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🍔  💀  📸  😭  🕳️  🤠  🎬  🥔 posts about best of kottke

Best of Kottke: Groundhog Day Liveblog

It’s Groundhog Day — again. Once a year, our nation turns its eyes to an offbeat existential romantic comedy that thoroughly outperforms its sharpie-on-an-index-card premise, thanks to a brilliant collection of character actors, a thoroughly memorizable script, and the then-underrated, now-maybe-a-smidge-overrated acting talents of Bill Murray.

Four years ago, Jason hosted a 20th anniversary Groundhog Day liveblog with three of his regular guest editors: me, Sarah Pavis, and Aaron Cohen. It was a lot of fun. (I talked too much.)

Some of the questions we considered:

  • Is Groundhog Day a time-travel movie?
  • If you were recasting it, who would you pick?
  • Does Phil’s behavior mid-movie predict creepy pick-up-artist culture?
  • Does the time loop stop because Rita falls in love with Phil, or because Phil finally manages to live one day sincerely?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to predict the weather by doing the opposite of what the groundhog indicates?

The answer to that last question is almost definitely yes.

Donut or doughnut?

Today is National Donut/Doughnut Day, apparently a relatively venerable holiday with roots in a Depression-era Salvation Army giveaway. But just how do you spell that “edible, torus-shaped piece of dough which is deep-fried and sweetened”?

The Official Dictionary Spelling of the word in question—if you’re into that sort of thing—is “doughnut.” The expedited, simplified, Americanized spelling of “donut,” as Grammarist tells us, has been around since at least the late 19th century. It didn’t catch on, though, until late in the 20th century.

Why? That’s when Massachusetts-based chain Dunkin’ Donuts first started taking off — so thank (or blame) Dunkin’ for the popularity of the “Donut” spelling.

Historically, I’ve bowed to usage on this one and spelled it “donut” (just like I use “catalog” and other Americanized spellings that are more than a century old). But Dick Wisdom has an informal survey that shows that even professional publications are torn on which spelling to prefer. Even that quintessentially British, infinitely rule-observing Reuters has been known to publish either spelling.

As a professional journalist, I’ve learned to follow the style guide and keep my private grumblings about grammar and usage confined to Twitter, email, IRC, and viva voce conversation. So for clarity, I asked: what does Jason do? (I did the same thing yesterday to decide whether or not to put “Lego” in all-caps.)

For, Jason overwhelmingly prefers “donut.” The vast majority of “doughnut” spellings found on the site are direct quotes (which normally does not adapt to match house style). There are some really fun posts about donuts, too, including 2003’s “A Fun Thing I’ll Do Again”:

I have tasted a donut so hot and delicious that I burned my fingers eating it but did not stop to put it down. I have eaten foie gras creme brulee and heard tale of a foie gras donut.

Still, even here, we see a stray native spelling of “doughnut”:

This video is too long and come frontloaded with too much explanation, but like a jelly doughnut, there’s some goodness in the middle

So here, like at Reuters, Wired, Gawker, and the BBC, the lesson seems to be to do what you feel.

PS: How cool is the word “torus”? Finally, a way to describe a donut’s shape without saying “donut-shaped”!

(Links via @phillydesign, @bydanielvictor)

Best of Kottke: Maps Ahoy!


This is a very slim, highly-curated selection of some of Kottke’s favorite maps, emphasizing the old, weird, and awesome:


Best of Kottke - Kottke reads The Bible

Let’s start with Gutenberg again. In 2008, Jason blogged about Stephen Fry’s brilliant documentary The Machine That Made Us, about Gutenberg’s career and his experiments with print. Fry even assembles a team to build a replica. The YouTube clips Jason embedded are gone, but you can still catch a short clip at the BBC. (I think Brits can still catch the whole thing on iPlayer, lucky bastards you are.)

If Gutenberg is too newfangled for you, there’s also the St John’s Bible, a hand-lettered illuminated manuscript that will set you back a cool $145,000 (and that’s 2009 dollars.) A few months earlier, Jason assembled a catalog of some unusual Bibles, including copies in Manga and Lego.

If you actually want to read the Bible, there’s the conveniently titled How to Read the Bible, by Hebrew Studies professor James Kugel, an Orthodox Jew who nonetheless dismantles most of claims of events in the Bible to be historical fact. Or if you think fresh eyes can have something more to offer than expertise, there’s Blogging the Bible, by David Plotz, who writes about each book of the Old Testament having never read the book before. And if you want to close your eyes for the scary parts, here is a list of the Bible’s greatest massacres.

If you don’t actually want to read the Bible, at least as it is, you’re in good company. Steven Johnson’s Invention of Air includes a look at Thomas Jefferson, who famously crossed out references to miracles. The translators who wrote the King James Bible just made up unicorns, all on their own. And no, the Bible Code doesn’t work either. It’s just statistical noise.

Finally, are you into data visualization? Forget those boring “beget”s, artifact of that silly oral tradition. Have we got a family tree for you!

The best of Kottke (August 2005)

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

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

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

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

Terrific, revealing stuff in the comments on that one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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