kottke.org posts about lists

Policing by consentAug 18 2014

In light of the ongoing policing situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer and how the response to the community protests is highlighting the militarization of US police departments since 9/11, it's instructive to look at one of the first and most successful attempts at the formation of a professional police force.

The UK Parliament passed the first Metropolitan Police Act in 1829. The act was introduced by Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel, who undertook a study of crime and policing, which resulted in his belief that the keys to building an effective police force were to 1) make it professional (most prior policing had been volunteer in nature); 2) organize as a civilian force, not as a paramilitary force; and 3) make the police accountable to the public. The Metropolitan Police, whose officers were referred to as "bobbies" after Peel, was extremely successful and became the model for the modern urban police force, both in the UK and around the world, including in the United States.

At the heart of the Metropolitan Police's charter were a set of rules either written by Peel or drawn up at some later date by the two founding Commissioners: The Nine Principles of Policing. They are as follows:

1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

As police historian Charles Reith noted in 1956, this philosophy was radical when implemented in London in the 1830s and "unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public". Apparently, it remains radical in the United States in 2014. (thx, peter)

The greatest documentaries of all timeAug 05 2014

Sight and Sound polled 340 critics and filmmakers in search of the world's best documentary films. Here are their top 50. From the list, the top five:

A Man with a Movie Camera
Shoah
Sans soleil
Night and Fog
The Thin Blue Line

Unless you went to film school or are a big film nerd, you probably haven't seen (or even heard of) the top choice, A Man with a Movie Camera. Roger Ebert reviewed the film several years ago as part of his Great Movies Collection.

Born in 1896 and coming of age during the Russian Revolution, Vertov considered himself a radical artist in a decade where modernism and surrealism were gaining stature in all the arts. He began by editing official newsreels, which he assembled into montages that must have appeared rather surprising to some audiences, and then started making his own films. He would invent an entirely new style. Perhaps he did. "It stands as a stinging indictment of almost every film made between its release in 1929 and the appearance of Godard's 'Breathless' 30 years later," the critic Neil Young wrote, "and Vertov's dazzling picture seems, today, arguably the fresher of the two." Godard is said to have introduced the "jump cut," but Vertov's film is entirely jump cuts.

If you're curious, the film is available on YouTube in its entirety:

(via open culture)

Digital Atlas of the Roman EmpireAug 04 2014

Digital Map Ancient Rome

The Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire lets you explore ancient Rome in a Google Maps interface. (via @pbump)

Update: From Vox, 40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire.

Two thousand years ago, on August 19, 14 AD, Caesar Augustus died. He was Rome's first emperor, having won a civil war more than 40 years earlier that transformed the dysfunctional Roman Republic into an empire. Under Augustus and his successors, the empire experienced 200 years of relative peace and prosperity. Here are 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire -- its rise and fall, its culture and economy, and how it laid the foundations of the modern world.

Clickbaiting the 10 CommandmentsJul 25 2014

Over at McSweeney's, David Tate imagines more engaging copy for the Ten Commandments, aka you won't believe what God said to this man...

At the Beginning He Had Me Confused, But by Minute Two I Knew That I Shouldn't Have Other Gods.

37 Things in Your Bedroom That You Need to Get Rid of Right Now, Like Adulteresses.

Maps don't love you like I love youJul 18 2014

From Flowing Data, 19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won't Believe Your Eyes. Watch. It's the maps listicle to end all maps listicles.

Useless maps

Ten most memorable film editsJul 11 2014

From CineFix, a collection of ten of the most iconic and memorable editing moments in cinematic history.

(via @brillhart)

The 50 greatest summer blockbustersJul 07 2014

The staff and contributors of Dissolve recently listed the 50 greatest summer blockbusters ever. Here's #50-31, #30-11, and the top 10.

Blockbusters have become such an integral part of the way we talk about films that it's hard to believe they haven't always been with us. But while there have always been big movies-lavish productions designed to draw crowds and command repeat business-the blockbuster as we know it has a definite start date: June 20, 1975. That's when Jaws first hit screens in the middle of what was once, in the words of The Financial Times, a "low season" when the "only steady summer dollars came, in the U.S., from drive-in theaters." It's summer, after all; why go to the movies when you could be outside? Jaws changed that. Star Wars cemented that change. And now, the summer-movie season is dominated by the biggest films Hollywood has to offer.

Jaws is the no-surprise #1 but Who Framed Roger Rabbit at #8? Hmm, dunno about that. And leaving Star Wars just off the top 10 is a bold move. My personal top ten would also have included Ghostbusters -- I remember vividly waiting in line in the sweltering heat outside the El Lago theater to see Ghostbusters and just being completely and utterly blown away by it -- and Terminator 2. Oh and Batman. I think I saw that movie half-a-dozen times in the theater and it was just everywhere that summer...the logo, that song by Prince, everything. (via @khoi)

Scientist biography recommendationsJul 02 2014

Earlier today I asked my Twitter followers for recommendations for "really good" biographies about scientists. I gave Genius (James Gleick's bio of Richard Feynman) and Cleopatra, A Life (not about a scientist but was super interesting and well-written) as examples of what I was looking for. You can see the responses here and I've pulled out a few of the most interesting ones below:

- Isaac Newton by James Gleick. Gleick wrote the aforementioned Genius and Chaos, another favorite of mine. I tried to read The Information last year after many glowing recommendations from friends but couldn't get into it. Someone suggested Never at Rest is a superior Newton bio.

- The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman. I've read this biography of mathematician Paul Erdos; highly recommended.

- Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I've never read anything by Sobel; I'll have to rectify that.

- Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. I enjoyed his problematic Jobs biography and I notice that he's written one on Ben Franklin as well.

- Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

- American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. Bio of J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project. See also: The Making of the Atomic Bomb, one of my favorite books ever.

- Everything and More by David Foster Wallace. I've heard Wallace was bit handwavy with the math in this one, but I still enjoyed it.

- Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson. Newton was a detective?

- The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura Snyder. Four-way bio of a group of school friends (Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones) who changed the world.

- The Reluctant Mr. Darwin by David Quammen. How Charles Darwin devised his theory of evolution and then sat on it for years is one of science's most fascinating stories.

- T. rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez. Not a biography of a person but of a theory: that a meteor impact 65 million years ago caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

- Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Disney isn't a scientist, but when you ask for book recommendations and Steven Johnson tells you to read something, it goes on the list.

- The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel. Bio of brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

- Edge of Objectivity by Charles Gillispie. A biography of modern science published in 1966, all but out of print at this point unfortunately.

- Galileo at Work by Stillman Drake.

- The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes.

And many more here. Thanks to everyone who suggested books.

Update: Because this came up on Twitter, some biographies specifically about women in science: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Hedy's Folly, On a Farther Shore, Marie Curie: A Life, A Feeling for the Organism, Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man, and Radioactive.

Eleven great books about soccerJun 26 2014

There haven't been many good books written about soccer, but here are eleven of them worth your time. Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization looks especially interesting.

A groundbreaking work -- named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated -- How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world's most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.

Foer is one of the contributors, alongside authors Aleksandar Hemon and Karl Ove Knausgaard, to the New Republic's excellent World Cup coverage.

Mixed signals vs. noiseJun 19 2014

Over the course of his 3000 columns at The Motley Fool, Morgan Housel has learned a few things:

I've learned that short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, whether it's in business, politics, investing, or work.

I've learned that debt can cause more social problems than some drugs, yet drugs are illegal and debt is tax deductible.

I've learned that finance is actually very simple, but it's made to look complicated to justify fees.

Unfortunately, the list is undermined almost completely by the get-rich-quick advertising on the site, including this bit at the end of the article, which I can't even tell is an ad or just a promotion:

Opportunities to get wealthy from a single investment don't come around often, but they do exist, and our chief technology officer believes he's found one. In this free report, Jeremy Phillips shares the single company that he believes could transform not only your portfolio, but your entire life. To learn the identity of this stock for free and see why Jeremy is putting more than $100,000 of his own money into it, all you have to do is click here now.

Short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, click here now. Now!

20 outdoor survival tipsJun 17 2014

From Popular Mechanics, a list of survival tips covering a variety of outdoor situations, from watching a baseball game to cutting down trees to drinking too much water during exercise.

We all know that dehydration can be dangerous, leading to dizziness, seizures, and death, but drinking too much water can be just as bad. In 2002, 28-year-old runner Cynthia Lucero collapsed midway through the Boston Marathon. Rushed to a hospital, she fell into a coma and died. In the aftermath it emerged that she had drunk large amounts along the run. The excess liquid in her system induced a syndrome called exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), in which an imbalance in the body's sodium levels creates a dangerous swelling of the brain.

The best commencement speeches everMay 19 2014

From NPR, a searchable sortable archive of the best commencement speeches, from 1774 to the present. What a resource. Two of my favorites, by David Foster Wallace and Steve Jobs, are represented.

Each speech is tagged by "theme or take-home message", basically a taxonomy of commencement speech messaging. The most popular themes are:

12. Be kind
11. Yolo
10. Make art
9. Balance
8. Dream
7. Remember history
6. Embrace failure
5. Work hard
4. Don't give up
3. Inner voice
2. Tips
1. Change the world

Trite stuff perhaps, but delivered in the right way and by the right person, it makes people wanna run through walls. Let's go! (via @tcarmody)

Best longform journalism of 2013May 19 2014

Conor Friedersdorf has published his picks for the best journalism of 2013. This is always a great list. And you're smart enough not to pooh-pooh it just because everyone else's best of 2013 list came out in late November, right? Because the stuff on this list is evergreen? Good.

101 things to love about NYCMay 12 2014

101 Things NYC

From the NY Times Magazine in June 1976, a list of 101 things to love about New York City. Some of the list is evergreen:

1. Being nostalgic about things in New York that were never so great.
11. Hating Con Edison.
25. The best water-supply system in the nation.
42. The little red lighthouse still under the great gray bridge.

And other items on the list, not so much:

8. Dialing 873-0404.
24. A broken parking meter.
43. Page 1,029 of the Manhattan telephone directory under "Ng."
57. The personals in The Irish Echo.

Scouting New York has an explanation of some of the items on the list. Apparently 873-0404 was the number for the Dial-A-Satellite hotline; you could call it to get information about satellites passing overhead. (via @mkonnikova)

Worse than Jar JarMay 07 2014

In an item on Ain't It Cool News about the working title for Star Wars VII (The Ancient Fear!), a pair of comments list fourteen things about the Star Wars movies as bad as or worse than Jar Jar Binks:

1. Dance number added to Jedi
2. CGI Jabba added to A New Hope
3. Han/Greedo scene changed in A New Hope
4. Horrible acting in the prequels even by the good actors
5. Obi-Wan riding around on Yoshi in Revenge of the Sith
6. Anakin/Padme love story
7. Jake Lloyd
8. R2-D2 flying
9. Hayden's ghost added to end of Jedi
10. Rick McCallum
11. Midichlorians
12. Virgin birth of Anakin
13. Vader as C-3POs maker and R2's buddy
14. Han/Jabba scene added in ANH

Meesa agree with most of this list.

The ten best sentencesMay 06 2014

From the editors of The American Scholar, the ten best sentences. Presumably in all of literature? Here's one of them, from James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

Why are these the ten best sentences?

40 maps that explain the Middle EastMay 05 2014

Middle East Maps

From Max Fisher at Vox, 40 maps that explain the Middle East.

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East -- its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.

(via @jbenton)

A software canonApr 30 2014

Paul Ford set himself the task of picking five great works of software and he came up with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Pac-Man, Unix, and Emacs.

I propose a different kind of software canon: Not about specific moments in time, or about a specific product, but rather about works of technology that transcend the upgrade cycle, adapting to changing rhythms and new ideas, often over decades.

As with everything Paul writes, it's worth clicking through to read the rest.

The new Ten CommandmentsApr 20 2014

From God's Twitter account, a new set of ten commandments:

1 Laugh.
2 Read.
3 Say please.
4 Floss.
5 Doubt.
6 Exercise.
7 Learn.
8 Don't hate.
9 Cut the bullshit.
10 Chill.

Amen.

The top 100 animated moviesApr 17 2014

Time Out polled more than 100 experts to find the 100 best animated movies. Here's the top 10 (minus the top pick...you'll have to click through for that):

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
7. The Iron Giant
6. Dumbo
5. The Incredibles
4. Toy Story
3. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Spirited Away

I'm delighted to see Fantastic Mr Fox on the list...it's an underrated effort by Wes Anderson that will continue to grow in esteem as the years pass. No Wall-E in the top 10 though? I don't know about that. It clocks in at #36, behind Chicken Run (the least of Aardman's efforts in my mind) and Up, which is maybe my least favorite Pixar film. (via @garymross)

Five word usage tips from David Foster WallaceApr 10 2014

Farnam Street is featuring a handout given by the late David Foster Wallace to his fiction writing class in 2002. It's titled YOUR LIBERAL-ARTS $ AT WORK and covers five common usages gotchas.

2. And is a conjunction; so is so. Except in dialogue between particular kinds of characters, you never need both conjunctions. "He needed to eat, and so he bought food" is incorrect. In 95% of cases like this, what you want to do is cut the and.

Best typefaces of 2013Mar 12 2014

Best Of 2013 Type

From Typographica, a list of their favorite typefaces from 2013. As you'll see, good type design is happening all over the globe.

As evidence of that diversity, the 53 typefaces selected from 2013 were created by designers from at least 20 countries. [...] This new phase of globalization and democratization of the font market began in earnest about a decade ago, propelled by newly accessible digital tools, online commerce, and post-graduate education in type design. It is a sea change. For centuries, places like Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Lebanon, and New Zealand were vastly underrepresented in a type design community that was dominated by western Europe and North America. (And this only goes for Latin-based type. The burgeoning production of fonts in other scripts tells another fascinating story.) We will have much more detail about these changes in an upcoming report by Ruxandra Duru on the current state of typefounding around the world.

One that caught my eye is Clear Sans.

Ten World War I mythsJan 22 2014

Historian Dan Snow collects and debunks ten myths about World War I. Including:

7. Tactics on the Western Front remained unchanged despite repeated failure
Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback galloped across battlefields as men in cloth caps charged the enemy without the necessary covering fire. Both sides were overwhelmingly armed with rifles. Four years later, steel-helmeted combat teams dashed forward protected by a curtain of artillery shells.

They were now armed with flame throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes, that in 1914 would have appeared unimaginably sophisticated, duelled in the skies, some carrying experimental wireless radio sets, reporting real-time reconnaissance.

Huge artillery pieces fired with pinpoint accuracy - using only aerial photos and maths they could score a hit on the first shot. Tanks had gone from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, also changing war forever.

(via @daveg)

Famous punctuation marks in literatureJan 21 2014

Kathryn Schulz went looking for those rare moments in literature where "punctuation pops its head up over the prose" and found five noteworthy uses. For instance, a period at the end of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table (spoilers?):

"It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one."

And Nabokov's Lolita made the list, but I expected this bit:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

rather than:

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three..."

(via df)

80 maps that explain the worldJan 15 2014

From the Washington Post, an interesting collection of 80 maps (in two parts: one and two) that explain the world and how it works. One of my favorites is this map of actual European discoveries of land previously unknown by humans.

Actual Euro Discv

Antarctica is all stripey on that map and I realized I didn't know who had first clapped their peepers on the only continent discovered in the last millennia, so I did some reading on the subject. From the Holy Book of Wikipedia:

The first land south of the parallel 60° south latitude was discovered by the Englishman William Smith, who sighted Livingston Island on 19 February 1819. A few months later Smith returned to explore the other islands of the South Shetlands archipelago, landed on King George Island, and claimed the new territories for Britain.

In the meantime, the Spanish Navy ship San Telmo sank in September 1819 when trying to cross Cape Horn. Parts of her wreckage were found months later by sealers on the north coast of Livingston Island (South Shetlands). It is unknown if some survivor managed to be the first setting foot on these Antarctic islands.

The first confirmed sighting of mainland Antarctica cannot be accurately attributed to one single person. It can, however, be narrowed down to three individuals. According to various sources, three men all sighted the ice shelf or the continent within days or months of each other: von Bellingshausen, a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy; Edward Bransfield, a captain in the British navy; and Nathaniel Palmer, an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut. It is certain that the expedition, led by von Bellingshausen and Lazarev on the ships Vostok and Mirny, reached a point within 32 km (20 mi) from Princess Martha Coast and recorded the sight of an ice shelf at 69°21′28″S 2°14′50″W that became known as the Fimbul ice shelf. On 30 January 1820, Bransfield sighted Trinity Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Antarctic mainland, while Palmer sighted the mainland in the area south of Trinity Peninsula in November 1820. Von Bellingshausen's expedition also discovered Peter I Island and Alexander I Island, the first islands to be discovered south of the circle.

(via @daveg)

Bret Victor's 2013 reading listJan 09 2014

From Bret Victor, a reading list of meaty material from the past year. His Reading Tip #1 in the sidebar is how I'd like my ideal self to read:

It's tempting to judge what you read:

I agree with these statements, and I disagree with those.

However, a great thinker who has spent decades on an unusual line of thought cannot induce their context into your head in a few pages. It's almost certainly the case that you don't fully understand their statements.

Instead, you can say:

I have now learned that there exists a worldview in which all of these statements are consistent.

And if it feels worthwhile, you can make a genuine effort to understand that entire worldview. You don't have to adopt it. Just make it available to yourself, so you can make connections to it when it's needed.

Fantastic tip.

The best Quora answers of 2013Dec 31 2013

Quora user Murali Krishnan sifted through Q&A site Quora for the best answers and found 270 of them. Among the topics covered are technology, gender, the meaning of life, mathematics, travel, and looks like almost everything else, including some fascinating examples of ancient technology. Looks like one of my favorites didn't make the cut: Domhnall O'Huigin's answer to What is the political situation in the Mario universe?

Gift guides for millionairesDec 16 2013

For the Oobject gift guide this year, "almost nothing is affordable". Items include a bank vault door from the 1920s ($50,000), JFK's chess set ($475,000), and a console for the Hubble Space Telescope ($75,000).

Hubble Console

It's more a nerd wish list than gift guide, the opposite of Tyler Brûlé's effort, penned from the empty upper deck (first class, naturally) of a flight to Singapore. Brûlé's earnest advice for your holiday shopping? Build a house in Australia for next year's holidaymaking:

With a bit of planning and a good construction team you could surprise friends and family by commissioning Brisbane-based architects Richards & Spence to build you a little beachside compound somewhere in Queensland. This year you could roll up a set of plans to place under the tree with a promise that this time next year you'll all be wandering around in kaftans and low-slung trunks drinking fancy, fruity cocktails.

Sounds brill.

A History of the Future in 100 ObjectsDec 09 2013

Inspired by the A History of the World in 100 Objects project done by the BBC and the British Museum, Adrian Hon presents A History of the Future in 100 Objects, presented from the perspective of someone writing in 2082. From the introduction:

Every century is extraordinary, of course. Some may be the bloodiest or the darkest; others encompass momentous social revolutions, or scientific advances, or religious and philosophical movements. The 21st century is different: it represents the first time in our history that we have truly had to question what it means to be human. It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book.

I tell the story of how we became more connected than ever before, with objects like Babel, Silent Messaging, the Nautilus-3, and the Brain Bubble - and how we became fragmented, both physically and culturally, with the Fourth Great Awakening, and the Biomes.

With the Braid Collective, the Loop, the Steward Medal, and the Rechartered Cities, we made tremendous steps forward on our long pursuit of greater equality and enlightenment -- but the Locked Simulation Interrogations, the Sudan-Shanghai Letter, the Collingwood Meteor, and the Downvoted all showed how easy it was for us to lapse back into horror and atrocity.

We automated our economy with the UCS Deliverbots, the Mimic Scripts, the Negotiation Agents, and the Old Drones, destroying the entire notion of work and employment in the process; and we transformed our politics with Jorge Alvarez's Presidential Campaign, and the Constitutional Blueprints.

The book is available on the Kindle.

Godard's list of best American filmsDec 09 2013

In the early 1960s, French director Jean-Luc Godard put together a list of the Ten Best American Sound Films. The list included:

The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Singin' in the Rain (Kelly-Donen)
The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles)

The list appeared as one of a series in Cahiers du Cinema, the influential French film magazine. (via @DavidGrann)

Top 25 album covers of 2013Dec 06 2013

From Pitchfork, a list of the best album covers from 2013. My favorite is this one from Tyler, The Creator, which looks more or less like the opposite of a rap album.

Tyler The Creator Album

I also liked Michael Cina's cover for Fort Romeau (which he adapted from his very fetching art) and of course Yeezus, which is this year's unignorable album in every way. (via @pieratt)

Jay Z's albums ranked by Jay ZDec 05 2013

In celebration of his 44th birthday, Jay Z ranked his solo albums:

Jay Z Ranked

Here's the annotated list:

1. Reasonable Doubt (Classic)
2. The Blueprint (Classic)
3. The Black Album (Classic)
4. Vol. 2 (Classic)
5. American Gangster (4 1/2, cohesive)
6. Magna Carta (Fuckwit, Tom Ford, Oceans, Beach, On the Run, Grail)
7. Vol. 1 (Sunshine kills this album... fuck... Streets, Where I'm from, You Must Love Me...)
8. BP3 (Sorry critics, it's good. Empire (Gave Frank a run for his money))
9. Dynasty (Intro alone...)
10. Vol. 3 (Pimp C verse alone... oh, So Ghetto)
11. BP2 (Too many songs. Fucking Guru and Hip Hop, ha)
12. Kingdom Come (First game back, don't shoot me)

(via @anildash)

List from 1898 of the 100 best novelsNov 12 2013

In 1898, an editor named Clement K. Shorter made a list of the 100 best novels (with an additional limit of one/author).

1. Don Quixote - 1604 - Miguel de Cervantes
2. The Holy War - 1682 - John Bunyan
3. Gil Blas - 1715 - Alain René le Sage
4. Robinson Crusoe - 1719 - Daniel Defoe
5. Gulliver's Travels - 1726 - Jonathan Swift
6. Roderick Random - 1748 - Tobias Smollett
7. Clarissa - 1749 - Samuel Richardson
8. Tom Jones - 1749 - Henry Fielding
9. Candide - 1756 - Françoise de Voltaire
10. Rasselas - 1759 - Samuel Johnson

So much on there I've never even heard of. Compare this list with that of the best novels of the 20th century...how many of those novels and authors will readers be scratching their heads over in 2113? See also a contemporary list of the best books from before 1900. (via mr)

101 objects that made AmericaOct 31 2013

This month, Smithsonian magazine tells the story of America using 101 objects drawn from the 19 musuems and research centers of the Smithsonian Institution. Among the objects are the original Star Spangled Banner flag, the passenger pigeon, the polio vaccine, the pill, and Benjamin Franklin's Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

Franklins Experiments

A companion book, The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects, is available.

50 greatest innovations since the wheelOct 28 2013

The Atlantic asked a group of historians, scientists, and engineers to rank the 50 greatest innovations since the invention of the wheel. Here they are.

21. Nuclear fission, 1939
Gave humans new power for destruction, and creation

22. The green revolution, mid-20th century
Combining technologies like synthetic fertilizers (No. 11) and scientific plant breeding (No. 38) hugely increased the world's food output. Norman Borlaug, the agricultural economist who devised this approach, has been credited with saving more than 1 billion people from starvation.

23. The sextant, 1757
It made maps out of stars.

Kareem's advice for boysOct 23 2013

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written a list of 20 things boys can do to become men.

6. Fight your fear of the unknown.

We all have a tendency to hate what we don't understand, whether it comes in the form of different food, different cultures, or different ideas. There was a Yale study in which researchers examined the brains of people as they were presented with proof that an opinion they held was wrong. MRIs showed that when those people immediately rejected the new evidence, their brains released an addictive chemical that made them feel good. In that way our own bodies are actually encouraging our ignorance and fear. Fight that impulse. Becoming a man means growing, learning, and understanding-not cowering under a blanket with a handful of comforting notions.

(By the way, don't confuse physical bravery with intellectual bravery. It's easier to jump out of a plane-hopefully with a parachute-than it is to change your mind about an opinion. Acts of physical bravado will give you an initial rush, but exploring a new culture or examining a new idea will mature you and make you the kind of person others will be interested in.)

How to be a manOct 09 2013

This list of rules for the contemporary American male is both awesome and awful, seemingly written by a douchebag Dalai Lama. Some of the rules are thoughtful:

Measure yourself only against your previous self.
Staying angry is a waste of energy.
If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.

And some are not:

Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don't mind that she's eating yours.
Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.
Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.

The top 100 things you don't need to do before you dieOct 07 2013

The internet these days is chock full of must-reads, must-sees, can't-live-withouts, and lists (oh, the lists!) of things you need to do before you die.

As I understand it, we are now all legally obliged to watch Breaking Bad by the end of 2013. Our prisons are already full to bursting with people who failed to watch The West Wing or The Wire when they were expressly told to. I even saw a woman prosecuted last week for not having read Gone Girl. What was she thinking?

Richard Osman offers a way out of the must-see mess so that you can enjoy life again.

Of 100 Greatest Novels, you can happily ignore all of them except Scoop and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I am assuming you've already read To Kill a Mockingbird for O-level. Read Shakespeare if you want to, but you don't have to. (Though if you don't ever read him, you're not allowed to say he's rubbish. Deal?) You should probably read Great Expectations, but feel free to leave Dickens there. And I think Wuthering Heights is the only Emily Brontë novel worth reading (someone will rise to this, just you wait and see).

20 smart business notions from Jeff BezosSep 23 2013

The Motley Fool collected 20 snippets of business wisdom uttered by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over the years.

All businesses need to be young forever. If your customer base ages with you, you're Woolworth's.

Totes agree with this, which is why I use words like "totes". (Obvs.)

The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff DoneSep 10 2013

This is a presentation and therefore missing a bunch of key context, but Michael Dearing's The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done is interesting reading nonetheless. The five distortions are:

1. Personal exceptionalism
2. Dichotomous thinking
3. Correct overgeneralization
4. Blank canvas thinking
5. Schumpeterianism

That last one is likely a head-scratcher to those of us without economics backgrounds; here's what Dearing has to say about it:

Definition - sees creative destruction as natural, necessary, and as their vocation

Benefits - fearlessness, tolerance for destruction and pain

Deadly risk - heartless ambition, alienation

(via ★interesting)

Best special effects momentsAug 22 2013

Empire asked a group of visual effects specialists about their favorite special effect movie moments...here's what they had to say. Tim Webber (The Dark Knight, Gravity, Children of Men) picked the warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

I love Davy Jones in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the T-1000 walking out of the flames in Terminator 2, but my pick is the warehouse scene at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. It's just a simple matte painting, not a very complicated visual effects shot, but it was done brilliantly. A lot of the visual effects from that period look terrible now -- there are lines around things or you can see the joins on matte paintings, but that one was immaculate. I was pretty young when I watched it, but I was so impressed by the way it slowly revealed the size of the place. It's not your big, crash-bang-wallop modern visual effects shot but it has real dramatic effect.

The surprising ages of the Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776Aug 13 2013

For the Journal of the American Revolution, Todd Andrlik compiled a list of the ages of the key participants in the Revolutionary War as of July 4, 1776. Many of them were surprisingly young:

Marquis de Lafayette, 18
James Monroe, 18
Gilbert Stuart, 20
Aaron Burr, 20
Alexander Hamilton, 21
Betsy Ross, 24
James Madison, 25

This is kind of blowing my mind...because of the compression of history, I'd always assumed all these people were around the same age. But in thinking about it, all startups need young people...Hamilton, Lafayette, and Burr were perhaps the Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg of the War. Some more ages, just for reference:

Thomas Jefferson, 33
John Adams, 40
Paul Revere, 41
George Washington, 44
Samuel Adams, 53

The oldest prominent participant in the Revolution, by a wide margin, was Benjamin Franklin, who was 70 years old on July 4, 1776. Franklin was a full two generations removed from the likes of Madison and Hamilton. But the oldest participant in the war was Samuel Whittemore, who fought in an early skirmish at the age of 80. I'll let Wikipedia take it from here:

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed a grenadier and mortally wounded a second. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found alive, trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 98.

!!!

List of Stanley Kubrick's favorite moviesJul 30 2013

Compiled from a bunch of different sources, here's an attempt at an exhaustive list of movies that Stanley Kubrick liked. Among them:

Citizen Kane
The Godfather
Metropolis
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Harold and Maude
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

By far the weirdest entry on the list is White Men Can't Jump. Then again, Terrence Malick loves Zoolander and David Foster Wallace once listed a Tom Clancy novel as a favorite. (via @DavidGrann)

This American Life newbies: where to start?Jul 12 2013

The 500th episode of This American Life airs this weekend, and to celebrate, David Haglund picked 10 episodes you should listen to if you've never heard the show before.

Intellectual jokesJul 01 2013

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution picks up on a Reddit thread that asks "What's the most intellectual joke you know?" I've always been fond of this one:

Q: What does the "B" in Benoit B. Mandelbrot stand for?
A: Benoit B. Mandelbrot.

And this one:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Phillip Glass

Two of the current favorites in the Reddit thread are:

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?"

And:

It's hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

The Dunham CollectionJun 26 2013

Lena Dunham shares her fifteen favorite Criterion films, saying she's embarrassed that "so many of these films are in English, but I just love speaking English".

Video art you can watch onlineJun 25 2013

Flavorwire has collected 50 notable works of video art that are available to watch online for free, mostly on YouTube and Vimeo. Here's a piece from Chris Burden where he has a friend shoot him in the arm with a .22 rifle.

Other artists represented are Christian Marclay, Cory Arcangel, Marina Abramovic, and Andy Warhol.

The worst charities in AmericaJun 14 2013

The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting spent a year investigating bad charities and this is what they found.

The worst charity in America operates from a metal warehouse behind a gas station in Holiday.

Every year, Kids Wish Network raises millions of dollars in donations in the name of dying children and their families.

Every year, it spends less than 3 cents on the dollar helping kids.

Most of the rest gets diverted to enrich the charity's operators and the for-profit companies Kids Wish hires to drum up donations.

In the past decade alone, Kids Wish has channeled nearly $110 million donated for sick children to its corporate solicitors. An additional $4.8 million has gone to pay the charity's founder and his own consulting firms.

No charity in the nation has siphoned more money away from the needy over a longer period of time.

But Kids Wish is not an isolated case, a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Using state and federal records, the Times and CIR identified nearly 6,000 charities that have chosen to pay for-profit companies to raise their donations.

Then reporters took an unprecedented look back to zero in on the 50 worst -- based on the money they diverted to boiler room operators and other solicitors over a decade.

These nonprofits adopt popular causes or mimic well-known charity names that fool donors. Then they rake in cash, year after year.

The nation's 50 worst charities have paid their solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years that could have gone to charitable works.

Despicable. And a reminder that before you give, you should check on a site like Charity Navigator or GiveWell for organizations where a sizable portion of your contribution is going to the actual cause. For instance, the aforementioned Kids Wish charity currently has a "donor advisory" notice on their Charity Navigator page. (via @ptak)

Seven myths about cooking steakJun 12 2013

For the Food Lab, Kenji Lopez-Alt debunks some old wives' tales related to cooking steak.

Myth #2: "Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices."

The Theory: Searing the surface of a cut piece of meat will precipitate the formation of an impenetrable barrier, allowing your meat to retain more juices as it cooks.

The Reality: Searing produces no such barrier-liquid can still pass freely in and out of the surface of a seared steak. To prove this, I cooked two steaks to the exact same internal temperature (130^0F). One steak I seared first over hot coals and finished over the cooler side of the grill. The second steak I started on the cooler side, let it come to about ten degrees below its final target temperature, then finished it by giving it a sear over the hot side of a grill. If there is any truth to the searing story, then the steak that was seared first should retain more moisture.

What I found is actually the exact opposite: the steak that is cooked gently first and finished with a sear will not only develop a deeper, darker crust (due to slightly drier outer layers-see Myth #1), but it also cooks more evenly from center to edge, thus limiting the amount of overcooked meat and producing a finished product that is juicier and more flavorful.

If you're serious about home-cooked steak, the "Further Reading" section at the bottom of this piece is your new best friend.

Tools for thinkingJun 11 2013

An excerpt from Daniel Dennett's new book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, outlines seven of Dennett's tools for thinking. His second tool is "respect your opponent":

The best antidote I know for this tendency to caricature one's opponent is a list of rules promulgated many years ago by social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport.

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

1. Attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way."

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

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?

A list of common misconceptionsMay 23 2013

Hey there. You didn't have stuff to do today, right? Because this list of common misconceptions on Wikipedia will keep you busy for perhaps the rest of your life.

There is a legend that Marco Polo imported pasta from China which originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States. Marco Polo describes a food similar to "lagana" in his Travels, but he uses a term with which he was already familiar. Durum wheat, and thus pasta as it is known today, was introduced by Arabs from Libya, during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century, according to the newsletter of the National Macaroni Manufacturers Association, thus predating Marco Polo's travels to China by about six centuries.

The notion that goldfish have a memory span of just a few seconds is false. It is much longer, counted in months.

(via @jakedobkin)

Restaurant rankings vs. ratingsMay 22 2013

Interesting piece about how the shift in influence from the Michelin Guide to the World's 50 Best Restaurants list has changed the approach of elite restaurants.

Just look at Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant that has over the past few years steadily risen the ranks of the World's 50 Best list (it's currently ranked No. 5). As recently as four years ago, it was just an expertly run restaurant, specializing in luxe ingredients, disarmingly warm service, and lovely meals. It got as many stars as it could from every venue that gave them out, but as a New Yorker story last September made clear, to get a high ranking on the World's 50 Best list, the restaurant had to do something different, so they moved from a standard menu to a "grid" menu in 2010 that was designed to offer diners a greater sense of control over their meals. It ranked 50th on the 2010 list, 24th on the 2011 list, and 10th when the 2012 list was announced in April of that year. In July 2012, the restaurant announced they'd be switching formats yet again, this time to a single tasting menu focused on New York terroir. (Some theatrical service elements that accompanied the meal -- long explanations of dish inspiration, for example -- got a negative reaction and have been more or less excised.) Did any of these changes make the restaurant "better"? Having eaten there a number of times over the years, this author would say that it's not really any better or worse -- it was and still is operating at the highest possible level a restaurant can. But it doesn't matter if the changes made the restaurant better: Every time the restaurant switched up its format, it got plenty of accompanying media coverage that let judges know they needed to return to see what was going on.

(via @Gachatz)

Better state birdsMay 21 2013

Surprisingly entertaining article about better choices for the state birds of each of the 50 US states.

4. Arkansas. Official state bird: northern mockingbird

Christ. What makes this even less funny is that there are like eight other states with mockingbird as their official bird. I'm convinced that the guy whose job it was to report to the state's legislature on what the official bird should be forgot until the day it was due and he was in line for a breakfast sandwich at Burger King. In a panic he walked outside and selected the first bird he could find, a dirty mockingbird singing its stupid head off on top of a dumpster.

What it should be: painted bunting

More hilarious science journalism, please. Yes, in addition to the excellent What If? (via @jessamyn)

List of NYC's outdoor summer moviesMay 15 2013

There are a lot of outdoor movies showing in NYC this summer: here's a listing of the whats, wheres, and whens. Movies include The Goonies, Jaws, Duck Soup, Moonrise Kingdom, Grease, and Blade Runner.

Extreme settlementsMay 03 2013

A list of the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost and westernmost cities/towns/villages in all 50 US states.

Vermont -- Northernmost: Derby Line. Southernmost: Vernon (specifically South Vernon area). Easternmost: Beecher Falls. Westernmost: Chimney Point.

California -- Northernmost: Tulelake (note: Fairport is more northerly but is considered a "former settlement") Southernmost: San Diego (San Ysidro District). Easternmost: Parker Dam. Westernmost: Ferndale.

New York -- Northernmost: Rouses Point. Southernmost: Staten Island-New York City (Tottenville Neighborhood) Easternmost: Montauk. Westernmost: Findley Lake.

(via @jessamyn)

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.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 20 things I wish I'd knownMay 03 2013

Basketball Hall of Famer and "secret nerd" Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shares a list of 20 things he wish he'd know when he was 30 years old.

18. Watch more TV. Yeah, you heard right, Little Kareem. It's great that you always have your nose in history books. That's made you more knowledgeable about your past and it has put the present in context. But pop culture is history in the making and watching some of the popular shows of each era reveals a lot about the average person, while history books often dwell on the powerful people.

Yesteryear's newspapers of tomorrowApr 26 2013

From Paleofuture, a review of past predictions of what newspapers might look like in the future.

In the 1920s it was radio that was supposed to kill the newspaper. Then it was TV news. Then it was the Internet. The newspaper has evolved and adapted (remember when TV news killed the evening edition newspaper?) and will continue to evolve for many decades to come.

Visions of what newspapers might look like in the future have been varied throughout the 20th century. Sometimes they've taken the form of a piece of paper that you print at home, delivered via satellite or radio waves. Other times it's a multimedia product that lives on your tablet or TV. Today we're taking a look at just a few of the newspapers from the futures that never were.

My favorite is this radio that prints newspapers:

Newspaper Radio

(via @H_FJ)

A list of horrible business ideasApr 17 2013

Here's a list of business ideas that seemed outlandish, ridiculous, and even downright stupid. See if you can match some of them to the billion dollar businesses they became before you click through.

Airlines are cool. Let's start one. How hard could it be? We'll differentiate with a funny safety video and by not being a**holes.

It will be ugly. It will be free. Except for the hookers.

We are building the world's 20th search engine at a time when most of the others have been abandoned as being commoditized money losers.

Give us all of your bank, brokerage, and credit card information. We'll give it back to you with nice fonts. To make you feel richer, we'll make them green.

It is like email, SMS, or RSS. Except it does a lot less.

The world needs yet another Myspace or Friendster except several years late. We'll only open it up to a few thousand overworked, anti-social, Ivy Leaguers. Everyone else will then join since Harvard students are so cool.

On the 40th anniversary of the first cellphone callApr 03 2013

Motorola Microtac

I still remember the first time I saw a guy at a restaurant talking on one of those prehistorically massive cellphones. My dad leaned over and said, "Look at that poor guy. Never let that happen to you. Never take a job that's so all-consuming that you have to carry a phone around, even during lunch." A lot has changed since then (although I still often see a lot of validity in my dad's initial response to these devices) and in the forty years since Motorola engineer Martin Cooper made the first cellphone call. Wired takes a look back at the twelve cellphones that changed our world forever.

The 25 least visited countries in the worldMar 28 2013

A somewhat surprising list of the least visited countries in the world in that North Korea is not even in the top 15. Somalia, with 500 annual tourists, is #2:

Why so few?
War, lack of a government for many years, violent muslim extremists, sharia law. The reputation of Somalia is extremelly close to rock bottom.

Why you may still want to visit
The government has started to function again. Mogadishu is now relatively safe and businesses are thriving. Turkish Airlines has even opened a direct twice weekly route from Istanbul.

What else
Go to the beach just outside Mogadishu or visit the Bakaara market where you can even buy your own semi-genuine Somalian passport. You may not want to use it anywhere, though. Your travel experience doesn't extend beyond the Bahamas, Paris or Gran Canaria, you say? First of all; Why are you reading this blog post? Secondly, do not go to Somalia!

The author of the list, Gunnar Garfors, has visited 196 of the 198 countries in the world; he's hitting the last two in the next few months: Kiribati and Cape Verde. (via @DavidGrann)

Typographica's favorite typefaces of 2012Mar 22 2013

Stephen Coles of Typographica says that 2012 was "a strong year" for new typefaces. He asked dozens of designers and font makers to nominate their favorite 2012 typefaces and here's what they had to say.

The independent foundry has also cemented its place as the new foundation of the industry. Most of this year's selections are from very small shops, several of which are entirely new to the market. It's also significant that, in addition to offering their fonts through retailers like FontShop, MyFonts, and the newly revived Fonts.com, most of these indie foundries now sell directly to customers through their own sites. In some cases they have eschewed outside distribution altogether. The "majors" have not simply laid down, however. Monotype, Linotype, Font Bureau, FontFont, and H&FJ are all represented in this year's list, each with releases that are remarkably characteristic of their respective brands.

(via df)

Reading all the popular booksMar 06 2013

Matt Kahn is reading every bestselling novel from each of the past 100 years.

For this blog I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.

A few things. The Silmarillion?! Was the top selling book in 1977? John Grisham appears on the list 11 different times; the guy is a machine. And it's interesting to see when popularity and critical acclaim part ways, when the Roths, le Carrés, and E.L. Doctorows give way to the Clancys, Grishams, and Dan Browns.

Unreleased celebrity perfumesFeb 18 2013

From Sarah Marshall, a list of celebrity fragrances that didn't quite make it to market.

Goldbloom by Jeff Goldblum: This fragrance, meant to be drizzled down the wearer's forearm (preferably while in a moving car) is redolent of warm eyeglasses, tanning oil, and Velociraptor musk. Perfect for work or leisure.

Wintour Harvest by Anna Wintour: Peppery, balsamic, indecisive, and fresh. Notes of warm blood and Galliano Sequin enliven this fragrance designed for the gal on the go.

Grand Central Terminal is 100 years oldFeb 01 2013

To celebrate Grand Central's 100th birthday, The Daily Beast has 100 facts about the NYC landmark.

1. Grand Central Terminal opened its doors at midnight on February 2, 1913.

9. To commemorate the centennial on Friday, shops and eateries will price their goods as if it were 1913. [Ed note: I doubt this applies to the Apple Store.]

39. A secret trap door in the kiosk below the clock leads to a spiral staircase down to the lower level info booth.

50. M42 connects to a secret underground platform at the Waldorf Astoria.

93. In 1978's Superman, Lex Luther's lair is located under the terminal.

Update: Another fact: Grand Central's clocks are purposefully off by a minute.

The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they're about to miss can actually be dangerous -- to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains' posted departure times. That minute of extra time won't be enough to disconcert passengers too much when they compare it to their own watches or smartphones ... but it is enough, the thinking goes, to buy late-running train-catchers just that liiiiiitle bit of extra time that will make them calm down a bit. Fast clocks make for slower passengers.

Top five truths you won't hear any US official admitJan 30 2013

Stephen Walt on what truths US foreign policy officials will never admit in public.

#2: "We don't actually care that much about human rights." Presidents, diplomats, and other politicians talk about human rights all the time, and both Congress and the Executive Branch often bully small countries over their human rights performance, especially when we have other differences with them). But when human rights concerns conflict with other interests, our ethical concerns take a back seat nearly every time. Most Americans didn't care when the U.S.-led sanctions program against Iraq caused the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqis (many of them children), and none of the senior officials who authorized torture during the Bush administration has faced indictment or even serious investigation (Just imagine how much we'd be howling if we suspected some foreign government had been waterboarding captive Americans!). The United States has plenty of allies whose human rights performance ranges from questionable to awful, and we continue to trade and invest in China despite its own lax human rights standards. I'm not suggesting that the U.S. government is totally indifferent to such concerns, of course; what I'm saying is that we are rarely willing to do very much or pay significant costs in order to advance human rights, unless our strategic interests run parallel. Like most countries, in short, we talk a better game on human rights than we actually deliver. But you're not going to hear many American politicians admit it.

(via digg)

The 20 most influential beers of all timeJan 18 2013

Martyn Cornell took issue with First We Feast's list of the 20 most influential beers of all time and came up with his own list.

I mean, Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye is more influential in the history of beer than Bass Pale Ale or Barclay Perkins porter? Don't make me weep. Allagash White trumps Hoegaarden and Schneider Weisse? (You may not like Hoegaarden or Schneider Weisse, but I hope you won't try to deny their influence.) Gueuze, Saison and Kolsch are such important styles they deserve a representative each in a "most influential beers of all time" list, while IPA and porter are left out? I don't think so. And the same goes for Schneider Aventinus: where are the hordes of Weissebockalikes? Sam Adams Utopias has influenced who, exactly? "Generic lager"? I see where you're coming from, in that much of what has happened over the past 40 years in the beer world is a reaction against generic lager, but still ... And I love London Pride, but it's not even the third most influential beer that Fuller's brews.

I like arguments about beer way more than drinking beer.

100 greatest sports photosJan 02 2013

From Sports Illustrated, their picks for the 100 greatest photos of sports.

Ali Liston

Rodman rebounds

Designers pick their favorite book covers of 2012Dec 28 2012

The NY Times asked a bunch of designers for their favorite book cover designs of 2012. Lots of nice work here.

The 100 best lists of all timeDec 27 2012

The New Yorker, with shots across the bows of The Awl and Buzzfeed, offers up a list of the 100 best lists of all time. A sampling:

94. Benjamin Franklin’s “Thirteen Virtues”

90. McDonald’s Big Mac-ingredients commercial

80. Dr. James Naismith’s original 13 Rules of Basket Ball

61. Fortune 500

41. The Dewey Decimal System

19. The Fibonacci Sequence

6. Martin Luther’s "95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences"

1. The Periodic Table of Elements

Gun trends explain US gun cultureDec 18 2012

Emily Badger highlights some trends in gun ownership, gun violence, and public opinion related to gun control over the past several decades.

A handful of charts paint a remarkable picture of some key shifts over the past 30 or 40 years. During that time, gun violence nationally has declined significantly even as aberrant mass shootings have grown less so; public sentiment for regulating the weapons has fallen steeply, too. Mother Jones has estimated that we're approaching a demographic reality where our population of firearms will outpace our population of people. But hard data on the total number of civilian-owned guns in America is hard to come by, and so much of what we know on the topic is based upon what gun owners themselves say in surveys.

Ten pro-gun arguments and why they are wrongDec 17 2012

Paul Waldman from The American Prospect outlines ten arguments that gun advocates typically make and why they are wrong.

6. The Constitution says I have a right to own guns.
Yes it does, but for some reason gun advocates think that the right to bear arms is the only constitutional right that is virtually without limit. You have the right to practice your religion, but not if your religion involves human sacrifice. You have the right to free speech, but you can still be prosecuted for incitement or conspiracy, and you can be sued for libel. Every right is subject to limitation when it begins to threaten others, and the Supreme Court has affirmed that even though there is an individual right to gun ownership, the government can put reasonable restrictions on that right.

And we all know that if this shooter turns out to have a Muslim name, plenty of Americans, including plenty of gun owners, will be more than happy to give up all kinds of rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Have the government read my email? Have my cell phone company turn over my call records? Check which books I'm taking out of the library? Make me take my shoes off before getting on a plane, just because some idiot tried to blow up his sneakers? Sure, do what you've got to do. But don't make it harder to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, because if we couldn't do that we'd no longer be free.

The best reporting on guns in AmericaDec 14 2012

From Pro Publica back in July, the best reporting on guns in America.

In the wake of last week's shooting in Aurora, Colo., we've taken a step back and laid out the best pieces we could find about guns. They're roughly organized by articles on rights, trafficking and regulation.

Facts about guns and mass shootings in the USDec 14 2012

More facts about guns in America from Ezra Klein, beginning with the sad fact that "shooting sprees are not rare in the United States".

If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation's security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.

Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. But that's unacceptable. As others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn't "too soon." It's much too late.

The 50 greatest hip-hop songsDec 07 2012

Rolling Stone asked a panel of experts (Busta Rhymes, Questlove, Rick Rubin, etc.) to vote on the best hip-songs ever produced. Here's the list of their top 50 picks. Dre and Snoop's Nuthin' But a "G" Thang comes in at #6.

Climbing to Number Two on the singles chart in early 1993, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" made Dr. Dre the undisputed flag bearer of West Coast rap, while also ushering that genre into the pop mainstream. The song's secret weapon was a relatively unknown pup named Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose verses are packed with effortless quotables. The song also introduced Dre's masterful "G-Funk" style of production, which updated George Clinton's legacy with slow, rubbery funk and layered synth hooks. "We made records during the crack era, where everything was hyped up, sped up and zoned out," Chuck D explained. "Dre came with ' "G" Thang' and slowed the whole genre down. He took hip-hop from the crack era to the weed era."

Listen to the entire list on Spotify. (via @gavinpurcell)

NY Times' list of 100 notable books of 2012Nov 28 2012

And so it begins, the end of the year lists. Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to, um, ... I've got nothing here. You either love them or hate them. Anyway, the NY Times' list of the 100 notable books of the year is predictably solid and Timesish.

BRING UP THE BODIES. By Hilary Mantel. (Macrae/Holt, $28.) Mantel's sequel to "Wolf Hall" traces the fall of Anne Boleyn, and makes the familiar story fascinating and suspenseful again.

BUILDING STORIES. By Chris Ware. (Pantheon, $50.) A big, sturdy box containing hard-bound volumes, pamphlets and a tabloid houses Ware's demanding, melancholy and magnificent graphic novel about the inhabitants of a Chicago building.

I absolutely demolished Bring Up the Bodies over Thanksgiving break and loved it. I haven't had a chance to sit down with Building Stories yet, but that massive and gorgeous collection is a steal at $28 from Amazon. And as far as lists go, another early favorite is Tyler Cowen's list of his favorite non-fiction books of the year. Cowen is a demanding reader and I always find something worth reading there. (via @DavidGrann)

Kurt Cobain's favorite albumsNov 14 2012

From Kurt Cobain's journals, a handwritten list of the late Nirvana frontman's 50 favorite albums, including those from Sonic Youth (duh), Pixies (double duh), and Mazzy Star.

Cobain Top 50

The worst passwords of 2012Oct 26 2012

I cannot believe these are some of the passwords people actually use:

1. password
2, 123456
3. 12345678
4. abc123
5. qwerty
6. monkey
7. letmein
8. dragon
9. 111111
10. baseball
11. iloveyou
12. trustno1

I feel more secure than ever with my "password2" password.

99 life hacks to make your life easierOct 18 2012

I've never seen so much household organizational porn collected in one place before. Tumblr should get a Nobel Peace Prize for propagating such useful information so far and wide. A couple of examples:

Popcorn Hack

Toast Hack

(via hacker news)

25 richest people of all timeOct 17 2012

From a site called Celebrity Net Worth (I know, blech), a list of the 25 richest people of all time, adjusted for inflation. Gates, Buffett, and Rockefeller all make the list but the big cheese is Malian emperor Mansa Musa I, with a net worth of $400 billion in today's dollars.

Mansa Musa I of Mali is the richest human being in history with a personal net worth of $400 billion! Mansa Musa lived from 1280 - 1337 and ruled the Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali in West Africa. Mansa Musa's shocking wealth came from his country's vast production of more than half the world's supply of salt and gold.

(via @DavidGrann)

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)

Unexplained soundsOct 15 2012

Bloop Mystery Noise

Every once in awhile, something somewhere will make a sound and no one really knows where it came from. Among the unexplained sounds listed on Wikipedia are mistpouffers, The Bloop, The Hum, and Julia.

The NOAA's Dr. Christopher Fox does not believe its origin is man-made, such as a submarine or bomb, or familiar geological events such as volcanoes or earthquakes. While the audio profile of the Bloop does resemble that of a living creature, the source is a mystery both because it is different from known sounds and because it was several times louder than the loudest recorded animal, the blue whale.

Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik...prints & more are available.

The 50 best films of the 1990sOct 11 2012

The AV Club has compiled a list of the 50 best films of the 1990s, which decade, when you look at this list, is starting to feel like a bit of a film golden age compared to now. Here's part one, part two, and part three.

Few talk about the '90s as a filmmaking renaissance on par with the late '60s and early '70s, but for many of the film critics at The A.V. Club, it was the decade when we were coming of age as cinephiles and writers, and we remember it with considerable affection. Those '70s warhorses like Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman posted some of the strongest work of their careers, and an exciting new generation of filmmakers -- Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen, Wong Kar-Wai, Olivier Assayas, David Fincher, and Wes Anderson among them -- were staking out territory of their own.

I've seen 35 of the 50 films and some of my favorites are Election, Eyes Wide Shut, Fargo, Groundhog Day, Boogie Nights, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore, Reservoir Dogs, Dazed and Confused, and Pulp Fiction. Some films I'm surprised didn't make the list: Iron Giant, Three Kings, Babe: Pig in the City, and The Insider.

Filmmakers and the typefaces they loveSep 14 2012

Flavorwire has a quick look at some noted directors (Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Fincher) and the typefaces that they often used. (via @curiousoctopus)

The scale of startup ambitionSep 13 2012

Over at Hacker News, npguy asked Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham about "the most frighteningly ambitious idea" he'd ever been pitched. Graham declined to answer, citing confidentiality, but Eliezer Yudkowsky responded with what another commenter called the Yudkowsky Ambition scale:

1) We're going to build the next Facebook!

2) We're going to found the next Apple!

3) Our product will create sweeping political change! This will produce a major economic revolution in at least one country! (Seasteading would be change on this level if it worked; creating a new country successfully is around the same level of change as this.)

4) Our product is the next nuclear weapon. You wouldn't want that in the wrong hands, would you?

5) This is going to be the equivalent of the invention of electricity if it works out.

6) We're going to make an IQ-enhancing drug and produce basic change in the human condition.

7) We're going to build serious Drexler-class molecular nanotechnology.

8) We're going to upload a human brain into a computer.

9) We're going to build a recursively self-improving Artificial Intelligence.

10) We think we've figured out how to hack into the computer our universe is running on.

An epic tour of American sandwichesSep 04 2012

Serious Eats put together an extensive guide to the regional sandwich cuisine of the US that covers everything from the universally available sloppy joe and grilled cheese to the spiedie, the hot brown, and the dutch crunch.

An international edition is also available (gyro! banh mi! bocadillo! chip butty!).

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.

Sight & Sound's 50 greatest films of all timeAug 03 2012

Every decade since 1952, Sight & Sound has polled film professionals to determine the greatest films of all time. Citizen Kane is always the winner, except for the first year. This year, however, S&S expanded the number of contributors dramatically and included online critics as well resulting in Citizen Kane's unseating. They've released the list of top 50 films now, and will release a top 100 in about a month.

About a year ago, the Sight & Sound team met to consider how we could best approach the poll this time. Given the dominance of electronic media, what became immediately apparent was that we would have to abandon the somewhat elitist exclusivity with which contributors to the poll had been chosen in the past and reach out to a much wider international group of commentators than before. We were also keen to include among them many critics who had established their careers online rather than purely in print.

To that end we approached more than 1,000 critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles, and received (in time for the deadline) precisely 846 top-ten lists that between them mention a total of 2,045 different films.

I (Aaron) have seen 4 of the movies in the top 50 because I am, apparently, a Luddite philistine. Topping the list this year is Vertigo.

After half a century of monopolising the top spot, Citizen Kane was beginning to look smugly inviolable. Call it Schadenfreude, but let's rejoice that this now conventional and ritualised symbol of 'the greatest' has finally been taken down a peg. The accession of Vertigo is hardly in the nature of a coup d'etat. Tying for 11th place in 1972, Hitchcock's masterpiece steadily inched up the poll over the next three decades, and by 2002 was clearly the heir apparent. Still, even ardent Wellesians should feel gratified at the modest revolution - if only for the proof that film canons (and the versions of history they legitimate) are not completely fossilised.

There's also a directors' list of top 10 films. (via @chrissandoval)

Six policies economists love that politicians hateJul 25 2012

A list of economic policies that, according to economists, would benefit the economy but would never fly for political reasons.

Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you're taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.

Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It's a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn't disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it's taxing something that's bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

17 tips to make your life easierJul 18 2012

For some reason, I am a huge sucker for this type of stuff...some of these are really clever! Aren't they?

3. Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

10. Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and - ta da! - static is gone.

Well, aren't they? (via a cup of jo)

Carl Sagan's reading listJul 11 2012

From a collection of his papers recently acquired by The Library of Congress, a 1954 reading list from physicist Carl Sagan. Huxley, Plato, Shakespeare, and the Bible are all on there among many others. If I understand mathematics properly, and I think I do, using the associative property, if you read all these books, you will become as smart and cool as Carl Sagan was. Or is it the transitive property?

Wes Anderson's best commercialsJul 03 2012

Adweek has a list of some of the best commercials Wes Anderson has made. It's tough to beat his two-minute spot for American Express.

"Can I get my snack?"

"You're eating it."

Documentaries to see before you dieJun 22 2012

I was reminded earlier today of True Films, Kevin Kelly's collection of must-see documentaries, educational films, etc.

As dogged as I have been in tracking down great true films, I have seen only a fraction of the estimated 40,000 that have been made. So I am ready for more. However I will only list true films and documentaries that are available as VHS tape or DVDs at consumer prices. In other words, films that are easy for most people to see upon request. I won't include films that are only shown in theaters, or available via high-priced rentals, or simply out of print.

The site hasn't been updated in over a year but the content is evergreen. True Films is also available in book and ebook formats.

Best tall buildings in the world for 2012Jun 21 2012

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has released their list of the best tall buildings in the world for 2012.

Absolute World 56

Business Insider has a nice one-page view of the winners.

A chronology of computers from 1938-1988Jun 12 2012

From Ptak Science Books, a list of every different kind of computer ever made. Ok, I'm sure not every single kind of computer ever made is on there (the list only goes to 1988 for one thing), but it is a very extensive list. Some highlights:

Zuse, Z1, Germany, 1938
Bletchley, Colossus Mark I, Great Britain, 1943
Moore School, ENIAC, United States, 1947
IBM, 360, 30, USA, 1965
Intel, 8080, USA, 1974
Cray, Cray-1, USA, 1976
DEC, PDP-11, 34, 1977
Apple, Apple II, USA, 1977
IBM, PC, AT (and clones), 1984
Apple, Macintosh, USA, 1984

NY Times Magazine Innovation issueJun 03 2012

I kinda hafta link to this, don't I? From the NY Times Magazine, 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow...the actual or spiritual successor to their Year in Ideas issue.

The electric light was a failure.

Invented by the British chemist Humphry Davy in the early 1800s, it spent nearly 80 years being passed from one initially hopeful researcher to another, like some not-quite-housebroken puppy. In 1879, Thomas Edison finally figured out how to make an incandescent light bulb that people would buy. But that didn't mean the technology immediately became successful. It took another 40 years, into the 1920s, for electric utilities to become stable, profitable businesses. And even then, success happened only because the utilities created other reasons to consume electricity. They invented the electric toaster and the electric curling iron and found lots of uses for electric motors. They built Coney Island. They installed electric streetcar lines in any place large enough to call itself a town. All of this, these frivolous gadgets and pleasurable diversions, gave us the light bulb.

Salts of the earthMay 09 2012

From Food52, a round-up of ten different kinds of salt you might run across in recipes, including table salt, fleur de sel, and Himalayan salt.

Hand-mined from ancient sea salt deposits from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is rich in minerals and believed to be one of the purest salts available -- hence its frequent use in spa treatments. It ranges in color from pure white to shades of pink and deep red. Hand cut into slabs, Himalayan salt is frequently used as a surface for serving food. Due to their ability to hold a specific temperature for an extended period of time, these slabs can be used for anything from serving cold ice cream to cooking fish, meats, and vegetables. Himalayan salt can also be used as a cooking or finishing salt. Or use it to rim the edge of a glass for a warm-weather cocktail.

What would the realists do?May 01 2012

Stephen Walt wonders how US policy might have been different over the past 20 years if realists (as opposed to the neocons or liberal interventionists) had been in charge.

#2: No "Global War on Terror." If realists had been in charge after 9/11, they would have launched a focused effort to destroy al Qaeda. Realists backed the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a realist approach to the post-9/11 threat environment would have focused laser-like on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that were a direct threat to the United States. But realists would have treated them like criminals rather than as "enemy combatants" and would not have identified all terrorist groups as enemies of the United States. And as noted above, realists would not have included "rogue states" like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (the infamous "axis of evil") in the broader "war on terror." Needless to say, with realists in charge, the infamous 2002 National Security Strategy calling for preventive war would never have been written.

Ebert's greatest films of all timeMay 01 2012

For Sight & Sound magazine, Roger Ebert came up with his picks for ten best films ever.

"Citizen Kane" speaks for itself. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is likewise a stand-along monument, a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe. It was a statement that came at a time which now looks something like the peak of humanity's technological optimism. Many would choose "Taxi Driver" as Scorsese's greatest film, but I believe "Raging Bull" is his best and most personal, a film he says in some ways saved his life. It is the greatest cinematic expression of the torture of jealousy -- his "Othello."

(via df)

101 spectacular nonfiction storiesApr 19 2012

Conor Friedersdorf has published his annual list of the best nonfiction writing from the past year.

Each year, I keep a running list of the most exceptional nonfiction that I encounter while publishing my twice-weekly newsletter The Best of Journalism. Along with my curating work for Byliner, this hoovering of great stories affords me the opportunity to read as many impressive narratives as any single person possibly can. The annual result is my Best of Journalism List, now in its fourth year. I could not, of course, read every worthy piece published during the year. But everything that follows deserves wider attention.

Tips for traveling the worldApr 09 2012

From Jodi at Legal Nomads, a list of 21 practical tips she's gleaned from traveling the world for the past four years. One tip is to take oranges with you on public transportation:

I started bringing a bag of oranges with me for long bus rides, primarily because they quench thirst and smell delicious. I quickly learned that many Thai and Burmese busgoers sniff the peels to stave off nausea, and that kids love oranges. Really: kids LOVE oranges. So for those who want to bring something for the bus ride but rightfully worry about giving sweets to kids, oranges are your friend. You will win over the parents, make the kids happy, occupy your hours and eventually get fed by everyone on the bus. Trust me. You should always have a bag of oranges on hand, the smaller the orange the better.

She also lists the five things she always carries with her while traveling...one of which, unusually, is a doorstop. I'm guessing that's for keeping people out of rooms without door locks?

Ten photographers to ignoreApr 03 2012

If you're an aspiring photographer, here are ten photographers that you should ignore, presumably so that you can develop your own voice and style instead.

Robert Frank was a one-man revolution. Before him pictures for the most part were pretty and clean and pre-visualized, and shot from a tripod. Frank came along and tore a new A-hole in that aesthetic. Fortunately he had something to replace it with: a strong personal vision. Most young photographers who follow in his footsteps don't. They mistake grain, guts, and verve with substance. Sorry folks, but hitting three out of four doesn't count. I know it took cajones to shoot that cowboy bar at 1 am pushing your film to 3200, but that doesn't keep your photo from being boring. Time to shoot something you care about, and don't try to convince me it's flags or the underclass.

This follows a list of "harmful" novels for aspiring writers.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Mark Twain made the American vernacular a literary language; Salinger tried to do the same for the American adolescent whine. We who read Catcher as teenagers in the 1950s and '60s at once considered ourselves free to babble on paper just the way we did over coffee and cigarettes. It was certainly easier than learning how to write a straightforward sentence expressing something more than teen angst.

I wonder if there might be a similar list for designers or artists?

The rules of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoonsMar 27 2012

Speaking of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, animator Chuck Jones and his team were said to follow these simple rules when creating the cartoons:

1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going "meep, meep."

2. No outside force can harm the Coyote -- only his own ineptitude or the failure of Acme products. Trains and trucks were the exception from time to time.

3. The Coyote could stop anytime -- if he were not a fanatic.

4. No dialogue ever, except "meep, meep" and yowling in pain.

5. The Road Runner must stay on the road -- for no other reason than that he's a roadrunner.

6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters -- the southwest American desert.

7. All tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote's greatest enemy.

9. The Coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

10. The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote.

11. The Coyote is not allowed to catch or eat the Road Runner.

The rules are made only slightly less interesting by their fiction; according to Wikipedia, long-time Jones collaborator Michael Maltese said he'd never heard of the rules.

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.

Ten commandments for con menFeb 29 2012

Con man Victor Lustig shared a list of commandments written for aspiring con men. Among them:

1. Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).

8. Never boast. Just let your importance be quietly obvious.

Martin Scorsese's film schoolFeb 27 2012

Fast Company recently interviewed Martin Scorsese and jotted down all 85 movies he mentioned.

The Player: "In the years before this movie, the age of the director who had a free hand came to an end. And yet Altman kept experimenting with different kinds of actor, different approaches to narrative, different equipment, until finally he hit it with this movie, which took him off onto a whole other level."

All the World Press Photo Contest winnersFeb 22 2012

Buzzfeed has a collection of every World Press Photo Contest winner from 1955 to the present. Some amazing photos but in general they do not paint a very kind picture of humanity.

The world's best designed newspapersFeb 17 2012

The Society for News Design recently posted their picks for the best designed newspapers in the world.

Henry Miller's writing commandmentsFeb 14 2012

From Henry Miller on Writing, his 11 commandments:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.
2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to "Black Spring."
3. Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
5. When you can't create you can work.
6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
8. Don't be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
9. Discard the Program when you feel like it -- but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

(via lists of note)

A list of medieval occupationsFeb 06 2012

What jobs did people do in medieval Europe? Here's a list, broken down by category. Criminals had jobs too:

silk-snatcher - one who steals bonnets

stewsman - probably a brothel keeper - "since the words stew and stewholder both mean a bawd, I'm guessing that a stewsman would be a brothel-keeper as well. Whether bawdry counts as a criminal activity varies at different times and places."

thimblerigger - a professional sharper who runs a thimblerig (a game in which a pea is ostensibly hidden under a thimble and players guess which thimble it is under)

(via @zachklein)

Best movie posters of 2011Feb 06 2012

From MUBI notebook, a selection of great movies posters from 2011, including Chris Ware's lovely one for Uncle Boonmee.

Uncle Boonmee

(via dooce)

Notable typefaces of 2011Jan 26 2012

Typographica shares their favorite typefaces of 2011.

The idea is simple: I invite a group of writers, educators, type makers and type users to look back at 2011 and pick the release that excited them most.

(via ★essl)

Tarantino's favorite films of 2011Jan 17 2012

Quentin Tarantino released a list of his favorite films of last year. His number one choice? Midnight in Paris. Here's his top five...click through for his other choices:

1. Midnight In Paris
2. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
3. Moneyball
4. The Skin I Live In
5. X-Men: First Class

(via moviefone)

The best "best of" lists of 2011Jan 03 2012

Still cleaning out some tabs from over the break...this list of the best "best of 2011" lists is worth looking at, even if you've got list fatigue. It includes lists like "10 Films Hypothetically Starring Ryan Gosling", "Top 10 Classical Performances", and "Top 10 Films of John Waters".

The most important events of 2011Jan 03 2012

The Morning News got a bunch of writers and thinkers to name the most important event of 2011.

While they may not yet have a common name, and their causes overlap but are hardly identical, the worldwide protests that began in December 2010 in Tunisia and swept through Egypt, the Middle East, Spain, Greece, the United Kingdom, every state in the U.S then thousands of worldwide cities -- these, collectively, are the single most important event of 2011. It was so significant that the year itself may be the only possible name for these people's revolutions and protests: the same way we talk about 1968 or Sept. 11 or Feb. 15, 2003: perhaps just "2011."

As Joanne McNeil noted, hindsight provides clarity with questions like this. Events that are invisible at the time become important five or ten years later. Take 1993 for instance. At the time, the European Community eliminating customs barriers or Bill Clinton's swearing-in or the first bombing of the WTC might have seemed most significant, but with hindsight, Tim Berners-Lee's quiet invention of the World Wide Web in an office at CERN is clearly the year's most significant and far-reaching happening.

Update: TBL invented the WWW in 1991, not 1993. '91 was a bit busier news-wise, what with the first Iraq war and Gorbachev's resignation, but the Web's invention ranks right up there in hindsight. (thx, sean)

Eight sure-fire weight loss tipsJan 03 2012

From New Scientist, a list of eight different ways to lose weight that actually work. Because science!

If your idea of a holiday workout is lifting glasses of beer late into the night, then it's not just the extra calories you need to worry about. Randy Nelson and his team at Ohio State University in Columbus found that mice exposed to light at night weighed 10 per cent more at the end of the eight-week study than mice that had experienced a standard light/dark cycle, even though they ate the same total number of calories and did the same amount of exercise.

(via @daveg)

A Year in ReadingDec 14 2011

The Millions presents their annual A Year in Reading for 2011, where they ask a bunch of people their favorite reads of the year.

With this in mind, for an eighth year, we asked some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to look back, reflect, and share. Their charge was to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2012 a fruitful one.

Contributors include Duff McKagan, Mayim Bialik, Jennifer Egan, Colum McCann, and Rosecrans Baldwin.

Yet more best longreads of 2011Dec 14 2011

These are from the Longreads Tumblr. You'll never want for 3000-word reading material ever again.

More best longreads of 2011Dec 13 2011

Longform has their top picks of 2011 up too.

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