Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh

Elliott Smith documentary chronicles late singer’s musical journey:

Heaven Adores You director Nickolas Rossi, on why his new documentary focuses on the positive aspects of Smith’s life:

I didn’t feel like there was this need to tell the world what I thought was wrong with Elliott Smith. It seemed like he was a normal dude who had normal problems, and there wasn’t really anything exceptional about the fact that he did drugs or was depressed. And if I was going to try to tell you where it came from, I might be wrong. I wanted something that was less about ‘Let’s psychoanalyze Elliott Smith’ and more: Let’s hear stories from his friends and from his sister and from Elliott talking about his journey. Here’s all this great music, so let’s continue to keep it alive and relevant, because it was special and it’s amazing that we should still be sharing it. We may never know how bad or weird or hard it was for him. But do you really need to know, or can you just listen to this amazing stuff and appreciate it for what it was?

Age of Robots: How Marvel Is killing the popcorn movie:

So I don’t object to Marvel, or to Avengers: Age of Ultron, just because it’s not an artful, subtle little movie. That’s part of it: A pop-culture intake comprised of nothing but big spectacle is just as bad for you as an all-cheeseburger diet. But if I wanted to see something artful, I could have gone to watch Ex Machina or whatever that new David Cronenberg movie is supposed to be. I didn’t. I went to see Avengers on opening weekend. What I really dislike about Marvel is what they’re doing to stupid popcorn movies. This is a genre I care about, and they’re fucking it up.

Instagram account of University of Pennsylvania runner showed only part of story:

A heartbreaking account of how our public and private selves can differ enormously.

Machine-Learning Algorithm Mines Rap Lyrics, Then Writes Its Own:

These guys have trained a machine-learning algorithm to recognize the salient features of a few lines of rap and then choose another line that rhymes in the same way on the same topic. The result is an algorithm that produces rap lyrics that rival human-generated ones for their complexity of rhyme.

Fake shack burger:

How to make a Shake Shack-style smashed burger.

An Animated History of 20th Century Hairstyles

The trouble with reference rot:

The impermanance of scholarly literature.

Random dystopia generator:

Example: “In the year 2056, Airstrip One is patrolled by wealthy dinosaur apologists, patronized by the unlikely presdent with a German-sounding last name. Hunting artificial people is as American as Mom and Apple Pie and little girls paralyse across the earth.”

For two years, this Kanye West game has been hiding a disturbing secret:

Conspiracy theorists rejoice! Kanye’s JRPG contains something very weird.

Scroll back: The theory and practice of cameras in side-scrollers:

An exhaustive look at an aspect of game mechanics and design that is taken for granted by most people.

A pixel artist renounces pixel art:

A similarly comprehensive look at what is and isn’t pixel art.

Glengarry Glen Ross had the brass balls to ignore conventional film wisdom:

This is a phenomenally thought-through film. It’s remarkably simple and basic in its execution. It was scripted, designed, and acted to feel, as Foley puts it, “primal.” And yet it’s immaculately controlled, with each line, and each line delivery, adding to the story in tiny but measurable ways.

Love is strange: The multitudes of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson:

An unusual love story that’s better read cold. But know that Nielson, as UMO, has recorded some of the best lo-fi indie-soul albums of the past few years.

London’s most mysterious mansion:

In May, 2008, I toured Witanhurst with a real-estate agent. There had been no parties there for half a century, and the house had not been occupied regularly since the seventies. The interiors were ravaged: water had leaked through holes in the roof, and, upstairs, the brittle floorboards cracked under our footsteps. The scale of the building lent it a vestigial grandeur, but it felt desolate and Ozymandian. A few weeks later, Witanhurst was sold for fifty million pounds, to a shell company named Safran Holdings Limited, registered in the British Virgin Islands. No further information about the buyers was forthcoming.

The mysteries of London property ownership. Side note: A couple of my friends rent a flat in The Grove, and count Kate Moss et al as neighbours, if not quite acquaintances.

Everlasting speech:

It’s the tenth anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech to the students of Kenyon College.

Other people’s playlists:

[Spotify’s] Related Artists is actually a social network for people with extremely eccentric friends: You can get from Nazis to an album of Kurt Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse-Five in a few clicks. Here’s how: Start with Hitler, and then go to Charles Lindbergh. Take a left at Franklin D. Roosevelt, a hard left at Studs Terkel, and an even harder left at Ward Churchill. Veer slightly right (but you’re really still going left) to Howard Zinn, then Angela Davis. Enter a tunnel until you hit Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Next you’re at Gertrude Stein, who is unexpectedly close to Dorothy Parker. Head right until you see Rudyard Kipling, and after that you can’t miss Vonnegut.

Ta’izz:

Maciej Cegłowski is possibly best-known for his site Pinboard, the best bookmarking site around, and everything that Delicious once was and never will be again. I adore his travel writing just as much:

American drivers treat the car horn like a button marked EMERGENCY, to be used only at times of imminent danger or great injustice. A non-Bostonian can drive for weeks without touching the horn. If you disabled the car horns in Yemen, there would be an immediate nationwide car wreck. The horn is an essential part of Yemeni driving, and in skilled hands becomes an instrument of great subtlety. It can mean “I’m coming up behind you”, or “I’m about to turn left across five lanes of traffic”, or “I’m passing on this blind curve on a mountain road while digging with both my hands in a bag full of qat.” Drivers use it to communicate their intentions to the three-year-olds playing unsupervised in the street, and even to dogs and pack animals. Everyone speaks car horn.

Source code in TV and films

The hideous ecstasy of fear: Diamond Dogs 40 years on:

Probably my favourite Bowie album gets some well-earned coverage.

Etcetera, the newsletter

2014-08-10: Currently on summer hiatus, soz


I don’t want to bury the lede: I started a little newsletter of links called Etcetera. You can see the letters so far if you want to know what it’s about.

I did this for a few reasons. Lots of people use their Twitter account solely or mostly for links. I don’t really want to do that—I tend to use Twitter sporadically and in torrent rather than for continual conversation or for sharing links. Ditto Tumblr (where I’ve started and abandoned something similar to this before). And I haven’t quite worked out what this blog is for, other than occasional life and work updates, but after trying and giving up a few times, it’s not a linkblog.

There are a bunch of good newsletters that do this sort of thing already, and they do it well: Rusty Foster’s Today in Tabs is terrific, although mostly consists of the terrible things we wish we hadn’t read; Alexis Madrigal’s 5 Intriguing Things goes deep on, well, five things. Dave Pell’s NextDraft is great too. You should subscribe to them all.

I don’t yet know what this will turn out to be. At the moment I take approximately five minutes when I get in from work to list a few things that I read over lunch. I’d love it to be something more than that. It’s currently only read by a handful of friends, and I hope to turn it into a more special, unique snowflake as I get learn more about the processes and routines and generally think more about what’s interesting to me (and hopefully others).

The takeaway: subscribe to Etcetera or I will destroy you.