kottke.org posts about TV

Years of Living DangerouslyApr 09 2014

Years of Living Dangerously is a 9-part documentary series on climate change which features celebrity correspondents like Harrison Ford, Oliva Munn, Jessica Alba, and Matt Damon reporting from around the world on different aspects of our changing climate.

The series combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of Hollywood's top movie makers, including James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub, with the investigative skills of 60 Minutes veterans Joel Bach and David Gelber and a team of leading national news journalists and scientists.

Each YEARS correspondent -- including top Hollywood stars recognized for their commitment to spotlighting and acting on the biggest issues of our time -- delves into a different impact of climate change. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy in the tri-state area to political upheaval caused by droughts in the Middle East to the dangerous level of carbon emissions resulting from deforestation, the series takes the viewer on a journey to understand the current and intensifying effects of climate change through vivid stories of heartbreak, hope and heroism.

The show starts airing on Showtime on April 13, but the entire first episode is available on YouTube right now:

The show is getting great reviews so far; I hope it helps move the needle. (thx, tobin)

First episode of Silicon ValleyApr 07 2014

HBO put the entire first episode of Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley up on YouTube:

MTV Amp complete playlistApr 03 2014

My friend Aaron has compiled an Rdio playlist of every song ever played on MTV's Amp, a show from the mid-90s that featured electronic music. Lots of Underworld, Prodigy, Aphex Twin, and Orbital on here.

Some songs weren't available on Rdio, but there's more than 18 hours of music here.

True Detective: it was okApr 02 2014

Now that I've caught up on True Detective, I have to agree with Emily Nussbaum's take on the show and finale: a stylish well-acted show with a "hollow center".

To state the obvious: while the male detectives of "True Detective" are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over "crazy pussy," every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters -- none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, "True Detective" has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson's strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I've come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He's our fetish object -- the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him "a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade"), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliche, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. "True Detective" has some tangy dialogue ("You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch") and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it's so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.

I enjoyed the show and am seated in the McConaissance cheering section, but True Detective is far from TV's best thing evar. And Nussbaum hits the nail right on the head: the lack of good women characters is to blame.

Something I've noticed about my favorite TV shows: they are mostly testosterone fests where the women are more interesting than the men. Mad Men is the perfect example. Game of Thrones is another. And Six Feet Under. Even in Deadwood, which I am rewatching now and is loads better than True Detective, women more than hold their own against the men. It's fun to watch the men on these series generate bullshit, but it's much more interesting to watch the great actresses who play these women navigate and elevate through the predictable male privilege.

Louis C.K. on SNLMar 30 2014

It's Saturday Sunday Night Live! Here's Louis C.K.'s monologue from last night's SNL; it's 8 minutes of his trademark stand-up.

The Office Time MachineMar 25 2014

Joe Sabia has built The Office Time Machine, which is a collection of video clips of every single cultural reference ever made in The Office, organized by year. For example, here is 1994:

Sabia built it to highlight how much artists and creators borrow from culture:

The Office is relatable (and hilarious) because it borrows so much from culture, and people get the references. Culture is society's collected knowledge, art, and customs. It's what surrounds us and unites us, and it allows us to collectively laugh at a joke in The Office about Ben Franklin or M. Night Shyamalan. Culture, simply put, is the seasoning in a meal.

(via waxy)

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains evolutionMar 23 2014

The reboot of Cosmos has been solid but not spectacular so far, but the second episode contains as solid and clear an explanation of evolution as I've ever seen.

Even if evolution clashes with your world view, this is worth watching if only to understand what you're aligned against (per Bret Victor's advice). The third episode airs on Fox tonight and is about the creation of the scientific method.

Deadwood, a retrospective 10 years onMar 12 2014

For the show's 10th anniversary, a video essay about Deadwood, perhaps the best three-season show that'll ever be. Written and produced by Matt Zoller Seitz for RogerEbert.com.

Deadwood the series is a whole heck of a lot of things, in no particular order. And it's that "in no particular order" part that makes it so rich.

(via @djacobs)

Fargo TV seriesMar 10 2014

I had forgotten the Coens were turning Fargo into a FX TV series. But time has ground onward steadily and lo, the series is set to premiere in April. Here are a whole set of teaser trailers:

Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt? Could be good. (via devour)

Cosmos on HuluMar 10 2014

If you missed it last night as I did, the new version of Cosmos is now available on Hulu (probably US-only unless you're clever).

The reviews are good so far.

Gosford ParkFeb 25 2014

Gosford Park

If you're having Downton Abbey withdrawals, may I suggest Robert Altman's Gosford Park? Written by Downton creator Julian Fellowes, it's a proto-Downton of sorts: lots of upstairs/downstairs with a dash of mystery. And the cast! Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe...and Maggie Smith plays a witty countess.

Watch it on Netflix Instant, at Amazon, or on iTunes.

Experimental music on kids' TVFeb 24 2014

This Tumblr is collecting instances of experimental music on children's television shows. Some personal favorites are Al Jarnow's Cosmic Clock and Philip Glass on Sesame Street. (via @youngna)

Silicon Valley by Mike JudgeFeb 11 2014

Mike Judge has a new series coming to HBO in April. It's called Silicon Valley and is about startup culture. Here's a preview:

Snack dick.

Fire the negative photon torpedoes!Jan 30 2014

Now this is some top notch investigative journalism. In Star Trek: Voyager, a Starfleet ship is stranded on the other side of the galaxy and the estimated travel time back to Federation space is 75 years. Early on in the show, it's revealed the ship has only 38 photon torpedoes and "no way to replace them after they're gone". But they used many more than that throughout the run of the show:

This is a particularly nerdy and slow-burning example of the Bottomless Magazines trope.

"It's toasted"Jan 22 2014

Looks like Don Draper may have contributed to Lucky Strike's recent sales increase.

While the claim that Mad Men could have driven a nearly 50% (representing an additional 10 billion cigarettes) increase in Lucky Strike sounds like typical advertising puffery, it's hard to pin down another driver. Lucky Strike did launch new flavors, update packaging and launch "capsule" cigarettes in the five years since Mad Men premiered, but so too did its competitors. The only new country the brand entered was Turkey -- and that wasn't until 2011. Even if one excluded all capsule (2010- ) and "All Natural" (2011-) cigarette sales (which would have been predominantly cannibalized, rather than net new), Lucky Strike would still have grown 12% between 2007 and 2012, five times faster than the industry overall and eight times British American Tobacco (the owner of Lucky Strike). Could it really have been Don Draper?

Sales of Canadian Club whiskey have turned around since Mad Men started as well. (via nextdraft)

Eyes on the PrizeJan 20 2014

The landmark civil rights TV series Eyes on the Prize is available on YouTube. Here's the first part:

I watched it a few years ago and cannot recommend it more highly.

Using nothing more than archival film footage, on-camera interviews, period music, and a narrator's voiceover, the stories of Emmitt Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the desegregation of southern schools riveted me to the couch like few viewing experiences have. As compelling as the history of the civil rights movement in America is, the production of the film deserves some of the credit for its power. To hear the stories of these momentous events told by the participants themselves, without embellishment, is quite extraordinary.

That YT link likely won't last, so check it out on DVD or at Amazon Instant Video. (via @tcarmody)

Games of Thrones season four trailerJan 13 2014

Like Twitter, HBO's Game of Thrones started out with 140 characters but now most of them are dead so I have no idea what this season is going to be about. But dragons!

Jerry Seinfeld will give you an answerJan 07 2014

Jerry Seinfeld did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) at Reddit yesterday. His answers are real, and they're spectacular.

Q: Where did the idea of, in Seinfeld, your character being a comedian for a profession, but be the straight man for your friends, come from? I always thought that juxtapositioning for the show was genius.

A: Very good observation and analysis on your part, Baxter. You are truly exhibiting a good comedic eye. The reason I would play straight was it was funnier for the scene. And very few people have ever remarked on this, because it was a conscious choice of mine, only because I knew it would make the show better, and I didn't care who was funny as long as somebody was funny and that the show was funny. So you have hit upon one of the great secret weapons of the Seinfeld series, was that I had no issue with that.

I have seen every episode of the show at least twice and never realized this. Gold, Jerry! Gold!

ps. Favorite episode of Seinfeld? Aside from the nearly perfect The Contest, I'll go with The Marine Biologist. If I ever decide to be an actor, my audition tape will be me telling George's whale rescue story:

(via @gavinpurcell)

The best and worst NFL announcersDec 30 2013

Aaron Gordon of Sports on Earth watched 32 NFL games to determine the best and worst NFL announcers.

In general, there are three types of announcer comments: good, neutral and bad. Good statements offer some type of insight into the game. This is inherently subjective, since different people know different things. Neutral statements constitute the bulk of their utterances: neither offensive nor insightful. As a result, I decided to measure the bad statements.

I divided announcers' verbal infractions into six categories that are not simply pet peeves, but likely to be annoyances for a majority of NFL viewers.

Happy to see Chris Collinsworth near the top of the heap...he's my favorite and, while a bit goofy sometimes, offers the best post-Madden analysis in the game. Siragusa and Gruden are like nails on the chalkboard, surprised they didn't rank much worse.

Iron ChefDec 22 2013

An epic post on MetaFilter about the original Iron Chef, the cooking show that aired in Japan from 1993-1999. YouTube links to every show are included, so there's your holiday viewing all sorted. Iron Chef is my all-time favorite food show. I learned a lot about cooking watching it.

The secretive inventor of the laugh track machineDec 12 2013

Working for CBS and later on his own in the 40s and 50s, sound engineer Charley Douglass perfected the laugh track technique, which was then called sweetening. His secret weapon was the laff box, a machine that you could use like a typewriter to produce the type and sequence of laughter you needed for a particular situation. Here's how the machine worked:

The one-of-a-kind device -- affectionately known in the industry as the "laff box" -- was tightly secured with padlocks, stood more than two feet tall, and operated like an organ. Only immediate members of the family knew what the inside actually looked like (at one time, the "laff box" was called "the most sought after but well-concealed box in the world"). Since more than one member of the Douglass family was involved in the editing process, it was natural for one member to react differently to a joke than another. Charley himself was the most conservative of all, so producers would put in bids for other editors who were more liberal in their choice of laughter. Douglass used a keyboard to select the style, gender and age of the laugh as well as a foot pedal to time the length of the reaction. Inside the machine was a wide array of recorded chuckles, yocks, and belly laughs; exactly 320 laughs on 32 tape loops, 10 to a loop. Each loop contained 10 individual audience laughs spliced end-to-end, whirling around simultaneously waiting to be cued up. Since the tapes were looped, laughs were played in the same order repeatedly. Sound engineers would watch sitcoms and knew exactly which recurrent guffaws were next, even if they were viewing an episode for the first time. Frequently, Douglass would combine different laughs, either long or short in length. Attentive viewers could spot when he decided to mix chuckles together to give the effect of a more diverse audience.

I found out about the laff box from Kevin Slavin & Kenyatta Cheese's talk about how, with the Internet, the audience now has an audience.

Girls, Girls, GirlsNov 22 2013

Girls. Trailer. Third season. HBO. January 12. Lena Dunham. Watch:

I am so excited for this show to return. I don't think I can hide it. It's like I'm about to lose control. Maybe I like that feeling?

Cool interactive Bob Dylan music videoNov 19 2013

This is great fun...the people on every channel of this TV are singing Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. Including Bob Dylan himself on VH1. (via @faketv)

How to win at The Price is RightNov 15 2013

It turns out that for many of the games on The Price is Right, a simple application of game theory is all you need to greatly increase your chances of winning. You don't even need to know any of the prices.

In one instance, when Margie was the last contestant to bid, she guessed the retail price of an oven was $1,150. There had already been one bid for $1,200 and another for $1,050. She therefore could only win if the actual price was between $1,150 and $1,200. Since she was the last to bid, she could have guessed $1051, expanding her range by almost $100 (any price from $1051 to $1199 would have made her a winner), with no downside. What she really should have done, however, is bid $1,201. Game theory says that when you are last to bid, you should bid one dollar more than the highest bidder. You obviously won't win every time, but in the last 1,500 Contestants' Rows to have aired, had final bidders committed to this strategy, they would have won 54 percent of the time.

See also how a man named Terry Kniess solved The Price is Right.

Long-lost episodes of Doctor Who foundOct 11 2013

Nine Doctor Who episodes from the 60s featuring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor have been discovered at a TV station in Nigeria.

The BBC destroyed many of the sci-fi drama's original transmission tapes in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, many episodes were transferred on to film for sale to foreign broadcasters. It is often these prints found in other countries that are the source of retrieved episodes.

In this case, 11 Doctor Who episodes were discovered, nine of which were missing, in the Nigerian city of Jos.

The episodes are already available for watching on iTunes: The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World.

League of DenialOct 09 2013

League of Denial, the Frontline documentary on the NFL and concussions, is available online for anyone to watch for free.

It's Shaun the SheepOct 07 2013

We're not big on TV for our kids (they watch maybe two hours a week and frequently less than that), but one show we've come to love watching with them is Shaun the Sheep. Produced by Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit), Shaun the Sheep has a number of things going for it:

- No dialogue. Not even the humans talk. Everything is communicated through grunts and gestures. Your three-year-old can follow it, as can your grandfather who only speaks Chinese.

- It's frequently hilarious. I've never heard Ollie laugh so hard at anything. And not just for kids...my wife and I are usually in stitches next to them on the couch.

- Non-topical, non-contemporary. The show is almost entirely self-contained...you don't need to know anything about pop culture to get the jokes. The humor is timeless...the show will be as good in 50 years as it is now. (There are plenty of pop culture references for the parents though...as with Bugs Bunny and Wallace and Gromit.)

- Non-violent. The humor is typically not mean-spirited and not predicated on characters hurting or attacking or making fun of other characters.

- Not gender specific. Mostly. This aspect could be a lot better (e.g. all the main characters are male), but the show is not specifically for little boys or little girls in the way that some kids shows are.

In short, it's the perfect entertainment for 3-8 year-olds and their parents. I don't think it's available on Netflix Instant anymore, but you can get in on iTunes and at Amazon.

NFL deliberately campaigned against science regarding head injuriesOct 02 2013

According to an upcoming book by ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, the NFL "conducted a two-decade campaign to deny a growing body of scientific research that showed a link between playing football and brain damage".

Excerpts published Wednesday by ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated from the book, "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth," report that the NFL used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work; that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league's own flawed research; and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game.

Excerpts of the book are available from ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. An episode of Frontline based in part on the book airs next week. Interestingly, ESPN was collaborating with Frontline on this program, but they pulled out of it in August.

SNL does GirlsSep 30 2013

I love Girls, I love Saturday Night Live, I love Tina Fey, so this was pretty much perfect for me:

An Albanian girl named Blerta moves to Brooklyn and offers sage advice to Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna.

Easy NFL/Netflix/Hulu region unlock using DNSSep 16 2013

Lex Friedman details how to use DNS services (like AdFree Time) to route around region-specific content locks, so you can do things like watch all NFL games in HD from anywhere, change Netflix regions (for access to different content), etc.

Third-party services like AdFree Time offer up a DNS-based solution: Pay a monthly fee and use their DNS services, and the NFL's website treats you as if you're coming from Europe. You thus get to watch every NFL game streaming online in high definition, since the league offers that option to folks in Europe at no charge. Americans, usually, miss out. I could pay for DirecTV's insanely overpriced Sunday Ticket, but I think it's a ripoff when I'm only looking to watch about six to eight Eagles games that won't show here.

This beats hate-reading the NFL TV maps every weekend.

NFL TV maps for 2013Sep 08 2013

It's NFL season again and it's time to tune into the NFL TV maps site to find out when your favorite team isn't on TV because the network is contractually obligated to show the pathetic Jets.

Exercises in unnecessary censorshipAug 28 2013

Building on yesterday's "The dirty BLEEP," here are a few more great moments in the artful use of censorship (or its illusion):

  • Neven Mrgan and James Moore have an iOS game called "Blackbar" that involves playful use of blacked-out text. (If my last name were missing an expected vowel, I'd be interested in intentional omissions too.) It's described as "serious," "artsy," and "texty," all adjectives I hope I will one day earn.
  • Jimmy Kimmel has gotten a lot of mileage out of "Unnecessary Censorship," a recurring sketch that uses bleeps and blurs for comedic effect. A proprietor of a popular internet site named J--n K----e confided in me this week that "Kimmel's... skit always makes me laugh until I pee my pants," a pretty stirring endorsement if I've ever heard one.

Also, besides using the appearance of censorship to remix existing text, audio, and video like "Unnecessary Censorship" does or fully scripting the bleep ahead of time like Arrested Development or South Park do, there's been a real rise in a mode that's in between, something that's deliberate but has the feel of being off-the-cuff. This is probably best exemplified by The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Check out Ashton Kutcher's "surprise" experience on Colbert:

Here the tension isn't just between what you've heard and what you know was said, but also between the live experience and that of broadcast. It used to be that if you heard a bleep of an event that was recorded live, someone had gone off the rails, like Madonna on the David Letterman show.

Now, TV mostly just lets anything and everything rip for the people in the room, knowing it will amp up the energy in the crowd, but can be bleeped for broadcast later. Then sometimes (like with The Daily Show or Chappelle's Show on DVD or Netflix), you can catch the uncensored cut at home.

So we get the live, the censored, and the edited-but-encensored experiences, and we're always mentally bouncing between all three. We know it's not really spontaneous, but knowing is part of what lets us in on the joke, even though we can't be in the room.

Black MirrorAug 14 2013

Jason posting the trailer for "Her" (which I love and feels like my life except I'm the one in the phone?) reminded me a lot of this episode of Black Mirror titled "Be Right Back". Black Mirror is a modern, British version of The Twilight Zone. The title refers to the dark, reflective surfaces of our smartphones and TVs and how we're constantly staring into them. There are 6 hour-long standalone episodes of Black Mirror, many of which are available on Vimeo (for now, at least). They're all great but "Be Right Back" is my favorite.

How We Got To NowAug 13 2013

Now this looks interesting: Steven Johnson is doing a six-episode series on PBS about the 500-year histories of several aspects of modern life. Sounds right up my alley...and also quite Connections-ish.

The show builds on many of themes in the innovation history trilogy of The Ghost Map, The Invention Of Air, and Where Good Ideas Come From, but is based on new material with a completely different structure. Each hour-long episode takes one facet of modern life that we mostly take for granted -- artificial cold, clean drinking water, the lenses in your spectacles -- and tells the 500-year story of how that innovation came into being: the hobbyists and amateurs and entrepreneurs and collaborative networks that collectively made the modern world possible. It's also the story of the unintended consequences of these inventions: air conditioning and refrigeration didn't just make it possible to build ski slopes in the desert; they also triggered arguably the largest migration of human beings in the history of the species -- to cities like Dubai or Phoenix that would otherwise be virtually uninhabitable.

Outside of the nature documentaries like Planet Earth, I haven't seen a decent science series on TV in a long while -- most of them are too slow with too much filler and not enough actual, you know, science -- so I'm not getting my hopes up too high, but hoping this one bucks that trend.

Cosmos: A Spacetime OdysseyJul 24 2013

Been waiting for this one for awhile: a three-minute trailer for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a sequel to Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

The show will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and is being produced by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) and Sagan's widow Ann Druyan. If MacFarlane's involvement raises some eyebrows, it shouldn't: he came up with the idea of rebooting the series and is apparently a big space nerd and fan of the original series. (via devour)

Jenny McCarthy's dangerous viewsJul 16 2013

From The New Yorker: Jenny McCarthy's Dangerous Views. She's been hired as a new host on The View. Some worry that we'll be hearing a lot more about her anti-vaccine postions. Of course, if you are making life-decisions based on the views of people on The View, you might want to consider the host who thought the world might be flat.

Behind the scenes of The WireJul 09 2013

Adapted from Brett Martin's Difficult Men, this piece in Slate gives a glimpse of what it was like on the set of The Wire.

In the isolated hothouse of Baltimore, immersed in the world of the streets, the cast of The Wire showed a bizarre tendency to mirror its onscreen characters in ways that took a toll on its members' outside lives: Lance Reddick, who played the ramrod-straight Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, tormented by McNulty's lack of discipline, had a similarly testy relationship with West, who would fool around and try to make Reddick crack up during his camera takes. Gilliam and Lombardozzi, much like Herc and Carver, would spend the bulk of Seasons 2 and 3 exiled to the periphery of the action, stewing on stakeout in second-unit production and eventually lobbying to be released from their contracts.

Oh, McNutty. (thx, sam)

Notes for SherlockJun 28 2013

[Sherlock season 2 spoilers ahead...] At the end of the second season of the excellent BBC series Sherlock, Holmes jumps off the roof of a building in Smithfield, London. Ever since then, fans of the show have been leaving notes near where he would have landed.

Sherlock Notes

(thx, phil)

Photo of the original Sesame Street castJun 06 2013

The first season of Sesame Street aired in 1969-1970 and this photo of the cast dates from then:

Original Sesame Street Cast

The giveaway is Oscar the Grouch's orange fur...it would switch to green for the second season. Here's the first 15 minutes of the first episode:

And here's part 2, part 3, and part 4.

Sesame Street is insane, BTW. They aired 130 60-minute episodes over six months for that first season and over its 43 seasons, the show has averaged 100 episodes per season. A truly amazing combination of quantity and quality.

101 best written TV showsJun 04 2013

The Writers Guild of America recently selected their list of the 101 best written TV series of all time. Here are the top 20:

1 The Sopranos
2 Seinfeld
3 The Twilight Zone
4 All in the Family
5 M*A*S*H
6 The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7 Mad Men
8 Cheers
9 The Wire
10 The West Wing
11 The Simpsons
12 I Love Lucy
13 Breaking Bad
14 The Dick Van Dyke Show
15 Hill Street Blues
16 Arrested Development
17 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18 Six Feet Under
19 Taxi
20 The Larry Sanders Show

The full list is here in PDF form. Lost above Deadwood? And Homicide? And several other more? Maybe they ignored everything after the first couple seasons?

Ken Crosgrove dancing + Daft PunkMay 23 2013

[SORTA MAD MEN SPOILERS! but not really] I don't know if Ken Crosgrove dancing on the latest episode of Mad Men is the best thing that's ever been on the show, but it's definitely in the top 10. And it might be even better with a little Daft Punk.

And it might be best with the Crazy in Love cover from Gatsby...just load up that this YT video while watching the animated GIF and you're all set. (This is how Millennials watch TV, BTW...it's all animated GIFs with YouTube video soundtracks. Civilization is gonna be juuuuuuust fine.)

All of Jerry's best girlsMay 03 2013

Photographer Richard Prince took photographs of the 57 girlfriends Jerry Seinfeld had on the show and turned it in to the below composite.

Jerry's girls

See also Jason Salavon's work. (via @sippey)

Update: Max points out I may have misread the article and these 57 girlfriends are not necessarily Jerry's only. Supporting this is Sarah Silverman's inclusion in the composite even though she's was a love interest of Kramer's.

Seinfeld and NYCMay 03 2013

A list of the most New York episodes of Seinfeld.

4. "The Rye" (Season 7, Episode 11)
This episode's titular breadstuff-which Jerry steals from an old lady who refuses to sell it to him, even for 50 bucks-supposedly comes from Schnitzer's, a great New York bakery name if we've ever heard one. The real place was called Royale Kosher Bake Shop. Unfortunately, it's now closed. A Jenny Craig branch stands in its place at 237 W. 72nd St. Also in this episode: Kramer leads Beef-a-Reno-fueled hansom cab rides through Central Park. His skills as a tour guide are questionable, though, as his historical "facts" are impressively inaccurate. For example, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-not former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone-designed the park.

Already good, Seinfeld got 100 times better when I moved to NYC and got 10 more of the jokes per episode.

Arrested Development season four outtakeApr 25 2013

This is fantastic: an outtake of a scene from the new season of Arrested Development. God, I can't wait for these episodes to come out! #wettingpantslaughing (via digg)

The music of Arrested DevelopmentApr 12 2013

What if each member of the Bluth family made an album? The album covers might look something like these.

Arrested Dev Albums

(via @aaroncoleman0)

Date for new Arrested Development: May 26thApr 04 2013

Netflix has announced that the 15 episodes of the new season of Arrested Development will be released, all at once, on May 26th. Netflix did not announce that later that day, all 15 episodes will be available on BitTorrent.

Advertising from the Mad Men eraMar 19 2013

If the advertising parts of Mad Men are your favorite bits of the show, might I recommend Taschen's two-volume Mid-Century Ads (on Amazon).

VW Think Small

It's a beautiful set of books, tons of ads from the 50s and 60s presented in large format.

1995-style opening title sequences for contemporary dramasMar 15 2013

A nascent trend on YouTube is to take contemporary dramas and imagine what their 1995-style opening credits sequences might look like. The first one appears to be this Walking Dead one, followed by Breaking Bad, which is the best of the bunch:

The Game of Thrones one is pretty great as well:

These seem to be a variation on the recut trailers meme, e.g. The Shining as a romantic comedy or Toy Story as a horror film. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Saving "You Bet Your Life"Mar 14 2013

Andy Marx shares the story of how a lunch with his grandfather, Groucho, and a few of his grandfather's guests ended up helping save every episode of the seminal 50s TV show You Bet Your Life.

No longer out of the limelight, my grandfather was enjoying his status as a cultural icon now that such classic Marx Brothers films as "Duck Soup" and "A Night at the Opera" had been discovered by a whole new generation eager for something to go with the free-wheeling attitudes and politics of the late '60s and early '70s. Groucho and his brothers fit the bill perfectly and my grandfather was more than happy to oblige his new-found fans, many of them Hollywood celebrities. Among my favorite celebrity sightings at my grandfather's house in those days were Alice Cooper and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood.

This particular day, my grandfather asked me to be ready to accompany him on the piano, since he planned to sing for the invited guests: Jack Nicholson, Elliot Gould and the great French mime, Marcel Marceau. As I said, you never knew who would arrive for lunch with Groucho.

(also via df)

How rope was made the old fashioned wayMar 05 2013

This is a clip from the BBC series Edwardian Farm that shows how rope was made in the olden days.

The entire series is available to watch online.

Reminder: The Mind of a ChefMar 04 2013

In case you missed it a few months ago on PBS, the excellent The Mind of a Chef is out in downloadable form on iTunes and at Amazon. The first episode is available for free on the PBS site for try-before-you-buy purposes.

Google Glass + Black MirrorFeb 26 2013

The third episode of the first season of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror was called The Entire History of You, in which many people have their entire lives recorded by implants. Brooker's take on the self-recorded future and Google's rosier view meet in this video:

Black Mirror is currently in its second season in the UK, with no US release on the horizon. Here's what one of the season two episodes is about:

A CG character from a TV show is jokingly put forward to become a member of Parliament. The actor behind the character is uneasy about this new political world he's found himself in, and as the character's popularity among voters increases things begin to take a turn for the worse.

See also The real Google Glasses.

Trailer for season three of Game of ThronesFeb 25 2013

Is it permissible to squee about Westeros?

Squee! I still miss Sean Bean though. I wouldn't mind a little Six Feet Under Late Ned action. Maybe bring him back as a White Walker or something. They're headless zombies, right? Hello?

Essential winter storm reportFeb 08 2013

There's a blizzard bearing down on the northeastern United States and here's some essential information you need to know if you live in an affected area:

But seriously, you should follow @EricHolthaus for the latest storm info. (Ok, so we have our first celebrity Twitter weatherman. Weather and climate are going to become a lot more important in American pop culture...at what point do Gawker or Buzzfeed launch their climate verticals?)

Downton Abbey game for Super NintendoJan 29 2013

Help Lord Grantham find his cigars, puff up pillows for Anna, and spy on other staff for Lady Mary in this "tastefully exciting" SNES version of Downton Abbey.

Prop Joe, RIPJan 18 2013

Robert Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, died yesterday aged 52.

Prop Joe was one of the few characters to appear regularly in all five seasons of David Simon's urban drama. Chew was a mountain of a man with a world-class deadpan, always underselling the character's juiciest lines. "Gotta say I'm proud of y'all for putting aside petty grievances and putting this thing together," Joe intones during a meeting of the New Day Co-op, a democratic association of drug dealers whose meetings are run via Robert's Rules of Order. "For a cold-assed crew of gangsters, y'all carried it like Republicans and shit."

Lady Edith with googly eyesJan 07 2013

An entire Tumblr full of images of Downton Abbey's Lady Edith Crawley with googly eyes.

Lady Edith Crawley with googly eyes

God, this makes me unbelievably happy.

Downton Abbey characters drawn as dogs and catsJan 05 2013

These are all so perfect but I'm having a hard time deciding which is the most perfect....the Mrs Patmore tabby or the Dowager Countess Sphynx?

Mrs Catmore

Dowager Catess

Prints are $22 a pop on Etsy and likely to go quickly. (via @mathowie)

Old school BBC sound effectsDec 27 2012

BBC Research & Development have created a site using the Web Audio API that lets you recreate the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, stuff you may have heard on a Jon Pertwee-era episode of Dr Who. The Wobbulator is my favorite.

How every episode of Law and Order endedDec 13 2012

The gang at Overthinking It have analyzed the endings of all 456 episodes of Law & Order (guilty, not guilty, plea bargain, etc.).

"Implied win" refers to episodes in which you don't see a plea bargain or Guilty verdict, but it's pretty clear that's the way things are headed. For instance, if the killer's wife tearfully agrees to testify against him and then the episode ends, it's an "implied win." We don't know the outcome, but we are led to believe it's going to be some flavor of Justice. (The rare cases where the result was completely unclear went into the Other category.)

Over the entire run of the show, more than a third of all the episodes ended in Guilty verdicts, while another third ended in plea bargains. 80% of episodes ended in solid wins: either Guilty verdicts, plea bargains, or implied victories. That's not too shabby, considering that the actual NYPD has a homicide clearance rate of about 50%. (Although you have to figure Law & Order isn't meant to represent every case these detectives investigated; in 20 seasons, I don't think there was a single murder that didn't result in an arrest.)

They also looked at all of the red and yellow alerts on Star Trek:TNG.

Where does all the wine come from in Game of Thrones?Dec 12 2012

You need predictable and changing seasons to grow grapes and the Game of Thrones world features long unpredictable seasons...so where does all that wine come from?

The seasons in George RR Martin's medieval fantasy are a random, unpredictable mess. They could last anywhere from a few months to a decade and there's no way to forecast them. As the story opens, the characters are near the end of a long, ten-year summer. They also worry about the coming winter, which will cause mass starvation if it also lasts years on end. This wonky climate is an irreplaceable part of Game of Thrones. Westeros would not be remotely the same without it.

But grapevines have a life cycle that depends on regular seasons. In winter, grapevines are dormant. Come spring they sprout leaves. As summer begins, they flower and tiny little grapes appear. Throughout the summer the grapes fill up with water, sugar and acid. The grapes are finally ready for picking in early autumn, then go back to sleep in winter. This cycle is why wineries can rely on a yearly grape yield. Obviously, in Westeros, something must be different about how grapes work.

(via bb)

The Wire, illustratedDec 06 2012

Illustrator Dennis Culver is offering for sale a poster of 50+ characters from The Wire.

The Wire Illustrated

You've obviously got your Omar and String, but you've also got Butchie and Lamarr and Horseface. $25 for the poster...that's about 50 cents a character!

This season, Boardwalk Empire got greatDec 04 2012

My wife and I have been watching Boardwalk Empire for the past three seasons and it's seemed at times like we were the only ones. Writing for Grantland, Carles argues that the show got great this season and I totally agree. (Warning: tons of spoilers.)

Basically, I spent the first two seasons of Boardwalk Empire trying to figure out whether or not I even enjoyed the show. It featured premium producers, directors, writers, and actors, but it never felt like you were watching the show of the moment. Boardwalk Empire has been popular enough to get renewed regularly (it will be back for a fourth season next year), but it's been difficult to come to a consensus on whether or not it has been a fulfilling experience. There's a gap between high-end critical acclaim and casual fans. The uninitiated never get it. 'It's boring,' they say. 'It's trying to be something it isn't.' And maybe they were right. Fortunately, Season 3 has changed everything.

The show's tough to recommend to people because it's such a slow starter (compared to something like Breaking Bad or Homeland or whatever), but I'm happy we stuck with it.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell TV adaptationDec 03 2012

The BBC is making a 6-part miniseries out of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it's a sweeping fantasy novel set during the Napoleonic Wars where two magicians have emerged in Britain. As well as telling the story of their rivalry, it also details an amazing alternate history where the North of England was the dominion of a magical overlord known as the Raven King, and pulls in many notable historical characters.

Can't wait...I loved JS&MN.

Trailer for Girls season twoNov 30 2012

I am not ashamed to admit that, to my total surprise, I am looking forward to the second season of Girls more than The Hobbit or the next season of Mad Men. (But perhaps not season three of Game of Thrones. Perhaps.)

Watch The Mind of a Chef online for freeNov 27 2012

Friendly reminder: ten episodes of Anthony Bourdain and David Chang's Mind of a Chef are available to view for free on the PBS website. I am through two episodes so far and it's my favorite cooking/food show since The Naked Chef.1 Here's the first episode, all about ramen:

[I removed the embed because it was autoplaying for some unlucky people. You can watch the first episode here.]

The first four episodes will be taken down after Friday so act now.

[1] No joke, those first couple seasons of Oliver's show were really good. It's not the original Iron Chef or anything, but still.

Hobo MattersNov 27 2012

A spoof episode of American Experience on hobos, narrated by John Hodgman.

I posted this a few years ago but ran across it randomly the other day and had to feature it again. See also the Human Planet episode about The Douche.

Your new TV ruins moviesNov 23 2012

In a rant as informative as it is funny, filmmaker Stu Maschwitz explains why your TV ruins movies & tells you what presets to use, what settings to disable, and why you shouldn't buy a TV in a store.

TVs are designed to do one thing above all: sell. To do so, they must fight for attention on brightly-lit showroom floors. Manufacturers accomplish this in much the same way that transvestite hookers in San Francisco's Tenderloin district do--by showing you everything they've got, turned up to eleven. You want brightness? We'll scald your retinas. You want sharpness? We'll draw a black outline around everything for you. [...]

These days, any TV you are likely to buy, will, by default, have technology enabled that completely changes the emotional quality of the movies you watch. This is a cinematic disaster.

(via @rcjohnso)

Princess Bride lines as play by playNov 13 2012

Last week, the hosts of NFL Kick Off on ESPN, Trey Wingo, Mark Sclereth, and Tedy Bruschi, jammed as many Princess Bride references as they could into their half hour show. Jack Moore collected them. Genuine guffaw at "There will be no survivors" from around :45.

(thx, Alex)

The Dust Bowl by Ken BurnsNov 13 2012

The Dust Bowl is a four-hour documentary by Ken Burns airing on PBS starting this weekend.

The Dust Bowl chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us -- a lesson we ignore at our peril.

You can watch the first five minutes of the film on the PBS site.

Why doesn't MTV play music videos anymore?Nov 12 2012

You'll be sorry you asked.

Sixteen-part PBS travel/food show with David ChangNov 10 2012

How had I not heard about this before now? The Mind of a Chef is a PBS consisting of sixteen half-hour shows that follows David Chang through his world of food. As far as I can tell, this series is basically the TV version of Lucky Peach. Episode one is about ramen:

In the series premiere, David dissects the roots of his passion for ramen dishes and tsukemen on a trip to Japan. Learn the history of this famous noodle as David visits a ramen factory, has a bowl of the original tsukemen, and examines how alkalinity makes noodles chewier and less prone to dissolving in broth.

Check out an excerpt here, in which Chang reveals how he used to eat instant ramen noodles right out of the bag with the pork flavor powder sprinkled on top. The series starts this weekend...check your local listings, as they say. (via ny times)

Stay small or go big?Nov 09 2012

Emeril Lagasse made an appearance on Treme on Sunday. I watched a clip of his scene a few days ago and have been thinking about it on and off ever since. In the scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril takes a fellow chef to the building that used to house Uglesich's, a small-but-beloved New Orleans restaurant that closed back in 2005. The chef is having misgivings about expanding her business, particularly about all the non-cooking things you have to do, and Emeril explains that the way the owners of Uglesich's did it was one way forward:

You see, they kept it small, just one spot, just a few tables. There'd be a line around the corner by 10 am. You see, they made a choice. Anthony and Gail made a choice to stay on Baronne Street and keep their hands on what they were serving. They cooked, everyday they cooked, until they could cook no more.

But there's also another way to approach your business:

The other choice is that you can build something big but keep it the way that you wanna keep it. Take those ideas and try to execute them to the highest level. You got a lotta people around you, right? You're the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you're the ship. And all these people that look up to you and wanna be around you, they're living in the ship. And they're saying, "Oh, the ship is doing good. Oh, the ship is going to some interesting places. Oh, this ship isn't going down just like all the other fucking ships I've been on." [...] You've got a chance to do your restaurant and to take care of these people. Just do it.

kottke.org has always been a one-person thing. Sure, Aaron posts here regularly now and I have guest editors on occasion, but for the most part, I keep my ass in the chair and my hands on what I am serving. I've always resisted attempts at expanding the site because, I have reasoned, that would mean that the site wouldn't be exactly what I wanted it to be. And people come here for exactly what I want it to be. Doing the site with other people involved has always seemed unnatural. It would be selling out...that's how I've thought about it, as opposed to blowing up.

But Emeril's "until they could cook no more" and "you're the ship"...that got to me. I am a ship. I don't have employees but I have a family that relies on the income from my business and someday, when I am unable to do this work or people stop reading blogs or all online advertising moves to Facebook or Twitter, what happens then? Don't I owe it to myself and to them to build something that's going to last beyond my interest and ability to sit in a chair finding interesting things for people to look at? Or is it enough to just work by yourself and produce the best work you can?

Or can you do both? John Gruber's Daring Fireball remains a one-man operation...as far as I know, he's never even had an intern. I don't have any inside knowledge of DF's finances, but from the RSS sponsorship rate and the rate for sponsoring Gruber's podcast, my conservative estimate is that DF grosses around $650,000 per year. And with a single employee/owner and relatively low expenses, a large amount of that is profit. So maybe that route is possible?

I don't have any answers to these questions, but man, it's got me thinking. Emeril got me thinking...who saw that coming? Bam!

Louis C.K. and the Rise of the Laptop LonersOct 26 2012

Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Adam Wilson has a thoughtful take on Louis C.K., his TV show, and his comedy style in general.

The format of the American sitcom held steady for almost 40 years. The most noteworthy innovation was a negation; in the early nineties, HBO comedies like the short-lived Dream On ditched the pervasive canned laugh track, paving the way for the so-called cringe comedy of shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. On Curb, the absence of a laugh track makes it difficult for viewers to know when to laugh. We cringe because we're holding in laughter, waiting for a cue that it's okay to release. But there is always a breaking point, an explosion into an absurdity so deep -- Larry rushing into the water to "save" a baptismal candidate from drowning, for example -- that the tension is relieved, and the laughter is released.

Louie both reacts to the failure of Lucky Louie and advances on Curb's cringe comedy by creating something tenser, more tonally ambiguous. Louie's singularity lies in its ability to further confound viewers by setting up jokes, and then providing pathos instead of punch lines. Not only does Louie's audience not know when to laugh, they don't even know if what they're watching is supposed to be funny. For the Laptop Loner, this ambiguity is made all the more palpable by the absence of viewing partners; we use other people's reactions to gauge the correctness of our own. But it also makes the ambiguity less assaulting. Alone, we can be comfortable in our discomfort.

Arrested WesterosOct 22 2012

Last week Aaron linked to Kanye Wes. Turns out there is also Arrested Westeros (Arrested Development quotes + Game of Thrones scenes):

Arrested Westeros

Man, I wish Kanye Westeros were better. (via @JoshMorrison)

What is it like to be on Jeopardy?Oct 20 2012

Technology journalist Glenn Fleishman appeared on Jeopardy on Thursday and wrote up a piece for Boing Boing on his experience.

The secret of Jeopardy, what defuses the reality-show aspect, is that we all universally wanted each other to win even though we knew that only one person took home the big money and would return to fight again.

Here's Glenn's Final Jeopardy from that night:

I wouldn't have gotten that question in a millions years. Maybe in high school...

Final trailer for the Arrested Development documentaryOct 19 2012

In production for the past twenty-four years, it looks as though the documentary about Arrested Development might be nearing its release. Here's the final trailer:

(via devour)

The most powerful TV shows of the past 25 yearsOct 16 2012

This is a really interesting and eclectic list of 25 TV shows that have had an impact on society beyond the water cooler. There are a few obvious choices, but most of these I hadn't heard of.

In 2003, 24-year-old machinist Juan Catalan faced the death penalty for allegedly shooting a key witness in a murder case. Catalan told police that he couldn't have committed the crime -- he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game at the time. He had the ticket stubs and everything!

When police didn't buy his alibi, Catalan contacted the Dodgers, who pointed him to an unlikely hero: misanthropic comedian Larry David. On the day in question, David had been filming an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in Dodger Stadium. It was a long shot, but maybe Catalan could be seen in the background. When his attorney watched the outtakes, it took just 20 minutes to find shots of Catalan and his daughter chowing down on ballpark dogs while watching from the stands.

Thanks to the footage, Catalan walked free after five months behind bars. And Larry David found one more thing to be self-deprecating about. "I tell people that I've done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently," joked David.

(via @fimoculous)

Six TV networks that started out as something elseOct 11 2012

There was a time when American Movie Classics used to show classic American movies, when The Learning Channel could teach you something, and when ABC Family broadcast family programming. Wired's Ruth Suehle has a look at six TV networks that have significantly changed their programming since their founding. The story of ABC Family, which used to be known as The Family Channel, is especially interesting:

Plan A was to use it for ABC re-runs. Too bad [ABC] didn't own the syndication rights to the stuff they wanted to show.

Plan B was an image makeover. They'd rename it XYZ (as in the opposite of ABC) and sell it to a younger, edgier audience. Too bad nobody read the contract that said the word "family" had to stay in the name forever.

Why? For that, we rewind to its beginning as Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network Satellite Service in 1979. That religious beginning followed the network through multiple sales, each of which has been required to continue broadcasting Robertson's The 700 Club, hence the reason that show is now bookended by the disclaimer, "The following/preceding CBN telecast does not reflect the views of ABC Family"as well as the network's slogan of the last few years, "A New Kind of Family."

(via @moth)

Title sequence for The Simpsons done with real actorsOct 10 2012

(via devour)

An oral history of CheersOct 01 2012

Amy Poehler says it's the best show on television and GQ has a long oral history of Cheers.

On The Jeffersons, you would give your notes to the director, and he'd go, "Right, right," and then turn around and go to the actors and say, "Oh, those fucking writers. They want to change this." And then the director would come back [to the writers] and go, "Oh, those actors. They won't do a thing I ask them." You get this weird us-against-them [mentality].

And when we got to Cheers, everybody could talk to everybody. Now, granted, if you were smart you had a sense of where you were on the totem pole, you watched your comments and obviously deferred to the bosses. But if I saw something that Shelley had done that I thought was particularly good, or if a writer had a suggestion for a way she might be able to do it better, you got to tell her that. The only rule was you had to do it so everybody could hear; there were no private conversations. It had to be open with everybody. It really fostered this feeling that we were all in it together.

I watched Cheers all the time when I was a kid...I've seen each episode at least twice. For me, it was the best show until Seinfeld came along. Haven't seen an episode for probably 15 years though. I wonder if it holds up as well as Poehler claims.

Oh cripes, Fargo to be a TV seriesSep 25 2012

FX is developing a TV show "loosely based" on the Coen brothers' Fargo.

Joel and Ethan Coen are bringing one of their signatures movies to television. FX has closed a deal to develop Fargo, an hourlong project loosely based on the Coen brothers' 1996 comedic crime drama. The Coens will serve as executive producers on the project, which will be written/executive produced by The Unusuals and My Generation creator Noah Hawley.

(via @fimoculous)

All I really want is GirlsSep 18 2012

The second season of Girls is set to run in January 2013 on HBO. Here's a short teaser for the new season:

Mindy Kaling is amazingSep 12 2012

Other potential headlines about the Mindy Kaling profile in NY Magazine: 'I hope Mindy Kaling's new show is as awesome as Mindy Kaling' and 'I wish television executives would take chances like this more often.'

Her character on the show also seems to represent a version of singledom not being explored on TV, one that is very different from Zooey Deschanel's Jess on New Girl, who is so presexual in her girlishness that she spends an entire episode getting over her discomfort with saying the word penis. And unlike Girls' Hannah, played by Lena Dunham, she's found her life path, and she has had sex with more than a couple of people. "I just wanted to do a show that is kind of about dating, about someone who thinks about love all the time," Kaling says. "One thing that is different than other shows is that my character is weirdly, extremely confident. She feels like she should be dating Chris Evans. That's something I learned from writing for Michael Scott. He thought he was going to marry Teri Hatcher, even though he was constantly being told that was not the case."

NFL TV maps 2012Sep 07 2012

Once again, here's the link to the maps that show which NFL games will be shown in which parts of the country.

European soccer disappears from American TVSep 04 2012

Perplexed and irritated that I couldn't find any Barcelona FC matches on TV for the past few weeks, I finally did some research and it turns out that's because Qatar-based Al Jazeera bought up the TV rights to several European leagues but doesn't actually have a channel to show the games to most American viewers.

Lionel Messi's and Cristiano Ronaldo's league matches will disappear from the television sets of many American soccer fans, starting this weekend.

That's because the U.S. television rights to Spain's La Liga have switched from GolTV to the new beIN Sport USA network, launched this week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network and available in only about 8 million homes to viewers of DirecTV and DISH Network.

And it's not just Spain's soccer that is affected.

Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1, England's second-tier League Championship and England's League Cup also have moved to high-spending beIN Sport, which is taking over all of them from News Corp.'s Fox Soccer.

"The ratings are going to be so low that they will be almost unmeasurable," said Marc Ganis of the Chicago-based Sports Corp. Ltd., consulting firm. "Considering the push that European soccer is making in the United States, taking additional money and losing exposure becomes fools' gold. They need to have a long-term strategy, not short-term."

What. In. The. Actual. Fuck!?

The documentary crew filming The OfficeAug 22 2012

The upcoming season of The Office will be the show's last, but we will finally get to see who is behind the camera filming. From the executive producer of the show:

All questions will be answered this year. We are going to see who's behind the documentary and we're going to meet some of them. (Also) a big Jim and Pam year.

Downton Abbey season three trailerAug 15 2012

This is apparently taped off of someone's television so the picture is blurry and the sound is not so good, but you get the gist.

Season three of Downton is set to start airing in the UK in September and in the US in January (for those who don't know what BitTorrent is).

RIP DeAndre McCulloughAug 07 2012

David Simon remembers his friend DeAndre McCullough, who died last week. You might remember him as Lamar (Brother Mouzone's assistant) from The Wire and was also profiled by Simon and Edward Burns in The Corner.

At fifteen, he was selling drugs on the corners of Fayette Street, but that doesn't begin to explain who he was. For the boys of Franklin Square -- too many of them at any rate -- slinging was little more than an adolescent adventure, an inevitable right of passage. And whatever sinister vision you might conjure of a street corner drug trafficker, try to remember that a fifteen-year-old slinger is, well, fifteen years old.

He was funny. He could step back from himself and mock his own stances -- "hard work," he would say when I would catch him on a drug corner, "hard work being a black man in America." And then he would catch my eye and laugh knowingly at his presumption. His imitations of white-authority voices -- social workers, police officers, juvenile masters, teachers, reporters -- were never less than pinpoint, playful savagery. The price of being a white man on Fayette Street and getting to know DeAndre McCullough was to have your from-the-other-America pontifications pulled and scalpeled apart by a manchild with an uncanny ear for hypocrisy and cant.

(via @mrgan)

People you didn't know were on SeinfeldAug 03 2012

If you're anything like me, you take things like 34 People You Probably Didn't Know Were On Seinfeld as a challenge. It's been awhile, but I've seen every episode of that show (most of them at least twice) so I thought this would be easy but I totally had forgotten or didn't realize that Jon Favreau, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Denise Richards, and James Spader were on the show. Guess I'm not the Seinfeld fan I thought I was.

Tired TV tropes toppling hypothesizes Heather HavrileskyJul 31 2012

Writing for The Awl, Heather Havrilesky (who you may remember from Suck) highlights three stereotypical TV characters (The Hapless Dad, The Friend, and The Wise Old Professional) and characters on three current shows (Louie, Girls, and Mad Men) that cut right through that bullshit.

Because on "Girls," not only is The Friend (Hannah, played by Dunham) not all that insecure (relatively speaking), but she also has more swagger and courage and heart than The Hot One (Marnie) and The Other Hot One (Jessa) and The Sort of Hot One (Shoshanna) put together. Instead of whining and weeping snottily into her hands the way The Friend would do on any other television show, Hannah gets naked and refuses to exercise but realizes that she is exactly 13 pounds overweight (this isn't some fantasyland, after all, except for the trust funds and bad Fu Manchus). Hannah has lots of not-very-great sex. She's sometimes timid and confused, sure, but she's brave enough to state her feelings to people directly. She's self-possessed. But most importantly, she is not preoccupied with not being The Hot One. She wears clothing that doesn't compliment her body. She doesn't appear to brush her hair regularly. She doesn't have to, because she doesn't believe that there is some center of the universe located somewhere other than where she is, and she'll only get there if her hair is brushed. No. She can simply exist and do what regular people do: Eat, worry, sleep late, roll her eyes, fall on her face.

I'm gonna come out and say that I really liked Girls, due in large part (I'm realizing now) to Hannah's (and Adam's and Ray's) directness and self-possession.

The best of Ralph WiggumJul 26 2012

A selection of good Ralph Wiggum moments from The Simpsons.

Pretty good, except that they missed "I'm Idaho", "This tastes like burning", and "Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a viking!" (via @erikmal)

Live TV coverage of Apollo 11 landing and moon walkJul 20 2012

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module landed on the surface of the Moon 43 years ago today. For the 40th anniversary of the landing in 2009, I put together a page where you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk, synced to the present-day time. I've updated the page to work again this year: just open this page in your browser and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here's the schedule:

Moon landing broacast start: 4:10:30 pm EDT on July 20
Moon landing shown: 4:17:40 pm EDT
Moon landing broadcast end: 4:20:15 pm EDT
{break}
Moon walk broadcast start: 10:51:27 pm EDT
First step on Moon: 10:56:15 pm EDT
Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew: approx 11:51:30 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast end: 12:00:30 pm EDT on July 21

Here's a post I wrote when I launched the project.

If you've never seen this coverage, I urge you to watch at least the landing segment (~10 min.) and the first 10-20 minutes of the Moon walk. I hope that with the old time TV display and poor YouTube quality, you get a small sense of how someone 40 years ago might have experienced it. I've watched the whole thing a couple of times while putting this together and I'm struck by two things: 1) how it's almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place, and 2) that pretty much the sole purpose of the Apollo 11 Moon walk was to photograph it and broadcast it live back to Earth.

Thanks to Dave Schumaker for the reminder.

The Lego Wire Jul 18 2012

Marissa Mayer has only been CEO at Yahoo! for a day and she's already creating viral content like a stop motion Lego version of The Wire. Imagine what we'll get when she's been there a week.

Audible guffaws at, "What's up his ass?" "No one likes our season, that's what." (via @jonahkeri)

A second season of Black MirrorJul 12 2012

The UK's Channel 4 is bringing back Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror for a second season of three episodes.

He said: 'British drama seems particularly obsessed with murder and the past, often together. Black Mirror is a rare modern look at where society and individuals could be headed, given the all-pervasive deluge of social media and technology.'

The first series prompted 322 complaints over a story in which a Prime Minister was blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on TV.

Brooker said: 'Half of the things in the first run of Black Mirror seem to be on the verge of coming true. They've got prisoners in Brazilian prisons pedalling on exercise bikes to reduce their sentences (not entirely dissimilar to the episode 15 Million Merits) and Google Glass looks like copyright infringement as far as The Entire History of You is concerned.

HBO puts first episode of Sorkin's The Newsroom on YouTubeJun 25 2012

Here's the entire first episode of Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. You can also watch it on HBO.com but you have to register first. I doubt non-US residents can watch it in either place. Why isn't this embeddable? I don't understand...they don't want more people to watch it? Does the internet girl know?

The Wire: The MusicalJun 05 2012

This is amazing...a trailer for a musical version of The Wire done by Funny or Die. Featuring real cast members from the show like Michael K. Williams as Omar, Felicia Pearson as Snoop, and Andre Royo as Bubbles.

(via @monstro)

An oral history of The WireJun 01 2012

The Wire premiered on HBO 10 years ago tomorrow so Maxim (what really?) is out with a long oral history. It's all worth reading (and finally proof for the 'I read it for the articles' argument), but the more interesting bits to me were towards the end, and I wish there were a few more comments from superfans. Marc Spitz did an amazing job wrangling interviews from the majority of the cast.

New to me was the cop actors and crook actors not hanging out together, and Prop Joe mentoring the kids from Season 4.

Tristan Wilds (Michael Lee, student, Stanfield gang enforcer): Every time we'd get a script all four of us would sit down with Robert Chew go over the script and make sure we had it down.

Robert F. Chew (Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart, drug kingpin): A couple of them were not from Baltimore so they did not have the lingo and the dialect, so I'd give them hints on that and just understanding the emotion of the scene.

I also liked this bit about Snoop.

Tristan Wilds: I remember when I first read the script, I was like "Noooo! Why do I gotta do it?" Snoop became like my big sister to me; she was everything. I was actually with my niece a couple months ago and she was watching iCarly -and there was a scene where Sam takes paint ball gun and shoots Gib, but he looks at her before she does and says, 'How's my hair look?' And she says, "You look good, Gib."

Method Man: I always went online to see the reactions that people would have after someone got killed. Snoop, when she got killed, oh you should've seen it. You would've thought somebody really died. Like it was a funeral happening: "RIP Snoop, we gon' miss you," and all this craziness. They were just two lines short of making "In Memory Of" T-Shirts. Same thing with Omar. Stringer, same thing. Then when I die, it's like "good for him. They should've killed his ass sooner."

Also on the 10th Anniversary tip, here's Details on 10 Ways the Wire changed TV and The Atlantic says The Wire feels dated. (via @groveatlantic)

How the 30 Rock sausage is madeMay 22 2012

This long four-part interview of 30 Rock show runner Robert Carlock at the AV Club is, as mentioned, long but worth reading if you're into TV or 30 Rock. Part one covers season one & and part of two, and part two walks us through part of season two & season three.

[Jerry Seinfeld's] people and NBC were talking at a very high level about promoting Bee Movie, and they were encouraging us to use him. We were really eager to do anything we could to continue our life writing the show, in part, at that point, because we'd really fallen in love with writing it. I will never have another opportunity to write for those people again. Writing a half-hour for Alec Baldwin is insane. And to work with Tina. A lot of the things this show has done, like product integration and guest stars, is partly to give NBC the fewest number of excuses possible to get rid of us. If they're saying, "We'll promote you. Have Seinfeld on," and we all love Seinfeld, we'll sit down and try to find a way to do it on our terms-much like product integration, where every time we've done it, we've had the luxury of being able to call it out or mock it or integrate it. This past live show had a couple of P.I. things in it, because that was so much about television that you're able to do it. We were happy to have Jerry come on the show, and he shot 10 pages in a very long day. We usually shoot six or seven pages, so it was a real burden.

Parts three & four to come. (via @khoi)

Hunting for anachronisms in Mad Men and Downton AbbeyMay 14 2012

Prochronism analyzes word usage in shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey to hunt down anachronisms...like "a callback for" and "pay phone" from a recent episode of Mad Men.

Prochronism

The big one from the charts: Megan gets "a callback for" an audition. This is, the data says, a candidate for the worst anachronism of the season. The word "callback" is about 100x more common by the 1990s, and "callback for" is even worse. The OED doesn't have any examples of a theater-oriented use of "callback" until the 1970s; although I bet one could find some examples somewhere earlier in the New York theater scene, that may not save it. It wouldn't really suite Megan's generally dilettantish attitude towards the theater, or the office staff's lack of knowledge of it, for them to be so au courant. "call-back" and "call back" don't seem much more likely.

(via waxy)

What's the deal with Game of Thrones' unpredictable winters?May 03 2012

George Dvorsky details five possible scientific explanations for Westeros' seasons of unpredictable length. A "wobbly planetary tilt" is one possible reason:

In the episode "The Kingsroad," we learn that Westeros has at least one moon. It's very possible, therefore, that they have a very small or distant moon, that is causing a variable tilt in their planet's rotational axis.

It's interesting to note that, according to legend, Westeros used to have two moons, but "one wandered too close to the sun and it cracked from the heat" pouring out a thousand thousand dragons. Well, dragons aside, it's conceivable that some kind of cataclysmic celestial event could have wiped out their second moon, which would have thrown their planet's rotational axis out of whack.

Obama slow jams the newsApr 25 2012

This might be the coolest thing a sitting President has ever done. Aside from, maybe, freeing the slaves or The New Deal or winning WWII.

Update: And an amazingly depressing excerpt from a speech Obama gave earlier in the day:

But we only finished paying off our student loans -- check this out, all right, I'm the President of the United States -- we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.

First episode of HBO's Girls on YouTubeApr 16 2012

The first episode of Girls, an eagerly awaited HBO series by executive producer Judd Apatow and writer/director Lena Dunham, is available for free on YouTube (HBO disabled embedding for some dumb reason). HBO plans to do this with Veep next week as well.

Jon Stewart doesn't stand for anythingApr 13 2012

Is Tom Junod's long piece in Esquire a takedown of Jon Stewart? Or just a thorough examination of the messiness of being an ambitious public figure these days? I couldn't tell. But if you're a Stewart fan or Daily Show viewer, Junod's piece is well worth a read.

Now look at him. It's seven years later, and he's aged like a president. He's been graying for years, but now he's gone gray, and a transformation seems to have taken place. He's forty-eight years old. He has a wife and two young kids whose lives he worries about missing because he stays so late and works so hard. Last year, when he did that thing, that Jon Stewart thing, that rally in Washington, D. C., he looked like he was starting to, like, fill out -- his suit looked a little small on him as he made his big valedictory speech -- but now he's gaunt, and his face is sort of bladelike, collecting itself around the charcoal axis of his eyes, nose, and mouth. Still, he's jacked. The whole studio is. You don't have any choice at The Daily Show. For one thing, the music gets louder and louder as you wait before finally reminding you where Stewart's from with a climactic rendition of Born to Run. For another, there's a tummler, a warm-up guy who bounds around telling you that you might laugh to yourself while watching Jon Stewart at home, you might smile and chuckle at the apercus, you might silently congratulate yourself for getting the jokes, but you're not at home anymore, and here you have a responsibility -- you're the laugh track. "Do you want to be on TV! Do you want to meet Jon Stewart! Then you better get loud..."

And now here he is. The man did stand-up for years, and in the studio you can actually see it on him, because whereas on television he clings to his desk like it's an iron lung (former writers say that you know a bit is doomed if it requires him to get up from behind it), here he actually stands up and goes out to the audience to answer questions. And he's a kibitzer -- it's not Plato's Symposium, folks. The first question is "What's your daily routine?" and Stewart answers as he's been answering since Destiny's Child was together: "Jazzercise." The second question is "Which one of the animals on my T-shirt would you like to be?" and Stewart responds with a question of his own: "Is there a correct answer to that?" And even when a young woman with short hair and glasses and a faded cause on her T-shirt asks if "our greatest media critic" has actually had an impact on the way the media does business, he instantaneously cocks his chin, sucks in his cheeks, and narrows his eyes until he looks like a wizened version of the man whose image is emblazoned on the wall outside; then he deepens his voice confidentially and says, "Well, look who's carrying the NPR tote bag." Of course, he denies having an impact -- "the satirist depends on shame, and everyone knows that our culture has become shameless" -- but when somebody calls out, "But you killed Crossfire!" he says, "No, I didn't. Crossfire was already dead..."

And there it is again, that denial of power upon which his power depends. It's strange, isn't it: One of the fastest and most instinctive wits in America feeling it necessary to go on explaining himself again and again; a man who lives to clarify resorting to loophole; the irrepressible truth-teller insisting on something that not one person of the two hundred watching his show in the studio -- never mind the millions who will watch on television -- can possibly believe.

The visual style of The WireApr 11 2012

In this video, Erlend Lavik compares the relatively spare visual style of The Wire with that of other TV programs.

(via @uxprinciples)

The real Google GlassesApr 06 2012

Since Google released the video for their augmented reality glasses the other day, people have been busy making videos that show a more realistic (or cynical) portrayal of how the glasses might work. Here are a couple of the better ones. First a version of the glasses with Google ads:

And this one gives new meaning to the phrase "banner blindness":

While not specifically about Google Glasses, this concept video by Keiichi Matsuda is also worth a look:

I will also direct your attention to the second episode of Black Mirror, a UK drama series by Charlie Brooker.

A satire on entertainment shows and our insatiable thirst for distraction set in a sarcastic version of a future reality. In this world, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes, arranged in cells, in order to power their surroundings and generate currency for themselves called Merits. Everyone is dressed in a grey tracksuit and has a "doppel", a virtual avatar inspired by Miis and Xbox 360 Avatars that people can customise with clothes, for a fee of merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

(via jake & stellar)

Original pitch video for The Muppet ShowApr 06 2012

Jim Henson made this pitch video to sell The Muppet Show to CBS. It starts a bit slow but stick with it.

There's also a scene with Kermit right at the end which unfortunately didn't make it into the clip.

After Leo's powerful speech, Kermit appears from off-screen against a CBS logo and shrugs, "What the hell was that all about?"

And just because, here's the opening theme song of The Muppet Show. (via @gavinpurcell)

Money, Power and Wall StreetApr 05 2012

Frontline is doing a four-hour show about the world financial crisis, which, according to many people featured on the program, is ongoing.

Since 2008, Wall Street and Washington have fought against the tide of the fiercest financial crisis since the Great Depression. What have they wrought? In a special four-hour investigation, FRONTLINE tells the inside story of the struggles to rescue and repair a shattered economy, exploring key decisions, missed opportunities, and the unprecedented and uneasy partnership between government leaders and titans of finance that affects the fortunes of millions of people around the world.

The program airs on April 24th.

Watching 130 episodes of The Simpsons simultaneouslyMar 30 2012

If you've never seen the early seasons of The Simpsons, a good way to catch up might be to watch this:

Just a quick hack to experiment what happens if you watch a lot of The Simpsons episodes at the same time. It just took 10 lines of code and a few hours of processing.

About the video:
-Top to bottom: each row shows a season (from season 1 to season 10)
-Left to right: each column shows an episode (from episode 1 to episode 13)

A total of 130 episodes is displayed, framerate is 25fps, thumbnails have been captured at 80x60px

I also enjoyed this minimalist representation of the Simpson family in Lego:

Simpsons in Lego

(via @TrevorBaum)

The 50 greatest cartoonsMar 27 2012

A book written by Jerry Beck in 1994 called The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals does indeed contain a list of the 50 greatest cartoons as chosen by industry professionals. The list is filthy with Warner Bros cartoons, particularly by the recently aforementioned Chuck Jones (four of the top five are by Jones). I don't know how many are available on YouTube, but I tracked down a couple to show my 4-year-old son, Ollie: Duck Amuck and Rabbit of Seville.

By the time we were finished with Rabbit of Seville, Ollie had literally peed his pants from laughing so hard. I think I'm gonna get the Looney Tunes collection on Blu-ray so we can watch more but I'm a bit afraid of what the hijinks of Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner might do to my boy's pants.

Thanks, AaronMar 26 2012

Many thanks to Aaron Cohen for holding down the fort here at kottke.org for the past week. You should check out the Mad Men recap he did for last night's episode, complete with an illustration from Chris Piascik (prints and t-shirts available).

Love Pickle Guts

You can also find Aaron at the helm of 2012 Boston Bacon and Beer Festival...tickets go on sale soon.

Who is The Wire's greatest character?Mar 05 2012

That is the question that Grantland is attempting to answer with a NCAA-style tournament bracket.

The Wire Bracket

Did we mention that our esteemed editor-in-chief hung out with President Obama last week? Because that totally happened. Just two regular guys, discussing Linsanity, Blake Griffin's jump shot, what it's like to pitch a baseball while wearing a bulletproof vest, and -- as the conversation wound down -- The Wire. Asked to name the greatest Wire character of all time (let it never be said that Grantland does not ask the tough questions!), the Commander in Chief didn't hesitate: "It's gotta be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable, right?"

With respect to the President, Omar is the most overrated character on The Wire. I mean, I love Omar. I do. He is everyone's favorite character and easy to love because he's one of the show's most manufactured characters. Gay, doesn't swear, strong sense of morals, robs drug dealers, respected/feared by all...come on, all that doesn't just get rolled up into one person like that. The Wire aspires to be more than just mere television, but when Omar is on the screen, it's difficult for me to take the show as seriously as it wants me to.

Wes Anderson's Hyundai commercialsFeb 29 2012

Wes Anderson recently directed a pair of television advertisements for Hyundai Motor Group. They are typically Wes Andersonian.

The real Downton AbbeyFeb 23 2012

Downton Abbey (the house) on Downton Abbey (the TV show) is played by Highclere Castle, the county seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Over on the Paris Review site, Meredith Blake has a brief history of the family that currently lives there.

Downton Abbey fans will note the striking parallels between Almina's life and that of her fictional counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley. This is hardly an accident: Lady Carnarvon and her husband, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, affectionately known as Geordie, have been friends with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes for more than a decade. Though Lady Carnarvon calls Fellowes a "genius," she's too involved with the show to call herself a fan. "It's too much of a bloody muddle," she says.

Downton Abbey paper dollsFeb 20 2012

If you're currently experiencing Downton Abbey withdrawals, try these awesome printable Downton paper dolls.

Downton cutouts

Downton Abbey Valentine's Day cardsFeb 10 2012

For the Anna to your Bates, the Matthew Crawley to your Lady Mary, or the cutting comeback to your Dowager Countess, a selection of Downton Abbey-themed Valentine's Day cards.

Downton Valentine

Where's the social networking on Star Trek?Feb 08 2012

Cat Valente remarks on the old-fashionedness on display in Star Trek DS9, particularly in regard to what the characters do and don't do with their free time, infinite bandwidth, extreme connectedness, and lack of scarcity.

Nobody sits around and plays Farmville. Nobody gets embroiled in a flame war concerning the portrayal of Klingons in human vids or just sits and watches vids with their feet up. Nope. The brave men and women of the future read (super old) books, talk to each other face to face, and even in their VR fantasies practice for things they will have to do in real life or, admittedly quite realistically, have space holosex. There is no WoW. There are no video games at all unless they are evil ones from Risa that will suck out your brains.

Because of this, and because of the lack of a social network, it is possible to be alone in the Star Trek world in a way which I would have to deliberately take action to achieve in my world. Even when we are alone, most of us check a number of communication vectors and leave them live--Twitter, email, text messages, Facebook, our blogs, Reddit, news feeds. We are a baby hivemind spinning our training wheels. To be alone as profoundly (to me) as Sisko, Kira, and the rest often are, I would have to make a decision to shut down all of those streams.

Mad Men season five fashion predictionsJan 31 2012

Over at Sew Weekly, Mena Trott predicts what some of the characters will be wearing in the coming season of Mad Men.

Oh, Betty. For years, she has been immaculately dressed and presented as the facade of the perfect 1950s/1960s wife. With her cinched waists and billowing skirts, she's held onto late 1950s and early 1960s fashion the longest. In season four, she's married to the anti-Don, the boring Henry Francis and is getting a little too familiar with the bottle. When you're married to Henry Francis, you just don't care any more. That should be embroidered on a pillow.

How a late night talk show worksJan 23 2012

Gavin Purcell produces Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the other night on Twitter, he shared some info about how the show comes together.

Don't go changingJan 09 2012

In a piece for Vanity Fair, Kurt Andersen argues that for the first time in recent history, American pop culture (fashion, art, music, design, entertainment) hasn't changed dramatically in the past 20 years.

Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there's the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what's odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past -- the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s -- looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.

Think about it. Picture it. Rewind any other 20-year chunk of 20th-century time. There's no chance you would mistake a photograph or movie of Americans or an American city from 1972-giant sideburns, collars, and bell-bottoms, leisure suits and cigarettes, AMC Javelins and Matadors and Gremlins alongside Dodge Demons, Swingers, Plymouth Dusters, and Scamps-with images from 1992. Time-travel back another 20 years, before rock 'n' roll and the Pill and Vietnam, when both sexes wore hats and cars were big and bulbous with late-moderne fenders and fins-again, unmistakably different, 1952 from 1972. You can keep doing it and see that the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising -- all of it. It's even true of the 19th century: practically no respectable American man wore a beard before the 1850s, for instance, but beards were almost obligatory in the 1870s, and then disappeared again by 1900. The modern sensibility has been defined by brief stylistic shelf lives, our minds trained to register the recent past as old-fashioned.

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