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kottke.org posts about Tim Carmody

Noticing the world’s wonders amidst its horrors

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2018

The latest issue of Noticing (kottke.org’s weekly newsletter) went out today. This issue includes a link to my interview with Laura Hazard Owen at NiemanLab about kottke.org turning 20 years old next month, the state of blogging, and the melancholy of the conversation around the decline of the open web.

I think that it’s been really hard, the last couple of years, to cover anything — I don’t know how to say this in a way that isn’t going to get all weirdly interpreted — it’s been hard to cover anything but things that are serious. Because, you know, a lot of people - I think very rightly - feel that if you’re someone who thinks the world is coming down around all of us, that you should be on a mission to try to fix that. And I think that there are plenty of sites and plenty of media outlets and plenty of people who are oriented in that direction and moving in that direction.

But I don’t think kottke.org is one of those things. I think that the site is much more about things that are a little bit more — I don’t want to say hopeful, but a lot of it is, like, look at this cool thing. Look at what humans can do when they have enough time and energy and whatnot to do them! When you called, I was had just been watching the SpaceX thing. Seeing those two booster rockets land at the same time blew my mind. I was just sitting here, yelling, like, oh my god!

There has to be room in our culture for that type of stuff — that stuff that is inspirational and aspirational — because it provides some sort of hope that we can actually have more of that in our lives, rather than less.

To which Tim added (italics mine):

I freely admit that this is something Jason does as a blogger way better than I do (along with writing fewer words more often). I think I look at the world and mostly think less “oh my god!” and more “how in the hell does that work?” But I think the two of them have to be complimentary. Learning begins in wonder (the Greeks would call it thauma) as much or more than in criticism (skepsis).

That last line sums up my approach here (and honestly, to life) as well as you can in one sentence. Noticing could very well have been called Wonder instead.

You can read the rest of this week’s newsletter here or subscribe here.

Noticing, a new weekly newsletter from kottke.org

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2018

As kottke.org enters its 21st calendar year of activity (!!!!), it’s time for something new. And old. Email was invented in 1972, the year before I was born, but is still going strong. The email newsletter has re-emerged in recent years as a unique way to connect with readers, distinct from social media or publishing on the web. So Tim Carmody and I have teamed up to launch Noticing, a free email newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Written by Tim Carmody and published by me every Friday, Noticing will contain a curated roundup of the week’s posts from kottke.org as well as some extra stuff that we’ll be introducing in the weeks to come. It most definitely won’t be a replacement for kottke.org…more like something to read alongside it.

Initial funding for the newsletter comes from two sources: the bulk of it from kottke.org (made possible through the support of members) but also from Tim’s supporters on Patreon. Noticing is an experiment in unlocking the commons.

The most economically powerful thing you can do is to buy something for your own enjoyment that also improves the world. This has always been the value proposition of journalism and art. It’s a nonexclusive good that’s best enjoyed nonexclusively.

The newsletter is very much a work in progress and a departure from the way I usually do things around here. For one thing, it’s a collaboration…almost everything else I’ve done on the site was just me. We’ve previewed it over the last two weeks just for members, but it’s still more “unfinished” than I’m comfortable with. The design hasn’t been nailed down, the logo will likely change, and Tim & I are still trying to figure out the voice and length. But launching it unfinished feels right…we aren’t wasting time on optimization and there’s more opportunity to experiment and move toward what works as time goes on. We hope you’ll join us by subscribing and letting us know your thoughts and feedback as we get this thing moving.

P.S. A quick note on the name. I thought of it while listening to the last part of Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci on audiobook on the drive home from NYC last week. One of Isaacson’s main points in the book was that Leonardo’s accomplishments were due in no small part to his extraordinary powers of observation. By observing things closely and from all possible angles, he was able to make connections and find details that other people didn’t and express them in his work. Isaacson argues that Leonardo’s observational powers were not innate and that with sufficient practice, we can all observe as he did. People talk in a precious way about genius, creativity, and curiosity as superpowers that people are born with but noticing is a more humble pursuit. Noticing is something we can all do.

I also thought about one of my favorite scenes from Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. From A.O. Scott’s review:

Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith), the principal, has read Lady Bird’s college application essay. “It’s clear how much you love Sacramento,” Sister Sarah remarks. This comes as a surprise, both to Lady Bird and the viewer, who is by now aware of Lady Bird’s frustration with her hometown.

“I guess I pay attention,” she says, not wanting to be contrary.

“Don’t you think they’re the same thing?” the wise sister asks.

The idea that attention is a form of love (and vice versa) is a beautiful insight.

I agree. Drawing honest & straightforward attention to things I love is much of what I do here on kottke.org, so I thought Noticing was a natural name for its newsletter extension.

P.P.S. An additional programming note. In addition to doing the newsletter, Tim is also taking over the posting duties on kottke.org most Fridays. This will free me up to work on other site-related things that I haven’t been able to tackle due to the daily scramble. Again, thanks to member support for making this possible!

The People’s History of Tattooine

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 29, 2017

tusken raiders.jpeg

On May 17, 2014, a Saturday morning, a bunch of very bored, very geeky dads on Twitter spontaneously created something weird and fun. Jacob Harris kicked it off, I helped get it going, others joined in. Dan Sinker called it The People’s History of Tattooine, and that name has stuck.

Since Storify has announced that it’s shutting down, I’ve been looking for a permanent home for the People’s History. A lot of the tweets have been deleted, and threads have been broken. I also wanted something without the Twitter-y cruft, but that still preserved the back-and-forth, so I decided to format it kinda like a teleplay. Jason suggested posting it here at Kottke.org. I can’t think of a better home for it.

THE PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF TATTOOINE

starring
(in order of appearance)

JACOB HARRIS
TIM CARMODY
FRANCIS HWANG
AZIZ GILANI
JAMES SCHIRMER
SKOTT KLEBE
DAN SINKER
SCOTT KLEIN
ANIL DASH
TED HAN
MICHAEL DONOHOE
MIKE MONTEIRO
and
DARTH
(not pictured)

JACOB HARRIS
What if Mos Eisley wasn’t really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

TIM CARMODY
What do you mean, “these blaster marks are too precise to be made by Sand People?” Who talks like that?

JACOB HARRIS
also Sand People is not the preferred nomenclature.

TIM CARMODY
They have a rich cultural history that’s led them to survive and thrive under spectacularly awful conditions.

JACOB HARRIS
Mos Eisley may not look like much but it’s a a bedroom community with decent schools and affordable housing.

TIM CARMODY
You can just imagine Obi-Wan after years of being a Jedi on Coruscant being stuck in this place and just getting madder and madder.

JACOB HARRIS
yeah nobody cares that the blue milk is so much more artisanal on Coruscant

TIM CARMODY
Obi-Wan only goes to Mos Eisley once every three months to get drunk and he basically becomes like Byron.

JACOB HARRIS
so he clings to things like lightsabers and ancient Jedi religion…

“I’m just saying you can’t trust a man what plays in a cantina band. Not you, Figrin D’ith. You’re one of the good ones!”

I also imagine Tosche Station as some sort of affluent suburban mall where Luke just goes to loiter when bored.

TIM CARMODY
That’s totally true about dudes in cantina bands though

JACOB HARRIS
you don’t get to be Max Rebo overnight. Playing in the cantina is like their version of the Beatles in Hamburg, Tim.

TIM CARMODY
Luke is such a little shit. Imagine Lucas’s direction: “Mark, just reach out and grab the bartender by the sleeve.”

JACOB HARRIS
All I’m saying is that for a place he allegedly hates, Obi Wan sure knows exactly where the best cantina is. Maybe what Obi Wan really hates is himself for having a good time and enjoying the cantina scene

TIM CARMODY
he goes home with one of Jabba’s six-boobed dancers and hates himself for it

JACOB HARRIS
that Obi Wan thinks his little “put the hood over my head and make strange noises” is what scares Sand People is racist too. Maybe they just run because they don’t want to deal with the racist old man who gets violent and complains more will come back

FRANCIS HWANG
You can’t be mad at Obi Wan. That’s just how all the Jedi talked back then.

JACOB HARRIS
“more civilized time?” Check your privilege, Obi Wan

FRANCIS HWANG
“When I was growing up we called the Sand People ‘savage’, but we didn’t mean anything by it… The Sand People used to know their place until those Imperial carpetbaggers came here and started putting ideas in their heads.”

AZIZ GILANI
The ‘sand people’ were really just desert nomads emancipating the massive slave population. #Perspective

JACOB HARRIS
the Tusken People. “Raiders” presumes some malevolent intent. They are trying to preserve the desert habitat and Luke wants to race through it in his speeder. The Tusken are just trying to keep parts of Tatooine wild and undeveloped by heavy industry.

JAMES SCHIRMER
One could argue calling them “Tuskens” is little better than “Raiders.” See: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Fort_Tusken …

JACOB HARRIS
they use it to rob the slur of its power

SKOTT KLEBE
Belatedly realizing that in a crime scene distinguished by precise blaster marks, Storm Troopers are your last suspects. I mean, based on the rest of the movie, should say “These blaster marks are too precise to be made by Storm Troopers.” But who’s right there pawning the guilt off on the Empire? And who used to be a renowned Jedi marksman himself? Obi-wan!

Connect the dots, people! It was Obi-Wan from the beginning!

Face it - Obi-Wan killed Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in order to let Luke to sell his speeder for funds to leave the planet.

ELON GREEN
A small part of me wishes I understood this.

JACOB HARRIS
it’s a pretty obscure film

DAN SINKER
The People’s History of Tattoine that Jacob Harris and Tim Carmody wrote this morning is an essential document.

JACOB HARRIS
all I’m saying is that I don’t blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man

DAN SINKER
“he’s making those noises again, honey bring the kids inside.”

JACOB HARRIS
and the Greater Mos Eisley Business Improvement District doesn’t care about the rantings of a separatist hermit

SCOTT KLEIN
Actually they’re so offended by being called “sand people” that they beat up any outsider who wanders by.

DAN SINKER
think of the number of letters he wrote in to the Tattoine Times-Call

SKOTT KLEBE
But traveling in a straight line to conceal their numbers? That’s just plain deceptive.

DAN SINKER
THAT’S JUST HOW THEY *WALK* MAN.

JACOB HARRIS
it’s a nature preserve, Scott, and Luke just thinks he can drive his speeder through it. Like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park

SKOTT KLEBE
but how can you trust people who walk like that? They must be up to all kinds of stuff. Tricky walking, ew.

JACOB HARRIS
they’re only concealing their numbers if you have trouble telling them apart

SKOTT KLEBE
If they wanted us to be able to tell them apart, they shouldn’t conceal their faces. Their fault, not mine.

JACOB HARRIS
maybe those are their faces, Skott. Sheesh!

DAN SINKER
Jesus old man, aren’t you late for a pancake breakfast at the Jedi Knights Lodge?

SKOTT KLEBE
is it racist that I don’t think skin can be made out of canvas and metal?

DAN SINKER
Not *All* Jedi.

SKOTT KLEBE
if liking Jedi “no hands” pancakes is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

SCOTT KLEIN
And let’s face it, there’s good reason for them to distrust Skywalkers.

JACOB HARRIS
Child of known felon hanging out with a violent separatist and disturbing the peace of their home

DAN SINKER
it’s not like it was generations ago. The kid’s *dad* was The One Who Killed. Didn’t even change his name.

JACOB HARRIS
so it might seem extreme to knock Luke out and vandalize his annoying speeder, but they’d had enough.

SCOTT KLEIN
If c3po hadn’t fallen off that ledge he’d have translated Tusken. “You’re scaring us! We mean you no harm!”

TIM CARMODY
Luke and Obi-Wan don’t even stand up for their droids, man. Tattooine is so fucking racist.

JACOB HARRIS
no, it’s very diverse. Which is why Obi Wan hates it.

TIM CARMODY
That bartender is no prize either, is all I’m saying. And they let Threepio get kicked out like it’s nothing

SKOTT KLEBE
Now you’re just forcing your affluent Coruscantist cultural standards on them.

TIM CARMODY
My freedom is bound up with everyone’s freedom, whether they’re Jedis or Tuscans or droids or Hutts.

SKOTT KLEBE
You’re hurting the revolution with this talk.

TIM CARMODY
You can have your species-ist *Rebellion*; I’m talking about real revolution.

DAN SINKER
“Used to be that every kind of creature turned out for the podrace. Now we just keep to our own.”

JACOB HARRIS
the Tusken who scares Luke when he’s using his binoculars is just an old man with a walking stick

TIM CARMODY
Mos Eisley hasn’t been the same since the Spaceport Riots in ‘67. Then they built Tosche Station and…

DAN SINKER
can you blame them for rioting? I mean Anakin did come in and “slaughtered them like animals.” His words, man

ANIL DASH
You’re all talking small potatoes. Big story is Palpatine’s equity in Sienar Systems.

TIM CARMODY
Your “Big Story” of the military-imperial complex lets you ignore what’s right in your FACE

ANIL DASH
the economic system is predicated on turning a man born into slavery against persons of sand. NOT ALLDERAAN!

DAN SINKER
YOU GUYS this is the exact thing those crazy old wizards want us to do: fight against each other.

SCOTT KLEIN
I hear they recruited child soldiers to blow up a gov’t building on Endor.

DAN SINKER
don’t even get me started on what they did to the Hothian ice caps.

JACOB HARRIS
you’re walking single-file to avoid damaging gundark nests and some jerk in a speeder races in… of course you’re going to knock him and out and vandalize his speeder to warn him and friends

TED HAN
Hey the Jedi have a multi-generational history of child labor & gambling on children.

MICHAEL DONOHOE
Not fair - Jedi provided shelter, regular meals, education, social mobility

MIKE MONTEIRO
Say what you will about the Empire, but supply ships arrived on time.

TIM CARMODY
You can do a lot of things on time if you don’t even care about your own clones.

MIKE MONTEIRO
The clones knew what they were signing up for.

DAN SINKER
The Rebellion: they get their *one* Mon Calamari general to sell the world on a plan that was *clearly* a trap

TIM CARMODY
I think Akbar, Calrissian, and Mon Mothma were set up to take the fall, frankly.

DAN SINKER
let’s give the drug runner a medal, but have the Wookie that does everything stand around with the Droids.

TIM CARMODY
I was wondering when we’d get here. The clearest evidence racism isn’t just hearts & minds, but institutional. Offstage, R2 shouts “THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT,” and they just turn and laugh right in his face.

JACOB HARRIS
maybe Chewbacca didn’t want to take their bullshit medal. He doesn’t need their approval

DAN SINKER
meanwhile, Da Mayor is all, “Wookie, always do the right thing.”

ANIL DASH
Given the Mon Calamari tendency to treat Bothans as disposable, it’s no wonder why Akbar got to be the token.

TIM CARMODY
Another way the original trilogy is superior to prequels: its characters seem racist, rather than its author.

ANIL DASH
imagine an Ep 1 that was about Palpatine manipulating tensions between Amidala and the Gungans.

JACOB HARRIS
I think Lucas thinks he’s making a deep statement about racism using droids

ANIL DASH
except he never touches it again and they are never liberated. So.

TIM CARMODY
Droids in the OT are almost exactly slaves. Socially, they are treated precisely as slaves were treated. Especially classical slavery (Rome, etc.), the parallels are astonishing.

SKOTT KLEBE
Jawas drive Tuskens away from sustainable agriculture by creating a market for captured droids.

MICHAEL DONOHOE
agreed - attempts to disrupt Jawas crowdsourced droid marketplace point to old ways of thinking

ANIL DASH
and what do we know about environmental impact of extractive factory farming like water evaporation?

MIKE MONTEIRO
Fair. But what about the evaporation farmers? We need to teach that whole sector new job skills.

ANIL DASH
last time someone “disrupted” that sector, we ended up with a bunch of astromechs nobody can repair.

MIKE MONTEIRO
Because the Trade Federation was funding anything they could flip to the Empire. Remember Droidr?

ANIL DASH
well, if you make anything original, they’ll just rip it off on Kamino. In the new R2 units, they can only project holograms you buy from Industrial Automaton.

JACOB HARRIS
can we get back to the Rebellion exploiting native population as soldiers on Endor?

TIM CARMODY
First they totally underestimate them. Then they trick them. Then they send them to die.

JACOB HARRIS
in Clone Wars all Jedi are automatically Generals despite no experience. Clones die.

MIKE MONTEIRO
How did OUR moisture get under THEIR sand?

JACOB HARRIS
highest rank a clone could get was Commander. No wonder they fragged Jedi in the end

ANIL DASH
ORDER 66 WAS AN INSIDE JOB

JACOB HARRIS
Order 66 wasn’t brainwashing, it was the chickens coming home to roost

ANIL DASH
what are the odds the same guy survives Order 66 and *both* Death Stars exploding?

MIKE MONTEIRO
If @darth was awake we’d be looking at a gif of Admiral Akbar reading My Pet Goat right now

ANIL DASH
@darth WAKE UP GREEPLE

MIKE MONTEIRO
Follow the galactic credits. Who was awarded the Death Star contracts? Twice.

SKOTT KLEBE
how deep does the rabbit hole go?

SKOTT KLEBE
here I always thought Kenobi was playin cool, not recognizing R2 and C3PO in Ep 4. Now seems more likely R2 and C3PO were just two of the millions he’d betrayed in his life, and who can keep track?

JACOB HARRIS
“hello there friend” and “I don’t recall owning a droid” are subtle threats to R2 to shut up

SKOTT KLEBE
“And we are friends, right? You wouldn’t want _not_ to be friends, would you?”

MIKE MONTEIRO
Follow the death sticks and you get a death stick case, but follow the galactic credits…

TIM CARMODY
Never forget that the movies aren’t historical documents, but propaganda 1000s years later. If all this is IN legends Republic/Jedi use to justify Rebellion, imagine what’s left OUT.

Interview with Mallory Ortberg

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 01, 2017

Hi everyone. Tim Carmody here. Jason and I are trying something new. I interviewed Mallory Ortberg, probably best known for the site she cofounded called The Toast, about her new subscriber-supported newsletter The Shatner Chatner. (It’s actually been in operation since March, but has a brand new home on the web.)

The full (well, fuller) interview is on my newsletter, which is called Backlight. Below, Kottke.org gets an exclusive, handcrafted, heavyweight gram vinyl excerpt, where Mallory describes what The Shatner Chatner is all about and its place in today’s simultaneously imploding and exploding media galaxy.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, check out my Tinyletter and keep coming back here to Kottke. It’s an experiment in collaboration we’re excited to try.

___________________

Mallory Ortberg: I love the Shatner Chatner. It feels very important to me that this newsletter always be in some way connected to… not necessarily Bill Shatner the man, but William Shatner the persona. That’s always super important, for me to distinguish between the two. People keep trying to say, “did you hear that thing that William Shatner said on Twitter?” I’m like, “no, I never want to know about Shatner.”

Bill Shatner is just the flawed material manifestation of the spirit of Shatner.

It’s a fact. It’s a red herring you know. Let it be what it is. I am trying to commune on a different level with with the Shatner… I feel like I have a running list of male fictional characters that weirdly drive the engine of the Shatner Chatner where I’m constantly trying to figure out, “what is my relationship to you? Why are we kind of the same?” And Niles Crane is also one of those people. And I again don’t know why. That’s what I’m still trying to use Shatner Chatner to figure out.

So Shatner has emanations and penumbras not just on this planet, but fictional ones too, in other characters.

There’s like one body, with multiple incarnations.

[The new site] is a little more professional, but it’s not the same - it’s not like The Toast Part 2, where I have to also run a whole website. They run the website. I just get to make jokes. And it’s not to say that it is The Toast 2.0, content-wise either. It’s very much just like Mallory’s weird thoughts and feelings, for however many folks would be interested. It may be, you know, a smaller crew, but I also want to make sure that it’s like a reasonable amount of money and not something that like only really well-off people will be able to afford.

I mean, I can’t always necessarily convince an editor to publish, “Hey, I wrote a bunch of stuff about my weird inability to love Stephen Sondheim but I really want to, because it helps me understand my best friend Nicole.” That can be the hard pitch to make when outlets are cutting their editorial teams. Whereas I’m like, “ah, but I’m pretty sure at least 5000 people would actually be super into learning more.”

That makes sense, especially when you have a track record of being able to bring your audience with you; they’re interested in going wherever you’re going.

Sure. And if they don’t, you know, then I’ll get to do that too. whatever the experience is going to be, it feels just like cool to get to try something that’s not the same as either, “OK it’s going to be a full time job. I have to run this website, I have to do a lot of behind the scenes stuff as well as write a lot, and I also have to make sure that on a daily basis the site is close to profitable, or else we’re going to run into trouble.” And then at the other end something like a free newsletter is really really fun, and then after like six months, it’s like, “oh, but this is how I make my living. I should probably at least try to not write for free all the time.” Even though, again it’s my choice, it’s not like somebody was trying to get me to publish a newsletter and then not pay me. It’s just more of a sense of what’s the right balance here between getting paid for my time and work versus not overworking myself.

I was pretty jazzed about the possibility that I won’t have to like answer any more e-mails than I do already which is great. Very hard time doing that. But I will get to write some more.

Will the newsletter still be published weekly?

So my hope is, with some money coming in, I’ll be able to dedicate more time to it than just once a week. For me, as somebody who has kind of a high natural tendency toward output, I really like to write kind of a lot. You know I took some time off after The Toast to write a little less and rest, and it was great. But I love to write and I love to come up with a bunch of dumb ideas and make jokes.

And you know again I would make it really clear: It’s not The Toast, the Sequel, because you can’t like promise anybody else’s involvement. “Don’t worry, I’m reuniting the gang, I’m back on the road.” Can’t do it. I mean, if anyone listening were to say, “I have ten million dollars and I want to make you restart The Toast,” I’m sure I could talk Nicole into it in a couple of years. This isn’t that.

So it’s a solo project?

I think it’s going to stay mostly solo. It would be so fun to periodically have like Nicole and some of my pals stop by. But I think especially because I’m charging individually, I don’t want to ask anybody to be a regular recurring feature if they’re not also making money. So I think it is going to be solo in that regard.

I’m still going to be writing books, and it’s not affecting other projects that I’ve got going on. But it’s nice, especially as a freelancer, you know - I freelance for Slate, I freelance my books (that’s probably not like the way to look at it). I have a lot of independent projects. I don’t have like a day job where I get benefits and health insurance. So part of what feels exciting about this is at least the opportunity to try to have that home base.

As grateful as I am for all the opportunities I’ve gotten over the last couple of years, I’m also very aware that, like The Toast, which is something that I loved and did well, that could go away. Not necessarily in the next five minutes, but in the next six months or the next year and the next two years. And so I always want to have at least one or two things that I feel like “OK, if everything else fell apart tomorrow, would I be able to pay my bills next month?” “How am I doing my best to make sure that I am taking care of myself financially in a really hot and cold field?” I’m a freelance writer. That’s means sometimes things are really flush and sometimes are really not.

I know I hope it works out. If it doesn’t at least I give it a shot. Like, I’m always a little bit anxious to think ahead to what my next thing with my backup with my third fallback plan. All the way down to, you know, let’s assume the entire industry craters tomorrow. “Where could I try to go get a job that would give me dental insurance?”

It’s funny because, I don’t at all think “oh, the future best response to that is everybody go start a newsletter and become like a freelancer!” It’s part of what’s just like really painful is just a reality of: people get fired for trying to unionize; people get fired for reporting sexual harassment at work; companies are laying off a lot of people both in my industry and in other industries. Just systematically we’re removing workers’ protections and making sure that people who have to work to live don’t have to work. There are a lot of people who work 40, 50, 60 hours a week and who do not have health insurance or retirement plan or unemployment and don’t know how they’re going to pay for food this month.

I’m really grateful that that right now, I’m making decent money. But also, you know, starting a newsletter is not the answer to the fact that we live in a society where workers are just not taken care of, not prioritized, not given a fair exchange for their work. Which of course every conversation I feel like that everyone has about work right now comes back to “we need unions,” “we need workplace protection,” and all that.

So I don’t want to pretend like this is the correct response to the world we live in. It’s just the project I’m excited about. And I’m anxious, and I call my representative in Congress all the time but it feels weird and threatening.

At the same time, I have so many people I know, not really like personal friends but just people I love on line, who have newsletters, and I love it so much, and I wish there were more ways for people to charge like a small amount for it. Right? I have so many people that I would love to pay, like, a couple of bucks a month to read their thoughts about food or movies or feelings or you know all of the above and anything that makes that easier. I’m kind of jazzed to at least explore.

I know I was thinking, if I were giving advice to someone who was like, “I used to do this job for money and now I do it for free,” it would be, try to make some money doing it. Because you know can you can do it.

Join me in supporting Tim Carmody’s writing on Patreon?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2017

Over the past few years of doing kottke.org, I’ve been lucky enough (with your support) to be able to take some time off now and again to relax, spend time with my family, and recharge the batteries. My vacations are also a chance to introduce different voices and perspectives to the site in the form of guest editors. For my last few absences, Tim Carmody has stepped into the guest editor role and has done an incredible job. It’s a win-win…I get some time off and the site improves while I’m gone. Most recently, he organized the creation of a time capsule for the internet and wrote an amazing collection of posts about love letters and time machines.

If you enjoy and appreciate what Tim does here (and elsewhere), I hope you’ll join me in supporting his independent “rogue writing” efforts on Patreon.

Can I tell you a secret?

I don’t know what my work is any more.

Or rather: I don’t know what to call it. Not anything that makes sense.

There was a time when that would have been a very easy question to answer. I’m a reporter who writes about the intersection of technology and media. Or: I’m a scholar who studies the history of comparative media and the stories we tell about it going back forever. Or: I’m a blogger who’s trying to figure out what the liberal arts are in a networked age.

I think all of those things are still true, but how and where I’m doing them have changed. I don’t have a university job like I used to at Penn. I don’t have a regular gig at a fancy magazine like Wired or The Verge (or Newsweek or National Geographic or The Atlantic or the few dozen other places I’ve written). I don’t even have a sweet collective blog like Snarkmarket or The Message to call home.

Like a lot of us, I’m adrift, a planet flung out of its orbit into some other new system: strange, unfamiliar, ready at any moment to collide with another planet and make something new.

So that’s what I am. A rogue writer trying to put things together again and figure them out. I’m using all the tools I can find to do it: anything I can learn, anything I can leverage.

I’m proud that kottke.org has been a frequent venue for Tim’s writing, but the web could use more of it and I’m happy to support him in that effort.

P.S. Tim and I are also plotting how he can contribute more regularly here. No promises, but stay tuned!

Love letters and time machines

posted by Tim Carmody   Oct 23, 2017

Hi everyone: Tim Carmody here, filling in for Jason this week. I don’t know exactly what he’s doing, but I’ve seen the photos and it looks freaking awesome. Much-deserved.

Every time I guest host The Best Blog in the World, I try to make it part of a bigger project. The last time I was here, Kottke readers helped us build a time capsule for the World Wide Web. This week, I have a similar theme, inspired by Jason’s recent post about his guest appearance on Halt and Catch Fire.

What strikes me about this essay is how much love pours off the page. Note: Jason is somehow even more midwestern than me. (I’m an ethnic Catholic from Detroit; I yell and cry and tell people too much and only feel terrible about all of it later.) He does not wear his emotions on his sleeve. So when he loosens up like this, it’s a big deal:

When I was a kid, there was nothing I was more interested in than computers. My dad bought one of the first available IBM PC-compatibles on the market. I’ve read and watched a ton about the PC revolution. I used online services like Prodigy. And the web, well, I’ve gotten to experience that up close and personal. One of the reasons I love Halt and Catch Fire so much is that it so lovingly and accurately depicts this world that I’ve been keenly interested in for the past 35 years of my life. Someone made a TV show about my thing and it was great, a successor to Mad Men great. Getting to be a microscopically tiny part of that? Hell yeah, it was worth it.

You can see how much he loves the show, how much he loves what the show was about, and how much he loved getting to be a part of it.

And I love that energy. For all the fisking and venting and social grooming and general chatter, I think that core feeling of “I love this! Why don’t you find something you love this much too?” is what propelled blogging from the beginning. It’s an enthusiast art, and it’s a folk art, from a country known for turning its enthusiast folk art into global industries.

So, this week, what I would like to do with you is to open up a little and talk about the things I love. It’s going to be a series of open love letters about art, literature, music, movies, nature, sports, technology — all that Liberal Arts 2.0 geek shit we all fill up on at Kottke. And if you’re worried that it’s just going to be a big dumb ultrapositive lovefest, don’t: the things I love are all strange and sad, and some of them are lost forever, so I’ve got you covered on that emotional side too.

Even Jason’s story about Halt and Catch Fire has that tinge of melancholy that makes it that much sweeter: the show is over, the world it describes is gone, the experience is a memory. Edgar Allen Poe was right: there’s nothing more beautiful than something we love that is forever gone. And Proust was right: we need a time machine, whether chemical or mechanical, to recapture that feeling again. The song of the Sirens is beautiful because it is doomed.

This week is also going to be about love: the weird processes by which we come to have so much affection for immanent and transcendent things in the universe. It’s not the same way we come to love people, but it’s not not the same way either. And it’s going to be in no small part about time; time lost, time present, and time yet to come.

One last thing: I couldn’t do this by myself. Or I didn’t want to, which amounts to the same thing. So throughout the week, there will be expert guest contributors offering their thoughts on the subjects we’re covering. It’s an amazing group: you’ll recognize a bunch of them, and I’m thrilled to smuggle all of them into Kottke.org with me, because they really shine.

Okay? Okay. Let’s get started.

Today’s Google logo is a set of playable turntables

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 11, 2017

In celebration of the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip hop, Google has replaced its logo with a pair of working turntables and a crate of records to scratch and mix.

On August 11, 1973, an 18-year-old, Jamaican-American DJ who went by the name of Kool Herc threw a back-to-school jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” — sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. And with that, Hip Hop was born.

The introduction and tutorial is hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, host of the groundbreaking Yo! MTV Raps show. You can play with the DJ setup here:

That was super fun…I spent more time than I would like to admit playing with that. See also Tim Carmody’s Spotify playlist, Introduction to Hip-Hop.

Is Han Solo Force-sensitive?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2016

How can Han Solo talk to and understand any alien he meets? Why is he such a gifted pilot? In this short piece from 2008, Tim Carmody answers those questions and more: Han Solo Has the Force.

Luke and Vader (especially young Anakin) are remarkable, inventive pilots, as is Lando, but Han blows them all away. In one scene after another in Empire, Han is able to perform feats that Artoo or Threepio say are mathematically near-impossible. He does this in a ship that has a remarkable warp-speed computer but which appears singularly unsuited for close-quarters maneuvers. Finally, he gets the drop on Vader in Episode IV, and while Vader may have been distracted by his sensations re: Luke, this is still evidence that we are dealing with a very special pilot.

And there’s further evidence from The Force Awakens (slight spoilers!): he shoots a stormtrooper with a blaster without looking. As I recall, it wasn’t a look-away, like this Cristiano pass or this Jordan assist, it was more like he could actually see the stormtrooper behind him. (Of course, Cristiano and Jordan might also be Force-sensitive, but that’s another post.)

The Ultimate Beastie Boys Sample Source Collection

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2015

Some amazing person has collected the full tracks of the songs that were sampled by the Beastie Boys on six of their best-known albums and provided them as a downloadable zip file. That’s 286 tracks, 22 hours of music, and encoded between 256kbps and 320kbps.

Obviously not every sample or drum break can or ever will be identified, but this is about as close as it’s gonna get! With the completion of this eighteen year long ongoing project, I want to personally thank each and every single person out there that has lent insight, shared knowledge, or provided me with any of the tracks that were used to compile this amazing piece of history. It goes without saying that much love, gratitude, and respect is owed to the Beastie Boys for introducing me (and you) to some amazing music via sampling that may otherwise not be heard, let alone acknowledged in this light.

Some of the included tracks:

Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks
Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin’
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Jimi Hendrix - Foxey Lady
Stephen Sondheim - Act I: Company
Peggy Lee - Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

See also Paul’s Boutique Without Paul’s Boutique, where Tim Carmody provides some context behind the Beasties’ sampling:

The remix is fun to listen to, but mostly, it just reminds you that Paul’s Boutique sounds amazing because its sampled sources were amazing. Like De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, released the same year, Paul’s Boutique lifts tracks that would cost a small mint to borrow from today. (Three Feet High has never had an official digital release because the rights holders still can’t sort out the royalties.) The Beatles, The Supremes, The Ramones, Curtis Mayfield, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly, Bernard Hermann, and James Brown (of course) are all there. But mostly, it’s a love letter to old-school New York City hip hop: Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5, The Sugarhill Gang, The Funky 4 +1, and contemporaries like Run-DMC, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy are the glue that holds the whole project together.

Now, if you know Paul’s Boutique well, you can’t hear those older songs any more without hearing Paul’s Boutique. There’s specific moments in those songs that hide there waiting for you to trip over them, like quotations of ancient Greek in an Ezra Pound or TS Eliot poem. Beastie Boys didn’t just find a way to make older music sound new; they found a way to invent their own precursors.

(via @tcarmody)

Where did the summer go?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2015

Tim Kreider on The Summer That Never Was.

I never went to Iceland. I suppose I should say I didn’t go to Iceland this summer — never sounds a little melodramatic, possibly terminal. It’s not as if I’ve died and all hope of ever having gone to Iceland is obviated. But for some reason this missed opportunity is causing me more than the usual, near-toxic level of regret. I’ve had a free apartment in Reykjavik on offer for several years, and somehow I’ve never made it there. The owner of the apartment sends me photos of the aurora borealis that break my heart.

This was going to be the summer I finally went. Airfares were cheap. I’d just finished writing a book in May, and for the first time in three years the awful obligation to Work on My Book was not weighing on my soul. The summer looked as wide open and shimmering with possibility as the summers of childhood.

But events conspired against me. I just couldn’t afford the flight until some checks I was waiting on arrived, and though all other transactions in the 21st century are conducted electronically and instantaneously, the process of paying writers is apparently still carried out by scriveners and counting-houses and small boys dispatched with shillings in their hands, so by the time I got the money I’d run out of summer.

Summer is almost over, and I feel like I missed it this year. I don’t normally feel this way, but I mostly didn’t get to spend it in the place or with the people I wanted to. But my kids got a much better summer out of it, so in the end it was well worth it. No regrets. Today, I’m going to the beach with a book, to hopefully recover a little of that summer feeling before fall arrives. I hope you all had happy summers, and I will see you all in a week — you’re in good hands with Tim Carmody until then.

Maybe Daniel is the real bully in The Karate Kid?

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 25, 2015

Everyone knows that The Karate Kid is the story of Daniel LaRusso, an undersized new-kid-in-school who, with the help of a wise mentor and unconventional training in the martial arts, is able to triumph over a gang of bullies picking on him. What this video presupposes is, maybe Daniel is the real bully?

To no one’s surprise, Johnny advances to the final round and karma catches up with Daniel when his leg is injured by the boy he wantonly attacked on the soccer field. However, just as Johnny is about to be awarded his trophy, Daniel is granted unnatural strength by the demon sorcerer Miyagi, enabling him to defeat Johnny and win the tournament in an upset.

See also more revisionist history of beloved media: Hermione Granger as the real hero of the Harry Potter books and Tim Carmody’s The Iceman List, which is about “classic movie antagonists who were actually pretty much right all along”.

Update: Another one to add to the list: Ross Geller is the hero of Friends, an intellectual and romantic man who is brought low by his so-called friends:

But the characters of the show were pitted against him from the beginning (consider episode 1, when Joey says of Ross: “This guy says hello, I wanna kill myself.”) In fact, any time Ross would say anything about his interests, his studies, his ideas, whenever he was mid-sentence, one of his “friends” was sure to groan and say how boring Ross was, how stupid it is to be smart, and that nobody cares. Cue the laughter of the live studio audience. This gag went on, pretty much every episode, for 10 seasons. Can you blame Ross for going crazy?

And like a Greek tragedy, our hero is caught in a prophecy that cannot be avoided. The show’s producers, akin to the immutable voice of the gods, declared that Ross must end up with Rachel, the one who shops. Honestly, I think he could’ve done better.

Salad days: the gentrification of the self

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2015

Gen X was never supposed to get older. But a pair of recent essays by Tim Carmody and Choire Sicha show that the second third Greatest Generation is not immune to pivoting one’s emotional startup when midlife approaches. In The Iceman List, Carmody reevaluates 80s movie heroes and finds the more traditionally Reagan-esque characters might have had a point.

But today, in the 2010s, Top Gun is a treat. It’s as clean and shiny as a new dime. The cliches that later action films overloaded with world-building and backstory here present themselves unadorned, in all their purity. Cruise is just so charming, brimming with so much energy, it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t really know how to act yet. A bunch of Navy aviators singing Righteous Brothers in the bar looks like fun. Now that pilots, airmen, and aviators can serve in the US military openly without anyone asking who they sleep with, it’s super that Iceman and Slider might be gay. And guess what?

Maverick is kind of a jerk. Iceman is totally right about him. In fact, Iceman is right about almost everything. We didn’t notice this in the 1980s because everything about how the film is constructed tells us to sympathize with Maverick and hate Iceman’s guts.

My God, we’ve become Ed Rooney. We are eating it. (Well, Ferris was a dick.) Sicha started smoking as a teenager in the 80s but after quitting recently, desires to “make a senior citizen’s arrest” of his younger smoldering self, the Iceman to the Tom Cruise of his youth.

It’s like KonMari, except easy, because the only things you throw out are your cigarettes and your entire sense of self.

My friend Emily said she was happy for me, but wistful, too. The last smoker quitting seemed like another kind of gentrification. Now I’m gone, too, along with the gas stations and all the stores that aren’t 7-Eleven. But the emotional rent was just too high.

Quitting smoking is the khakis of existence. Quitting smoking is the Chipotle on St. Marks Place. I am totally not cool. I may as well be someone’s stupid Brooklyn dad. My hair is its natural color. Most days I’m just wearing whatever. I do yoga endlessly. What am I now?

I can feel this gentrification of the self coming in my life. As someone who watched TV and used the internet 23 hours out of every day for the past 30 years, I’m wary of how much screen time my kids get. All that TV in my youth probably wasn’t a good idea and the internet these days isn’t what it used to be, right? In a talk at XOXO last year, Hank Green said:

You have no obligation to your former self. He is dumber than you and doesn’t exist.

Ok! Pivot I will. Get off my lawn, younger self!

80s tech and Back to the Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 13, 2015

In his piece on Back to the Future trilogy, Tim Carmody focuses not on the 2015 future of the movies (hoverboards, self-drying jackets, Mr. Fusion) but on what the movies can tell us about technology in the 1980s. This riff on Back to the Future’s cassette tape method of time travel is quite clever:

I sometimes call this “the cassette era,” and sure enough, cassettes are everywhere. Marty has a Walkman, a camcorder, and an audition tape for his band; the Pinheads have recorded a demo even though they’ve never played in front of an audience.

As a material support for a medium, the cassette has certain advantages and disadvantages. It’s more portable and sturdy than reels or records, and it requires less user interaction or expertise. It requires very fine interactions of miniaturized technology, both mechanical and electronic, in the form of transistors, reading heads, and so forth. Magnetic tape can actually record information as digital or analog, so it’s curiously agnostic in that respect.

Cassettes can also be easily rewound or fast forward. It’s easy to synchronize and dub the contents of one cassette onto another. And users can easily erase or rerecord information over the same tape.

This has clear implications for how we think - and especially, how our predecessors thirty years ago thought-about time travel. It is no accident that many important time travel films, including the Terminator franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and yes, the Back to the Future movies, appear at this time. In all three cases, time travel is accomplished with a technological mechanism that allows its users precise control of where they arrive in the timestream. (In earlier time travel stories, travellers slide down a river or awake from a dream, but in the 1980s, the H.G. Wells/Doctor Who conception of time travel through a technological device pretty definitively wins out.) And in all three cases, the goal of time travel is to save and/or rewrite events within a specific person’s lifetime, without which a future timeline will cease to exist.

Computers are for people

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 27, 2013

The Kottke post I probably think about most often is 2009’s “One-handed computing with the iPhone.” It just has all these perfectly rounded sentences in it, like this one:

A portable networked computing and gaming device that can be easily operated with one hand can be used in a surprising variety of situations.

Try to take the adjectives and adverbs out of that sentence. (Strunk and White say to “write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. Strunk and White are often surprisingly stupid.)

But try adding any more adjectives or adverbs. Try adding in or taking away any of the clauses. Try writing a better sentence that describes the same thing. (This is also known as Mohammed’s “produce a better surah” Test.) Try to misunderstand what the sentence means. I’m a professional writer. So is Jason. I appreciate this stuff.

There’s also a lot of structural and emotional variety in this post. The author gets mad. He makes jokes. But mostly, he observes. He studies. He empathizes.

People carry things. Coffee, shopping bags, books, bags, babies, small dogs, hot dogs, water bottles, coats, etc. It’s nice to be able to not put all that crap down just to quickly Google for the closest public restroom (aka Starbucks).

It is very occasionally necessary to use the iPhone while driving. No, not for checking your stock portfolio, you asshole. For directions. Glance quickly and keep your thoughts on the road ahead.

My wife spends about five hours a day breastfeeding our daughter and has only one hand available for non-feeding activities. That hand is frequently occupied by her iPhone; it helps her keep abreast (hey’o!) of current events, stay connected with pals through Twitter & email, track feeding/sleeping/diaper changing times, keep notes (she plans meals and grocery “shops” at 3am), and alert her layabout husband via SMS to come and get the damned baby already.

I liked “layabout husband” so much when I read it, I started referring to Jason as “noted layabout Jason Kottke.” At a certain point, I forgot where the phrase came from.

But read that last paragraph again. You can’t read that description of Meg and not think of it every time you’re doing any of the things she does in that sentence: every time you have to have to carry a bag and use your phone, every time you have to open a door and use your phone, every time you don’t have to use your phone while walking down the street but you do it anyways, because you can, and the fact that you can now means that you have to.

I think about it every time I cover a new gadget and companies start touting its hands-free features; how it’s added a new voice interface; how its new keyboard algorithm makes it easier to correct for typos. People didn’t really use to market that sort of thing. But companies started to notice that these were the features their customers liked best.

I also thought about it when I read these tweets Meg wrote, just yesterday and this morning, about how the newer iPhone’s longer screen borks its one-handed functionality.

I have enormous man-hands, and I still think that the trend toward enormous screen sizes on smartphones stinks. Not only is it harder to use a phone with one hand, it’s harder to fit a phone in a pants pocket, and a long, thin phone is more likely to tip over and get knocked off a table or shelf.

Markets are gonna market, and specs are gonna spec, but it often feels like companies are forgetting that computers are for people, first. And people have bodies, those bodies have limitations, and all of us have limitations in specific situations.

We’re all disabled sometimes. If I turn off the lights in your room, you can’t see. If I fill the room with enough noise, you can’t hear. If your hands are full, you can’t use them to do anything else.

But as Sara Hendren writes, “all technology is assistive technology.” When it’s working right, technology helps people of every ability overcome these limitations. It doesn’t throw us back into the world of assumptions that expects us all to be fully capable all of the time.

That’s not what good technology does. That’s not what good design does. That’s what assholes do.

I think often about Jason’s post on one-handed computing because I’m in the story. He wrote it for his wife, and he wrote it for me. I’d badly broken my right arm in an accident, snapping my radius in half and shooting it out of my body. Emergency room doctors stabilized my arm, then surgeons took the fibula from my left leg and used it to create a graft to replace my missing arm bone.

I’d broken my right leg, too, and sustained a concussion. With both legs unstable, I was stuck in a bed most days, and even when I could start putting weight on my left leg again, I couldn’t climb in or out of bed to get into a wheelchair without help. I’m over six feet tall and I weigh about 300 pounds, so most nurses and orderlies were out of luck helping me. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t use the bathroom. I had hallucinations from the pain medicine. I was extremely fucked up.

Another victim of the accident was my Blackberry, my first-ever smartphone, which I bought just before I finally got my PhD. (I revealed this once in a 2010 post for Wired. Commenters called for my head, saying anyone whose first smartphone was bought in 2009 had no business writing for a gadget blog. “I’m sorry,” I told them. “I spent my twenties learning things, not buying things.”)

After I was discharged from the hospital, I spent money I didn’t have to get an iPhone 3G, which was my phone for the next three years. It was mailed to me at the rehab institute where I learned how to walk again. And it changed everything for me. Even with my left hand, I could tweet, send emails, browse the web. I could even read books again — even print books weren’t as easy as the iPhone.

And then I read Jason’s post about one-handed computing. And I thought and thought and thought.

I started blogging again. I even started my own community blog about the future of reading. The next year, that led to some articles for Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic.

I was back home by then. My injuries had cost me my postdoctoral fellowship and a second crack at the academic job market. But I was able to audition for and win an entry-level job writing for Wired the same week that I did my first stint guest-hosting for Kottke.

And I swore to myself that I would never forget: technology is for people.

Anyways, the accident that broke my arm in half was four years ago today.

It was on Jason’s birthday. He was 36 then; I was 29. His son was two, almost exactly the same age as my son, his brand new baby daughter less than a week old.

It was all so very long ago. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.

If you ask me why Jason Kottke is important to me, it’s because in 2005, he found my little Blogspot blog when it only had a couple dozen readers and started linking to it. It’s because his idea of “Liberal Arts 2.0” led to a book I made with friends, some of whom went off to make extraordinary things of their own. (We offered to let Jason write the forward; characteristically, he declined.)

Then Jason became my friend. Every so often, he gives me the keys to this place he’s built — home to the best audience on the internet — and lets me write about things I care about. And because of all of that, I got a second chance — me, with all of my flaws and frailties, my misdeeds and mistakes.

But really Jason is important to me because Jason is always writing about how technology is for human beings. He doesn’t bang gavels and rattle sabres and shout “TECHNOLOGY IS FOR HUMAN BEINGS!” That’s partly because Jason is not a gavel-banging, sabre-rattling sort of person. But it’s mostly because it wouldn’t occur to him to talk about it in any other way. It’s so obvious.

The thing that tech companies forget — that journalists forget, that Wall Street never knew, that commenters who root for tech companies like sports fans for their teams could never formulate — that technology is for people — is obvious to Jason. Technology is for us. All of us. People who carry things.

People. Us. These stupid, stubborn, spectacular machines made of meat and electricity, friends and laughter, genes and dreams.

Happy birthday, Jason. Here’s to the next forty years of Kottke.org.

Amazon’s new Kindles

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2011

They look better, are way cheaper, and, well, let’s just say that Amazon puts themselves in a very good position with these increasingly impressive portable media stores. From Tim Carmody:

The advantage traditional paper-based media has always had over electronic media is that the consumer doesn’t have to bear the cost of the technology up front. If you buy a book or a magazine, the technology that enables its production and transmission is already built in.

The cost of the device can turn an electronic media gadget into a prestige device, like Apple’s iPod or iPad. But it’s nevertheless a hurdle for customers. $500 for an iPad or $400 for the first-generation Kindle is a lot of cash to drop for folks who want to read. It’s also a levee bottling up a torrent of content that can be sold and delivered over those devices.

With Amazon’s new $79 Kindle, $99 Kindle Touch, $149 Kindle Touch 3G, and $199 Kindle Fire, Amazon dynamites that levee. The devices aren’t free, but they’re so much cheaper than comparable products on the market that they will likely sell millions of copies and many more millions of books, television shows, movies, music and apps.

And more from Steven Levy.

Quick programming note

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2011

Starting today and continuing through Friday, Tim Carmody will be manning the editor’s station here at kottke.org. As I recall, he covered just about everything last time he was here, so who knows what’s he’s going to talk about. Welcome, Tim.

Radiohead, bigger than The Beatles?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2011

Tim Carmody gives props to Radiohead for their rare combination of longevity and relevance.

Still, I think music fans and cultural observers need to grapple with this a little: Radiohead’s first album, Pablo Honey, came out 18 years ago. Here’s another way to think about it: when that album came out, I was 13; now I’m 31. And from at least The Bends to the present, they’ve commanded the attention of the musical press and the rock audience as one of the top ten — or higher — bands at any given moment. You might have loved Radiohead, you might have been bored by them, you might have wished they’d gone back to an earlier style you liked better, but you always had to pay attention to them, and know where you stood. For 18 years. That’s an astonishing achievement.

As Anil has his hands busy with a new baby, I’ll wade in here and point out that Tim’s examples don’t include any pop, rap, R&B, or hip hop. Jay-Z hasn’t been around as long as Radiohead, but he’s getting there. The Beastie Boys had at least 15 years. Madonna and Michael Jackson each had 20 culturally relevant years, more or less. I’m probably forgetting a few, but yeah, that’s still not a long list.

The web’s symbiotic link to Brett Favre’s career

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 17, 2010

Wired published a story on the web today called The Web Is Dead. The most appropriate response to such a claim is something close to Tim Carmody’s series of tweets demonstrating the parallels between the growth of the web and Brett Favre’s professional football career. The web isn’t dead yet, says Carmody, because Brett Favre hasn’t retired. It’s our culture’s most significant symbiotic relationship since E.T. and Gertie’s flower.

The web became publicly available on August 6, 1991. Brett Favre was a rookie in the Falcons’ camp, having signed a contract July 19.

1993 saw the introduction of Mosaic’s graphical browser, Favre’s first full year as a starter, and the Packers’ first playoffs since 1982.

In 1995, Favre wins the MVP, the Packers get to the NFC Championships, and Windows 95 brings the internet & graphic interface to the masses.

Brett Favre’s first Super Bowl win coincided precisely (almost to the day) of Steve Jobs’s return to Apple.

And so on. Carmody’s bottom line:

What this means: like Favre, the open web has been with us for a long time, in good times & bad. Never count it out. Never believe the hype.

Even concussed, full of painkillers, with a dead dad and a wiped-out house, I’ll let that 20-year-old vet lead me down the field. Anytime.

Come on, web, just one more year! HTML5’ll make you feel young again!

Thank you, Tim

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 16, 2010

Man oh man, thanks to Tim Carmody for more than holding down the fort around here. I liked the part where he tied almost everything in the universe together. Paging James Burke.

And how nice of you to ask, here’s what I did on my vacation: beach almost every day for two weeks, sweet corn, teaching the boy wiffle ball, fishing without a hook, foggy waves, Red Sox game at Fenway, seven Mercurial commits, whiskey sours, [redacted], building sand castles, teaching the girl how to share, etc. Ready to get back at it.

Say hello to Tim Carmody

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 09, 2010

I’m off for another week — the summer sun is just too tempting, as is another project I’m working on — so I’ve asked Tim Carmody to fill the editor’s seat for me. Tim is one leg of the Snarkmarket tripod; he was a frequent commenter on the site and the two founding members, instead of saying jeez, guy, shuddup already with the comments, invited Tim to join them full-time. Tim is also an academic with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, which is a lot more book learnin’ than I’ve ever had. Things are probably going to be a lot more grammatically correct around here this week. Welcome, Tim.

And a big thanks to Aaron Cohen for helming the site last week (and through the weekend even, a rare occurrence around these parts). I don’t know where this ranks on Aaron’s list of life accomplishments, but my 11-yo self would be super impressed that Who’s the Boss’s Samantha Micelli retweeted not one but two Cohen-penned kottke.org posts from the past week (after explaining the definitions of “post” and “retweet” to tweener Kottke).

Reading up on the future of books

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2010

Over on Twitter, Tim Carmody is burning it up with links and retweets, mainly about the Kindle, Amazon, Google, Apple, and the future of books and media. Lots of good stuff there.

Apple as religious experience

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2010

At The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal has an interesting post about Apple as a religion and uses that lens to look at the so-called Antennagate** brouhaha. For example, Apple was built on four key myths:

1. a creation myth highlighting the counter-cultural origin and emergence of the Apple Mac as a transformative moment;
2. a hero myth presenting the Mac and its founder Jobs as saving its users from the corporate domination of the PC world;
3. a satanic myth that presents Bill Gates as the enemy of Mac loyalists;
4. and, finally, a resurrection myth of Jobs returning to save the failing company…

On Twitter, Tim Carmody adds that Apple’s problems are increasingly theological in nature — “Free will, problem of evil, Satanic rebellion” — which is a really interesting way to look at the whole thing. (John Gruber the Baptist?)

** The Antennagate being, of course, the hotel where Apple Inc. is headquartered.