goal is to improve your life not in relation to your neighbors but in relation to yourself.

Page 60:

In this way, simplicity — both at home and on the road — affords you the time to seek renewed meaning in an oft-neglected commodity that can’t be bought at any price: life itself.

Page 71:

Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul. —Henry David Thoreau

Page 72:

Reading old travel books or novels set in faraway places, spinning globes, unfolding maps, playing world music, eating in ethnic restaurants, meeting friends in cafes… all these things are part of never-ending travel practice, not unlike doing scales on a piano, shooting free-throws, or meditating. —Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

Page 75:

And, as Phil Cousineau pointed out in The Art of Pilgrimage, I tend to believe that “reparation no more spoils the chance for spontaneity and serendipity than discipline ruins the opportunity for genuine self-expression in sports, acting, or the tea ceremony.”

Page 76:

As John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley, “Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity… no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

Page 78:

When visiting the Holy Land in the nineteenth century, Mark Twain expressed frequent exasperation at the guidebook fundamentalists in his travel party: “I can almost tell, in set phrase, what they will say when they see Tabor, Nazareth, Jericho, and Jerusalem,” Twain wrote in The Innocents Abroad, “because I have the books they will ‘smouch’ their ideas from.”

Page 80:

A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving. —Lao-Tzu, The Way of Life

Page 86:

Fortunately, you don’t ever need a really good reason to go anywhere; rather, go to a place for whatever happens when you get there.

Page 87:

Vagabonding is not like bulk shopping: The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow, nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.

Page 90:

Thus, the biggest favor you can do for yourself when trying to decide what to bring is to buy — and this is no joke — a very small travel bag.

This small pack, of course, will allow you only the minimum: a guidebook, a pair of sandals, standard hygiene items, a few relevant medicines (including sunscreen), disposable earplugs (for those inevitable noisy environments), and some small gift items for your future hosts and friends. Add a few changes of simple, functional clothes and one somewhat nice outfit for customs checks and social occasions. Toss in a small flashlight, a decent pair of sunglasses, a day pack (for carrying smaller items when you leave your hotel or guesthouse), and your smartphone. And then — looking down to make sure you have a sturdy pair of boots or walking shoes on your feet — close the bag and affix a small, strong padlock.

Page 105:

I remember a conversation with a college professor on the train to Sicily, discussing the need to travel. He said, “You can read everything there is in the world about a place, but there is no substitute for smelling it!” He was right! So make plans, but be happy to abandon them, if need be. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” I like that. Do as much research before leaving as possible, but certainly don’t let fears keep you away. On a given day, Los Angeles is far more dangerous than anyplace I’ve traveled. Take normal precautions, use common sense if you have any, and you’ll be fine. —Bill Wolfer

Page 107:

One of the most remarkable travel memoirs of the twentieth century was Juanita Harrison’s My Great, Wide, Beautiful World, which recounted the author’s journey through thirty-three countries over the course of eight years in the 1920s and 1930s. Harrison’s book was a bestseller in 1936 — yet, unlike most bestselling travel authors of that era, she was not an upper-middle-class white fellow who’d studied literature at a fancy university. Harrison was a Mississippi-born African American woman, who’d been working various domestic-labor jobs ever since her schooling ended at age ten.

Page 111:

“Travel in general, and vagabonding in particular, produces an awesome density of experience,” wrote Ed Buryn, “…a cramming together of incidents, impressions and life detail that is both stimulating and exhausting. So much new and different happens to you so frequently, just when you’re most sensitive to it… You may be excited, bored, confused, desperate and amazed all in the same happy day.”

Page 111:

If there’s one key concept to remember amid the excitement of your first days on the road, it’s this: Slow down. Just to underscore the importance of this concept, I’ll state it again: slow… down.

Page 112:

In many ways, this transition into travel can be compared to childhood: Everything you see is new and emotionally affecting, basic tasks like eating and sleeping take on a heightened significance, and entertainment can be found in the simplest curiosities and novelties. “Suddenly you are five years old again,” Bill Bryson observed in Neither Here nor There.” You can’t read anything, you only have the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Page 113:

Early on, of course, you’re bound to make travel mistakes. Dubious merchants may swindle you, unfamiliarity with cultural customs may cause you to offend people, and you’ll often find yourself wandering lost through strange surroundings. Some travelers go to great pains to avoid these neophyte blunders, but they’re actually an important part of the learning experience. As the Koran says, “Did you think you should enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed before you?” Indeed, everyone starts out as a vagabonding greenhorn, and there’s no reason to presume you’ll be any different.

Page 116:

Tourist attractions are defined by their collective popularity, and that very popularity tends to devalue the individual experience of such attractions.

Page 118:

“The anti-tourist is not to be confused with the traveler,” wrote Paul Fussell in Abroad. “His motive is not inquiry but self-protection and vanity.” Ostentatiously dressing in local fashions, deliberately not carrying a camera, and sedulously avoiding the standard sights, “the antitourist doesn’t have much integrity or agenda beyond his self-conscious decision to stand apart from other tourists.

Page 128:

Slow down and remember this as you begin your travels: Being busy can be a form of laziness. Lazy thinking, and indiscriminate action. Being selective — in other words, doing less in a smart way — is usually the more productive and fun path. —Tim Ferriss

Page 131:

Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology. —Pico Iyer, Why We Travel

Page 133:

Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own countrymen, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men ; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds. —Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon

Page 134:

After all, cultural identity is instinctive, not intellectual — and this means that the challenge will come not in how you manage your own manners but in how you instinctively react to the unfamiliar manners of others.

Page 140:

As historian Dagobert Runes quipped, “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.”

Page 140:

To truly interact with people as you travel, then, you have to learn to see other cultures not as National Geographic snapshots but as neighbors.

Page 166:

The secret of adventure, then, is not to carefully seek it out but to travel in such a way that it finds you.

Page 169:

“Good people keep walking whatever happens,” taught the Buddha. “They do not speak vain words and are the same in good fortune and bad.”

Page 183:

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they really are. —Samuel Johnson, from Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson

Page 183:

“Our eyes find it easier on a given occasion to produce a picture already often produced, than to seize upon the divergence and novelty of an impression,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. “It is difficult and painful for the ear to listen to anything new; we hear strange music badly.”

Page 184:

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been,” observed Paul Theroux in 1992, “travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

“Travelers are those who leave their assumptions at home, and [tourists are] those who don’t,” wrote Pico Iyer in 2000.

Page 187:

In this way, “seeing” as you travel is somewhat of a spiritual exercise: a process not of seeking interesting surroundings, but of being continually interested in whatever surrounds you.

Page 188:

Luxury, then, is a way of being ignorant, comfortably. —Leroi Jones, Political Poem

Page 191:

Thus, the purest way to see a culture is simply to accept and experience it as it is now — even if you have to put up with satellite dishes in Kazakhstan, cyber cafes in Malawi, and fast food restaurants in Belize.

Page 192:

Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am… Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating. —Michael Crichton, Travels

Page 193:

As Salvador Dalí quipped, “I never took drugs because I am drugs.”

Page 207:

People say you have to travel to see the world. Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle. —Paul Auster, Smoke

Page 208:

If you really want to learn about a country, work there. —Charles Kuralt, A Life on the Road

Page 220:

Travel, after all, is a form of asceticism, which (to quote Kathleen Norris )” is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances in a manner that enhances the whole person. It is a radical way of knowing exactly who, what, and where you are, in defiance of those powerful forces in society that aim to make us forget.”

Page 221:

Thus, travel compels you to discover your spiritual side by simple elimination: Without all the rituals, routines, and possessions that give your life meaning at home, you’re forced to look for meaning within yourself.

You can get your own copy of Vagabonding at Amazon or Bookshop or learn more about Rolf Potts at his website.

Have you travelled for long periods of time or moved to a different country? Any stories or advice you can offer to others who are thinking of taking the leap?

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Joan Westenberg misses the old internet. “Today’s internet feels less like a global community and more like a series of walled gardens, each meticulously maintained to keep out any unpredicted, and thus, unprofitable, elements.”

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World of Goo 2!

{Hyperventilating slightly} They’re making a World of Goo 2 15 years after the original one was released?! Holy smokes! I loved World of Goo back in the day and I can’t wait to play this sequel. (via waxy)

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This is the lowest price I’ve seen on SAF’s Aranet4 CO2 monitor (for measuring indoor air quality for Covid safety): $149 — that’s 40% off the regular price.


“When I feel irreparably tacky, I remind myself that the artists I admire probably weren’t respected by their elders, either.” Annie Hamilton writes about dating “while being a Niche Internet Micro Celebrity.”

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XKCD: label as many US states as you can on this blank map. Lol, this is evil.

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Where Do You Call Home?

a small Thai house with 'HOME' painted sloppily on the front door

As part of the Walk and Talk I went on with 11 other people in Thailand last week, we had nightly discussions over dinner — one topic per meal for seven nights, with each topic suggested by one of the walkers. I’d known about this aspect of the trip for a few months and I had a hell of a time coming up with something. But on the first day of the trip, I thought of question that I posed to the group on our second night:

Where do you call home? And why?

I’ve been struggling with the concept of home for the past several years. NYC very much felt like home to me shortly after I moved there in 2003 in a way that Minneapolis and (especially) San Francisco hadn’t. Since moving to Vermont in 2016, I’ve never really felt at home here. But NYC isn’t home anymore…and neither is Wisconsin, where I grew up. Where do I want to go to find a home? Do I need to feel at home somewhere? Or is home simply wherever my bed/desk/stuff happens to be? I had more questions than answers around this issue and I was interested in how other people in the group, which included folks that had lived and travelled all over the world, would answer the question.

So, I put the same question to you if you feel like sharing your perspective: Where do you call home? And why?

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Science magazine’s 2023 Breakthrough of the Year: GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy.

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Always Interesting: “52 Things I Learned in 2023”

At the end of each year, I look forward to Tom Whitwell’s annual list of what he learned over the past 12 months. Here are some of my favorites from 2023’s installment:

6. The US Defense Department earns $100m/year operating slot machines used by soldiers on their bases. [Gabby Means]

8. A specialness spiral is when you wait for the perfect time to use something, then end up never using it at all. “An item that started out very ordinary, through repeated lack of use eventually becomes … seen more as a treasure” [Jonah Berger & Jacqueline Rifkin]

13. Humans are now roughly as tall as we were 12,000 years ago. 4,000 years ago, the average man was 5’4”. [Michael Hermanussen]

22. Hookworm infestation might be a cure for hay fever. [Helen Thompson]

31. Washboard sales went up 57% during the pandemic, inspired by “fears of societal collapse and limited laundry service”, although 40% are sold as percussion instruments. [Kris Maher]

I’ve got my own list that I’ll publish in the next week or two, so look out for that.

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‘Tis the season: How to Make Your Own Die Hard Christmas Tree Ornament.

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Giorgia Lupi makes infographics to help make sense of her illness: 1,374 Days: My Life With Long Covid. “Always in the back of my mind is the fear that I will never again experience the uncomplicated, illness-free joy of the life I used to have.”

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Let’s Take a Journey Through the Secret Queer History of Studio Ghibli Films. “When Ponyo takes that desire [to be human] into her own fins, it’s empowering for her and us alike to see body and soul align with such abundantly queer joy.”

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One Year Back

While I was travelling earlier this month, I missed observing the one-year anniversary of my return from a 7-month sabbatical1 and I wanted to briefly circle back to it.

I still haven’t written too much about what I did and didn’t do during my time away — I thought I would but found I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. The truth is I’m still in the process of, uh, processing it. But it’s clear to me that the extended time off was an incredible gift that has revitalized me — I’m really enjoying my work here and have great plans for the future that I can’t wait to get going on.

So anyway, I just wanted to say thank you again to my readers and members for your support and for trusting that the end result of such a long break would be worth it (when even I was skeptical about it). In an email after she finished her recent guest editing stint, Edith told me “You have the best readers!” I sure do and I feel very lucky for it.

  1. I still cannot spell “sabbatical” correctly the first time. Apparently it has two Bs and only one T??
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Craig Mod recaps the Thailand walk and talk we did last week. “Our sweat had sweat. We were a moving swamp. The fabric bits on our backpacks had turned sentient. I wanted to apply bleach atop my sunscreen.”

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Liz Danzico with a lovely write-up of the walk and talk we participated in last week in Thailand. “Empathy means that you travel out of yourself a little or expand.”

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Do Elephants Have Souls? “However, given their mental and emotional chops and awareness of mortality especially, who is to say that they don’t have some sense of the metaphysical?”

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Popular Dystopian Fiction If It Were Describing 2023. “The Children of Men — The global birth rate craters not because of environmental pollution but because no one on Earth can afford to have a kid anymore.”

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Kumataro Ito’s Illustrations of Nudibranchs from the USS Albatross’ Philippine Expedition (ca. 1908). “The roughly 3,000 species in the family nudibranchia [come] in a delightful, dizzying array of shapes, patterns and colours.”

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The Best Podcasts of 2023. I’ve been getting recs for The Big Dig from all sides. Leon Neyfakh & Jay Smooth’s Think Twice: Michael Jackson sounds fascinating as well. What podcasts have stood out for you this year?

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A brief write-up by Derek Sivers of the walk & talk I did last week in northern Thailand.


From my friend Adriana X. Jacobs, “I put my doom into a love poem” is 8-bit video game that incorporates some of her poems. “If you find the neighbor’s garden, your afterlife will be extra sweet.”

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Free, Well-Designed, Public Domain Ebooks

book covers of Timon of Athens, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Middlemarch

A group of volunteers at Standard Ebooks is producing well-formatted editions of public domain ebooks.

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven project that produces new editions of public domain ebooks that are lovingly formatted, open source, free of U.S. copyright restrictions, and free of cost.

Ebook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe ebooks and make them available for the widest number of reading devices. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style manual, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to create a new edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology.

They do nice custom covers too. A quick browse reveals titles like The Sun Also Rises, Middlemarch, Winnie-the-Pooh, O Pioneers!, Anne of Green Gables, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and lots of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and Agatha Christie.


A lovely holiday gift guide from Jodi Ettenberg, which includes this adorable spagetti monster colander.

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Thanks to YouTube’s algorithmic elves for serving up this mini-GBBO episode with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice, Kieran Trippier, and Jordan Henderson, who baked gingerbread footballers to be judged by Paul Hollywood.

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Psst… I reopened ordering for the Kottke Hypertext Tee for the holidays! Get one for yourself or your favorite HTML fan.


Actor Andre Braugher has died at the age of 61. Aww man, I absolutely loved Braugher in Homicide: Life on the Street.

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I’ve discovered a new word that describes my general approach to life: coddiwomple: to travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination. See also I’ve Never Had a Goal.

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The National Lyrics or Things My Dad Says While Refusing to Check Google Maps? “I’d rather walk all the way home right now than to spend one more second in this place.”

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From Alexandra Lange, Mark Lamster, and Carolina A. Miranda, it’s the always entertaining 2023 Architecture and Design Awards. Brutalism, Barbie, Beyoncé, Breuer, Bilbao, and lots of other things that don’t start with B.

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Hey, just wanted to re-up the 2023 Kottke Holiday Gift Guide — I think most things will still ship before Xmas.


Thanks, and Bye!

stars-bye.jpg

Jason will be back tomorrow, so this is my last post. Thanks for having me, it’s been a ton of fun! I would even describe it as life-changing, for me. I know I probably posted too much kid stuff, but if Jason ever has me back, I promise to try to be more expansive. I’m very much looking forward to hearing about his trip, should he want to write about it.

If you’d like, you can keep in touch with me through my newsletter, Instagram, or email. Thanks again for reading, and happy holidays!

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Turtles (Comic)

From 2022.
turtle-riddle-ez.jpg

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Playing the SpiderHarp

“SpiderHarp started as a large-scale model of an orb spider’s web, with the aim of uncovering the mystery of how spiders sense … vibrations and how it translates into information the spider uses to localize activity on its web.” A recent Oregon Public Broadcasting story [via mefi] led me to this cool video of the SpiderHarp in action. More SpiderHarp here.

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Full Moon Haiku Cards

Since May, I’ve been collaborating with a friend of mine, Barry Kuhar, to make “Full Moon Haiku Cards,” themed for each month’s full moon. He writes a haiku (or a haiku-inspired poem) for the inside, I draw the cover, and we sell them at a local restaurant. When the cycle is finished, we plan to offer them as a full set. (Thirteen cards, including the Blue Moon.) On January 25, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be reading from/showing the cards at the Rensselaerville Library, in case anyone is in the area (upstate NY).

I wanted to share the covers and poems because I love them, but also to recommend the act of just getting your own (or your kids’) drawings printed on cards, because it’s really easy and fun. I get the moon cards printed at Albany’s Modern Press, but I’ve also had good experiences using the online services Moo and Smartpress.

Barry and I still have a few more to go (coming up are the Wolf, Snow, Worm, and Pink Moons, before we’re back at the Flower Moon), but here’s what we’ve got so far:

moons-kottke.jpg

The finished cards end up looking like this:
samplebarryezcard.jpg

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Diary Comics, Nov. 13-15

Final installment of this sampling from my journal! I’m not sure if it was a success, but it was interesting for me. Thank you for humoring!
nov13-14b.jpg
nov15a.jpg

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Five sweaters to knit for a little girl.” My faves are Nos. 1 and 2. I’d also recommend Mae (for babies). And the Marieke (Little) is on my list, too, although I haven’t tried it yet. Likewise this Loon Pullover. And this Paul Klee Sweater!

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“This family with young kids loves to entertain, so they walled off the basement completely, The Cask of Amontillado-style, to keep the children from coming up and asking for things or firing Nerf guns into the hostess’ famous bœuf bourguignon.” That’s from today’s installment of Evil Witches, a funny/useful parenting newsletter by Claire Zulkey.

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This is perhaps a little specific, but since I’m expecting Baby No. 2 in about two weeks, and we have a two-year-old at home, I found this Cup of Jo post helpful and reassuring: “Going From One Kid to Two.” Especially this bit from the comments: “Very few people have two young kids because they’re excited about having a newborn and a toddler at the same time. The payoff comes later.”

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More Christmas Music Recs

“Good King Wenceslas” is my favorite carol, and I love this version by the Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge, from their 1974 album. (However, I also love every version I’ve ever heard.)

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, led by Neville Marriner, has a wonderful album that I return to whenever I can’t think of what to listen to: 1994’s Christmas With the Academy [spotify].

And I grew up going to the yearly Christmas Revels concert/play in Cambridge, MA, and while nothing beats the live shows, I also love their albums, especially this spirited 1978 one: The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice [spotify]. The Revels also feature the “Abbots Bromley Horn Dance” in every show, and seeing it live usually sends chills up my spine:

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Edith’s Best Running Gear of 2020-2023

shoes-ez.jpg
I appreciate Wirecutter’s “Best Running Gear of 2023” post — likewise their “Cold-Weather Running” recs.

For what it’s worth, the best running items I own are Asics shoes, Lululemon bras, inexpensive Saucony socks, a light Champion vest, cheap Amazon shorts that apparently no longer exist (Baleaf), a nice Ciele running hat (in a color combo that’s no longer available, but this one comes close), and nice Tracksmith pullovers. Also a FlipBelt, for phone-carrying; the Strava app; and The Half Marathoner (newsletter), for personal stories and cool running-related links.

The items that give me the most pleasure are silly mermaid-print leggings, bright Janji artist-collaboration shorts, and colorful Tracksmith shorts (on sale in a color combo that’s no longer available — marigold orange with flame-red fluting).

I was also tempted by Oiselle’s bridal line, but it was not to be, and I see that they are no longer offering it.

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“I’ll finish this, then call him and confess everything.” Artist Gabrielle Bell’s overheard/overseen “Drawings in Cafes.” More here. (“Confess” here.)

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Baby Drawings

Some sketches of my daughter Georgia from her first few months. Forgive me! Made between Nov. 2021 and Jan. 2022.
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Pleasantly surprised to find that Arts & Letters Daily — a great site for articles, reviews, and opinions — has a newsletter.

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“… some of the most defining memes of 2023, from nepo babies to babygirl.” For Rolling Stone, Julia Reinstein chronicles the year in 21 memes. I’d heard of nine of them.

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“Fifty years ago, eight Americans set off for South America to climb Aconcagua, one of the world’s mightiest mountains. Things quickly went wrong.” So begins “Ghosts on the Glacier,” a new multimedia story from the New York Times.

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Diary Comics, Nov. 10-12

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Single-Item Gift Guide

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Every year my mom sends us a box of grapefruit for the holidays (and beyond), and I can’t think of a gift I’ve enjoyed more. On a low-burn, daily enjoyment level, anyway. Also it’s just so welcome and refreshing in the winter. Plus the grapefruit is delicious and pretty. She gets hers from Hale Groves, in Florida, but I imagine many vendors are offering excellent grapefruit this time of year.

TIL: Grapefruit are called grapefruit because they grow in bunches like grapes.

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“Better to ask directly and be refused than to wish endlessly for help.” Dang, Philip Galanes! Filing away for personal use…

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Ask Me Anything: Edith Z.

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Thanks for all the Qs in response to my post yesterday! Here are my answers. Also, here’s Jason’s great AMA if anyone missed it.

How long have you been knitting? How did you learn? Also do you have a favorite project/technique? I’ve fallen in love with cables.

I taught myself in 2015 using YouTube, which is great because you can replay the videos endlessly.

Aside from the Pengweeno cardigan and Sawtooth mittens I’ve already mentioned, I make a ton of these Classic Ribbed Hats from Purl Soho (above), which is probably a boring answer, but they’re great to give as gifts.

What is the most active conversation in your group texts right now?

In my friends’ Discord, we’re praising Lucy’s Christmas playlist.

How do you not run out of things to write? How does any one-person creative unit not run out?

I definitely run out of things to write. I did here on Day Two, and I freaked out. Then I just kind of pulled things out of my butt.

Back when I ran a blog of my own, I was super tuned in to the internet, and it was relatively easy to find a ton of cool/funny stuff to share and riff on all day — scrolling through Google Reader was like second nature. These days I’m less looped in.

WILL YOU BE HOSTING YOUR OWN WEBLOG IN THE FUTURE?

Probably not, but I’m hoping to start my newsletter back up again. It’s just comics, though, unless something changes. I flirted with the idea of trying to bring back The Hairpin (the blog I used to run), but it would probably be a mistake, even if it was possible. I’ve really enjoyed posting here for Jason, though. Almost no one does it like this anymore!

I once worked for a publication that was technically a blog, but one of its (unofficial) policies was to summarize the articles we linked to, rather than encourage people to visit the sources, so as to not lose traffic. That was my understanding anyway, after an early conversation with an editor. I thought that was a bummer; the linking-out part of blogging has always seemed like the spirit of the internet. Which is of course part of why I love Kottke.org so much.

My question is more about you pausing your Substack comics. I’m curious about what happens to our work and creative process when we build an audience. I don’t know what the question really is — I guess: How do we share art without creating so much pressure on ourselves?

I wish I knew! At first sending my newsletter was so easy, but then I built up expectations around what I thought readers wanted. And then I became really worried about what people would think of any given installment, which started to disfigure the whole process for me. (“Will they like it? Is it stupid??? Will they hate me?? Do I hate me????”) I ended up creating work I thought sucked, and eventually I stopped posting altogether.

As for solutions to the problem, I got a lot out of something the writer Jessa Crispin mentioned in her newsletter, which I posted about a few days ago. The idea is basically that one should cultivate some healthy “contempt” for one’s audience. It sounded counterintuitive at first, even rude, but then it made a lot of sense. It helped me get out from under the weight of worrying about what people think, since that’s a losing game.

I used to really fear people disliking my work, and I still do, but maybe I have one degree more acceptance of it.

If I bring back my newsletter, I’m thinking I might turn off the “like and comment” feature. While I loved getting that feedback, I think specifically the “likes” were bending my work to their will. I’ve actually loved sharing stuff on Kottke in part because there’s not a ton of immediate feedback here. It’s like, Okay, the stuff is just out there. Hopefully it will help me connect with others eventually, but it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t happen right away, or ever. It feels healthier.

How does the experience of blogging like this change how you feel about blogging, and if you want to get back to it?

I’m in a weepy mindset where my first response is: “Blogging this way is PRECIOUS!!! I didn’t appreciate it a tenth as much as I should have when it was my full-time job!”

I also forgot how intense and all-encompassing it can be. Like every day I keep wondering if I’ve gotten so zoned-in that I’ve forgotten to pick my daughter up at daycare. (I haven’t yet.)

What are your three favorite movies of all time, and one that you hate that everyone else loves?

I don’t watch a lot of movies, so nothing really comes to mind, but I do have an emotional attachment to the 1922 movie Nosferatu.

If you asked about books, though — let’s say favorites of the past five years — I would say War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice. I was on a classic-novel kick in 2022, and it was one of the most fun reading-times of my life.

The story behind all the British novels is that many years ago my dad bought a leather-bound set of “100 of the Greatest Books Ever Written” that arrived once a month until the whole set was complete. When he died, I boxed them up and kept them in storage. I finally brought them out last year, when I had a real house with real bookshelves — after 14 years in those storage boxes! — and began reading a few. (For War and Peace I read the amazing Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation.)

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Other great recent-ish reads: Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson, and Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke.

Thanks for the Qs, this was super fun to write!

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Since I’m here I might as well beat the drum about an opinion I had five years ago and maintain to this day: “Why Would Any Man Not Want to Be Bald?

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“Using tweezers, carefully remove the lines and now your cake is revealed.” Here are instructions for making a snowy tennis-court cake circled with rosemary-sprig pine trees.

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“…court data revealed that the percentage of divorces leading to equal joint custody — in which time with each parent is split 50–50 — rose from just 2 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2010.” Wow, as a child from a joint custody situation in the late ’80s, I didn’t realize it was so rare. That’s from a new Atlantic story: “America Isn’t Ready for the Two-Household Child.” (But also: “To be fair, constructing surveys that capture the complexities of joint custody is difficult. Anecdotally, we know that such arrangements tend to be highly fluid, shifting throughout the year during summer breaks and holidays, and over time as kids age.”)

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Cool Old Songs: Graham Smith, a.k.a. Kleenex Girl Wonder

One of the weirder holiday songs I like is “Maybe This Christmas,” by musician Graham Smith, a.k.a. Kleenex Girl Wonder. It has some profanities at the beginning, but by the end it does really get me into the spirit.


(Please let me know if the Bandcamp embed is giving anyone grief.)

At first I didn’t like Smith’s music, which my husband plays in the car constantly, but then something clicked. I also like the video he and his band made for their 2016 song “Plight.” (It’s a shot-by-shot remake of Rihanna’s “Stay” and is probably NSFW but not intensely.)

Kleenex Girl Wonder has tons more music on Bandcamp. It’s kind of confusing, honestly. But my husband recommends their 2015 “Getting Started” album as a good entry point, if you’re feeling the holiday song.

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Jogging Stroller (Comic)

From 2022.
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ASMR Recommendations: Ecuador Live & Moonlight Cottage

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I’m hesitant to write much about ASMR videos, because the experience feels so personal, but I usually watch (or, listen) for a half hour each night, usually to fall asleep. I go through phases of enjoying different ASMRtists, but lately it’s been Ecuador Live (above left) and Moonlight Cottage (above right). Doña Esperanza from Ecuador Live has maybe the most peaceful voice in the world, and Diane from Moonlight Cottage is on another level with her sets and art direction. But mostly it’s just her voice, too. (I thought this one might be too weird, but it was not.) If there’s an ASMR Review newsletter out there, I’d love to know about it.

For what it’s worth, I’m not sure I get the signature ASMR “tingles,” but these videos do put me to sleep.

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In the summer, I saw a ton of people linking to this Outside essay about attending a grueling destination wedding deep in the Guatemalan jungle, but at the time I skipped it. I’m glad I finally read it, this morning, compelled by its appearance on Longreads’ “Best Personal Essays of 2023” list. Lives up to the hype!

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Here is a very pleasing drawing of a piece of bread. And the story behind it, but mostly the bread. [via wordloaf] Prints here.

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Diary Comics, Nov. 9

(Previously: Oct. 28 & 29, Oct. 30 & 31, Nov. 1 & 2, Nov. 3 & 4, Nov. 5 & 6, Nov. 7 & 8)
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Basement Sign (Comic)

From 2021.
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The Cloisters, but make it gingerbread. (On view at the Museum of the City of New York until January 15.)

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Out Today

My daughter is home sick, so there will be fewer posts from me today. But I will be back tomorrow, I hope!

PS: Please feel free to ask me any questions, either here in the comments or in an email. Tuesday will be my last day, and I enjoy posting these mini Q&As. Turns out I miss chatting and blogging! Questions could be about anything. How do you know Jason? Initially through blogging and living in NYC, and now slightly more because we live vaguely close to each other in upstate New York and Vermont. How old are you? 40! How did you meet your husband? Bumble! But we had a mutual friend, which helped break the ice. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?? Hmm let me think….

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Harry Clarke’s Illustrations

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Every so often on Instagram I come across Harry Clarke’s stringy, spooky illustrations for the 1919 Edgar Allan Poe collection Tales of Mystery & Imagination (above left) or the 1925 version of Goethe’s Faust. Poking around led me to this 2016 story in the Public Domain Review: “Harry Clarke’s Looking Glass.” As I learned, he once wrote to a friend that his publisher thought a set of his Faust illustrations were “full of stench and steaming horrors.”

50watts has more great images, and here’s a zoomable version of the “Sea Witch” (above right) from his illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”

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Diary Comics, Nov. 7

Nov. 8 was pure complaining, so I’m skipping that one. (Previously: Oct. 28 & 29, Oct. 30 & 31, Nov. 1 & 2, Nov. 3 & 4, Nov. 5 & 6)
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A funny story about Norman Lear on the day of his passing, if that’s alright…” From comedian Alex Edelman.

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The Story of “The Wexford Carol”

Last night my family listened to “The Wexford Carol” after my husband asked if I knew about its backstory. I didn’t, but I learned that while the song is centuries old, it was only relatively recently transcribed.

There’s an affecting version of that story in a recent post on America: The Jesuit Review, by Maggi Van Dorn. “I have learned to take Christmas carols seriously,” she writes, “and to anticipate the epiphanies they may bear in my spiritual life as I contemplate them anew. […] As for ‘The Wexford Carol,’ it quietly survived over 400 years of British colonial suppression and was first put to paper in the small Irish village of Enniscorthy,” where she traveled to ask locals about the song.

The above Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma rendition appears on Ma’s 2008 holiday album, Songs of Joy & Peace. Loreena McKennitt also has a beautiful version, as does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which made a cheesy music video that also made me cry.

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Owl (Comic)

From 2022, when my husband had facial hair.
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Millennial Mom-hood

“I know some women who have decided to forgo motherhood altogether — not out of an empowered certainty that they want to remain child-free, but because the alternative seems impossibly daunting. Others are still choosing motherhood, but with profound apprehension that it will require them to sacrifice everything that brings them pleasure.” In Vox, Rachel M. Cohen writes about “How Millennials Learned to Dread Motherhood.”

As an old millennial, I feel compelled to say that being a mom is awesome and easily one of the most interesting and meaningful things that’s ever happened to me. But talking about how great it is can feel like tempting the gods. As Cohen notes in her piece, “When I started asking women about their experiences as mothers, I was startled by the number who sheepishly admitted, and only after being pressed, that they had pretty equitable arrangements with their partners, and even loved being moms, but were unlikely to say any of that publicly.”

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Victorian seaweed-themed Christmas cards, why not? The rhymes could be a little sharper, though, in my opinion.

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Great Kids’ Book: Little Witch Hazel

Yesterday at our library’s Story Time, the reader chose a book that knocked my socks off: Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Woods, by Phoebe Wahl, from 2021. (Trailer above.) It’s about a tiny witch who lives in the forest, and it follows her on her adventures through the seasons. (The book is divided into four sections.) The kids in the crowd — ages two through five — were mostly entranced.

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Two of the book’s most beautiful pages are available as prints; my favorite is above.

Wahl’s website also led me to an illustrated editorial she did for the NYT last year: “The Joys of Swimming While Fat.”

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Another Knitting Post: The Pengweeno Cardigan

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This is a recommendation for the pattern to the delightful Pengweeno children’s cardigan, by Stephen West. I’ve made three of them — this post is probably/definitely just an excuse to share these photos — and hope to make more.

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It’s a good way to use up spare yarn, and the result is supremely cute and satisfying. There’s also an adult version — the Penguono — but for whatever reason only the Pengweeno speaks to me. (Here’s Stephen West on Ravelry, Instagram, and his website.)

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Previously: Traditional Maine Mittens. I have to cram as much knitting content as I can onto this blog before Jason comes back!

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When I was collecting links to share in advance of this guest-blogging stint, Moe Tkacik’s Slate essay on Jezebel was at the top of my list. Then I saw it shared everywhere and figured it would be old news by the time I started posting. But in case anyone’s missed it, it brought me back immediately to how I felt reading Jezebel at my desk at my first office job. Namely: thrilled/in awe someone like her existed. Mini anecdote: In 2008 I emailed Moe an idea for a Jezebel story. She wrote back saying, and I believe I quote, because I remember where I was when I got her response as well as the device I was reading it on: “I like this idea.” It never went anywhere, but the idea that she liked an idea of mine changed my life. Thanks, Moe.

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Diary Comics, Nov. 5 & 6

Keeping on with this series… This one may be too much for one post, apologies! (Previously: Oct. 28 & 29, Oct. 30 & 31, Nov. 1 & 2, Nov. 3 & 4)
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Note: Tooth discoloration turned out to be Goldfish buildup.

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Yesterday I learned that there’s a newsletter dedicated to reviewing New Yorker issues, categorizing stories from “Must Read” to “Skip Without Guilt.”

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Tricycle Magazine and an Essay About Stuttering

I’m not a Buddhist or a meditator, but I’ve subscribed to Buddhist magazine Tricycle for the past few years. They send a “Daily Dharma” newsletter each morning, with a single line from an archived story. I love these and maybe someday I’ll actually start meditating. Here’s one from last month:

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But a story from a 2022 issue has especially stuck with me: psychiatrist (and Buddhist) Mark Epstein’s personal essay on having a speech impediment and “How Meditation Failed Me.”

… I was instructed to read the book as perfectly as I could, without rustling or coughing, speeding up or slowing down, or messing up in any way. I had done this once before with a previous book, and I was proud of having accomplished it smoothly. …

On this occasion, however, my old speech impediment came back to haunt me. Going to Pieces begins with the word “In” — a strange sound, when one isolates it and stops to think about it and convinces oneself that it cannot be said.

Each time I’ve read this essay, the ending overwhelms me. “It seemed important, at first, to find someone or something to blame…”

My only criticism of the magazine is that I wish there were more visuals to use other than Buddhas.

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Mermaid Entrepreneur (Comic)

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I Drink Water and Mind My Business

Cool “old” songs, part two? This 2021 jam was used as background music in a TikTok or Instagram reel I came across last year, and it stopped me in my tracks. I looked it up immediately and don’t understand why it hasn’t become a worldwide hit: “Mind My Business,” by Trinidadian singer Patrice Roberts. I think about it all the time. There’s also a funny music video, but I kind of prefer just imagining. [Patrice Roberts on wikipedia/instagram]

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Fruit-Themed Running Clothes for Adults

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Last Friday I asked for suggestions on where I might find bright, fruit-themed running clothes for adults (FTRCfA), and I was not disappointed. Commenter Seth wrote:

As a runner myself I always found BOA Running shorts and Chicknleg running shorts to have fun patterns. Last I checked both had at least a strawberry pattern to meet your fruit needs.

I had not heard of either brand before, but he was right, and the strawberry women’s shorts at BOA were even on sale. They also have cute peach ones, for both men and women. At Chicknleg I went for the pineapples and sea turtles. The snails were also tempting. Thank you, and I’m looking forward to wearing these silly, cheerful clothes come summer. I only started running at the beginning of the pandemic, but it has transformed my life. I didn’t think it would change my relationship with clothing, but it’s so much easier to wear goofy, neon stuff this way, and to not feel ridiculous about it — or to enjoy feeling ridiculous.
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“The next day, his Twitter … mentions were filled with angry people complaining.” Short, fun profile of Sam Ezersky, the man behind the NYT’s Spelling Bee puzzle, in Baltimore Magazine.

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Roz Chast’s Embroidery: An Appreciation

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This is old news, but New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast also makes embroidered tapestries (and occasional embroidered New Yorker covers), and they’re just stunning. I also liked an interview she gave earlier this year with the sewing magazine Threads:

[Threads]: What is your favorite textile piece?

RC: It’s a picture of a little girl and she’s holding a little notebook and she has a pen and she has her parents on either side of her and the border is a quote from a Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz, and the quote is, “When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.”

An exhibition of Chast’s embroidery — “Buildings, Bananas, and Beyond” — recently closed at the Carol Corey Fine Art gallery in Kent, CT, but there are some fantastic images online (three are featured at the top of this post, but the thumbnails don’t do them justice).

I think my favorite is her “Diver” (below).
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Diary Comics: Nov. 2, 3, & 4

Some more day-in-the-life comics, with some coloring assists from my daughter.
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Cool Old Songs, Part One

Lots of Kottke readers probably know about the band Pere Ubu, but I only learned about them a couple years ago, through my husband. Their song “Breath” totally rules, as does their legendary 1989 performance of it (above) on the live-music show “Sunday Night,” hosted by David Sanborn (and Jools Holland — although now I’m just quoting from Wikipedia). May I someday tap into whatever he’s tapping into if I haven’t already.

If you want more, I highly recommend the musician Cat Popper’s 2021 cover of “Breath.” (“I really like that version of ‘Breath,’” said Pere Ubu’s own David Thomas. “I like it better than mine.”)

“Breath” comes from the album Cloudland, which also contains the excellent song “Waiting for Mary,” which Pere Ubu performed on that same “Sunday Night” show. And here’s the studio version of “Breath” [spotify link] if you want a cleaner listen.

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The “Sunday Long Read” newsletter linked to two parenting-adjacent stories yesterday, on opposite ends of the spectrum. One scared the crap out of me: an account of nearly dying shortly after a c-section, by Grace Glassman in Slate (“I gave birth at 45. It was a miracle that almost cost me everything”). The other was funny: David Sedaris on modern kids, in The Free Press (“Children now are like animals who have no natural predators left”).

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Reading NYT book critic Dwight Garner’s memories of the books that he read/reviewed this past year (“I … remember making a fool of myself”) reminded me how much I also enjoyed his Grub Street Diet from a couple months ago. Without rereading it, and following the Sigrid Nunez prompt he used in the NYT book-memories article: I remember from that post that his apartment seemed creaky and comfortable, and that it seemed like he had a nice marriage. Also maybe something about oysters. […] Okay, no oysters, yes organ meat.

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Searching for a Wedding Dress Accessory (Comic)

From 2021.
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How to Cook Turkey With Just Chicken and Cinnamon

Right on time for all upcoming feasts, it’s “Holiday Recipes Dictated by Kindergarteners,” in the newsletter Bright Spots, by Chris Duffy. (His friend, a kindergarten teacher, had her students “collectively dictate to her how they believe their favorite Thanksgiving dishes were made.”) For instance, turkey:

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Click through for further instructions on how to prepare stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Where was this two weeks ago?

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On Buying Toddler Clothes

fruit-clothes.pngOne problem with having a toddler is that there’s so much you can buy them, and it’s so easy to be tempted by all of it. Or to resist 98% of the time, but then cave and still end up having spent hundreds of dollars on sweaters and toothbrushes and sunglasses and shoes. And trampolines and socks and stuffed dragons. It’s just that my daughter likes everything right now, and it makes me feel good to give her something that she likes. Really it’s just the clothes that torment me. She loves new clothes and will put on anything that’s new to her, including all the fabulous hand-me-downs we get. But Mother magazine sometimes hits that 2% sweet (rotten) spot. A couple weeks ago, it got me to buy a little apple sweater, which I love, but which I regret buying in her size (2T) and not in a size that she’d grow into (3T), because it’s basically already too small, which is absurd because it cost $50 (on sale plus shipping and tax). I also put like $200 worth of clothing (on sale!) from Petit Pilou into a digital shopping cart before abruptly closing the tab and shutting off my phone. But I bet if I open it up again it will still be there. The pineapple dresses were really what got me.

Maybe I just want to dress all in fruit myself, and it pleases me to live through my daughter, since she seems to enjoy it as well. Hanna Andersson has some wonderful fruit clothing, since I’m on the topic. We have their strawberry socks, swimsuit, and hat.

If anyone knows of any running clothes with cool fruit patterns, please let me know. I’ve been hoping Janji will bust out with something good (their other patterns are often excellent), and although it would be cool if Tracksmith did something fruity, it would probably be tasteful and realistic, when I’m looking for something neon and extreme. Something cheerful. I hope Santa is listening.

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This 30-minute NYT documentary about an Irish family sheep farm was blissful and entrancing, until they started sawing (or, trimming) a ram’s horns. It was still good, it was just a different experience. I would also describe it overall as “strange.” (“Ramboy.”) [thx, Andrew!]

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The Pilea, a.k.a. Friendship, Plant

pilea-and-babies-copy.jpgI don’t have a green thumb, but I bought one of these a few months ago, and it’s still going strong. This post is purely to recommend that plant: pilea peperomioides, also known as the Chinese money plant, the coin plant, the friendship plant, and the UFO plant. It’s pleasingly goofy and, as far as I can tell, resilient. I’ve even snipped off a few of the little “babies” that sprout from its sides (above right), kept them in water for a couple weeks to let them grow roots…
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… and replanted them to give to friends.
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It’s a satisfying endeavor. I will share this now before any of the little guys die.

It’s nothing like Jason’s fiddle leaf fig, but you never know.

Actually rereading that post is very moving. Writing this blog for even a few days has been an affecting experience. It has me remembering past lives and investigating current ones.

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“[W]e’d start up the hill in little groups making polite small talk. How did you sleep? My legs are so sore already! By the way down, the tenor of the conversation had changed. I’m learning to be O.K. with living the rest of my life alone. It took me years to get over the guilt of not giving my son a sibling. With each hike, the time it took to go from small talk to real talk got shorter.” Writing for Air Mail, Lauren Bans makes me want to visit the Golden Door Spa.

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Diary Comics, Nov. 1 & 2

Continuing on… I feel a little weird sharing these; I realize they may not be especially interesting. But, for now, more days in the life!
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Lana Del Rey Covering “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

As one YouTube commenter says: “The melancholy in her voice should be preserved in a nostalgic museum.”

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Why’d I Take Speed for 20 Years?” … asks former Reply All host PJ Vogt, in his new podcast Search Engine. “Dexedrine was like glasses, [the doctor said], but for my brain.” The episode looks at the history and rise of medical amphetamines, and I found it riveting. (Full disclosure: PJ is a friend of mine.) The podcast also has a newsletter, which I read more than I listen to the show. I’m not really a podcast person, although I also especially liked an earlier episode speculating about “what’s going on with Elon Musk?”

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“She has set her ego aside in exchange for something bigger and better.” This is maybe a little out there, but a couple years ago I bought a session with a hypnotherapist (or, a subconscious success coach). I wanted to make money through my newsletter but felt weird about it and wondered if something psychological might be getting in the way. I don’t know if there was or not, and I am not here to recommend hypnotherapy. However I have remained on the hypnotherapist’s email newsletter, and the above was a single line from one of her recent “Two-Minute Transformation” emails. I might have just been in the right zone to receive it, and/or it might need more context, but it helped me see that much of what I fear is simply having my ego dented, which made it easier to imagine a path forward. Her name is Gaby Abrams.

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Trying Out ‘The Crown,’ Season One (Comic)

From 2021.
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Archives · November 2023

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